2017 Jaguar XE Leaps into the Sports Sedan Marketplace

There are some brands that strike a cord deep within some ones soul and I must admit Jaguar is one of the handfuls of brands that does that for me personally. I recently had the opportunity to sample for a full week the Jaguar XE. It is newest, smallest and least expensive sedan from the British automaker. It s been a while since the X Type Jaguar which had its share of fans and foes who were just plain upset that the AWD small sedan shared underpinnings with an European Ford.  it was during this period 2000-2009 Jaguar was in Ford’s brand portfolio.

After being out of the entry-level, luxury-sedan game, the Jaguar XE arrives with the usual suspects in its sights including the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C- Class, Audi A4 and Lexus IS. The new XE Jaguar sports sedan offers a host of premium amenities, advanced safety features and a variety of engines that range from a fuel-efficient diesel to a supercharged V6. The Jag stands out with classic yet contemporary looks, an impressive warranty. The 2017 Jaguar XE is all new. Along with the F-Pace compact SUV, it represents Jaguar’s aim to attract new buyers to the famous British brand via entry-level luxury cars. In this case, the XE hits that mark with a price starting under $36,000.

Not unlike the others in entry-level sports sedan lineup. The Jag XE’s road manners vary depending what’s under the hood and even whether you opt for all-wheel drive (AWD) vs. the standard rear-wheel drive (RWD). My test vehicle had the first ever for U.S. market 2.0-liter diesel engine coupled with an impressive all wheel drive system. It shouldn’t be a surprise the compact XE sedan looks like a smaller iteration of the XF midsize sedan. This is hardly a bad thing. We appreciate the XE’s classic yet beautiful sports-sedan lines: the long hood, downward sloping roof and curtailed tail.

This is perhaps contemporary design at its best. We also applaud Jag for not foisting a gaping grille on the XE. Not seen but also appreciated is Jaguar’s broad use of light-yet-strong aluminum, which makes for a vehicle that’s literally lighter on its feet.

 

Step into the least expensive Jaguar XE compact sports sedan and standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, rear-passenger vents, 17-inch alloy wheels and moon roof. The standard infotainment system consists of Jaguar’s In Control 8-inch touch-screen display and 6-speaker, 80-watt audio system with HD Radio, USB inputs and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Surprisingly, a rearview camera still costs extra. All new XE sedans come with a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty and complimentary maintenance/roadside assistance. My test vehicle came with the 2017 Prestige package. Models equipped with this option get navigation, leather interior with heated front seats and heated steering wheel, keyless entry and power-adjustable steering column

The compact XE sedan looks like a smaller iteration of the second generation XF midsize sedan. This is hardly a bad thing. We appreciate the XE’s classic yet beautiful sports-sedan lines: the long hood, downward sloping roof and curtailed tail.  We also applaud Jag for not sporting a gaping grille on the XE. Not seen but also appreciated is Jaguar’s broad use of light-yet-strong aluminum, which makes for a vehicle that’s literally lighter on its feet.

On the road the heavy AWD system coupled with the turbocharged inline-4 diesel feels kind of sluggish at times. Horsepower is rated a 180 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm. Like all modern diesels great torque numbers the XE 2.0d putting out  massive 318 lb-ft of torque.

The interior has cockpit like feel with the driver and front seat passenger sitting low in the vehicle. The wraparound style of the dash reminds me of the old Porsche 928 and has an inviting enveloping feel. This small Jaguar sedan uses a good mix of a touch-based screen and traditional buttons for audio and climate controls.

The new XE turned heads wherever it went and was reasonable a priced at around  $ 44,000  with some decent options including the excellent Meridian sound system.

The 2017 EX is a great new entrant in the tough entry-level marketplace but one that deserves looking at if you in the market for a cool sexy small sedan.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD 8 speed automatic

Highlights

Styling

Performance

Fuel economy

Lowlights

Diesel delivers great mileage but feels sluggish at times

Snug interior for some

 

Rankings 1 Low 10 High

Exterior Styling 8
Interior styling and quality 8

Handling 8

Braking 6
Fuel Economy 9
Stereo System 6

Performance 6
Trunk-Cargo Capacity 8

Navigation 8
Audio System 8

The Non Truck-Truck 2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition is Pure Joy

By Bob Long

I said on my national radio program AutoWorld with guest Mark Williams Editor and Chief at pickup trucks.com I was not going to title my print review “the non Truck Truck” but I have decided to do it anyway.  I really like the Black Edition and the title is on target.

Again, I did not expect to like this second generation Ridgeline that much but I liked it a lot  Both Mark and I were Editors at Motor Trend when the first generation took home the Motor Trend Truck of the Year Award.  But this second generation us so much better and this special edition is a knockout.  All black inside and out and running on set of black wheels the truck got positive feedback everywhere I drove greater Orlando FL

The Honda Ridgeline returns to a reinvigorated midsize pickup segment after a two-year absence. The fully redesigned 2017 Honda Ridgeline hangs on to what made it unique while introducing improvements that make it  a lot more functional and it will attract a wider audience.

The new Ridgeline still has more in common with Honda’s midsize SUV, the Pilot, than other trucks in the segment. The wheelbase has been stretched to accommodate a truck bed and the suspension components have added beef, but the Ridgeline still delivers a car like ride and manageable handling which in my opinion is good for that certain type of truck buyer.

The Ridgeline also gets an upgraded 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed transmission, a good combination that’s 30-horsepower stronger than generation one Ridgeline.  It puts out 280 HP and 262 lb-ft of torque.  EPA mileage numbers for my all wheel Drive test model
18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.  My load all wheel drive test truck came in price wise at around $44,000.

The Honda Ridgeline still only come in a single crew cab with short bed configuration. But this time around the forward cabin is as attractive and inviting as a Pilot, and is available with the Pilot’s full range of the latest tech and safety features. Meanwhile, the back row retains the class-leading legroom and unique folding rear seat that made the original Ridgeline so flexible and accommodating.

The old styling cues have been scrapped in favor of a more traditional bed design. The change makes it easier to reach into the forward end, and it allowed a 3.2-inch wheelbase stretch that enabled a longer bed. Now 66 inches long, the Ridgeline’s bed is 2.3 inches longer than a Chevrolet Colorado’s and 3.5 inches longer than a Toyota Tacoma’s. As for the Ridgeline’s signature in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate, they’re still here and as fantastic as ever.

But some aspects of the Ridgeline still trail the competition. The intelligent all-wheel-drive system now has driver-selectable terrain settings, but crossover SUV levels of clearance and suspension articulation limit it to light-duty dirt-roading. And while it is well suited to towing 5,000 pounds, those who want to tow more will need to look elsewhere.

The return of a much-improved 2017 Honda Ridgeline makes the midsize truck segment an interesting place. With the off-roady Toyota Tacoma on one end, the shrunken full-size familiarity of the Chevrolet Colorado in the middle and the practical and smooth-driving Honda Ridgeline at the other end, midsize truck buyers have a wide spectrum of choices.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline masters the careful balance between midsize truck and quiet, refined SUV. The cabin’s dimensions are essentially the same as they were in the last-generation Ridgeline, meaning that front and rear seats are pleasantly roomy for five people. The design is crisp and fresh, with greatly improved materials, and features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated seats and an 8-inch touch screen. If you want to carry gear inside, push the 60/40-split rear seat against the back of the cab to allow space for a bicycle or a 55-inch flat screen TV.

All Ridgeline’s come standard with  active noise cancellation, hill-start assist, and 18-inch wheels. Also standard are a rearview camera and the useful dual-action tailgate, eight tie-down cleats, truck bed lights, an in-bed trunk, and Intelligent Traction Management. Also in every Ridgeline are power windows with (front) auto-up/down, push-button start, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping wheel, air conditioning with filtration, and Bluetooth hands-free and streaming audio. There are plenty of safety systems, including collision-mitigation braking, road-departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot information with cross traffic, and LaneWatch. , adaptive cruise control, navigation, an acoustic windshield, truck bed audio, a 400-watt truck bed outlet, 3-zone climate control, leather seats, and heated front seats are options. The top stereo is a 540-watt, 8-speaker system which sounded great in my test Truck

Americans love trucks and my auto journalist friends have told me stories of the Texas State fair turning into a Truck international Auto Show. There’s a long-held set of ideas that many truck buyers consider obligatory  a body-on-frame platform is chief among them, along with purpose-built hardware like four wheel drive transfer cases and a solid rear axle.

I say this not a truck for that crowd but rather a different more Urban/suburbanite part-time truck most time a  small family SUV.  As I said earlier The Ridgeline’s awarded in-bed trunk makes a return in the second generation pickup, allowing for secured storage under the floor of the bed that also incorporates a drain plug at the bottom so it can also be used as an ice chest.
Adding to the Ridgeline’s tailgating prowess is the Truck Bed Audio function which uses the Ridgeline’s bed as an outdoor sound system. It might seem like a gimmicky feature at first, but in practice it sounds surprisingly good. Paired with the bed’s additional features, like a 400w power outlet and a dual action tailgate that can swing either down or out, the Ridgeline might be the most versatile party-mobile and Tailgate party king on sale today.  I think it just plain cool.  The 2017 Honda Ridgeline Black edition is pure joy to drive and packs a great bang for buck

 

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-AWD

Highlights

Styling

Comfort

Truck bed audio system

Lowlights

Not for the hardcore Truck person

Some interior plastics could be better quality

 

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 7

Handling 7

Braking 6

Fuel Economy 7

Audio System 9

Performance 5

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

Navigation 9

The original Crossover Vehicle is still the Best…. Lexus RX-450H All New for 2016

By Bob Long

The Lexus RX is the crossover that started a whole new category of vehicle when first introduced in 1998.   The first generation RX 300 laid the ground work for one of hottest segments in the car buying world today the luxury crossover vehicle.

For the 2016 model year The Lexus RX is all-new.. Now in its 4th generation, this mid size luxury crossover features a bold new exterior design, revamped interior, and a bump in power over its predecessor. The vehicle has grown slightly and offers a lot of cool features.

Over the years the RX has become the Lexus brands best-selling vehicle and a benchmark for rivals such as the MDX from Acura, Mercedes GLE, Cadillac SRX  and the MKX from Lincoln.  My test vehicle of the week is a beautiful front wheel drive RX 450 H which combines a powerful  V-6 gasoline engine with electric hybrid drive for great fuel economy.

Styling wise Lexus calls the new  2016 RX as a “dramatic re-imagining”of the benchmark crossover.  In fact it is both bold and aggressive from many angles.  Keeping in step with the rest of Lexus lineup the RX wears the brands signature spindle” grille up front, fluid headlight housings with LED lights, a high belt line, and the 2016 RX’s most divisive element: a flowing, blacked-out C-pillar behind the rear windows. This element makes the Lexus’ roof appear to float. You’ll like it or you won’t. Personally I like the look of the new RX but admit some will find the RX face a bit polarizing.

There are many different favors of the RX but was great to sample the hybrid model for a week.  On the road the RX 450h hybrid model is super smooth and almost imperceptibly switches between gasoline and electric power.  The 450h hybrid pairs a 3.5-liter V6 with a battery-electric powertrain. Like a standard Prius, no plugging in is required, but premium unleaded gasoline is recommended. The 2016 RX 450h has total output of 308 horsepower and delivers great mpg numbers. The  gasoline engine alone cranks out 267 lb-ft of torque.  EPA  city mileage is rated at an impressive 31 MPG with a highway rating of 30 MPG.  Sticker price of my loaded RX450H model came to $60.359.00

Inside the all new RX-450H is great place to spend time.  Beautiful craftsmanship combined with is own unique style. One of the biggest changes for the new 2016 model is gear selector placement, which abandons its long-held position in the center dash to a more traditional spot in the console below. This opens space in the dash for easy-to-access climate and audio controls. The mouse controller just south of the gear selector is easier to operate. The seats are great, and there is plenty of legroom in back.  Cargo space is very impressive, with over 18 cubic feet behind the rear seats. That number expands to over 56 cubic feet with rear seats folded.

The Lexus RX has always been well-equipped, and the latest model is no different. My loaded 450H had the very cool huge 12.3-inch infotainment display, a heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, the touch-free tailgate, navigation, a treat for audiophiles like myself in the exquisite upgraded Mark Levinson audio system.  My vehicle also had a full color heads up display and the world first  Touch-Free Back Door option makes it go presto by merely placing a hand near the Lexus badge.

Driving the RX 450H is a real pleasure even if you are not hybrid fan. This is one of the best systems out there in the automotive world.  The RX-450H is smooth operator at all speeds much as they have been in previous generations.  The vehicle is: comfortable, quiet and confident. This is an SUV for those who long for a soft ride and serenity, vs. drivers who prefer blasts down twisty roads accompanied by a roaring exhaust note.  Lexus does offer an F Sport model for a more sporty flavor and sheer performance.

Bottom line if you are in the market for a five passenger high fuel economy luxury crossover SUV the all new 2018 Lexus RH-45oH is a grand slam home run.

The Long Drive Rankings

Front Engine-FWD 

 

Highlights

Styling

Luxury Features

Comfort

Fuel economy

 

Lowlights

60K may seem like a lot but is not in 2016

Bold Like it or not front grille

 

Scale 1 low-10 High

Exterior Styling 8

Interior styling and quality 9

Handling 7

Braking 6

Fuel Economy 10

Audio System 9

Performance 6

Trunk-Cargo Capacity 10

Navigation   8