Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Traverse

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse FWD 3LT
  •  ENGINE: 3.6-liter V6
  •  TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic 
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 310 hp @ 6,800 rpm/266 lb.-ft. @ 2,800 rpm
  • WHEELBASE: 120.9 in.
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 204.3 x 78.6 x 70.7 in. 
  • TIRES: P255/55R20
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 23/58.1/98.2 cu. ft. (behind 3rd row/2nd row/1st row)
  • ECONOMY: 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway/15.6 mpg test
  • FUEL TANK: 19.4 gal.
  • CURB WEIGHT: 4,362 lbs. #/HP: 14.1
  • TOWING CAPACITY: 5,000 lbs.
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Ford Expedition, Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX
  • STICKER: $42,785 (includes $945 destination, $690 options (trailering package, front license plate mount)
  • BOTTOM LINE: The new Chevrolet Traverse is a very smooth, responsive and quiet-riding SUV.

          Yes, I know that the Chevrolet Traverse is rated as a “standard SUV,” but there’s a part of my soul that also rates it as a van - not a minivan but a real van. There is so much about the Traverse that reminds me of our old Chevy van from the 1980s, primarily its practicality. 
          One feature the redesigned Traverse has that our old van didn’t have is a quiet ride and responsiveness. Our van was built on a truck chassis and at times felt like it. The Traverse apparently isn’t built on a truck chassis, and as such it offers a smooth, quiet ride. The long (120.9-inch) wheelbase helps in the ride quality department, but there is also a lot of sound deadening material to aid the Traverse along. The Traverse isn’t Chevy’s biggest SUV; that honor goes to the Suburban, which is about 20 inches longer on a 10-inch longer wheelbase. But baby, it is a bit more practical because of the smaller size.
          As with many large SUVs, there is three-row seating in the Traverse. Even with the third-row seats up, there is plenty of cargo capacity behind them, just like our van. The third-row seats lower and raise easily, for when you want to convert the passenger hauler into a cargo hauler. 
          Also, as with many Chevrolet vehicles these days, there is a “back seat reminder.” If the back doors are opened for any reason during your trip, when you turn the Traverse off, a reminder beep tells you to check the back seat for packages, children, gorillas, etc. This has saved us a lot of take-out from the restaurants we haunt.
          Front seats are comfortable in the Traverse. They have multiple power adjustments to make them conform to your body. Second row seats offer good leg room. There are individual HVAC controls for second row passengers. The wide aisle between the second-row bucket seats allows easy access to the third row bench, which also offers decent leg room. The second-row seats also fold and slide forward to provide third row access.
          The front passengers face a nice dash that is reminiscent of the Impala. The clear instrument panel has a large tachometer and speedometer with smaller fuel and water temperature gauges. The information panel in the center gives fuel economy among its choices, but we opted for a digital speedometer. 
          Behind the wheel are buttons to control the audio, with a select button on the left and volume control on the right, similar to Chrysler’s.  
          For internal storage there is a large cubby at the base of the center stack with two USB outlets an AUX and a 12-volt. The large center console/arm rest also has a tray inside for added practicality. The doors have multiple pockets, including door pulls that have bottoms. The rear doors have similar usefulness. 
          The infotainment screen has multiple choices for audio, phone, projection, navigation, settings, weather, text and OnStar. The weather screen, for example, gives local weather at three-hour intervals, as well as hourly, five-day, on route, etc. The infotainment screen raises to expose a small cubby behind it with a pair of USB outlets. 
          One problem I had with the Traverse is the same I have with other large vehicles. Parallel parking can be difficult, especially when there isn’t a lot of width to the space or the aisles are narrower than they should be. 
          With a huge 19.4-gallon fuel tank and fuel economy in the mid-teens, you might end up spending time at gas stations. To make life a little easier, the Traverse has a capless fuel filler. I have been dumb enough to actually lose fuel filler caps, so this is a huge advantage for me.
          The redesigned Chevrolet Traverse is a nice package, especially if you want or need a large, three-row vehicle that can also be used as a cargo carrier and don’t want to go all the way up to a Suburban. I was particularly impressed by the quality of the ride and the near silence of its performance.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate

Thursday, December 21, 2017

KIA Niro, a first drive.

While competitors focus on hybrid sedans Kia is putting a new twist on gasoline electric driving with the Niro. What does this Plug In Hybrid do well? Bumper2Bumpertv has a look at what works for the uniquely situated vehicle.

Monday, December 11, 2017

MINI Countryman!!!

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2017 Mini Cooper Countryman S JCW 4WD 
  • ENGINE: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 
  • TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic  
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 228 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm/258 lb.-ft. @ 1,450-4,500 rpm 
  • WHEELBASE: 105.1 in. 
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 169.8 x 71.7 x 61.3 in. 
  • TIRES: P225/50R18 
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 17.6/47.6 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/down)
  • ECONOMY: 21 mpg test 
  • FUEL TANK: 9.5 gal. 
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,508 lbs. #/HP: 15.4 
  • TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended 
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape
  • STICKER: $26,600 (base) 
  • BOTTOM LINE: The Mini Countryman fits nicely in with the competition, offers good power, “go-kart” handling, and reasonable interior room.

            There was a time when Minis were truly mini, when a full-size adult would find it cramped. I still respect those brave souls who drove Minis in the Monte Carlo Rally.
            But Minis have grown of late, and the Countryman is touted as “the biggest, most adventurous MINI yet.” 
            I will attest to its size. While it’s no BMW 7-Series, the Countryman is a comfortable size with room up front for two adults and room in the rear for two more with minimal discomfort. There’s even a decent trunk, with an underfloor feature that’s just right if you don’t want your grocery bags spilling all over. 
            The Countryman stays faithful to the original concept of Alec Issigonis with the wheels shoved out to the corners of the car’s footprint. This creates minimal front and rear overhangs and contributes to the car’s legendary “go-kart” handling. Yes, the handling is sure-footed, but it’s also quite firm, much like a go-kart that has no suspension. The Countryman’s ride isn’t gut-wrenching, but it is firm.
            Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that puts out 228 horsepower in John Cooper Works trim. (Incidentally, the only JCW identification is a small badge at the bottom of the wheel. One would think they'd want to promote that more.) Acceleration is brisk, and the Countryman is capable of keeping up wth anything else on the road. Three engines are available for the Countryman, including a plug-in hybrid. Power reaches the wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. You can use either the paddles behind the wheel or the shifter itself when in manual mode, and the Countryman thrives on the use of the manual. 
            I like what they have done with the interior. While I haven’t driven a MINI in a couple of years, I have constantly carped about the poorly designed dash and instrument panel. Now, there’s a large round speedometer that sits in front of the driver with a small tachometer appended to the left. Bar graph lights serve as fuel and water gauges. An information panel is inset into the speedometer.
            A small heads up display pops up from the top of the dash - similar to that you’ll see on some Mazdas -  when you fire up the car. The HUD is much clearer, than the poorly marked analog speedometer. 
            There’s still a large round centrally mounted thing that houses the infotainment screen with the normal assortment of options. The round screen allows for more buttons to be added to the central area. HVAC controls are located below this screen with three knobs to control the two zones.
            Below the HVAC controls are toggle switches to control additional functions, with a unique start/stop paddle in the center. All are “protected” by “roll bars” to avoid second-collision injuries. Aft of the shifter is a master control knob that works the audio and other infotainment functions. 
            A pair of cupholders is located too close to the center stack to obviate the use of tall cups or glasses. The doors have room in them for taller cups, though.
            Interior storage consists of a small arm rest/console with a small cubby underneath.
            Rear seats, which slide a bit, offer good legroom. The rear seats are flat, while the fronts offer good side support. The rear seat backs fold easily using a strap at the base of the back. Cargo capacity versus the overall size of the Countryman is excellent. 
            Minis, from Day One, have been fun cars. One of my favorite fun features about the Countryman is the “Mini” logo light that illuminates the ground by the driver’s door when you push the “unlock” button on the fob after dark.
            The MINI Countryman adds size to the MINI line, and that is always a good thing. Performance is typically MINI, and typically fun.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate