2021 Buick Encore GX Essence FWD

Radio Review:

Buick, now a division of General Motors, actually was the company that established GM in 1908.  Traditionally, Buick products have had an appeal for older, wealthier buyers, but with the foxy SUV’s they now market, their demographic is getting younger. Buick’s lineup of six models (sans any sedans) provides an SUV for pretty much anyone’s taste, and in the midst of the group lies the Encore GX compact crossover. 

     Weld County Garage recently loaned me an Encore GX, and it was painted Deep Azure (blue) metallic and featured Ebony perforated leather seating for five.  It was the Essence model, a trim level that is located atop of the GX line, and includes the leather seating, LED lights front and rear, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and in-vehicle air ionizer, among other things.  No moon roof was on hand, but luxury items such as power lift gate, surround vision camera, head up display, adaptive cruise control and navigation were  included on the Buick as components of the “advanced technology package”.  

     The Encore GX is a cousin of the Encore Buick, sold by dealers since 2012.  I have tested several of the Encores, with good impressions of them.  I think sales of the Encore have taken the breath away from Buick executives, and I mean that in a positive way.   It seems as if they are everywhere you look, and nationally the sales topped 100,000 in 2019.  The new Encore GX, however, is not really much like the “classic” Encore, and its size suits me quite a bit better – 171.4” long, 1.6” longer than the Encore. 

     Power for the Encore GX is supplied by a three-cylinder turbocharged engine with a continuously variable (CVT) transmission and a front wheel drive arrangement.  All wheel drive can be had on this model Buick and certainly will be popular in Colorado.  Personally, I could go for the front wheel drive for myself and could pocket the $2,000.00 savings effected by such a purchase.  

     Buick promised more power for this new Encore GX when it was announced, and they came through despite dropping a cylinder when compared to the “classic” Encore.  Horsepower is 153, and I found the vehicle performance to be totally satisfactory even with four adults on board.  Gas mileage ratings are 32 mpg on the highway, 32 combined, and 31 city miles per gallon with a 13.2 gallon fuel tank.  My observation was 29.3 miles per gallon in predominantly city driving.  

     The list price of my test car was $33,465.00 including freight ($995.00), the aforementioned technology package ($1,790.00), convenience package ($770.00), power lift gate ($520.00), fancy paint ($495.00) and the 153 horsepower upgraded engine ($395.00).  The power lift gate operation can be initiated by a foot motion and lighting is on hand for finding where to wave said foot at night with a tri-shield (Buick insignia) beam on the pavement beneath the rear bumper.  

     The Buick Encore GX was a pleasure to drive around for a week and in my mind the styling, comfort and performance of the vehicle would provide a prospective owner long term satisfaction.  

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“Everything that Glitters – ” 2021 KIA Seltos SX Turbo AWD

When the press fleet driver pulled up at my home with a new KIA, I immediately was pleased with the glittering gold paint job that I was seeing out the front door.  When I pulled the window sticker out of the glove box, I was surprised to find the name of the paint was “Starbright Yellow”.  It brought to mind for me the song by Dan Seals – “Everything that Glitters is Not Gold”, from 1986.

Dan Seals is one of my favorite all-time singers, and is often heard on K96.9 FM radio, including him performing the number one hit that he co-wrote.  “Everything that Glitters is Not Gold” involves the song’s narrator and an estranged female lover, now popular on the livestock rodeo circuit.  The rodeo star, with her flowing blond hair, is burnished in the singers’s brain and he struggles to deal with his little girl’s curiosity about the ex-lover riding on her horse “with the sunlight in her hair”.   

So it is that I had a yellow KIA to test, and along with the distinctive paint, it featured terrific styling.  KIA Motors, based in South Korea, is that country’s second largest auto manufacturer, trailing only Hyundai, its one-third owner.  As recently as 1986, KIA only produced 26 automobiles, but the total was 658,000 in America last year.

The 2021 Seltos that was brought to me was an SX turbo upgraded all-wheel drive model.  Total M.S.R.P. came to $29,485.00, including freight charges of $1,120.00. With the SX, a buyer gets heated front seats, cargo cover, heated outside mirrors, and a Bose stereo.  The seating was black leather with room for five and luggage space came to 26.6 cubic feet behind the rear seat.  Electronics included the navigation, backup camera, pushbutton starter, proximity keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, and power seats.

The 1.6 liter turbocharged gas engine produces 175 horsepower and 195 lb. ft. of torque.  With its seven-speed automatic transmission the KIA reportedly accelerates from zero to 60 in 7.7 seconds.  Fuel economy ratings are 25-city and 30-highway with a 27 combined reading.  I averaged 28.8 mpg with the SX – the gas tank holds 16.4 gallons on this model.

The wheels were 18” ten spoke alloys with red center trim rings.  Tires were Kumho 245/45R18 all-season radials.  Dual exhausts peeked out from the rear of the SX,  and brushed nickel door handles and window trim was on the car.  Matching roof rails were on top and deep tint windows were all around the rear.

Ruth and I drove the SX to a Denver destination one afternoon; the KIA’s road manners were fine as were its guidance and road noise.  Turning diameter (34.8′) is minimal, reducing stress on the narrow streets in parts of the Mile High City.  And the perky turbo engine makes for a fast escape in city traffic after the visit.

The KIA test car turned out to be a bit of a favorite of mine with a generous amount of glitter and audacity.  

 

 

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD

20170118_092122_hdrHyundai is a giant South Korean automobile manufacturer based in Seoul and it is the fourth largest such firm in the world.  The company owns almost half of KIA Motor Company, as well, and has been in business for 45 years.  In North America, Hyundai has designs on becoming the number three automaker by 2020.

This last week I had the pleasure of testing a new, 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate model courtesy of DriveShop, the local press vehicle media concern. The Santa Fe is a midsize crossover that has been around since 2001, and was on the forefront of the crossover boom that started at that time.  Styling of the 3rd generation Santa Fe is a hallmark of this latest model, and chrome abounds on the car, including a big grill, door handles, and exhaust finisher.   The vehicle was painted Nightfall blue metallic and featured premium exterior lower door trim.  The all-wheel drive Santa Fe rides on attractive, 19”, ten-spoke dark gray alloy wheels.

Speaking of abundance, inside the Santa Fe was the Ultimate Technology package along with a panoramic sunroof.  The package allow the occupants to enjoy dual-zone climate control, navigation/rearview camera, a 8” touch screen, satellite radio, proximity keyless entry, premium 12 speaker Infinity QuantumLogic surround sound, heated seats (everywhere) and heated steering wheel.  The car is also equipped with power locks/windows, tilt/telescope, USB/Ipod connections, Bluetooth capability, HID Xenon bending headlights, auto-open hands-free power tailgate, lane departure warning, overhead multi-view camera system for parking, and radar cruise control.  This is an extremely luxurious vehicle – list price with all options and freight totaled $40,820.00.20170118_092525

A nice feature also found inside the Santa Fe is a mammoth rear cargo area with 35.4 cubic feet.  That expands to 71.5 with the 3-piece split rear seat folded down.  That’s right; the rear, sliding bench seat is a 40/20/40 so that two skiers can ride along with their equipment in the middle.

Power for the Santa Fe is supplied by a turbocharged 2.0 liter, 240 horsepower, 4 cylinder engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission.  The EPA mileage ratings are 19/city and 24/highway (17.4 gallon tank), and acceleration is reportedly zero to sixty in 6.5 seconds.  The ride of the Hyundai is compliant and the handling is SUV-superb.

Interestingly, the Santa Fe Sport features both Hillstart Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control, items I would have loved to have on my rental car the last time I visited San Francisco.  Such amenities are indicative of the value associated with this Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate.

 

 

2016 Buick Envision Premium II AWD Luxury SUV

20160620_200850_HDRBuick’s newest SUV offering comes in the form of the Envision, a mid-size luxury crossover made in China but designed and engineered in the U.S.  It is designed to take head-on the Audi Q5 and Acura RDX, et al.

I fell in love with my test Envision, right off the bat.  It handles like a dream, seems to be just the right size, and offers good ride and visibility while generating little road noise.  Buick has positioned the classy, analog clock angled towards the driver but to the right of the dashboard middle so that others can easily peek at it from elsewhere in the cabin.  A little thing, no doubt, but when you add up a lot of little things a great motoring experience generally unfolds.

My test Buick carried an M.S.R.P. of $47,525.00, including a panoramic moon roof for $1475.00, Ebony Twilight metallic paint for $395.00, and freight for $925.00. 20160621_072112 Base price was $44,710.00.  The Ebony (black) paint was offset by an interior with light neutral perforated leather seating (for five), front buckets (both heated and ventilated), and a 60/40 back seat with fore/aft and reclining feature.

Interior equipment included GPS navigation with 8″ touch screen, Bose 7-speaker stereo with satellite radio, OnStar 4G LTE and built-in WiFi hotspot, head-up display, remote/push button starter, and memory driver seating.  I liked the support of the driver seat and thought visibility was good.

Wheels on the Envision are 19″, ten-spoke alloy with Manoogian silver finish and they have Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2, 235/50R19 mud and snow radials installed.  The tires selected are biased toward traction first, ride quality second, and economy third.  Styling of the Buick stacks up well with the competitors mentioned earlier and the grill is designed in the company “waterfall” design that is seen on Veranos, etc.  Overall length of the Envision is 184″, wheelbase is 108″, and the car weighs 3,800 lbs.  Of course it fits in between the Buick Enclave and the Encore in terms of size and pricing.20160620_201143_HDR

The lone power option for the all-wheel drive Envision is a 2.0 liter, 4 cylinder engine with a turbocharger and 252 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 260 lb. ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm. I found the car to be quite peppy – transmission is a six-speed 6T70 electronically controlled automatic with floor shift.  Fuel economy ratings are 22 combined, 20 city, and 26 highway miles per gallon.  Premium fuel is burned in the car and it is stored in a 17.3 gallon tank.

General Motors says it wasn’t even sure about bringing the Envision to the United States when it made plans to build it in China years ago. The vehicle was designed for the Chinese market, where Buick is a sales leader and is General Motors’ top brand. The company has sold nearly 150,000 units there since the Envision went on sale about 12 months ago, even though the target was 100,000 so it was natural to take a shot at our market, where I think the car will be well-received.

 

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T AWD

SAM_0616Hyundai Motor Group is one of the five biggest automobile manufacturers in the world, and part of the firm is KIA, a popular line of automobiles.  Hyundai is the main nameplate, and one which was on the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T crossover that I recently tested.  It was loaned to me courtesy of STI-Drive in Denver.  The Santa Fe is, as you might expect, named after the beautiful New Mexico city 450 miles south of my home of Greeley, Colorado.

The Santa Fe is based on the Hyundai Sonata sedan platform, and is classified as a mid-size crossover.  It is currently in its third generation form, and has been produced since 2000.  The one I tested was painted Canyon Copper metallic and inside it was upholstered in perforated beige leather seating for five.  Its M.S.R.P. totaled $38,350.00, and that included $875.00 for freight and $4,350.00 for the properly-named “ultimate” package.  Included in that last package were HID headlamps, LED taillights, panoramic moon roof, navigation system with 8″ touchscreen, 12-speaker Infinity stereo, heated seating front and rear, air conditioned front buckets, heated steering wheel and rear parking assist sensors.  Standard features of the Sport 2.0T included rear window sunshades, XM radio/CD disc player, power locks/windows/mirrors, pushbutton starter, blind spot monitor and power rear lift gate.SAM_0626

Power for the Santa Fe comes from a 2 liter, 4 cylinder turbocharged engine with 264 horsepower coupled with a 6-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission.  Acceleration was brisk, and is reportedly zero to 60 in 6.6 seconds.  EPA fuel economy ratings for the Sport come in at 18-city, 24-highway, 21-combined miles per gallon.  The tank holds 18.8 gallons, and that is a benefit.  SAM_3909

A compliant ride provided comfort for my wife and I when we travelled to Cheyenne to conduct some business.  The car SAM_3900handled wind (it had to up there) well, and wind noise inside is acceptable.  For about town driving and a little off road usage, both hillstart assist control and downhill brake control are on hand to make things a little more manageable.

The attractive interior had two rows of seating (front buckets), and there is 35.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row.  If that row is folded down, the numbers moves up to 71.5 cubic feet.  The second row seat is a 40/20/40 folding affair.  The heated and air conditioned front buckets were supportive and comfortable (and attractive).  The all-wheel drive car is 193.1″ long, rests on a 110.2″ wheelbase, and has 146 cubic feet of passenger volume inside.

SAM_3895Styling, a hallmark of the Santa Fe, picked up some glances (and stares) during the week driving the Santa Fe, and I particularly liked the color.  Chrome handles were on the doors, Ten-spoke 19″ alloys were mounted on the axles, and the tires were P225/55R19 Continental CrossContact LX sport all season radials.  The Hyundai was a pleasure to test, and in my mind it represents a good value with its sub-$40,000.00 window sticker.

2015 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD Crossover

SAM_3838Toyota, the first company in the world to build ten million vehicles, came out with the Camry-based Highlander in 2001, having announced its anticipated arrival at the New York Auto Show in April of 2000.  It has been a sales success, racking up in excess of 1.5 million units sold to date.

For 2015, Toyota’s Highlander carries forward its renewed styling that was rolled out in 2014, and  is currently in its third generation iteration.  It is a car-based mid-sized SUV with seven-passenger, three row seating.  Sales of the Highlander (146,127 in 2014 – a record) places its revenue right in the middle of the Toyota SUV lineup.  The Toyota RAV-4 is the only model that produces more sales for the company than the Highlander.SAM_3842

This past week I was able to test a Highlander, a Limited top-of-the-line unit that carried an M.S.R.P. of $47,812.00, including freight.  The Limited’s base price was $41,300.00, and had as options a BluRay rear entertainment system ($1,810.00), driver technology package ($1,400.00), tow hitch/wiring harness ($699.00), side running boards ($599.00), remote engine start ($499.00), floor/cargo mat package ($225.00), and paint protection film on the front end ($395.00).  The Limited Highlander included a safety technology package, a moonroof, and perforated leather second-row captain’s chairs.  The extra technology equipment included radar adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlamps, blind spot monitor, lane departure alert, and pre-collision warning.

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Additional Limited model items on my test car included power liftgate with glass hatch, 19” five-spoke alloy wheels, anodized roof rails, three zone climate control, JBL/Entune/navigation with 8” screen (the rear screen was 9″), perforated black leather seats, pushbutton starter, proximity keyless entry, tilt/telescope, heated and air conditioned front bucket seats, backup camera, and nice Optitron instrumentation.

Styling, with the 2014/2015 revision, was great.  So was the opulent-looking Predawn Mica gray paint, “Limited” badging, and polished Chromtec finish on the wheels.  The tires mounted on the alloys were 245/55R19 Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422  mud and snow radials.  The running boards on my tester added in both the utility and the styling departments.

Power for the Highlander is supplied by a 3.5 liter V-6 with 270 horsepower and 248 lb. ft. of torque.  The transmission is a six-speed automatic with snow mode and full-time four-wheel drive.  A unitized body is employed and four-wheel independent suspension and disc brakes are, as well.  EPA fuel economy ratings are 18-city and 24-highway, with a combined rating of 20.  For the week that I drove the Toyota, my observation was of 24.1 mpg.  Weight is 4,508 lbs., towing capacity is 6,000 lbs. and the fuel tank holds 19.2 gallons.  Overall length is 191.1”, 3” longer than the second generation Highlander, and cargo volume behind the third-row seat is 13.8 cubic feet.  With it folded down, that number increases to 42.3, and with the second- and third-row seats folded flat, total cargo capacity is 83.7 cubic feet.

I enjoyed the styling, interior comfort, visibility, road noise (lack of), and guidance of the Highlander.  The ride was satisfactory, and I feel that this year’s Highlander makes a nice family hauler and/or travel vehicle.  The U.S. public agrees with me, and great sales numbers are the result for Toyota.

2015 Toyota Venza Limited AWD

SAM_0512A test car that was delivered to me recently was a 2015 Barcelona Red metallic five-door Toyota Venza with all-wheel drive and a V-6 engine.  Since the Venza was introduced into the Toyota line six years ago as a 2009 Camry derivative (one of many), the company has chosen to dress the car out with lots of equipment.  And the one that I was loaned had enough in the line of options to bring M.S.R.P. to $42,193.00.  Included was the Limited package of options were leather seats/shift knob/steering wheel, twin power heated front buckets, smart key system, pushbutton and remote starter, power liftgate, backup camera, navigation system, 13-speaker JBL stereo, XM radio, automatic high beam headlights, panoramic glass moon roof, IPod connector, Bluetooth, and rear bumper protector.  The car also had  chrome door handles, puddle lamps, fog lights,  four-season floor mats, paint protection film, and mudguards.  On balance, it was quite a number of upgrades.SAM_0515

SAM_0507First off, I departed for Denver out on I-25 on a winter morning.  I wanted to meet my family for lunch at Zadie’s Restaurant near Cherry Creek.  The Venza has a 268hp V-6 (@ 6,200 rpm) with 3.5 liters, dual overhead cams, 24 valves and dual variable valve timing.  Torque is 246 lb. ft. (@ 4,700 rpm) and the the transmission attached to it is a 6-speed electronically controlled model with with sequential shift mode.  All of this drivetrain spec provided ample passing power and I was satisfied with the Venza’s ride, guidance, and handling.  Dual climate control kept both the wife and I comfortable and the tilt/telescope kept the wheel in a proper attitude for the driver.  This upgraded Toyota had carbon fiber-looking trim in quite a few locations in the car and it was very attractive.  So was the dashboard material and gauges.  And the cargo space behind the second-row seating is 36.6 cubic feet.  Fold the middle row of seats down and the total cargo space comes to 70.2 cubic feet.  Weight/wheelbase/length of the Venza is 4,045 lbs., 109.3″, and 189″, respectively.

Fuel mileage for the Venza is 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined.  I observed an average of 22.4 during my week with the car.  I mentioned the acceleration – reportedly the Venza V-6 goes 0-60 in 6.9 seconds, without a great deal of fuss.  The car rides on big 20” five-spoke silver allow wheels that look great, shod with P245/50R20 Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season steel SAM_0517belted radials.  And the drive system is all-wheel with Active Torque Control and the suspension is 4-wheel independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bars.

I left Zadies less satisfied with the lunch (breakfast, actually – I don’t care for the pancake syrup) than the car, and noticed a lot of looks from shoppers in the Cherry Creek district.  The Toyota Camry has produced a lot of offspring, and the Venza is the best-looking one of the bunch.