“Best Day” in a 2020 BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe

This reviewer has been test driving cars for ten years, but my love of them started in western Nebraska when I was fifteen and got my learner’s permit.  That is fairly typical for a young man, and as George Strait renders in his 2000 hit “Best Day”, a teenager’s dreams “revolve around four spinning wheels”.  Mine sure did, and as a rule back then I dreamt of a Chevy or perhaps a Pontiac.  A BMW?  That was something driven through town by a visiting city dweller.  

But a dreamy BMW was indeed the test car I received just in time for a birthday (mine) ride all over Weld and Larimer counties recently.  The model was a 228i painted Storm Bay metallic (gray) and featured Mocha perforated Dakota leather seating for five.  The moniker “Gran Coupe” sounds fancy, but generally a coupe is a 2 door with a sloping roofline.  BMW, however, has elected to name this four door as such, and the practice of doing so seems to have been popularized with several other manufacturers.

My test car qualified as a subcompact (178.5” long), and the interior provided supportive seating for two of the passengers, a large moon roof, a 10.3” dandy infotainment screen, and an electronic shifter that I struggled with a little bit.  BMW’s always offer the operator a solid, Teutonic feel and sensation, and this 228i was no exception.  All of the safety features such as lane change alert were on hand, but the cruise control did not have the radar system that prevents the driver from running up on a slower moving vehicle.  The customary cruise control suited me fine, however.

The styling of the 228i is terrific, and neighbors and motorists sure did notice Ruth and I as the day progressed.  Power is provided by a turbocharged four with 228 horsepower and the transmission is an eight speed automatic coupled to the all-wheel drive system underneath. Zero to 60 mph can be arrived at in 5.1 seconds and highway fuel economy is rated at 33 mpg. 

The M.S.R.P. for my test vehicle worked out to $47,845.00 with all the options. 

It was a blast to drive the BMW for the week that I had possession, and I would have to rate my experience driving around in it on my birthday as the “Best Day” of 2020, so far.             

Featured

“New Yellow Car” – 2020 Lexus GS-F RWD Sedan

In Dan Seals’ 1985 hit song “My Old Yellow Car”, the singer describes the dilapidated condition of his ride by referring to the stained back seat as the place where “Larry and Sandy could no longer wait”.  The song, often heard on K96.9FM, has as its provenance the fond memories that the singer has for the old days riding around in his junky vehicle.  

When I received notification that I would soon be receiving a “New Yellow Car”, specifically a 2020 Lexus GS-F, I could no longer wait for its arrival, but unlike Larry and Sandy, had to do so for a few days.  I’ve always had a fondness for yellow cars, and that fact along with the specifications of the GS-F caused my elevated anticipation.  

The 2020 Lexus GS-F rear wheel drive sedan sits on a 112.2” wheelbase, is 72.6” wide, 56.7” tall, and weighs 4,034 lbs.  In some ways I was disappointed that I did not test the Lexus during the heart of the pandemic while the roads were vacated and I could have let the GS-F flex its muscles.  

Muscular is indeed what the GS-F is, featuring a 5.0 liter V-8 with 467 horsepower and an eight speed sport shift automatic with paddle shifters along with the floor stick.  Top speed is reportedly 168 mph and zero to 60 acceleration takes 4.5 seconds.  That acceleration, along with the handling and guidance, were exceptional, and the tires were summer-only staggered Michelin Pilots mounted on deluxe 19” aluminum wheels.   

The 5 passenger interior of the Lexus was sumptuous with high-back heated and air conditioned buckets up front and ambient interior lighting that was dim or bright based on whether the GS—F was parked or in motion.  All other expected interior appointments were on hand to include navigation, moon roof, and even aluminum racing pedals.  The trunk holds 14 cubic ft. of cargo on this unit and the fuel tank holds 17.4 gallons (24 mpg highway rating = 418 miles of range).

The  M.S.R.P. of my test Lexus came in at $89, 510.00, including freight and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound stereo.  I had a lot of car in my hands for seven days and like Dan Seals, created a few present day memories of my own with it.    

 

2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback FWD XSE

The Toyota Corolla hatchback that I was recently able to test came in a pleasing two toned bronze oxide and black metallic paint combination and featured black and gray leather trimmed fabric seating surfaces.  The Toyota Corolla, one of the best-selling nameplates of all time, has moved over 44 million cars onto driveways around the world (well, mostly driveways), and the car is in its twelfth generation configuration, having been around since 1966.

The 2020 front wheel drive Corolla hatchback sits on a 103.9” wheelbase, is 70.5” wide, 57.1” high, and weighs 3,060 lbs.  The way that Greeley and Ft. Collins have grown, it seems you are always poking around looking for parking space, so with a car that’s 172 inches long, it is not too difficult with Toyota’s Corolla hatchback.

Acceleration, handling, visibility and guidance were all acceptable for the Corolla.  The power was supplied by a 2 liter, 4 cylinder engine, putting out 168 horsepower through a continuously variable (CVT) transmission.  Silver and gray ten-spoke alloy wheels were fitted with P225/40R18 all-season radials on the car.

The 5 passenger interior of the hatchback was comfortable and the seating was supportive and looked good.  The car had a backup camera, 8″ touchscreen, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, tilt/telescope steering column, and keyless entry.  M.S.R.P for my test Corolla came in at $29,391.00, including freight.  The biggest item added to its $24,340.00 base price was a preferred package consisting of a JBL stereo and dynamic navigation. 

The Corolla did a super job for me during the test in Northern Colorado.  The slick styling caught a lot of eyes, the car kept pace at the stoplights, and with the 38 mpg highway mileage rating, I spent a nominal amount of money on gas.  I’d say it is a good value.

 

 

2017 Subaru BRZ Limited

Subaru and Toyota joined forces on a joint effort to build a rear-wheel-drive sports coupe during the previous decade, and in 2012  Subaru’s version hit the showrooms as a 2013 model and was named the BRZ.  Subaru handled the lion’s share of engineering of the sports car and installed their vaunted “boxer” engine in the vehicle.  The BRZ moniker denotes the boxer engine, rear-wheel-drive, and Zenith.  Zenith stands not for an old television, but for “above”.

I found a 2017 BRZ Limited in my driveway for testing recently, with keys slipped through the mail slot in my home.  I didn’t have to insert the keys in the BRZ because the Subaru has “keyless access and start”, allowing you to enter and drive with the keys in your pocket.  This BRZ was equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission, and I was able to handle the transmission rather easily.

The BRZ is powered by a 2.0 liter, four cylinder boxer aluminum engine that provides 205 horsepower and 156 lb.-ft. of torque.  The punch-counterpunch action of the boxer pistons in the Subaru cancel each other out and provide a smooth delivery of power.  Also, the horizontally opposed engine results in a lower center of gravity in the vehicle (18”), aiding the handling and cornering characteristics.  Porsche and Subaru are pretty much it when it comes to boxer automobile engines, and the design is found in some BMW and Honda motorcycles.  The motor was patented by Germany’s Karl Benz in 1896.  Fuel economy ratings on the BRZ are 21-city, 29-highway, the car burns premium unleaded gasoline, and the tank holds 13.2 gallons.

I took a spin over to Loveland in the BRZ and took a detour north on the “Jackrabbit Trail” for some winding road driving.  I’ve found that recently most folks around Greeley don’t use that name for Highway 257, but when I arrived in this area in 1979, that was what the road was called.  I think it came from an early name for the Mad Russian over near Milliken.

On the drive the BRZ exhibited its nature as a true sports car with 4-wheel independent suspension, and 4-wheel disc (11.5”) brakes.  Reportedly the 2,800 lb. car travels from zero to 60 in 6.4 seconds.   Inside, the Limited has black leather seating trim with Alcantara (suede-like) inserts to keep the occupants from sliding around, and Subaru has installed a 6.2” touch-screen navigation/infotainment system in the BRZ.  Also on hand are dual-zone air conditioning, Bluetooth capability, satellite radio, and USB/Ipod connection.

Ruth and I took the BRZ to the factory outlet stores and I noticed that the shoppers  were taking a good look at the Blue Pearl Metallic BRZ in the parking lot, admiring the ten-spoke dark gray alloy wheels with 215/45R17 Michelin Primacy HP summer radials, dual exhaust tips, and trunk spoiler (it’s atop a 7 cubic ft. compartment).

M.S.R.P. for the Subaru was based at $27,645.00.  Freight and a performance package brought the total to $29,660.00.  Shoppers looking for an under-$30,000,  2 + 2 sports car with terrific styling and performance would be well-advised to look at the 2017 Subaru BRZ.

2017 KIA Forte5 SX Hatchback

The latest car that was delivered to my house for testing was the 2017 KIA Forte5 hatchback – the Forte has been around since 2008 but had extensive updates added periodically since that time.  My test car came in Phantom gray metallic paint and included black and red leather seating for five inside.

As of this writing, I do not know where KIA came up with the name for this car, but wonder if they named it after the handsome Fabian, teen idol of the 50’s and 60’s.  Many readers do not know that Fabian’s full name was Fabiano Anthony Forte, or that he was referred to his record producer by Frankie Avalon, another South Philadelphia resident.  Eleven of Fabian’s songs reached the Billboard Hot 100 listing, including “Hound Dog Man”, “Tiger”, and “Turn Me Loose”, and he later got into movies including the part of Pretty Boy Floyd in “A Bullet for Pretty Boy” (1970).

Perhaps KIA’s hatchback that I drove was not named after Fabian, but my research into the matter has ended.  I will say, however, that the Forte is a “pretty boy”, as are several Hyundai and KIA vehicles since the hiring of Peter Schreyer by the corporation to head their California design studio.  The latest KIA’s are lower, wider, and longer that those of the past, with a wheelbase of this Forte5 of 106.3” and an overall length of 171.3”.  The Forte5 weighs 3,058 lbs.

My test Forte carried an M.S.R.P. of $27,020.00, a figure that took me a little by surprise when I withdrew the window sticker from the glove box.  Included was $125.00 for carpeted floor mats and $895.00 for freight.  As standard items, the car was equipped with sun roof, power/ventilated front bucket seats, push button starter, proximity smart key, tilt/telescope steering wheel, navigation system, satellite radio, Bluetooth/USB connectivity, and power outside folding mirrors with light stripes.

The KIA was powered by a 1.6 liter (201 hp/195 lb. ft.) four cylinder, turbocharged, DOHC, 16 valve engine and featured a six speed manual.  Acceleration of the Forte is reportedly zero to 60 in 7.3 seconds, and fuel economy is rated 23-city and 29-highway.  My observance was of 30.1 mpg during my week with the car.

My wife and I drove the KIA to Denver for a visit as well as a trip from Greeley to DIA on Highway 85.  Ride was suitable, guidance was fine, and wind noise was not excessive.  At the airport parking lot and in Greeley I admired the Forte’s small, 34.8’ turning radius.  The car fetched a lot of onlookers with the superb styling I hinted at earlier as well as the well-designed 17” alloys, which were fitted with Nexen Classe Premiere P215/45R17 m/s radials.  Chrome door handles adorned the exterior of the car.

KIA Forte auto sales are sizzling in the U.S. – about 70,000 sold in 2017, year-to-date – and this hatchback is a key component of that success.  I can see why; it’s quite a “Tiger”.

Phantom gray metallic – Heated and ventilated leather black front buckets – 5  passenger seating – Navigation system with 7” touchscreen – LED headlights – Power sunroof – AM/FM/MP3/CD/Satellite stereo – Pushbutton start and backup camera – D – shaped steering wheel and metal pedals – 201 horsepower 4 cylinder – 1.6 liter with turbocharger – torque is 195 lb. ft. – Six-speed manual transmission – 18” ten – spoke aluminum wheels – $27,020.00 window sticker   29 mpg highway gas mileage – 23 mpg city gas mileage       25 mpg combined gas mileage – Made in Pesoueria, Mexico

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Roadster

THEN

As a little boy, my brothers and I (yes, the Wright brothers) got tiny plastic cars for Christmas one year with the make of car embossed over the back window.  They were about the size of a spool of thread, and we thought one of them was a “FLAT”.  The word Fiat, stamped on the toy, was foreign to us little guys and besides, no such cars were to be seen near Fullerton, Nebraska.  We learned much later that we had been playing with a Fiat 500 replica.

Italian automaker Fiat built automobiles in New York prior to World War II, and at the start of the conflict production in this country ceased.  They re-appeared in the U.S. in the 1950’s and sourced the backronym “Fix It Again, Tony” as a reference to rust and reliability problems.  In fact, I bought a 1968 Fiat roadster that was riddled with rust and after a trip to the bodyshop, drove it for several years during my Air Force assignment in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

I enjoyed the little red Fiat and had a dream of trading for the bigger 124 Spider, but marriage terminated my sports car ownership days and I replaced the Fiat with a Datsun sedan.

NOW

I was thrilled in 2014 when I heard that Fiat was going to resurrect the venerable 124 Spider, and as it turned out they built it on Mazda’s MX-5 Miata platform in a joint venture project.  A 2017 model was loaned to me for a week recently and I was able to give it a rather thorough analysis.

It had an M.S.R.P. of $27,285.00, and that price included a technology package with a 7″ display, XM radio, backup camera, and proximity keyless entry.  Drivetrain is a 1.4 liter, 160 horsepower turbo-4 and transmission is a pleasing 6-speed manual.  The vehicle is rear-wheel drive, handles like a dream and the top is a snap to put up and down (manually).  This 124 is a big step forward for Fiat Chrysler.

 

2017 Toyota Corolla 5-Door Hatchback iM

sam_0858

The Toyota Corolla that I was recently able to test came in a pleasing Electric Blue Storm metallic color and featured gray fabric seating surfaces.  I enjoyed the Corolla iM (Toyota’s version of the now-defunct Scion iM); it provided spirited acceleration, and gas mileage came in at nearly 33 mpg in all city driving.  The way that Greeley has grown, it seems you are always poking around looking for parking space, so with a car that’s 170 inches long and 69″ wide, it is not too difficult with Toyota’s Corolla iM five-door hatchback.

The Toyota Corolla, the best-selling nameplate of all time, has moved over 40 million cars onto driveways around the world (well, mostly driveways).  The car is in its eleventh generation configuration, and has been around since 1966.  The 2017 iM sits on a 102.4″ wheelbase, is 69.3″ wide, 55.3″ high, and weighs 2,943 lbs., putting it on an even keel with Chevy’s new Cruze hatchback.  I’ve always been a fan of Corolla styling, and this 2017 iM has not taken a step backwards in that department.  LED lighting was front and rear, including front daytime running lights, and fog lights were installed.  Silver and gray ten-spoke alloy wheels were fitted with P225/45R17 all-season radials on the car.

I mentioned acceleration – it was acceptable for a 36 mpg car, and other driving dynamics were good, as well.  They use, among other things, electric power steering to effect that highway gas mileage rating, as well as Valvematic technology on the 1.8 liter, 4 cylinder engine.  It puts out 137 horsepower at 6,100 rpm as well as 126 lb. ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm.  The front-wheel drive car gets 28 mpg in the city and 31 mpg, combined, and for me the reading was 30+, all week long (14 gallon tank).  Toyota’s choice for a transmission is the continuously variable (CVT) automatic with shift mode.

The interior of the iM was comfortable for Ruth and I, and the seating was supportive and looked good.  The car had Toyota iM Display audio, backup camera, 7″ touchscreen, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, AM/FM radio, tilt/telescope, and keyless entry.  The rear legroom is suitable for a car of this size, at 32.7″, and the hatchback has 20.8 cubic feet of luggage space behind the back seat.

M.S.R.P for my test Corolla came in at $22,498.00, including freight.  Options included a floor/cargo mat set for $185.00, paint protection film for $395.00, rear wind deflector for $399.00, computer tablet holder for $99.00, and wheel locks for $65.00, all added to the base price of $19,490.00.

The Corolla did a super job for me and during the test in Northern Colorado.  The slick styling caught a lot of eyes, the car kept pace at the stoplights, and I spent a nominal amount of money on gas.  I’d say it is a good value.

2017 Toyota Yaris iA FWD Sedan

20170212_154811    The most recent car brought to me for review earlier this month was the 2017 Toyota Yaris.  The model was the 4-door iA sedan in Pulse red paint.   The interior of the car included black and gray fabric with sport front buckets and a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat.

The odd name of this car is derived from the word Charis, the Greek goddess of elegance and beauty.  And the German expression of affirmation, “ya” is tacked onto the front of the name.  It could just as surely refer to the target market of this car, Young Adults.  On balance, it is a suitable name, and the Toyota people probably don’t mind that the word looks like the cultural epicenter of Europe, that being Paris.

Ruth and I jumped into the Yaris and buzzed over through Loveland for a ride towards the Village Inn.  Getting in the car wasn’t particularly difficult, and the highway manners were fine for a subcompact that had a wheelbase of 101.2″ and overall length of 171.7″  With the base price of $15,950.00, adding freight of $865.00 brought the M.S.R.P. to a reasonable $16,850.00, F.O.B. Denver.  That last initialism stands for “freight on board,” or in street parlance, “where delivered to.”  Standard equipment on the Yaris included 6-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive, real hand brake, electric power steering/windows/locks, color-keyed power mirrors with turn signals, cruise control, anti-lock braking system, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, CD/stereo with USB and aux. jack, tire pressure monitor, and tilt/telescope wheel.  Trunk capacity is ample at 13.49 cubic feet.  I was pleased with, and I received compliments on, the styling of the Yaris.

Yaris power is provided by a 1.5 liter, 4-cylinder, 106 hp engine with variable valve timing.  Torque is 103 lb. ft., and acceleration is OK (zero to 60 in perhaps a touch under ten seconds.)  Gas mileage ratings are 30 in town, 39 on the highway, and 34 combined.  I observed a reading of 32.5 overall.  The styling of the Yaris is fine, with attractive paint and 16″ ten-spoke silver alloy wheels fitted with 185/60R16 all-season radials.

On this day the eggs at the restaurant were a little runny, but the ride back was a pleasure and I was proud to be seen in the Yaris.  I guess I looked a little old, but Ruth didn’t.  Would I let one of our three daughters drive, buy, ride in, lease, or borrow a Yaris?  You bet.

2016 Volkswagen “Dune” 1.8T Turbo Beetle

20160825_163702Volkswagen Beetles were built from 1938 to 2003, and  over 20 million have been manufactured and sold worldwide since the inception of the car in Germany.  A man named Porsche designed the car, and along with the rear engine placement, the car was air cooled, without liquid coolant or a radiator.

What is commonly called a “New Beetle” with coolant, a front engine, and front-wheel drive, has been marketed on and off since 1997.  Such a car is what I picked up at General Mitchell Airfield in Milwaukee to drive on a midwest vacation.  It was a 2016 Turbocharged Sandstorm Yellow metallic unit with “Dune” equipment specified, including a rear spoiler, raised suspension, ten-spoke polished alloy wheels, exclusive bumpers and air intakes, black exterior cladding, aluminum pedal covers, and special badging and decals.20160825_153231

Power for my front wheel drive test car was supplied by a 1.8 liter, 170 horsepower (184 lb. ft. of torque) four cylinder gas engine with an EPA mileage rating of 25/city, 34/highway, 28 combined MPG.  The fuel tank capacity was 14.5 gallons.  The transmission on hand was a six-speed automatic, and it seemed sturdy and somewhat enjoyable.  For having a turbocharger, the engine had a definite grumble to it, belying the high RPM turbo operating in the power department.  Turbochargers whir at about 150,000 revolutions per minute – roughly 30 times as fast as the engine.  They are nice in Colorado, spinning faster at that altitude and mitigating power loss that can be associated with naturally-aspirated (i.e. fuel injected) engines.  I can’t say I hated having turbocharged power in Illinois and Wisconsin – the technology is just great.

Inside the four passenger Volkswagen, a Fender premium stereo was on hand as well as heated cloth and leatherette buckets with yellow piping and stitching, Bluetooth connections, pushbutton starter, flat-bottomed steering wheel, rear view camera, and satellite radio.  The theme inside was tasteful and coordinated well with the outside styling.  Beetle “Dune” looks was great, featured a wider track, honeycomb grill, LED tail lights, and while on our trip several tourists stopped by to comment on our ride.

Acceleration of the 3,093 lb. VW was great fun, road manners were on target, and handling/guidance were fine, as well.  It’s a pretty quiet sedan and visibility is fine.  List price was $25,065.00 for the 2016 that I drove and that included freight.  The only optional uncharge was for the Sandstorm paint, at $250.00.  The Volkswagen Beetle has a niche market and doesn’t sell over 400,000 per year (in the U.S.!) like the old days, but still has a nice following and a fan in this reviewer.

2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL FWD Sedan

20160526_101434

For a recent test my wife and I went to Kearney, NE, for Memorial Day and a stop at Fort McPherson National Cemetery, where relatives’ remains are located.  The cemetery was created on a 20-acre plot over 140 years ago on the grounds of Fort McPherson, near North Platte.  The Fort was finished in October of 1863, and served as an outpost to protect travelers between Fort Kearny (now Kearney, NE) and Colorado.

The Cemetery has over 10,000 interments located there, and we visited the site in a 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL sedan.  It was painted Pearl white and had beige leather seating for five inside.  I photographed it at the Julesberg, CO rest stop, and got over 31 miles per gallon on the round trip to Kearney.

Power for the front-wheel-drive Altima SL is supplied by a 2.5 liter, four cylinder engine with 182 horsepower (6,000 rpm) and 180 lb. ft. of torque (4,000 rpm).  Nissan gave in to the 4-cylinder trend with this car, and my trip was pleasurable, even thoughin the past I drove the V-6 Altimas.  A continuously variable automatic transmission is mated to the four cylinder engine, and acceleration was fine.  EPA mileage figures are 27/39 mpg for city and highway (18 gallon tank), and the combined rating is 31 miles per gallon.

The white Altima SL I tested had as options a moonroof package ($800.00), carpeting floor and trunk mats ($210.00), premium pearl paint ($395.00), and technology package ($1,700.00).  Total M.S.R.P., counting the $835.00 for freight, came to $32,510.00.  With rear backup camera, moon roof, navigation system, keeping this sedan under thirty-three  grand is an accomplishment.  Of course it had key-in-your-pocket ignition, tilt/telescope, power locks and windows, cruise control, satellite radio/CD, Bluetooth, and UBS connection.  Seating, as I mentioned, was for five, and the trunk held 15.4 cubic feet of cargo.

Styling for the new Altima, introduced in July of 2012, is an improvement over prior Altimas.  It looks bigger than it actually is, which is 191.5 “ in length and 3,177 lbs. in weight.  Chrome door handles are attached to the Nissan, and dual fog lights are up front along with a bold grill.  Ride is great, and it’s quiet in the cabin (71 decibels).  Ten-spoke, two-toned 17” alloy wheels are surrounded by P215/55R17 Michelin Primacy MXV4 all season radials.

Nissan’s best seller, this Altima, should hold up well in the sales wars with Honda’s Accord and Toyota’s Camry, as it doesn’t offer a person many opportunities to complain.  I spent a long couple of days on the Interstate with it, and the driving didn’t get tiresome, the audio was great, and time flew on our trip to Nebraska.