Family sedans may be passé in this increasingly crossover SUV-dominated market, but they still offer the best blend of practicality, drivability and economy for your typical small family. And that’s why they still dominate the sales charts. Now, with fuel prices on the rise again, efficiency is returning to prominence. For 2018, the Honda Accord Hybrid offers that efficiency without compromising the other parts of the package.
In earlier Accords, selecting the Hybrid model meant making do with a trunk that yielded to the demands of battery packaging. Those big, heavy cells that provide the electric part of the driveline equation need to live somewhere, and on the 2017 and earlier models they only fit behind the rear seats.
For 2018, the Accord rides on a new chassis that makes room for those batteries beneath the rear seats. The new, smaller lithium-ion battery pack now disappears into the structure of the car, meaning exactly the same 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space as the normal sedan. That’s 0.9 cubic feet up over the 2017 Honda Accord — the non-hybrid. And, with the batteries situated beneath the seats, the Hybrid also gets the same 60/40 split rear seatback.
Up front, a new 2.0-liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine provides 143 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque, delivering an incredible 40 percent thermal efficiency. That may not sound like much, but it’s Honda’s most efficient production engine ever. That’s paired with an electric motor that boosts total system output to 212 horsepower, 20 more than the base Accord’s 1.5-liter turbocharged four.
Interestingly that hybrid system is configured in series, meaning the car can run entirely on the electric motor and use the gasoline motor just to recharge the batteries, a la the Chevrolet Volt. But, when engine speed or acceleration demands, both motors can work in parallel to provide maximum performance.
But don’t expect too much on that front. I was able to drive an early version of the 2018 Accord Hybrid and found the acceleration to be on the relaxed side, more than acceptable but lacking the EV-style rush of torque that we’ve come to expect from cars like the Volt. But, this was just a hand-built prototype that had spent the day getting flogged by journalists, so a fresher car with a full battery pack may very well perform better.
The big question, of course, is overall economy and, sadly, that we don’t have an answer for yet. The 2018 Accord in its most efficient configuration, with the 1.5-liter engine and CVT, offers a combined 33 mpg. The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid manages 48 combined, so don’t be surprised if the new car pushes that figure well into the 50s. Despite that, we should actually see a decrease in price. For 2018 the Accord Hybrid will be available in the base LX trim, losing some interior niceties in exchange for a lower MSRP.
The 2018 Accord Hybrid hits dealers early next year and, while I was quite impressed by my time behind the wheel of the traditionally powered sedans, if you’re not in a hurry I’m inclined to think the Hybrid will be well worth the wait.
The BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo, a bulbous coupe-crossover mashup, wasn’t an attractive-looking vehicle, nor was it a very good driver. In hopes of wiping the 5 Series GT from the public’s memory, BMW is rolling out the 6 Series Gran Turismo for the 2018 model year.
Is the 6 Series GT a better-looking bulbous coupe-crossover mashup? Yes, as its nicer flowing body lines help the proportions look less awkward. The optional M Sport package on my test car, with larger front air intakes, side skirts and rear diffuser, helps in the style department. It still isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but it certainly is an improvement.
BMW makes the interior surroundings quite nice with available Nappa leather, attractive matte wood trim and a wrapped and stitched dashboard. The higher seating position is comfortable, while there’s serviceable room for two adults up front and back. The 6 Series GT also carries three people, although quite snugly, in the rear seat.
The biggest practical payoff to the 6 Series Gran Turismo is cargo space. 31 cubic feet of cargo fits beneath the rear hatch, and the load floor is 2 inches lower compared with the 5 Series GT. Electric release buttons automatically fold the back seats down to expand cargo space to a Costco-shopping-spree-accommodating 65 cubic feet.
Infotainment functions are handled by BMW’s latest iDrive 6 system, featuring a 10.2-inch center touchscreen. Navigation, Wi-Fi connectivity for up to 10 devices and Bluetooth are standard. A wireless smart device charging pad also comes on all 6 Series GTs, which is a good thing because there are only two USB ports that surely will be in high demand among passengers.
Paging through iDrive 6’s menus is intuitive, while the navigation system never led me or my drive partner astray on confusing roadways outside of Lisbon, Portugal, where BMW sponsored drives of this 6 Series variant. For the few times we accidentally missed a turn, the system quickly recalculated the route and got us back on track.
Controlling the volume of the music playing through the car’s 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system using the optional gesture controls is a neat trick, and responds well to spinning finger commands. There are also gesture control movements to accept and reject phone calls and maneuver the view of the 360-degree camera, and there’s a programmable one for a function of your choice.
For the Apple faithful who prefer to entrust infotainment functions to Apple CarPlay, iDrive 6 is capable of running it, but it is a $300 option. Android Auto fans are sadly left out in the cold for now because BMW says the majority of its customers are Apple users, but the company is studying the addition of the Android system.
Backing up the 6 Series GT’s better looks, spacious and cushy interior and impressive infotainment are much better driving dynamics. Where the 5 Series GT felt clumsy through bends and crashed over bumps, the 6 is tighter and deals with road imperfections in a more buttoned-up way. The combination of Sport mode for a firmer adaptive damper, air suspension, steering settings and 19-inch Pirelli P Zero tires (US-bound cars will come on all-season or mixed performance tires) hustles the 6 GT through winding roads in a respectable manner for a 4,409-pound vehicle. Entering a corner reveals strong brake performance, sharp turn-in response, controlled body motions and a healthy dose of grip.
My one complaint about Sport mode is that steering weight is too heavy, making it feel like you are wrestling the 6 GT around turns.
On a straight expressway portion of the drive route, the Comfort detent is ideal for a more forgiving suspension and lighter steering. Active cruise control adjusts velocity in accordance to traffic for relaxed motoring, as the well-isolated interior takes center stage. Thanks to higher soundproofing efforts in the roof, doors and rear seatbacks, the cabin is quiet enough to make me nod off in the passenger seat briefly. Admittedly, jet lag could have contributed to my trip to sleepy town, but the cabin is indeed nearly silent at high speeds.
Unlike the 5 GT, which was available with two engine options, including a 445-horsepower 4.4-liter turbocharged V8, the 6 GT will only be offered as the 640i xDrive with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder packing 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The car merges quickly onto expressways and performs passing maneuvers with ease, showing no signs of turbo lag. The meaty power band is quantified by peak torque being available between 1,380 and 5,200 rpm. The transmission is a slick operator for up- and downshifts, while the manual shift mode is excellent for a torque converter automatic.
From behind the wheel, acceleration doesn’t blow you away, but it feels serviceably fast. BMW claims a 60 mph time of 5.1 seconds.
Fuel economy numbers aren’t available yet, but the outgoing 535i xDrive Gran Turismo with a 300-horsepower version of the 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder and eight-speed automatic gearbox carried an 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway ratings. It won’t be too surprising if the 640i xDrive Gran Turismo returns similar levels of efficiency.
If you like what you see in the 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Coupe, a base model is going to cost you $69,700 plus $995 for destination when this tall wagon with coupe-inspired roofline hits dealers in November. Considering that the 2017 535i xDrive GT started at $63,200 and the 550i xDrive GT began at $72,500, the new car’s 6 Series name, better styling and performance improvements certainly do come at a price.
When Land Rover introduced the new Velar and updated the current Range Rover Sport, it was only a matter of time before any new innovations appeared on the biggest brother, the Range Rover proper. Well, that time has come.
The 2018 Land Rover Range Rover is only a midcycle refresh, so while the updates are light, they’re still rather important. The exterior was only lightly massaged with a new grille, different vent graphics and a new rear bumped with integrated tailpipes. There are also six new wheel designs available.
Inside, the front seats are wider to improve ingress and egress. The front and rear seat controls have been moved to the door panels so they’re easier to use. The glass is 20 percent thicker to cut down on road noise. An air ionizer helps cleanse the air, while the sunroof’s blind can now be activated with gesture controls.
The biggest update for the year comes in its technology. The Range Rover now sports the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, which uses two 10-inch touchscreens. The top screen covers the basics like music, radio and navigation, while the lower half covers vehicle functions like its off-road settings, seat heating and climate control. The lower screen can pick up the slack from the upper in case the navigation is running. The two climate control dials have screens, too, because they’re used for multiple things.
The gauge cluster sports a new 12-inch screen, as well. Above that is a 10-inch full color head-up display that can show several items at once, whether it’s navigation or road speed or adaptive cruise control settings. Drivers can also reconfigure the second- and third-row seats using an app, too. A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot provides internet for up to eight devices simultaneously.
In terms of safety equipment, several pieces are standard, including a backup camera, automatic emergency braking and parking sensors both front and rear. Optional packages beef up the AEB, add low-speed adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring.
A number of engines are available. There’s a 3.0-liter V6 putting out 340 or 380 horsepower, a 254-horsepower diesel V6 and a 5.0-liter V8 that puts out 518 or 557 hp.
I saved the best for last, though. Starting in the 2019 model year, there will be a plug-in hybrid variant available. An electric motor mates to a 296-horsepower 2.0-liter I4 for a net output of 398 hp and 472 pound-feet of torque. It can drive up to 31 miles on battery alone, and it’ll hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds before topping out at 137 mph. The charging port is hidden up front.
The 2018 Range Rover lineup should be available later this year. Prices start at $87,350 for the 340-hp V6 and top out at $177,200 for the long-wheelbase SVAutobiography Dynamic.
Every once in a while, a car company will invite automotive journalists to try out competitors’ wares when introducing the media to their latest vehicle. It doesn’t happen terribly often, but it’s invariably a good sign that a company is genuinely bullish about their new baby. Most of the time, an automaker trots out two or three key competitors for back-to-back drives.
When it came time to let me drive its new 2018 Stinger grand tourer, Kia brought seven.
Not just any seven cars, mind — it wheeled out a pair of Audis, two BMWs, an Infiniti, a Lexus and a Porsche.
Kia is nothing if not ambitious.
Remember, this is the same automaker that invited Roadshow reviews editor Jon Wong to sample an early Stinger GT prototype at Germany’s famed Nurburgring, likely the single most demanding racetrack on Earth. That was back in June, and Wong came back grinning. Since that time, Kia has been fine-tuning the midsize five-door for US tastes, getting it ready for its planned stateside launch in December.
Of course, it’s only fair to point out that this is also the same automaker that has never sold a rear-wheel-drive performance car and the same automaker whose only foray upmarket in America, the K900 sedan, has been met by consumers with deafening silence.
Something’s got to give, and after taking the Stinger around Greater Los Angeles’ legendary canyon roads, flinging it ’round an oval and road course and autocrossing it back-to-back against Teams Deutschland and Japan, I have a passel of reasons to suggest it shouldn’t be the Kia.
For those who need a quick refresher course, the 2018 Kia Stinger is a rear- or all-wheel drive five-door hatchback available with either a turbocharged four- or six-cylinder engine backed by an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The former is a 2.0-liter unit with a twin-scroll turbo, good for 255 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque from 1,400 rpm. The latter is a 3.3-liter twin-turbo affair that whips up 365 hp and 376 pound-feet from 1,350 rpm, and its headline numbers are a 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds and a governed top speed of 167 mph. Predictably, the majority of my Southern California drive day is spent in the larger-engined GT variant, with Kia giving us journos plenty of opportunities to split time between RWD and AWD models.
With that kind of hardware available under the hood, it’s no surprise that chief design officer Peter Schreyer instructed his team to build a confident-looking machine. Kia’s broad “Tiger Nose” tabbed grille is surrounded here by glowering headlamps and a sharp-edged bumper with big, gaping air intakes. From the side, the Stinger’s profile has real legs — it stretches out over a long wheelbase and terminates in a hunkered-down fastback shape that features full-band taillights and quad exhaust tips.
There’s no doubt the Stinger is a formidable-looking machine, especially in GT guise, with its attractive 19-inch smoke-finish Y-spoke wheels. Its overall proportions and stance are really nicely done. Unfortunately, a couple of minor details ring hollow to me, and they really hurt the overall efficacy of the design. For a model that genuinely possesses high-performance chops, it’s mystifying that a superstar designer like Schreyer would allow fraudulent affectations like faux hood vents (they’re even highlighted in contrasting paint!).
The same is true of the fender air extractors at the leading edge of the front doors — they’re functional, mercifully, but they’re similarly bizarrely finished in look-at-me brightwork. To my eyes, forced touches like these make for sad costume jewelry on a handsome shape that doesn’t need the help. (Something tells me that when it came time to present the Stinger for sign-off in Seoul, Schreyer had to make a few design concessions to the board, and fussy details like this are what resulted.)
Those quibbles aside, the Stinger’s shape does suggest both genuine performance and capacious accommodations. As mentioned earlier, it rides atop a particularly long wheelbase — 114.4 inches — a number that yields strong legroom front and rear, as well as generous cargo space — 23.3 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 40.9 with them down.
That wheelbase combines forces with a nicely tuned front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension to produce remarkably good ride quality, an attribute not to be taken for granted when the GT rides atop staggered low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer rubber (225/40 up front, 255/35 in the rear). Importantly, that long wheelbase also seemingly doesn’t inhibit the Stinger’s willingness to change direction. Lengthy spans between a vehicle’s front and rear wheels can hurt agility by curbing the chassis’ eagerness to change direction, but thanks to careful tuning led by former BMW M boss Albert Biermann, the Stinger feels nimble for such a big car (even if it is ultimately tuned for safety-first understeer).
As evidenced by the photo above, there’s a fair bit of body roll when the car is really pitched hard into a corner, but the Stinger never feels unsettled, and the rear-wheel drive model, with its available limited-slip differential, feels particularly playful. Even the all-wheel-drive model handles sharply — it defaults to a rear-biased torque distribution, and in Sport mode, up to 80 percent of the engine’s available torque can be funneled to the rear wheels. Models I drove on the track and cone course were equipped with Kia’s optional Dynamic Stability Damping Control — electronically-actuated shocks with the driver’s choice of five modes: Smart (auto), Custom, Eco, Sport and Comfort. Conventional gas dampers are standard.
Out on a cone course at Kia’s Mojave proving grounds, the GT’s standard variable-ratio electric power steering proved its worth, requiring a lot less sawing back and forth at the wheel than cars like BMW’s 6 Series Gran Coupe, and even less than Audi’s A7 Sportback. I tested both RWD and AWD Stinger GTs back-to-back against those cars, along with an Audi S5 Sportback, base Porsche Panamera and Infiniti Q50, and the Kia more than held its own despite what promises to be a much lower price tag. The Stinger’s steering also didn’t feel completely artificial and devoid of feel like some variable-rack systems can.
The signs were similarly encouraging during high-speed passes on a large banked oval, where runs at 130 mph proved utterly benign and unremarkable. At such speeds on manicured surfaces, the Stinger felt wholly at ease and unchallenged — appropriate, since Kia says the car is good for a further 38 mph.
When taking to the road course, the Stinger again inspired confidence, with friendly handling dynamics, resolute brakes and good power out of the corners. This clearly isn’t a cutthroat track monster, it’s a 4,000-pound street car, but that’s not a demerit. After all, nobody really takes their Audi A7 or BMW 6 Series GC to the circuit, right? Either way, if Kia ever wants to come out with an even higher-performance model featuring significantly more horsepower and a starchier suspension, the chassis feels up to the job.
Dynamically, on both circuit and street, the Stinger also feels up to its ambitious remit of challenging far-costlier rivals from Germany and Japan. If it’s let down anywhere in comparison, it’s in the cabin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly appropriate environment for a $30,000 to $50,000 vehicle — a nice one, in fact. But there are some things that clever engineering can’t solve for, and that includes the cost of fitting fine wood veneers (there aren’t any) and aromatic leather (even the Kia’s optional higher-grade Nappa hides). In terms of material and switchgear quality, the Stinger is far from cheap, but it just isn’t a match for something like an Audi A5 Sportback or Porsche Panamera.
Infotainment-wise, the cabin goes without complicated a multifunction controller like Audi’s MMI, BMW’s iDrive or Lexus’ unspeakably bad Remote Touch, but even if Kia’s latest UVO system is marginally less sophisticated, its 8-inch touchscreen (7-inch on 2.0T models) is significantly easier to use than those systems. It’s compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus there’s an optional 15-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system that features twin underseat subwoofers tuned for American ears (read: more bass).
In truth, however, I never made a point of listening to the stereo — I was too busy trying to coax the twin-turbo V6 into making entertaining noises. (Kia has tuned America’s Stinger GT’s exhaust to be throatier than its European and Korean counterparts, but to my ears, they could safely go louder still under big throttle openings.)
On the safety front, a slew of advanced drive assist systems are available, including pre-collision auto-brake with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go for bumper-to-bumper traffic, lane-keep assist and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. A driver attention monitor system is new for Kia, it emits a chime and a visual warning upon detecting a drowsy or distracted driver.
Despite offering up a septet of cars to compare it against, Kia officials are fond of saying that the Stinger’s mix of high performance at a lower price means that it has no real rivals, no class that it readily fits into. On some level, that’s true. Whereas vehicles in many segments of the market are all designed to fit within millimeters of each other in size and ability, the space in which this new Kia plays is somewhat more fluid. The V6-powered Stinger GT in particular offers a novel melange of attributes for the money that could see it sniping sales from several different classes.
Taken as a full range, however, the Stinger won’t be without competitors, even if you ignore the seven stretch-target premium cars Kia lined up at the launch. Namely, Buick will shortly offer up its 2018 Regal GS and Volkswagen will deliver its new CC-replacing Arteon next year. Both are five-door liftbacks of similar size, both offer AWD and both offer power that will make them interesting cross-shops — especially versus the four-cylinder Stinger.
In other words, the Stinger may be deeply compelling, but its sales success is far from guaranteed. Even with a class-leading warranty and a hard-earned reputation for quality in recent years, Kia’s dealers will need to ratchet up their game significantly to attract — and keep — luxury customers. Plus, more and more buyers are shunning cars of any form in favor of SUVs, and that’s something Kia can’t control.
Overall, the 2018 Kia Stinger is a tremendously satisfying package that lives up to its billing. Particularly in GT guise, it offers a beguiling mix of spirited performance, good ride quality and surprising utility. It’s not just an impressive first effort for a sporty grand tourer from Kia, it’s an impressive car, full stop. The Stinger may have a hard time cracking the shopping lists of Audi, BMW and Lexus intenders, but that doesn’t mean luxury buyers wouldn’t be wise to give it a chance.
Roadshow accepts multi-day vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it’s far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.
Everyone likes to joke that duct tape solves every problem, but for the engineers working on the 2018 Ford Mustang, it actually did solve a problem.
Ford tells the story like this: During track testing, its engineers experienced too much front-end lift, which can compromise steering efficacy. An aerodynamics engineer slapped a piece of duct tape over the grille’s lower gap, the front-end lift was eliminated and the car handled much better around corners.
Anyone who’s ever coded something can attest that one small change in one place can have far-reaching effects everywhere else. The subsequent adjustments to the 2018 Mustang’s front end, including a larger front splitter, a lower nose and active grille shutters helped improve overall aerodynamics, which boosts both handling prowess and, as it turns out, fuel efficiency.
As a result, both trim levels of Mustang are a bit thriftier with the ol’ dino juice for 2018. The Mustang EcoBoost now achieves 31-32 mpg on the highway, as opposed to 30. The automatic-transmission Mustang GT saw incremental improvements, as well, boosting highway economy to 25 mpg from 24, and city economy rose from 15 to 16.
The changes go beyond the exterior. Inside, there’s a new configurable screen in place of the gauge cluster on certain model. The Mustang EcoBoost picks up the GT’s line-lock feature, for all the smoky burnouts the tires can muster. Power improvements bring the Mustang GT’s 0-60 time to under 4.0 seconds, which is fast even by muscle-car standards. The 2018 Mustang goes on sale this fall.