Monthly Archives: October 2022

Destination for Mercedes EQB350: old friends

Being recharged after drive of 136 miles is 2022 Mercedes EQB350 electric. (Bud Wells photos)

The 2022 Mercedes EQB350 all-electric SUV awaited me at 7:20 a.m. on an October Friday; I slipped into the pilot seat heading to Denver for breakfast with some old driver friends.

The EQB is a compact, smaller and much lesser-equipped than the full-sized EQS electric I reviewed in March.

Settled into the very firmly bolstered seatback, the EQB provided me the quiet ride expected in a luxury electric SUV. It is quick of steering and very responsive in performance. I left my house toward Colo. 60 and Platteville, then turned south on U.S. 85.

Almost instantly on feeding the address into the navigation system, it provided a mapped route and suggested I would be to my destination a couple minutes past 9.

That destination is the Original Pancake House – Cherry Hills out south on University Boulevard, Greenwood Village, where awaiting me were seven retired men who spent some years driving for the agencies which provide new cars and trucks for my automotive reviews in The Denver Post. They are Richard Husted, Lorren Ballard, Jim Boonstra, Pat Leonard, Ken Ruter, Roger VanStedum and Keith Warner. Also there as invitees were Melissa Schulte and Brooke Mutzbauer of Elk Grove Custom Homes.

A 70.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack when fully charged delivers a driving range of 229 miles for the EQB 4Matic. The drive of 136 miles to the restaurant and back to Greeley resulted in a 159-mile reduction from the battery.

Much of the excess miles drawn from the battery occurred during the return trip, in which the U.S. 85 miles from the early drive were replaced with 10-12 miles-per-hour faster speeds on the return on I-25 as far as the Loveland interchange. Speeds near 80 seem to deplete battery charge at a higher rate than below 70 mph. The battery is covered with a Mercedes warranty of 8 years/100,000-miles.

I boosted range in the Mercedes at a charger in the parking lot at a Village Inn at Greeley, adding about 125 miles in 30 minutes for a cost of $22.90, including a parking charge of $1.50.

A competitor of the Mercedes is the Volvo CX40 Recharge.

The 2-row, 5-passenger EQB, assembled in Kecskemet, Hungary, comes in at $60,100, just half the $122,000 sticker on the high-end EQS I reviewed in March. An optional third row is available on the EQB, but it becomes very tight in space.

An adjustable regenerative braking system is standard on the Mercedes. What is missing are lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, both are optional. Most luxury electrics and even cheaper models I’ve driven have been equipped with those two safety features.

The EQB350 is relatively heavy with curb weight of 4,718 pounds; overall length is 184.4 inches. Its front and rear electric motors combine for 288 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque. Driver can select among Comfort, Sport and Eco modes.

An interior highlight is the 64-color ambient lighting; also standard are panoramic roof, power liftgate and backup camera.

The EQB is rated at 98 city/93 highway in MPGe (miles-per-gallon of gasoline-equivalent, an EPA unit of measurement for the electric car’s energy-consumption level).

Cadillac Escalade V moves in among exotics

The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-series along the South Platte River near Atwood. (Bud Wells photo)

Leisure time on a beautiful October Sunday was aboard the swankiest American automotive product I’ve driven – the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-series.

Swanky and pricey; in fact, at $150,580 it is the highest-priced U.S.-based luxury model to come my way.

I’ve driven a dozen or more luxurious, exotic models priced between $150,000 and $400,000, but they’ve been from British, German and Italian car builders.

The most expensive U.S. products, prior to the Escalade V-series, have been a ’21 Cadillac Escalade with Super Cruise at $113,065; an ’18 Lincoln Navigator Black Label edition at $98,145; the ’22 Ford F150 Lightning Platinum Electric pickup at $94,004 and ‘21 Ram TRX pickup at $87,370.

In this transitional year – beginning phaseout of many internal-combustion-engined vehicles and introduction of all-electric smoothies – Ford races ahead with its Mustang Mach-E and F150 Lightning electrics, while Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Jeep offer final-year specials on Hellcat-type and Hemi-power stars.

Cadillac is following the latter’s lead with phenomenal performance from a hand-built, supercharged 6.2-liter, 682-horsepower V-8 engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive in the Escalade V. I remember the V-series of 10 or 12 years ago, among my favorites.

The supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 engine in the new Escalade V. (Cadillac)

This new one is of 653 lb.-ft. of torque. From the side, the Escalade casts a huge presence, not only from its overall length of 212 inches, but also its 6 ½-foot height and curb weight of 6,200 pounds. It rides on 22-inch wheels.

Our son Brent joined Jan and me in the drive to Sterling to visit my ailing sister, Norma, and others of the Wagner family. The big Escalade beast cruised the 210 miles there and back at 17 miles per gallon. Overall for the week, it posted 15.7 mpg; its EPA estimate is “gas-hog-labeled” 11-16. Cadillac claims the “V” will run 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds; the roar it creates from quad exhaust pipes is reminiscent of glory days of V-8s and muscle cars.

The ride is soothingly smooth, a benefit of the air ride adaptive suspension, which can be lowered 2 inches or raised an inch from normal. An interior feature is Cadillac’s Conversation Enhancement system, which utilizes some of strategically placed 36 speakers in regular conversation to amplify voice of person talking and transmit to persons in another row of the SUV. Turn it off for nap time. Some hands-free autonomous driving is permitted with Cadillac’s SuperCruise, which includes lane-keep assist.

Among interior highlights are zebra wood accents, semi-aniline leather on seats, power massage on front seats and heated steering wheel. Others are OnStar services,16.9-inch diagonal infotainment/navigation screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, head-up display, trizone automatic climate control and night vision.

The Escalade, built at Arlington, Texas, has been around since just before the turn of the century. When Ford Motor Co. introduced the Lincoln Navigator in 1998 it wasn’t but a year before Cadillac showed off its new Escalade. The Range Rover and Lexus LX were also full-size SUV competitors at that time.

Redesign lifts Honda HR-V against power lag

The 2023 Honda HR-V has been lengthened by 9 inches. (Bud Wells photos)

With 20 models competing full-throttle for attention in the subcompact SUV market, “it was essential that we upgrade now,” said an official of the Honda car company.

It is a statement supporting the launch of the 2023 HR-V All-Wheel-Drive EX-L model for Honda.

The HR-V, along with the CR-V, Accord and Civic, are top four sellers among 10 models in the Honda lineup.

The new HR-V is 9.4 inches longer and 2.6 wider than the ’22 model; that comes up only 2 inches short of the company’s compact-sized CR-V in length. From its new grille to the clearly defined rear window with spoiler, the HR-V is aesthetically pleasing.

Its outward visibility is good and added as standard safety items are automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control; it seems to be priced right at just over $30,000.

Any hopes for a swift move to the top of the subcompact SUV listings, though, will be slowed by the 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. It is smooth enough for around-town and cruising the highway, but when a need arises for a surge of power, it is matter of patience. It lacks in acceleration.

Kim Parker, Jan and I, enjoying a drive to Saguache in late July, headed east in early August to join Kurt, Tammy, Ryan and Erik Wells at their weekend retreat at Jeffrey Lake near Brady, Neb., after a brief stopover at Sterling with Dave and Norma Wagner.

I-76 east of Julesburg leads to I-80 near Ogallala, Neb., and from there to Brady and onward the highway is filled with large freight-carrying trucks maintaining speed limit of 75 miles per hour and passing right along with all the travelers in cars and pickups. To safely mix in with the heavy traffic, it is important to have at hand strong passing power in order to move in and out of the passing lane; this is where the HR-V lags. For the 500-mile trip, the HR-V averaged 28.2 miles per gallon (EPA estimate 25-30).

This was the Honda HR-V seven years ago.

The HR-V, which shares its enlarged platform with the Honda Civic, is equipped up front with nice leather seats, very comfortable, with decent legroom in the rear seat and good rear cargo space which held all our luggage.

The Honda had plenty of road noise, riding on Hankook Kinergy GT 215/60R17 tires. Its drive modes are normal, eco and snow. Handy are a wireless phone charger in the center console and tiny overhead capacitive light for each side of rear seating area ala airliner travel.

A $30,590 sticker price included a user-friendly 9-inch touchscreen with multiview rear camera, remote-start and dual-zone automatic climate control.  

Among the many competitors in the subcompact SUV category are Mazda CX30, Subaru Crosstrek, Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul and Seltos, Buick Encore, Jeep Renegade and others.

AC glitch slowed testing of Audi e-tron

The Audi e-tron GT quattro is a sleek and powerful electric. (Bud Wells photos)

The all-electric automobiles, such rarity just a couple years ago, continue to roll in for review in much greater number.

The most recent to me in August, the 2022 Audi e-tron GT quattro, is the 10th fully electric I’ve driven thus far this year. Previously were the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Ford F-150 Lightning, Kia EV6 Wind, Volvo XC40 Recharge, BMW i4 M50 Gran Coupe, Mercedes EQS450, Ford Mustang Mach-e GT, Hyundai Kona EV and a short run in the Tesla Model Y.

Lack of a working air conditioner in the Audi e-tron, combined with daytime temperatures in the mid-90s,  limited full testing procedures. “The air conditioning system is not available due to malfunction,” was the message delivered from within the Audi.

In order to avoid need for AC in the e-tron, Jan and I early on a Sunday morning headed over Fort Collins way for an outdoor breakfast at The Back Porch, north on Lemay Avenue. For our return drive, temps had risen into the high-80s, though with side windows partially open and by engaging the ventilated front seatbacks we felt fairly comfortable.

We pulled back into the garage at 11:30 a.m., having driven 58 miles and used up 61 miles of range from the Audi battery pack. With 94 miles of range remaining, I plugged the e-tron’s charger into a 120 outlet in the garage.

Twenty-four hours later, before noon Monday, the plug-in had added 33 miles for a range available of 127 miles, a mild recovery, even for the 120 source. The Chevy Bolt EUV I drove the week previously added range with 120 at almost double that rate.

The sleekly built Audi e-tron GT is finished in tactical green metallic, a color maybe dismissed at first glance, though probably more favorable with familiarity to the electric sedan. Headroom in the rear seat is limited from the extreme slope of the roof. It has a small frunk (front-end trunk under hood).

The e-tron uses the same 93.4 kWh battery pack as does the Porsche Taycan, and dual electric motors (one for each axle) provide excellent all-wheel-drive service. The Audi’s driving range is 238 miles, considerably lower than the Mercedes-Benz EQS450 electric. Regenerative braking is much lighter than many other electrics.

Three drive modes are comfort, dynamic and efficiency, with electronic power steering very quick. After startup, a bit of noise sounds as though an engine is running. It’s not from the motor or any driving part of the e-tron, it is an Audi soundtrack providing simulated engine noise. I liked it, Jan thought it was kind of goofy. The Audi’s MPGe is 81 city, 83 highway.

The interior is luxurious, with well-bolstered Nappa leather seats, Bang & Olufsen sound and user-friendly infotainment setup.

The Audi’s pricey sticker of $118,740 includes $7,200 for a prestige package of adaptive cruise, active lane assist, Bang & Olufsen sound and head-up display; $6,000 for a performance package of rear-wheel steering, e-torque vectoring, 20-inch five-spoke design wheels and high-gloss black grille. Also added are the Nappa seats, remote park assist, Audi connect, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto.