Category Archives: Auto Reviews

Toyota brings Crown back as hybrid, AWD

The Toyota Crown features two-tone premium paint. (Bud Wells)

The Crown showed up at my place.

No, not the Crown Royal; no, not the Crown Prince.

It is the mid-sized Toyota Crown hybrid sedan, successor to the big Avalon four-door, for which production was shelved a year ago. It’s been 50 years since Toyota sold a new product in the U.S. under the model name of Crown.

The original Crown was much smaller than today’s entry. (Toyota)

This one is an eye-catcher, lengthy and lifted, sporting two-tone paint and riding on 21-inch machined alloy wheels and Bridgestones.

It is the Platinum upper trim level, which means it is equipped with a turbocharged 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine, two electric motors (one for each axle), direct-shift 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The engine/motors combination delivers 340 horsepower. 

With adaptive variable suspension upgrades and full-time electronic AWD adjusting between 70:30 and 20:80, the 4,350-pound Crown is well-planted and an excellent handler. Drive-mode selection is open to study; it is offered as Normal, Eco, Sport, Comfort and Custom. Jan and I enjoyed a pleasant Sunday evening drive to Fort Morgan for dinner at the Mav. The interior is luxurious, roomy with comfortable, upright seating.

There is a tradeoff to all those performance and transmission achievements. The Crown Platinum averaged about 28.5 miles per gallon in our easy drive. The Crown’s lesser trims of XLE and Limited are equipped with 2.5-liter engine, two motors, AWD and a much weaker continuously variable transmission (CVT). Yet, it should average around 38 mpg, almost 10 better than we did for the same-type driving we did.

Dimension-wise, the Crown falls between the former Avalon and current Camry. The Crown’s overall length of 194 inches is 2 shorter than the Avalon’s and 2 longer than Camry’s. The fact the Crown is lifted a bit lends it more the feel of an SUV crossover than a competitive sedan.

Beginning prices for the three trim levels of the Toyota Crown are $41,045 for the XLE, $46,645 for the Limited and $53,445 for the Platinum.

Boosting the Crown’s sticker to $55,217 are two-tone premium paint, side puddle lamps, all-weather mats and mud guards. Highlighting a long list of standard equipment are heated steering wheel, heated and cooled leather front seats, heated rear seats, 11 JBL speakers including subwoofer and amp, panoramic roof, wireless smartphone charging, radar cruise control, lane-departure alert and steering assist, road sign assist, parking assist with automatic braking.

The Crown, built in Aichi, Japan, was originally sold in the U.S. from the late 1950s until 1972. It was a much smaller vehicle then, about a foot shorter and 1,300 pounds lighter.

Aerodynamically, ‘24 Ioniq 6 electric one of best

The Ioniq 6 is 191 inches in overall length. (Bud Wells photos)

Though 2 inches shorter in wheelbase, Hyundai’s new 2024 Ioniq 6 sedan is almost 9 inches longer in overall length than the Ioniq 5 crossover.

Jan and I enjoyed a very smooth drive with the Ioniq 6 from our home up north, heading across U.S. 34 to busy I-25 and on south to Longmont. For the return, we selected the more leisurely U.S. 287 from Longmont to Loveland, then home via U.S. 34.

Comfort and ride quality are positives for Ioniq 6, which is based on the Hyundai platform, E-GMP, which also serves the Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Genesis GV70 electric.

The Ioniq 6 is one of the most aerodynamic production sedans ever built. With its extended length, it is generally roomier than the Ioniq 5, other than headroom for which the 6’s sleek, low-slung style is costly.

The I-6 slots high in my book covering the many all-electric models I’ve driven in the past three years. But I must ask, “Is anyone buying sedans these days?”

Even the Hyundai’s sticker price of $58,425 seems in line with competitive electrics.

The sedan’s all-wheel-drive capabilities come from dual electric motors and a 77.4 kWh battery. Active air flaps in the front bumper open when the battery pack is in need of extra cooling.

Hyundai has a quick, easy charging system. A DC fast charger can reach 80 percent capacity in as few as 18 minutes; a Level 2 home charger can attain full charge in approximately seven hours.

I was unable to accomplish any relatively quick recharging of the Ioniq 6 from my home-base garage, for Hyundai didn’t provide an adapter for mating up with my 220-volt receptacle. The Ioniq’s charging cord was fitted for 120-volt engagement, which is so much slower than the 220. I was able to maintain near-full range with the Audi Q8 e-tron quattro the previous week, for an easy-to-use adapter was part of the car’s charging assembly.

The Ioniq 6 rear features twin ducktails.

With key in pocket, approach the Hyundai car and door handles, flush with the door skin, pop out for use in opening; switches for operating the front windows are positioned in the center console.

Twin ducktail spoilers draw attention to the rear of the vehicle at night with special lighting. Other features include auto-dimming rearview mirror, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, rain-sensing windshield wipers and Bose premium audio.

314-range Cadillac Lyriq lights up with smoothness

The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq electric is built in Spring Hill, Tenn. (Bud Wells photos)

Other than some tire/road noise, the drive of one of the newest electric autos, the Cadillac Lyriq, to one of the oldest restaurants, the Pepper Pod at Hudson, was a finely charged performance with gentle ride.

The Lyriq is Cadillac’s first-ever electric automobile; it offers an estimated driving range of 314 miles from its 12-module, 100 kWh battery pack. The rear-wheel-drive SUV is smooth, of course, and roomy and fairly quick with a 340-horsepower electric motor at its rear axle. An all-wheel-drive version is also available.

I picked up the luxurious Lyriq from Bob and Erick Ghent at Ghent Motors in Greeley. I’d seen one other some months earlier at an unveiling at Elway Cadillac at Park Meadows in Lone Tree.

It’s not as quick as a Mercedes EQS, but let me remind you – the two EQS models I’ve driven were priced at $122,100 and $158,780; the sticker on the Lyriq is $63,725. At that price range, the Lyriq is a competitor of the BMW i4 electric.

The drive to Hudson and back home was pleasant; the Lyriq displayed an ease of lane correction and, when used, very strong regenerative braking. I opted for sport mode much of the run; that negates an immediate braking on deceleration, allowing a more-steady highway speed.

The distinctive grille of the Lyriq lights at night.

A beautifully finished black crystal grille which lights at night is an attraction for the Cadillac. It has no frunk (front-end trunk). The luxury model is 196.7 inches in overall length on a wheelbase of 121.8 inches. In its stellar black metallic finish, it has a lengthy look.

It’s when walking up to a rear door that it becomes somewhat uncanny. I touch what appears to be a door handle, the door pops open a bit and I must grab hold of the edge of door frame to pull it wide open. Rumor has it that Cadillac will replace the “touch-and-grab” system with an actual door handle for the future. That makes sense.

Austrian studio microphone and headphone maker AKG made its debut with Cadillac in an Escalade a couple of years ago, and has been a resounding success in the Lyriq, as well. Among 19 speakers are a pair in each of two front-seat head restraints. A 33-inch diagonally advanced LED display, a large glass roof and massaging front seats are other interior highlights.

Cadillac’s first all-electric, Lyriq, is built on the Ultium platform, as is the Chevy Silverado EV. The Ultium lithion-ion battery system is in production at the GM Spring Hill plant in Tennessee.

Base price of $62,990 for the Lyriq Luxuy RWD model is boosted to $63,725 with the addition of the special stellar black metallic finish, cargo net and first-aid kit. The AWD version carries a $2,000 premium.

No everyday name for Toyota’s new one – it’s bZ4R

The bZ4R Limited is an all-electric SUV crossover for Toyota. (Bud Wells photo)

The bZ4R is #2,600 for B.W.

It is the 2023 Toyota bZ4R Limited all-wheel-drive, all-electric compact SUV, being produced jointly with Subaru, which calls its version the Solterra. They share the same platform and are built at Toyota’s Aichi plant in Japan.

The Subaru Solterra shares platform with Toyota bZ4R. (Subaru)

Following several months since introduction, Toyota has sold 3,000 of its bZ model; Subaru 2,400 of its Solterra. Toyota offers its electric in front-wheel or all-wheel configuration, while Subaru’s, like its other products, is AWD-only.

Toyota explains its puzzling nomenclature, saying the bZ is for “Beyond Zero,” the company’s commitment to go beyond producing carbon-neutral vehicles, and actually having a net positive impact on the environment.

The bZ4R AWD uses an 80-kilowatt electric motor at each axle for a total of 214 horsepower. On the front-drive versions, one motor of 150 kilowatt puts out 201 hp. The Toyota offers regenerative braking and several drive modes, including Normal, Eco, Snow and Boost.

I made a drive to Sterling, with Jan and daughter Kim Parker, to check on sister Norma and brother-in-law Dave Wagner, as well as a stop for Justin Weber, a Sterling High classmate and friend, who is getting back on his feet after a seven-week hospitalization.

The bZ4R Limited’s estimated range for the 63.4-kWh battery pack is 222 miles. A bit more than half of that was used on the drive down, including a short run about town and a diversion to the Logan County Burrito Company.

Heavy rain, wet roads and use of wipers and headlights required increased use of energy from the battery pack on the drive back to Greeley. We had replenished the pack at Sterling’s newest charging station across street from former Bill’s Motor Company Cadillac/Oldsmobile dealership.

There is no glovebox in the four-door electric, in order, I guess, that the front-seat passenger has ample legroom. Glossy black piano trim on the center console reflected glare from the sun during midday driving, and also easily collected fingerprints.

Handling in the turns and stop-and-go traffic is good, acceleration is very good. The bZ’s rear-seat ride level is among the rougher I’ve tested. Of course, the Toyota wouldn’t be expected to compare with a Mercedes EQS; I didn’t think, though, it matched up in comfort and support with the Ford Mustang Mach-e. That is in the rear-seating area, front seat is fine.

The extra cost for the all-wheel-drive option is $2,080. That, along with JBL premium audio, heated rear seats and rear spoiler raised sticker price to $52,583.

The bZ is 184.6 inches in overall length on a wheelbase of 112.2 inches and curb weight of 4,398 pounds. Once past the unadorned nose of the new Toyota, the styling is excellent.

The drive of the bZ4R is the 2,600th car or truck I’ve reviewed since the mid-1970s.

Rear-drive Model 3 hot seller for Tesla

The 2023 Tesla Model 3 sits on the grounds of Campion Academy, south of Loveland. (Richard Maxfield photo)

Made available to me for a short drive in late June was the hot-selling 2023 Tesla Model 3 all-electric sedan.

With Richard Maxfield of Greeley as a passenger, I pulled the 2024 Subaru Impreza hatchback into the parking area of the Tesla Service Center in Loveland. Within 10-15 minutes, I was in the driver seat of the Tesla 3 heading south out of Loveland.

The smooth-operating Tesla Model 3 is of rear-wheel drive, with an electric motor at that axle, and has a strong regenerative braking system.

Estimated electric range from the Model3’s lithium-ion battery pack is 272 miles. Of a question I posed of what is the battery’s biggest drain from range, other than normal power use, Nate from the service center said, “In these parts it is cold weather.”

Sticker price on the model I drove is $41,380, though buyers are eligible to qualify for federal tax credits.

Maxfield a year ago purchased a new Tesla Model Y and took delivery at the Loveland service center.

The Model 3 was introduced by Tesla in 2017.

The top 10 sellers of electric models in the U.S. for the first six months of this year are led by:

  • Tesla Model Y with 190,500, followed by
  • Tesla Model 3 with 121,500;
  • Chevrolet Bolt 33,659;
  • Tesla Model S 19,100;
  • Volkswagen ID4 with 16,448;
  • Ford Mustang Mach-e 14,040;
  • Hyundai Ioniq 5 with 13,641;
  • Tesla Model X 11,900;
  • Kia EV6 with 8,328 and
  • Rivian RIT 7,811.

Toyota, Honda add hybrids, increase fuel mileage

The S trim of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid adds AWD. (Bud Wells photos)

New-model gas/electric hybrid automobiles continue in strong popularity across the country; some dealerships are having trouble keeping any on the lot or in the showroom for display.

Two I’ve driven recently, both of which recorded excellent fuel mileage, are the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid S all-wheel drive crossover and the ’23 Honda Accord Hybrid Sport front-wheel-drive sedan.

The Corolla Cross Hybrid, which averaged 41.7 miles per gallon, has overall length of 176.1 inches, fitting in size right between the Toyota C-HR at 172.6 inches and the Toyota RAV4 at 180.9. Curb weight for the Corolla Cross Hybrid is 3,296 pounds. Its powertrain is same as that from the new-generation Toyota Prius.

The combination of a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine and electric motors provides 196 net horsepower and 139 lb.-ft. of torque.

All-wheel drive is standard on the S trim of the Corolla Cross Hybrid. Pricing begins around $29,000 and sticker price for the review model reached $35,000. The Corolla Cross Hybrid is built in Huntsville, Ala.

Toyota’s lineup of gas/electric hybrid vehicles are Corolla, Corolla Cross, Highlander, RAV4 Prime, RAV4 Hybrid, Sienna, Venza, Prius and Prius Prime.

The S trim of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid adds AWD. (Bud Wells photos)

The radiant red metallic Honda Accord Sport sits low and is very sleek with long hood and short rear deck with spoiler.

A 90-mile drive into the foothills and back on Sunday evening delivered an average of 47.6 miles per gallon for the Accord, the ultimate for the week. Lowest reading was 39.5 for 60 miles, much of it stop-and-go, earlier in the week.

Front-seat headroom seemed satisfactory for 6-foot-4-inch Ted King, a friend who with wife Shirley joined Jan and me for a ride to Meeker’s in Greeley. Legroom was especially tight, though, in the rear seat.

The Accord Hybrid, built in Marysville, Ohio, carried a sticker price of $35,425, including leather-trimmed seats, 12.3-inch color touchscreen display, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, heated front seats, power moonroof, 19-inch alloy wheels and remote engine start. Honda Sensing offers adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist and traffic-jam assist.

Take a ‘good look’ at Volvo V60 Cross Country wagon

Cargo space behind the rear seat is 23 cubic feet. (Bud Wells photos)

Have you ever seen a beautiful wagon? Me neither, until the 2023 Volvo V60 Cross Country B5 all-wheel-drive model showed up at my home. Its blackstone finish is almost majestic in appearance from the nifty nose and Thor’s Hammer LED headlights out front of the sloping hood, over the raked windshield and flow of roofline to the large taillight clusters.

It’s a five-passenger compact model of 188.5 inches in length and wheelbase of 113.2 inches, with luxurious interior accommodations.

The B5 engine designation, replacing the former T5, is for a new, turbocharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder of 247 horsepower/258 torque, 8-speed Geartronic transmission and all-wheel drive. An added boost is a 48-volt mild hybrid system for starting the car and passing, as well as slowing when it utilizes regenerative braking.

Performance is smooth and ride is comfortable with Volvo’s typically wide, supportive seats. One of my many great drives was a September night 20 years ago from Ashland, Ore., to Winnemucca, Nevada, in a front-drive Volvo V70 wagon on a straight, lightly used highway which invited excellent miles-per-hour. That drive will be one of many featured in my book, “2,600 Cars and a Dog Sled,” scheduled for publication this fall.

Last week’s ’23 V60, riding on Pirelli 245/40R20 tires, averaged 25.5 miles per gallon; its EPA estimate is 23/30. The V60 is built at Ghent, Belgium.

Twenty-inch, seven-spoke wheel kit with all-season tires, Bowers and Wilkins premium sound and ventilated nappa leather seating helped push sticker price from base of $54,100 to $63,585. A new Google-based infotainment system has been added. Cargo space behind the rear seat is 23 cubic feet.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale tested at Cheyenne

The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale at the Wyoming State Capitol Grounds in Cheyenne. (Bud Wells photos)

The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce showed up at my house on the first day of June and attracted attention everywhere I drove it, partly for its recognizable triangular grille, for its verde green finish and for its distinctive 20-inch, five-circle wheels.

The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale at the Wyoming State Capitol Grounds in Cheyenne. (Bud Wells photos)

Named for a high mountain pass in Italy, the Tonale SUV crossover is similar to the new Dodge Hornet; they’re produced in Naples, Italy. The Tonale I drove is a plug-in hybrid, offering up to 30 miles of all-electric charge.

Jan joined me for a drive north into Wyoming, only as far as Cheyenne.

After dinner, we left the Rib and Chop House restaurant in downtown Cheyenne as dark clouds rolled overhead; just out of the city heading south on U.S. 85, we hit heavy rain for about 15 miles. The Tonale had little problem with the water in roadway, but that and the downpour led to a message, “Driver Assist System Unavailable. Service Required.” ” When I asked of this later, Ross Littman, Alfa Romeo product manager, explained, “As with all modern vehicles, heavy rain can obscure the forward collision warning sensor’s ability to ‘see’ the road; the car was simply warning the driver that the forward warning and automatic emergency braking are unavailable due to the severe weather conditions and driver should be alert.”

Once we passed through the rain onto dry pavement, the message was gone, all systems including cruise worked fine, no problem.

Lifted by the 30 miles of electric range, the mpg for the 118.4-mile trip was 41.2. The plug-in hybrid technology performs with a 1.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder combined with a 15.5 kWh battery, the gas/battery combo producing 285 horsepower and 347 lb.-ft. of torque.

Being built alongside the Alfa Romeo Tonale in a Stellantis factory in Naples, Italy, is the Dodge Hornet. Base engine in both models is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder; also offered are plug-in powertrains for up to 30 miles of all-electric travel.

Beyond those similarities, the Tonale interior is dressed up for the luxury field, competing with Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA. The Hornet will go against Mazda CX-30, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson.

I’ve enjoyed my time in the good-handling Tonale, which has drawn a good measure of interest everywhere it’s been. The Tonale, listed as a compact, is 8 inches shorter in wheelbase and overall length than the Alfa Stelvio SUV crossover which I tested several years ago.

The Alfa Romeo paddle shifters are very large; they’re column mounted, stationary compared with much smaller paddles mounted on the steering wheel. I prefer the smaller paddles.

Pricing for the Alfa Romeo Tonale begins at $44,590 for the Sprint trim; the model I drove is the top Veloce level, which begins at $49,000 and with several options climbed to $54,500.

Timberline adds rough edge to Ford Expedition

The Ford Expedition competes with full-size, four-wheel-drive SUVs. (Bud Wells photo)

With its relatively new Timberline trim, the 2023 Ford Expedition is a strong competitor against the Jeep Wagoneer, Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada among full-size, four-wheel-drive SUVs.

The big body-on-frame Expedition is reinforced with offroad chops from Timberline, including tuned suspension and shocks, increased ground clearance, shorter approach and departure angles, two-speed transfer case, steel skid plates, electronic limited-slip differential, tow hooks and all-terrain tires.

The eight-passenger sport ute casts a large presence, standing 6½ -feet high, 210 inches in overall length and curb weight of 5,625 pounds. Available also is the Expedition Max, a foot longer in length and wheelbase of 131 inches, compared with the Expedition standard of 122.5.

“Plenty big enough,” I say of the standard Exped, during my review. A high-output, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine delivers 440 horsepower/510 lb.-ft. torque, with 10-speed automatic transmission.

Handling of the Expedition, not surprisingly, is like most big, heavy SUVs, a bit of understeer at times. Lane centering is controlled very smoothly, with little wander. Ride comfort is soft, right up there with the Tahoe and Yukon. The Expedition can tow up to 9,300 pounds.

Dominant in the up-front interior is the large infotainment screen. (Ford)

Open the driver door, step up onto the platform running board, sit down in the pilot’s seat and instantly focus on the huge, 15.5-inch, vertically positioned infotainment screen. The LCD screen is part of a special package of options which boosts the price past $80,000 from a base of $71,400. Included are panoramic vista roof, the running boards, trizone electronic temp control, Bang & Olufsen premium sound, remote start, heavy-duty radiator, second-row heated seats and third-row power-fold seats.

Bill and Kathy Allen joined Jan and me for a drive to Sterling, where we visited with Dave and Norma Wagner, Rick and Jana Lock. Even with the 200-mile roundtrip highway run, the Expedition was disappointing in overall fuel mileage – 15.6 mpg. Its EPA estimate is 15/19. The SUV rides on Goodyear Wrangler 265/70R18 tires.

Sticker price reached $83,505 for the Expedition Timberline. Less expensive trim levels are XL, XLT and Limited; higher trims are the King Ranch and Platinum. XL pricing begins around $57,000 to $58,000. The Expedition is produced at a Ford plant in Kentucky.

The Expedition has been around for more than 25 years. When it showed up in the fall of 1996 as a ’97 model, we spent a vacation week driving it to Durango and back. That one was 6 inches shorter in overall length than today’s model. It was equipped with a 4.6-liter V-8 engine with tow capacity of 6,100 pounds, compared to today’s 9,300 tow capacity with the EcoBoost V-6.

4th-gen Honda Pilot TrailSport toughens exterior

Roominess has been added to the interior of the 2023 Honda Pilot. (Bud Wells photos)
Roominess has been added to the interior of the 2023 Honda Pilot. (Bud Wells photos)

The fourth-generation 2023 Honda Pilot showed up larger in size and noticeably improved upfront with a newly designed, more upright grille, departing from the long-used horizontal-bars-type. Its exterior structure is somewhat boxy, like a Kia Telluride or Nissan Pathfinder.

Looking a bit more rugged in TrailSport trim, the new Pilot is 200.2 inches in overall length, almost 4 inches longer than the ’22 version, and its wheelbase has increased by 2 ½ inches.

Smoothness of shifts has improved with a 10-speed automatic transmission replacing last year’s 9-speed; the 3.5-liter V-6 engine develops 285 horsepower, 5 more than a year ago.

The Pilot review model is front-wheel-drive based and is equipped with all-wheel-drive capability.

Even helped by a 100-mile round-trip drive to Thornton, the Pilot managed only 19.7 miles per gallon overall in the week of my possession. Its EPA estimate is 18 city/23 highway/20 average.

The Thornton run was to the home of Dan and Jamie Johnson last Saturday for celebration of the 97th birthday for my longtime friend, Richard Johnson. Dick and I worked together on the city desk at The Denver Post in the early 1970s (the latter days of columnist Red Fenwick). Johnson in later years became a features writer for the paper’s Empire Magazine.

The Pilot isn’t intended as an offroad competitor of Wranglers and Broncos, though with the new Trailsport trim its suspension has been lifted an inch, it has steel skid plates and Continental 265/60R18 all-terrain tires. Max tow capacity for Pilot AWD models is 5,000 pounds.

The dressed-up interior features a 9-inch color touchscreen with surround-view camera, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/phone charger, heated steering wheel. By touching CabinTalk icon on the home screen, front-seat driver or passenger are able to speak to rear-cabin occupants through audio-system speakers or headphones.

The 2005 Honda Pilot was a foot shorter in overall length than today’s model.

From the added length of the new Pilot comes roominess and more comfort in the second- and third-row seats. The third row has more shoulder room and legroom than that in the Toyota Highlander. Push a button and second row seatback leans and entire captain’s chair slides forward to allow ease of entry into the third-row seating. Cargo space behind the third row amounts to 18.6 cubic feet and 48.5 feet with the seats folded.

Sticker price on the ’23 Pilot AWD TrailSport is $50,150. Cheaper trim levels are Sport and EX-L; more pricey than the TrailSport are the Touring and Elite.

Honda, after rebadging the Isuzu Rodeo as a Honda Passport from 1993 to 2002, fully joined the midsize SUV competition in 2003 with its first Pilot. Originally produced in Alliston, Ontario, it has since 2007 been built in Lincoln, Ala. This year’s Pilot is a foot longer than the original 20 years ago.