2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia
While it has only been a year since Fiat-Chrysler showed the Alfa Romeo Giulia sport sedan at the L.A. auto show, rumors of its imminent arrival have been around for years. Well, the wait is finally over. The 505-horsepower Quadrifoglio is here first, followed by more insurable models in early 20-17. But the big question remains, can any Italian four-door standup against the teutonic wall.
Depending on how long you’ve been paying attention to the automotive scene will probably be an indication on how much you know and how you feel about Alfa Romeo. They may not have the modern name recognition of now sister-brand Ferrari, but Alfa has over a century of racing history of their own. And they are leaning on both that history, as well as help from Ferrari, to bring Italian flair into the traditional European sport sedan segment, with the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Ferrari help comes in the power department with a derivative 2.9-liter bi-turbo V6 powering the top Quadrifoglio model with its as mentioned 505-horsepower joined by 443 lb-ft. of torque. From startup to full song it has an acapella racing note that resonates better than any German sport sedan could.
There’s an 8-speed automatic transmission, and its aluminum paddle shifters are mounted to the column, again Ferrari style. Factory specs say the combo delivers you from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds.
Expectedly, the rear-drive only Quadrifoglio is where things are certainly the most interesting.
But, volume, and everyday competitiveness will come from the Guilia Base and Ti models with a 280-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine. Rear drive too at first with all-wheel drive arriving later.
All Guilias ride on an all-new chassis with double wishbone front suspension; and in back there’s a unique Alfa-link with vertical rod design. Active Chassis Domain Control is standard in Quadriofoglio, optional on the Ti.
And while there’s no carbon fiber in the chassis like the 4C, there’s plenty both inside and out of the Quadrifoglio; including the adaptive front spoiler, the roof, hood, and even the drive shaft.
Though technically a midsize car, its 111.0-inch wheelbase is the same as an Audi A4.
Everything from the trademark shield grille, to the short overhangs and muscular stance, to the quad exhaust tips scream Italian performance.
Inside, leather seating is standard; and while room is not overly plentiful, it is certainly better than average for a Euro sport sedan. Both the Quadrifoglio’s 8.8-inch display screen and the rotary-controller interface look and work great.
We can appreciate how simple the interior design theme is, with what seems to be just the right amount of buttons. Though some items such as the vents and displays look a little too FCA parts bin. Gauges are clear, with analog tach and speedometer.
But, we’re sure you’re really wanting to know how the Giulia is on track. Fortunately, we’ve been there and done that; and can report that the Quadrifolgio feels incredibly well-balanced.
The optional carbon ceramic brakes are incredibly legit too; but unless you plan on abusing them to the fullest, they might not be worth the costly upgrade.
The Giulia shares the 4C’s DNA drive modes with the Quadrifoglio adding Race mode, needed to quell the traction nannies. The 8-speed works great, as good if not better than many DCTs; and when in Race mode it will only shift when called upon to do so.
Race mode also puts the engine’s turbos in over-boost, opens up the exhaust, turns stability control off, and increases throttle response.
The steering is very quick and plenty precise; with feel that resembles an Italian exotic more than a Euro sport sedan.
Safety systems are fully up to spec too, including autonomous braking.
We also spent drive time in the mid-level Giulia Ti, and while it doesn’t match the Quadrifoglio for all-out performance, there’s plenty to like here as well, including balance and fast steering, with an overall prowess that’s on par with other 2.0-liter luxury sport sedans, yet this one clearly speaks Italian.
The Quadrifoglio is priced at $73,595; with the base car starting around half of that, at $38,990.
Undoubtedly, the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia is sure to appeal most to those in the “anything but a BMW crowd”. But with the Quadrifoglio, Alfa boldly breaks into the sport sedan segment, with both a raucous attitude and a demonic demeanor that will ensure that it doesn’t go unnoticed.
- Engine: 2.9 liter
- Horsepower: 505
- Torque: 443 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander
Toyota Goes Bigger And Better
The Toyota Highlander has been been of the best-selling 3-row family utilities for years now. But Toyota is always looking to grow their business, and now they’re attempting to do that by growing the Highlander. Say hello to the Toyota Grand Highlander.
Toyota has no problem selling utility vehicles; they currently have eight in their lineup to choose from, divided into distinct body-on-frame and unitized crossover families. Well, add one more to the crossover list, it’s the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander. Now, don’t think of the Grand Highlander so much as just a bigger version of the Highlander as it is an all-new vehicle. Longer than the Highlander by 6 1/2-inches, the priorities were to deliver true space for adults in the 3rd row while still providing more cargo room behind it.
Though large and in charge, it seems to take most of its styling cues from a much smaller member of the Toyota family, the latest RAV4. That means a big “hammerhead” trapezoidal grille, minimal overhangs, and different wheel designs than the current Highlander, all but the base XLE trim rolling on 20s.
Overall length beats Honda Pilot by 1½- inches, and 4½-inches over the Kia Telluride, so it’s a biggie!
On the road, there’s a Lexus-like refinement and borderline luxury car smoothness to the ride; above what the current Highlander delivers.
Though, there is an actual Lexus version of the Grand Highlander already announced, the TX.
The Toyota Grand Highlander feels very powerful too, when dealing with our tester’s Hybrid Max powertrain.
It sports a 2.4-liter turbo-4 with electric motor assist to deliver 362-horsepower and 400 lb-ft. of torque through a 6-speed automatic. All wheel drive is standard and max tow rating is 5,000-lbs.
But that’s just 1 of the 3 powertrains. Shared with the Highlander is a 245-horsepower 2.5-liter Hybrid with a CVT. The base engine is a 265-horsepower 2.4-liter turbo I4 with an 8-speed automatic. Both available in front or all-wheel drive.
Our Hybrid Max has unique front and rear bumpers, along with dual exhaust. So we let that 6-speed shift us down our Mason Dixon Dragway test track.
For such a big vehicle, it gets up to speed quickly, leaving the line with a slight chirp of the tires on its way to 60 in just 5.6-seconds. You can feel the EV motor boost at launch, but it also aids in keeping power delivery consistent all the way down the track.
Gear changes were very smooth and it felt solid and stable throughout the ¼-mile, which we finished in 14.3-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour.
The Grand Highlander preferred a more leisurely pace through our handling course. Still, it doesn’t feel overly big or ungainly.
Yet you could really feel the 4,900-lbs. of weight of our Platinum Hybrid Max through here with significant body roll and apparent understeer.
Light steering and an overall soft feel are additional indicators that the main aims here were getting the family up to speed quickly and down the highway in comfort.
In braking runs, there was a noteable amount of nose dive, but stops from 60 were straight and consistent, with a good 115-foot average stopping distance from 60 miles-per-hour.
While an all-new vehicle, there’s a very familiar unassuming quality-minded Toyota interior, with their latest multimedia system which gets a 12.3-inch touchscreen standard.
The 3rd row is indeed much more than an afterthought; access is easy even for adults, there’s great space back there, and belts for 3 occupants. Plus, they were even able to provide 20.6 cubic-ft. of rear cargo space. Folding the 60/40 split 3rd row grows the space to 57.9 cubic-ft, and there’s a generous max of 97.5 with all seatbacks folded.
But while still roomy, it does seem like a bit of 2nd row space was compromised; either a 3-person bench or a pair of captain’s chairs makes for 8 or 7-passenger capacity.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Hybrid Max are 26-City, 27-Highway, and 27-Combined. We averaged 26.2 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
That makes for an average Energy Impact Score, with use of 11.0-barrels of oil yearly, with 5.5-tons of CO2 emissions.
Being the grandest of all Highlanders, no need for basic L or LE trims; the Grand Highlander is available in XLE, Limited, and Platinum grades only, starting with XLE at $44,465, which is certainly on par with what you pay for a top-notch 3-row family utility these days.
For Toyota, making a bigger and better version of their fast-selling Highlander was a no-brainer; and somehow in the process, they managed to seemingly shove an entire Sienna minivan in there. The impressive 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander not only gives Toyota buyers a bigger option to step up to, it primes them to be an even bigger player than they already are in the 3-row crossover game.
- Engine: 2.4-liter I-4 Turbo
- Horsepower: 362
- 0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 26.2 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 400 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.3 seconds at 98 mph
- EPA: 26 City / 27 Highway / 27 Combined
2024 Volkswagen Atlas
An Extensive Update For VW’s Roomy 3-Row Crossover
While Atlas has been holding the heavens in place for all of eternity according to Greek mythology, for a brief period of time the word has also used to describe a collection of paper road maps back when they were a thing. Of course, it’s a Volkswagen too, and for ’24 this 3-row SUV truly has the weight of VW on its shoulders.
While Volkswagen has certainly been making a splash with their Battery Electric Vehicles, the Internal Combustion Engine is still king, especially when it comes to large people movers. The 2024 Volkswagen Atlas is not the biggest SUV on the market, but it is the largest Volkswagen you can buy here and competes in the highly competitive and highly relevant 3-row family utility segment.
It’s not all-new for ’24, but its refresh is pretty extensive compared to many mid-cycle updates we’ve tested recently.
It all starts inside with nicer materials and a revised layout that adds more dimension to the dash, while moving the infotainment screen to on top of it. That screen grows of course, from 8 to 12-inches, and more routine tasks now are controlled through it. Most other manual knobs and buttons are now also sometimes fussy touch sensitive switches.
The true upside of this change are the added luxury-style features, including 3-zone climate control, ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel, all of which are now standard.
Wireless phone charging, and as many as 8 USB charging ports mean folks in all 3 rows can keep their devices fully charged.
Most models come with wood trim and accent lighting, SEL Premium R-Line adds 12-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio, stainless steel accents, Vienna leather seating, and a unique steering wheel.
Digital Cockpit pro 10-inch display is also standard on all, SELs also get a Head Up display.
One thing unchanged is the very roomy feeling inside, especially for a midsize 7-passenger utility, 6-passengers if you opt for 2nd row captain’s chairs; and the 3rd row space is usable by adults.
A redesigned center console adds to the already plentiful small item storage, while rear cargo capacity at 20.6 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 55.5 behind the 2nd, and a generous max of 96.6 cubic-ft. with all seatbacks folded.
Mechanically, there’s a new 2.0-liter turbo under the hood for ‘24, with 34 more horsepower than before, enough for Volkswagen to do away with the V6 option. So, all Atlas’ will now come with this 269-horsepower 4-cylinder with 273 lb-ft. of torque.
Front-wheel-drive remains standard with 4Motion all-wheel-drive available; all equipped with an 8-speed automatic. Max tow rating is 5,000-lbs.
At the test track, our all-wheel-drive Atlas leapt off the line eagerly enough, but then settled down just as quickly to a 7.5-second 0-60. Once the turbo was feeding power in full, things stayed pretty consistent down the track. It’s not overly powerful feeling, but that is almost half a second quicker than the original Atlas V6; which makes sense as this 4-banger puts out more torque than the 6.
Shifts in the 8-speed are quick if not super smooth, but they kept the revs high and the power flowing throughout the 15.6-second ¼-mile ending at 92 miles-per-hour.
In our slalom course, there was a lot of weight transfer and a tendency to oversteer; but light steering allowed us to easily stay on top of it, and the aggressive stability control reigns things in well before they get out of sorts.
Stomping on the very firm brake pedal initiated an immediate response, with the Atlas coming to a halt from 60 miles-per-hour in a fine 116-feet.
While still more boxy and classy than flashy, styling has been nicely updated with a new front end that separates it from the Atlas Cross Sport; with a much larger grille, new LED lighting, and less of a defined bumper with a different pattern to the lower grille.
Rear lighting has also been updated, and the roof spoiler extended to portray a bit of additional length.
R-Line adds glossy black trim, a large panoramic roof, silver roof rails, and 21-inch alloy wheels. Even with those big rims, Atlas’ ride remains smooth.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings with all-wheel-drive are 19-City, 25-Highway, and 21-Combined; we averaged a fine 23.6 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Still, that’s a slightly below average Energy Impact Score with 14.2-barrels of annual oil consumption and yearly emissions of 7.0-tons of CO2.
Pricing starts at $39,075 for SE trim; all-wheel-drive an additional $1,900. SEL and above come with AWD and start at $49,795.
While an Atlas used to be a tool to help get you where you needed to go, it was also a picture of possibilities, and places you could go and adventures that awaited. Most things below the surface have stayed the same here, but VW has redrawn the 2024 Volkswagen Atlas and made it more appealing than ever as your go everywhere travel companion.
- Engine: 2.0-liter I-4 Turbo
- Horsepower: 269
- 0-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 116 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 23.6 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 273 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 92 mph
- EPA: 19 City / 25 Highway / 21 Combined
- Max Towing: 5,000 lbs