2017 Buick Envision
Premium and luxury marks like all brands have seen sedan sales fall as crossovers and SUV’s gobble up more and more market share. What to do? Well, by all means, give the people what they want. Thus, one century old car brand has added yet another crossover to their line-up. Only this one comes with a trans-pacific twist.
The 2017 Buick Envision adds a 3rd arrow to Buick’s crossover quiver, fitting neatly between the much smaller Encore and the much larger Enclave. This middle-child takes aim at the likes of Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC, with plenty of room for adults in all five seating positions.
Addressing the “Made in China” elephant in the room, we saw nothing to give consumers concern. If you’re a rival brand however, you might be a little worried with what Buick has been able to pull off. Is quality on par with Lexus? Well not quite, but darn close, and all design and development work took place here in the U.S.
On the road it feels competent enough, better than expected really; and while there aren’t any actual bells or whistles inside, there are more than enough up-to-date features.
Feel and placement of controls is more Euro-inspired than domestic, there’s a very comprehensive instrument panel with configurable TFT screen, and full connectivity from Buick’s IntelliLink.
The dash is dressed in lots of faux-wood, but it looks good and is well-integrated. Certainly better than some of the bland treatments we’ve seen lately.
Available safety features include GM’s Safety Alert Seat, Surround Vision, and Front Automatic Braking which we found to work perfectly every time, always braking late and hard just shy of our barrier.
Even lesser trims are very well equipped with 8.0-inch touchscreen, heated seats, and a programmable-height power lift gate.
While smooth, ride quality is more Chevrolet-firm than Lexus-plush; and the seats are a little harder than we’d like, but are adequate for the long haul.
As for hauling, rear seats fold almost fully flat with just the pull of the cargo area-mounted levers. Everything seemed a little stiff in operation, but we weren’t sure if that was a build quality issue, or things just needing to get broken in a little.
Max cargo is 57.3 cubic-ft.; and there’s a very good 26.9 with the rear seats up.
The only noise and vibration issue we’ll note is that this particular Envision allowed a little more noise and wind rustle into the cabin than others we’ve driven.
Standard engine is a 197-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4 in front-wheel-drive models. The upgrade is a 2.0-liter turbo I4 that makes 252-horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque and comes with all-wheel-drive. Both work through a 6-speed automatic.
Both engines also offer adequate power and operate quietly; but the 2.0-liter is especially peppy, and was our choice for track work.
There, it felt very strong off the line, feeling like all torque is available right from the get-go. A slight bit of tire chirp and we were off to a quick 0-60 of 7.0-seconds flat.
Progressing down the track, automatic shifts were very smooth, but also slow; making our ¼-mile time 15.3-seconds at 92 miles-per-hour.
We battled typical understeer through our cone course; and when pushed too hard, onboard computers launched a fun-killing jab of the brakes to reel you in.
Kept just shy of its limits however, the Envision feels very composed and easy to place where you want it. Steering was actually heavier than expected, with better feel than most in this class. Body roll was present, but far from excessive.
Braking was quite good too. 110-feet was our short stopping distance from 60, with above average stability, and an easy to modulate pedal.
Exterior design is frankly rather beautiful, with a smooth shape and hefty proportions; while body lines are very pronounced. Standard wheels are 18s, though most trims ride on 19s.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 20-City, 26-Highway, and 22-Combined. For an Energy Impact Score of 15.0-barrels on yearly oil consumption with 6.6-tons of CO2 emissions.
Base, Preferred, and Essence trims come with the 2.5-liter, starting at $34,990, to which you can add all-wheel-drive. Premium trims, with the 2.0-liter are all-wheel-drive only, and start at $43,245.
While we were clearly impressed with the Envision, it’s actually hard to imagine any luxurious crossover not being a hit at this point and time. And, Buick has already been successful with the Encore and Enclave crossovers. So, we think the 2017 Buick Envision will be as well. After all, it is the very definition of giving the people exactly what they want.
- Engine: 2.0 liter turbo I4
- Horsepower: 252
- Torque: 260 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 7.0 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.3 seconds @ 92 mph
- EPA: 20 mpg city / 26 mpg highway,
- Energy Impact: 15.0 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 6.6 tons/yr
2023 BMW 330i xDrive
The Standard Bearer Is Still Bearing The Standard
The BMW 3-Series has been a luxury sport sedan standard bearer for most of its 7 generations. Well, it’s not time for an all-new 8th gen just yet, but BMW has done some significant updating to this current sedan. So, let’s see how they’re staying ahead of the curve.
While it’s easy to see the slow decline in sedan sales continuing as SUVs take up more and more market share, it’s also easy for us to always see a place for the European style sport sedan. If not in dealer showrooms, certainly in our motor oil pumping hearts. 2023 sees an updated BMW 3 Series sedan with better looks, better tech, and better performance.
Never satisfied to leave well enough alone, BMW has again tweaked the 3’s face, with slimmer headlights, ever more prominent air intakes, and yet another take on their classic twin kidney grille. There are multiple M Sport packages available, adding 19-inch M Sport wheels to replace the standard 18s, adaptive suspension, variable sport steering, M Sport brakes with blue calipers, and black trim.
Ever since they crammed a 2.0-liter M10 into 1968’s 2002, BMW has seemingly been on a mission to maximize 4-cylinder power delivery and reliability. Their latest 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the 330i outputs 255-horsepower and 295-lb-ft. of torque. The 382-horsepower 6-cylinder remains available in the M340i, and there’s a 288-horsepower 330e PHEV as well.
This 2.0-liter is paired with the familiar 8-speed automatic transmission; the entire package is smooth and punches above its weight, delivering big hits of torque off the line with barely a hint of turbo lag. We hit 60 in 5.1-seconds with the help of launch control.
The ¼-mile passed in 13.7-seconds at 102 miles-per-hour. The engine sounded powerful and aggressive as it eagerly revved to redline, where each shift of the automatic transmission gave a nice little surge of additional power. xDrive all-wheel-drive is optional and not only does it provide extra grip for launching, but additional traction when it comes to handling as well. With the M Sport package, the suspension feels tight and the ride is quite firm; perhaps a bit much for our aging bodies, but you won’t be complaining when scooting down your favorite driving road, or shuffling through a handling course. It felt ever more athletic when whipping in and out of the cones of our slalom, with just a hint of understeer showing up at its limits. Steering is incredibly quick, but still has an artificial feel that takes some getting used to. There is very little body roll to contend with. In our braking runs, a nice firm pedal and great overall stability made for quick 103 foot stops from 60, rock steady all the way.
BMW has truly upped their interior comfort game in recent years, and everything inside this updated 3 looks great and feels nicely finished. Twin screens, 12.3-inches behind the steering wheel for instruments, and 14.9-inch for infotainment, now flow into one another as part of BMW’s curved dash display. While it works well enough, this latest iDrive 8 may be a step back, as very few manual controls remain, and you seemingly have to do more menu diving than before for anything other than basic climate and audio controls. Dash vents are now slimmer, and the console gets a redesign with, for better or worse, a new toggle lever instead of an actual shifter for controlling the transmission. Steering wheel-mounted shifters are also standard; M Sport adds a unique wheel and aluminum trim, with Harmon Kardon sound optional.
Front seats are firm but adequately comfortable, there’s a good amount of room for rear seat passengers, and a great 16.9 cubic-ft. of trunk space.
Pricing starts at $45,495 for the 330i, 2-grand more for all-wheel drive; the 330e plug-in is just above that at $46,595, with the top 340i coming in at $58,595.
BMW essentially created the sport sedan as we know it back in the 1960s. And while you don’t have to spend this kind of money to get a great driving experience these days, the 2023 BMW 3 Series still delivers perhaps the best mix of performance, luxury, tech, and even comfort, in a 4-door sedan package that an awful lot of people, including us, still adore.
- Engine: 2.0-liter turbo-4
- Horsepower: 255
- 0-60 mph: 5.1 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 103 feet (avg)
- Transmission: 8-speed auto
- Torque: 295 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 13.7-seconds at 102 mph
- EPA: 24 City / 33 Highway / 27 Combined
2024 Ford Mustang
A New Mustang You Don’t Have To Plug In
The all-new 2024 Ford Mustang is hitting the streets and we’re just back from Southern California where we got plenty of saddle time to give you the low down.
Part of the Mustang’s appeal has always revolved around its everyday usability, not just muscle car performance. Which means you can buy anything from a base ‘stang to the ultimate GT and have crazy amounts of fun with it on back roads.
Yet still have plenty of comfort, space, not to mention tech, to make it great on date night, and even run a few errands.
So, as before, base models will come with a turbo-4, and GT’s pack a V8. We got to spend quality time in both.
GREG CARLOSS: “…this is the GT Coupe which is the V8; this is the Mustang that everybody thinks of, a V8 engine now up to 486-horsepower, still out of a 5.0-liter but Ford is saying it’s an all-new engine, they’re calling it an all-new engine and it’s naturally aspirated so it’s just beautifully linear…”
This new generation of Coyote V8 is still one of the best-sounding eight-cylinders out there, even if it is enhanced.
It now delivers up to 418 lb-ft. of torque with an active exhaust, thanks to increased airflow and upgraded dual throttle bodies.
The 2.3-liter EcoBoost returns as well, but is also updated, delivering 5-additional standard horsepower at 315, along with 350 lb-ft. of torque.
If like us, you still prefer the manual, good news, the rev-matching 6-speed returns, bad news, it’s now only available in the GT, the EcoBoost going 10-speed automatic only.
There are 6 drive modes that adjust power delivery, suspension settings, stability control, and steering response; along with shift times for the automatic.
Performance Pack is available with either engine, and includes a shock tower brace, limited slip rear, wider wheels, and bigger brakes, as well as a Performance Electronic Parking Brake.
JESSICA RAY: “…I had the EcoBoost to test out arguably with the coolest features new on the new Mustang, electronic drift brake. Ford had a small course set up for us to test it out; it’s super simple to use, no button, just pull up and hold to engage the brake and lock the rear wheel. It wasn’t long before I got the hang of things, and drifting was a breeze.”
While this is a new generation of Mustang, it rides on an updated version of the previous chassis; and the ride remains firm but far from abusive and seems just about right for a Mustang; but as we found out, this is surely not the same old ‘stang.
JESSICA RAY: “They’ve been very clear that this is a modern Mustang; I mean yes it pays homage to the past but with certain design cues and stuff, but what they really want is that this is a 21st century Mustang.”
The cockpit is supposedly inspired by jet fighters, but something tells me, American’s finest pilots don’t get this much screen time, with a highly configurable 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster flowing seamlessly into a 13.2-inch central screen.
A convertible remains available right from the get-go, and fans will find improved one-touch top activation, and more compact storage of the fabric top to maximize trunk space.
It all works well with the Mustang’s overall sharper demeanor and carved up look. More prominent hips are in place to further accentuate the wide stance. And of course front and rear lights, love ‘em or hate ‘em, come in the power of 3.
For this generation there’s a bit more distinction between base EcoBoost and GT models, with unique fascias and hood; wheel sizes ranging from 17 to 20-inches.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the EcoBoost 4 are 22-City, 33-Highway, and 26-Combined; the manual GT V8 at 14-City, 23-Highway, and 17-Combined.
Pricing starts with a base Coupe at $32,515, ranging to GT Premium at $48,610.
The Ford Mustang has existed for 60 years now, and for 2024, it’s the last actual car remaining in Ford’s lineup. Truth be told we weren’t sure exactly what we’d get, after Mustang went all-electric SUV with the Mach E. But it turns out we got a real deal rear-wheel-drive 2-door pony car packed with performance, muscle car style, and modern tech. It’s clear it is a better Mustang, and the best yet!
- Engine: 2.3-liter Turbo-4 | 5.0-liter V8
- Horsepower: 315 | up to 486
- EPA (EcoBoost): 22 City | 33 Highway | 26 Combined
- Transmission: 10-speed auto | 6-speed manual
- Torque: 350 lb-ft. | 418 lb-ft.
- EPA (V8 Manual): 14 City | 23 Highway | 17 Combined