2017 Fiat 124 Spider
While Fiat is well known worldwide for their diminutive 500, or cinquecento; it’s the 124 Coupe and Spider that first introduced most Americans to the brand back in the late 60s. And after using the 500 to re-introduce themselves here in the states, Fiat has now launched an all-new 124 Spider for us to enjoy. But this is no throw-back two seat Italian sports car!
Up to now, the cars making up Fiat’s U.S. return have indeed been diminutive, mostly economy-minded affairs. But, the overall effect of Fiat’s return has been anything but small, merging with Chrysler in 2014 to create Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. And now things get a whole lot more exciting with the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider.
Now this is where we tell you that this 124 is actually built on the same chassis as the Mazda MX-5, and further, comes out of the same Japanese plant. But this is far from a story about international badge engineering. They really do look a lot different, at least outside, especially when parked next to each other. Where the MX-5 has gotten meaner looking over the years, the 124 looks classy; with a nicely modern update of 60’s Italian-style.
The 124 Spider certainly has a sporty character; but instead of begging you to seek apexes, it yearns for mountain passes, and a more relaxed Grand Touring pace. It’s less edgy and more compliant; a kinder, gentler, and softer MX-5 if you will. Very reminiscent of the first Miata.
The engine is another clear departure. In place of the Miata’s naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter is the same 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo-4 found in other current Fiats, including the raucous 500 Abarth. Here it spins up 160–horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque.
It winds up quickly. But, despite more horsepower and torque, an increase in size and weight makes the 124 a tad less spirited off the line than the MX-5, though the exhaust note adds to its much enjoyed Italian flair.
And it surely fits in with the character of the original 124 Spider, which was an everyman’s take on a Ferrari.
We hit 60 in 7.6–seconds, and cleared the ¼-mile in 15.8-seconds at 91 miles-per-hour. Refreshing!
Our tester came with the optional 6–speed automatic in place of the standard 6-speed manual. It worked well enough, with smooth shifts; but really could use some paddle shifters for truly living out the Italian dream. Yes, you can shift manually with the shifter itself, but it’s just not the same.
After taking a few trips through the cones, our early impressions were confirmed; the 124 Spider does respond softer than a Miata.
Steering is numb feeling, but accurate; and there’s always the possibility of snapping the rear loose; as even with the cushier feel, the car remains plenty responsive.
But while unique outside and under the hood, the interior is another story. It’s almost a direct MX-5 copy, including dash-top infotainment screen that responds to touch and a console-mounted controller. To get navigation, you have to opt for Lusso trim and then add the Premium Collection Package.
The 124’s gauges look great and steering wheel placement is just about perfect.
Also there’s still no dash-mounted glove box, rather a storage bin in between the seats, but you do get an outside trunk release. And, with 5 1/2 inches more length, there’s more room in the 124’s trunk, 4.9 cubic-ft. versus the MX-5’s 4.6.
And we love the fact that top operation is still 1-hand fold down simple; thank you Fiat for not complicating that.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 25-City, 36-Highway, and 29–Combined. We averaged just 27.1 miles-per-gallon, and this tiny turbo does require Premium.
The Energy Impact Score is still good however, at 11.4-barrels of annual oil consumption with CO2 emissions of 5.0-tons.
There are 3-models of 124 to choose from, starting with Classica at $25,990. For what it’s worth, that makes it the lowest-priced turbocharged convertible in America, but also $240 more than a base MX-5.
So overall, if you like the MX-5, you’ll like the 124. Though, while clearly not politically correct, we do think the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider will easily appeal more to female buyers; though it will certainly attract fans of the original 124 as well.
Mazda says that without the Fiat partnership for the 124, a new MX-5 might not have happened. Now that would have been a calamity. So, we’re ecstatic that Fiat decided to bring back the 124 Spider, for a global tie-up that everyone who loves to drive should go out and celebrate.
- Engine: 1.4 liter
- Horsepower: 160
- Torque: 184 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 7.6 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.8 seconds @ 91 mph
- EPA: 25 mpg city / 36 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 11.4 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 5.0 tons/yr
2023 BMW X7
Should Keep The BMW Faithful Coming Back For More
While BMW got serious about their SUV game around the same time as most other luxury brands, it took them until just a few years ago to deliver a 3-row example. This year, that X7 is updated with new style and new tech. So, let’s see if that makes it the ultimate premium 3-row family machine.
When it comes to utility vehicles, bigger seems to be better for a lot of people. So, for BMW, there’s none bigger or better than the X7 3-row utility, which for 2023 gets a comprehensive update after just 4-years on the market. That includes a facelift to bring it more in line with the new 7-series carline, which is to say joins the more vertical, aggressive grille party. Also, the actual headlights have been moved lower in the front fascia, with squinty DRLs above for the first time on a BMW. In back, taillights take on a 3D posture, with a new chrome bar connecting them.
There are also multiple new M Sport packages to choose from to spice up the exterior, with larger air intakes up front, high-gloss black trim, upgraded exhaust, cascade grille lighting, and 22-inch wheels, as well as M Sport brakes…
…and the interior too, with aluminum trim and exclusive steering wheel. But, by far the biggest change inside for ‘23 is a new dashtop curved display that eliminates the typical BMW well-hooded gauge pod and blends 12-inch Live Cockpit Pro into the 15-inch infotainment touchscreen, which now features iDrive8. Both a Head-Up Display and a large panoramic sunroof are standard.
Whether set up for 2 or 3 passengers, 2nd row seat room remains plentiful, and though the X7 doesn’t look ungainly large like many of its competitors, access to the 3rd row is quite good. Cargo space is reached through a fairly unique, Range Rover-style, split tailgate, which is quite oddly satisfying to watch unfold. There’s room for 48.6 cubic-ft. of goods behind the 2nd row, with a max of 90.4 cu.-ft.
The base xDrive40i has always been the sensible choice, even more so now with a new inline-6 turbo getting a significant bump in horsepower from 335 to 375, and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that results in a total of 398 lb-ft. of torque.
At our Mason Dixon test track, there was enough to blast this big beast to 60 in just 5.4-seconds. That’s only about half a second slower than the V8 did the deed back in 2019. Making that optional 523-horsepower V8 simply overkill at this point. Our best ¼-mile pass was 13.9-seconds at 100 miles-per-hour. All X7s get a quick shifting sport-tuned 8-speed automatic transmission, which adds a new Sprint Function that finds the lowest usable gear instantly and maxes electric boost with a hold of the left shift paddle. What fun!
New looks and updated tech are cool, but BMW has also addressed dynamics as well, with a retuning of all chassis systems, including the optional Dynamic Handling Package which adds adaptive suspension with roll stabilization and uses GPS and camera data to prepare for what’s coming. We’re not sure if our slalom course was anticipated, but the X7 sure felt well-equipped to handle it. All-wheel drive is standard on all X7s, along with comprehensive drive modes.
In our braking runs, the pads bit down hard quickly, stopping us from 60 in just 115-feet with very little nosedive.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the 6-cylinder are 21-City, 25-Highway, and 22-Combined. We averaged just 21.0 miles-per-gallon on Premium.
There’s an average Energy Impact Score; 13.5-barrels of oil yearly, with CO2 emissions of 6.5-tons.
Pricing starts at $78,845, and it’s a significant step up from there to $104,095 if you want the V8. Even more reason to stick with the 6-cylinder as far as we’re concerned.
It took the ultimate driving machine folks quite a bit of time to enter the 3-row family crossover segment, but when they did, they were able to create their largest utility ever and keep it consistent with their values. For 2023, the BMW X7 gets even more dynamic, embraces new tech, and looks better too. All things that should keep the BMW faithful coming back for more.
- Engine: I-6
- Horsepower: 375
- 0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 115 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 21.0 MPG
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 398 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 13.9-seconds at 100 mph
- EPA: 21 City / 25 Highway / 22 Combined
2024 Mazda CX-90
A Force To Be Reckoned With
If you’ve been following Mazda lately, you’ll know they’ve been fielding some serious new designs; you could even say, they’re latest efforts are 10-times better than before. After all, the CX-3 became the CX-30, then CX-5 became the CX-50, and now it’s the CX-9’s turn. So, let’s find out if this all-new CX-90, their largest SUV yet, is a real multiplier or if it’s all just a numbers game.
Don’t think of this 2024 Mazda CX-90 so much as an updated version of the CX-9, as it’s more of a complete rethink of their 3-row crossover, the first built on an all-new, large vehicle platform for the brand. And this platform carries a host of surprises. Not only does it make the CX-90 bigger by every dimension, but it’s a rear-drive architecture, and features all-new powertrains, including the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, and even an inline-6 engine.
Why an inline-6 to replace the CX-9’s turbo-4? Well, in general terms, I6s are better balanced, run smoother, and can deliver more torque at lower RPM. Just ask the BMW faithful, or any of the truckers you see going down the road hauling more than 20-tons of cargo with their inline-6s.
There are 2-versions of the longitudinally mounted 6, both assisted by turbocharging and a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Output for the base Turbo is 280-horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque; this Turbo S cranks it up to 340-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. The PHEV, on the other hand, is based on a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4, working with a 100-kW electric motor to deliver 323-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque. A 17.8-kWh battery delivers 26-miles of EV driving.
It’s not the prettiest SUV, but it does have very smooth body work; plus, the longer hood and 7½-inches of wheelbase stretch over the CX-9, give it more stately proportions. All CX-90s come with i-Activ all-wheel drive and the brand’s first 8-speed automatic transmission; the longer wheelbase allows tow ratings to step up from 3,500-lbs. to 5,000.
At the test track, our Turbo S launched effortlessly with good grip on the way to a 6.4-second 0-60. The smooth vibes continued throughout the ¼-mile, with refined power delivery, seamless shifts, and a noticeably more solid and stable feel at speed than the CX-9. Our best time was 14.7-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour.
Through the cones, it still behaves like a Mazda, with very good steering feel and a solid presence in corners at low to moderate speeds. Some understeer and body roll will show up when pushed hard, but Mazda’s Kinematic Posture Control uses subtle selective braking to help the vehicle rotate, and safety systems will step in well-before it gets out of sorts.
There’s a nice firm feel to the brake pedal, delivering good stopping results of 118-feet from 60 miles-per-hour. You can feel a lot of weight transfer, but nosedive was well contained.
Another unique element the CX-90 brings is seating arrangements for 6,7, or 8. It’s the 8-seater that’s standard with 3-across bench seating for 2nd and 3rd rows. 7-seaters get either captain’s chairs in the 2nd row, or more contoured seats for the 3rd; 6-seaters sport 2nd row captains and the contoured 3rd row. Cargo capacity varies with seating, but is at best 15.9 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 40.1 behind the 2nd, and 75.2 with all seats folded.
As far as what it’s like to actually live with, the CX-90’s cabin is a clear step up, including on some trims suede-like materials, intricate stitching, and real wood, all consistent with what we’ve seen from the brand lately. A 10-inch dashtop touchscreen is standard for infotainment, with upper trims getting a larger 12.3-incher. We applaud Mazda’s inclusion of plenty of old-school manual controls for radio and climate, which keeps menu diving limited to secondary functions. PHEVs get a few unique controls and readouts to monitor drive modes and battery level.
Overall, the CX-90 is highly functional, entertainingly sporty to drive, and will be more competitive in the ever growing 3-row family crossover segment; and its posh interior may even attract luxury buyers on a budget.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Turbo S are 23-City, 28-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a good 26.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Pricing begins with the base Turbo at Select trim for $40,970, PHEVs are available in Preferred trim and above starting at $48,820, and the Turbo S starts at $53,125.
Force multiplier is a military term for when strategic elements come together to produce results greater than would have been possible without them. Well, no high-level math skills are necessary here to see that the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is clearly more than just a much better CX-9; it’s now a force to be reckoned with in the 3-row family crossover segment.
- Engine: 3.3-liter I-6
- Horsepower: 340
- 0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 118 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 26.5 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 369 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.7-seconds at 98 mph
- EPA: 23 City / 28 Highway / 25 Combined
- Starting Price: $40,970