Review: The $37,000 Honda Accord Hybrid perfectly blends a trusty reputation with go-anywhere fuel economy

The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

  • The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid marks 16 years since the debut of the original hybrid Accord.
  • It gets between 43 and 48 mpg combined depending on trim, and it doesn’t need to be plugged in.
  • The hybrid starts at $26,570. My innocuous $37,435 loaner taught me blending in isn’t so bad.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It’s an age-old question: Would you rather fly or be invisible?

You could choose invisibility, letting you be wherever you want whenever you want without the awkward task of explaining why you belong. You’d be unperceived. Unassuming. You’d simply exist and observe things you wouldn’t have otherwise. Or you could fly! You could soar wherever you wanted, wind in your face and airline fares in your rearview forever. You could see the world from a perspective few, if any, ever do. Constant catharsis.

It seems like an impossible choice. But driving a silver 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid for a week taught me that in some ways, a lot of people have already chosen. And I guess I don’t blame them.

The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid: Electrification for the masses

Much like the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord is a mainstay on the car market. Everyone knows what it is; everyone’s connotation of it is generally “practical and reliable.” It’s a Honda, after all. It might just outlive you.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

That reputation translates to sales: Even as SUVs squash sedans and small cars on the US market, American Honda managed to sell just under 200,000 Accords last year (that was down from 267,000 in 2019). Honda sold about 1.2 million vehicles overall in the region in 2020, meaning the Accord accounted for about a sixth of the total tally.

The Accord’s popularity isn’t new, and neither is the existence of a hybrid. The first Accord Hybrid debuted for the 2005 model year, with Motor Trend describing it as a car that “does not flaunt its hybrid status” despite its enticing features and powertrain.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

“Instead, it blends into traffic with little more than a diminutive badge to announce its ‘greener than thou’ presence,” Motor Trend wrote. Sixteen years later, that part hasn’t changed.

Details and safety ratings: High value for an average price

The 2021 Accord Hybrid comes with 212 horsepower, 232 pound-feet of torque, a continuously variable transmission, and four trims. For most car buyers, the difference between a CVT and an automatic is negligible.

The base trim, merely called the “Accord Hybrid,” starts at $26,570 and features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, automatic on-off headlights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The next step up is the $30,520 Hybrid EX, which adds a power moonroof, heated front seats, and a 12-way power-adjusted driver’s seat.

Trim levels for the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
Trim levels for the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid. Each has 212 horsepower, 232 pound-feet of torque, and a continuously variable transmission. The base trim starts at $26,570, the EX at $30,520, the EX-L at $32,890, and the Touring at $36,440.

The $32,890 EX-L gets you all of that plus leather seats, a four-way power passenger seat, and 10 speakers instead of eight. Move all the way up to the $36,440 Hybrid Touring – which this review loaner was, plus $995 in fees to total $37,435 – and you’ll add 19-inch alloy wheels (because bigger wheels are fancier), active dampers to make the ride and suspension smoother, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and parking sensors, among other things.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Accord Hybrid five stars in all three of its crash tests and a five-star rollover rating, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave all versions of the 2021 Accord sedan, including the hybrid, its top crash rating in every test.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

While the LED headlights on the top three hybrid trims received IIHS’ highest of four safety ratings, the base model got the IIHS’ second-highest rating for minor visibility and glare concerns.

What stands out: The practicality you know and love

If someone in your family had a road trip car when you were a kid – the one where all of the seats were deeply broken in, where you could spend 12 hours you needed to – the Accord Hybrid feels like that car. It might be new, but it feels familiar.

But for those used to cars that rely entirely on gas, that familiarity won’t extend to its driving style. The Accord is a conventional hybrid, meaning its fuel-economy-boosting battery gets charged while driving rather than with a plug.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

The Accord Hybrid operates in EV mode on starts and at low speeds, meaning its acceleration pedal has the elastic feel of an electric car before the gas engine kicks in.

Basically, rather than the slight resistance of a typical gas pedal, you feel more like you’re pressing against a stretchy piece of gum. That makes it feel fun! And new! And fancy!

Congratulations. Welcome to our electrified future.

honda accord hybrid engine modes
A chart showing the Accord Hybrid’s engine operation, which is EV mode on starts and at low speeds.

The Hybrid’s Touring trim is also peaceful. Everything inside of it communicates a sense of relaxation: the large seats, the soft color transitions from black paneling to dark wood-look accents, the minimalist design that still features all the buttons you instinctively reach for instead of one big touchscreen from Hell, doors that close with a loud but solid thump, an interior that feels closed off from the outside world.

Adding to that sense of relaxation is a lack of wind noise. If you turn the radio off, you can hear a tiny whistle just above your head. Otherwise, it’s nonexistent.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

The steering wheel isn’t too thin or thick, and it has just enough weight when you turn it that it doesn’t feel hollow. There’s enough legroom in the front and back to haul around a few planets in the floorboard, and the sheer amount of trunk space means you’ll never really need a truck, no matter how much you tell yourself you do.

Then there’s the fuel mileage! The EPA rates the Hybrid Touring trim at 44 mpg in the city, 41 on the highway, and 43 combined. It takes a lot of driving to make a dent in the fuel gauge, which is better for both wallets and climates.

What falls short: Confusing controls

The Accord Hybrid might be a familiar car, but it comes with a lot of confusing controls.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

There’s an “EV mode” button that seems promising – why not be all EV all the time? – but when I tried to turn it on, a message told me it wasn’t available while the cabin was being heated. It didn’t tell me whether that meant seat heaters or my 79-degree climate control, so I cut both off. (Listen, we all have our preferences.)

EV mode lasted about 45 seconds before the message said battery charge was too low, which felt like more of a letdown than the button was worth. Honda describes EV mode as “electric up to a mile depending on charge, throttle input” in its press materials, but the car itself didn’t tell me that.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

The car’s messages didn’t direct me to further information or reading about what EV mode actually consisted of, which was mildly inconvenient for me since I was going to do my research on the car anyway. But it could easily discourage a normal driver from using the controls at all.

If you’re building hybrids, you want people using the more efficient modes – not ignoring them because they can’t figure out how.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

The Accord also has regenerative braking to help recharge the battery, and paddle shifters on the wheel let drivers choose just how intense they want the braking (thus charging) to be. But that setting, too, disappears after a few seconds without any explanation.

While the Hybrid Touring trim has barely any wind noise, that isn’t the case with road noise. Drive on a smooth section of pavement and you’re numb to the world around you, but hit rougher stretches and a rugged drone will bring you back to reality. The radio can cover most of the noise at a modest volume, but not get rid of it entirely.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

Fingerprints don’t mix well with the Accord’s shiny infotainment screen, which is fine if you’re like me and only use the physical controls. Its visors, visor mirrors, light gray headliner, and orange-yellow interior lights that could’ve been swapped for clean LEDs also don’t fit the classy vibe of the rest of the car; they feel pulled from something cheaper. Keep your eyes down, though, and you might not notice.

Rear passengers get seat heaters and good radio quality, but they don’t have their own climate controls – only two vents blowing the temperature preference of the people up front. And while two average-sized people can ride back there like royalty, three would be a squeeze.

center armrest in the back seat of the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The center armrest in the back seat of the 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

The back seat also features a problem that plagued the $25,000 Honda Civic Si: a rear armrest that flops down and bounces off the seats instead of descending in a controlled movement, making it feel like a cheap afterthought.

Look, these folks already lost out on shotgun. We don’t need to make it worse with a floppy armrest.

The Accord Hybrid versus its competitors: The cheapest, but not by a lot

The Accord and Camry are longtime frontrunners in the American sedan market, but there’s also a stunning new Sonata Hybrid.

Honda accord, toyota camry, hyundai sonata hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid (left), 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid (middle), and 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (right).

The Accord Hybrid has the lowest starting price of them all at $26,570, but not by a lot – a hybrid Camry starts at $27,270, while the base hybrid Sonata runs $27,750. They’re all front-wheel drive, and the Sonata features a six-speed automatic compared to the CVTs in the Accord and Camry. The Accord leads in terms of horsepower with 212, while the Camry has 208 and the Sonata 192.

Crash ratings from the IIHS are consistent across all of the cars, but headlight ratings aren’t. While all of the Accord and Camry hybrid trims have one of IIHS’ top two ratings – “good” or “acceptable” – for their headlights, the Sonata is an iffier bet. Its $35,300 top-tier Limited trim has a “good” rating from IIHS, while its bottom two trims got the second-worst rating of “marginal.”

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

Fuel economy for each varies based on trim, with the EPA rating the base Accord Hybrid at 48 mpg combined, the top-level Hybrid Touring at 43 mpg, the base Camry at 52 mpg compared to 46 mpg for the rest of the trims, and the base Sonata Hybrid at 52 mpg compared to 47 mpg elsewhere in the lineup.

Our impressions: Going with the safe choice isn’t a bad thing

The Accord Hybrid is everything your stereotypes think it is. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. It’s the easy choice that’ll leave you worried about anything other than the quality of your car. All the while, it gets great gas mileage.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

During my week with a silver Accord Hybrid, no one noticed me. Not a single person looked in my direction. Its styling was just as subdued as any Accord’s, and its hybrid badges were more like freckles than anything. It was rolling anonymity with the benefit of fewer trips to the gas station.

In the Accord Hybrid, you’re not choosing to fly. You’re choosing to be invisible, and that’s just fine.

♦♦♦

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

2021 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Review: The $84,090 Porsche Macan GTS is the practical combination of a sports car and a luxury SUV

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_26
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

  • The Macan and Cayenne SUVs were Porsche’s best-selling vehicles in 2020, with the Macan winning out.
  • The Macan GTS drives and handles like something much smaller and way more fun.
  • My 2020 loaner model started at $71,300. After options, it came to $84,090.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Given the plethora of available compact luxury SUVs these days, you’d almost think the Porsche Macan would vanish into a sea of jelly bean-shaped anonymity. You’d be wrong. You’d be so wrong.

Even in base-trim, the Macan is a riot to drive. But today, we’re here to talk about the Macan GTS. In the Macan’s four-trim lineup, the GTS ranks second from the top below the range-topping Macan Turbo. And while you might be quick to dismiss the GTS model because it isn’t the most powerful or most expensive Macan there is, slow down.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_22
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

For too long, buyers had to choose between either buying a sports car or an SUV. There was no compromise.

Now there is.

The 2020 Macan GTS: Voted most popular

Launched in 2014 as a smaller and sportier step down from the Cayenne, the Macan was refreshed for 2019 most significantly to get a heckblende rear taillight. Pre-refresh Macans have two separate taillights instead of one long one; this is the easiest way to tell them apart.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_29
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

Currently, the Macan is Porsche’s best-selling vehicle. With 18,631 sold in 2020, it beat the Cayenne by 539 units.

Now, it’s plain as day that SUVs are the Porsche moneymakers. But the fact that the newer, smaller – and cheaper – Macan has stolen the top spot from the Cayenne in today’s SUV-obsessed market speaks volumes to the car’s popularity with buyers, which is well-earned.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_3
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

The differences between the 2020 Macan GTS, which was what my loaner was, and the 2021 Macan GTS are minimal. Save for a few changes to the Premium Package Plus and the addition of Apple CarPlay, the two are essentially the same.

Details and safety ratings: A quick SUV

Powered by a 2.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V6, the Macan GTS produces a claimed 375 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It has all-wheel drive as standard and Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission.

Porsche Macan GTS._OEM11
Porsche Macan GTS.

Porsche estimates the Macan GTS’s top speed to be 162 mph, and its 0-to-60 acceleration time to be 4.7 seconds. That drops to 4.5 seconds with the addition of the Sport Chrono option.

Length comes to 15.4 feet and width comes to 6.4 feet. Curb weight is 4,370 pounds and total towing capacity comes to 4,409 pounds.

At 17.6 cubic feet with the rear seats upright, the Macan GTS doesn’t have the roomiest trunk out there, but it’ll fit a week’s worth of groceries or a few weekend bags in a pinch. With a fuel tank capacity of 19.8 gallons, the Macan GTS returns 17 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_45
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

The 2020 Porsche Macan GTS has not been rated for crashworthiness by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Though, despite the lack of publicly available crash test ratings, the car still earned a Consumer Reports recommendation.

What stands out: Tactile heaven

Porsche appears to be one of the last automakers to offer button-friendly interiors. There’s an infotainment screen, obviously, but there are still buttons and dials for the various radio and climate controls. The speedometer and tachometer are still analog dials.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_40
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

The most immediately delightful part of the Macan is its steering wheel. Petite and thin in your hands, the wheel is tidily minimalist, lacking in extraneous buttons. Instead, it has computer mouse-like scroll wheels for the volume on one side and for a few driver information menus on the other. That’s it.

The selectable driver modes are located on a dial down by your right thumb that you can easily toggle by feel without taking your eyes off the road.

The rest of the Macan GTS’s interior has some pretty great tactile feedback. The left-handed ignition clunks heavily when you turn it, kicking the car to life or putting it to sleep. The gear selector thunks resolutely into place. The paddle shifters feel like milled metal and clink if you tap on them. The scroll wheels on the steering wheel buzz cheerfully in their cradles.

When cars all inevitably switch to touchscreen setups, swipe functions, and engine start/stop buttons, this is the stuff I’ll miss the most.

Porsche Macan GTS._OEM7
Porsche Macan GTS.

Combine the tight and responsive steering with a lightning-fast transmission and a torquey engine and you’ve got something cracking exciting on your hands. With an SUV’s ground clearance, you still sit high, yet somehow the chassis doesn’t lean terribly much in the corners. Bafflingly, the car feels like it shrinks around you instead.

Though quiet when the sport exhaust isn’t activated, the Macan GTS burbles and pops with V6 rasp encouragingly in Sport and Sport Plus modes.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_33
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

All of these things urge you to drive with a bit more pep than you normally would. A bit more daringly. It rewards a heavier foot with punchy acceleration. A flick of the steering wheel with the nose-down eagerness of a dog in pursuit. And you finally feel it – that small smile tug at the corner of your mouth. Because the Macan GTS is fun, man.

What falls short: Too much of a good thing

There are two very minor grievances I had with the Macan GTS. The first is with the buttons.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_39
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

I know! I just got done praising those very buttons. And as much as I love that they’re there, the arrangement is a bit chaotic. A ridge of buttons adorns either side of the center console. Overhead, another fleet of them dances around the cabin light.

I’m sure once you get used to the placement you’ll remember where everything is, but it’s overwhelming at first. I appreciated the grouping – all the traction and suspension control buttons are presented together, as are all the climate and seat heating/cooling buttons – but the buttons were still all in one concentrated spot: the center console.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_37
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

If I had it my way, I’d put a bigger physical break between the groups, perhaps even separating them away from each other for ease of muscle memory. But let me be clear: I will take a dizzying array of buttons any day over a purely touchscreen interface.

Secondly, legroom in the back seat wasn’t stellar. For those shorter in the leg or for shorter trips, it’s fine. For taller folks on longer trips, stretching out might be a problem.

How the Macan GTS compares to its competitors: Power per dollar

The base price for the 2020 Macan GTS, which is what I had as a loaner, starts at $71,300. The 2021 Macan GTS sees a very slight price bump up to $72,100.

Porsche Macan GTS._OEM4
Porsche Macan GTS.

After options such as Mamba Green metallic paint ($700), the torque-vectoring plus package ($1,500), the heated multifunction GT sport steering wheel ($590), Sport Chrono package ($1,360), and Premium Package Plus ($5,020 with a Bose audio system, ventilated front seats, auto-dimming mirrors, and a panoramic sunroof) – plus the non-negotiable $1,350 destination and delivery fee – the final price of my loaner came to $84,090.

Yes. It’s a lot of money.

Porsche Macan GTS._OEM2
Porsche Macan GTS.

The Macan GTS can count the BMW X3 M40i ($56,600), Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 ($59,900), Jaguar F-Pace R-Dynamic S ($65,200), Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio ($80,800), Land Rover Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic ($58,500) and Audi SQ5 ($52,900) as competitors.

It is nearly the most expensive option in that luxury compact SUV segment, even though its power is pretty evenly matched with the rest of the competition. But hey! You get a Porsche badge, if you’re into that.

Our impressions: Sports car disguised as an SUV

After seeing just how many other options there are to choose from, it’s easy to dismiss the Macan GTS as just another luxury SUV. But my advice would be to drive one first. Although the car’s dimensions suggest something far larger, it drives more like a hot hatchback.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_18
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

Due to its smaller size and lighter weight, the Macan GTS doesn’t need busloads of horsepower to make a point. Porsche pulled that off by pairing an athletic chassis and suspension setup with a turbocharged engine tuned for hauling ass. There’s a deftness to the way the SUV handles that’s not unlike what you’d find in a sports car.

Unfortunately, $72,100 is the starting price for that fun. I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money, but if there’s some disagreement between the Macan you want and how much cash you’ve got – well, there’s always the used market after a couple of years.

♦♦♦

Porsche Macan GTS._OEM6
Porsche Macan GTS.

Porsche Macan GTS._OEM5
Porsche Macan GTS.

Porsche Macan GTS._OEM9
Porsche Macan GTS.

Porsche Macan GTS._OEM1
Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_35
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_44
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_19
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_27
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_32
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_34
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_16
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_4
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_28
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_17
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

2020 Porsche Macan GTS._KL_14
2020 Porsche Macan GTS.

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The $120,000 Audi RS 6 Avant wagon has some of the fanciest light features of any car – check them all out

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant.KL_59
Let there be light.

  • The 2021 RS 6 Avant I tested recently did cool light tricks when you locked or unlocked it.
  • Inside, it even had futuristic, Tron-like cabin illumination.
  • The best part was that the seat belt buckles lit up so you never had to find them by touch alone.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

There’s always been something about Audis and LEDs.

Audi was among the first – if not the first – automakers to adopt light-emitting diode, or LED, daytime running lights. They debuted in 2004 on the Audi A8 W12 sedan as five LEDs in each headlight. 

The look quickly trickled through the rest of Audi’s lineup after that. Soon, everything from the cheaper A4s up had the scintillating detail – a sparkly, checkmark-shaped strip of LEDs flanking the signature four rings. Nothing like it had ever been seen before and, for a while, you could pick out an Audi heading toward you from afar just based on that pattern of LEDs.

In 2009, the Audi R8 V10 became the first car fitted exclusively with LEDs. Its headlights, turn signals, and daytime running lights all used the technology, which Audi claimed reduced CO2 emissions and was more efficient than the widely used halogen light bulbs. 

It’s now 2021 and nearly everything on the road uses LEDs of some kind, but Audi’s still found a way to distinguish itself. Recently, I tested out a 2021 RS 6 Avant – read the review here! – and stumbled across a neat little light show it puts on when you lock or unlock it. For your viewing pleasure and convenience, I have GIFed the experience below.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant.
Look at this light show!

When you unlock the car, the front daytime running lights light up in sequence, almost like a welcome greeting. When you lock the car, the rear lights fade out in sequence, like a curtain closing after a show. 

As far as I can tell, this choice was purely an aesthetic one. It certainly doesn’t make the car drive any faster or better. It just gave me, the driver, some small delight in seeing it. There doesn’t seem to be any other reason to include such a feature. 

(And before you email me to yell at me that this is old news and I should get with the program: The internet isn’t all about you. Not everyone knows this about Audis.)

But that’s not all! I invite you to check out two more things.

First, the RS 6 Avant’s door sills light up in the dark and the car projects “Audi Sport” onto the ground, lest you forget what sort of vehicle you have.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant.KL_95
Like a giant, light-up name tag.

Second, and more practically, the RS 6 Avant’s interior lighting includes seat-belt buckle illumination!

The wagon seats five, so five buckles are encased in a ring of light for you to locate more easily. Anyone who has felt around in the dark for their buckle no longer has to if they’re riding in one of these.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant.
Strong Tron vibes here.

The rest of the cabin lighting gives off a very futuristic, Tron-like aesthetic. If you looked at the interior during the day, you’d see that the light fits perfectly with the minimalist design. 

But those seat-belt buckle indicator lights. That’s some real MVP stuff right there.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The $200,000 Acura NSX supercar comes with a tricky chore: cleaning out the massive air vents down its sides

Acura NSX._KL_4
2020 Acura NSX.

  • The Acura NSX is a supercar, yet part of its design traps dirt and other debris after driving.
  • You can clean it either by taking part of the car apart or with compressed air.
  • This is not an NSX-specific issue. It happens to a lot of other supercars.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Some of the most prominent features of the new Acura NSX – or indeed, any mid-engined supercar – are the rear airflow intake vents, located just behind the doors. They’re large, eye-catching, and most importantly, functional.

But they do present a bit of a problem sometimes: They get dirty and they’re not always easy to clean.

Airflow is necessary for all internal combustion engines, no matter where they’re located – in the front of the car, the rear, or like the NSX, in the middle. An air intake system lets air reach the engine, and part of that system includes vents in the front of the car so the air can get channeled to the engine more easily. 

2017 Acura NSX 161 source
Here’s a visualization of the NSX’s aerodynamics.

Because the NSX has a mid-mounted engine – meaning that it’s found between the car’s axles – it has two giant intake vents in its sides. Air that flows over the hood gets fed directly into the engine via these vents. Cool stuff all around.

Here’s a diagram of the NSX without its body panels so you can see. The two radiators are placed behind where the car’s doors would be and right in front of the rear wheels. The engine is behind the driver.

2017 Acura NSX 140 source
The big rectangles in front of the rear wheels are the radiators.

While I was out with the car, I happened to look down into the NSX’s intake vent and saw some debris chilling in there. Not big debris, mind you – just what appeared to be some dust, small pebbles, and pine needles. Undoubtedly, the honeycomb mesh grille protecting the vents kept the bigger stuff out.

But how would one clean such an area? The grille that keeps bigger rocks out also prevents you from wiping away the accumulated grit. I couldn’t see an easy way to remove the grille, either.

Acura NSX._KL_48
Looking down into that vent.

As it turned out, my instinct for removing the grilles was correct. Daniel, a professional car detailer from Clear Detail LLC in Richmond, Virginia, told me via email that when detailing cars like this, he also tries for the best access by removing the grille.

This isn’t always possible, though.

“The new NSX grilles can only be accessed [by] removing the wheels, wheel wells, and radiators,” Daniel said.

Since that isn’t an option for most people, Daniel recommended that owners first try blowing out the area with compressed air, a pressure washer, or even a vacuum, spraying it with a paint-safe citrus cleaner, letting it soak, pressure washing it out, and finishing with blowing it out again with compressed air – or a Master Blaster, if you’ve got one. 

An Acura spokesperson declined to confirm whether or not this is the recommended way of cleaning out an NSX’s intake vents.

Acura NSX._KL_14
It’s a great vent.

I’m not dogging on the NSX for this issue, as it seems fairly innocuous. I just know that if I owned the car, the buildup of dirt in the vents would bug the hell out of me, and I wanted to see how someone would go about finding a solution.

In the case of my loaner, it had been driven 15,000 miles by journalists who, like me, can sometimes enjoy making a car do things it wasn’t designed to do. Because of the life it’s lived, it is very possible that this NSX merely accumulated more dirt than others that haven’t been tracked or parked, outside, under trees. 

And it’s also not an NSX-specific issue!

“With a lot of supercars, the intakes are fantastic leaf, pebble, dirt, pine needle, and sand traps,” Daniel said. In his experience, this is a problem that has plagued many supercars, not just the NSX. It’s just what happens when you combine sticky, performance tires that have a habit of flinging debris around with an intake vent that’s behind those tires.

The issue is addressed more easily in some other cars, though. All Daniel has to do in a Lamborghini, for example, is remove three screws and then the grille comes right out.

But if you’re an NSX owner who’s been frustrated by a small collection of dirt riding around with you, here’s your solution.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The $120,000 Audi RS 6 Avant has some of the fanciest light features on the market – check them all out

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant.KL_59
Let there be light.

  • The 2021 RS 6 Avant I tested recently did cool light tricks when you locked or unlocked it.
  • Inside, it even had futuristic, Tron-like cabin illumination.
  • The best part was that the seat belt buckles lit up so you never had to find them by touch alone.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

There’s always been something about Audis and LEDs.

Audi was among the first – if not the first – automakers to adopt light-emitting diode, or LED, daytime running lights. They debuted in 2004 on the Audi A8 W12 sedan as five LEDs in each headlight. 

The look quickly trickled through the rest of Audi’s lineup after that. Soon, everything from the cheaper A4s up had the scintillating detail – a sparkly, checkmark-shaped strip of LEDs flanking the signature four rings. Nothing like it had ever been seen before and, for a while, you could pick out an Audi heading toward you from afar just based on that pattern of LEDs.

In 2009, the Audi R8 V10 became the first car fitted exclusively with LEDs. Its headlights, turn signals, and daytime running lights all used the technology, which Audi claimed reduced CO2 emissions and was more efficient than the widely used halogen light bulbs. 

It’s now 2021 and nearly everything on the road uses LEDs of some kind, but Audi’s still found a way to distinguish itself. Recently, I tested out a 2021 RS 6 Avant – read the review here! – and stumbled across a neat little light show it puts on when you lock or unlock it. For your viewing pleasure and convenience, I have GIFed the experience below.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant.
Look at this light show!

When you unlock the car, the front daytime running lights light up in sequence, almost like a welcome greeting. When you lock the car, the rear lights fade out in sequence, like a curtain closing after a show. 

As far as I can tell, this choice was purely an aesthetic one. It certainly doesn’t make the car drive any faster or better. It just gave me, the driver, some small delight in seeing it. There doesn’t seem to be any other reason to include such a feature. 

(And before you email me to yell at me that this is old news and I should get with the program: The internet isn’t all about you. Not everyone knows this about Audis.)

But that’s not all! I invite you to check out two more things.

First, the RS 6 Avant’s door sills light up in the dark and the car projects “Audi Sport” onto the ground, lest you forget what sort of vehicle you have.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant.KL_95
Like a giant, light-up name tag.

Second, and more practically, the RS 6 Avant’s interior lighting includes seat-belt buckle illumination!

The wagon seats five, so five buckles are encased in a ring of light for you to locate more easily. Anyone who has felt around in the dark for their buckle no longer has to if they’re riding in one of these.

2021 Audi RS 6 Avant.
Strong Tron vibes here.

The rest of the cabin lighting gives off a very futuristic, Tron-like aesthetic. If you looked at the interior during the day, you’d see that the light fits perfectly with the minimalist design. 

But those seat-belt buckle indicator lights. That’s some real MVP stuff right there.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Review: Mazda’s $35,000 CX-30 Turbo is aimed directly at Mercedes and BMW subcompact SUVs

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

  • Just like the Mazda 3 before it, Mazda has given the CX-30 subcompact SUV a turbocharged engine.
  • The turbocharger makes the CX-30 Turbo a competitor against luxury automakers like BMW and Mercedes.
  • The CX-30 Turbo starts at $30,050. My loaner had a $35,400 price tag.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Here’s what we already knew: The perennial Mazda 3, when given a turbocharger, becomes zippy and fun. Here’s what we just learned: When you give that same engine to the CX-30 subcompact SUV, it also becomes a joy.

Not that the CX-30 wasn’t already a joy, mind you. Clearly, Mazda did something right with it. After it was introduced in 2019, the little SUV rocketed to second-best on the automaker’s 2020 US sales charts. 

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

Mazda managed to move 38,064 CX-30s last year. It was second only to the ever-popular CX-5, which sold 146,420 examples.

You can get a far cheaper version of the CX-30 if you forego the turbocharger – $22,050 versus the $30,050 starting price from this version. I have no idea if buyers will take the bait on a more powerful CX-30 Turbo, but if enjoyment behind the wheel is something you generally look for in a car, then you’ll find it here.

The 2021 CX-30 Turbo: A taller 3

As a subcompact SUV, the CX-30 slots between the CX-3 and the CX-5. And no, it’s not a CX-4, because that already exists in China. That would be nice, though, if not logical!

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

If it helps, think of it as a taller Mazda 3, as the two share the same platform. Mazda did with the CX-30 what it did for the Mazda 3 Turbo: gave it the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder SkyActiv-G engine from the CX-5, CX-9, and Mazda 6 in the hopes for a more premium and upmarket push. Save for a few visual cues, The CX-30 Turbo looks largely the same as the non-turbo version. 

The biggest difference surfaces when you drive it. 

Details and safety ratings: Turbo time

The Skyactiv-G turbocharged engine produces a claimed 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque on 93-octane fuel. The power drops a bit to 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on 87-octane fuel. In Turbo guise, the CX-30 is only offered with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

Note that the non-turbo versions of the CX-30 make 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. You can get them in either front- or all-wheel drive.

The car measures 14.4 feet long and stands 5.2 feet tall. Its maximum ground clearance comes to eight inches – a bit taller than the 3’s 5.5 inches. Cargo volume comes to 20.2 cubic feet, or about the same as what the 3 hatchback offers. The EPA estimates the CX-30 Turbo to return 22 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg combined. 

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

The regular CX-30 earned five stars in its overall vehicle score when tested for crashworthiness by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although it only got four stars for rollover risk. Last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the subcompact SUV its highest award, the Top Safety Pick Plus.

What stands out: Delights in the act of driving

When building the CX-30, it’s clear Mazda didn’t set out to remake the idea of a car. Its goal was to merely build a car – and build it well – so that driving it would come easily and non-invasively to anyone.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

The interior only features stuff you’d actually need, like the climate controls, radio, and navigation. There’s a physical gear selector lever, not buttons with P, R, N, and D on them. The steering wheel has just a handful of controls on it. Only the driver’s seat is powered; the passenger seat is manually adjusted. Some might say this is because the car is affordable. I say it’s because most other cars have gotten far too complicated and expensive.

Once you do start driving, the steering is responsive and the brakes don’t grab hard when you first begin to press the pedal. The addition of the turbo engine gives the car great pickup and acceleration, propelling its egg-shaped body forward with the gumption of a much smaller car. There’s pep right off the line, lending a tangible eagerness to the CX-30 Turbo’s mood.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

I’ve found other cars in the CX-30’s class show their price when it comes to road noise, vibration, and harshness, but the Mazda impressed with its sound deadening and smooth ride. The only real exterior noise came from the wind washing over its body. 

Otherwise, highway cruising was just as polished as cars worth two or three times as much as the CX-30.

What falls short: It’s called subcompact for a reason

I don’t consider myself a large person, but even I thought the back seats in the CX-30 were tight. The trunk, likewise, was petite, and only would probably only fit one large suitcase plus maybe a large duffel bag. 

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

But as the car is classed as a subcompact, this is to be expected. Realistically, the CX-30 is for a two-person household that only sometimes needs to put friends or family in the back seat. A family with a small child or two could make it work, but they’d need to trade up for a bigger car as soon as those kids grew.

And while I appreciated the Mazda’s devotion to physical buttons, dials, and switches, scrolling through menus on the infotainment screen proved clunky and slow. The CX-30’s interface felt outdated when compared to the systems offered in competitor vehicles. This system, as The Drive pointed out, makes selecting music difficult. 

How the CX-30 Turbo compares to its competitors

A regular, 186-horsepower 2021 CX-30 starts at $22,050. With its 250 horsepower, the base price for the 2021 CX-30 Turbo jumps to $30,050. My loaner came in the top Premium Plus package and thus had a starting price of $33,900. After a few options and a destination charge, the final MSRP came to $35,400.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

Price-wise, the CX-30 isn’t exactly within spitting distance of the Mini Clubman All4 John Cooper Works ($39,500), Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 ($47,550), or the BMW X2 M35i ($46,450). 

But in power, it is. In this sense, you’re getting quite a bit of engine for almost $10,000 less.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

Buyers might balk at the premium price that the addition of the turbo engine commands, but it’s clear who Mazda is aiming for with this upmarket push. And while the interior of the CX-30 is nice, it’s still no Mercedes. 

The newly turbocharged CX-30 and 3 drive well, but they are still based on entry-level cars from what, for a very long time, has been an economically focused brand. Keep in mind that the non-turbo CX-30 competes with the Jeep Renegade, Kia Seltos, and Subaru Crosstrek. Among those “entry-level errand-runners” (Mazda’s words), it’s king. 

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

But against the existing luxury brands, ones whose lineups already include more powerful engines? Are consumers willing to shell out thousands more for what basically amounts to a turbocharged Mazda with all-wheel drive? Because it’s asking a lot.

That remains to be seen.

Our impressions: It’s fun!

Pleasant. 

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

That’s the word that thumped around in my head during the time I spent with the CX-30 Turbo. I haven’t driven many new cars I can confidently say feel like they have much of a personality, but the turbocharged CX-30’s playfulness is palpable. 

Its light-footedness and agility, paired with its eagerness off the line, make for an impish little SUV. With acute steering, good brakes, and torque on your side, you find yourself tucking around slower cars and tossing the CX-30 around corners with a bit more spunk than you would in something bigger and heavier. There’s no reason everyday driving has to be a snooze, and Mazda has proven that.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

As an added bonus, there’s even an off-road traction assist function that helps with any off-roading you might want to do. I’m not saying you should immediately take your CX-30 to the Baja 1000, but during low-traction situations such as over a blanket of hard-packed snow, the Mazda felt sure-footed. The 360-degree monitor, which remains active up to speeds of 9.3 mph, helped me see the terrain all around me.

Yes, the CX-30 is expensive and the room for rear passengers and cargo is a bit cramped. But it’s undoubtedly a fun car wrapped up in a very unassuming package. If you’re someone who wants something that will plant a smile on your face but also doesn’t scream for attention with brand snobbery, this is your friend.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

Just be ready to pay for it.

♦♦♦

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo.

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REVIEW: The $144,000 Taycan 4S is Porsche’s first EV that pairs cosmic speed with eerie electric silence

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

  • The Taycan is Porsche’s first EV and comes in four trims: the $79,900 base Taycan, $104,000 4S, $151,000 Turbo, and $185,000 Turbo S.
  • My 4S loaner came to $143,690 after options.
  • On paper, Porsche’s iconic gas-powered 911 Turbo S is faster. But in practice, the Taycan 4S feels like it has warp drive.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The luxury electric car space is saturated with the likes of Tesla, Lucid, Polestar, Audi, and Jaguar. But one of the biggest names to recently enter is the Taycan sport sedan, which is, quite literally, the Porsche of EVs. That alone is worth paying attention to.

I’m not typically one to doggedly heap praise on a brand, but I’m making a begrudging exception here. Porsche knows what it’s doing. The Porsche 911 is the 911, and the 718 models are modern automotive perfection. Even its compact SUV, the Macan, handles like a sports car way more than it has any right to. 

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_31
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

My point here is, this is a company that knows how to build a car, and build one well.

The Taycan is Porsche’s first attempt at making an EV – a first attempt with all the money and resources that the automotive giant Volkswagen Group can throw behind it. 

If that didn’t spoil the review verdict for you already, I will: It’s a damn fine first crack.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_14
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

From ‘Mission E’ to ‘soul of a spirited young horse’

The Porsche Taycan started life as a concept called the Mission E, which debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. The Mission E spent the next four years tooling around, sparking rumors and noiselessly touring places like Germany’s famed Nürburgring track

Finally, at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, the production version of Porsche’s first EV appeared with a Turkish name that roughly translates to “soul of a spirited young horse.” Sure!

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

To be extra certain there would be no pronunciation mixups, Porsche even made a video telling us how to say the car’s name properly – just like the video it made telling us how to say “Porsche” correctly because certain clowns needed educating.

Currently, there are four versions of the Taycan available: the base-model Taycan, the 4S, the Turbo, and the range-topping Turbo S. Yes, I know neither of those cars are turbocharged. Words mean things until they don’t.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

The loaner that Porsche kicked me for a weekend was the 4S. For all intents and purposes, it is the base Taycan model – though from the way it’s priced, you wouldn’t think so.

It weighs, like, more than two tons

Like a Tesla, the Taycan uses a skateboard design: All of the batteries are located along the floor of the vehicle, which lowers the center of gravity and frees up space for two trunks. System voltage comes to 800 volts instead of the typical 400 volts, which Porsche says cuts charging time, decreases weight, and allows for high performance. 

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

The 4S is not the range-topping Taycan, but that’s no issue at all. The thing is plenty powerful and fast, with a claimed 562 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque from its optional Performance Battery Plus upgrade. Porsche estimates a 0-to-60-mph sprint to happen in 3.8 seconds with launch control, along with a 155-mph top speed. 

Charging claims are as follows: When plugged into an AC outlet with 9.6 kW, the 4S takes 9.5 hours to charge from 0 to 100%. A 50-kW DC charger takes 93 minutes from 5% to 80%. A fast-charging DC charger takes 22.5 minutes to charge the car from 5% to 80%.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_OEM_6
2020 Porsche Taycan.

Using the EVgo app one night, I found a nearby 50-kW CCS charger. After about 25 minutes of charging, the battery went from 54% to 71%. The whole thing cost me $8.96.

The EPA gives the Taycan 4S with the Performance Battery Plus a range of 203 miles. The Taycan measures 16.3 feet long, 6.5 feet wide, and 4.5 feet tall. Its rear trunk has a cargo capacity of 14.3 cubic feet. Curb weight comes to 4,947 pounds.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

As of this writing, the Porsche Taycan has not yet been rated for crashworthiness by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

What stands out: Warp drive

On paper, Porsche’s gas-powered 911 Turbo S has the Taycan 4S beat. The Turbo S has more horsepower, more torque, a quicker estimated 0-to-60 time. You know the Turbo S is faster. But when you floor the “go” pedal in the Taycan, all that knowledge flies out the window alongside your grasp on reality.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_8
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

Maybe it’s because you have no audible warning that the car is doing what it’s about to do. Up until this point, I never realized how much I subconsciously relied on engine noise to brace for acceleration. In the Taycan, acceleration just happens. No warning. No tip-off. 

One second, you’re cruising along quietly and the next, you’re being shot forward through space-time, fired from what feels like the universe’s biggest bowstring. You’re warping forward so powerfully you’ve left your stomach in the previous galaxy. And you, the one with brake pedal access, are the one who controls when the passenger screaming stops. This is a good thing, by the way.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_68
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

Does it ever get old? Probably! But as far as party tricks go, it’s a pretty neat one. 

If you do want some sound, putting the car in Sport Plus mode or activating the “engine” “noise” option will pipe in some artificial motor noise (it sounds like a musical generator). But it still doesn’t adequately prepare you for the instant torque. Nothing does until you’ve done it to yourself a few times.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

Unlike in the Polestar 2, I never had complaints about too-light steering in the Taycan. It was always nice and heavy, the smallest of inputs translating to a subsequent wiggle in the nose. Paired with the low center of gravity and the futuristic whee of the motors, the Taycan slingshots in and out of corners with acute, alien-like precision and delight.

From the outside, the car is stunning. Sleek and purposeful, it doesn’t look that different from the Mission E concept we first saw five years ago. Mine wore a wonderful coat of Mamba Green Metallic Paint, 21-inch gold Mission E Design Wheels, and a set of carbon-ceramic brakes with yellow calipers. Life is too short for boring cars. Dress mine up like a mobster, please.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

And despite the sloping profile, the back seats offer decent headroom and legroom. My loaner came with only two rear seats, but a third one can be optioned in at an additional cost.

What falls short: Could use a hatch

Inside the Taycan, I could count the number of physical switchgears on one hand. Aside from what was on the steering wheel, the driver’s only physical touchpoints were the gear selector lever and the car’s on/off button. 

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_1
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

The Taycan’s user experience wasn’t as hateful as other all-touch setups. Its screens offered a degree of haptic feedback, so you knew if your fingers were actually selecting something without always looking down. 

But even things you expect to have some kind of hard switch do not. The headlight controls, for example, are operated via touchscreen off to the side of the driver information cluster.

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_41
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

A defining driving characteristic of many EVs is their one-pedal driving capability. It’s a fun thing you can do with the accelerator where, after learning to modulate the car’s regenerative braking, you can control its forward driving without the use of the brake pedal.

Unfortunately, no Taycan will have one-pedal driving. All regenerative braking will be handled through the brake pedal, according to Autoweek. From what I understand, people have a love/hate relationship with one-pedal driving, so take this news as you will.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

Rear visibility is also a bit challenging in the Taycan. The rear window is small, the roofline slopes downward, and the C-pillars are thick. They do not make for easy over-the-shoulder glances.

But I actually saw the Taycan’s biggest shortcoming when I parked it next to a Tesla Model S. We were loading up our cars with supplies, the Model S owner and I. The difference was that the Model S’s trunk is a hatch. The Taycan’s is not. 

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_36
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

Anyone who’s used a hatch-style trunk knows that they make loading and unloading cargo much easier. It makes all of the trunk accessible, not just the half that’s closest to you. And there’s more usable vertical room! Hatch all of the sedans, I say.

Competitor comparison: $$$$

In terms of range, the Taycan, unfortunately, brings up the rear behind the Tesla Model S (402 miles estimated) and the upcoming Lucid Air (406 miles estimated for the base model).

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_22
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

And it is quite expensive. The Taycan 4S starts (starts!) at $103,800 and goes all the way up to $185,000 for the Turbo S model. In January, Porsche added a base-model Taycan to its lineup with a starting MSRP of $79,900. This still makes it about $10,000 more expensive than the Model S, however.

Then we get into the options, because it’s a Porsche and the options list is longer than a diner menu. Instead of waffles, corned beef hash, and club sandwiches, it’s multi-thousand-dollar brake kits and frivolous vanity features. Ready? 

2020 Porsche Taycan 4S_KL_18
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

My loaner came with Mamba Green Metallic paint ($800), “Taycan 4S” rear logo in high-gloss black ($270), tire-sealing compound and electric air compressor ($70), carbon-ceramic brakes with yellow calipers ($9,080), wheels painted in Satin Aurum ($1,290), 21-inch Mission E Design wheels ($4,680) interior accents in neodyme ($650), the Performance Battery Plus ($6,580), mobile charger connect ($1,120), high-gloss black window trim ($400), the Performance Package ($6,430), and the Premium Package ($7,170).

All of that, plus the delivery/processing/handling fee, brought my loaner’s MSRP up to $143,690. It’s a very expensive car.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

But as is increasingly the case with EVs, the whole thing comes down to the user experience and brand preference. In the Taycan, you’re getting something that’s undeniably sporty and finished in that known Porsche way: tight, buttoned down, serious.

When taking my friend for a ride, he jokingly asked if the car had a whoopie cushion feature.

Of course not. This is a car built by adults. 

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

Our impressions: Heavy but planted

Getting into any Porsche product expecting it to be bad is like thinking Lewis Hamilton will lose a race. Kind of like gravity or celestial movement, it’s just not something you bet against. The Taycan is no exception. 

There are, of course, a few things that feel a bit half-baked – the rear visibility, for one. Plus, the piped-in fake motor noise is rather gimmicky and at odds with what is otherwise a very serious car. But in terms of feeling quality and driving like a roller coaster, the Taycan absolutely nails it. 

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

Is it worth six figures? I don’t know.

But I can tell you this. I liked the Taycan quite a bit. It’s not built on an internal-combustion engine platform that’s been repurposed for an EV, so there aren’t any glaringly obvious passenger or cargo room compromises. Sitting in the back does not give you the distinct feeling that you’re astride a battery pack.

The Taycan weighs more than two tons, but it conducts itself like a very planted sports car. The optional rear-axle steering helped with maneuverability in tight spaces. It cruised quietly and smoothly on the highway when it wasn’t gluing my passengers to their seatbacks.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

I understand that Porsche positions itself as a top-dollar brand, but I still did a double-take when the Taycan’s price was first announced. I might have even used an expletive that rhymes with “duck off.” If it’s one thing the EV space does not need, it’s another six-figure toy priced exclusively for the rich.

Perhaps, though, this is a similar method to Tesla’s: Launch the expensive, halo model first to get people excited about the idea and the brand, and then launch the cheaper volume seller.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

It would explain why the Taycan is a sedan rather than an SUV. Up next is most likely the electric Macan, believed to appear in 2022 or thereabouts. But if Taycan hardware makes it over to the Macan EV, then it’ll be a considerable package.

For now, though, those who want “the Porsche of EVs” now have one from the brand itself – and it’s a pretty good one, at that.

♦♦♦

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

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2020 Porsche Taycan 4S.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Telluride SUV proves Hyundai and Kia are no longer underdogs in the US. But they still have work to do.

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2020 Kia Telluride.

  • The upscale Kia Telluride is evidence that Kia not only can, but will, build a good car that people actually want to buy.
  • Kia, along with Hyundai and Genesis, are offering stylish, sporty, quality cars at good prices. It’s a trend worth watching.
  • It’s also a trend the South Korean automakers need to stick with if they want to surpass industry giants like Honda and Toyota.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It wasn’t that long ago that cars from Korean sister brands Hyundai and Kia had a reputation for being cheaply built and horribly unreliable. Buyers conflated their economy pricing with sub-par quality to the detriment of the automakers. But that is no more.

Within the last 15 years or so, Hyundai and Kia shed their crap-can reputations and instead focused on making cars that people actually wanted to buy – quality cars that looked good and were good to drive, too.

Perhaps the most shining example of that is the new Kia Telluride, a midsize three-row SUV named after a posh ski town in Colorado. Kia started selling it in the spring of 2019, and you people went nuts for it.

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2020 Kia Telluride.

SUVs in general have enjoyed strong sales here in the US for years. But when it came to the Telluride, things felt different. It felt lavish. Unlike its competitors. Like it belonged in at a higher price point than Kia gave it. The Telluride felt like a crowning moment of just how far Hyundai and Kia have come. 

It, plus the other offerings out of South Korea, hopefully symbolize a willingness to commit to what it takes to challenge current industry giants like Honda and Toyota – and if Hyundai and Kia do commit, those giants will be in for a fight.

Selling like hotcakes

Much of the Telluride’s initial coverage focused on how popular it was. It’s called the Kia “Sell-u-ride” internally, Automobile Magazine reported. Dealers couldn’t keep them on their lots because demand was so high, CNN said. Kia couldn’t build the Telluride fast enough to meet the need, The Car Connection wrote.

The best-selling Telluride, CarBuzz discovered, is the top-tier SX trim with the Premium Package. That one runs you at a starting MSRP of $46,390 – or a little more than a base Mercedes-Benz GLC.

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2020 Kia Telluride.

When the Telluride came out, I’d never seen such astonished headlines about one particular SUV before. There must have been something different about this Kia that was causing buyers to flock to it, so I went and reviewed one to see what all the fuss is about.

And you know what? I get it. 

The outside of the Telluride is striking. With its big, wide grille, its own name – T E L L U R I D E – stamped in silver lettering across its nose, its stacked headlights and square, orange daytime running lights, the Telluride’s face is not one that blends in with the rather bland SUVs it competes with. The perennially popular Toyota Highlander, conversely, is rolling anonymity. 

The Telluride is bold. It demands attention. And it doesn’t look like anything Kia has ever made or currently makes. If you covered up the badge, I probably wouldn’t have even thought it was a Kia at all. 

2020 kia telluride
2020 Kia Telluride.

Inside, it’s the same story. High-quality leathers, wood-appearing trim, simulated brushed metal switches and dials. Refinement, spaciousness. Upscale.

Rap on the dash with your knuckles and it doesn’t respond with that cheap, clacky, plasticky response. Toggle the air vents and they slide smoothly in their sockets. Close the doors and they return a satisfying thump. 

Fully loaded, my review Telluride came to just under $50,000. It was an incredible amount of car for the price, punching far above its weight and infringing dangerously close to luxury automaker territory.

Building the good cars

This upward trend with South Korean automakers started a few years ago and it might just give them a fighting chance against the Japanese ones – provided they keep investing the time, money, and resources required for maintaining that momentum. Because, so far, the cars have been good.

The new Genesis G70.
The new Genesis G70.

The Telluride’s biggest draw is that it offers an upmarket product that’s priced lower than many of its competitors.

There still might be a struggle with brand recognition issues over at Hyundai’s new luxury arm, Genesis, but the quality of its cars is undeniable. The G90 and G80 sedans are executive and just as comfortable to ride in as they are to drive. The G70 sport sedan is light-footed and fun, especially when paired with a manual transmission.

The Hyundai Sante Fe I tested in 2019 was tastefully upholstered inside. The new Tucson and Sonata are dazzling to look at. The Hyundai Veloster N remains one of the best and most fun cars I’ve ever driven, and it starts at about $30,000.

You know about the Kia Telluride. But before that, the Kia Stinger sport sedan came bursting out of the gates with a hatch-style trunk and sharp looks, winning Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year award. 

2019 Hyundai Veloster N.
2019 Hyundai Veloster N.

The new, 2022 Sedona’s redesign could very well make minivans cool again. And the new K5 sedan, which will replace the Optima, is a sporty and handsome thing that starts at $23,590.

These cars are proof that style doesn’t always have to command top dollar. In fact, it shouldn’t.

Humble beginnings

The ascent of South Korean automakers in the US public consciousness only started happening within the last 15 years or so.

A 2004 story in The New York Times reported that new-car buyers ranked Hyundai above any domestic or European automaker in J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. It was the first time this had ever happened. 

The story quoted the agency’s then executive director of quality and customer satisfaction, Joe Ivers, as saying: “A decade ago, as Korean manufacturers struggled with a universally poor reputation for vehicle quality, no one would have predicted they could not only keep the pace, but actually pass domestics and other imports in terms of initial quality.”

Hyundai 39788 2020SonataSEL
Hyundai Sonata.

That wasn’t the whole story, though. The outlet pointed out that Kia continued to be a “subpar performer in the initial-quality rankings.”

“And in J.D. Power’s most recent study of long-term reliability, which many in the industry consider to be a more important barometer, the Hyundai brand ranks near the bottom of the industry and Kia is dead last,” The New York Times wrote. 

This is no longer the case.

Ascension

In 2018, the three highest-ranked brands on J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study were Genesis, Kia, and Hyundai. That same year, Consumer Reports named Genesis the top brand in the US. This past February, Genesis was ranked first on J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study.  

In a matter of a few years, the results have almost completely reversed themselves.

2022 Kia Sedona1
2022 Kia Sedona.

Gone are the days when you’d reject a Kia simply because it was a Korean car. Han’s casual dismissal of Hyundai in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” doesn’t hold the same type of punch-down humor it once did.

You do get the sense that Hyundai and Kia are still figuring out a cohesive design strategy – all BMWs look like BMWs, but not all Kias and Hyundais look like Kias and Hyundais yet – but as for what’s underneath? They’ve got that on lock. Based on what I’ve seen in just the past few years, what’s to come can only get better.

There’s still a long road ahead if the brands want to displace industry titans like Toyota and Honda – and even Nissan – of course. Hyundai and Kia account for just 8.1% of the market share in the US, The Korea Times reported in 2019. That was despite the greatly improved products. 

2021 Kia K5 GT.
2021 Kia K5 GT.

That modest market share is also comprised of weak segments – hatchbacks and compact sedans, as well as low-margin cars – so Kia and Hyundai must build up numbers there, too. Headline-grabbing Stingers and Tellurides can’t net all of the sales, after all. 

But it’s an optimistic spot to be in all the same. The crap-can reputation is a thing of the past, and that accounts very powerfully for public perception. With the Telluride especially, Kia has shown that it not only can, but will, build, execute, and sell a quality car that people actually want to buy.

The trick is to carry that same energy over to everything else.

Read the original article on Business Insider