Leo Laporte and Sam try out the 2019 Kia Niro EV, an impressive compact electric crossover with a 239 mile range
One of the recurring storylines around Tesla is the rarity with which new automotive brands launch and succeed in a self-sustaining way. In fact, while it’s not exactly common, it does happen with some degree of regularity. Case in point is Kia. While the company traces it roots back to 1944, it was really only in the early-1990s that it ventured outside of South Korea under its own name. While the early models were to say the least not very good and the company went bankrupt in the Asian financial crisis, it persevered. Hyundai took a controlling interest in 1998 and it’s been uphill for both companies ever since. The 2019 K900 is yet more evidence that fantastic luxury cars don’t have to come from Europe, America or Japan.
This week our intrepid trio has been tackling everything from mainstream to super-luxury. Rebecca went to rainy Palm Springs to sample the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and more from BMW before returning home to the 2019 Kia Forte. In between, Sam had the 2019 Mazda CX-9 and Dan drove the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus which leads into a discussion of who is doing luxury right. In the news, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fudged the numbers to show Tesla Autopilot was safer than it really was. Jaguar Land Rover debuts a new inline-six gas engine with mild hybrid capability and that leads to a response to a listener question on V6 vs I6. Finally, Dan and Sam talk with Ford Super Duty chief engineer Mike Pruitt about the new 2020 heavy duty pickups and the new 7.3-liter V8.
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Before heading off to CES, Sam drove the BMW X1 while Dan had a direct competitor in the Volvo XC40. This week Ford unveiled the all-new (no really, it is actually almost all-new!) 2020 Explorer. At CES, companies were showing off chips, software and sensors while Nissan announced a Leaf that finally goes over 200 miles on a charge and Hyundai showed a wild new ultimate mobility concept.
We’re back with seat time in the Honda Odyssey, Jaguar i-Pace, Mazda6 Signature and Volkswagen Jetta S. Meanwhile Waymo sort of launches a commercial sort of driverless robo-taxi service, Porsche tests ultra-fast charging and Aston Martin reveals some engine details about the Valykerie.
Earlier this decade, Ford had to make some tough decisions about the future of the Lincoln brand. Over at least the past ten years, the entire brand has consistently been outsold by most of the Ford nameplates including Mustang. The powers that be in Dearborn decided not abandon the brand, but to focus on a theme of quiet luxury rather than taking on the German heavyweights directly. The latest weapon in Lincoln’s battle to bring serenity to the world is the refreshed and rebranded 2109 Nautilus.
From time to time, certain vehicles come along that attain an iconic status to such a degree that not only does the model stay in production for decades, but even the fundamentals of the basic design are retained even as the mechanicals evolve. The Porsche 911, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Mini and of course the Jeep Wrangler. For 2018, the Wrangler with its updated internal code of JL is all-new and yet it remains as ever a direct descendent of the utility vehicles utilized by the U.S. Army beginning in 1941.
Despite the ever growing number of hybrid electric models available in the U.S. market, the share of these dual powered vehicles has remained stubbornly flat, at least in part due to relatively low fuel prices. Despite only accounting for about 2% of total sales, Honda is expanding availability of electrified propulsion in its vehicles with more options to come in the near future. With the new Civic-based Insight just starting to hit American Honda dealers, the brand’s currently best selling hybrid remains the midsize Accord which I just took on a road trip to northern Michigan.
It’s been just over four decades since the modern hot hatch was born with debut of the original Volkswagen Golf GTI. In the intervening years, most other automakers have produced higher performance versions of their compact cars but since the turn of the century a new class of even quicker machines has evolved. Until recently, with the exception of the Volkswagen Golf R, these machines have been forbidden fruit on American shores. Fortunately for enthusiasts, Ford finally homologated its legendary Focus RS and American Honda dealers will soon start delivering the latest edition of the Civic Type-R.