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2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

Sometimes, a popular half-ton full-sized pickup truck is not enough.

However, a half-ton pickup can do so much, and are limited in what they can haul. There are truck customers that want more payload capacity for bigger jobs. They also want a larger towing capacity for bigger trailers. That means stepping up into a heavy-duty pickup.

A few months ago, Ram introduced their newest version of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ heavy-duty pickup truck. We had the opportunity to drive a new 2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty to see how these big trucks have improved over the previous version.

2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

For 2019, the Ram Heavy Duty series rides on a beefier frame, yet it has shed 143 pounds on average from its curb weight. Ram is also touting an improved suspension with better ride quality integrating Frequency Response Damping, progressive spring rates, and re-engineered bushings.

Customers have two engine choices for the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty. Most likely, they will opt for the 6.7-liter Cummins turbocharged diesel in-line six-cylinder engine. This big diesel is still the best in the business. For the 2500, there is 850 pound-feet of torque available to move a maximum payload of 3,940 pounds and to tow up to 19,580 pounds. If you step up the Ram 3500, you can get the High Output version of the Cummins diesel with 1,000 pound-feet of torque. This is the highest torque rating among full-sized pickup trucks with a tow rating of up to 35,100 pounds.

With the Cummins diesel, we averaged 18.6 MPG. A six-speed automatic transmission was connected to the big diesel.

2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

The configuration we had was the Mega Cab and 6.5-foot box with four-wheel-drive. The Mega Cab provides extra storage behind the rear seats without compromising seating space. Our pickup truck came in the Big Horn trim level, which is the most popular trim and the most attainable. The fabric seats were durable and comfortable at the same time.

Ram offers one of the best interiors among pickup trucks. This starts with a high level of quality materials, a customizable information screen in-between two dials that are easy to understand. Ram offers a multitude of screens providing every vehicle function from fuel economy to towing status. On the center stack, we had the 8.4-inch UConnect touch screen that has a lot of connection options, including on-board Wi-Fi. All of the controls are easy to use and good to the touch.

2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

While we like the pulling power of the Cummins diesel engine, we also like the ride quality of the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty. This is the only heavy-duty pickup with multi-link suspension all around, which makes the difference when the truck is not loaded with anything. Under load, it does a good job keeping things balanced on the road.

The steering system offers a soft feel at the wheel, but a solid turning radius even when turning around a 250-inch pickup truck. The brakes are also good, though it may take longer to come to a complete stop. Pedal feel is good.

2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

Saving the best for last is the exterior of the new Ram 2500 Heavy Duty. Following the new Ram 1500, each trim level has a distinct grille to tell one from the other. The Big Horn’s grille is large and full of chrome. They are flanked by a pair of halogen quad lamps with an LED running light on each one. The hood and front fenders are new, but the cab itself has not changed much. The box has been tweaked with new taillights and tailgate. The Mega Cab looks a bit awkward and could use a longer box to create more presence. Most customers opt for the shorter Crew Cab.

The Ram Heavy Duty lineup starts from $33,395. That is just for a 6.4-liter HEMI-powered basic Tradesman regular cab. To get this Cummins diesel-powered Mega Cab with the Big Horn trim and four-wheel drive, the sticker price climbs up to $68,605.

2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty

When you get into the heavy-duty pickup truck world, there are only a few competitors. You can choose from the Ford F-Series Super Duty, the Chevrolet Silverado HD, the GMC Sierra HD, and the Nissan Titan XD. All of these trucks offer a diesel engine.

If you are looking for more than just a pickup, especially one with more capacity and capability, the 2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty is a solid choice. It will do the job that you want it to do…and more!

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

You have probably heard that sedans are picking up sales lately. That is good thing when you consider that they were almost considered extinct – especially larger sedans.

Even better is that you do not have to look any further to find a really good one. That distinction falls upon the latest entry in this class: The 2019 Toyota Avalon.

We’re curious as to how good the Avalon is compared to other large sedans. Toyota sent us an Avalon Hybrid Limited to find out if it stands up to its praises.

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

One look outside reveals a mix of evolutionary and revolution design strategies. The overall look is sharp, long and lean – and very ambitious. It exudes a premium look and feels all around. Creases never thought possible in a Toyota appear from front to back on the Avalon, making it completely stand out in the crowd. The headlamps are longer, giving it two bulbs and a series of LED running lights and turn signals in each unit. The rear taillights are magnificent, with LED turn signals running outward creating a sliding effect. The long doors also open wide for greater access to the front and back seats.

Looking up front, the lower part of the grille is an evolution from the previous generation, while a new piece on the upper part of the front fascia is new and narrower than before. On luxury models, you get a series of horizontal lines, while sport models get a black mesh treatment.

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The premium look and feel continue in perhaps the best cabin Toyota have designed for any sedan ever. The materials have been upgraded where they needed to be, especially in our Hybrid Limited tester. The two-tone Cognac and black leather interior that is tastefully done in a very near-Lexus manner. The center stack is influenced by the Land Cruiser, with its solid piece running from the center console housing the climate controls and infotainment screen. The console itself is more open, thanks to a narrow shifter housing and more space for smaller items, including smartphones.

The instrument binnacle is a mix of two large analog dials and a center TFT screen. The latter provides a mass of information necessary to keep tabs on the Avalon and its hybrid systems. You can also have the energy monitor show on the home screen of the Entune 3.0-driven infotainment system. All of the controls have been updated for improved logic and touch.

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

An Avalon cabin has always been large, and it carried over nicely for this new 2019 model. The seats provided a mix of comfort and support, especially on longer journeys. Front seats offer plenty of power-operated adjustments for all drivers. The rear area offers plenty of leg room, but people with taller torsos may want to watch their head on the sloping roofline. Trunk space is generous with 16.09 cubic feet available without folding the rear seats down.

You can choose between two power choices for the Avalon Standard is the uprated 3.5-liter V6 engine, with 301 horsepower on tap, connected to a new 8-speed automatic. Our Hybrid tester came with an improved version of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with the Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Net total power between the gasoline and electric power plants are 215 horsepower. An electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission sends power from the hybrid system down to the front wheels.

The major reason you want the Avalon Hybrid over the V6 is the fuel economy. I averaged 42.5 MPG in mixed driving. What large sedan can say that?

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The Avalon offers a smooth, luxurious ride. It simply just feels as smooth. For a big sedan, the Avalon handles quite well. It loves corners, but a harder entry would yield some roll through the turns. Otherwise, the Avalon is very well composed in any situation. The brakes offer solid stops in normal and panic situations. The pedal feel is superb with great response down to the calipers/rotors. The steering has a good feel and solid response from the wheel. The turning radius is actually quite good for a long sedan.

The 2019 Avalon Hybrid lineup starts at $36,500 for a V6-powered XLE. Our Hybrid Limited tester came with a sticker price of $45,118. For the V6 model, pricing starts at $35,500.

Looking through all of the competitors to the Avalon, none of them offer a hybrid model. However, that does not mean you cannot compare this Avalon with the likes of the Nissan Maxima, Kia Cadenza, Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala, Buick LaCrosse, and Ford Taurus.

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The bottom line on the Avalon is exactly what everyone else have said: This is the best in its class. With sedans back on the up-and-up, this one should not be ignored.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

For 35 years, the minivan represented the pinnacle of practical family transportation. It was Chrysler that introduced us to this type of vehicle with the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager. Not only were they seen as the best solution for families to travel together, but they saved the company from oblivion.

Today’s minivan might not be the big sellers for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. However, the company continues to build them with the latest design, engineering and technology. Their latest minivan, the Chrysler Pacifica, embodies the latest and greatest of the vehicle type. This includes offering the only minivan with a plug-in hybrid driveline.

We wanted to see how the minivan has evolved over the past 35 years. Therefore, we had a chance to drive a 2019 Pacifica Hybrid to see this progress in family transportation.

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The Pacifica has a very distinctive look among minivans. There are shapes in the windows and all around that distinguish the Chrysler above the rest. The Pacifica shows off a front quarter glass for better front corner vision, a reverse slant far rear side glass, and horizontal taillights.

The Pacifica Hybrid adds a different grille texture than its V6-powered siblings. Our Limited tester added the S Appearance Package, which turns anything chrome to black. The young folks call this the “murdered out” look. We like how custom the overall finish turned out – as if someone added aftermarket wheels and a paint job.

As dramatic as the outside, the cabin takes a huge leap forward in design and comfort. Our tester came with a seven-seat configuration, with the third row folded into the floor through the Stow’n Go system. It will provide a flat floor all the through the back of the second-row seats. On normal Pacificas, the second row can also be folded into the floor for a completely flat space. On the Hybrid, the battery pack just happen to reside underneath the second row.

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

All three rows offer adult-size accommodations. Access to the third row is very easy with a quick release of each second-row seat and two power sliding doors for ease of entry and exit. Front row occupants are treated to comfortable and supportive bucket seats. Choosing the SV Appearance Package gives all three rows nice black leather upholstery with the “S” stitched into the seats and white piping. Storage is abundant with small little cubbyholes down the lower center tack and on the floor in-between the front seats, along with sliding storage places and so forth. The Pacifica is designed to take everything with you on any trips, including your work commute. And, there is a place for anything.

The Pacifica now has perhaps the best instrument panel in the minivan segment, anchored with excellent and concentrated controls. The transmission is controlled by a knob, while the electronic parking brake is a push button, all on the center stack. Capping the center stack is the new 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen, offering access to UConnect Apps and a multitude of audio playback options. Instrumentation includes a customizable information screen in-between the speedometer and tachometer.

And, then there’s UConnect Theatre, the next level is rear seat entertainment. They can connect game consoles, playback BluRay discs and choose any of the onboard loaded games through two 10.1-inch high definition screens on the back of the front seats.

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The big twist is what lies underneath the hood of the Pacifica Hybrid. First, there’s FCA’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V6, which is attached to two electric motors, a Lithium-Ion battery pack, and the Eflite Variable Transmission. Total system power is rated at 260 horsepower, though it feels as it has a lot more performance to offer than that. Not only is this a powerful and efficient driveline, it’s very quiet to run. So quiet, people can actually think or play with the UConnect Theater.

For the Pacifica Hybrid’s system, the electric motors take priority above the gasoline engine, as long as the battery is charged. A fully charged battery can drain within 33 miles. On a 240-volt Level 2 charger, a full charge would take about two hours. Chrysler also claims a maximum combined range of 566 miles. Our Pacifica Hybrid tester averaged 29.8 MPG.

The Pacifica Hybrid delivers a superior ride quality with absorbent suspension all around to ensure that it drives along without any negative feedback from the vehicle. Although handling is quite decent, some roll and lean is evident, but the low and central position of the battery pack keeps the Pacifica Hybrid from wallowing about.

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Cornering is excellent, even with an electric power rack-and-pinion steering set. The turning radius is very sharp for a 203.8-inch minivan making quick work of tight maneuvers. Steering action is good on-center with great response from its thick-rimmed wheel. Brakes are good with a solid feel at the pedal. For a Hybrid, the Pacifica yielded solid stops in both normal and panic situations.

The Pacifica Hybrid starts with a base price of $39,995. Our Limited with S Appearance Package tester came with a sticker price of $50,375. The non-hybrid Pacifica starts at $26,985.

There are only a few competitors among minivans these days. Toyota’s Sienna, the Honda odyssey, the Kia Sedona, and FCA’s Dodge Grand Caravan are easily comparable to the Pacifica. You could also add the Ford Transit Connect wagon to the mix, but no other minivan has a hybrid option. For family space, others have compared the Pacifica with large SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon XL, and Ford Expedition.

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

If your family have children who are growing and need that space to make sure they’re comfortable, the minivan is your best solution. If you want one that can deliver of fuel economy, advanced technology, and technology, look no further than the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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2019 Nissan Murano

2019 Nissan Murano

The Nissan Murano has always been known as a stylish “premium” SUV/crossover for those looking to stand out in the crowd. In recent years, that crowd has converged on the Murano with their own interpretation of a two-row, mid-sized family carrier with a design that somehow resembles Nissan’s own work of art.

With a new set of competitors, can the Nissan Murano hold its own? Will its “premium” status help keep the Murano on top of your shopping list? We had a chance to drive the revised 2019 SL to find out if it still holds up in the face of new competition.

2019 Nissan Murano

A few years ago, Nissan took a risk by pushing the envelope to sculpt the Murano’s new shape. It fits this two-row mid-sized crossover’s history, as it has always been a polarizing vehicle. Yet, Nissan’s modern design tenets were expanded with deeper scalloping, shaping, and use of chrome accents to dictate key elements of the Murano’s exterior.

The doors open wide with huge step-ins for all passengers. The tailgate opens up high and wide as well. In this Platinum trim, the use of chrome is tastefully done as set within the shapes of the body. A few updates to the Murano – including the new grille, headlamps, and taillights – help to keep this design leader fresh for 2019.

2019 Nissan Murano

This theme carries over into one of the best interiors ever designed by Nissan in the past few years. The quality inside of the Murano is so top-notch that one could easily mistake this for an Infiniti. The SL model is a prime example, with its brushed silver trim complimenting the black leather upholstery. The cabin is well laid-out for optimal room for five along with a focused driver’s cockpit.

A wide information screen dominates the instrument binnacle. The graphics are great with a clear readout for trip, economy, and vehicle functions. The speedometer and tachometer were pushed to the side, but still fully readable by the driver at a glance. Controls are great and tactile to work with. The center stack has an air of excellence with its large touchscreen and excellent climate controls. The screens on the infotainment system are improved with better audio readouts and an improved navigation system.

2019 Nissan Murano

The best way to describe the seating in the Murano is “cushy.” The leather is soft and truly fitting of a more premium vehicle. While comfort was excellent, bolstering could have been better to lock in the driver behind the wheel. Rear seat room is exceptional with excellent headroom and a flat floor. You can seat three average-sized adults in the back seat. Cargo space was large with 39.6 cubic feet available behind the second row.

The VQ35 V6 may be the same 3.5-liter version found on many Nissan models. With 260 horsepower available, this engine had no trouble putting 4,017 pounds of all-wheel drive crossover on its back. Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission has certainly improved with better transitions between ratios to handle traffic conditions and in-town driving. Our tester had front-wheel-drive, however you can opt for an all-wheel drive system on every trim level of the Murano. We were happy to average 27.3 MPG with our tester.

2019 Nissan Murano

The cushiness of the lavish interior was translated onto a smooth riding platform that is relaxing and enjoyable to drive. Road imperfections were managed quite well with absorbent shocks and suspension systems. On the flip side, handling is also on the soft side. With curves, gentle care would have to be taken on them as it will lean and roll a bit at the limit.

On-center feel of the steering was also on the soft side. There was definitely some play in the wheel. Turning and steering action was on point with precise turns accomplished without fail. Brakes were fine with solid stops observed in normal and panic situations. For enhanced safety, Nissan added their Safety Shield 360 suite of driver assist technologies to the Murano. Features included in this suite are Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and Rear Automatic Braking.

A front-wheel drive Nissan Murano S is priced from $31,370. Our SL tester came in with a sticker price of $42,885.

2019 Nissan Murano

We talked about that the Nissan Murano has attracted a new set of competitors in recent years. Those new competitors include the Chevrolet Blazer, Hyundai Santa Fe, Buick Envision, and Honda Passport. Customers are also comparing the Murano to the Ford Edge, Kia Sportage and Sorento, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.

In contrast to its newest competitors, the Nissan Murano is no longer a unique vehicle with an edgy design. However, it is very relevant and a fantastic buy for the money – in the face of the competition. You simply cannot go wrong with a Nissan Murano.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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2019 Mazda3

2019 Mazda3

The Mazda3 is considered the enthusiast’s choice for a compact car. It was always designed to engage with drivers, especially the last generation. That model added a sharp design, a driver-focused cabin, and great road manners.

However, Mazda went back to the drawing board for the new 2019 Mazda3. They not only pushed the envelope in design, driving dynamics, and interior design – Mazda also positioned their new compact car for the move upmarket.

We had the chance to drive the new 2019 Mazda3 to find out whether it is still the enthusiast’s compact car, but whether it is worthy of playing in a higher market.

2019 Mazda3

From first glimpse, the Mazda3’s design has been enhanced further from the previous model. This second-generation KODO design is more three-dimensional with massaged details, such as new taillights and a sleeker roofline for the sedan, along with a curvaceous rear end for the hatchback.

Our sedan tester turned out to be handsomest of the two body styles, befitting of Mazda’s ambitions upmarket. Every line and detail points to superb execution. The low roofline may hamper some exits for tall people, but one could give Mazda a pass for creating an upscale look for a car that attract enthusiasts.

2019 Mazda3

Once inside, you can see the progression of the Mazda3’s transition between generations. The instrument binnacle now features two analog dials flanking a digital dial for the speedometer and information screen. The steering wheel is new with modified controls for audio and cruise control features. The infotainment screen is larger with a new interface controlled by the Mazda Connect knob on the center console. Between the steering wheel and knob controls, we found some issues with matching control to function. In particular, switching between favorite radio stations and going through the screens were a bit of a challenge. This is not exactly an issue just on this Mazda, but even its competitors have more complicated controls for its infotainment screens.

The front seats offer plenty of bolstering and support, even though they fall on the firm side. Our Premium package sedan tester wore white perforated leather that is luxurious and sporty at the same time. Rear seat room is best enjoyed with the Mazda3 loaded with four average-sized adults. Our sedan had 13.2 cubic feet of trunk space, expandable with the rear seats folded down. If you are interested in the hatchback, you will have 20.1 cubic feet to play with behind the rear seats.

2019 Mazda3

Powering the new Mazda3 is the 186-horsepower Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This makes the Mazda3 a sprightly and quick compact car. Our tester came with a six-speed automatic transmission connected to an all-wheel-drive system – the first time in this model since the Mazdaspeed3 of several years ago. In this new Mazda3, this system is designed to enhance year-round traction rather than enhanced performance. With this driveline, the Mazda3 should return an average of 25 MPG in the city and 33 MPG on the highway.

It is safe to say that enthusiasts will love the Mazda3’s sportier driving dynamics. Though the ride is solid but on the firm side, its handling is superb. The steering is sharp with excellent on-center feel and a tight turning radius. Control through the curves is sensational. The brakes are equally good. Pedal feel is solid and stopping power is sharp.

2019 Mazda3

When picking the Premium package, there are plenty of driver assist technologies that come with it. For example, the Active Driving Display adds the ability for the driver to monitor his vehicle by keeping their eyes on the road. Other technologies included in this package are Lane Keep Assist, Smart Brake Support, Radar Cruise Control, and Driver Attention Alert.

The entire Mazda3 lineup starts with a base price of $21,000 for the sedan, $23,600 for the hatchback. Our tester with the Premium package came with a sticker price of $31,055.

Though Mazda is looking to move upmarket, the Mazda3 is still compared with its mainstream compact rivals. Those competitors include the Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, and Subaru Impreza. However, the Mazda3 is also looking to compete with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Acura ILX, MINI 4-door Hardtop, and Audi A3.

2019 Mazda3

This is a car that will excite the senses. Enthusiasts understand this kind of language and are driven by the want of the 2019 Mazda3. However, everyday consumers looking for a compact car should take a very good look at this newest Mazda3. All they have to do is to talk an enthusiast about one.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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2020 Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul

For two generations, Kia created a fun-looking urban crossover that has taken to the heart of its owners. The boxy Soul served the world as something completely different, while being extremely practical, funky, and fun to drive. It also helped to have some hamster mascot to add to the marketing blitz for this cute little crossover.

For 2020, Kia trotted out its third generation Soul. While it may seem like the same old Soul we’ve known for two decades, there is something utterly different. If one indication tells you how different this Soul will be to its previous generations, just look at its latest marketing campaign for it? Do you see any hamsters? Nope. Kia has replaced their cute hamsters for a chameleon.

2020 Kia Soul

The chameleon represents the evolution of one of Kia’s most popular models, while making some shape shifting moves to keep its loyal customers on its toes.

We were fortunate to worked with one of the first 2020 Souls on the road – an X-Line. We figured we find out how much this chameleon has changed from the fun, funky, and familiar Soul we’ve known since 2009.

The first thing you will notice is the front end. Kia has changed the lighting signature completely, bring the main headlamps to the same level as the large lower grille. The upper lamps are now daytime running lights and turn signals. On some models, fog lamps are in small bulbs on each end of the lower grille. The upper grille has been narrowed in height.

2020 Kia Soul

Towards the rear of the Soul, there is now a floating roof applique that now bridges the C pillar glass with the upright rear hatch area. For 2020, Kia also redesigned the hatch itself, by sending the taillamps around the lower part of the glass. The rear bumper now sports an integrated diffuser design for a sportier look. Overall, you can tell that Kia got serious about their Soul’s look with plenty of maturation without detracting from its original shape and image.

The same chameleon-like changes continue inside. In past Kia Souls, occupants were entertained by a myriad of shapes that were both ergonomic and entertaining. Far from normal, the 2020 Soul may feel mainstream, but there are still quirks in the design that will delight everyone. In the X-Line, you get an all-black interior with some satin-chrome accents. The overall instrument panel design is well-designed with a large instrument cluster and an improved touchscreen for the infotainment system. The switches have also improved with great touch and logic.

2020 Kia Soul

The cloth front seats offer plenty of bolstering and support for everyone. There is plenty of space for both front and rear passengers to get comfortable. Cargo space is generous with 24.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats with Kia’s trademark upright liftgate making loading and unloading easy. Though, watch the step down from the bumper when rolling items in and out. On he plus side, the 2020 Soul offers a lot of personal storage places for mobile devices and so forth.

Most of the 2020 Soul models are powered by a 147-horsepower, direct injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. This engine is the best base engine ever installed in a Soul – it is responsive, quick, and can move this 2,844-pound small crossover very well.

2020 Kia Soul

New for this engine is a continuous variable transmission, which is actually very good offering solid shifts all around. Kia stated that the 2020 Soul with this driveline can average 27 MPG in the city and 33 MPG in the highway. The Soul continues to be offered with front-wheel-drive only.

Ride quality is good. You may feel some bumps on the road, the but the Soul’s suspension does a good job absorbing them. Handling is pretty good, too. Steering is pretty tight, offering a good turning radius and response to the road. On-center feel is fine with some softness in the feel of the wheel. The best part of the Soul are the brakes, which are very responsive and offer good pedal feel.

The 2020 Kia Soul lineup starts at $17,490 for a LX model with a manual transmission. Our X-Line tester came with a sticker price of $22,615.

2020 Kia Soul

There are some competitors for the 2020 Soul to look at. You have the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Kicks, both currently offered in front-wheel-drive only. However, the list of competitors grows when you include models that offer available all-wheel-drive. These additional models include the Hyundai Kona, Chevrolet Trax, Ford Ecosport, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3.

As the hamster evolves into a chameleon, the 2020 Kia Soul has evolved with a more serious outlook. But, it never strays away from its fun factor that its owners have embraced for years. Just because it’s cute and different, the Kia Soul should ever be taken lightly.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

In a crowded field, Subaru will always stand out. Not because it offers standard all-wheel-drive and one of the best safety systems in the industry. They have a deep following of loyal owners who can extoll the virtues of what a Subaru can do in every climate and condition.

Lately, Subaru has been migrating their entire lineup onto a flexible new Global Platform. The newest model riding on this new platform that has arrived into showrooms is one of the top sellers at the brand – the 2019 Forester. In fact, the Forester has sold 10,000 units in the U.S.A. for the past 68 months.

We recently drove a 2019 Subaru Forester Touring to find out the secrets of why this is a popular vehicle among its loyal customers – and why you might be interested in checking one out.

2019 Subaru Forester

Compared to the previous model, there are a few visual changes on the 2019 model that follow an evolutionary design model. These changes include a lower hood line, different headlamp and grille shapes, deeper windows, and the “lobster claw” taillights out back.

The basics remain to help customers enjoy what was familiar about the last generation Forester to this new one. It is a friendly vehicle for loyal and new customers to the brand and this model. That is where it really counts for Subaru – fostering familiarity on a new platform.

2019 Subaru Forester

The biggest difference between the old and new Forester is its cabin. The new dashboard was adopted from all of the latest Subaru models on the new platform. For example, the instrumentation binnacle is adopted from the Impreza, Crosstrek, and Ascent, featuring cleaner dials and an excellent graphical center display offering loads of information for the driver. The upper dashboard features a series of screens ranging from a clock to a screen giving you the status of all of the Eye Sight safety features on board the Forester. Below it is the Starlink-driven infotainment screen, giving you great readout for radio and navigation, as well as an excellent interface for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Our Touring tester came with a saddle-colored perforated leather upholstery, which is good to the touch. You will see this same leather finish on the door panels. The mats are a woven material using both saddle, black, and white resulting in a handsome finish. The front seats are a bit firm, but supportive. Four adults or a family of five can sit comfortable inside across two rows of seats.

2019 Subaru Forester

Where the Forester will win fans over is in its cargo space. With the rear seat up, there is 33.0 cubic feet of volume available, especially for taller items. The cargo area is accessed through a lower entry point, with a taller cargo height than most competitors in its class.

Underneath the Forester’s hood is a 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine with direct injection. Power is up to 182 horsepower compared to prior Forester models, as is the torque at 176 pound-feet. It is a very happy engine underneath the Forester’s hood providing a superb power band in every situation.

Subaru’s continuously variable transmission is greatly improved with solid shifts where you expect them to be. There may be the occasional long shift hold on onramps, but passing maneuvers offer shorter shifts than other CVTs out there. Plus, there’s the symmetrical all-wheel-drive with X-Mode that works well on all surfaces and conditions. In all, this is great driveline – that is also efficient. We averaged 28.6 MPG in our turn with the Forester.

2019 Subaru Forester

The ride quality of this new Forester is superb. The strut-type front set-up, along with double-wishbones in the rear offer a smooth ride that absorbs over the worst roads it has driven over. This also lent to a softer handing with some lean and roll through the corners. We found a good turning radius thanks to a quicker steering set that is precise. Braking is also good with excellent pedal feel and solid stopping power in every situation.

Two very important pieces to the Forester that should be mentioned here. First, the EyeSight driver assistance technology is among the best in the industry. Using stereo camera/sensors at the top of the windshield, EyeSight does a great job keeping the Forester from harm through various functions, including Pre-collision Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning. The other safety piece worth mentioning is a new technology called DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation. This recognizes a driver who has taken his eyes off the road and sends a warning to bring focus back onto it. This feature was very helpful for us and should be taken into consideration when looking for a vehicle in its class.

The 2019 Forester lineup starts at $24,295. Our Touring tester came with a sticker price of $35,270.

2019 Subaru Forester

The compact SUV segment is a crowded field, included the Forester. This Subaru competes with other models, such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, and Nissan Rogue.

However, loyal Subaru customers will choose the new Forester because it offers all of the good things they expect from the brand. For new customers looking for a superb compact SUV and want something proven with all-wheel-drive, choosing the Subaru Forester is indeed a good choice overall.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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Audi Optimizes Traffic Light Information

Audi Optimizes Traffic Light Information

What if you knew whether the next traffic light was green or red? How can you make sure you can make all of your traffic lights safely?

As an outgrowth of driver assistance technology is another layer of safety that will enable drivers to know what the next traffic light will be and how safely to approach it. On the forefront of this technology is Audi through a new feature called Green Light Optimized Speed Advisory.

This feature works with another feature called Traffic Light Information. Using the vehicle’s 4G LTE connection, the next traffic light can be read and displayed on a screen inside the instrument panel. If it displays that the next traffic light is green, additional information is displayed to tell you the speed in which you can safely approach the traffic signal. That speed will help you get through a green light, as well as minimizing red light stops towards reducing stress upon the driver.

This technology works both ways, as the traffic light information must be read at the signals themselves. The information to transmitted back to the vehicle using the 4G LTE signal. Not only does the vehicle have the capability to receive this information, the infrastructure must be able to send the status of a traffic light to the vehicle.

Audi Optimizes Traffic Light Information

This overarching technology falls under the category of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure technology. Only a few places have this technology in place, with 4,700 intersections enabled for “time-to-green” interaction with a Traffic Light Information enabled vehicle. This technology is currently enabled in these following locations: Dallas, Denver, Gainesville, Fla.; Houston, Kansas City, Kansas; Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix, Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, Washington, DC: and Northern Virginia.

Several select Audi models from the 2017 model year on will have these features on board.

The benefits of this technology include not just a relief from stress on the road in trying to make green lights. As a whole, vehicle-to-infrastructure is designed to assist drivers in ensuring they are operating their vehicles safely through information provided from the road. Some vehicles are enabled to read speed limit signs, while fewer vehicles can also read traffic signs – including warning and advisory signs.

Adding Traffic Light Information and the Green Light Optimized Speed Advisory to these vehicles is an expansion of these technologies designed to inform the driver and keep him/her safe. The system does not mitigate the vehicle to slow down or stop when a red light is detected via the in-vehicle wi-fi connection.

The key for ensuring this system works are ensuring that the route you are driving is enabled for the wi-fi connection to read the traffic lights. If you live in an area that has this enabled, you will get the benefits from safe operation of your vehicle and to enable you to avoid having to stress over missing a green light on your route. Keep in mind that Audi provided a list of only 13 areas where this technology is enabled. If this is not available where you live, ask your local government to look into deploying it in your community. Otherwise, this system will not work even if you have all of the technology necessary to utilize it.

Consider this: the next time you are running late to work and trying to hit all the green lights on the way, there is a piece of technology coming that will ease your pain. If you happen to own a newer Audi – or are considering a new one – and live in one of those areas where the Traffic Light Information technology is enabled, it is now available to you.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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The Present Course of Electrification Showcased in Washington, D.C.

The Present Course of Electrification Showcased in Washington, D.C.

As the future is becoming electric, where will this future take place?

While the West Coast leads in electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle registrations, the battleground is actually in our Nation’s Capitol – Washington, D.C. It is the place where policy and standards are developed and tested for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

It made sense that CarSoup.com was invited to Washington for a day of information exchange and demonstration on the latest of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. We were welcomed by the Washington Automotive Press Association, along with Audi, Electrify America, Kia, and Subaru.

The Present Course of Electrification Showcased in Washington, D.C.

The backdrop of our day with electric and plug-in vehicles was the Washington Auto Show. The show already had an indoor track for visitors to take turns in driving the latest electrified vehicles. We wanted to know more about what is on our horizon for you to consider, if you are in the market for an electrified vehicle.

As we know, the Audi e-tron quattro SUV is coming to showrooms soon. The battery-electric vehicle is promising an estimated range of 204 miles, which you can go 54 miles based on a quick 10-minute charge. The e-tron can be recharged with DC Fast Charging, as well as Level 2 240V charging.

The Present Course of Electrification Showcased in Washington, D.C.

The story is not just the vehicle itself, but rather Audi’s partnership with Electrify America in terms of charging services for its owners. Electrify America operates a network of more than 16,000 across the country, with plans on adding another 2,000 chargers at 480 sites by the end of 2019.

The partnership with Electrify America will enable Audi owners to get the first 1,000 kilowatt hours of charging at no additional cost when they purchase an e-tron SUV or any of the upcoming electric or plug-in vehicles Audi is set to introduce well into the next decade. That first set of charging is good for approximately 2,000 miles of driving.

The Present Course of Electrification Showcased in Washington, D.C.

We had a chance to ride along the e-tron inside the Washington Auto Show’s indoor electric vehicle track. The professional drivers conducting the indoor course demonstrated that it has the soul of an Audi even with a fully electric driveline. It is quick – Audi claims a 0-60 MPH sprint of 5.5 seconds. We found plenty of controlled roll and lean through tight maneuvers, but it is also a very comfortable place to be.

Pricing for the Audi e-tron quattro SUV starts at $74,800.

On the other side of the pricing spectrum was the Kia Niro EV. We were shown Kia’s latest member of the Niro member, joining the Hybrid and PHEV models later this year. It features a battery0electric driveline with 291 pound-feet of torque

The Present Course of Electrification Showcased in Washington, D.C.

If you have driven a Niro, there are only a few differences between the Hybrid, PHEV, and EV models. The EV’s front end is a dead giveaway with the absence of a grille and its large plug-in port integrated with the front fascia.

Kia’s target for battery range is 240 miles, which puts it in a competitive space with other EVs priced under $50,000, including the upcoming Kia Soul EV, the Hyundai Kona EV, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and the Nissan Leaf e-Plus. In comparison with these other models, the Niro offers more interior space overall.

We had the chance to drive the Kia Niro EV on the streets of Washington, D.C. and found that it was at home battling traffic in the District’s tight streets, while maneuvering around bicyclists and scooter riders.

Pricing has not been announced for the Kia Niro EV at this time.

The Present Course of Electrification Showcased in Washington, D.C.

The WAPA EV Day is not all about battery-electric vehicles. Subaru showed us their latest electrified vehicle, the Crosstrek Hybrid. In contrast the previous generation model, Subaru made this one a plug-in hybrid model with an electric-only range of 17 miles. Once the battery is reduced to almost drained, the 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine takes over. In all, Subaru claims a combined 480-mile range, while still offering its Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system riding on an 8.7-inch ground clearance for off-road driving.

The Crosstrek Hybrid will start from $34,995 with sales in 13 select states across the USA.

The Present Course of Electrification Showcased in Washington, D.C.

What we have learned from WAPA EV Day is for the future to be electric, there has to be a universal acceptance of vehicles that have even partial electrification in their driveline. It also means that the infrastructure for both public and private charging has to meet the needs of the current electrical grid, as well as to campaign for more improved delivery of electricity at a higher capability to feed the growing need for vehicle charging.

All will come in due time.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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2019 Honda Pilot

2019 Honda Pilot

One of the most popular three-row mid-sized SUV/crossovers in America is the Honda Pilot. This is not only confirmed by the number of customers who have bought one over the past several years. It has also garnered enough opinions among the automotive and consumer media to shower it with high praise.

For 2019, the Pilot underwent a mid-cycle refresh that saw updates on the outside, more driver assist upgrades across its lineup, and added technology and infotainment features. These updates were designed to keep Honda’s big SUV competitive in a segment where all competitors have stepped up their game.

To prove that the Honda Pilot is a consumer favorite, we were curious to see what this updated Pilot is all about. A 2019 Elite model with all-wheel-drive was put through its paces to fulfill our curiosity for you.

2019 Honda Pilot

Honda always had a penchant for dazzling us with details. The update on the 2019 Pilot is a great example of this. The grille and chrome work was actually nice. The lighting units include a running LED lens that had a sharp character. The real taillights were also upgraded with new e LED lenses, which were very functional and handsome at the same time.

The Pilot offers a presence that invites families to enjoy the ride. Entering the Pilot, all four doors are large and open wide for easy access. The liftgate is also large with excellent access to the cargo hold.

2019 Honda Pilot

Our top-of-the-line Elite offered big chairs for the driver and front passenger that are adjustable to fit everyone. These seats were supportive and wrapped in durable perforated leather. Second row seats in the Touring Elite were captain’s chairs, split with a center cubby. There are audio, rear seat media and climate controls facing out of the main center console. Each second-row seat has power fold-downs for extra cargo and third row access. Third row seating is perfect for children of most ages.

A digital speedometer crowned a combination of TFT and analog elements. On each side is the tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges. In the middle is a TFT screen for vehicle, trip and fuel economy readouts. Switches appear on the steering wheel and below the dashboard’s waist line in front of the driver, where the climate and audio controls command the center stack. The main center console offers a few controls, including a series of buttons for the nine-speed automatic transmission

2019 Honda Pilot

Cargo space is expansive. It starts with a sizeable 18.0 cubic feet behind the third row. Fold down one row, and that increases to 55.5 cubic feet. In total, you can carry up to 109.2 cubic feet – depending on model.

The Pilot is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 horsepower on tap, the V6 felt happy under the hood. A nine-speed automatic is connected to it, along with a solid all-wheel drive system. With smooth acceleration and shifts, plus an unobtrusive Stop-Start system, the Pilot attained a fuel economy average of 22.2 MPG.

In terms of ride quality, it is smooth on many surfaces. Handling and cornering are on the soft side, with some controlled roll through the turns. Steering is pretty good with solid on-center feel and decent response from the wheel. The turning radius is average, though a few more turns would be in order in tighter areas. Brakes are fine, with solid pedal action and average stops in normal and panic situations.

2019 Honda Pilot

Selecting the Elite model is the best way to get the full suite of Honda Sense driver assistance features. These features include the Collision Mitigation Braking System, a Road Departure Mitigation System, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning.

Pricing for the 2019 Honda Pilot starts at $31,450. Our Elite all-wheel-drive tester came to $49,015.

The Honda Pilot is up against some formidable competition in the mid-sized three-row segment. Customers have compared the Pilot to the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Subaru Ascent, Kia Sorento and Telluride. You may also compare this to the Mitsubishi Outlander and GMC Acadia, as well.

2019 Honda Pilot

We found that the Pilot is excellent in terms of quality, improved looks and driver assist technology, it remains a middle-of-the-road choice for consumers looking for solid family transportation. It certainly fulfilled our curiosity, and, hopefully, your’s.

Story Credits: CarSoup Editors

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