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2019 Mercedes-Benz C43 Cabriolet Zero to 60 is accomplished in a mere 4.6 seconds. And top speed is set at 130 mph. OK, it’s not supercar numbers but still quite impressive. Under the hood of the even more powerful 2019 Mercedes-Benz C43 Cabriolet resides a 3.0-liter bi-turbo V-6 engine specially hand built by the AMG division in Affalterbach, Germany.

Step on the throttle of all-wheel-drive luxury convertible and the powertrain cranks out 385 horsepower (up by 23 from its predecessor) at 6100 rpm and 384 pounds-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. Mated to a 9-speed auto gearbox, the soft-top convertible C43 is equipped with a razor-sharp electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering. The sport-tuned suspension is handled adeptly by an independent four-link system. Both front/rear have coil spring, double tube shock absorber tubular torsion bars to boost ride quality and comfort. Bringing the dream-of-a-ride to a stop are 14.2-inch front and 12.6-inch rear caliper discs. To vary the driving experience, Mercedes comes in eco, individual, comfort, sport and sports+ modes, the latter best suited for the speedway. Or you can press the M button for shifting on your own.

Walk up to the four-passenger C43 and the first element that will grab your attention is the AMG badge embossed in the arrow-shaped ‘twin-blade’ radiator grille with the familiar three-pointed star, flanked by LED headlamps and daytime running lights. The revamped rear bumper acquires new round twin tailpipe chrome trim and an efficient side air outlet. The cabin is lavish and elegant as is expected of any AMG-equipped Benz with dual-zone auto a/c, 50/50 rear seat, Burmester sound system, panoramic sunroof, newly designed flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters, brushed-aluminum door trim and open power trunk. The dash, doors and center console are covered in rich Nappa leather upholstery. A touchpad can be used to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls, which are displayed on a huge 10.2-inch display screen. And who can miss the gracefully centered Mercedes analog clock on the dash? Indeed, all the materials and craftsmanship are top-notch.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic stability program, pre-safe (partial braking in an emergency), rearview camera, keyless go/start, blind spot and active brake assists, roll bars, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

Base-priced at $63,650 and up to $78,105 with options, top-down cruising enthusiasts will find the exquisite C43 to their taste. Take a seat behind one of the finest-handling, stylish convertibles, power down the top and stroll down the neighborhood for an exhilarating jaunt.



2019 PASSPORT AWD (ELITE)In 1993, it was sold as a Passport in collaboration with Isuzu. That lasted about nine years. And now the midsize SUV is back, slotted perfectly between the compact CR-V and the full-size Pilot. Though about an inch higher and 6 inches shorter than its bigger sibling, it shares the same engine, transmission, suspension, steering and wheelbase as the Pilot.

So the Passport gets a 3.5-liter V-6 engine packing 280 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 262 pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm. Our top-level Elite was mated to a 9-speed auto transmission, which when combined with the Variable Cylinder Management, operates in three or four cylinder modes for substantial fuel savings. For those who like to be in control of the gears, try the steering-wheel paddle shifters for spirited driving.

Ensconced on the fully boxed structure is an aggressive blacked-out grille and bar, bumper, door sash and lift gate garnish. LED headlight accents and tail lamps, and chrome tips, further enhance the overall bold appearance of the Passport. It’s in the cabin that the midsize SUV shines with numerous bins and cubbies, some particularly cavernous, scattered throughout. There also is a massive lift-up cargo hold that offers 2.5 cubic feet of space while passenger volume is a solid 114.9. The push-button shifter may take some getting used to for some. The 8-inch Intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) displays information for audio, revised navigation, Bluetooth, rearview camera, fuel economy, texting, compass, clock, etc. Other amenities include tri-zone auto a/c, tilt/telescopic four-spoke leather steering wheel, second-row slide and recline 60/40 seat and sun shades, 10-way power driver and four-way front-passenger heated/cooled seats and power tailgate.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, front/rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, vehicle stability assist with traction control, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist (which maintains the ride in its path), hill start assist, blind-spot monitor, collision mitigation system, adaptive cruise control, multi-angle rearview camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. These now include the safety technology that comes with Honda Sensing.

The midsize crossover field may be crowded but if you want an athletic, attractive and exciting ride, opt for the Passport. Be assured you are safe and sound in the Elite trim with admirable on-road handling and off-road talent. Best of all, its generous passenger and cargo capacity will win over friends and family.



2019 Chevy Bolt EVImagine going 200 miles and some more on a full one-time electric charge in a ride. GM claims 238 miles, to be exact, in its four-door, five-passenger 2019 Bolt EV. It is ultra-smooth and a cool hatchback offering superb handling and overall balance.

Power comes solely from a huge under-floor lithium-ion battery that has a capacity of 60 kWh and an electric motor. It produces 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque. The Bolt is mated to a single-speed gearbox though a sport mode is also available. Regenerative braking allows the vehicle, when coasting or slowing down, to capture kinetic energy that would be lost. It converts the energy into useable electricity to recharge the battery. Keeping the hatch stable enough to soak bumps is an independent suspension of front MacPherson strut and torsion beam rear. The column-mounted electric power rack-and-pinion steering is accurate and unswerving. Charging options include a standard 120-volt Level 1 power cord, which takes an hour to recharge 4 to 5 miles. Instead, opt for the 240-volt Level 2 charging, which can recharge 25 miles or so in an hour (cost to install can range from $750 to $1,000).

It isn’t really a stunner though HID projector headlights flanking the familiar and centered Chevy bowtie gives the car a fitting appearance. The cabin is unlike most cars, especially the instrument panel with a 8-inch LCD screen in driver’s vision displaying the digital speedometer, distance, miles to go, average and battery level bar graph indicators. The massive 10.2-inch color screen in the center stack shows entertainment, climate and navigation readouts. We must admit we were pleasantly surprised with the 56.6 cubic foot cargo space, plenty for several bags of luggage. Also standard are a single-zone auto a/c, leather shifter with satin silver and chrome accents, tilt/telescopic steering column, six-way manual front seats, 60/40 split rear fold seat and keyless open/start.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, three-point safety belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, StabiliTrak with traction control, rearview camera, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights.

The Bolt, like Volt – its hybrid sibling – is a trailblazing vehicle that offers speedy acceleration with ample power. It is no Tesla but a car of the future that should one day be mastered to perfection (imagine going 500 miles on an electric charge). And at $32,870 after the $3,750 federal credit, which phases out completely in April 2020, it’s a steal.



2019 CORVETTECorvette buffs have a choice: go with the 2019 rear-wheel-drive hatchback/convertible that still comes in a 7-speed manual. Or wait for the 2020 mid-engine C8 that will be available only in an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s a tough decision but the way we look at it, there may be some deals in this year’s car.

Regardless, the 2019 convertible is equipped with a 6.2-liter V-8 engine belting out an incredible 460 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 455 pounds-feet of torque @ 4600 rpm. Saving dollars at the pump is GM’s Active Fuel Management system, which deactivates four of the eight cylinders. So, it’s not only the most powerful standard Corvette ever but also fuel efficient when you consider the massive 6.2 under the hood (we beat the 15 mpg EPA city estimate by eking out 19; highway EPA is 25). The optional 8-speed auto gear box ensures absolutely seamless shifts. And abundant power enables the sports car to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 3.7 seconds and a ¼ mile is caught up in 1.8 seconds. A drive mode selector, which can be operated via a rotary knob near the shifter, offer tour, weather, eco, track and sport options.

Kudos goes to GM for the gorgeous appearance of the Corvette with the carbon-fiber hood, HID xenon headlights, LED park and turn signals, and dual-element tail lamps. Side rocker extensions and the front splitter are the other exterior highlights. The power convertible top can open and close at up to 30 mph. Yes, this is a speed demon but let’s not forget that the cabin styling and filament are top-notch. Relax in the first-rate, rich-looking eight-way power heated bucket leather seats and you will be gazing at two 8-inch driver/infotainment touch screens. To ensure clever use of space in the two-seater, there is a hidden bin behind the center touchscreen. Also, the ride becomes a mobile hub thanks to its OnStar with 4G LTE and built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Apart from design packages, the available Performance Data Recorder with in-car video allows you to record video of the driving experience, on or off track. Other welcome goodies are dual auto a/c, power tilt/telescopic flat-bottomed steering wheel, and keyless open and start.

Some of the standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, active handling with electronic stability control, safety belt pretensioners, limited slip differential, magnetic ride control, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Displaying astounding agility and response, the stunning Corvette Stingray will stop onlookers in their track. With a muscular-styled appearance, which matches the awesome cabin, albeit tight, this icon will continue to be a huge draw. Also, the upcoming 2020 Corvette, despite some reservations, should gain new well-wishers.



2019 VW JETTA R-LINEIt may have lost its No. 1 place as Volkswagen’s second best-selling model in the United States to the small Tiguan SUV but the Jetta still may catch up some day. We liked the fully redesigned and sportier R-Line trim we test drove recently. The 1.4-liter turbocharged/intercooled 4-cylinder direct-injection engine still belts out 147 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 184 pounds-feet of torque at 1400 rpm. It is mated to an 8-speed auto gearbox. An independent strut-type front and a torsion-beam rear suspension provide a delightfully lively outing while calmly absorbing bumps. The electro-mechanical speed-sensitive power steering is quick and communicative to result in a positive on-center response. Switch on the eco mode and you are guaranteed substantial fuel savings.

Ensconced on the unitary structure of the compact sedan is a larger trapezoidal and blacked-out grille with four chrome bars, surrounded by LED headlights and day time running lights. That this is an R-Line is evident from badging on the grille and black side mirror caps. The Jetta is now bigger in many respects, with wheelbase up by 1.3, length by 1.8, width by .8 and height by .2 inches. There also is more head, knee and shoulder room. Go ahead and load up those suitcases and golf bags in the cavernous trunk, which flaunts 14.1 cubic feet of space. The infotainment integrates Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto smartphone apps as well as VW Car-Net. As always, readings on the driver information center between the round speedometer and tachometer gauges are large, eligible and perfectly located. Have tall folks in the family? No reason to worry. The six-way heated driver’s seat is height adjustable. The R-Line inspired three-spoke tilt/telescopic steering wheel, two-tone seats and black headliner are pleasing to the eye. Other standard amenities include dual auto a/c, 60/40 fold rear seat, leatherette seats, 6.5-inch touch screen, cruise control, panoramic sun roof, push-button start and overhead sunglass holder.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and hydraulic brake assist, stability control, rearview camera, post-collision braking, blind-spot monitor with rear traffic alert, forward collision warning, three-point safety belts for all, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system come at no extra cost.

The bigger and better Jetta becomes an even more attractive proposition for small-car buyers. Indeed, this compact sedan is a splendid blend of thrift, practicality and fun.



2019 GMC SIERRA AT4Some months after testing the 2019 GMC Sierra Denali 1500 4WD Crew Cab, GMC dispatched over an AT4 (All-Terrain four-wheel drive) model of this solidly built pickup over. The highly capable off-road AT4 brand, which we are told will be seen in all future GMC vehicles, comes with a 2-inch factory installed suspension lift to provide more ground clearance, Rancho shock absorbers, hill descent and terrain selectable traction controls, locking rear differential and a 2-speed transfer case.

The powertrain is similar to the one in the top-of-the-line Denali, i.e., an optional 6.2-liter V-8 engine, mated to a 10-speed auto transmission, putting out 420 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 460 pounds-feet of torque @ 4100 rpm. An independent coil-over shock front and a solid axle rear suspension smoothens out uneven road surfaces. The rack-and-pinion electric power steering has a solid and communicative feel, making the truck easy to place at sharp curves. GM’s Dynamic Fuel Management system deactivates up to four of the eight cylinders for fuel savings. Tow capacity is an incredible 9,400 pounds. And 12 fixed tie-downs each have a capacity of enduring 500 pounds of weight.

The robust-appearing AT4 trim stands out from other Sierras in the lineup, mainly with black chrome on fog lamp bezels, fender surround and grille insert; and body-color grille surround, door handles and bumper. Otherwise, it still portrays an intimidating, mammoth and multi-dimensional grille flanked by LED headlights with C-shaped elements. The rear also acquires C-shaped LED features within the vertical tail lamps and integrated dual exhaust tips. Our 5’ 8”-foot box offers 63 cubic feet for stowage. Climb into the cabin and you won’t find a reason to complain about room, which is plentiful. The six-gauge analog instrument cluster is well-lit and crystal clear. The innovative lift-and-lower locking tailgate in the Sierra using an internal torsion bar (effortless to raise and even better, lowers slowly) is most likely to be incorporated by its competitors. Other notable features include dual-zone auto a/c, tilt/telescopic steering column, dual glove box, heated/cooled front seats, and an 8-inch color screen for audio, navigation and phone readings.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for second row, stability/traction and trailer sway control with hill start assist, four-wheel antilock brakes, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Off-road enthusiasts don’t have any reasons to complain now. This long overdue AT4 model in the GMC roster should quench their thirst to venture out and off to the rugged terrain. The powerful pickup is loaded with features and amenities that should make the rough outdoors a lot of fun instead of a challenge.


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