Every morning at 9:00, Winding Road editors Brandon Turkus and John Beltz Snyder have a little chat online about the weather (snowy), how we’re feeling (could use a coffee), and about the cars we’re driving. These conversations can sometimes be pretty revealing about our weekly loans. One such conversation happened this morning, when Brandon asked John about his time with the Mazdaspeed3. The Mazda was immediately compared to the Ford Focus ST, and the issue of torque steer was the particular focus.
By our reckoning, the GL350 with Mercedes-Benz’s excellent 3.0-liter, turbodiesel V-6 is the pick of the litter. Yes, there’s much to be said for the GL’s excellent V-8 options. Both the GL450 and GL550 are powered by biturbocharged V-8s, with the 450 packing 362 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque and the GL550 offering up 429 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. We’d also need to give a shout out to the bonkers (and completely unnecessary) GL63 AMG and its 550 ponies.
We wanted to put Evoque to the test. Lining up the big-selling BMW X3, the ultra-powerful Volvo XC60 R-Design, and the original-gangster-small-crossover Infiniti EX35, we figured to have great representation within this class.
If you can get over the engine (and I can), then the Azera is an excellent big sedan. Its ride balances being smooth and quiet without feeling completely detached from the road like a Toyota Avalon or Buick Lacrosse. Wind and road noise are well controlled, as well.
Sportified GS isn’t a huge improvement on the standard model, but that’s mainly because the regular GS350 is so good. Feels more confident and stable in the bends, and somewhat more talkative.
The three-hour charge time is downright reasonable when compared to a Volt or Leaf, which can take anywhere from nine to 13 hours to recharge (based on our experience). And like the Volt, there’s absolutely no sense of range anxiety, as once the battery is drained, the car becomes a standard, fuel-sipping Prius hybrid.
The G is more powerful than everything in its price/size/class, and is available with a manual transmission, which is an increasingly rare trait these days. (The 6MT in question isn’t that great to use, but I believe it’s far less horrible than Brandon does, apparently.) It has a lively, responsive chassis, and a suspension tuning that rewards hard driving without being completely punishing.
Regardless of history or tradition, this is not a convertible in the classic sense. It’s more of a targa top. Now, there’s nothing really wrong with that, but it shouldn’t be sold and marketed as a convertible. Call it a 500T. Don’t get my hopes up and then crush them via a glorified cloth sunroof.
Two things about this vehicle set me off. For one, I really am not a fan of this 3.0-liter V-6/six-speed-automatic powertrain. Sure, this vehicle is faster than the last four-cylinder Terrain I drove, but only marginally. Off-the-line and high-end power are lacking, although mid-range punch isn’t bad. I will say that it doesn’t sound particularly inspiring. This V-6 just didn’t feel fast enough to warrant ordering it over the four-cylinder, especially when that model is $1500 cheaper and nets considerably better mileage.
If you’ve read our Quick Drive of the 2011 Kia Soul, you’ll know that we like this boxy little vehicle, except for a few issues. Of course, a month after we publish that piece, Kia sent us its new-and-improved 2012 Soul, and addresses some of our baser concerns with the otherwise competent Kia.