2022 SUBARU BRZ TEST DRIVE
The BRZ is a forthright, real-wheel drive sports car – the kind that’s pictured on the endangered species list, 6-speed manual and all. It sits knee-high to a grasshopper, weighs less than a battery from a Hummer EV and doesn’t require a trust fund to acquire. Priced from under $30,000 the BRZ is the kind of car every frugal-minded driving enthusiast would love to have in their stable. I’m not sure you’d want it as your only ride but for those special times when you’re driving not just to get somewhere but rather for the drive itself, the BRZ is a very satisfying choice. What you need to know is that this BRZ is a major step forward. The central tenets of the car are the same but this one’s just a lot better. How so? Unlike the previous BRZ, this one actually feels fast and that’s huge because the old car certainly did not. And then there’s the cabin – a complete afterthought before – this BRZ presents as uncomplicated but not bargain basement. For $30 grand this is as pure as driving excitement gets – the anti-crossover SUV if you will. Its purpose is still singular, just taken to the next level of appeal. Including destination the MSRP of this car is $31,455. It doesn’t look like much and that’s perhaps the BRZ’s biggest letdown – I could use some more visual pop for sure – but this is a darn good car for people who still care about driving.
2022 HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC TEST DRIVE
2022 HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC TEST DRIVE
The Kona Electric advertises a 258 mile driving range and offers 3 levels of charging – the quickest of which takes less than an hour if you drain the battery all the way to zero – an unlikely scenario so in most cases it takes about 30 minutes to reach an 80% charge…just enough time to go shopping. And even then, fast charging at Electrify America stations is free for 3 years. I plug my Kona into a standard outlet in my garage and for me an overnight charge typically brings me back to 100%. The most notable change this year is the Tesla-inspired, smooth front end with slimmer headlights. I think Teslas are the ugliest cars ever produced so this is not a selling point to me but I kind of like the deletion of the SUV-like, gray body cladding. It’s now all body color and it classes the car up. Hyundai really loads up this Limited trim so you get all of the safety features, the best infotainment and high-end convenience features like a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, and 3 years of BlueLink telematics which includes a great app for connecting with and controlling your Kona. There’s even a height adjustable passenger seat. Available in SEL and Limited trims with a starting MSRP of $35,185 the Kona Electric does qualify for the full $7,500 federal tax credit but this model – like many others – are currently pretty scarce so pricing may vary. Much like we had to convince my grandmother back in the 80s that a microwave oven was something she would enjoy – and in short time very much did – driving an electric car is similar in that once you experience it there’s no looking back.
2022 HYUNDAI SANTA CRUZ TEST DRIVE
A truck/SUV crossover with decidedly car-like cabin, similar in length to Hyundai’s Palisade 3-row SUV and it’s a curiosity worth exploring.
I’ve always been supportive of car companies who dare to do something different. And when I think back to some of the most memorable cars I’ve tested names like Baja and Avalanche come to mind. Which leads me to this new pickup truck/SUV called the Santa Cruz. I fell in love with it when I first saw it in concept form years ago but unlike most automakers who keep their experiments in the design lab Hyundai has the guts to actually bring this one to market. And it’s a curiosity worth exploring.
The Santa Cruz drives like a car. It’s nimble, peppy, quiet, comfortable – an anti-truck, if you will. The turbo is really strong; it rides very comfortably and drives with an unexpected purpose. And with 8.6” of ground clearance, solid Michelin light truck tires and a switch to lock in the traction of all 4 wheels, the Santa Cruz has the advantage of a full-time all-wheel drive system and not part time like some other small trucks. I’m just surprised Hyundai didn’t include an off-road mode in addition to the snow setting.
2021 HYUNDAI ELANTRA TEST DRIVE
Whether you want a traditional gas engine, a 54mpg hybrid or a turbo with a 6-speed, the new Elantra has got it covered. With spacious passenger volume and a trunk that’s bigger than that of a Mercedes S-Class, this is an affordable, frugal, do it all kind of sedan that Hyundai decided needed edgier styling. And boy did they deliver on that front. Now, I’m not sure it’s going to age very gracefully because the body is so overly styled with crazy creases and a very prominent grille, but if you’re allergic to boring in the inexpensive, not-so compact car segment this is your cure. Much like Hyundai did with the new Sonata, they’ve reversed course on reigning in the design and instead opted to make a visual splash and that it most certainly does. For $26,000, you are not going to beat what this Elantra Limited is offering. It’s highly stylized, pleasing to drive and packed with high-end features and top notch infotainment. And because this system is fed information from the cloud you’re navigation is always up to date and the Blue Link system can answer common questions through speech much like you would ask Siri. When is Mother’s Day? But for times when you’re using the Smart Card you have to place in down here on the wireless charger in order for it to start the car. And this area down here is kind of congested already because you still have to use your Lightning Cable on this particular model so the ergonomics get a little muddy.
At night, the ambient light choices add a dash of Mercedes to your sub-$30,000 car – another reason you might want the Limited. Loaded with advanced safety features and creature comforts – though no heated steering wheel, this is the kind of car that would have cost $40,000 not long ago. Now, you can lease this exact car for $212 per month. Pretty impressive but it has 2 things working against it: 1) it’s not an SUV and 2) it’s not electric so the Elantra’s relevance is waning.
2021 CHRYSLER PACIFICA TEST DRIVE
The 2021 Pacifica will offer an advanced all-wheel drive system that preserves Chrysler’s coolest and most proprietary feature – Stow ‘n Go seating – the ability for the 2nd row seats to disappear into the floor. There’s also a new bougie Pinnacle model with standard all-wheel drive and a bunch of add on goodies such as the Premium and Safety Sphere Group and the Uconnect Theater Family Group which includes a new feature called the FamCam Interior Camera – a way for parents to keep tabs on the little ones, even in rear facing car seats. And the seatback video screens have always been a big hit right from the start. With a MSRP at $55,665, this isn’t your blue collar minivan, but it still does an excellent job of making family travel as easy and as enjoyable as can be and offers big time flexibility with a heaping dose of Chrysler cleverness.