Well, no, that would be the LC500. Ha! You see what I did there? This is me demonstrating my gift for disingenuity, my friends, by pulling the ol’ bait-and-switch. Aren’t you glad you started reading this?
No, what I should have said is: is the 2019 UX 250h the best choice in a Lexus, from the standpoints of practicality, price and all-round usefulness for real people?
And yes, is the answer to that. Yes it is.
Introduced in January of this year as the newest Lexus utility vehicle, and priced with an entry-level buy-in (or at least, entry-level by Lexus standards), the UX is at the smaller end of the ever-expanding lineup of Lexii, which runs, with nameplates in order of size, GX, LX, RX and the just-slightly-bigger than this one, the NX which we saw here on the world’s finest website last year.
It is suitably ‘right-sized’ for urban use, with a footprint similar to a family sedan; but brings the higher ground clearance (you know how I loves me some ground clearance, living as I do in the land of curbs and speedbumps), as well as being an appropriate height for ease of entry/exit.
The body style of the UX allows for decent, if not enormous, cargo capacity, oh and hey!
It’s a hybrid! At least the one we’re looking at here is, pairing a 2.0L gasoline engine with possibly the best-regarded electric motor system in the world. The system outputs 175 net horsepower and put it to the wheels (all the wheels, mind you, as it is an AWD ute) via a CVT transmission.
(I’ll just interject here, that the one we’re are looking at here is a 2019, and being as it is all-new don’t expect huge changes for the new year, but I’ll point out that Lexus appears to have boosted the horsepower slightly – to 181hp – and added a couple of connectivity features. Here’s the deets).
The UX rides beautifully (and quietly), as anyone would expect from anything from Toyota’s luxury brand, and brings solid performance. It isn’t a sport machine, of course, but it the vehicle doesn’t lack or lag. Everything is easy to get used to from a driver’s standpoint, but where the new hybrid captures attention is the quality and feel of all the materials and surfaces.
It is quite a fashion statement, as well – check out the eye-catching upholstery. ‘Circuit Red’ leather adorns the seats contrasting with the black/dark dash treatment and futuristic look of the digital gauge cluster.
My test vehicle fleshed out the trappings with an F Sport 2 option group (and no, I don’t know what the F Sport 1 group might be). The option tacks another $8,800 to the bottom line, but truly finishes the package with everything one needs to call it a true luxury ride.
Among the major inclusions are a 3-Spoke F Sport steering wheel, (and for that matter, F Sport badges all over everything, everywhere), 8-speaker Enform 2.0 premium sound system, embedded navigation with three years of map updates included, a larger central information display (10.3”) parking assist, heated and ventilated front seats, smartphone charger and power tailgate.
The only downsides with the 2019 UX250h might be its overall size, but as mentioned, if you need a bigger premium utility vehicle, Lexus has a houseful of choices. There’s also the central interface touch-pad thing, which… well… you either like it or you don’t. Lexus gets a little better with their touchpad with every new generation of their vehicles, and at least the one in my test model now includes some buttons and a thumb-wheel for tuning the stereo.
The price is going to be a driver of sales for this vehicle as well. Don’t get me wrong, Lexus is never ‘cheap’ (in fact, if I were shopping for a ute like this, I’d probably opt for a fully-loaded RAV4 Hybrid, because money), but by premium-brand standards, this is not outrageous.
Starting at $39,700 for a base model, the one shown here, with F Sport 2 option package, came out at $50,697 and twenty-five cents, including freight and A/C charges and tire levy.
Gimme hybrids all day long, that’s my new motto.
That is my maxim, my mantra, my short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct, my thing-that-I-say.
Not just because of the lower tailpipe emissions and overall level of quietness, but of course because I don’t have to jump to the gas-pumps as often, to refuel.
Thus it is that I love the latest of Toyota’s hybrid lineup to make it over to Canada – the 2020 Corolla. (It is interesting to note, too, that the company has a really huge variety of hybrid powertrain vehicles available in overseas markets, from minivans to subcompacts like this cool Yaris I drove in the Netherlands back in 2015).
The gas/electric Corolla combines a 1.8L engine with the nickel-metal hydride battery pack that forms Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, adding two electric motors to the mix. Combined output from the system is rated at 121 hp and 105 lb.-ft. of torque.
The transmission is a two-speed CVT, and the Corolla brings the fairly industry-standard drive mode choices of Eco, Sport and (default) Normal, along with the ability to run it under purely electric power (for short distances). The car will also switch into pure EV mode even at pretty decent speeds when the system senses it can get by that way.
Another interesting feature unique the Hybrid version is that 15-inch wheels are standard issue on the car. While this may not attract attention they way larger wheels found on some of the competition, consider it from a cost-of-ownership perspective – i.e., fifteen-inch tires are going to be less expensive to replace than a set of 17” low-profile rubber.
The whole Corolla platform has been updated for 2020, now running on the company’s Global Architecture platform, and the Hybrid benefits from all of that, but rather than bore you with a litany about the updates, I’ll just post this link straight to the horse’s mouth, so to speak. After all, Mindful Reader, you don’t come to wozeroff.com to see a retyped press release, you come here for a drawing of a pregnant walrus. We’ll get to that later.
Suffice to say, the vehicle is easy to get used to and easy to get comfortable in. The upgraded interior of my test car gave me ‘Softex’ leather seating surfaces and a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and an 8-way adjustable power driver’s seat.
The Corolla handles very well for its segment, steering feel and brake response were very good, and I never felt I lacked power, despite the relatively low horse-and-torque figures. Putting it in Sport mode when I wanted all the available power boosted the accelerator response noticeably, and the little sedan now looks as good as it should, thanks to an exterior makeover that finally sees Corolla getting a better appearance from all angles, and a lowered stance for curb appeal.
Yes, that’s right. I actually beat the company’s stated fuel economy figure (which is 4.4L/100km) in combined city/hwy driving, and I wasn’t trying particularly hard; although I did predominantly use it Eco mode, for a week of (mostly) city driving.
So overall, it’s all good, right? Well, sure, but with a couple of caveats:
Also – and again, obviously – this is compact car. The rear seats are best for smaller people (although I must note that the Corolla rear seats have more head and legroom than the Honda Civic sedan, and more legroom than a Kia Forte).
I had no issue with room and space in the front seats, and I am 6’2” and roughly 190 lbs (of solid, rippling muscle), but if you have been – how shall I say this – blessed with the physique of a pregnant walrus, you’d be better advised to consider something larger.
A Hyundai Palisade, perhaps. If you’re googling that, remember that ‘Palisade’ has only one L in the name.
Oh, and the overall quiet of the vehicle is something to be aware of. Particularly when you’re running in purely electric mode, the Corolla Hybrid makes almost no sound; and it is important to be conscious that pedestrians and cyclists can’t hear you coming up behind them.
Heck, you could sneak up on a dog with this car in EV mode.
That’s about it for ‘cons’ though, even the price isn’t going to scare anyone. The vehicle starts at $24,790 for a base model, and the one used to for my story here added two grand for a Premium Package option, which brought things like the heated, leather steering wheel, 8-way power driver’s seat, heated rear seats, leather seating and wireless smartphone charging and still only came to $28,566 (including freight and PDI).
For it seems like every time I turn around, there’s some Goober cleaved to my bumper limpet-style, so close that I can see the fillings in their gappy little teeth in the rear-view mirror.
I should stress, too, that it is a different Goober each time, not like just one guy who has made it his mission to follow me too closely.
I have a theory, though (and not just my usual ‘people in this city don’t know how to drive’ rant) I figure that it is likely they were trying to read the name off the back of my vehicle. Perhaps, like me, they were thinking:
Ah, but I have buried the lede long enough now, eh, Gentle Reader? Because as I’m sure you may have already figured, the subject of this week’s test drive here at the Auto Section is: the 2020 Hyundai Palisade.
The Palisade is the Korean manufacturer’s newest flagship vehicle (although really, the company is starting to sport a whole lineup of products that could be considered ‘flagship vehicles’, with head-turning looks or performance or technology – heck, they could call anything from the Veloster N to the Nexo to the also-all-new 2020 Venue their flagship and get full buy-in from me)
Anyway, the basics are these: Palisade is a mid-size sport utility vehicle – although it is on the ‘larger’ end of the mid-size range, to be sure – that will hold up to eight people in a roomy and comfortable interior, and keep the driver, in particular, engaged and informed with a suite of convenience and high-tech accoutrements.
The Palisade also seems to be positioning itself to out-do a few rival manufacturers at the own game, in some ways. Witness the shifter; a strip of push-buttons reminiscent of several Honda/Acura products (an they’ve also cribbed one of Honda’s best innovations, a side camera, but they have outdone them by having the cameras on both side of the Palisade). The company is also ready to challenge BMW to a friendly game of Big Ostentatious Grilles, too – check out the face on this thing!
A well-appointed interior, surfaced in Nappa leather, in the case of my test vehicle (which came to me in the ‘Luxury’ trim level, which is kind of in the middle of the lineup, neither base nor top-end) offered excellent room and overhead space for up to eight people, or massive cargo capacity if the seats were folded down.
From the driver’s standpoint, this is one of Hyundai’s finest efforts yet. Fully adjustable and comfortable seat, facing a heads-up speed display, with good visibility all around, augmented by the blind-view cameras on either side (all the better to view the tailgating goobers with, I suppose) a 10.25-inch touchscreen on the console and big, all-digital instrument cluster with various options for info mode display.
A responsive and capable 3.8L V6 under the hood, with 291hp and 262 lb.-ft. of torque on tap and Hyundai’s HTRAC four-wheel drive system leave you feeling confident in any situation. My Palisade’s driver-selectable terrain modes offered some factory-tuned configurations of the engine/drivetrain combo dialed in for Snow, Mud and Sand.
It competes in the segment against rivals like Highlander, Explorer, Pathfinder, Honda Pilot and Kia’s Telluride (as you know, Kia is Hyundai’s sister company and Telluride is virtually the same vehicle, though Palisade is slightly shorter and narrower) Palisade will match any competitive offerings feature-for-feature, and beats a lot of the field when it comes down to pricing. I’ve seen vehicles with a lot less included, for a much higher price.
The one used here is a not-quite top of the line “Luxury” trim level, configured for 8 passengers, with AWD and wired for trailer towing, and as far as I’m concerned, a fully complete package as is, with no options; came with a sticker price of $52,104 Canadian bucks, including freight charge.
And remember the most important thing we’ve learned today – there is only one L in Palisade, and tailgating is just bad manners.
So I’m out driving around in an M340i when suddenly, a robotic voice coming through the speakers starts asking what I want, something to the effect of “Say a command, or choose from these categories…”
This can be pretty weird if you aren’t used to voice-activation, but looking at the big info-screen on the center console I can see that the system is offering me a series of choices – except that I don’t actually want it to do anything, so I say “cancel!”, because that usually works in these situations.
My artificial co-pilot replies in a monotone: “Current. Weather” and displays this:
Now, maybe it is my thick Etruscan accent, but I get this kind of miscommunication a lot with voice command systems; which is why I don’t really like them all that much.
(Oh, and the reason the voice started up in the first place was because there is a button on the steering wheel that activates the whole voice-communication thing, and it is really easy to accidentally hit it with your thumb. Trust me, I did it several times while driving the car).
I’ll tell you what I do like, though: the 2020 M340i from BMW.
Part of the seventh generation of the company’s mainstay 3 Series, the one we’re looking at here is the first of the 3s to get the M Performance treatment, promising to kick the car up (yet another) notch.
The most obvious upgrade is to the powertrain, with the M340 getting a new version of the six-cylinder engine, a wonderfully smooth 3.0 litre twin-turbo monster that promises 382 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque and puts it to the wheels (all the wheels, in the case of my test car) through BMW’s intelligent all-wheel drive system.
Depending on the drive mode selected, the xDrive system increasingly sends more power to the rear wheels, and when you’ve selected the more ‘dynamic’ modes (Sport or Sport+) the system will put it even more when it detects a driver steering hard into a corner.
Honestly, I have never had any complaints about power or handling in any 3 Series I have driven, but the M Performance model boasts improvements to what was already a great driving experience through a model-specific rear differential, and chassis and suspension tuning.
The transmission is an 8-speed Steptronic, which is equally quick and smart – in fact, an interesting thing that BMW points out is that this transmission works with both the car’s ‘intelligent connectivity’ system as well as the radar sensors from the Cruise Control equipment – essentially to allow maximum performance, safely, by determining what it thinks the driver is doing in situations involving either other traffic on the road or when cornering. The company explains it as avoiding unnecessary downshifts, or in other cases, employing earlier downshifts when approaching an obstacle.
Clever stuff, all of it, and perhaps my one regret is not using the transmissions Launch Control function (which optimizes traction control when you’re blasting off from a standing start, to keep the M340 in a straight line). I just figured there would be no point in unnecessarily scrubbing extra rubber off the tires, just to amuse myself; so I’ll take Bimmer’s word for it when they say that it can catapult the car from 0-100 km in 4.4 seconds.
Anyway, a first-rate driving experience is guaranteed with the M340i and not only when you’re driving hard, but even just from sitting in the cabin using the car as a regular ol’ daily driver.
Inside the redesigned cabin (the company loves to refer to their ‘design language’ regarding the interior styling) is a new-look dash and console, featuring the bright and enlarged information screen and ultramodern lines. The digital instrument cluster behind the wheel is likewise new for 2020 and can be tailored to display a variety of information.
BMW says the cabin has had more space carved out for passengers, and indeed I found the car generously roomy up front, very good overhead room and shoulder space; and not too bad in the rear seats. I will venture, though, that the rear might feel less generous if it were filled to its max (3-person) capacity.
All the surfaces in my test vehicle felt great to the touch, with component materials having been upgraded from the previous generation. This particular 3 series also benefitted from an option package that clad the dash in ‘Walknappa’ leather, and all the seats were wrapped in cognac-colored Vernasca leather surfaces.
A Harmon/Kardon sound system provided the ambient background to an elegant driving experience from within the cockpit.
So the inside’s great, and the outside, well it is also pure BMW.
By now I am sure everybody’s joked about the company making the twin-kidney grille larger and larger every year, and the front of my M340i carried on this tradition (although they go as nuts on enlargement as they have done with some of their SUV models). The mesh inserts on the car pictured here replace the more common vertical slats I am used to seeing.
The appearance of the car has been made more aggressive, sweeping from the attention-getting grille with contour lines on the hood that lead the observer’s eye from front to rear, down new rooflines and culminating in trapezoidal tailpipe trim.
You have to love a car that looks like it’s moving even when parked, and this one doesn’t disappoint.
So heck, I’d say sure, run out and buy one, but let’s not overlook a couple of factors here – there is the price of course, and also as you may have figured, that premium-drinking turbo 3.0L engine isn’t the most fuel-economical powerplant but there is also the low ground and curb clearance of the car.
Fortunately the vehicle has a lot of sensors (and a very cool overhead-view display that helps a lot when parking), but that won’t save you if you have a lot of those really aggressive speed bumps in your city. Indeed, for my city, a utility vehicle like the X5 would probably be the more practical choice.
Ah, but practicality is not what we’re all about here. This vehicle is all about high style and luxurious elegance (and telling you the current weather trends, whether you want it to or not), and that can be had starting in the low 60K range.
The test car pictured here pushed that up with the addition of the Premium Excellence option package (which added $8,300), Tanzanite Blue metallic paint ($1,450) and adaptive M suspension ($600), all of which is quite desirable. Tack on a destination charge ($2,245) and it comes out to $74,445