Produced in association with our pals at BestRide.

Car Talk Test Drive Notes

GMC Acadia AWD Denali (2017)

  • Pro List Icon Pros
  • The shape is more squared off at the back than most other SUV/Crossovers. That provides more room in the back for passengers and cargo. Overall, this is a nice-sized vehicle. It’s got the extra, third row of seats if you need them, but you’re not burdened with driving around a truck with a two-seat-ass when you don’t.

  • Smooth and plenty powerful. The 3.6-liter V6 engine provides 310-horsepower of more-than-enough smooth power, and the six-speed automatic transmission is mostly, and nicely, invisible, except for an occasional notchy shift in stop and go traffic. For those who want to save fuel, there’s a four-cylinder, 193hp engine, but only with the front-wheel-drive models.

  • The Acadia provides a surprisingly comfortable ride. It’s bordering on serene in there sometimes. It’s especially smooth and comfortable on the highway. Our tester had GM’s magnetic damping option, which was terrific. It reminds us of the old Saturday Night Live commercial where they did a Bris in the back of a Lincoln Town Car. But unlike the Town Car, the rabbi is unlikely to get sea sick in the Acadia. The handling is taut, and quite good for a large vehicle, despite the comfy ride.

  • Front seats are comfortable. Interior is clean looking (at least until we spent a week in it), with clear controls, nice large knobs and buttons, and an intuitive GM touch screen with a useful home button. Apple Car Play and Android Auto were in there. It’s not quite high-end luxurious inside, but it’s plenty nice.

  • In the rear, our top-trim Denali version had two captain’s chairs. Well, they’re not really captain’s chairs. More like lieutenant’s chairs. They’re individual, but not the large, beefy “captain’s chair” you associate with front seats, or even the second row of plush minivans. But there’s plenty of room back there for two, and the seat backs are adjustable. The third row has better headroom than most, due to the shape of the Acadia, but still, adults who draw the short straw (or with short legs) will be the one’s you’ll find riding back there.

  • The top trim Denali comes with a good selection of safety features, including low-speed automatic braking, blind-spot monitor, and forward-collision alert. For an extra $1345, out test model also got full-speed, automatic emergency braking, and a bird's eye camera. We’d recommend that Technology Package.

  • GMC gives you a five-year, 60,000 mile powertrain warranty. 3/36 on everything else.

  • Con List IconCons
  • Mileage is rated at 20 mpg overall (18/25). In our, admittedly, mostly city driving test, we got about 16.5.

  • The Denali version with the Tech Package and Damping Suspension is a little over $50,000. The level of luxury inside the cabin says $45,000 to us.

  • There’s a great array of safety equipment on the high-trim Denali test car. But you may be forced to move up the price ladder if you want all that stuff. You can’t get forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking on anything but the highest two trim levels. And you can’t get high-speed emergency braking on anything but the Denali. And that’s something everybody should have.

  • It’s a very comfortable car, and it handles well, but that doesn’t mean it's nimble. If you’re coming out of a sedan into a crossover, like a lot of people are these days, it’s going to feel bigger and more ponderous to drive.

  • This thing has huge blind spots in the A pillars (on either side of the front windshield). They’re big enough to lose a Nissan Versa in, so you need to be careful when turning through intersections with pedestrians.

  • The Acadia comes with a backup camera, but it’s not a great quality one. When do you notice that? At night, or when it’s raining. Or both. Then you have to count on the sonar-beeping-parking-assistance-thing to keep you from backing into your garbage cans.


Cadillac CT6 Platinum AWD (2017)

  • Pro List Icon Pros
  • Quiet. This is one of the most impressively quiet sedans we’ve driven. If your pet peeve is road noise, we have the car for you.

  • Comfortable. Some recent model Cadillacs, like the ATS, can’t seem to figure out if they want to be luxury cars or hard-riding sporty cars. The CT6 lets you know you’re in a luxury car. The seats are awesome. The ride is smooth and pliant, especially with the optional magnetic ride control. The interior is tasteful and well done. It’s not over the top or brassy. The materials look to be good quality, and the fit and finish is excellent.

  • Handling. Although it’s clearly a comfortable car — as God intended Cadillacs to be — the handling is pretty respectable. It doesn’t feel like you’re driving a large car (except when you’re parking). On twisty roads, it makes you feel confident, with no wallowing or body sway. It feels pretty light on its feet for a 4,000 pound sled.

  • Back seat room. Cross your legs, businessmen! If you have to tote around adults, they’ll be grateful to you for leasing a CT6. There’s an unusual amount of leg room in the comfortable (and heated) back seats. It’s larger, back there, than in most mid-size sedans. Our Platinum test version had video screens for each back seat passenger, for when they got bored by our conversation.

  • Improved CUE system. We’ve disliked the CUE system in the past, but to be fair, it’s better now. It seems to respond a lot faster, with little of the infuriating waiting we used to experience. The screen is big, at 10-diagonal-inches, and the menus are pretty clear. There’s also Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

  • Thin A-pillars. Cadillac seems to have put some money into extra strength steel for the A-pillars. They’re thinner than you’d expect in a car like this, and that improves front-side visibility.

  • Heads up display. The Platinum edition CT6 projects key information, like speed and navigation directions, so that it appears to be floating at the front end of the hood. Good controls for location and brightness make this heads-up display particularly useful.

  • Con List IconCons
  • Oh, for a volume knob! Cadillac is still insisting on using a touch sensitive volume bar under the touch screen. It might be time for Cadillac owners to storm their offices in NY and refuse to let Caddy execs go out for more caviar until they relent and give us a damn volume knob. Fortunately, there are controls in the steering wheel, but it’s not always in the right orientation when you need it.

  • Transmission. We don’t know if it was just our test car, or CT6-es in general, but we experienced hard shifts between first and second gear, both on the way up, and sometimes on the way down. We also felt other shifts more than we believe we should have. The truth is, we’ve driven Lexuses and BMWs (and even other GM cars) whose automatic transmissions were practically unnoticeable. And when you buy a $60,000 to $70,000 luxury car (or in the case of our top of the line Platinum AWD test version, $90,000), the last thing you want to feel is harsh shifts.

  • Mileage. While the CT6 is rated at 18/26 and 21 mpg overall, our (admittedly mostly city driving) test resulted in a mediocre 16.5 MPG overall. The on-board computer noted that our “highest recorded mileage” was 29.2 on the highway. But that may have been going downhill. You have a choice of engines in the CT6. We drove the most powerful twin turbo V6, which delivers 400+ horsepower, which suggests you’d do fine with one of the other, less-ridiculously powerful engines.

  • Safety Equipment. While the CT6 boasts a lot of great safety equipment in the mid-level models (blind-spot monitors, low-speed automatic emergency braking), the full-speed emergency braking is only available on the high-end model. That’ll change over the next few years when consumers start demanding all-speed emergency braking in their Kia Rios. But for now, you’ll have to pay dearly for it.


Infiniti QX30 Sport (2017)

  • Pro List Icon Pros
  • Good combination of attributes. It’s a practical, sporty, and very slightly luxurious small car. It’s somewhere between a four-door hatchback and a small crossover. Both of those body styles offer great versatility. The QX30 is based on the Mercedes GLA, which you’ll notice is exactly the same size and shape as the QX30, and has the same engine and transmission. Infiniti added its own styling touches, and tuned the ride and transmission to the better, in our opinion.

  • Unusual looks. Like it or hate it, it’s got an interesting design. We like it, a little more than the Mercedes GLA it was built from.

  • Fun car to drive. The QX30 handles well, and the dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic makes the most of the 208 horsepower, four-cylinder Mercedes turbo-charged engine. It has paddle shifters and a manual mode for when there’s no one else in the car to annoy. Skip it when you have passengers. Cornering is flat and secure.

  • Leave it in E. There are three transmission modes. There’s manual mode, for when you’re playing with the paddle shifters. Then there’s E for Economy, and S for Sport.  We found the Economy setting just right—and not overly economical. In Sport mode, the car was too edgy, and we quickly tired of it.

  • Luxurious materials inside. Infiniti did a nice job on the interior. The Sport model we tested ($43,735), with the optional Sports Leather Package added a leather-stitched-looking dashboard and a bunch of good quality materials all around. The front seats are very comfortable, if not terribly wide.

  • Ride is not bad. You’d expect a small sporty car to be harsh. OK, it’s a little harsh, but not too bad. The ride, while not luxurious, is reasonable. And the road noise wasn’t bad either. The engine noise comes through, but tire and wind noises were damped.

  • Available Safety. The Sports Technology package, for a reasonable $1,200 on this model, added forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. Our tester also had a helpful surround-view camera. All-wheel drive is also available, and comes with an increased ground clearance of about two inches, so it may handle differently.

  • Con List IconCons
  • Turbo lag. The engine seems to start off slowly, and then catch up. While the dual-clutch transmission is quick, it can also feel a bit notchy. This is not the car you want if you’re looking for a silky powertrain.

  • Tight interior. Get in and the first thing you notice is that your head is pretty close to the roof, and that you’re looking at the top of the windshield. Shorter folks may have better luck. The windshield is not particularly large, thanks to the sleek exterior styling. It feels tight inside, particularly in the back, where there's low head clearance. And the styling makes visibility a challenge in all directions. Even to the side—when seated in the driver's seat in a comfortable position, our head was right next to the B pillar (the pillar that the front door closes into). Turn sideways to check the lane next to you and all you see is…B pillar. Rear visibility is also squashed, in deference to rear styling. The surround-view camera helps while parking, but not while driving.

  • Automatic start-stop is definitely noticeable. We turned it off sometimes, when it got annoying.

  • Let me out! Maybe there’s a way to do it, but we couldn’t find a way to set the QX30 to unlock the doors after a drive. It automatically locks the doors when you put it in gear (fair enough). But unlike most cars, when you put it back in Park, it leaves all the doors locked. That sets up a Three Stooges routine where you pull the door level, throw your left shoulder into the door to get out, and knock yourself silly. Infiniti…correct us if we missed the setting for unlock, but we looked.

  • Infotainment is a little slow. We never really warmed up to the infotainment system. It does the job, but there are several screens to scroll through for most things. Even though you can control it by touch, or with the mouse/knob between the seats, the smallish screen and levels of menus made it feel like work to find what we wanted.

Other notes:

  • Ready to test ride a 2017 Infinti QX30? BestRide jump-starts your search here.

  • Jaguar F-Pace 35t R-Sport (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Looks. A lot of crossovers look pretty much the same these days. Jaguar managed to make one that looks better than the rest. It’s not overly-decorated (Hello, Lexus RX350!), or a cardboard box on wheels (Hello, Chevy Tahoe!). Instead, it’s a distinctively cool looking vehicle with the practicality of a crossover, with easy room for four and decent cargo area.

    • Handling. The F-Pace handles more like a car than an SUV. It turns crisply, has little body lean, and does fine on twisty roads. It drives smaller than it is. We should note that our test car was an R-Sport model, which comes with large, 20-inch wheels and low profile tires that improve handling. Models with 18- and 19-inch wheels may handle differently…and ride better (see Cons).

    • Power. Yeehaw! This thing has 340 HP from a V6 supercharged engine. It flies. It uses a pretty smooth eight-speed automatic transmission with shifter paddles, and all-wheel drive. Instant acceleration at all speeds.

    • Brakes. It also stops really well. See passenger lipstick marks on the windshield.

    • Comfortable seats. Both the front and rear seats are supportive and comfortable. There’s limited headroom in the back and what we’d describe as “enough” leg room. But up front, butts are coddled in very nice heated and cooled leather seats.

    • Easy ingress and egress. The F-Pace is at a great height for most people, making getting in and out easy. The door sills are low and the door openings are wide.

    • Five-Year Warranty. Good for Jaguar. As a company that’s hovered low in the “reliability” ratings for some time, they’re seeking to increase buyer confidence by offering a five-year/60,000 mile warranty.

    • Con List IconCons
    • Ride. When we think of Jaguar, what comes to mind is speed and comfort...a luxurious interior, like a living room that happens to be capable of smoothly going 80 mph. Not here. The F-Pace's ride is distinctively firm. Even harsh sometimes. Jaguar has tuned the F-Pace to be a sports car crossover rather than a luxury crossover. Those that are looking to be shielded from road imperfections or coddled in softness should look elsewhere.

    • We should note, as above, that our R-Sport test model had harsh-riding 20-inch wheels, which improve handling and reduce comfort. It’s possible that the lower-end models, with smaller wheels, will ride a bit better. Although, then you have to think about….

    • Safety feature availability. The most desirable safety features (forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking) are only available on the higher trim levels, the R-Sport and S. On those models you get basic automatic emergency braking and other goodies like blind spot monitoring standard. To get highway-speed automatic emergency braking, you have to add the optional adaptive cruise control package. Our test F-pace, without the adaptive cruise control, already rung the cash register at $62,000— base price of the R-Sport is just over $55,000.

    • Engine noise. We don’t know if it’s “pumped in” engine noise, or just the natural tone of the exhaust, but the engine snarls at pretty much all speeds. It sounds cool at first, but quickly gets old. Wind noise and road noise are actually pretty well tamped down, but the roar/buzz of the engine is omnipresent.

    • Annoying stop start system. To save fuel, the F-Pace shuts down the engine when you stop at traffic lights, or in stop and go traffic. Some of these system are easier to live with than others. The Jaguar is one that’s less easy to live with, in that it jolts the engine awake when you’re ready to go. Other manufacturers have done a better job making the “start” part of stop-start less noticeable inside the passenger compartment. You can disable the stop-start with the push of a button, but you have to do it each time you drive the car.

    • Slow touchscreen. The touchscreen system feels a generation behind the best in the business. You have to wait for it to boot up before you can perform basic functions. And you have to slide through several screens to reach all the options. We found it to be a pain in the neck.

    • Ergonomics. Jaguar made a couple of odd decisions. They gave us a radio volume knob, but put it on the far side of the console, so it’s not handy for the driver to reach. They also put the power window switches on top of the door, close to the windshield, where they’re difficult and unwieldy to reach. And more oddly, what did they put where the window switches should go (where your fingertips rest on the driver’s left armrest)? Seat memory buttons. Things you use once, after you buy the car.

    • Finicky keyless door locks. Step out of the Jaguar, and like most luxury cars these days, you can just touch the door handle and all of the doors will lock. But it regularly took a number of tries to get the doors to lock. That got old fast.

    Other notes:

  • You know you want to test drive one. So let BestRide jump-start your search for a 2017 Jaguar F-Pace here.

  • Hyundai Elantra Eco (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Roomy inside. It’s about the same size as a Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus, but it feels much roomier inside. The cabin is airy, and the back seat room is particularly good for a compact car.
    • Comfort. The ride is soft and comfortable. You give up some of the sporti-ish-ness you get with the Honda Civic or Ford Focus, but if much of your driving is urban, especially pot-holed-urban, you’ll appreciate the soft tuning of the Elantra’s suspension.
    • Fuel Economy. While most Elantras will come with the standard 2.0 liter 147-hp four cylinder engine, our Elantra Eco tester came with the smaller 1.4 liter, 128 horsepower engine. The smaller engine also comes with a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. The combination works well, and feels entirely adequate around town. EPA rates the Eco at an impressive 35 mpg overall, and that’s exactly what we got in our tests.
    • Controls. Inside the Elantra, controls are right at hand and particularly easy to understand and use. The touchscreen is easy to master, and there are dedicated buttons for the controls you use most commonly. Hyundai did a good job on the Elantra, ergonomically.
    • Visibility. Visibility (or lack thereof) can make a big difference in how relaxed you feel driving a car, and the Elantra is relaxing to drive because you easily see what’s going on in front of you. Visibility is particularly good to the front and sides.
    • Available Safety Features. While only available on the “Limited” trim model with the larger engine, you can opt for forward collision warning, automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning.
    • Value. Expect to pay low $20’s for the ECO model.
    • Con List IconCons
    • Engine noise. Nothing horrible, but the smaller engine did need to rev (duh!) when really needed to accelerate. There are quieter compact cars out there. We did not test the 2.0 liter engine. It could be better or worse.
    • The soft, comfortable ride comes at the expense of crisp handling. While handling for urban and suburban driving is more than adequate, this is not a car for people who want to film car commercial selfies on twisty roads. It’s not a Ford Focus, VW Jetta, or even Honda Civic. It’s a well thought out, spacious small car that errs towards softness.
    • We wish the safety features were available on lower trim models, like the ECO. Just because you’re interested in better mileage doesn’t mean you enjoy crashing.
    • While the ECO trim model has lots of modern conveniences — keyless entry and ignition, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert, automatic headlight control, Bluetooth, heated seats and dual temperature controls — there are very few additional options for those who do want them. In addition to the safety features we’d love to have, you also can’t get, for example, leather seats, which might prove more supportive than the standard cloth seats.

    Other notes:

  • Want more info? Read the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco review from BestRide's Nicole Wakelin here.

  • Ready to find a 2017 Hyundai Elantro Eco near you? BestRide jump-starts your search here.

  • Infiniti Q60 3.0t Premium (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Looks. If you’re looking for a sleek looking, low to the ground, two-door coupe, you might like the looks of the Infiniti Q60. It’s based on the good-looking Q50 sedan, but with some of the sedan's practicality traded in for a slicker profile.

    • Driving experience. It does everything reasonably well. It accelerates very well with a 300 hp twin turbo V6. It handles well, and mostly rides well, with a suspension on the softer side for a sports coupe. The paddle shifters make playing boy-racer with the seven-speed automatic fun when you have the opportunity.

    • Available good stuff. With the $2250 Driver Assistance Package, you get pre-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, adaptive headlights, and surround view camera.

    • Cozy interior. This is like the real estate ad: Cozy = Small. If you like to feel cocooned in your car, the Q60 is for you. The interior sort of wraps around you, like the automotive version of skinny jeans. The materials are good quality, and the steering wheel feels good in your hands.

    • Con List IconCons
    • We found nothing to love about this car. It’s not outstanding in any way. Want a great ride and top notch interior? Get the Audi S5. Want superior handling and a sporty gearbox? Get the BMW M240i. Want a luxurious coupe with a buttery ride? Get the Lexus RC350. The Infiniti is a nice car, but doesn’t stand out in any way.

    • It’s low. You have to fall into the Q60. It’s not particularly easy to get in or out. And once inside, you’re in a cozy interior. It can feel cramped. Our test car, listing at a little over $55,000, would probably be accessible only to people with sizable incomes. Those people would probably trend older. And do they want to fall into and climb out of their car every day? Don’t know. Check the sales reports.

    • While the ride is tuned to the softer side for a two-door sports coupe, it’s not particularly comfortable. It’s still a bit harsh, given the sporty intentions of the car, and you can still get an occasional jolt from a pothole that reminds you that you’re close to the ground.

    • Forget the back seats, unless you need to transport two watermelons on a regular basis.

    • Visibility is coupe-like, which is to say, Infiniti chose styling over visibility.

    • Rearview camera performed very poorly at night.

    Other notes:
    Looking for a 2017 Infiniti Q60?? BestRide jump-starts your search here.


    Chrysler Pacifica Limited (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • The minivan rules. There really is nothing as versatile as a minivan. Americans have embraced the three-row SUV as a less emasculating alternative, but it really can’t compete with the minivan in sheer versatility. The sliding doors, with their huge openings, make getting in and out easy — whether you’re a geezer with bad knees, or a sleep-deprived parent with a car seat in one hand and a drooly whiner in the other. The third row is actually comfortable (OK, comfortable enough) for adults. And, unlike a three-row SUV, getting to the third row is not a contortionists exercise—particularly in our Pacifica Limited model, which had two captain’s chairs in the second row. You just walk between them to get to the back. For flexibility and ease of use, nothing beats a minivan.

    • Stow n’ Go seats. Chrysler vans have long featured this easy-to-use, innovative seating system, where the second row of seats drops completely into the floor. And it does so easily. Other vans require you to remove seats, and store them where? At Costco, where you’ll come back for them later? The seating makes it easy to configure the van quickly, for passengers, cargo, or a combination of the two.

    • Interior. We drove the top of the line “Limited” version, and the difference inside the van, compared to the old Town and Country, is night and day. There are quality materials everywhere up front, versus the old hard plastic. There are lots of bins and storage cubbies. There are heated leather seats and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. There’s a modern looking dashboard and console. The only downside is when little Eleanor dumps her oatmeal inside this van, and you don’t find the petrified remains until 10 weeks later and you might feel a little worse than when she barfed in your old Town and Country where everything was plastic.

    • Exterior. OK, it’s still definitely a minivan, but Chrysler has improved the van’s appearance quite a bit. It’s probably the best looking minivan now. Yes, that’s like saying The Zune is Microsoft’s best music player. But it is a significant improvement.

    • Handling. This is a large vehicle. But the handling is pretty good. It’s not sloppy. The van responds quickly to steering inputs and handles well at moderate speeds. The ride is pretty good, too. It absorbs road imperfections pretty well, with only an occasional slap from the rear suspension when going over bumps.

    • The nine-speed transmission works. Chrysler has had a lot of complaints about this nine-speed transmission since it introduced it a few years ago, and this is the first Chrysler vehicle we’ve driven where it seems to work well. What you want from an automatic transmission is to not notice it. And we mostly didn’t notice this transmission. It had an occasional clunky downshift at lower speeds, but they seemed to have mostly fixed the programming. Durability is yet to be determined.

    • Visibility. It’s not bad. There’s a large windshield, which offers a good view of the road ahead (though the shape of the front of the car prevents you from seeing exactly where the front is). Front side windows are large, and even the rear window is large and easy to see out of. It’s rare, these days, that you can turn around and see anything out a rear window. But you can in the Pacifica. The pillars are pretty large, both the front A pillars and the particularly the huge rear D pillars. The optional surround view camera available in higher-end model helps tremendously with parking.

    • U-Connect. Chrysler’s infotainment system is pretty darned good. It’s clear and intuitive. The one ergonomic issue we had was with the controls for seat and steering wheel heat (I know, you’re weeping for us!). But we did test the Pacifica in the winter, and, dammit, we want our butts warmed! Instead of hard controls for these features, you have to select a sub-menu, which we found to be a pain in our chilly tuchuses. The controls do come up briefly, after you start the engine. But if you don’t respond quickly, that menu page disappears and you have to navigate back in to find them.

    • Let us also not pass up the opportunity to praise Chrysler for two wonderful conveniences that it put on almost all of its vehicles. 1) Volume controls on the back side of the steering wheel. The rocker switch is exactly where your index and middle finger rest when you’re holding the steering wheel, making one of the most used controls available without having to take your eyes off the road. 2) A lit up USB connection. USB connections tend to be in out of the way places. And they’re small. So we fight with them, by braille, to fit our USB cables into them. Chrysler supplies USB plugs with its perimeter lit up, making it a breeze to plus things in. Bravo.

    • Con List IconCons
    • Safety systems optional. While the most highly recommended safety features are available (pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning), they’re optional, and only available on the higher end models. That $2,000 package also includes the extremely desirable Surround View camera system.

    • Not so mini. If you’ve owned a minivan from the last decade or so, you know they’re no longer mini. This is a big vehicle, as big as a large SUV or an old, full-sized car. That makes it tricky to maneuver in small places, like parking garages, congested city streets and turns with curbstones. In the suburbs, you’ll probably do fine. But make no mistake, this is a large rig.

    • Noise. Although it’s not noisy inside per se, and they’ve done a decent job with sound insulation, the noise of the engine cuts through to the driver and passenger. The 3.6-liter Chrysler V6 is a little bit harsh and gravely—particularly compared to Honda and Toyota’s engines--and the sound is omnipresent when you accelerate. It’s not terrible, but it is a persistent presence. We also noticed wind noise at highway speed, which, perhaps, is to be expected in a tall vehicle.

    • Reliability Questions. Chrysler minivans have traditionally been at the bottom of the reliability rankings for their class. They’ve also had the tendency to develop lots of squeaks and rattles as they get older, suggesting that build quality had room for improvement. Will the new Pacifica be more reliable and more durable? How the hell should we know? We’ll find out when a bunch of these things get 150,000 miles on them, and you guys tell us. In the meantime, if you believe that past performance is the best predictor of future performance, you would have good reason to be wary, until proven otherwise. An extended warranty might be a wise hedge.

    Other notes:

  • Want more info? Read the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica review from BestRide's Nicole Wakelin here.

  • Looking for a Chrysler Pacifica near you? BestRide jump-starts your search here.

  • Cadillac CTS-V (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • This is an impressive performance car. But let’s be clear from the outset: You’re not getting one of these. This is a toy for a small fraction of "the 1 percent"—the fraction whose wives said no to a Corvette. The CTS-V's competitors are cars like the BMW M5, the E63 AMG Mercedes, and Lexus GS-F (as you can see, spending 110 grand buys you lots of extra letters).

    • Handling. This is a very fast car that is more than just very fast. Unlike Cadillac's ocean going vessels of decades past, this thing holds the road like Amy Schumer holds her booze. It has a massive amount of grip, with fat, sticky tires all around, and a suspension that feels like it could handle high speeds on a race track. You won’t get to use most of this car’s abilities in your civilian life, but knowing they’re there may help you feel a little more smug at your next IRS audit.

    • Power. With 640 horsepower from a 6.2 liter supercharged V8, the CTS-V’s motto could be: No waiting. You step on the gas at any speed, at any time, in any universe here or forever known, and it pushes you back into the driver’s seat, responding with a howl and a quick downshift or three. The eight-speed automatic works mostly seamlessly, downshifting several gears at a time, when you stomp on it, and operating unobtrusively in relaxed driving. We had one incident, in a week of testing, when the transmission seem momentarily confused and then clunked into low gear.

    • Highway. This is not a quiet highway cruiser, but it does really hunker down on the highway and handle like a sports car there. The power on tap means passing is a breeze. And while not a Lexus, it’s not what we’d call punishing either.

    • Comfort. OK, it’s not cushy. But the comfortable seats do offset the firm ride. The CTS-V could work as a daily driver. It has various electronic suspension settings, and in Touring mode, it resembles a car. While the cockpit is not particularly spacious, it’s big enough for most people, and there’s good leg room in the back, although seat cushions are a little low back there. Trunk room is fine. Overall, it’s a nice sized car. Most people will find it roomy enough and pretty comfortable.

    • Interior. The interior is pretty darned luxurious. Our test car had the Luxury Package, featuring tasteful suede all over the place (if “tasteful suede” is not a contradiction in terms). The car is oriented towards the driver, with a good driving position, and easy access to the necessary controls. The optional Recaro seats in our test car are heavily bolstered, presumably to keep driver and passenger from sliding around during stupid cornering . (Can you imagine taking a sharp, high-speed turn in an old Cadillac DeVille? You’d slide across the bench seat and have your elbow out the passenger side window). But bolsters tend to be troublesome for those “wide of load,” so keep that in mind before ordering the Recarros, big dudes.

    • Safety features and heads up display. You get all the good stuff on the CTS-V, and it’s all standard. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, etc. You also get a very good heads up display that projects your speed, navigation, and other key information in front of you, appearing as if it’s floating at the far end of your hood. Adjustable height, tilt, and brightness make it very useful.

    • Con List IconCons
    • 12.2 mpg overall. About half city and half highway. Even with cylinder deactivation, that’s the price for 640 horsepower. Oh, that and 110 grand. Actually, to be fair, the CTS-V starts at $86,000. Our test car came with $23,000 worth of options, none of which we considered essential (lots of suede, three-zone climate control rather than two, huge sunroof, etc.).

    • Too much. It’s a complete waste of performance for most people. If you live in a town or city, you’ll never get your money’s worth out of this car. If your daily commute includes a stretch of the Autobahn, it would be a different story. But it’s doesn’t. The CTS-V is really overkill. Most people will sit in traffic in it while it gulps 11 miles to the gallon.

    • The CUE system. The CUE system is still pretty awful. It seems like Cadillac has made a few adjustments, but it’s no fun to navigate. Our car's touch screen had finger prints all over it by the end of our week long test. And CUE’s intuitiveness pales in comparison to, for instance, the U-Connect system from Fiat Chrysler (which has a similarly dumb name, but is much easier to use).

    • Touch controls. Even worse than the CUE system is Cadillac’s embrace of touch controls instead of actual switches and knobs. There’s no volume knob or fan speed knob. Instead, you put your finger in a spot on the console—taking your eyes off the road to home in on it because it all feels the same--and then hold your finger there and wonder if it’s working. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Honda already capitulated and brought back the volume knob in their redesigned Civic. Cadillac should do so too, and the sooner the better.

    • Reflection. The CTS-V has a number of materials on the dashboard, all high quality. But the one furthest from the driver appears to be a carbon fiber looking slab that creates a large reflection in the windshield in direct sunlight.

    • Noise. This car has a certain show-off factor. While not a screaming pimp-mobile like the Dodge Charger Hellcat, it has flared fenders, carbon fiber pieces, and a hood vent meant to tell others that your bulge can barely be contained. Going along with this, the exhaust sound is noticeable and burbly. It’s not 100 percent obnoxious like the Jaguar F-Type R we drove, but you’re not going to quietly slip into the garage in the wee hours after “working late with your accountant." Nor are you likely to leave for work without every member of your household knowing. It’s not as bad as some, but you have to want to be noticed.

    • A Cadillac? While we’d never own a car like this, because it’s ridiculous overkill, it does show that Cadillac can make a competitive, high performance sports sedan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem to fit Cadillac’s brand, which is a combination of luxury and performance. Sure, they’re right to “steer” the brand away from the nautical handling of the 70’s, and the blandness of the 80’s and 90’s. But can’t we have our performance from Cadillac with some more refinement?

    • There’s a harshness to this car. The engine is loud and lopey at idle. The ride is firm, and the whole experience is somewhat noisy. If you buy it for its performance, you’ll be happy. If you buy it because you want Cadillac quiet and refinement, you won’t.

    Other notes:

  • Ready to test drive a 2017 CTS-V? BestRide jump-starts your search here.

  • Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI S 4Motion (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Fun to drive. If you’re wondering what a Golf Alltrack is, think Jetta Wagon with some plastic moulding around the wheel wells. VW is trying to Subaru Outback-ize it’s Golf Wagon (now known as the Golf SportWagen) — trying to make it look a little more outdoorsy. The good thing is the donor car, the Golf SportWagen, is a fun car to drive. So the Alltrack has a sporty, zippy quality that you won’t get in the Outback.

    • The 1.8 liter, turbo, 170 hp four-cylinder is plenty for the Alltrack. It gives you all the pep you need, and works well with the dual clutch six-speed automatic. The transmission comes with a manual mode and paddle shifters that increase the fun when you feel the urge (and are driving alone — don’t put your passenger through it). A manual transmission is available, too.

    • Ride. Despite the sporty nature of the handling, the ride quality is good, and reasonably quiet. It’s that typical VW Golf firm-ish comfort, with a supple suspension and supportive seats. Overall, it’s a really nice balance that gives you both a fun-to-drive quality, and comfortable ride for a smallish car.

    • Visibility. In some ways, this car feels like a throwback. It’s simple, airy, and uncluttered inside. Visibility, both front and front-side, is excellent. It makes the Alltrack easy and pleasant to drive. You always feel like you know where the edges of the car are, and it’s confidence-inspiring and relaxing to feel like you can see the road (and pedestrians) so well. Even the view out back is pretty good. The Alltrack comes with an adequate rear camera. It’s not as helpful at night as it could be, but since the camera lives hidden under the pop-up VW emblem on the rear hatch, it stays dry in rain storms (which make a mess of lots of rear view cameras).

    • Versatile. While most people are opting for crossovers these days, the Alltrack (and SportWagen) offer much of the same utility, with far better handling. So you still get room for four people, and cargo space in the back. Plus it comes standard with all-wheel drive.

    • Clear, simple controls. Three, clear knobs for heating and ventilation, a volume and a tuning knob, and a nice, uncluttered dashboard and console. The small touch screen does what it needs to do.

    • Mileage. 22 City, 30 highway. 25 overall. Not bad.

    • Con List IconCons
    • It’s a pretty small car. It’s fine up front. In fact, the head room up front is notably good. But it’s narrower than a lot of cars these days. Those "wide of load" may notice that. The back seat is adequate for adults, but a little tight. There’s cargo room in the back, but not copious amounts of it. It’s a small wagon, smaller than the Outback in pretty much all dimensions. As a versatile car for two people, a baby and a dog, it’d be perfect. Add another baby or another dog, and things are going to start to get cozy.

    • It doesn’t look much different from the Golf SportWagen. The idea was to take the slightly homely looking, but lovable Golf SportWagen and make it look rough and tough, to appeal to potential SUV buyers. It still looks like a sensible shoe. They added a few pieces of black, plastic trim around the wheel wells and bumpers, and raised the thing up an inch or so, but to our eye, there’s not a big difference. Maybe you’ll feel differently, but we think Subaru has done a more credible job of "beefing up" the Outback with styling.

    • Safety equipment. This doesn’t necessarily belong in the “dislike" column, but it requires explanation. We want to give VW credit for sending us a base model (S) for evaluation. Most carmakers send us cars with every conceivable option, hoping the 48-speaker stereo will distract us from the buckboard ride. But VW sent us the most basic Golf Alltrack you can buy, to show us what a nice car it is. It even uses a key! How quaint! And what you get for your $27,700 is everything we describe above — a fun and easy-to-drive, comfortable, versatile, easy-to-see-out-of car.

    • What you don’t get are the current state of the art safety features.To get forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, you have to get a higher level trim, and add the Driver Assistance Package. Then you’re into the low $30’s. Oddly, blind spot monitoring, which we highly recommend, is not available on the Alltrack, but is available on the SportWagen.

    • USB Placement. Possibly the worst USB plug placement in the industry. It took VW a while to catch on to the fact that people want USB outlets in their cars. But the USB outlet in the Alltrack is directly in front of the shifter, in a cubby that your hand can’t fit into. So you have to place the end of the cable between your index and middle finger, and then, with your hand sideways, you have to slide it into the cubby, and try to push it into the outlet with just those two fingers. If that’s not bad enough, when in Park, the shifter is right in the way. If you have to plug and unplug a USB device frequently, this isn’t the car for you.

    Other notes:

  • Get started on your search for a Golf Alltrack here at BestRide.

  • Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Driving Experience. One of the best-driving large SUVs we’ve ever tested. It drives much more like a good, European car than a seven-passenger vehicle. It doesn't have the “roll” or the “bounce” as so many large SUVs. Steering is precise, cornering is mostly flat and always feels well controlled. Bump absorption is excellent. Great combination of comfort and driving qualities.

    • The three-liter (333 hp) supercharged six-cylinder engine provides plenty of power, even for this 5,000 pound behemoth, making it feel zippy under pretty much all conditions. We haven’t driven the 2.0 four-cylinder Q7, but wonder how it would feel in such a heavy vehicle. The eight-speed transmission was very smooth, although not quite as imperceptible as BMW’s high-end eight-speed automatic. The Q7 comes standard with all-wheel drive.

    • Luxury car interior. As usual for Audi, the cabin is first class. Seats are firm but very comfortable, the materials are all high quality, and the interior is peaceful rather than too busy. There’s good room up front, and plenty of room for adults in the second row. It’s also extremely quiet inside, especially for an SUV.

    • Good visibility up front. With reasonably thin A pillars and low shoulders, there’s lots of glass up front and you can see particularly well through the large windshield and out the driver and passenger windows. Looking behind you is the typical story these days; you’ll need electronic help, but Audi provides it. The backup camera is a good one, with both a standard view and a bird’s eye view. The regular camera figures out when you’re parking and shows you a front view as you inch forward, too.

    • Good highway cruiser. Between the ride, the quiet, and audio system, you could happily drive a long distance in this thing.

    • Ergonomics are pretty good. The heating and cooling controls use hard knobs that are clear and simple. Volume is adjusted via a knob next to the shifter. Once you get used to it, it’s easy to reach and use. Audi’s MMI touch pad lets you draw letters with your finger to, for instance, enter a destination into the navigation. We tried to enter “S” and it kept showing “5.” So, not perfect, but easier than spinning a wheel until you get to the right letter, and the touch pad allows you to keep your eyes on the road more of the time (you still have to check and see if it registered the correct letter). The rest of the infotainment controls mostly make sense. The screen pops up out of the dash, which makes it easily visible. The Q7 comes with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

    • The virtual cockpit works. Audi has been spreading its virtual cockpit across the model line, and the new Q7 has it. It’s a video screen that “creates" the instrument panel in front of the steering wheel, with the tachometer, speedometer, and other stuff. You can modify it, for instance, making the speedo and tach smaller, so you can see navigation directions instead. Or you can display the navigation map in its entirety instead of the instruments. I’m guessing all cars will have “virtual dashboards" at some point, as they become cheaper than actual instruments.

    • Great use of blind spot warning. We noticed this inadvertently. After parking at the side of a busy street and turning off the ignition, as we were about to open the driver's door, we noticed that the blind spot traffic warning on the driver’s rearview mirror was lit up. What a great use of the blind spot monitor! It stays on after you turn off the ignition, and lets you know if you’re about to open your door into an approaching car. We assume it would work for a bicycle, too. Brilliant. We haven’t noticed if other cars leave the blind spot monitors on after the ignition goes off, but they should all do this.

    • All of the safety stuff you want. Forward-collision warning and automatic, emergency braking are standard. Highway speed emergency braking and blind spot monitoring (both highly recommended) are only available on higher trim levels.

    • Stealthy looks. It looks rather plain. This might appeal to certain people. If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t want to broadcast that you dropped 70 large on a car, the Q7 is your ride. There’s nothing bling-y about it on the outside. Clean, classy, but not flashy.

    • Con List IconCons
    • It claims to be a seven-passenger vehicle. We’d call it a five plus two. The “two” being sub-ten-year-old-kids. There’s just enough room between the third row seat and the back of the second row seat for an eight-year-old tibia to fit.

    • Our well-equipped Q7 with the Premium Plus package and some other goodies lists for $69K. If you really want all of the things it offers, it could be worth it. But it is a lot of schkarole for most people.

    • The virtual cockpit is new. We don’t know what it’s reliability will be and what it will cost to replace out of warranty, should that be necessary.

    • Mileage is nothing great. Not any worse than other seven-passenger SUVs, but it’s rated at only 19 city and 25 highway, with 21 overall.

    Other notes:

  • Find a 2017 Audi Q7 at BestRide.

  • Comments

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    SiliconValley2000

    I bought a brand new e-Golf, Nov 2015. Drove it 4 days and broke! It's been 1 month in the shop and still not repaired.

    Volkswagen America answer (3rd week) - We will never give you a new car, that's why it has a warranty. - We will not give your money back. - We don't have to provide you a loaner nor pay for your transportation while your car is being repaired. - You will not get compensated for anything. - You owe us this month lease payment, btw!

    Volkswagen America answer (4th week): We are not allowed to talk you. Get an attorney to reach out to us.

    Still considering to buy an e-Golf?? Good luck!


    Crispy Critter

    You guys need to do a review of the 2016 Ford Focus RS when it comes out this summer. It's been five years since you've done a Focus review, and this (actually it's brother) is one of the best selling cars on earth. My impression is that if you think the BRZ/FRS is fun to drive you'll be blown away by the Focus RS.


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