Recently Driven: Catching up on what I've driven in the past few months

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There are occasions where I sit back and assess a bit of my work. On some of those occasions, I’m quite pleased with the way a written piece, a set of photographs, or a video has turned out. On other occasions, however, I manage to be quite shit at what I do. Sometimes that involves me rushing a video, hurriedly snapping pics, or simply mashing a keyboard until a few hundred words appear on my screen.
Other times, it’s simply because I didn’t have enough minutes or hours in a given week to properly record my time with a vehicle. This is the post where I set to make amends and record some thoughts on a few of those machines. Make the hop past the jump to hear about a Subaru, a pair of Audi products, a pair of Hyundai products, and one diesel truck from Chevrolet.

Subaru WRX STI HyperSeriesBlue
Subaru-WRX-Hyper-SeriesBlue
It’s a Subaru WRX STI with a special limited-edition paint scheme. I actually love the way the blue paint works with the black wheels. Still, it’s a car we’ve already covered here (and it actually remains the most viewed video on our YouTube Channel).
It’s just as enjoyable to drive as it was in that video we shot two years ago. However, I do feel that the car is due for a powertrain upgrade. The Non-STI WRX is a great place to look thanks to its more refined 2.0-liter four-banger unit. You’ll miss out on the unequal length headers, but you’re gaining a greater platform for power building.
Regardless, the STI remains a wonderful machine and a joy to drive even if I was stuck merely playing make-pretend rally driver over the smooth pavement around Orange County.
Audi S4
Audi-S4-Front-resized
Over the successive generations, the Audi S4 has been a car I’ve always enjoyed driving. Until this one, that is. This used to be a car I’d get excited about when I saw it on my calendar. Now? Not so much, and I think that’s because there are so many great options out there right now and lots of them are far more exciting to drive than this luxury sports sedan.
I don’t need all the horsepowers to have fun either. The BRZ? More fun. The new Miata? More fun. My old Civic Si? More fun. This S4 is too toned down for my taste, while other German entries are still as fun (or more so) than their older counterparts. Additionally, there’s greater competition in this space from Japan and America. There’s no chance I’d take the S4 over the ATS-V.
There is a brand-new A4 here (and I’ll be driving that in about a week), so I look forward to seeing the new version of the S4. The one rolling forever in GIF form above? It left me rather disappointed.
Audi Q7
news-2017-audi-q7-exterior-38-lr2017 Audi Q7, Image courtesy of Audi
Here is an Audi that didn’t disappoint. The new Q7 is excellent. I’ve always enjoyed the Q7 and this latest one is a massive leap forward for the flagship SUV of the Audi family. When the images of the new Q7 first appeared, I was a bit disappointed in the styling. In person? It looks great.
Step inside and it looks even better, as the interior is luxurious enough to justify the price tag while also showcasing the latest in interior Audi tech. That giant gauge cluster first seen in the Huracan and TT? It’s here. As is all of the center-stack goodies you can expect to find in the rest of the family, down the road.
There are tons of great features, and a host of them come standard. Also standard is the ability to tow nearly 8,000 pounds thanks to the 3.0-liter turbocharged six sitting out front. It’s making 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, and it’s paired with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic.
The best part? The pricing starts at around $55,000. Sure it can climb pretty high from there, but never too high that it doesn’t stand out from the competition.
(That is… until you see the Volvo XC90 perhaps. Video coming soon on that one.)
Hyundai Sonata Plug-In
2016 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, Photo courtesy of Hyundai
Hyundai is in the phase of its life where folks can no longer wax poetically over cliche-filled paragraphs about how much the brand has improved since producing vehicles like the S-Coupe. Those days are so far in the rear-view mirror that they’re effectively below the horizon. Hyundai has been churning out serious quality for many years now. The Sonata Plug-In Hybrid is an example of this, even if I still found some faults.
In terms of exterior styling, I like that Hyundai has reigned its styling pen back in a bit. The last generation Sonata pushed its design language to far for the tastes of some. What that did though, was get everyone talking about the prior model Sonata. Now they’ve softened it up a bit and it should be far more appealing to a larger audience.
I found no issues with the overall driving dynamics, styling, or the interior fit and finish. It’s a well made car that drives nicely. What I didn’t like, however, was that to get the car to run in EV mode was fairly easy yet keeping it there was a chore. There are other hybrids that have managed to make EV driving quite easy. My recent time spent with the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid proved this to be the case. In the Sonata, anything more than the mere idea of applying throttle would see the gasoline engine kicking back in to help the car move along.
It’s not necessarily a deal breaker, because the rest of the car was great. It’s just something I hope Hyundai refines as the car evolves. Hyundai is pretty good at paying attention to what folks are saying, and then improving based on that feedback so I wouldn’t be surprised if this hitch is ironed out in the future.
Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Sedan
2016 GenesisHyundai Genesis Sedan, Photo courtesy of Hyundai
Man this second generation Genesis is really good. I reviewed the V8-equipped version when it first arrived back in 2014, and it’s as good as I remember from that time. Hyundai heard the complaints related to the first version, which revolved around the lame seats and mediocre driving experience. The interior is now a wonderful place to spend time, and chassis tuning received a major upgrade thanks to Hyundai reaching out to Lotus for some help.
I still prefer the 5.0 to the 3.8, but that V6 cranks out over 300 horsepower and nearly 300 pound-feet of torque. So you get all the style the V8 carries, but you’re not taking as much of a hit at the pump. Speaking of that style, it’s easy for some to dismiss the exterior aesthetic as leaning a bit towards what the Audi brand is creating. I disagree, as it seems that everyone (minus Tesla of course) is turning to larger grille areas. Hyundai pulls off the look rather well, and I think the Genesis sedan looks great from every angle.
Now we just need Hyundai to apply similar magic so that the next Equus evolves as well as wonderfully.
Chevrolet Colorado Diesel
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TprJEZcBz4[/youtube]
Trucks are in a weird place right now. They offer tons of powertrain choices, a host of luxurious amenities, and serious capability. They also cost so damn much. Now I know that what I just mentioned shouldn’t come cheaply, and I don’t expect it to. Still, when I drove the Chevrolet Colorado Z71 I couldn’t stop thinking of the Nissan Titan XD I’d driven recently.
The main reason for this was cost. The Chevy was sitting at an as-tested price of nearly $45k. The Titan XD was $15k more than that, but it’s possible to get a very nicely equipped version for nearly the same price as the Chevy. When you do that, you get so much more truck.
My Colorado tester was a crew cab, which was great for interior space… and terrible for in-bed space. There was not a ton of room out back. Inside, the features were nice enough but I felt a bit let down overall by the tech. It worked but it didn’t feel upmarket, which I expect to see in any vehicle when the price crests the $40k mark.
Clearly, if you look above, the engine has plenty of torque and it’s a sweet little unit. That’s the only part of the truck I found interesting though, and I couldn’t see past that eye-watering price tag. If it were my money, I’d spend it on the Titan XD PRO-4X with the gas-drinking 5.6-liter V8 and have way more room both inside and out.

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  1. outback_ute Avatar
    outback_ute

    I saw a Q7 on the road today, the styling is clunky and a long way from elegant. The Genesis is similar in one aspect, the giant angular grille. It is a trend that is overdone and won’t age well.
    The Colorado suffers from being put on hold during GM’s bankruptcy, it should have been out five years earlier and the competition leapfrogged it although I don’t think any of them are sold in the US.

  2. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    So, Q7 or XC90?
    Re: Hyundai – excited to see what they do with the next generation of Genesis Coupe. The current Genesis seems to be a great car all-around, and the coupe version should be great too…hopefully it gets the V8!
    As for the $45k Colorado, that’s exactly the reason I haven’t bought one. As soon as you option it the way you’d want to live with it, it’s a mid-$30k truck and continues to skyrocket from there. A diesel Trail Boss 4×4 will easily go into the $40k’s, but it’s a price that’s almost impossible to justify. It makes me that much more excited to see what Jeep does with their pickup…

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Probably XC90…

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