By Bruce Hotchkiss
Special Correspondent, West Coast Bureau
THE CAR CHANNEL
Every year the Western Automotive Journalist (WAJ) organizes a collection of cars, and I use the word cars to denote vehicles so members can try it out. In 2020 there was an interruption due to Covid, and last year ‘Media Days’ was reconstituted as a day and a half event in Half Moon Bay, CA. It was also repeated in Half Moon Bay this year. I can only speak for myself but I had a great time and below are the vehicles I drove.
I want to thank the WAJ exec team (thanks Brian) for putting everything together. Our base was The Aristocrat Hotel. The driving route went on Hwy 1 to San Gregorio, then north on Stage Road back to Hwy 1. The weather cooperated, the setting was beautiful and the route allowed us to get a real driving impression of the different cars .
So here are the cars presented in alphabetical order with my opinion on each.
2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Type S with Advanced
It seems like the MDX has always been there. Still, it somehow felt fresh. You can’t beat the Acura V6, especially the turbo 3.0-liter in this MDX. 355 hp and a 10-speed automatic transmission. Real fuel economy isn’t great (21 mpg highway), but it handles well and the ride is good. It wins the ‘Best Paint Color’ (purely subjective) with the beautiful Apex Blue Pearl. Look at spending around $72,550 plus.
2022 BMW i4 M50
An electrified Bimmer? Why not. I spoke to someone who drove before me and got a warning that it was a real ‘neck snapper’. It didn’t prepare me. This EV has 536 horsepower; I’ve driven cars with this kind of power before. BMW says it will hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. So will many cars. But in the i4 M50, you step on the accelerator and wait a microsecond, then ‘BAM’. Frankly, I braced myself and as the car shot forward, the back of my head slammed into the headrest. Wow. There’s more to it than all the gearing, of course. It is, after all, a BMW. Prices start at $65,900.
2022 Ford Maverick Hybrid
If I was looking for a new small pickup, the Maverick would be a good choice. I would have preferred they called it Ranchero, but they didn’t ask me. You can get a Maverick Hybrid for $19,995. I’d probably go for the EcoBoost motor just because the hybrid motor just didn’t excite me. And I would tell everyone I had a new Ranchero.
2022 Genesis G80 AWD 3.5T Sport
I generally like every Genesis. As the name suggests, this G80 had a beautiful 3.5-liter, 375 hp, twin-turbo V6. As befits a luxury car, the power doesn’t hit you in the face, but it’s there. It moves the two and a quarter ton G80 to 60 mph in about 5 seconds with no drama. About the only complaint I would have are the white seats. Please give me something to hide my sloppiness. The starting price is $63,700.
2022 Honda Civic Si
Okay, I’d skip the Blazing Orange Pearl, but otherwise the new Si put a smile on my face. Part of that was because it’s a manual transmission. Yes, they still make manual transmissions, only now they call them “theft” control devices because so few can actually operate one. It’s a really nice car and it’s not that expensive, $27,500, very close to the cost of the 1989 Si, including inflation. It’s economical too (37 highway mpg)!
2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III 4X4
I think it’s hypocritical of me to praise a gas guzzler. If so, so be it. The Grand Wagoneer knocked me out. The original Grand Wagoneer had the highest demographic of all domestic vehicles (or so I’m told) and it really wasn’t that good. The 2022 is OMG! good and beautiful. Jeep really sweated the details. The ride is arguably the best I’ve experienced in an SUV. The Series III uses the 6.4-liter V8 that makes one of the best V8 growls as it spits out its 471 horsepower. The downside is that fuel economy is rated on 18 highways and 13 cities. But if you can afford the starting price of $107,995, you can afford the fuel. According to Jeep, you can even drive off-road, it is a Jeep after all.
2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line RWD
If there was an EV star, it’s the Kia EV6 GT-Line in my opinion. If you read my articles regularly, you know that I have a fondness for Kia. The EV6 looks good, the interior is well laid out and the performance is very good. EPA says it will go 310 miles on a charge (yes, there are cars that do it better), Kia says it will sprint to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. The EV6 starts at $40,900; the GT Line RWD starts at $51,200.
2023 Kia Sportage HEV SX Prestige AWD
Another hit from Kia, this one is a hybrid. EPA estimated fuel economy is 38-mpg across the board for the AWD. I’ll see if I can get one for a whole week. Price starts at $36,900.
2022 Lexus LX 600 F Sport
Big news from Lexus, the evil touchpad has disappeared from some models, including the LX 600 F Sport. I feel justified! Very nice SUV, 409 hp, twin-turbo V6 and everything you’re used to from a Lexus (except that touchpad). The F Sport starts at $102,345.
2022 Lucid Air Dream Performance
Never heard of Lucide? Trust me, you will. Much is made of its 1,111 horsepower and its range of up to 516 miles. Like the BMW electric above, the Lucid is otherworldly fast. But I was more impressed by its sophistication. This is not a cobbled together electric car, it is a true luxury car. Right now, the Lucid Air is not for you and me (well, I certainly am not) because it is pricey – $179,000. It’s an all-American car and that’s worth a lot in my book. The importance of the Lucid Air in my opinion is what it means for future products.
2022 Maserati Levante Tropheo
The first thing to do when confronting this Maserati is to ignore the color and imagine yourself in what they call Blu Emozione. There, that’s better. Now think what a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged 580 horsepower V8 can do for your soul under the hood. Yes, it has a great growl, one that you can make louder with a small switch if you want. Maserati says this is the fastest SUV in its market. I can’t confirm that, but the specs say it will just hit 190mph. It’s not cheap ($160,900), but it was fun.
2022 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT53 4-door coupe
How could an AMG Mercedes not make a big impression? But for some reason that didn’t happen. It has a turbocharged 3-liter, inline 6-cylinder that produces 429 horsepower. It has swoopy-looking bodywork, big tires, and as befits an MB, it’s not flashy. But for some reason the fire in my soul didn’t light. If it lights your fire, it’s $103,650.
2023 Subaru Solterra
Don’t tell anyone other than that the Solterra and Toyota bZrX are twins from different mothers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong with this EV, but the styling is a tad wild. According to Subaru, the Solterra has all Subaru attributes including AWD. The one area where it seems to fall short is the range – 220+ miles. The starting price is $44,995.
2023 Toyota bZ4X Limited FWD
Does the Toyota version have a strange name? Unlike the Subie, it’s FWD (an AWD version is available), which gives it a bit more range, up to 242 miles. One issue that stood out on both the Toyota and Subaru versions was that the steering wheel, no matter how it was adjusted, obscured part of the instrument panel. There is a base version that starts at $42,000, while the car I drove costs $46,700.
2022 Toyota Tundra Capstone
This should be the fuel-efficient Tundra. It’s a hybrid; the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 and electric for a combined 437 horsepower and 583 lb-ft of torque. The EPA rating is 22 mpg on the highway. In my short jaunt, it showed 20.3 mpg at 55 mph. Not good. For my money if you want economy go for a brand with a small (3.0 litre) V6 diesel. Tundra is a nice truck, but I couldn’t live with that fuel consumption. The $73,530 price tag is in the ballpark for a truck like this.
2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Pro S
I expected more from VW. A few years ago I drove an e-Golf and liked it, even if the range wasn’t great. The ID.4 looks good. The range isn’t great, but it’s not bad at 280 miles. The price is comparable to other $41,230, but somehow it just didn’t bother me. I thought the electric motors were the noisiest of all I drove. Sorry VW.
A thought on EVs in general: Because they are otherwise so quiet, any noise becomes a problem. Tire and wind noise is an issue to varying degrees in every EV I’ve driven.
I think electric cars are coming whether you like it or not, and not just because some government makes them mandatory. There are still issues with most EVs, but they will be resolved. Price is a big issue, but it’s an issue for almost all vehicles.
Longevity is a big question, perhaps not for the original buyer, but down the line. What shape will a 5- or 10-year-old EV be for the second or third buyer?
I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the internal combustion engine yet. Stay tuned.
I am grateful to the auto companies who provided their vehicles and employees to answer our questions. There was a good range of cars. Hopefully next year we will see more automakers appear.
As I said at the beginning, the WAJ team organized a great event, but they had help. The folks at DriveShop and Page One Automotive not only delivered the cars to us, but they’ve always kept them spotless. Their work is never done.