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Best Sedans

2020 cadillac CT4

The CT4 may be tamer than the CTS-V, but that’s not necessarily bad.

When the Cadillac CT4 showed up in my driveway, it evoked fond memories. Last year, I had a CTS-V in my possession for one glorious week. I took my mom on a three-hour drive north to Dallas for the day, and every time I revved the engine, she giggled. Every time the seat belt hugged us in for a tighter fit after we fastened it, she said “ooh!” The sedan topped out over $100K, but I can’t say it isn’t worth it: with 640 hp and a supercharged 6.2L engine, this was not your granddad’s Cadillac. It’s more of a luxury car with the heart of a muscle car, and it was awesome to drive.

Overall, the CT4 is a tamed steed versus a wild stallion. It’s smaller and lighter with half the horsepower. What you need to know, however, is that sometimes having a broken-in horse is the better choice – depending on what you need, of course.

Need more Cadillac? Check out the XT6

2020 Cadillac CT4

Two engine choices

The CT4 is an all-new sedan replacing the Cadillac ATS It’s part of the first generation of the sedan introduced for model year 2020. Compared frequently to a similarly-sized Audi A3 or a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the CT4 can hold its own for fans of the brand.

The 2020 Cadillac CT4 is available in four trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport and the top-of-the-line V-Series. The one I drove this week was the Premium Luxury, which means it includes all the features of the ground-floor Luxury and is available with either the 237-hp 2.0L engine or an optional turbocharged 310-hp, 2.7L four-cylinder matched to a 10-speed automatic.

Engine choice alone is enough to choose the mid-range trim. Other features include auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, handsome 18-inch wheels, and forward collision alert (which flashes a big red box on the instrument cluster and emits a loud alarm if danger is imminent).

In the Sport trim, the CT4 comes with the same 2.0L engine as the Luxury model. The sport also adds meaty Brembo brakes and shift paddles along with a more athletic profile. Honestly, I’m perplexed by this combination of the smaller engine and bigger brakes on the Sport. It makes more sense that the next trim up (the CT4-V) comes standard with a tweaked version of the 2.7L turbocharged engine that generates 325 hp, and the Brembos.

If fuel economy is important to you, note that the epa-estimated mpg is 20 city/ 30 highway for the CT4. The CT4-V requires premium gasoline and costs about $6K more than the Sport trim.

What’s new on the 2021 Cadillac Escalade? 

 

CT4 or CT5? That is the question.

The CT4 is a smaller, more compact sedan. It’s nearly six inches shorter than the CT5 but interestingly, the headroom in front is only less than an inch taller in the CT5.  If you regularly ferry tall teens from place to place, the CT5 offers four inches more legroom, which will make a difference for them.

In terms of engine size, the base model of the CT4 and CT5 both come standard with the 237-hp 2.0L.

Base model pricing:

CT4 Luxury (2.0T engine) $33,990 $36,590
CT5 Luxury (2.0T engine) $37,890 $40,490

2020 cadillac ct4
In summary…

If a luxury sedan is on your mind, the CT4 checks all of the boxes. The drive was incredibly smooth and the seats supremely supple and comfortable. As an audiophile, I was a little disappointed in the sound quality of the Bose audio system and felt it might need some retooling of the locations of the speakers. On the other hand, I appreciated all of the options to change the station without looking down; there are three places to turn the volume up or down and two knobs to scroll through the channels. It all works together very well.

Musical pairing

Is the CT4 worth it? I say yes. It’s fairly priced and it’s a great choice for the luxury set.

This Missy Elliott song matches our theme well:

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2021 Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai officially launched its all-new 2021 Elantra and Elantra Hybrid today at The Lot Studios in West Hollywood with a virtual event broadcast around the world. This marks the world debut of the latest version of the popular compact sedan. The 2021 Elantra showcases Hyundai’s latest ambitions, including a hybrid electric vehicle technology and segment-first wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.

Highlights we like for the 2021 Elantra   

  • Longer wheelbase, wider stance, lower roofline
  • First-ever Elantra Hybrid with more than 50 MPG estimated combined fuel economy on hybrid model
  • Segment-first wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Segment-first Hyundai Digital Key allows Elantra to be unlocked, started and driven without a physical key via a smartphone or NFC card
  • Standard SmartSense safety and convenience technologies
  • Two available 10.25-inch multimedia screens under one piece of glass
  • Dual Bluetooth support is available: two devices can be paired at the same time—one for phone calls and one for streaming audio.

While some manufacturers are cutting way back on the car side of the business, Hyundai is doubling down by offering an all-new sedan with both gas and hybrid powertrains. Brian Smith, chief operating officer, Hyundai Motor America, says they have sold more than 3.4 million Elantras in the U.S. and more than 13.8 million worldwide.

Two Available 10.25-inch Screens
The 2021 Elantra has two futuristic 10.25-inch screens all under one piece of glass. The cluster has different views: utility, driver assistance and navigation. The optional infotainment system displays a wide variety of information across its 10.25-inch split touchscreen.

The navigation system includes a bird’s-eye view in navigation maps, and drivers get connected routing, which provides multiple navigation options and real-time route updates. Server-based routing makes the onboard navigation experience similar to current smartphone navigation apps.

2021 Hyundai Elantra wireless

Leave the Cellphone Cords Behind

Hyundai Elantra’s standard eight-inch display interface allows owners to ditch the cords because wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available as segment-first features, allowing one to leave the phone in a pocket or purse. From a safety perspective, this is smart because hopefully it will encourage more people to keep their devices out of their hands.

SmartSense Safety Features
The 2021 Elantra offers a new array of standard advanced safety technologies:

  • Forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection uses the car’s front-facing camera to help detect an imminent collision with a vehicle or pedestrian and avoid impact or minimize damage by braking automatically
  • Lane keeping assist helps prevent accidental lane departure by sensing road markings, automatically steering the car if necessary
  • Lane following assist may automatically adjust steering to help keep the vehicle centered in its lane of travel. LFA can help keep the vehicle centered on both highways and city streets.
  • High beam assist eliminates the need for drivers to manually switch high beams on and off at night
  • Driver attention warning system that monitors a spectrum of driver-related characteristics to help detect driver fatigue
  • Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines

Optional SmartSense Features

  • Blind-spot collision avoidance assist with rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist helps detect a vehicle in the drivers’ blind spot while the turn signal is on.
  • Smart cruise control makes highway and long-distance driving more comfortable. Using a radar sensor mounted on the lower front grille, the system maintains a set distance from the vehicle ahead in varied traffic conditions by automatically adjusting vehicle speed as needed.
  • Highway driving assist is a driving convenience system that assists drivers in maintaining the center of the lane and at an appropriate speed while keeping a safe distance from the car in front.
  • Safe exit warning may sound an alert when a vehicle approaches from behind, letting passengers know it may not be safe to open the door to exit the vehicle.
  • Reverse parking collision avoidance assist helps detect pedestrians and obstacles with a rearview camera and ultrasonic sensors. The system can provide warnings and apply emergency braking to assist in the avoidance of a collision.

Standard Interior Features

  • Eight-inch color display audio system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and HD Radio
  • Bluetooth and steering wheel audio controls
  • Drive mode select
  • Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines

Optional Interior Features include Blue Link system with three years of complimentary Blue Link services; Qi wireless charging; a 10.25-inch infotainment system with faster processor, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and connected routing, and a powerful Bose premium sound system with eight speakers.

Blue Link
The new Elantra line still features Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car System, which uses embedded telematics to allow drivers to remote-start their vehicle and control interior temperature using the MyHyundai smartphone app. The app also allows users to either remotely lock or unlock their doors, and to find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot with Car Finder and remote horn and lights.

In addition, Blue Link in the new Elantra arrives with cloud-based navigation, which offers free traffic information and POI searches.

Voice Recognition System
The all-new Elantra has an enhanced natural language voice recognition system with more and better feature control, more speed and accuracy in voice recognition and responses, and an ability to understand context, such as the user’s location to support natural interactions.

Using a natural voice, one can control the:

  • Climate on/off
  • Air conditioner on/off
  • Heat on/off
  • Fan high/low
  • Defrost on
  • Set fan to face, feet, or face and feet
  • Defrost on and set fan to feet
  • Warm up/cool down
  • Air intake system on
  • Turn on/off heated seats (driver/passenger)
  • Set heated seat levels 1, 2, or 3 (driver/passenger)
  • Rear window defroster on/off
  • Turn on/off the heated steering wheel
  • And additional functions

To activate controls, the driver uses the “push to talk button” on the steering wheel and say the requested command. Conversations will sound like, “Air conditioner on,” “Set fan to face,” or “Turn on my heated seat.” There are also more requests the system can handle. A user can say via Blue Link, “What is the temperature in St. Louis?”, “When is Mother’s Day?”, “Find me a Starbucks”, or “Who won the game last night?”

Digital Key
The 2021 Elantra has an optional smartphone-based Hyundai Digital Key. Digital Key uses a dedicated mobile app, Near Field Communication and Bluetooth Low Energy technology to allow the 2021 Elantra to be unlocked, started, and driven without a physical key via applicable Android smartphones.

Elantra’s Digital Key also allows secure sharing of virtual keys with family and friends.  Elantra owners can tailor the different vehicle functions available to each shared virtual key, and the key can be made available for only a defined amount of time. The vehicle owner can preset the duration of vehicle use or limit the use to only certain features when loaning the vehicle, and keys can also be revoked remotely. For additional convenience, such as using a valet service or visiting a Hyundai dealer, Hyundai Digital Key also works with an NFC card, which is provided with each vehicle. Each Elantra still comes with traditional keys. Hyundai Digital Key is compatible only with phones using the Android operating system. Hyundai Digital Key uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which exhibits a high level of security. NFC wireless data communication takes place only when the device and the reader are placed several centimeters apart.

Production of the 2021 Elantra starts in the fall in Ulsan, Korea and at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, and sales begin in the fourth quarter.

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Volvo sedan in front of white house

I was not a Volvo fan when I first started driving. The boxy, bulky bodies of the late 80s and early 90s didn’t appeal to me. Then again, in the late 80s and early 90s I was young and not the best judge of character. (Mom, this is not an opening for you to bring up stories about the boys I dated back then.)

Fast-forward to a couple of years ago, and my friend Scotty introduced me to the Volvo team (and the inimitable Amelia Dalgaard of Motorhead Mama, which is another set of adventures to tell you about at another time) at the LA Auto Show. As soon as I slid behind the wheel of the XC60 for an ice driving simulation, I was impressed. Just this year, I took Volvo’s three-row XC90 off-road at the Texas Truck Rodeo, and found it was both capable and gorgeous inside, including a swanky crystal gearshift.

If it’s crystal you want, then you can have that in the S60, the brand’s luxury sport sedan, as well. But only in the T8 (hybrid) Polestar Engineered trim. In fact, that particular level includes 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, and the aforementioned crystal shift knob made by Orrefors.

The Volvo I test drove this week was a AWD T6 Inscription, which, alas, does not include those features. But I’m not complaining, because this vehicle is jam-packed with all kinds of other goodies.

Safe, elegant, Volvo.

Plenty of Flavors for Configuration

The Volvo S60 is available in four trim levels: Momentum, Inscription, R-Design, and Polestar Engineered.

Momentum includes a choice between two engines: the 2.0L turbocharged T5 or the turbocharged and supercharged T6, which includes all-wheel drive. The Inscription is available in the T5, T6, or the hybrid T8. The sporty R-Design can be configured with a T5 or T6. And the T8 Polestar Engineered includes a higher-output version of the plug-in hybrid.

Add the Premium package for more; in my opinion, the blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems alone are enough to get the upgrade. During the holiday season, I really put these to the test, and they delivered.

  • Hands-free trunk
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Auto-dimming mirrors
  • Keyless entry
  • Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning system with automatic braking and steering assist
  • Automated perpendicular and parallel parking system

 

It’s a tweeter, not a twitter.

High-Fidelity Audio

Volvo shares an audio system vendor with McLaren, BMW, and Maserati. That should give you an idea of the level of quality that Bowers & Wilkins represents. Aesthetically, the first thing you’ll notice will be the classy-looking speaker on the dash, looking all the world like an old-fashioned throwback at the drive-in theater. In fact, this is what Bowers & Wilkins calls “Tweeter-on-Top” technology, which they say minimizes acoustic reflection from the windshield, among other things to enhance the sound quality. I don’t know how to measure it, but I can tell you that when my 10-year-old son started singing a song called “I’m a Banana” I could easily block him out with loud, clear audio.

For a little more intel on the Bowers & Wilkins that might impress you, its portfolio of products include the Zeppelin Air sound dock, P5 headphones and the flagship 800 Series hi fi speaker, which is used by none other than Skywalker Sound and Abbey Road. B & W partners with Harman Kardon to get the sound just right.

Standard Safety Features

Volvo, as most people know, prides itself on its safety ratings. Their stated aim is that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo, and they take it seriously. The list of standard safety features is impressive; one of my favorites is the “home safe” lighting option, which allows you to set all of the exterior lights to stay on for a set amount of time as you walk into your front door.

  • Blind spot information system & cross traffic alert
  • City safety collision avoidance technology
  • Rear collision mitigation support
  • Lane keeping aid
  • Oncoming lane mitigation
  • Road sign information
  • Run-off road mitigation
  • Side impact protection system
  • Whiplash protection system
  • Welcome and home safe light

Future Focused

This is what Volvo has on its site, and they’re walking the talk.

We’re committed to a healthy environment, the protection of our planet, and the safety of everyone who lives on it.

It’s why Volvo Cars supports year over year increases in fuel economy standards and reduction in carbon emissions.

It’s why we’ve pledged that every Volvo car launched from 2019 onward will be electrified.

It’s why we’ve made the all-new 400-horsepower Volvo S60 sedan a twin-engine, plug-in hybrid.

And it’s why we’ve eliminated diesel engines from the all-new S60 line altogether.

Five Things to Love About the Volvo S60

  • Massaging, heated seats
  • A steering wheel that heats up quickly
  • Driver assist technologies were clearly prioritized in this model
  • Feels both safe and sumptuous
  • Incredibly quiet ride

Four Opportunities for Improvement

  • The controls on the infotainment system less than intuitive
  • USB ports hidden away and not easy to access; no USB ports for the back seat
  • Steering wheel heated up so much that it was hot to the touch
  • Drive mode wheel pretty but odd

Overall Impression

Very good. If you’re looking for a vehicle that has a ton of comfort features and is a pleasure to drive, this is a great choice. Starts at $36,050.

Look, Ma! Plenty of leg room (35.2 inches, in fact).

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