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2020 Toyota Avalon TRD

It’s hard not to like a Toyota product and the 2020 Avalon is no exception. Although for years it was a rather drab high-end sedan. Let’s face it, as popular as the Camry has always been, it too, wasn’t an eye-catcher. However, those days are long gone and both Toyota sedans are stylish and attractive.

Unveiled at the LA Auto Show, the 2020 Avalon touted its 3.5-liter V6, with 301 horsepower, and mileage at 22/32. Zero-to-60 in less than six seconds.

We liked the pickup and exhaust sounds when putting the pedal to the metal. There is a thrill one gets when driving a sporty car. The Avalon’s exhaust music can’t rival a Corvette, but then we’re talking about a whole different class of automobile. The 9-speed transmission is very smooth and effortless.

The Avalon has a beautiful, up-grade interior, plushy seating and every extra you’d want. The question maybe become, however, when Toyota offers a choice of the Camry TRD; equally attractive and sporty, yet quite a bit less ($12,000), isn’t the Camry enough. Word has it both Camry and Avalon will be 4-cylinder and offer AWD.

The Avalon’s seats, although ample, didn’t fit this writer well. Perhaps they cater to a larger frame. We found them too large and couldn’t quit get the seat where it was comfortable. Either it was too high and/or too far back to reach the pedals satisfactorily. This isn’t a fault as others may find the seats just right.

Our test 2020 Avalon came in Supersonic Red with the Matte Black alloy wheels. Sharp. Beige Leather for the interior made a great combination, very classy and up-scale. Toyota offers some very attractive exterior colors for 2020, including the Opulent Amber, Harbor Gray Metallic, and Ruby Flare Pearl.

Models available include the XLE ($35,875); Hybrid XLE ($37,000); XSE ($38,375); Hybrid XSE ($39,500); TRD ($42,375); and Touring ($42.575). Our TRD Model topped out at $45,384 with some optional equipment including Premium Audio with JBL Clarl-FI Dynamic Navigation and APP Suite. Including 4 speakers including Subwoofer and 1200W amplifier ,9-inch touch screen ($1,760), and Illuminated door sills ($379).

As is the case with most full-size sedans, the ride is comfortable, fitted with a large back seat and plenty of legroom. Trunk size (16 cu. Ft. of cargo space) is also generous and can accommodate 3-4 pieces of luggage, among other goodies. It’s the perfect car for a roadtrip.  I remember the road trips in my father’s 1996 Buick Park Avenue Ultra. The car Hoovies Garage (U Tube) has named the “Best Kept Secret of AARP members,” and the “Most Affordable Car for Broke Millennials.” For $2000-$3000 you can pick up one of these Park’s, which offers such neat features as the license plate slot through the trunk.

However, back to the desirable features of the 2020 Avalon-its upscale cabin, with quality materials, smooth handling and easily gliding powertrains and transmissions. Toyota offers many standard features, including the drive-assistance technology, standard rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning system, forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking-all standard, and available rear-cross-traffic braking.

Redesigned in 2019, there are few changes for 2020. However, Toyota has added the TRD trim level, our press car for the week. From Toyota’s performance division, the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) edition is sportier-outwardly and inwardly. We preferred it, though don’t think it’s true competition for the likes of sportier sedans. Upgrades include a sport-tuned suspension, red-painted brake calipers (loved this) and black-painted side skirts. The XLE trim level comes with heated power-adjustable side mirrors, LED headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, of course heated front seats (and cooled). The auto-dimming rearview mirror and tilt/telescoping steering column are also standard.

The sound system is better than some and has the up-to-date technology, including Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM satellite radio, driver assistance-listed above (blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise).

It’s been some time since we’ve tested an Avalon and the TRD was definitely a fun experience. At $45,000, not sure if it would be a first pick, but it’s been around since 2005, so assume it has an audience. Avalon U.S. sales for 2018 were just under 26,000.

From what was considered by some as a drab, not very handsome full-size sedan, the Avalon finally has something to shout about, particularly in the TRD edition. Boring would probably have been the right adjective in the past, but the 2020 version has come into its own.

While pricing isn’t affordable for many shoppers, those who would be interested in the Avalon can probably justify it. We’re not sure what leasing numbers are like, and/or if this is a car that falls into that category.

Specs

Pricing: $42,300; total vehicle price $45, 384; delivery $955

Engine: DOHC 3.5-liter, V-6, 301 hp.,

Transmission: 9-speed

Wheels: 19-inch dark gray/black painted machine-finish alloy

Tires: P235/40R19; all-season temp spare

Height: 55.9 in.

Length: 195.9 in.

Weight:3,638 lbs.

Width: 72.8 in.

Wheelbase: 113.0 in.

Fuel Tank: 15.8 gal.

Crash test scores: Perfect 5 out of 5 (NHTSA)

Seating: 5

Warranty: Basic: 36 mth./36,000-miles,Powertrain: 60 mths/60,000 miles; Corrosion Perforation: 60 mths w/unlimited miles.

2020 Mazda6 Signature Sedan

The Mazda6 is more than an ordinary mid-size family sedan, but then Mazda is more than the “usual” Japanese auto manufacturer. Founded in 1920 as Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., was renamed Mazda in 1984. Known for development of and use of the Wankel engine, they are best known for their iconic sportster, the MX-5, Miata.

It would appear that Mazda is deliberate about the vehicles they create and sell; not going overboard like some auto manufacturers who feel they have to represent each category of automobile. Instead, Mazda introduces new models methodically, and with great thought.

Our week in the new 2020 Mazda6 Signature sedan was pleasurable, for many reasons. One, there wasn’t much traffic on the roads so we could drive it, as intended. This is a fun-to-drive sedan. With its attractive body and classy interior, one gets a lot for his/her money.

As someone who still prefers a sedan to the SUV ad nauseum, the Mazda6 sits high on our list. My daily driver is a 2016 Nissan Maxima with a sporty vibe and 300 horsepower which is hard to beat, but the Mazda6 is so comfortable. Not every family with kids needs a minivan or SUV. Something like the new Mazda6 accommodates well and offers plenty of backseat room.

Based somewhat on Mazda’s 2010 Concept car, the Shinari ( a knockout), the Mazda6 is a stunner. Especially if you choose just the right color. In our case, the Soul Red Crystal Metallic-really stands out. The blue they chose for the concept Shinari was a beauty, too. Both make this sedan desirable. Our test vehicle came with ivory/white nappa leather trimmed sport seats.

Their selling model differs a little from the ordinary by allowing buyers to select a higher trim level and add the features they desire. Maybe the Mazda6 won’t compete with sedans that offer the latest up-to-date features, but it satisfies on most levels. After all, most drivers out there are not auto freaks. And although I am, this is a reasonable purchase. Some may wince as they discover the price of adding some extras.The Touring Reserve model offers the best value including the turbo. Also included are the 11-speaker premium audio, Sirius XM satellite radio. Paddler shifters and vented disc front brakes.

Changes to the 2020 Mazda6 are few, including a trunk lid badge and new key fob for the Signature model. Redesigned three times in the past 6 years, the Signature trim level also gets special badging. Our Signature features leather interior, real wood trim and several extras exclusive to this model.

The engine carries over from 2018, adding a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder. While we appreciate the turbo boost, it still sounds like a 4-banger and doesn’t have the growl we might wish for. There are five models, including the Sport ($24,920), Touring ($27,520), Grand Touring ($30,620), Grand Touring Reserve ($33,120 and the Signature ($36,220).

Our test Signature model came with special badging for 2020, a 360-degree camera with front/rear parking sensors, nav with traffic sign recognition and nappa leather with Japanese sen wood accents. Nice!

No shortage of space in the Mazda6. The trunk is ample, accommodating lots of bags, luggage.  One feels as though she is driving a substantial car. In need of more space? Release the handles and lay down the back seats for carrying long objects; even a bicycle.

Ranking near the top of the midsize car class, the Mazda6 offers spirited performance, great looks and a luxury feel. For those so inclined, there is no hybrid or plug-in available at this time. Two engine choices are available and include the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 187 hp., and the optional turbocharged engine that generates up to 250 hp. Six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Mazda revealed an AWD version and 2.2-liter turbo-diesel will be coming to the U.S. market.

The 2020 Mazda6 is a nice-looking sedan and fun to drive. All six models come with driver assistance features, including blind-spot monitoring, low-speed forward collision warning, automated emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

We did not try out the paddle shifters. Mazda Connect touchscreen infotainment, although nice takes some time getting used to. It took this writer a bit more time to get command of the GPS system.

Mazda’s infotainment system is competitive, yet, the buttons are a pain to operate. The screen is nicely positioned on the dash, tucked right in as not to be in the way. The center console is ample and actually holds any number of goodies.

Safety and driver-assistance features include standard forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking, standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and available lane departure warning with lane-keep assist. Earning a five-star crash rating from the NHTSA speaks well for the Mazda6, as well as being named a Top Safety Pick.

If you’re still into sedans-like this writer-the Mazda6 should be a definite choice on your list. We think you’ll agree when you drive it, it hits a lot of the buttons.

SPECS

Pricing: $35,300 MSRP, Total vehicle price $36,915

Engine: 2.5-liter inline 4, turbocharged, hp 227, 310 lb-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed, automatic, sky-active drive, front-wheel-drive,

Wheels: 19-inch alloy, gun metallic finish

Fuel economy: 26/35 mpg.

Weight: 3,437 lbs.

Brakes: 4-wheel disc

Wheelbase: 111.4 in.

Length: 192.7 in.

Width: 72.4 in.

Height: 57.1 in.

Fuel tank capacity: 16.4 gal.

Tires: 19-inch P225/45 R19 all-season

Pricing: $24,100-$35,400

Warranty: Limited, covers 3 yrs/36,000-miles; powertrain5 yrs/60,000-miles; no complimentary scheduled maintenance.

More Recalls

Kia announced another recall for SUVs and Vans; an electrical problem: Moisture could get inside ABS control computer causing a short, and possible fire. 229,000 Sedona minivans, 2006-2010; Sorento SUVs, 2007-2009. The recall will start April 10, owners will be notified. They will install a relay in the main electrical junction. In the meantime, Kia advises owner to park the vehicle outside, not in a garage or next to another vehicle.

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U.S. Dealership Count Drops

U.S. Dealership count drops for the first time in six years. According to Urban Science Magazine, the number of U.S. new-vehicle dealerships fell from 18,294 in 2018 to 18,195 making it the first decline since 2013. According to the annual Automotive Franchise Activity Report, the average number of new-vehicle sales per dealership also fell to 940 in 2019, a decrease of 8 units from 2018, reports Urban Science. California had the biggest decrease in dealerships, down 28 to 1,478, followed by Illinois with nine fewer dealerships. Ohio and Missouri, lost 7 each. Texas experienced the most growth with 11 new dealerships; North Caroline, 4 and Pennsylvania and Tennessee, 3 each.

Adios Manual Tranny

Always a kick reading Consumer Guide’s Tom Appel who recently blogged another automotive reality of 2020: The ‘stick’ car or manual transmission ride is fading into the sunset. Sorry for those who enjoy driving stick, and sorry for the younger generation who may never know the thrill.

According to Green Car Reports, 2019 was the first year electric vehicles outsold cars with manual transmissions. J.D. Power noted that electric cars accounted for 1.6 percent of the U.S. market vehicle sales; manual transmission cars/trucks, a mere 1.1 percent. To illustrate how quickly they are falling in sales, in 2018 only 1.5 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S. were with a manual transmission. A one year plunge from around 275,000 stick-shift cars to just 190,000; a 30 percent fall in 12 months.

There are currently five vehicles left on the market with a manual trans. As Tom noted, young drivers are unaware of manual transmissions.

(Susan Frissell, Editor)

Kelly Blue Book Best Sedans

Subcompact Sedans: 2020 Hyundai Accent, 2020 Kia Rio, 2020 Toyota Yaris

Compact Sedans: 2020 Honda Civic, 2020 Toyota Corolla; 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Midsize Sedans: 2020 honda Accord,2020 Honda Accord Hybrid, 2020 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Full-Size Sedans: 2020 Nissan Maxima, 2020 Dodge Charger, 2020 Chevrolet Impala

Luxury Compact Sedans: 2020 Lexus IS, 2020 Acura ILX, 2019 Audi RS 5, 2020 Mercedes-Benz E-Class; 2020 Infiniti Q50, 2020 Lexus GS

Luxury Full Sedan: 2019 Genesis G80,2019 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, 2019 Acura RLX

Luxury Sports Car Sedan: 2020 Lexus GS, 2019 Audi RS 5, 2019 Audi S5

Sports Car Sedan: 2020 Honda Civic, 2020 Lexus GS, 2020 Subaru WRX

Exotic Sedans: 2019 Rolls-Royce Ghost, 2019 Rolls-Royce Phantom, 2018 Maserati Quattroporte

(Susan Frissell, Editor)

*In late 2019, the top 5 most frequently stolen vehicles of the 2016-18 model years included Dodge Charger HEMI, Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, Infiniti QX50 4-door, Infiniti QX80, and QX80 4WD, GMC Sierra 1500 crew-cab. Others on the most stolen list were Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew-cab, and 4WD model, Mercedes-Benz S-Class 4-door long-wheelbase 4WD, Dodge Charger 4WD, Dodge Durango 4WD, Land Rover Range Rover, Dodge Charger, Nissan Titan crew-cab short bed, Audi A7 4WD.

*GM to layoff 1,500 workers after sale of Thailand plant.

Looking Forward

For those interested in what’s coming down the Pike in Autoland, we’re sharing some news:

*2022-Toyota RAV4 facelift; all new 2022 Sequoia; all-new Tundra (Dec. 2021), on the TNGA-F platform (a.k.a. F1); 2022 Lexus LC-F with the twin turbo V-8 engine; Toyota GR 86 in 2022, Toyota GT 86, 2022; Toyota 86 Sports car with boxer engine, 2022, introduced in 2021, in collaboration with Subaru.

*2024: all-new Toyota Fortuner; all new 2024 Tacoma and 2024 Hilux.

*Nissan launches subscription service: Starting at $699. A new alternate ownership for certain models. Two-tier service in Houston, TX, called “Nissan Switch”, includes all-electric Nissan Leaf Plus, Titan pickup, GT-R Sports car. Nissan Switch has two tiers: $699/month. The “Select Plan” includes Altima, Rogue, Pathfinder, Frontier and for $899/month, the Premium” plan which includes Leaf Plus, Maxima, Murano, Armada, Titan, 370Z coupe. The GT-R sports car will be available to either Select or Premium customers, but includes an additional $100 a day fee, and can only be taken out for a maximum of 7 days.

When signing up for the Subscription service, customers will have to pay a 495 “membership activation fee.” In addition to the first month’s subscription cost for whichever plan they choose. For that they get unlimited vehicle switches (as often as a new vehicle each day), as well as delivery, cleaning, insurance, roadside assistance, and regular maintenance.

All dealers are not on board, as to be expected. Some see the new subscription service as undercutting their business model. Other automakers trialing subscriptions include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi,Volvo, Cadillac, Jaguar and even Hertz and Enterprise.

What’s Hot, What’s Not

*In late 2019, the top 5 most frequently stolen vehicles of the 2016-18 model years included Dodge Charger HEMI, Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, Infiniti QX50 4-door, Infiniti QX80, and QX80 4WD, GMC Sierra 1500 crew-cab. Others on the most stolen list were Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew-cab, and 4WD model, Mercedes-Benz S-Class 4-door long-wheelbase 4WD, Dodge Charger 4WD, Dodge Durango 4WD, Land Rover Range Rover, Dodge Charger, Nissan Titan crew-cab.

The top 5 least frequently stolen vehicles of the 2016-18 model years included BMW 3-Series four-door, and 3-series 4WD, Tesla Model S-four-wheel-drive, Tesla Model X four-wheel-drive, Chevy Equinox four-wheel-drive, Buick Encore Four-wheel-drive. The other least stolen included Subaru Legacy with Eyesight, GMC Acadia, Subaru Forester with Eyesight, VW New Beetle, Subaru Outback with Eyesight, Subaru Crosstrek, BMW X5, Chevrolet Traverse, Subaru Crosstrek with Eyesight, Lexus RX 450h 4WD, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Honda Odyssey, Cadillac XT5ab short bed, Audi A7 4WD.

Will GM Revive the Hummer?

Is it true that General Motors Co. may revive the Hummer name to sell a new family of electric pickups and SUVs. Those watching the Super Bowl may want to look for the ad featuring NBA star LeBron James, according to those in the know.

If so, the vehicles will be sold under the GMC nameplate. Reuters reported in October of last year that GM is planning to build a new family of premium electric pickups at its Detroit Hamtramck plant, due late 2021.

The Wall Street Journal also reported GM’s decision to move forward earlier, though GM declined to comment. It’s said that GM is considering selling the battery-powered truck in existing dealerships under the marketing name “Hummer by GMC,” reported Bloomberg

GM also has a large SUV in the works for Hummer. It will be produced soon after the pickup truck if the brand relaunch proves successful, according to Bloomberg.

If the company follows through with that plan, it would address the two biggest problems that doomed Hummer 10 years ago: its gas-guzzling image and its costly network of stand-alone showrooms.r

This writer remembers and loved the Hummer well. Driving the Hummer 1 and 2 was folly, but once the Hummer 3 hit the road, it was just the right “BIG” vehicle I would have chosen. In fact, thoughts have often crossed my mind to find a pre-driven 3. It’s not a lot different than driving the Chevy Tahoe or Escalade extra-large SUV’s.

For those who remember, Hummer was a rugged, off-road brand with roots in the military. Dropped in 2010 after GM’s 2009 bankruptcy that also resulted in the demise of Pontiac, Saturn and Saab,GM eventually shuttered Hummer after a deal to sell the brand to an obscure Chinese machinery maker was blocked by Chinese regulators.

GM acquired the Hummer brand in 1998 and sales of the vehicle peaked in 2006 before declining precipitously at the end of that decade as gasoline prices soared, hurting demand for the 10-miles-per-gallon Hummer H2.

Rumor mill says GM plans to build four electric vehicles at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan by the end of 2023. (LMC Automotive told Automotive News, November 2019).

Detroit-Hamtramck was one of four U.S. plants slated to close last year as part of a sweeping restructuring plan, but it was spared by the new labor contract with the automaker that UAW members ratified in October. GM agreed to invest $3 billion to use the factory to build electric pickup trucks and vans.

GM’s involvement in Hummer started in the early ’90s, when it contracted with AM General to sell the civilian version of the HMMWV — High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle — or Humvee, which it called the H1. Then in 1999, GM bought the brand outright and launched the H2 and H3, smaller Hummers based on GM’s rear-wheel-drive platforms. Sales in the U.S. peaked at just over 71,000 in 2006.

Production of the rumored Hummer and another EV likely will start in 2021. It will be followed by electric Sierras and Escalades in 2023, LMC Automotive said.

The investment moves the automaker into a part of the EV market that is largely untested and where GM has a higher likelihood of turning a profit, analysts said. Not alone in EV products, GM is trailing behind Ford, Rivian and Tesla.

Electric versions of pickups and SUVs – the heart of the U.S. market – could help Ford and GM generate the significant sales of EVs they will need to meet tougher emission standards and electric vehicle mandates.

It’s been said if General Motors could have one do-over from its bankruptcy a decade ago, it wouldn’t be to bring back the Pontiac brand. Rather, it had to be Hummer.

Surprisingly, GM still makes money off Hummer. “We own the trademarks, rights, etc. for the Hummer brand. It is utilized today for parts, accessories and licensed products,” said spokesman Jim Cain.

After all that, GM says they have no plans to relaunch the brand. Several reporters have broached the subject with a variety of GM executives, who have quickly shrugged off that notion. But they know what they had and what they lost.

Guess we’ll wait and see.

(Richard Truett, Automotive News).