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Letter from Europe January 2018: 2018 Buick ENCLAVE; Nissan Titan 5.6 liter Endurance V8 PRO-4X 4WD; 2018 VW Golf S; Jeep Renegade 4x4; Anticapting the 2018 Jeep TrackHawk

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Letter from Europe
by Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief

First of happy ’18 to all our readers. In case you were not aware of it 18 has a special significance to lots of people. To the Chinese people 18 is associated with someone who is going to have great success and prosper.

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For the Jewish people the Hebrew word chai has a value of 18. This makes 18 a favorable number which indicates hopes of a long life. I think we will all drink to that!

While my ‘17 was the worst since 1945, 18 can only be better. Certainly if the current crop of cars and trucks I have been driving of late are anything to go by.

Take the ’18 Buick Enclave, a huge favorite in China. It should also be a big hit in Marin County but as it is not made in Germany the wealthy folks automatically go to the local Mercedes and BMW dealers only to be taken to the cleaners. There is very little wrong with the Buick bar the name. It isn’t a give away, 56 thousand is a lot of money but still thousands under the foreign competition. The seating position is exceptional and the Buick is as quiet at 65 miles per hour as a church mouse.

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The official mpg is 20 miles per gallon, as always I’ve managed way in excess of 25 mpg.

It also has an amazing series of lights indicating which bit of the Buick is about to hit a wall or another car in the parking lot. The instruments are first class.

Why am I impressed? Well , there is no point in criticizing just to pick on something for the sake of it. The Enclave would be ideal for a cross country trip for the whole family. Someone gave a great of thought to the little details such as the folding seats, traditional nail breakers in the past .The Buick is not going to be winning awards for the most exciting, revolutionary SUV of all times-it is just an excellent, predictable, easy to use product for a large family. It is versatile, with the second and third row seats folded you can get a dresser into it no trouble at all. Trust me-I did it.

The engine is a little bit old in the tooth, I am sure GM are working on a more fuel efficient one.

There was a great deal of skepticism when Mary Barra became CEO in a male dominated industry but she proved them all wrong. The company was very nearly bankrupt, now its shares are at an all time high-unlike those of Ford who seem to be out of touch with reality and continue to produce truly boring , badly designed cars . Without the excellent F-150 they would be out of business by now.

I nearly had my marching orders from the landlord when he saw in the parking lot a 2017 Nissan Titan 5.6 liter Endurance V8 complete with PRO-4X 4WD . It towered above all the cars in the parking lot and came in amazingly useful. I had to buy for some furniture and the Titan was perfect for the job. Clearly it is not for everyone, most of us don’t haul furniture all day every day. But apart from the convenience to haul anything and everything I actually took the Titan on a road trip to Sacramento. At 70 miles per hour the engine was hardly turning and getting well over 20 mpg was a doddle. It is very powerful- a 5.6 liter engine, 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque. I didn’t need a four wheel drive but under difficult circumstances the Titan would have climbed every mountain a lot more quickly than Julie Andrews!

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As for comfort..trucks have come a long way since the rough and ready days of an engine, wheels, tires, a few instruments and that was your lot. This Titan had all mod cons with captain’s cloth chairs, 8 way adjustable power seats, 6 speakers (!), tire pressure monitoring-think back 20 years, blind sport warning (I remember when mirrors were an optional extra) and so on.

There are of course rival brands with similar specifications from Ford and GM to name but two and at 52 thousand dollars the Titan is not exactly cheap. But if you work all week as a plumber or carpenter but want to take your family to the movies Saturday night this truly excellent Titan could be your answer. Just be careful trying to park wherever you are-small it isn’t!

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In the meantime I also had a chance to drive VW’s 2018 Golf S. Apart from the much talked about diesel gate (and don’t kid yourself about all other manufacturers being paragons of virtue) VW is on a roll. They have become masters of using the same components in different manufacturing facilities. Take a close look at a Skoda or Seat and you will find the same panels, door handles, gearboxes and so on. By the million. I may have mentioned it before but I have an elderly neighbor who has had a Beetle for 17 years. I’ve asked her to drive the Golf. So many tried and tested parts have remained over the years that she was able to figure it out in no time.

The Golf has been around for something like 40 years. While more and more will be electric in the years to come right now you can get a Golf for less than 25 thousand dollars which runs on the cheapest gas and is unlikely to break down precisely for the reasons I’ve mentioned-tried and tested a million times over. Which is not to say that I don’t hate the manual levers for the seats but assuming that you are the only person driving it you only have to break your nails once!

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Jeep’s Renegade 4 x 4 was a pleasant surprise. I was a hit concerned about the 2.4 liter engine and it did need some encouragement along the way but it certainly got me to Stanford quickly and economically. 32 miles per gallon is what I’ve managed to achieve on I-280 cruising at a steady 65 miles per hour.

Just like the Titan, the 4x4 has a long list of standard equipment which would have unimaginable 20 years ago.

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Talking of Jeeps-we have had one in the family for years- I cannot wait to take the 2018 Trackhawk for a spin! $100 thousand dollars, 6.2 liter V8, automatic with manual shift mode, all wheel drive, everyman’s dream. Imagine sitting at the traffic lights next to some stuck up BMW type looking at you with deep condescending looks. Would he have the shock of his life or what!? 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. If you miss a shift in a Ferrari-never mind a Merc or a Jag you will be a dot in the Trackhawk’s mirror. It is quite obvious to me that a small group of engineers-school boys at heart- have been given the key to the candy store and told to do whatever their little hearts desired. This Batmobile will attract punters to the dealership who -in all probability-drive out in a Renegade for 30 grand. It is called marketing at its best!

Here is a first drive 2018 Jeep Trackhawk Review from fellow TACH journalist Larry Nutson...I can't wait my turn!. See you all next month.