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2019 Volvo XC40, 2019 Lexus UX 250h And New Forza F1 Podcast In This Month's Letter From Europe


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Letter from Europe
by Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief  
The Auto Channel

Dear Reader, I thought it time for a quick update before I dash off to London-protesters permitting. So far the plan is London-Monaco-Maranello-Bologna and then back to SF.

In the meantime I have been somewhat busy. As you know I have also been writing for FORZA-the magazine about Ferraris for 25 or so years and now we have just launched a podcast. After every race I dash into the studio to record the story of the race  long before the newspapers hit the stands. I know many of The Auto Channel readers are interested in Grand Prix racing and if you are try forza-mag.com. Once you are on the site all you have to do is to hit the sign which has forza F1 written on it and  you’ve just become one of my F1 listeners .


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Although the podcast is only three races “old” we have listeners in Norway, South Africa, Japan, Britain, Hungary, the United States of course and the list is growing daily.

On the home front I have had a chance to drive two cars in rapid succession. Because of the appalling weather we?ve had in the Bay Area by necessity these had to be brief.


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First it was Volvo’s new XC 4O AWD-R design. First I thought it was a Range Rover Evoque, a brilliant design if I’ve ever seen one. Well, obviously it wasn’t but the neighbors were most impressed.

It has the same 4 cylinder engine as the V60 but without the supercharger. Still turbocharged, still direct injected developing 240 horsepower. Lots of fun to drive and if pushed the fuel consumption goes down rapidly. On the road it is a serious rival to the smaller BMWs, Audis and Mercedes.


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I had a chance to listen to comments from owners and it is quite clear that because of the intricacies older folks were finding the infotainment system a bit of a handful. I have to agree on that. My old Volvo S70 had a few physical knobs  on the dash and it worked perfectly well for 12 years. And I dare say ever since.


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The base price is 35 thousand dollars which seems reasonable but extras-some more important than others push it up to over 45 thousand which is a bit steep.

So if you would like a well-built,  attractive small SUV which definitely stands out from its rival. Well worth a visit to the dealer but do some hard negotiating. Some of the extras are not worth paying top dollar for. 1200 dollars for a panoramic sunroof seems a bit silly.  

The other quick test was that of a Lexus UX 250h F sport.


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The Lexus is another good looking product this one in deep dark metallic blue. The first thing that struck me was the steering wheel. Hard to describe beyond saying that it felt about as good as that of a Ferrari. Good way to start.


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Two liter four cylinder hybrid engine, comfortable seats-at least in the front-bit tight in the back.

I think the F was added by the marketing people, this car is not a mini racer. I see it as a very well-built, very economical product which will deliver well over 40 miles per gallon.


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The interior is as you would expect from the name-Lexus. Which stands for luxury. The F is not cheap at nearly 43 thousand dollars but you would be hard pushed to ask for anything that it not included.7 inch display, Lexus premium sound system, Amazon Alexa compatible !, the list goes on and on.

If you are in the market I would first of all forget the F and go for one of the other cars in the 250h range. I think you would find almost everything for several dollars less. Would still feel cossetted drifting along in one of the most  pleasant , best equipped cars in the World.  

Stay tuned for stories from my many stops next month...happy Easter and Happy Passover to my audience.