Letter From Europe: Mazda CX-50; Toyota Tundra (Yeehah); Lexus NX; Volvo C40 EV !
Letter from Europe
by Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
THE AUTO CHANNEL
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - August 14, 2022: Since returning from Europe and my adventures with Ferrari’s new 296 things have slowed down just a little bit. Not a great deal as in quick succession I’ve had four different products from four different manufacturers.
The first was a beautifully turned out Mazda CX-50 which is based on the C-30 platform. It comes with all-wheel drive and a raised ground clearance. I got the feeling that it was taking on Subaru’s excellent Outback Wilderness which I very much enjoyed earlier this year.
It also came on Goodyear Eagle tires, a very pleasant surprise! I have been a huge fan of the American tire manufacturer ever since they dominated Grand Prix racing. Unfortunately they are no longer involved .
Not only the products were excellent but the people were first class as well. They certainly suited the CX-50 very well indeed.
Although there are engines options I would definitely go for the most powerful 2.5 liter turbo with 265 hp as Marin county-where is live-is within a couple of hours driving from the Sierras. The six speed automatic transmission worked well and I very much enjoyed the uncluttered cabin and the more user friendly infotainment system.
Being my usual parsimonious self on the gas pedal I’ve got 29 miles per gallon, pretty remarkable I think. Would I recommend the CX-50? Absolutely. Prices start at around 28 thousand dollars although I am sure the one I like would probably nearer 40. A fine product.
Imagine the horror on the faces of my neighbors when they saw Toyota’s enormous Tundra arriving into the parking lot. Even my much loved postman shook his head saying this is definitely not you, repeating definitely not you.
Well, leafy Belvedere is definitely not Tundra country, what made it even worse was the Texas registration plate. As someone walking past with a smile said-don’t take it to Mill Valley. For the uninitiated Mill Valley is the epicenter of liberalism in the United State so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Delighted to say I’ve parked outside Whole Foods and the worst I’ve got were some quizzical looks.
The Tundra was of course 100 percent the wrong product for this journey but you know what? I loved it! Clearly someone at Toyota decided that it was time for a major redesign of the interior . Interestingly and logically I found some of the same updated features in the Lexus I was testing the following week. A huge and very well-designed infotainment system was very welcome-a major improvement. Interestingly enough the Tundra is the only major player in the big pick-up field not offering a V8 engine instead it chose a twin-turbo charged 3.5 liter V6.
There are two versions; with the hybrid version offering a mighty 437 hp! No lack of oomph, that is for sure.
Clearly I live in the wrong place to fully appreciate the Tundra with narrow streets and tiny parking lots. What it does offer is serious comfort for four people and an ability to carry everything including the kitchen sink.
I can see people driving it from one end of Texas to the other listening to the excellent sound system. A rare combination of comfort and carrying ability. There are of course umpteen versions and the prices reflect it. You can kick off at around 40 thousand dollars and finish at around 70!
Do try it, a first class product.
Whoever redesigned the interior of the Toyota Tundra also had a hand in redesigning the 2022 Lexus NX. My trusted lawyer friend Mel really enjoyed it. Enjoyed the looks, the silence, the quality. The infotainment system I’ve mentioned in connection with the Tundra reappeared and it definitely did not look out of place, on the contrary.
The cabin was fresh, the instruments easy to read, the ride was fine and the handling responsive. The gear selector was definitely and unnecessarily clumsy, didn’t quite see the point of it. Once again there are various engine options, I would recommend the 2.5 liter hybrid with 304 hp. Everything in this Lexus is unobtrusive, it just makes a great deal of sense. Prices are from 40-60 thousand dollars subject to specifications and are probably negotiable.
Oh, by the way the neighbors who were so aghast at the sight of the Tundra loved the Lexus. No surprise there!
Finally I come to Volvo’s C40 which I absolutely hated! In 25 years of writing for The Auto Channel I could not wait for someone, anyone to take it away. Firstly I had to run after my good friend Marco who dropped it off as I couldn’t find the key. Oh he said, forgot to tell you there isn’t one. Yes, there is one to lock the car but that’s it so once you are inside you just put your foot on the brake, put it in R or D and you are off.
Well, whoever invented the stomach- churning system of braking-the second your take your foot off the accelerator should seek alternative employment. After my Chinese dinner I was just hoping not to seeing it the second time, let’s just leave it at that. It is spooky and completely not intuitive. I took it to FORZA’s offices where Editor Jenkins figured out a way to drive without the lurch but this time round it behaved as though it didn’t want to slow down at all!
Horrendous is not a word I often use testing automobiles. It is also uncomfortable, the ride is still, and the controls are messy. Just like the Polestar-a close relative-the interior is drab, rear visibility is minimal, and the infotainment is just about unusable.
The Volvo costs 58 thousand dollars and all I can say is don’t buy it!
There are of course other-non EV versions which would make more sense. I could be completely wrong in my assessment as the number of Volvo EVs sold in California is growing and Volvo are aiming to be 100 percent EVs within a few years. These EVs are very Swedish and very Marin County. That as it may be but give me a Kia EV every time. Equally electric without all the nonsense.
Let me point out that I have been a huge Volvo fan for years having owned one in Europe for 12 years Toured all over carrying two sets of golf bags and tons of other luggage, my S70 never missed a beat. Give me the S60 with the T engine and I will be as happy as a clam.
Just take away the C40. Please. Volvo’s man didn’t return my call but he did ask the very helpful boss of DriveShop (an excellent company who deliver press cars ) to call instead to explain that yes, for people who are anxious to spend as little as possible on gas this lurch backwards business is acceptable. Obviously I am not one of them. My bad luck continued as I went to the dealer in Corte Madera only be told that they’re moved.
So off I went to San Rafael the following morning where the saga continued. All credit to my old friend Tom Price, he had spent a fortune on a new singing dancing facility next to Subaru and Lexus. The place is spotless. Saw the manager Dara Tok who confirmed that yes these are the two option on the C40 -two choices- either the stomach churning or the other where the Volvo just carrying on as it were in autopilot. In there last you spend half you time on the brake pedal. All very frustrating. And then of course there is the charger nightmare.
I went to the public one near the police station in Belvedere where the voice at the other end informed me that the charger has been out of service since June! Bravo.
So with the gauges showing only 30% range remaining I took the Volvo home and plugged it into the wall. It was on charge but even after 12 hours it only moved up 56 percent, good for just over 110 miles
All this for nearly 60 thousand dollars.
So let my quote my colleague Dan Neil from the WSJ re the new GM Bolt. “Under the hood is a 150kw/360 permanent -magnet motor offering plenty of swoosh as well as PROGRESSIVE LEVELS of regenerative braking, a little or a lot. Now if GM can do it surely the boys in Gothenburg should be able to rise to the occasion?!
Not being a hypocrite the concept of EV, the concept of not choking on exhaust fumes is very appealing. As long it isn’t in the C40.. until Volvo buy a Bolt, take it to little pieces and copy it! Oh, the Bolt also costs over 15 thousand dollars less and your dinner will be safe.
BTW DriveShop did send round a highly qualified test driver and I took him for a drive, first in one mode then the other. An honest man, I for the feeling that we were on the same page.
As an aside I have of course been to the factory a long time ago when they were producing excellent products such as the legendary P18OO.
A pristine example I of the P1800 s in the San Rafael showroom and it is well worth seeing. Helan Gar to that!