Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.
Volvo is a curious brand to most Americans. While the Swedish by origin but now Chinese-owned brand has a reputation for safe and reliable vehicles, it’s generally not thought of in the same breath as the traditional big names in the luxury segment.
Volvo continues to double-down on trying to change that view, even if they recognize that they won’t match the mostly German segment leaders in terms of pure performance most of the time, and part of that effort is focused on groundbreaking safety and tech features, in addition to creating a luxury look and feel.
I recently spent some time in a 2018 Volvo S60 sedan, and I’m back with a full report.
Volvo’s exteriors have never been too audacious and this is no exception. Compared to some in the luxury realm, they are downright tame, though the Volvo nameplate up front and fan-blade style grille do grab your attention.
The interior is where we start to approach the luxury level a bit more. Front seats are high end and comfortable via their leather upholstery, and the back seats aren't far behind. You will find some nice wood grain features worked into the interior design, and no materials feel cheap inside this vehicle. Speaking of comfort, the Climate package offers heated everying: front seats, rear seats, steering wheel and even the windshield washer nozzles.
Special editions are often a topic of debate among automotive aficionados -- some see them as gimmicky and unnecessary, but others applaud the diversity of models that they bring.
One particular trick that you see automakers pull out from time to time is the all-black look, and that’s what Hyundai did for its “Night” edition of the 2017 Tucson, which I recently spent some time in.
So what’s the verdict? Read on for the details.
As you might guess from its name, the Hyundai Tucson Night is black all around. That includes the exterior (Black Noir Pearl to be exact, a particularly striking shade of black), its 19-inch alloy wheels and their black finish, and black interior seating.
Put me in the camp of loving these special editions, especially when they come together this well. The Tucson Night looks super sharp, by any measure. It’s got an almost aggressive look to it, which fits well with the paint scheme.
Jeep is a brand that will always have an audience, both in America and abroad, and it carries a lot of the load for FCA. Much of that success is from annual top-sellers like the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, but there’s also some very cool special editions that come out -- including the 2017 Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk, which I recent had a chance to test out.
IT’S GOT THE LOOK
The Renegade comes in many trim levels, including the off-road friendly Trailhawk. The Desert Hawk is basically a limited edition of the Trailhawk with a very cool look that’s all its own. As with most Jeeps, the trail-rated Desert Hawk is aimed at those who like to hit the road where the road ends
Visually the Renegade Desert Hawk is one of the most attractive vehicles I’ve seen all year. It starts with a strong paint scheme (Mojave Sand), then up front it features the bold Jeep grille and a unique headlamp design, going up to the hood and its huge but not gaudy map decal design. It’s not a stretch to say that when driving a Desert Hawk, no vehicle on the road will look quite like yours.
Other colors are offered on the Desert Hawk (gray, white, green), but the Mojave Sand is easily the best-looking option.
A mainstay of the compact car segment for a quarter-century, Hyundai’s Elantra comes in many forms, from its base SE model to the Eco version to the Sport version, and a few in between.
But for 2018, the lineup gets another shakeup, this time with the introduction of the Elantra GT, a compact hatchback which ups the performance aspect a bit compared to the other choices.
I recently spent some time in an Elantra GT, which is based off the European version of the Elantra, and I’m back with a full report on how it measures up against other small hatches.
Being a hatchback, a form which is growing more common in this segment, the focus is going to be on storage space, and the Elantra GT delivers. You get ample trunk room (55 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, 25 with them up; numbers that rival some small SUVs).
But as far as using the back seat, you better have some kids or short adults sitting there. Such is the woe of the compact car segment -- you usually have to choose between more trunk or more back seat, and rarely if ever do you get both.
On the plus side, front seats are quite roomy and comfy, interior materials are above average quality, and the exterior of the Elantra GT is somewhat attractive for the segment, particularly up front. The vehicle offers 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, and projector headlights.
And for a smaller vehicle, there is a generous amount of storage locations for your keys and wallets and drinks and things (unlike some other vehicles, where that seems like an afterthought, or something not even thought about).