SUV and a sedans all parlayed enjoyable driving adventures
Over the years, we’ve driven many Mitsubishi Outlander models, tested them in SUV competitions, and witnessed them competing well in the grueling winter edition of the Alcan 5000 Rally. These are tough performers that are priced right - base models are under $25,000; our tested 2019 Outlander Sport 2.4 GT AWC, the top of four offerings, was $27,165 with three small options. The list of standard equipment is impressive, ranging from All-Wheel Control to heated/folding side mirrors, lane departure warning to heated front seats.
New for 2019 is new exterior styling that includes new headlights, refreshed interior with rear-set climate control vents, and an improved suspension system that provides better steering and comfort.
The 2.4-L MIVEC DOHC four-cylinder is not the beefiest engine, but it reacted well for us and has overall 25 MPG fuel ratings (there is a V-6 available, but fuel economy suffers). Standard on the top three models is an INVECS III CVT Sportronic transmission.
Our likes on the Outlander include fog lamps, roof spoiler, 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels with 18-inch all-season tires, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 7.0-inch Smartphone link display/audio system, forward collision mitigation, automatic high beam headlights, Traction Control Logic system, stabilizer bars front and rear, rain-sensing wipers, and more.
Lots of vehicle for the money, and the rise body construction (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) uses crumple zones to help route and absorb energy during high-impact collisions. Cargo space is 21.7 cubic feet behind second row seating.
Oh, it’s a hot car
While sedans in general have experienced sluggish sales, the all-new Kia Stinger may just attract a whole new type of sedan buyer for three basic reasons – it’s attractive; the pricing is exceptional for a large, luxury-style car; and the performance elements on the Stinger are spectacular.
Our tester had the 3.3-L twin turbo V-6 that produced 365-HP and 376 lb.-ft. of torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters, there are five drive modes to meet everyone’s needs (Eco, Smart, Comfort, Sport, and Custom). And the most fun part of our test was that the car performed well beyond our expectations, including the amazingly quick acceleration and throaty exhaust system.
For a performance engine, EPA/DOT fuel ratings were decent a 21 MPG overall (19/city and 25/highway). Over a week, we averaged 22.9 MPG with lots of highway driving.
Likeable features on the Stinger include Bremco high-performance brakes; dual-zone climate control; aluminum interior trim; LED front and rear lighting; heated outside mirrors; seven-inch touchscreen with a rearview camera; 19-inch wheels and tires for solid gripping; and an included Advance Driver Assistance System package (no charge) that had Forward Collision Avoidance, Forward Collision Warning System, Smart Cruise Control with stop/start technology, Lane Keep Assist System, Driver Attention Warning (and it warned us on two occasions!), Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, and more.
So, loaded with safety and comfort, plus a classy interior, our Stinger GT hand an MSPR of $38,350 with no options. Overall pricing on several available trims ranges from $31,900 to $51,400. Frankly, the Stinger felt a bit like driving a sports car.
Zoom, Zoom goes the Mazda6
The 2018 Mazda6 Signature was another sedan that we thought measured up to a high level of proficiency. From its SKYACTIV-G 2.5-L engine that creates 227 HP to its road-gripping 19-inch all-season tires, its Nappa leather trimmed seats to the 11-speaker Surround Sound Bose audio system, our test drive of this midsize sedan was more than pleasant.
The 2.5-L four-cylinder Dynamic Pressure turbo is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift and Sport mode, so this FWD model can react much like a sports car. Low end torque is excellent, and fuel economy is rated at 26 MPG overall (23/city and 31/highway). Genuine acceleration and performance combined with solid fuel economy makes this a delightful car to drive.
We particularly liked the interior comfort and Signature features that included the Nappa leather, Sen wood, Ultrasuede trim, plus clean and usable instrumentation. The 8-inch touchscreen is easy to use and has all the technology features for today's connectivity, including the Mazda navigation system.
The Mazda6 also handles nicely with its well-designed front and rear independent suspensions, both with stabilizer bars, and its rack and pinion steering with electronic power assist is one of the best available in the marketplace.
Generous safety features, from Lane Departure Warning to Blind Spot Monitoring, advance air bags to Dynamic Stability Control, added to the overall likeability of this sedan that has an overall 5-Star safety rating.
Our tester was priced at $34,750 with three options ($75 cargo mat, $595 for Soul Red exterior paint, and scuff plates at $125)- very competitive for what the Mazda6 Signature offers.