The Hyundai Sonata N-Line is a Sporty Sedan that Will Put a Smile on Your Face Without Breaking the Bank!

When the first N-badged offering from Hyundai was announced, it was a great day for the automotive world, including our Behind the Wheel team. The N High Performance division, akin to BMW’s M and Cadillac’s V, has been active since, delivering sporty, performance-oriented versions of Hyundai’s lineup, while maintaining Hyundai’s trademark value. N stands for Namyang and Nürburgring, the former being Hyundai’s birthplace, and the latter being one of the most famous race and test tracks in the world. N’s performance goodies trickled down to the subject of this review, the 2022 Hyundai Sonata N-Line. In this sedan, the comfort and style combine effortlessly with a robust 290 horsepower, 2.5-liter turbo, a 110 hp increase from the base 1.6L Sonata engine, to produce driving thrills while maintaining a wallet-sparing diet of 38 miles per gallon on the highway via a brilliant 8-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. 


Our test car featured a sporty, race-inspired trim package with heated and cooled perforated leather and microsuede sport seats, well-bolstered for spirited cornering, as well as aluminum pedals and 19-inch alloy wheels. In addition to the more muscular engine and sport-inspired interior, the N-Line Sonata also receives a more aggressive front fascia with a black mesh grill and larger air intakes. The N-line bodywork continues in the back with a lip spoiler, a rear diffuser and a throaty quad exhaust. 


Choices of exterior colors include an array of whites, blacks and grays, a dark blue, and a red option. Unfortunately, since this is not a full N but just an N-Line car, the eye-catching N-exclusive Performance Blue is not available as an option on this Sonata. Interior color choices follow the Buick Grand National mantra: you can have any color you want, as long as it’s black. 


Building a Sonata N-Line via the Hyundai website, it’s pleasantly refreshing that this trim comes well-equipped as is, without forcing the buyer to contend with endless choices and options that drive up the base price tag. Hyundai is brilliant at offering excellent value to its customers, and this Sonata N-Line is no exception.


With attractive styling, sporty feel, almost twice the horsepower of the standard Sonata without demanding twice the price tag, the Hyundai Sonata N-Line became an instant team favorite in this segment. Topping out at around $35,000, this sporty sedan is truly an excellent choice. 

The Mitsubishi Outlander is a Capable, Roomy and Unique SUV for $30k!

With Korean Hyundai and Kia aggressively gobbling up the market from Japanese giants Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda, some of the lesser-known Japanese brands may get forgotten by the average consumer. With Suzuki and Isuzu having long ago departed US shores, Mitsubishi is has remained, offering some hidden gems in the automotive segment. With the SUV segment being hotter than the sun right now, the Mitsubishi Outlander, Mitsubishi’s long-time SUV staple, is a very strong offering. The first things we will say about this car are that it drives really well for the price point, and has good visibility for a safe drive. Busy parents with safety on their minds who are wanting to get from point A to point B with as little hassle as possible will find charm in this cool but collected ride. Speaking on safety, this car does also have 11 standard airbags so in the unfortunate case of an accident, you’ll be about as shrouded in safety as possible for any car on the road.  


Also offering a stylish interior and exterior with 3 rows of seating for a total of 7 passengers,  including a stylish touch with diamond quilted stitched seating;  a very up-market, impressive look for an SUV that tops out well below $40,000 with every option box ticked. The Outlander comes with a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, which covers engine, transmission, and differential: a great backing for Mitsubishi’s rally-developed 2.5L 4 cylinder.  


Starting at $26k, this vehicle is an excellent value SUV, that looks and feels excellent for the price point. The 181hp engine will not win many drag races, but the power is plenty for daily runabouts, while the 31 miles per gallon on the highway is great for a vehicle of this size.
If you’re on the market for an affordable, 7 passenger SUV that’s also stylish, well-made and rare enough so that you are not likely to sit next to an identical one at every other light, the Outlander is a great choice over the big-name competitors from Japan and Korea.

Range Rover: The Ultra-Luxury SUV King is Back!

Land Rover has been in the SUV game longer than anyone. Yes, some would argue about the Wagoneer, but really, when you think of an off-road, capable, rugged truck with seats in the back, and some luxurious features to boot, the folks from England have it down, pat. So, when we say this Land Rover Range Rover is an incredible machine all around, we truly mean it. Today, the SUV game is stronger than ever, with just about every auto manufacturer offering at least one. Even in the ultra-luxury SUV game, high-end marques from Germany and Italy have challenged Land Rover for the title; yet even when compared to the Mercedes GLS Maybach, the Bentley Bentayga, Rolls Royce Cullinan, and the Maserati Levante, the Range Rover is by far our favorite SUV in this ever-growing segment. 
The freshly-redesigned, all-new Range Rover we received ticks all the boxes when it comes to an ultra-luxury SUV, both for drive yourself, or to be driven in by a chauffeur. In the age of gaping grills, unnecessary vents and aggressive bodywork, this understated, smooth and clean design and is a work of art on par with the Michelangelo David sculpture. Its stately appearance commands the road and offers a unique blend of a modern look and quintessential British luxury. Compared to the outgoing Range Rover, the updated model went for a more sculpted and polished look, and we have to say, it works VERY well! 


Inside, the interior is fit for a queen; this is a literal statement because Queen Elizabeth herself has one; it’s one of the few vehicles she actually drives herself. The interior is stunning, with a very minimalistic design and supple leather from top to bottom. You can easily melt into the heated/cooled leather seats, and on our test car, both front seats and the two rear seats offer a hot stone massage feature. 

To also make your short and long commutes more enjoyable, our test car was equipped with integrated refrigerator. We found this extremely useful while attending an all-day sporting event because we were able to keep 4 bottles of water chilled the entire time, even when the car was off. Our Range Rover was also equipped with the executive package, including a powered fold-down rear center console with multiple controls and features, and a push-button executive mode, which folds away the front passenger seat and extends the legroom for the main executive rear seat. 


What made us fall in love the most with this Range Rover is that it is not only a true ultra-luxury SUV, but one where the driver doesn’t feel like a chauffeur. In pretty much all the other SUVs in this segment along with sedans like the S-class Mercedes and 7-series BMW, the front seating positions makes it feel like the luxury focus is in the back, whereas in the Range Rover, we didn’t have the awkward feeling like we were hired help; the luxury is centered on the driver when it is in the 5 seat mode, and on the passenger when in executive mode. 


The ride quality was positively elegant, and with Land Rover’s legendary air suspension devouring every inconsistency and pothole in the road with unprecedented ease. Despite its gigantic size, the vehicle was super easy to drive and park thanks to 4-wheel steering, which enhanced the vehicle’s turning radius. This full-sized range rover was easier to park than most SUVs half its size.


While we did not take this Range Rover off-road, this one, like all others from the Land Rover brand, is highly capable off the payment. So, if you are so inclined, you can take this Range Rover to a black-tie event, then cut across a muddy, rocky field to your next destination.   

2022 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid: The Best of EV & Gas Efficiency in One Crossover

The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is an affordable electric car for the masses. It’s an amazing value, starting at just over $29,000, but for a limited time, you may be able to get nearly $5,000 in federal tax credits and other state incentives. Delivering even more bang for your buck, the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid also comes with Kia’s famous 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

The Niro can run as a fully-electric vehicle for 26 miles, so theoretically, you can completely forego the gas station and use this Hybrid as a fully-electric small SUV for around-town motoring. However, when you have to drive further for road trips, or if you forget to charge it overnight, you can also drive it on good-ole dinosaur power up to 560 miles. This Kia truly is the best of both worlds.

Rated at a light 139hp combined between the 1.5 liter gasoline engine and plug-in hybrid drive, this Niro is not exactly a growling, gas-splitting muscle car. However, the combination feels plenty sufficient for brisk city and highway driving, with the electric motor providing an entertaining kick of instant, silent torque.

The price point of this plug-in electric vehicle is what made us take notice. However, it was the interior quality, especially at this price point, that commanded our attention. The interior of the Niro is truly a great place to be, nicely-styled and loaded with available driver assist technology such as forward collision avoidance systems, blind spot monitors, and navigation-based smart cruise control, as well as standard goodies such as an 8 inch touch screen with Kia Connect, wireless Android Auto and wireless Apple Car Play.

All in all, we were impressed with this vehicle, both in terms of quality and affordability. We would recommend it for any budget-conscious driver seeking the convenience of an EV while retaining the accessibility of gasoline-powered propulsion.

The Infiniti QX80 Still Makes a Bold Statement

Featuring a bold but timeless design, the body style of this Infiniti X80 has been such a favorite on the market since its debut in 2011 that only slight refinements have been made in the past decade. It’s not hard to see why celebrities, corporate titans and families chose this vehicle; it is easily one of the best looking 3 row SUVs on the market. If you or someone you know is looking to buy a triple row SUV, the Infiniti X80 is a total slam dunk in the looks department. 

As soon as I opened the doors I noticed immediately the center console has been updated from prior models to include a more modern feature design, including a large touch screen and dial controls that allows drivers easy maneuvering around all their favorite features, from changing the radio station to using Apple Car Play. Additionally, Apple Car Play is wireless, which is a huge plus. 

In addition to the updated center console, I am pleased to highlight that the interior of my test car was beautifully dressed in real leather, featuring diamond quilted stitches on the seats and wood trimmed accents. Inside and out, this is just a drop-dead gorgeous car. Speaking further on the seats, the three rows with captains chairs are large, like a first-class airline cabin. Though admittedly, I struggled to perfectly adjust them to my body type, so they may not be suitable for everyone. Passengers riding in the back noted that there was ample leg room in the middle chairs, though the back seats’ legroom was a little uptight for adults, though perfectly spacious for any kiddos cruising in this otherwise totally luxurious vehicle. 

All in all, I would say this car is a great value when compared to its full-sized luxury competitors: Mercedes (GLS), Cadillac (Escalade), Lincoln (Navigator), and Lexus LX, with a price point around 7-18k less than those listed above, however you will sacrifice some of the modernity and luxury for that cost margin.

2021 Car Of The Year: The Corvette Convertible

America’s sports car… I mean super car… has earned it spots as my pick for 2021 Car Of The Year. Presenting the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible. It is by far the best car on the market for under $200,000, and due to supply shortages, it is more exclusive than a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche. In fact, shortly after testing the Corvette Convertible out for week and showing the car to my Father, he ordered one for his collection. Despite having a garage full of super cars and previously owning two legendary Corvette L88s, the dealer quoted him two years to get the car.

The long wait times to get a new Corvette is not solely due to the global chip shortage, but more so to do with demand. Chevrolet is stealing customers from European exotics in droves because the new mid-engine Corvette handles exceptionally well, has a 0 to 60 mph time of less than 3 seconds, and it has killer looks. A buddy of mine is replace his V10 Audi R8 with a Corvette *fingers crossed* later next year.

To top it off, with a starting price of ~$63,000, the new Corvette Stingray is bargain. You won’t find that kind of performance or looks anywhere south of $150,000. But what is even more of a bargain is the Corvette Convertible. For only $7,000 more you get a retractable hardtop with better noise, aerodynamics, and safety than a soft top convertible. For comparison, Ferrari charged a ~$20,000 premium for 488 customers to get a retractable hardtop. As a bonus, this new hardtop can go up and down in a matter of seconds while driving at speeds less than 30mph. So in states like Florida where sporadic summer rain storms are common, you can easily let the sun shine in between each rain shower. However my favorite part of the convertible top mechanism is the rear glass window. You can raise and lower the window with the top up, allowing you to get a nice breeze during hot summers while also staying cool in the shade.

Per my previous Corvette review, the new mid-engine Vette place drivers in a space-aged cockpit with an all digital instrument cluster and infotainment center. The steering wheel has a flat top and flat bottom design to make it easier to get in an out of the vehicle, as well as increase viewing points. It also just looks super cool! Driving the new Corvette Convertible delivers an experience akin to a super car versus a sports car. The 500 horsepower 6.2L V8 and dual clutch transmission backs up the Corvette’s pedigree, but it is much more than that. The Corvette feels special every time you take it out of the garage. And the convertible model feels even more special with the speedster hump positioned right in back of you head. It is a head turner in every possible way.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Goes Luxury

From the very beginning the Jeep Grand Cherokee was meant to be a bigger more luxurious version of the highly successful Jeep Cherokee. It served that purpose well, but myself, like most people never really considered the Grand Cherokee a luxury vehicle… until now. The 5th Generation Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee L are able to go toe to toe with its European rivals from Mercedes, BMW, Land Rover, and Audi.

The endless cheap plastic trim on previous generations of the Grand Cherokee has been replaced by real wood and leather. And in places were plastic is used, it is a high quality plastic with a nice finish. Along with better construction materials inside (and out), the 5th Generation Jeep Grand Cherokee received updated styling befitting of a luxury car. The lines throughout this 3-row vehicle have been sharpened to give a bolder presence. The beautiful wood trim on the doors, dash, and steering wheel is obviously a strong center piece, but the beautiful 10-inch infotainment display really steals the show.

The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L rides and steers better than any Jeep before it. Bumps are mitigated and there is absolutely no sway at cruising speeds on the highway thanks to an independent multi-link air-suspension system.

My test car was the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Overland, and it was so good that my wife and I are considering buying one over a Range Rover Velar next year. The Jeep costs less and I think it is a nice car all around. The big question is if we should buy the 2-row or 3-row version.

Kia’s 2021 Sorento Looks Too Good For The Money

Product design, especially in the automotive world, is a tricky business. Drivers demand more features and better technology, but at the same time, they are price sensitive. KIA shines at delivering a great value proposition, and the 2021 Kia Sorento is no exception. This mid-size SUV delivers stunning looks, the latest technology, and 3-rows of seats for the entire family.

Visually, the interior makes you think you are in a first-class cabin. It is available with quilted stitching and faux wood trim. Plus large displays deliver that an air of high-tech. It is significantly bigger than the previous generation Sorento, with seemingly more headroom and legroom. Despite the spacious accommodations, I personally didn’t find the vehicle comfortable to drive long-distance. Maybe it was because I could never adjust the contour of the seat just right, but my back grew tires after about 30 minutes in the vehicle.

The 2021 Kia Sorento has a starting price point of $29,000 and tops out at around $42,000. No matter how you slice it, it is an incredible value. All this, backed by a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty.

2021 Cadillac CT5-V

It is no CTS-V with a 650 horsepower super-charged 6.2L Corvette engine, but the 2021 Cadillac CT5-V was never meant to challenge it. The “V” does represent Cadillac’s performance / motorsport devision, however the V in this case really more of a performance package.

A 3.0L turbo-charged V6 engine is under the hood, pumping out 360 horsepower and 405 pounds of torque. It is a peppy machine, mated to a 10-speed automatic gearbox. When you smash on the accelerator is feels perfectly quick, almost as if the car was designed for this engine. Where as the base 2.0L 4-cylinder would feel slow and the CT5-V Blackwing’s turbo-charged V8 would be too much power.

Two other key differences between the standard CT5 and the CT5-V are magnetic ride control and an electronic limited-slip differential. These team enhancements improves driving dynamics at high speeds. Both will make a noticeable difference on the street, but you will feel significant different during track days. The CT5-V is balanced in the corners, with only slight natural understeer. You can easily get the rear end out in a controlled fashion with a blip of the throttle, however traction control and electronic stability are quick to catch you, even in sport mode.

The interior design language is a big step up from the old CTS. The look is polish and sporty, with ergonomic controls at your finger tips. The ultra-sensitive flat buttons have been replaced with tactile buttons and knobs, which are easily controlled without taking your eyes off the road. The fit and finish is better as well. Part gaps are kept to a minimum. All of the plastics are high-end, and the leather is soft to the touch. Key elements are dressed in real aluminum and carbon fiber.

With a price point starting at under $50,000, I am tempted to get one of these myself as a daily driver. It is a great value for a sporty luxury sedan.

P.S. Badge snobs will love the car, because it looks and sounds like a “V” car.

A 710 Horsepower SUV? Because Why Not? 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

I applaud Dodge for putting their 6.2L supercharged Hellcat engine into a 3-row SUV. By doing so, the SRT division turn an average family vehicle into a super SUV capable of 180 mph. It is a halo car for Durango Moms and Dads everywhere! While the standard issue Dodge Durango will go 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, the Durango SRT Hellcat will do it in 3.5 seconds. That is faster than most Porsche sports cars.

This blistering performance is thanks to the world famous SRT Hellcat motor. 710 horsepower makes this the most powerful SUV on the planet, beating out the V8 Lamborghini Urus and the W12 Bentley Bentega. To back it up, the Durango SRT Hellcat uses beefy brakes and a sports tuned suspension. I was pleasantly surprised by how well this largo SUV handles, and how composed it feels at high speeds.

Unfortunately this is a limited production car with only 2000 units being built. This exclusivity means that the Durango SRT Hellcat will be the first Durango to reach both cult-like status and collector car status. During my week with the vehicle, I got countless thumbs up and teenagers in muscle cars wanting to race me. It was crazy to see people get excited for a 6 passenger family SUV.

Thank you Dodge for doing the insane! You have proven that American moms and dads can have their cake and eat it too.

A​BOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Brownfield is an automotive journalist, motorsports enthusiast, and sponsored endurance racing driver. He has road tested over 300 cars from brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Porsche. Click here to follow him on Instagram.