Dom and Jeremy

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Mix 100.3 Morning Podcasts

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Dom Testa

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January 23, 2020

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Review: 2019 Volkswagen Arteon

You’ve heard of gateway drugs and gateway tech. Get ready for the gateway luxury car.

Volkswagen has dabbled in the luxury sandbox in the past, with only a smattering of success. Now they’re back with a vengeance, proudly showing off a car that’s a little bit sedan, a little bit hatchback, and a good dose of fun.

When they first began to arrive at American dealerships this past April, most people were probably hesitant. “What’s an Arteon?” was likely uttered to salespeople for months. In fact, it probably still is.

But that’s cool. After spending a week behind the wheel, I hope VW is prepared for a long game, because they’re off to a good start. Perfect? Nope. But I was pleasantly surprised, and look forward to watching things progress with subtle alterations.Continue Reading

Review: 2020 BMW X3

Here’s something that stood out to me when I sat down to write this review of the BMW X3. You can find a starting MSRP of about $42,000.
The version I drove came in at more than $82,000.

I’d say you have choices.

And here’s the cool thing: All of those choices will be good, regardless of the route you take. Base model with smaller engine and fewer toys? It’s a great small crossover. Go with the option-heavy M model with a stouter engine? It’s a winner, too.

So how much do you want to spend?Continue Reading

Review: 2019 Alpha Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

We generally buy an SUV in order to accommodate our oh-so-busy lives of hauling people and stuff around. We don’t naturally think, “Hey, I want something sporty and badass. Think I’ll get an SUV.”

Well, my friend, welcome to the marriage of utility and fun. It’s called the Stelvio.

Or, using the name on its birth certificate, the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Whew, if a car ever needed a nickname . . .

Thus, we just say Stelvio, the name of an Italian mountain pass famous for its dozens of winding switchbacks. Those hairpin turns don’t usually scream “SUV,” but in this case it certainly works.

Alfa Romeos aren’t overly familiar in the U.S., but the car maker has been putting out sporty – and racing – vehicles since 1910. They know their way around horsepower. But even traditional automobile powers are caving to the demand for sport utility vehicles, and the Stelvio represents Alfa Romeo’s first SUV.

Nothing like hitting it out of the park in your first at-bat.Continue Reading

Review: 2020 Chevrolet Equinox Premier

The Chevrolet Equinox made its debut for the 2005 model year as a mid-size SUV before eventually dropping down in weight class to become a compact crossover.

The results have been pretty stellar throughout the journey. In fact, last year Chevy sold more units of the Equinox than ever before, approaching 350,000. It’s a hit.

And that’s saying a lot, because that smaller compact segment is one of the most competitive classes of cars and trucks you’ll find. Everybody seems to want to score big in this category, and the buying public is paying attention. They’ve spoken with their wallets.Continue Reading

Review: 2019 Toyota Prius XLE

Toyota chose the name Prius, which is Latin for “first,” or “original,” and it’s appropriate. The Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle in the world, rolling off the assembly line in Japan in 1997.

Three years later it was introduced to America, where it has almost become the face of the entire hybrid segment.

I still remember the doubtful looks — and more than a few snarky comments — the automaker put up with in those early days. Hey, it was something radically new, and maybe suffered from the perception that it was not too far off from Flintstones’-styled locomotion.

Oh, but those days are gone. With millions of sales globally, the Prius proudly wears a badge of honor for leading the charge (pardon the pun) that today features a plethora of hybrid choices.Continue Reading

Review: 2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited

Back in the early 1970s an executive at Jeep had a brilliant idea: Take the struggling Wagoneer (Google it) and create an offshoot. Thus was born a creature called the Jeep Cherokee.

Ten years later, when the second generation appeared with a few alterations, it spawned a whole new category in the automotive world. The ’84 Cherokee was (unofficially) the first SUV.

Competitors sat up and took notice. People were ditching their station wagons (Google it) and opting for this new thing. An entire segment was born and quickly flourished.

Thirty-five years later the roads are filled with SUVs and their offshoot, the crossover. And the venerable ol’ Cherokee is still going strong.Continue Reading

Review: 2019 Mazda6

The biggest question I have regarding this car is:
Why isn’t there a space between Mazda and 6?
When I write Mazda6 it looks like I’m either screwing up or just too lazy to hit the space bar.

The company, based in Hiroshima, Japan, will celebrate its 100th birthday in late January. Some of us are old enough to remember the advertising emphasis on their rotary-engines.

Those days are gone. Today, they simply make good, reliable, fun cars. You can live with that, right?Continue Reading

Review: 2019 Lexus ES 350 F Sport

The first Lexus ES burst onto the market 30 years ago, a smaller luxury sedan that was originally built on the platform of a Toyota Camry.

In fact, Lexus created the ES only because dealers didn’t want to be limited to just one model (at that time the LS). So they put together what some called the “luxury sedan of sports sedans.”

Now, three decades later the ES has a whole host of fans. In fact, as a disclaimer, I’ll point out that my own personal car is an ES hybrid.

For the 2019 model year Lexus made a few changes, both inside and out, resulting in a quicker, somewhat-sportier car.Continue Reading

Review: 2019 Honda Civic Touring

The venerable Honda Civic will be celebrating its 50th birthday in just a couple of years. It burst upon the world as a two-door subcompact car, and over the years has gradually grown in size.

It walks the tightrope now between compact and mid-size (with the couple in the former category). Through its evolution, however, one thing has remained the same:

This car keeps going and going, and it sells like crazy. Worldwide it’s around the 20 million mark.

Based on the ’19 Touring version that I drove, the numbers are only going to continue to climb.

The Basics

Personally, I’m happy to see the Civic get a little bigger. The first car my son drove was an old used Civic, and I remember that it was fairly small.

The car I drove for a week was certainly no monster, but it had just the right size to it. Sometimes driving tiny cars can make you a tad nervous — the Mini, for instance, is just plain hard for people to see.

Continue Reading

Review: 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate

For a small SUV that’s only been around for two years, the Kona sure has piled up the awards and the love.

That includes the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, an award bestowed by automotive journalists. And this is for a vehicle that can be yours for well under $30k.

For years I’ve touted the Santa Fe as one of my favorite lower-priced SUVs on the market. Well, now the South Korean automaker has a little sibling for the Santa Fe and Tucson to mentor. And that younger sib is already stealing the attention.

The Basics

The Kona is a five-passenger subcompact SUV, so it’s competing against the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and the Honda HR-V.Continue Reading

Dom In The Morning Blog

Review: 2019 Volkswagen Arteon

You’ve heard of gateway drugs and gateway tech. Get ready for the gateway luxury car.

Volkswagen has dabbled in the luxury sandbox in the past, with only a smattering of success. Now they’re back with a vengeance, proudly showing off a car that’s a little bit sedan, a little bit hatchback, and a good dose of fun.

When they first began to arrive at American dealerships this past April, most people were probably hesitant. “What’s an Arteon?” was likely uttered to salespeople for months. In fact, it probably still is.

But that’s cool. After spending a week behind the wheel, I hope VW is prepared for a long game, because they’re off to a good start. Perfect? Nope. But I was pleasantly surprised, and look forward to watching things progress with subtle alterations.

The Basics

The Arteon tiptoes up to the starter luxury category. If you’re looking for a comparison, it might be the Audi A4.

You get three trim levels with this new VW four-door sedan/hatchback. The base SE, the SEL, and the SEL Premium (which is what I drove). All of them come with a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder that puts out 268 horsepower.

The SE comes standard with front-wheel drive, but the other trims step up VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive, which will further help its introduction in snowy climates. In fact, during my week there were a couple of snow days, and the car handled like a champ.

The first thing that caught my eye was the exterior styling. I think most of us would be hard-pressed to name a sexy Volkswagen, at any time in its history.

But the Arteon has (for a hatchback) pretty cool lines. I especially like the clamshell hood and the defining lines around the doors. Perhaps the best-looking VW ever, although – again – that’s not saying much.

You knew the company was open to change when they based the car’s name on the Latin word for art. I mean, you gotta take your game up a notch when you start with that.

The Inside

It’s worth noting up front that this sedan doesn’t scrimp on interior space. Plenty of room to roam for both front seat and rear seat passengers, and that gives the Arteon a little bit of a boost against its competitors.

That spacious interior is compromised by a confusing mixture of quality materials with not-so-quality materials. It’s as if VW couldn’t quite commit to going all-out to create an entry-level luxury car, so they’re hoping to sneak a few cheaper parts in.

We’ll forgive them. For the most part it’s a comfortable, classy ride.

Things are laid out well for the driver, with easy-to-understand controls. You get a good amount of knobs and buttons, versus the ham-handed tech approach from some rivals.

Cargo space is huge, and you should be able to fit a bunch of stuff inside that rear hatch. Up front it’s a slightly-less-rosy picture. Not bad, but not tons of room for personal stuff, either.

The Drive

I liked the car’s pep. It may not be the most powerful engine in the segment, but the Arteon doesn’t seem to lag at all.

The acceleration was smooth and confident, and the overall handling was superb. I liked the steering quite a bit.

On the nicer days I took the car out to experience some twists and turns, and it held the road well. Volkswagen was counting a sporty feel, and while it may not hit a home run, let’s call it a solid double.

The Tech

Probably middle of the pack, but for their first time out of the chute that’s not bad.

A decent array of driver safety and assist features are standard, such as adaptive cruise control and forward collision warnings.

As for your toys and gadgets, I’ll give it a B. At least it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and I experienced only one hiccup with that in my test week. That’s a good sign because, as I’ve found over the last two years, that’s not a given.

The Bottom Line

It’s good to see VW sneaking back into the pre-luxury game, especially with a car that starts with an impressive appearance. We’ve grown tired of their boring sedans, so it’s nice that they’ve sexed up the Arteon at least a little bit.

Granted, you’ll be paying in the 40s and won’t necessarily be showered with luxury. But they’ve made a nice effort.

Throw in the fact that it’s a smooth, comfortable ride, and you have a good option if you’re shopping things like Audi or Infiniti.

The Details

2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
268 horsepower
8-speed automatic transmission
Front-wheel drive standard, all-wheel drive available
Fuel economy: 20/27/23 combined
MSRP: $44,945
As tested: $46,175

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer

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Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

She was a girl from Boston with a voice from heaven, who shot through the stars from gospel choir to dance floor diva.

But what the world didn’t know was how Donna Summer risked it all to break through barriers, becoming the icon of an era and the inspiration for every music diva who followed. With a score featuring more than 20 of Summer’s classic hits including “Love to Love You Baby,” “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff,” this electric experience is a moving tribute to the voice of a generation.

JAN 28 – FEB 9, 2020 BUELL THEATRE

Click here to listen to Interviews from the tour kickoff in Cleveland with Prize Guy TJ!

 

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Review: 2020 BMW X3

Here’s something that stood out to me when I sat down to write this review of the BMW X3. You can find a starting MSRP of about $42,000.
The version I drove came in at more than $82,000.

I’d say you have choices.

And here’s the cool thing: All of those choices will be good, regardless of the route you take. Base model with smaller engine and fewer toys? It’s a great small crossover. Go with the option-heavy M model with a stouter engine? It’s a winner, too.

So how much do you want to spend?

The Basics

There’s a segment of car buyers who have started to yawn at the sedans put out by BMW. Look, they’re exceptional cars, no doubt. But the love lately has been largely devoted to the crossover SUVs of the family, and that includes the X3.

It falls into the small luxury crossover/SUV category, and you’ll find three trim levels, each with five-passenger capacity: The s model, with front-wheel drive, the x with all-wheel drive, and the M.

The s and x come with a 2.0-liter, turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine, while the M ups the game with its 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder. All of the X3s have an 8-speed automatic transmission.

There haven’t been any substantial changes with the ’20 version of the X3, which saw its last major overhaul with the third generation introduced in 2018.

The exterior is smooth and stylish, with just enough of a jackrabbit hunch to make it clear this crossover is ready to roll. And, let’s face it, just a beautiful machine.

The Inside

The first thing I noticed was how the seats envelope you. It harkens back to the classic old bucket-seat days. But it’s not confining or claustrophobic; rather, it’s more of a luxurious embrace.

That comfort comes in handy on long drives, but even your short little jaunts around town will feel special, courtesy of 10-way adjustable seats. I mean, if you can’t find the sweet spot with that many options, you may need an adjustment yourself.

There’s great room, to boot. Both front-seat and rear-seat passengers will find the accommodations generous.

BMW did a good job putting together a thoughtful collection of materials that remind you that you’re piloting a luxury vehicle. I wasn’t personally crazy about the two-toned upholstery, but that’s a subjective thing.

Everything is laid out well with the dash and console, and it’s all easy to understand. The shifter might take you a minute or two to comprehend – one of those things where car engineers must feel pretty cheeky with their new-fangled ideas – but once you get the hang of it you’ll be fine.

Cargo space is good for the X3, especially given its compact/small size. And, with the rear seat folded you’ll be able to cram a lot in.

Personal storage space up front is about average. I liked the extra space in front of the funky shifter.

The Drive

You can’t go wrong here. I drove the mega-souped-up M Competition version of the X3, which puts out more power than you’ll probably need.

But even the s and x models provide more-than-adequate acceleration and power throughout the drive. My M was a beast.

And there’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been said about almost every BMW on the road. Steering, braking, and overall handling were superb.

For what it’s worth, my over-the-top M Competition model cranked out a little over 500 horsepower, so, as you might imagine, I felt invincible. That’s a lot of power for a crossover.

But, consequently, the mileage for the M is paltry. You won’t even manage 20 mpg, so invincibility does come with a price.

The Tech

There are some highs and lows here. Your basic tech gadgets are pretty good, but you’ll find that you have to step up to collect all the goodies.

Driver assist and safety features are fairly generous, but the one thing that remains a head-scratcher is BMW’s quirkiness surrounding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The first one – Android – still isn’t supported at all, and that seems to irk some of the faithful. And CarPlay is only included with a one-year subscription, after which you have to purchase it. Why? My M had a price tag of $82k, and I have to pay for a tech feature that even $20,000 cars have standard? I don’t get it.

The Bottom Line

The team from Germany knows they have a consistent winner with the X3. It has sold well since its birth in the early 2000s, and continues to ride the wave of crossover/SUV popularity.

Marrying impressive power with luxurious trappings, the X3 is still a solid choice. It’s fun to drive and cradles you in opulence. Not much more to ask for, and when you’ve arrived (financially, I mean) it’s a nice reward.

The Details

2020 BMW X3 M Competition
3.0-liter 6-cylinder
503 horsepower (s-drive begins at 248 horses)
8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 14/19/16 combined
MSRP: $76,900 (low 40s for the s model)
As tested: $82,695

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer

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Review: 2019 Alpha Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

We generally buy an SUV in order to accommodate our oh-so-busy lives of hauling people and stuff around. We don’t naturally think, “Hey, I want something sporty and badass. Think I’ll get an SUV.”

Well, my friend, welcome to the marriage of utility and fun. It’s called the Stelvio.

Or, using the name on its birth certificate, the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Whew, if a car ever needed a nickname . . .

Thus, we just say Stelvio, the name of an Italian mountain pass famous for its dozens of winding switchbacks. Those hairpin turns don’t usually scream “SUV,” but in this case it certainly works.

Alfa Romeos aren’t overly familiar in the U.S., but the car maker has been putting out sporty – and racing – vehicles since 1910. They know their way around horsepower. But even traditional automobile powers are caving to the demand for sport utility vehicles, and the Stelvio represents Alfa Romeo’s first SUV.

Nothing like hitting it out of the park in your first at-bat.

The Basics

The Stelvio was built on basically the same platform as the Giulia sedan. There are three trim levels, ranging from the base model up to the Quadrifoglio, which is what I drove for a week.

The Quadrifoglio’s engine was developed in partnership with Ferrari. Need we say more?

My test model roared out of the parking lot with its 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V6. All it does is put out 505 horsepower. Will that get you where you want to go?

One thing to keep in mind is that the Stelvio, although a crossover SUV, has no pretensions whatsoever about being an off-road vehicle. Puh-lease. This machine is built for the road, and doesn’t care if Jeeps or 4Runners call it names.

The exterior is, of course, stylish and refined. You can tell it has power, and seems almost ready to pounce, but it also would shine in a beauty pageant.

The Inside

Quality and luxury abound for driver and passengers. The seats are remarkably comfortable, although the materials aren’t always the kind of scrumptious you’d expect in an $80,000 car. Good, but not spectacular.

Controls for the driver are laid out well, and easy to understand. I’m a big fan of knobs and buttons over complex touchpads and wheels. Here the Alfa Romeo scores big with me.

The dashboard itself is pure simplicity, with a tachometer and a speedometer.

Visibility is one of the shortcomings, however. Those thick pillars, which crop up in a lot of SUVs, make for difficult viewing at times.

My biggest issue with the interior would be the lack of storage. Cargo space itself is behind many of the Stelvio’s competitors, but even personal storage upfront is compromised.

In particular, the center bin is pretty small for an SUV. I decided that the Italians just aren’t weighed down with as much extra crap as we carry around here in the States. And for that they’re probably much better off.

The Drive

Of all the categories I review with a car, this is where the Stelvio scores best.

To begin with, those 505 horses will make sure you get where you’re going in big hurry. But on top of that I just loved the sound. It’s not a constant roar, but you get enough of an impressive growl to remind you that you’re behind the wheel of a machine made with a racing heritage.

Steering, handling, and braking were all exceptional. I’ve heard it described as a “spirited” drive, and that sounds about right to me. I enjoyed taking it out to the winding roads in the foothills to the southwest of Denver.

I’m not crazy about the way this SUV handles the stop-start of the engine at intersections, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

And, the cherry on top for winter drivers, you get all-wheel drive.

The Tech

Nothing overly impressive here, but that’s not newsworthy. Alfa Romeo does a great job in the areas that matter to it, and tech just isn’t at the top of their performance list.
That’s not to say it’s bad; it’s just not segment-leading.

You will get lots of driver assist tools, but some of them, like the rear-view camera, are just a little short of pleasing. The camera view, for instance, is just a little small.

You will find Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, but I hand a couple of instances where it was slow to connect. Again, not a deal-breaker, but a reminder that Alfa Romeo likes to build fast, sporty cars, not monuments to tech.

The Bottom Line

To sum things up, the primary reason you’d want to look at the Stelvio, and in particular the Quadrifoglio trim, is the power and handling. It’s an SUV that not only looks animalistic, but performs well.

It’s also not shy about fuel consumption; my combined experience came in just a hair below 20 mpg.

But I had a blast driving it all week. And, something else to consider: When you walk out to the parking lot, you sure will stand out. Not a ton of Alfa Romeos competing for eyeballs out there.

Check out the fun driving experience.

The Details

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
2.9-liter, twin-turbo V6
505 horsepower
8-speed automatic transmission
All-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 17/23/19 combined
MSRP: $80,245
As tested: $88,390

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer

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