Off-Roading

2020 Toyota RAV4 fills in the gaps, remains a formidable choice for families

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

It's not uncommon for automakers to introduce a new generation of a vehicle one year and then make zero changes to it the next. That's basically where we are the 2020 Toyota RAV4, not that there's anything wrong with that.

The 2019 RAV4 was a well-executed package when it debuted. The generational difference between the current RAV4 and the previous is transformational for the RAV4 customer. The RAV4 was improved in almost every way.

There were two main areas that the RAV4 appeared to be a miss - tech and blacked out fascia elements. Toyota has remedied that in the 2020 RAV4. Now, the RAV4 comes standard with Android Auto and a Wi-Fi hot spot. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration were already standard. The RAV4 LE and XLE trims get standard satellite radio.

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

There's also a new trim level, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road. The grade has more than just appearance enhancements. It truly earns its TRD Off-Road badging.

The RAV4 TRD Off-Road builds off the RAV4 Adventure grade. It has 8.6 inches of ground clearance and a suspension, wheels, and tires that have been engineered for rugged trail driving (read: not true off-roading). The equipment on the vehicle was inspired by Ryan Millen's Rally RAV4.

The SUV comes with more rigid flow-formed 18x7 matte-black TRD alloy wheels with Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail all-terrain tires. The tread pattern on and compound of the tires meets TRD technical requirements and have strong shoulders to help protect against punctures.

There are re-valved twin-tube shocks with internal rebound springs. These help absorb the jostle of the trail and pass on a smooth-is ride to passengers.

The model comes standard with dynamic torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with driveline disconnect. This technology helps the RAV4 put the right amount of power to the right wheel depending on the terrain so that the SUV does not get stuck. However, the technology doesn't guarantee that the RAV4 TRD Off-Road won't get stuck.

There are several drive modes owners can choose including Mud & Sand for beach driving, Rock & Dirt for trails, and Snow for wintery conditions.

The RAV4 TRD Off-Road can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Toyota has equipped the model with standard hill start assist, trail sway control, downhill assist control, and a driver's information screen that shows off the torque allocation by wheel as well as slip control data.

The SUV is available in an exclusive two-tone Magnetic Gray Metallic with Ice Edge Roof color combination but other color combinations are available. At the front and rear there are dark gray fascias. LED fog lights are standard.

In its cabin, the model features red stitching and trim accents. Black SofTex covers the seats and the headrests have the TRD logo stitched in them.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road starts at $35,180.

Kia Motors has given insight into the company's future product plans.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia is charging ahead with an aggressive electric vehicle (EV) implementation plan that includes 11 new vehicles in the next five years. The strategy, called "Plan S" starts with the company's first dedicated EV in 2021.

Plan S is a dual-focus shift for the company. On one side they will be progressing toward an EV-centric product strategy while in the other hand Kia will be focusing on customized mobility solutions. They will also be focusing on autonomous vehicle development.

By the end of 2025, Kia plans to offer a full line-up of 11 battery electric vehicles. The company is aiming to have 25 percent of its vehicle sales outside of China come from what they call "eco-friendly cars" by 2025 on their way to achieving a 6.6 percent market share in the global EV market (500,000 annual EV sales excluding China). According to a McKinsey & Co. analysis published April, the U.S. EV market almost doubled to 360,000 EV units in 2018, mainly because of the strong sales performance of Tesla's Model 3.

From 2022, Kia plans to add EVs in the passenger vehicles, SUVs, and MPVs categories. They further outlined their electric vehicle development:

The dedicated EV model to be launched 2021 will be built on a unique platform specifically engineered to accommodate the car's world-leading EV powertrain and technologies. It will offer a crossover design which blurs the boundaries between passenger and sport utility vehicles, a future-oriented user experience, a single-charge driving range of over 500 kilometers, and sub-20-minute high-speed charging time.

Across its EV line-up, Kia plans to operate two different types of EVs with different charging capabilities (400V/800V) -- high-performance dedicated models and derivative models with reasonable pricing -- to meet the diverse needs of customers.

Growth in global EV sales will be pursued in accordance with a customized, market-oriented strategy, which considers regional differences in environmental regulation, subsidies, infrastructure and more.

These EVs are expected to first be sold as a trim level option in Kia vehicles in the same vein as the Niro EV and Soul EV.

Additional Kia expansion is planned to come from car-sharing and e-commerce businesses.

"Plan S is a bold and enterprising roadmap for Kia's future business transition, buttressed by the two pillars of electric vehicles and mobility solutions," said Han-woo Park, president and CEO, Kia Motors. "Our approach is to put customers first, and Kia will reinvigorate its brand innovation by developing products and services that offer new experiences for customers."

Easily missed in this plan is Kia's proposition to raise the sales of internal combustion engined vehicles while at the same time establish the development system for EV architecture. Though they say that they'll focus those efforts on emerging markets, it's relatively safe to say that the Soul, Forte, and Telluride aren't going away any time soon.

Kia is activating recent partnerships and company share acquitions to get to this goal. Last year, the Korean automaker invested in Croatian performance EV manufacturer Rimac Automobili and IONITY, which specializes in building high-speed charging infrastructures.

They're also planning on building "Mobility Hubs", transfer stations between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. Long term plans call for self-driving robotaxis and on-demand roboshuttles to also populate these Mobility Hubs.

Kia is part of a car-sharing services joint venture with Repsol, Spain's major energy corporation, in Madrid via its WiBLE brand.

The Audi A4, S4, and A4 Allroad have all been updated for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Audi has sold more A4s than any other sedan in their history. It's consistently one of the highest rated midsize cars sold in the U.S. For the 2020 model year, the German automaker has given the entire A4 lineup, including the A4 sedan, A4 Allroad, and S4, a serious mid-cycle refresh.

On the outside, the A4 has received styling updates that give it a new look that is more in line with the rest of the modern Audi lineup. Its Singleframe grille is broader and flatter while the air intakes below the headlamps have been made larger and angled inward.

2020 Audi A4 The Audi A4 has a refined exterior and a host of tech upgrades inside.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

It's easy to follow the car's shoulder line from the corner of the LED headlamps at the edge of the hood across the rear door handle and to the taillights. The car's wheel arches are more pronounced and helps give the car a more athletic appearance. The car now features a broader rear side window and narrower C-pillar, giving the illusion that the cabin is longer.

The 2020 Audi A4 with all-wheel drive, dubbed the "Quattro", gets a standard S line exterior including a titanium black honeycomb structure in its Singleframe grille, aluminum silver matte inserts in the large front air inlets and tailpipe trim, and 18-inch five-double-spoke design wheels with all-season tires.

The wagon version fo the A4, the A4 Allroad, gets matte gray body cladding and a unique Q-design Singleframe grille with vertical chrome slats.

2020 Audi A4 The Audi A4's shoulder line runs from the headlamps to the taillamps.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The S4 is the sportiest looking model. It has a double-slat alu-optic Singleframe grille, alu-optic exterior side mirror housings, body-color door handles, S model specific quad exhaust outlets in chrome and a trunk lid lip spoiler. Buyers can opt for the black optic package with black exterior mirror housings and 19-inch five-V-spoke-star design wheels in titanium finish with summer tires.

The cabin of the A4 has gotten a significant tech upgrade including Audi's new MMI 3 infotainment system. Combined with a 10.1-inch touch screen it offers users cleaner design and better usability. It's also 10 times faster than the MMI 2 system.

Audi Connect Services is available and for 2020, it will include access to Verizon's 4G LTE Wi-Fi network when the buyer opts in for a plan.

Additional interior features include:

  • Standard three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles.
  • Standard power sunroof (panoramic sunroof on A4 allroad) adds light to the cabin.
  • Standard power rear child locks
  • Standard heated eight-way power driver seat with four-way power lumbar for driver on A4 FWD models, standard front sport seats with four-way lumbar on A4 quattro models, and standard front S sport seats with power lumbar, pneumatic side bolsters, and massage function on S4 models.
  • Standard three-zone automatic climate control with rear display.
  • Standard ambient LED interior lighting or available multicolor LED lighting plus package.
  • Available S line interior package (A4 quattro sedan) enhances the vehicle's already sporty interior with a flat-bottom steering wheel with S line badge, leather and Alcantara® seats, brushed aluminum inlays, and stainless steel pedal caps.

Additional technology features include:

  • Available second-generation Audi virtual cockpit featuring a 12.3-inch display that offers HD resolution of 1920 x 720 pixels. The driver can choose between three viewing modes – classic, sport and dynamic. On S4 models, sport mode replaces classic mode as the default view, and an S Performance mode replaces dynamic mode, which brings the tachometer and speedometer to the front and center of the display and adds a boost gauge and lap timer function. The virtual cockpit helps to enhance the infotainment and navigating experience through the large Google Earth™ imagery or 3D city maps (requires Audi connect PRIME subscription) supported with 4G LTE (where available).
  • Available full-color head-up display projects relevant driving information in the driver's field of vision.
  • Available Audi phone box connects compatible smartphones with an external antenna and can wirelessly charge the phone.
  • Standard Audi smartphone interface provides access to Apple CarPlay™ and Google™ Android Auto for compatible devices.
  • Available Bang & Olufsen sound system with 3D sound, which delivers nearly true to-life surround sound through 19 speakers, including a subwoofer and center speaker, and a 16-channel amplifier producing an output of 705 watts.

The A4 models still have the same engine lineup as they did for the 2019 model year.

Audi has increased the number of standard and available safety and driver assistance features in the A4 for the 2020 model year. They include:

  • In the case of emergency braking or maneuvers, standard Audi pre sense® basic can intervene to help prepare the vehicle for impact. This process includes beginning to close the side windows and panoramic sunroof, pre-tensioning the front safety belts.
  • Standard Audi pre sense® city uses a camera to monitor the area in front of the vehicle and provides visual and acoustic warnings to help alert the driver to potentially hazardous situations.
  • Available Audi side assist provides blind spot monitoring via LED indicators on the exterior mirror housings at speeds above 9 mph.
  • Available Audi active lane assist helps to keep the driver within the driving lane through corrective steering intervention and adjustable wheel vibration, at speeds above 40 mph.
  • Available Rear cross traffic assist (as part of Audi side assist and parking system plus) supports the driver when reversing out of a perpendicular parking space. Indicator arrows in the MMI® display can help inform the driver of approaching vehicles, and in critical situations, a warning tone and brake jolt can be applied, prompting the driver to fully stop the vehicle.
  • Available Audi pre sense rear (as a part of Audi side assist) uses radar sensors in the rear bumper to help detect an impending rear-end collision, and can initiate preventative measures.
  • Available Adaptive cruise control with Traffic Jam assist helps maintain set distance from the vehicle in front, including braking and accelerating as needed, between speeds of 0 to 40 mph.
  • Available top view camera system uses four wide-angle 360-degree cameras to record the entire area surrounding, projected on the MMI screen, allowing the driver to see "around" the vehicle to help with maneuvering in tight spaces.
  • Available for the first time on A4 models, Park assist can assist the driver with parallel and perpendicular parking by taking control of the steering while the driver accelerates, shifts gears and brakes.

The 2020 Audi A4 starts at $37,400 and tops out around $47,000. The A4 Allroad starts at $44,600 and can be upgraded to the Prestige trim which runs $53, 650. The 2020 Audi S4 starts at $49,900 and reaches nearly $59,000 in its top trim level. Each new Audi has an additional $995 destination change.