The Audi E-tron Sportback’s LED headlights aren’t US-legal, but we got to test them anyway

Ashley Gleave, the exterior lighting designer for e-tron, is in the driver’s seat of our Sportback and explains how the Digital Matrix LED lights work.
“You have the source LED at the bottom that’s reflected onto a plate of micro-mirrors,” he says. “These micro mirrors are then adjusted with a magnetic field and projects images through lenses onto the street.”
Essentially each one of these mirrors (and there are a million of them) create tiny points of light that can be turned on, off or moved with such incredible precision they can instantly light certain sections of roadway or even create animations.

The Audi E-tron Sportback’s LED headlights aren’t U.S.-legal, but we got to test them anyway

Ashley Gleave, the exterior lighting designer for e-tron, is in the driver’s seat of our Sportback and explains how the Digital Matrix LED lights work.
“You have the source LED at the bottom that’s reflected onto a plate of micro-mirrors,” he says. “These micro mirrors are then adjusted with a magnetic field and projects images through lenses onto the street.”
Essentially each one of these mirrors (and there are a million of them) create tiny points of light that can be turned on, off or moved with such incredible precision they can instantly light certain sections of roadway or even create animations.

2019 Porsche Macan S insists you find the long way home from work

Our Opinion: In the world of German SUVs, the recipe is pretty similar. Power, size, weight, cost—they all align reasonably close to each other. Each one includes strengths; Porsche’s is driving feel. Getting in a lifted five-seat hatchback isn’t typically the place you find good engagement, but the Macan belies the stereotype and makes the experience enjoyable.
Take the engine. It’s balanced, powerful and sounds good, too. The difference is in the details, like the muted but pleasant exhaust tone and the smoothness of engagement with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission Porsche calls PDK. Peak power from the borrowed-from-the-Panamera V6 comes to 348 hp between 5,400 and 6,400 rpm, and peak torque spins its way to 354 lb-ft between 1,360 and 4,800 rpm. As a result, acceleration actually feels faster than the claimed 5.1 seconds it takes to reach 60 mph from rest. 
Inside, the cabin is well laid out, with a good selection of buttons to use on the steering wheel, as well as a nice, wide screen to view all pertinent information. If you do get a chance to take the long way home with a few extra twists and turns, the seats provide plenty of support and the drive modes help the Macan easily suit your tastes. 
In addition to the Macan’s actual price, there’s a fuel economy cost, as well: 18 mpg city, 23 highway, 20 combined is not that good, behind the Audi SQ5, BMW X3 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. BMW beats ’em all with 20 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway and 23 combined. Generally speaking, I’m willing to bet that’s not the top consideration of buyers in this demographic, but now you know.
Overall, however, it’s hard to put a price on a good driving experience. And Porsche puts more time and effort into that across its lineup than anyone. For instance, with this midcycle update, Porsche worked to give the Macan a more neutral handling balance. This Porsche, any current Porsche, is fun to drive. And that’s more impressive today in our technology-laden, do-it-for-me society. Whether you’re driving to work or the Tail of the Dragon, the Macan is a smile-maker. 

2019 Nissan Kicks SR is the commuter car of our modern era

Our Opinion: If you want an SUV shape and achieve 33 mph combined, the Nissan Kicks is exactly that. If you hoped the combined fuel economy figure comes from 31 mpg city and 36 mph highway, even better! It’s as if the Kicks was reading your mind. Nissan didn’t make the Kicks for drive-or-die enthusiasts; it’s for folks who want one small step above basic transportation.
The rear suspension is a non-independent twisted beam setup. The rear brakes are drums. In front, you get ventilated discs and a strut suspension but nothing fancy. Furthermore, Nissan calls it a crossover SUV, but there’s no option for all-wheel drive. This is an urban, sunbelt SUV for a slightly higher view of the road and the look, not anything you’ll take to Moab or, really, outside of city limits other than the interstate.
On the other hand, the base-trimmed Kicks S includes modern ways to connect the smartphone and keep it charged, as well as safety features that will calm parent’s nerves if their kids want to go for a drive—automatic emergency braking comes to mind. Our top-trimmed SR also runs with blind-spot detection, intelligent key, remote engine start and a few other convenient tricks. That’s in addition to the sportier accents adorning the car. 
Behind the wheel, the lack of concern for enthusiasts’ interests shows up right away. The Kicks goes about its day with no concern for driver engagement. The steering wheel provides little feel. The 1.6-liter combined with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, buzzes its way from place to place with acceptable acceleration. Chuck the Kicks into a corner and, well, it goes through the corner, a bit annoyed you unnecessarily made it work a little harder. Nothing here thrills. 
And that’s fine because it’s not the point. This is a point-A-to-B kind of car and I’ll be darned, every time I left point A in it, I got to point B just fine. And I listened to my favorite podcasts while doing it.

2020 BMW X6 M50i is the extrovert’s rocket ship; we’re not extroverts

The AWD-only X6 M50i gets the company’s hammer, the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that sounds as brutish as anything Detroit has to offer. It delivers a monstrous 523 hp at 5,500 rpm and 553 lb-ft of torque at 1,800-4,600 rpm. That’ll rocket the X6 to 60 mph in just over four seconds. The M50i starts $86,645; Our M50i is spec’d up to $97,195 with the Dynamic Handling, Drivers Assistance, Luxury Seating, Parking Assistance and Premium Packages. Top speed is 155 mph with the summer tire box checked. Both versions get an eight-speed automatic.
Inside, it’s the glass controls that really stand out in the X6’s leather-wrapped interior. It’s a $650 option, even in this configuration, but the diamond-like cut on the shifter and rotary dial gives them heft and presence. This tester has a metallic, 3D-texture trim, but you can get wood or carbon fiber, if you please. The infotainment screen has a little of that tacked-on-after look, but it’s low enough that it doesn’t disturb forward vision. The digital gauge cluster features a customizable central area that I left in navigation mode. It shows a zoomed-in view as opposed to the infotainment’s wider overview.
Everything in the X6 feels crisp and tight. The seats have a bunch of adjustments with under-knee support, but I couldn’t get as low as I wanted, and the cushions aren’t the softest. Granted, I was sitting in a Rolls-Royce a few hours earlier so maybe that colored my opinion. All the important controls are on the steering wheel, including the adaptive cruise and traffic jam assist, which is as simple as hitting the steering wheel button, then “set.” You’ll be locked in at the speed limit, no matter what speed you’re going when you hit it. The head-up display is always nice; I keep it dim, but I love having it, especially when the navigation instructions can be displayed.

2020 Honda Civic Si gets a shorter final drive ratio, new headlights—and demands a track test

For 2020, the Honda Civic Si now has the aforementioned LED lights and final-drive ratio. Additionally, Honda restyled the front and rear bumpers on the Si sedan and just the front on the coupe. The wheels still measure 18 inches in diameter, but now have a black finish instead of silver. Inside, Honda added red accents to the interior and a physical volume knob, and other buttons, to the radio. Finally, Honda Sensing—the name used for safety systems like adaptive cruise control, automatic brakes to avoid collision, lane keep assist and the rest—is now standard.
In fact, most everything is standard on the Civic Si. Things like a 10-speaker, 450-watt stereo, normal and sport driving modes with adaptive dampers, push button start, heated front-seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and 40/60 split folding rear seats. For either the coupe or the sedan, it costs $25,930.
Other than dealer installed accessories, only two options are available: $200 for a set of Goodyear Eagle F1 summer tires, instead of same-sized all-seasons, and a $3,999 Honda Factory Performance, or HFP, package that adds more aggressive front spoiler, side skirts and a few badges. The HFP also gets 19-inch summer tires and a more aggressive tune of the adaptive sport suspension. Once a chance arises to try that package out, Autoweek will share what it’s like.

The 2020 BMW 745e iPerformance is an expensive way to lean green

Our Opinion: We, as a society, have reached a point where hybrid technology makes a car superior in most every way other than cost. Today’s hybrids accelerate faster, operate quieter, and consume less fuel than their internal combustion engine-only counterparts. With that in mind, hybrids make perfect sense in the full-size, flagship premium sedan category, where price sensitivity drops down the priority list.
In this particular case, the 745e feels more appropriately flagship than the 740e it replaces. The 280-hp inline-six operates smoother and sounds much better while doing it. It also pairs well with the 113-hp electric motor. Altogether, you get 389 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque, which never leaves the 745e wanting for power. Yes, the 750i and M760i are louder and faster still, but it seems to be that big muscle in a large premium sedan misses the point. Besides, the 745e reaches 60 mph from rest in less than five seconds, according to BMW.

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The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback is a high-speed techno-cocoon

Our Opinion: How it was supposed to work was this: I line up the RS5 Sportback for a work trip from Detroit to New York City, point it more or less eastward once I get south of Toledo and let its 444-hp twin-turbocharged V6 cut the roughly 10-hour drive in half. Or something like that.
How it actually worked out was, I got stuck in a weather system that stretched from Pittsburgh to Jersey City. Most of the drive was spent crawling through torrential rain. There were many miles, more than I care to remember in detail, spent creeping along with the flashers on, one in a long line of drivers utterly hobbled by nature. Any faster than 5 mph and the wipers couldn’t keep up; I wouldn’t have been able to exceed the speed limit even if I had wanted to. Then, I drove into lower Manhattan in an attempt to make it to Brooklyn. Lower Manhattan is not—and this is probably going to come as a surprise to you—a great place to drive. The next day I had to get to and from Sleepy Hollow (it’s a real place!), which involved driving through upper Manhattan. Also not a great place to drive, as it turns out.
But, weirdly, battling through the city during the afternoon rush hour was when the Audi started to come into its own. Sport mode dialed up throttle responsiveness, heightening the car’s reflexes and making it easier to bash my way through the aggressive, self-absorbed, anarchistic traffic. It felt just as pissed off as I did at the double-parkers and oblivious Uber drivers. It wanted to close any exploitable gaps, ward off anyone trying to cut in on my lane. Maybe this is why New Yorkers are always so high-strung. Anyway, by the time I’d reached my destination I felt like I’d accomplished something.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport is small … but not too small

Our Opinion: My expectations for vehicles in this class have always been fairly low. There’s just not that much about a compact crossover, even a well-executed one, to quicken an enthusiast’s pulse, right? Slowly but surely, however, the bar has been raised — given the popularity of the crossover, it was a given that effort and resources would flow into this segment — and while the utilitarian results are never going to be tantalizing in the same way that, say, an Audi RS6 Avant will be, the latest crop is admittedly very solid. They’ve earned my respect, if not my admiration.
But what of Cadillac’s effort? My fear was that the XT4 would be a tarted-up Buick Encore, which is itself a tarted-up Chevrolet Trax. Maybe a certain number of buyers wouldn’t have cared, but to me, that move would have signaled total, soul-crushing apathy on Cadillac’s part.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. The Cadillac XT4 rides on the GM E2XX platform, which in non-engineer speak means that it has more in common with the excellent, current Buick Regal family than it does with small crossovers further down the GM brand ladder. You don’t need to know about platform codes to appreciate the significance of this: You can tell that this is a well-sorted ride as soon as you get underway.
Another benefit of the new bones? More room inside. Cadillac’s models have always fit somewhat awkwardly between vehicle size classes; here’s one case where that works in the marque’s favor. I assumed the XT4 would have a cramped rear seat, but there’s actually a claimed 39.5 inches of rear legroom back there. I climbed in to check it out and, at 6 feet even, fit just fine. The 36.1 inches in the Audi Q3 or Lexus NX aren’t totally punishing for an average-size adult rear passenger, but the XT4 is the clear winner.