January 19, 2020 at 11:34 am EST | by Joe Phillips
New ‘20s autos sleek, full of oomph
BMW M340i xDRIVE, gay news, Washington Blade
BMW M340i xDRIVE

It’s show time! Auto show time, that is, when gearheads swoon, paparazzi swarm and cars are unveiled like movie stars at a premiere. Look for these and other top rides when they roll into town for the Washington Auto Show next week (Jan. 24-Feb. 2).

COMPACT CAR: NISSAN VERSA
$16,000
MPG: 32 city/40 highway
Zero-60 mph: 9.2 seconds

With all the hullabaloo about Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan honcho who skipped bail to flee Japan for Lebanon last month, it’s easy to forget the automaker offers really decent rides. This includes the redesigned Versa sedan, long the cheapest new car in America at $13,335. While the updated 2020 model is a bit more expensive, it’s still a heckuva bargain. After all, the average price of a new car today is $36,718. What’s more, this slightly larger Versa is very versatile: it’s a subcompact, but now with the cargo capacity of a compact car and the overall feel of a mid-sizer. Acceleration is a bit chug-a-lug, but steering and braking are better than the previous model. Another plus: This is one of the few vehicles that still offers a manual transmission. Front-end styling is reminiscent of a zippy Nissan Z roadster, while the rear borrows liberally from a VW Jetta. Sadly, back-seat legroom and headroom are tight, thanks to the sloped roofline. But inside, even the base model has plenty of standard features, including seven-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth. 

SPORT SEDAN: BMW M340i xDRIVE
$54,000
MPG: 24 city/34 highway
Zero-60 mph: 4.2 seconds

Last year, the BMW 3 Series got a complete makeover, including a larger chassis and better performance. But the only engine available was a four-cylinder turbo in the 330i base model. For 2020, there’s the new M340i with a mighty six-cylinder. Alas, there’s no manual transmission, but at least the exquisite eight-speed automatic with launch control makes for a thrilling ride. I loved mashing the accelerator when driving on the Beltway to see just how much giddy-up was under the hood. Plenty, as it turns out. Despite BMW’s typically firm suspension, this Bimmer felt easygoing and composed. And the optional all-wheel drive came in handy during dicey weather. There are tons of safety gizmos, though some are pricey add-ons. And the list of amenities includes automated self-parking, semi-automated steering system, wi-fi hotspot, 16-speaker stereo and more. The gesture-control function for the infotainment system is especially cool. Just as impressive is the tasteful cabin, with brushed aluminum trim, widescreen infotainment system and a thick-rimmed steering wheel that makes you feel like an Indy contender. 

CROSSOVER: KIA TELLURIDE SX
$42,000
MPG: 20 city/26 highway
Zero-60 mph: 7 seconds 

The folks at Kia must have a “Star Wars” fetish. After all, why else create an all-new crossover that’s as imposing as Darth Vader? There’s the menacing grille. Gigantic black alloys. And — yikes! — those sinister-looking headlights. I even started humming “The Imperial March” when I first got behind the wheel. But hey, being a bad ass is what makes the Telluride so good. This hauler is larger than the popular Sorento (more akin to a Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot) with space for eight passengers and tons of cargo capacity. For even more room, you can switch out the second-row bench seat for two captain’s chairs. Four trim levels, but the top-of-the-line SX is worth the extra 10 grand over the base model. Along with dual sunroofs, the Telluride comes with 12-way driver’s seat, automatic high beams and 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo. The latest safety gear is standard and you can add in a head-up display, heated steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers. Despite the hulking design, I found the handling smooth and responsive. Four drive modes helped, each with plenty of kick. And high ground clearance and a ginormous windshield made for excellent driver visibility. While there is no Jedi mind trick feature, there is Driver Talk, which amplifies the driver’s voice in the rear speakers. 

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