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    The Brief: Closing Out the 2015 Reviews (Part 2)


    • Closing out 2015 with the final reviews of vehicles from this year (Part 2)

    The end of another year is upon us and I’m in the process of picking my favorite vehicles from the year. But before we get to that, I need to give some vehicles their time in the review spotlight. Trying to crank a review or a two a week is a hard task for some folks, myself included. I tend to spend a week with a vehicle, driving it in my daily routine, taking notes and photos, and hopefully beginning the review before the vehicle leaves. But that last part is the thickest part as it doesn’t always work out because of life. Whether it's a personal or family emergency, vacation, changes in work, or just being distracted, life always finds a way to get in and mess up whatever you are trying to do.

     

    Towards the end of every year, I have a small number of vehicles that have fallen between the cracks and are just waiting for me to find them and write something up. This year is no different as seven vehicles have been waiting patiently for their turn and their time has come. We're going to be looking at the last three of the seven.

     

    For this piece, I’ll be listing the good and bad of each vehicle, along with some notes that I took on each vehicle.

     

    2015 Infiniti Q70L 3.7
    3.7L VQ DOHC 24-valve V6 (330 Horsepower, 270 Pound-Feet)
    Seven-Speed Automatic
    Base/As-Tested: $53,500/$62,755

     

    Cheers: Comfortable ride, large back seat, still looks stylish on the exterior
    Jeers: Interior is starting to look dated, Fuel economy could be better, Competitors are much more modern

     

    Notes: Let’s play a game. See if you can try to spot the differences between the 2015 Infiniti Q70L and the 2012 Infiniti M35h. Ready? Go.

     

    Now if you figured out the Q70L is longer than the M35h, then pat yourself on the back. Since Infiniti went to the Q nomenclature, the only real change to their midsize luxury sedan was to introduce a long-wheelbase model. Compared to the standard Q70, the adds about 5.9 inches to the wheelbase. Sitting in the back seat was very pleasurable thanks to a large amount of legroom on offer. Disappointingly, there isn’t any seat adjustments for the rear passengers, nor any heat.

     

    Despite getting up in age, the Q70L is still a striking vehicle to look. The flowing lines up front and along the side still look fresh as the day it was first introduced into the world. Twenty-inch wheels only add a bit of prestige to the model. But the interior is where you begin to feel the age of the Q70. Despite the model being trimmed in leather and wood, the Q70’s interior hasn’t changed at all since we last drove it back in 2012. The center stack is pushed out, giving a cramped feeling for passengers sitting up front. Not helping is the very dated infotainment system which looks like it has come from the Windows 98 era.

     

    For the Q70L, there is a choice of a 3.7L V6 or a 5.6L V8. Our tester had the V6 with 330 horsepower paired up to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Power comes on a very linear rate though you’ll need to plant your foot to the pedal if you are making a pass. This introduces a sound of the engine being put under a lot of strain. The ride is somewhat stiff as it seems to pick out a fair amount of imperfections on the road and transmit them to the passengers. A lot of this comes down to the optional twenty-inch wheels, and we expect the standard eighteen-inch wheels to provide a much better ride. At least, wind and road noise are kept to near-silent levels.

     

    While the introduction of the long-wheelbase for the Q70 does give it some new blood, there isn’t a good reason why anyone should choose it over one of the new midsize luxury sedans in the class. Let’s hope Infiniti has a replacement coming very soon.

     

    2015 Kia Forte5 SX
    1.6L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder
    Six-Speed Manual
    Base/As-Tested: $20,890/$26,035

     

    Cheers: Exterior Styling, Fuel Economy, Space
    Jeers: Wrong gearing in vehicle, Engine doesn’t feel quick, Interior looking very dated, not really sporty

     

    Notes: We have hot hatches and we have cold hatches (the non-sporty variety). Is there space for something warm? Maybe if the 2015 Kia Forte5 SX is something to go on.

     

    The Forte5 as the name suggests is a five-door hatchback and looks much sportier than the Forte sedan. This is thanks to a new front end with a wide and narrow grille, and a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels done in a five leaf pattern. These wheels might be my favorite OEM wheels. Inside is where the Forte5 begins to lose some points. The dashboard makes the interior feel much older than it is (Forte5 was introduced back in 2013 as a 2014 model) thanks to hard plastics and parts having a scratchy texture. We hope a Kia is planning a refresh for the interior in the near future. Not helping are the leather power seats which comes as part of the SX Premium package. While they do provide a decent level of comfort and support for short trips, the seats cannot provide long-distance support. My brother and I learned this as the Forte5 was pressed into Christmas travel duty.

     

    But Kia wins some points back in the interior. The back seat is large, providing more than enough head and legroom for anyone sitting back here. Also, the Forte5 can be equipped with everything except the kitchen sink. Our tester boasted heated seats for front and rear passengers, a cooled seat for the driver, memory seat for the driver, a touchscreen with navigation, dual-zone climate control, and a sunroof.

     

    Power comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Our tester came with the standard six-speed manual, but you can go with a six-speed automatic. This is the same engine we liked in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, but in the Forte5, it is a bit of a mess. The engine seems smothered and not as powerful as the Veloster Turbo. The cause is due to the manual. The gears are too short to allow the engine to fully produce all of the power it is capable of. Also, the short gearing means you’ll be seeing the revs up at 3,000 rpm at a 70 MPH cruise. Some longer gearing could solve both of these problems. At least, fuel economy wasn’t badly affected. Close to 700 Miles were put on the Forte5 SX and we got an average of 33.2 MPG on mostly highway and rural roads.

     

    Ride and handling are somewhere in the middle. The Forte5’s suspension is able to deal with most bumps and imperfections on the road with no problem. Bigger bumps do unsettle the vehicle a little bit. In the corners, the Forte5 feels steady and doesn’t show any sign of roll. But it isn’t any fun to pilot around such as a Mazda3. This mostly comes down to the steering with Kia’s FlexSteer system that allows you to vary the weight from light to heavy. We don’t like this system as the light setting is way too light and the heavy setting doesn’t feel hefty. Kia would do itself a lot of good by throwing out the FlexSteer system and do a new steering system that is somewhere in the middle.

     

    2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax
    5.7L DOHC 32-Valve Dual Independent VVT-i V8
    Six-Speed Automatic
    Base/As-Tested: $44,000/$45,465

     

    Cheers: Off-Road Package Comes With Everything, Excellent Value, Comfortable Ride
    Jeers: V8 Feels Sluggish, Fuel Economy

     

    Notes: Toyota decided to go back to some of their roots when it comes to their trucks and SUVs. Earlier in the year, the automaker launched the TRD Pro series for the 4Runner, Tacoma, and Tundra. The TRD Pro boasts changes to suspension, wheels, and exterior to make them ready to go off the beaten trail. Our first taste in the TRD Pro came in the form of a Tundra CrewMax.

     

    There is no mistaking the TRD Pro Tundra as it comes in a wild orange paint, paired with an old school Toyota grille (reminiscent of Toyota’s SUVs in the late eighties and early nineties) and eighteen-inch off-road alloy wheels finished in black and wrapped in meaty off-road tires. We like the TRD Pro embossed into the rear fenders as it adds a touch of distinctiveness. Inside is your standard Tundra interior with black cloth seats embroidered with the TRD Pro logo.

     

    Under the skin, Toyota made some small changes to the Tundra TRD Pro with revised suspension tuning, new front springs, outboard off-road shocks in the rear, and skid plates. We gave the TRD Pro a light exercise around a dirt field and it passed with flying colors. The suspension has more than enough travel to traverse various heights of terrain and the steering provides a good feel on the terrain you are driving on. This is a truck I love to go on a trail to see what it is fully capable of. These changes to make the Tundra a capable off-roader don’t hurt it on a day to day basis. The suspension provides a smooth ride, and there isn’t much noise coming from the tires.

     

    The one problem that is holding the Tundra TRD Pro back is the engine. Toyota uses a 5.7L I-FORCE V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This engine never feels powerful due to two reasons; a curb weight of 5,625 lbs and a lazy throttle. These two cause you to put your foot farther down on the pedal to get to that power. That also means your fuel economy will be hurting. Average for the week in the Tundra TRD Pro was 12.9 MPG. Toyota really needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to make a V8 that can balance power and fuel economy.

     

    Otherwise, Toyota has a really interesting offering in the truck market with the TRD Pro.

     

    Disclaimer: Infiniti, Kia, and Toyota Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

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    I noticed on the Kia that you said it got great fuel economy but the engine felt sluggish with poor gearing.. Those things go hand in hand perfectly. lol.

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      Finally, there is the 2018 Tundra. Like the Sequoia, the Tundra will get Toyota's Safety Sense-P suite as standard equipment, along with a revised grille and headlight designs. There will also be a TRD Sport trim on offer as well. For the Tundra, this includes a hood scoop, body color mirrors and bumpers; LED headlights, 20-inch silver aluminum wheels with black insets, and TRD Sport decals on the bedsides. Bilstein shocks and TRD front and rear antiroll bars are used to improve handling.
      The TRD Sport will be available on the double cab and CrewMax body styles, along with the choice of rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.
      The 2018 Sequoia and Tundra arrive at dealers in September.
      Source: Toyota
      Press Release is on Page 2


      Roughing It in Style - - Toyota Introduces the New 2018 Tundra and Sequoia TRD Sport and RAV4 Adventure Models
      New Tundra and Sequoia TRD Sport Grades Receive added Styling and Performance Handling Upgrades Standard Toyota Safety Sense – P Refreshed Styling on all Tundra and Sequoia Models New RAV4 Adventure adds Dirt-Inspired Styling and Higher Ride Height CHICAGO, Feb. 9, 2017 - - Families on the go, TRD style!  Toyota’s Tundra full-size pickup truck and Sequoia large SUV have long been ideal for adventuresome families in need of that unique combination of performance, utility, towing ability and comfort.  For 2018, the experts at Toyota Racing Development (TRD) have developed the new TRD Sport grade for Tundra and Sequoia, offering active families an extra dose of sportier styling and performance for added fun and excitement on their next journey.   
      In addition to the new TRD Sport grades, Tundra and Sequoia will receive new styling, convenience and safety features for all 2018 models, including Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) as standard equipment.
      Outdoor family fun isn’t exclusive to Toyota’s two largest truck and SUV models.  For the 2018 model year, the popular RAV4 compact crossover adds a new Adventure grade for young families looking for fun in out-of-the-way places.   Already a fun-to-drive crossover for young families with active lifestyles, the new RAV4 Adventure adds a sportier take-me-anywhere attitude for the weekend warrior.
      Tundra TRD Sport
      The new Tundra TRD Sport is available on 4x4 and 4x2 grades in CrewMax and Double Cab configurations and powered by the proven 381-horsepower 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engine.  Driving performance will be enhanced with the addition of TRD Sport Tuned Bilstein Shocks and TRD front and rear anti-sway bars.  Key exterior features for the TRD Sport include:
      Color-keyed mirrors, front and rear bumpers Color-keyed hood scoop 20-inch alloy silver sport wheels LED Headlights with smoked chrome bezel, Daytime Running Lights (DRL), and LED Fog Lights Mesh grille with body color surround TRD Sport bedside graphic Exterior colors for the TRD Sport will include Super White, Magnetic Gray, Midnight Black Pearl, Blazing Blue Pearl and Barcelona Red Metallic.
      The exterior styling is complemented with interior features that include a TRD shift knob and TRD Sport floor mats. 
      The TRD Sport is just part of an overall refresh for the 2018 Tundra.  Safety will be enhanced on all Tundra models with the addition of Toyota Safety Sense™ (TSS-P) as standard equipment.  This multi-feature advanced active safety suite bundles a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Auto High Beams (AHB) and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC).  Drivers can view the status of TSS-P through an upgraded Multi-information Display.
      The 2018 Tundra will receive exterior updates that include a new mesh grille on select trims while the Tundra Limited and 1794 Edition will receive a new billet style grille.  The Limited, Platinum and 1794 Edition will be equipped with new LED Headlights and Daytime Running Lights (DRL), and LED Fog Lights.  LED headlights and Fog Lights are also available when the TRD Off-Road Package is selected on SR5 models.  The SR and SR5 grades will receive halogen headlights with a black bezel and LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL). 
      Sequoia TRD Sport
      The brawny 2018 Sequoia TRD Sport will be available in 4x4 and 4x2 models equipped with the 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engine.   Road handling is enhanced with TRD Sport Tuned Bilstein Shocks and TRD front and rear anti-sway bars.  Key exterior features on the Sequoia TRD Sport will include:
      New front grille and bumper grille insert Metallic black mirror caps 20-inch alloy black sport wheels Darkened rear tail light housing Black satin finish TRD Sport badging on the front doors and a Metallic black and chrome Sequoia badge on the liftgate Exterior colors for the Sequoia TRD Sport will include Super White, Magnetic Gray Metallic, and the new Midnight Black Metallic.  The stylish exterior treatment will be complemented by an assortment of interior convenience features exclusive to the Sequoia TRD Sport including:
      Standard black fabric seven-passenger seating Optional Black leather captain chair seats (part of the optional Premium Package) TRD shift knob TRD Sport floor mats TRD Sport sill protectors In addition to the TRD Sport, Sequoia will be available in SR5, Limited and Platinum grades in 4x2 and 4x4 configurations.  All will be powered by the i-Force V8 engine. Like Tundra, the 2018 Sequoia will raise the bar in the area of safety as TSS-P will be standard on all models (includes PCS w/PD, LDA, AHB, and DRCC).    
      All Sequoia models will also come standard with new LED headlights with LED DRL, and LED fog lights.  Additional exterior updates include a new front grille and bumper grille insert, distinctive to each grade.  A bumper opening chrome surround will be equipped on TRD Sport, Limited and Platinum grades. 
      The 2018 Sequoia will be available in eight exterior colors including three new colors: Midnight Black Metallic, Shoreline Blue Pearl and Toasted Walnut Pearl.  Additional colors include: Super White, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Silver Sky Metallic, Blizzard Pearl, and Sizzling Crimson.
      Inside, all Sequoia models will come standard with a new instrumentation panel gauge cluster and 4.2-inch Multi-information Display (MID) that tracks the status of TSS-P.  Also new are an updated center speaker grille smoothed to the surrounding dashboard and interior trim with wood-like accents for Platinum grade.
      RAV4 Adventure
      The active lifestyle-inspired RAV4 Adventure will be available in front-wheel drive with an Automatic Limited-Slip Differential, or with Dynamic Torque Control all-wheel-drive.  Both versions feature a standard Tow Prep Package that includes an upgraded radiator and supplemental engine oil and transmission fluid coolers, as well as a suspension system with a higher ride height.  As with all RAV4 models, the Adventure grade will come standard with Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC), and TSS-P.  Exterior styling features exclusive to the RAV4 Adventure includes:
      Large overfender flares 18-inch five-spoke black alloy wheels with 235/55R18 tires Lower body guards Black headlight bezels Black fog lamp surround, roof racks and Adventure badging The RAV4 Adventure will be available in five exterior colors including Black, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Silver Sky Metallic, Super White, and one new color for RAV4 models, Ruby Flare Pearl.
      The sporty exterior features of the RAV4 Adventure are mated to exclusive interior features that include:
      Unique interior trim panels Leather-wrapped shift knob 120V/100W power outlet in the cargo area Adventure door sill protectors All-weather mats floor and cargo mats with Adventure logo Additional features new for 2018 in select RAV4 models include optional heat/power fabric front row seats, heated steering wheel, and wiper de-icer as part of a new Cold Weather Package.
      The 2018 RAV4 Adventure grade along with the Tundra and Sequoia TRD Sport grades will begin arriving in dealer showrooms in September.
    • By William Maley
      Kia Motors America Announces January Sales
      All-New Niro Crossover Begins Arriving in Select Showrooms IRVINE, Calif., February 1, 2017 – Kia Motors America today announced January sales of 35,626 units, led by the Optima and Soul with 7,849 and 7,792 units sold, respectively. The first month of the year also marks the first retail deliveries of the all-new Niro crossover.
        MONTH OF JANUARY
      YEAR-TO-DATE
      Model
      2017
      2016
      2017
      2016
      Rio
      986
      1,430
      986
      1,430
      Forte
      6,267
      5,329
      6,267
      5,329
      Optima
      7,849
      8,413
      7,849
      8,413
      Cadenza
      316
      374
      316
      374
      K900
      34
      68
      34
      68
      Niro
      42
      N/A
      42
      N?A
      Sportage
      4,623
      4,803
      4,623
      4,803
      Sorento
      6,179
      6,695
      6,179
      6,695
      Sedona
      1,538
      2,002
      1,538
      2,002
      Soul
      7,792
      9,191
      7,792
      9,191
      Total
      35,626
      38,305
      35,626
      38,305
      # # # 
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