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    • By cp-the-nerd




      2017 Cruze Hatchback Premier (1.4T/6A)
      Odo - 8051 mi

      We just took the Cruze on a 1,000 mile road trip (from Baltimore to Myrtle Beach and back) and this was my first extended, in-depth experience driving and living with the car for a week. I'll break down the review into sections if you want to skip around.

      Fuel Economy (EPA rated 28 city/37 highway):
      *Premium gas/mobil 1 oil used. Manual recommends regular gas, dexos approved synthetic oil.

      On our trip, we achieved 39.3 mpg leaving Baltimore and 41.0 mpg coming back, based on the gauge cluster. My wife reports that it's fairly accurate, if optimistic by an mpg. Hand calculation is pretty much out the window because we have to hit 3 different gas stations with wildly different pump shut-offs and then we burn half a tank around town for the week. Sorry, I'm just not that invested when I know we can trust the gauge cluster.

      We did not hypermile whatsoever, just used cruise control as much as possible. We passed slow traffic and drove aggressively when the situation called for it. No sitting behind slow traffic or drafting large trucks to fluff the numbers. We drove 7-10 over the speed limit, with most of the journey being 65 and 70 mph zones.

      - From what I can tell, 75 mph seems to be the 40 mpg cutoff. 
      - 60 to 70 mph is the sweet spot for crushing the EPA highway rating.
      - The gauge cluster's "Best 50 mile average mpg" indicated we set a new high score of 49 mpg.

      Engine/Transmission
      1.4T DI VVT is rated 153 hp/177 tq
      C&D test numbers for the premier hatchback auto: 0-60 in 7.7 sec, 1/4 mile in 16 @ 84 mph.

      In my experience, the direct-injected 1.4T provides more than adequate acceleration and feels peppy. The tires will peel out a bit when floored from a stop, and the engine offers strong torque for low-stress highway merging or passing even with 2 people and probably 150 lbs of luggage. I also drove with 4 adult occupants and acceleration remained adequate around town without revving hard. At full throttle, the engine starts getting out of breath above 5500 rpm.

      The transmission is more eco-tuned than I'd like, but the logic is a far cry from the mess of GM's first 6-speeds. Downshifting to accelerate takes a bit of prodding, but the downshift is drama free with a progressive surge of turbo torque that follows. After 6 hours on the road, we hit stop and go traffic briefly and under 25 mph the transmission tripped over itself a few times noticeably enough for my wife to point it out. Can't really be replicated on demand.

      Steering/Handling

      The electric power system in the Cruze has good heft to it, and the predictable turn-in seems to mask the electric numbness.

      It's easy to drive, which is a comment I found myself coming back to frequently in my thoughts behind the wheel. It's not sporty, but it nails easy driving and commuting. The tires are all-season performance firestone firehawk GTs in 225/45R17 size. They handle securely, but make a lot of road noise in an otherwise quiet car. Michelins or Continentals will make a world of difference.

      Brakes

      One of the weak points of the car is the brake pedal. It sits an inch further forward than the gas pedal, which is very awkward in use. There's also too much play between gentle slowing and heavy braking. It feels like you're pushing through the floor to stop quickly.

      Mechanically, the car has 4-wheel disk brakes, and they stop the car with authority. Pedal placement and feel is really the problem.

      Conclusion

      My wife and I really like the car. I keep coming back to the "easy to drive" sentiment, fun wasn't the goal here and I already have a car for that. It's very happy commuting and eating up highway miles at 40 mpg. I was comfortable in the seats for 8 hours of driving, which is very rare. The acceleration power straddles base versus optional engines of other cars like the Civic and Mazda 3 without sacrifice to maximum fuel economy, which is a good balance that hasn't left us wanting.

      With a set of good tires and perhaps a tune in the far future, this car will be hanging around well beyond the last payment.
    • By William Maley
      The Toyota Highlander may not be the flashiest or fun to drive. But it has many qualities to make it one of Toyota’s best selling models such as functional and spacious interior, long list of standard equipment, and high-reliability marks. Last year, Toyota unveiled an updated Highlander with tweaks to the exterior, revised V6, and more safety. Considering it has been a few years since we last checked out the Highlander, it seemed a revisit was in order.
      The 2017 Highlander boasts new front and rear fascias to give it a more SUV-appearance and we think Toyota has mostly succeeded in this regard. The only issue is the front end reminding us too much of a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica TV. Thank the new grille design for this. Move inside and the Highlander is the same as we last saw it back in 2014 when we did our original review. This is both good and bad. The good is that the controls for the various functions are easy to use. The center console features a huge storage bin that you can easily fit a large purse or a laptop computer. A shelf underneath climate controls provides a nice space to throw small items such as a smartphone. The bad is that the controls for certain functions are not in easy reach for the drive. We also not fans of the capacitive touch buttons around the 8-inch touchscreen as they didn’t always respond. There were times we found ourselves hitting the buttons two to three times to get something to happen. The infotainment system itself is beginning to look somewhat dated with an interface that looks like it comes from the Windows XP era and the screen is somewhat dim. But we cannot argue that the system is easy to use thanks to a simple layout. Passengers sitting in the front and second-row seats will appreciate the large amount of head and legroom on offer. Also, the seats themselves are padded quite nicely. We do wish the second-row was mounted slightly higher for better long-distance comfort. The third-row seat as the seats aren’t that comfortable due to the thin amount of padding. Legroom is also quite tight with only 27.7-inches of space, meaning this is a space best reserved for small kids. Most Highlanders like our XLE AWD tester will feature Toyota’s latest 3.5L V6 that comes with direct and port fuel-injection and an upgraded valve train. The end result is 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque - up 25 and 15 respectively. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic. Other engines include a four-cylinder for the base LE and a hybrid powertrain. Toyota’s V6 engine is one our favorites as it provides impressive acceleration and a steady stream of power up to redline. This updated engine is no exception as it feels slightly quicker than the last Highlander we drove.  The powertrain stumbles somewhat due to the eight-speed automatic’s programming. Toyota went for something that focuses on fuel economy which means the transmission is quick to upshift, but slow to downshift. This means you’ll be waiting for a moment or two for the transmission to get its act together when trying to merge onto a freeway. You might be fooled into thinking that you’re riding in a Lexus considering the smooth ride of the Highlander. Bumps are turned into minor ripples. Little road and wind noise that come inside. The Highlander is a vehicle you want to keep in its comfort zone when it comes to handling. Push it in a corner and you’ll experience excessive body roll. One thing Toyota deserves credit for the 2018 Highlander is having a number of active features standard across the entire Highlander lineup. This includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. The only item we would like to see added to this list is blind spot monitoring. You can only get it on XLE models and above. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Highlander
      Trim: XLE AWD
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC D-4S with Dual VVT-i V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, 
      Horsepower @ RPM: 295 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/22
      Curb Weight: 4,430 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana
      Base Price: $39,980
      As Tested Price: $43,184 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Rear Seat BluRay Entertainment System - $1,810.00
      Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00
      Body Side Molding - $209.00
    • By William Maley
      The Toyota Highlander may not be the flashiest or fun to drive. But it has many qualities to make it one of Toyota’s best selling models such as functional and spacious interior, long list of standard equipment, and high-reliability marks. Last year, Toyota unveiled an updated Highlander with tweaks to the exterior, revised V6, and more safety. Considering it has been a few years since we last checked out the Highlander, it seemed a revisit was in order.
      The 2017 Highlander boasts new front and rear fascias to give it a more SUV-appearance and we think Toyota has mostly succeeded in this regard. The only issue is the front end reminding us too much of a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica TV. Thank the new grille design for this. Move inside and the Highlander is the same as we last saw it back in 2014 when we did our original review. This is both good and bad. The good is that the controls for the various functions are easy to use. The center console features a huge storage bin that you can easily fit a large purse or a laptop computer. A shelf underneath climate controls provides a nice space to throw small items such as a smartphone. The bad is that the controls for certain functions are not in easy reach for the drive. We also not fans of the capacitive touch buttons around the 8-inch touchscreen as they didn’t always respond. There were times we found ourselves hitting the buttons two to three times to get something to happen. The infotainment system itself is beginning to look somewhat dated with an interface that looks like it comes from the Windows XP era and the screen is somewhat dim. But we cannot argue that the system is easy to use thanks to a simple layout. Passengers sitting in the front and second-row seats will appreciate the large amount of head and legroom on offer. Also, the seats themselves are padded quite nicely. We do wish the second-row was mounted slightly higher for better long-distance comfort. The third-row seat as the seats aren’t that comfortable due to the thin amount of padding. Legroom is also quite tight with only 27.7-inches of space, meaning this is a space best reserved for small kids. Most Highlanders like our XLE AWD tester will feature Toyota’s latest 3.5L V6 that comes with direct and port fuel-injection and an upgraded valve train. The end result is 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque - up 25 and 15 respectively. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic. Other engines include a four-cylinder for the base LE and a hybrid powertrain. Toyota’s V6 engine is one our favorites as it provides impressive acceleration and a steady stream of power up to redline. This updated engine is no exception as it feels slightly quicker than the last Highlander we drove.  The powertrain stumbles somewhat due to the eight-speed automatic’s programming. Toyota went for something that focuses on fuel economy which means the transmission is quick to upshift, but slow to downshift. This means you’ll be waiting for a moment or two for the transmission to get its act together when trying to merge onto a freeway. You might be fooled into thinking that you’re riding in a Lexus considering the smooth ride of the Highlander. Bumps are turned into minor ripples. Little road and wind noise that come inside. The Highlander is a vehicle you want to keep in its comfort zone when it comes to handling. Push it in a corner and you’ll experience excessive body roll. One thing Toyota deserves credit for the 2018 Highlander is having a number of active features standard across the entire Highlander lineup. This includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. The only item we would like to see added to this list is blind spot monitoring. You can only get it on XLE models and above. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Highlander
      Trim: XLE AWD
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC D-4S with Dual VVT-i V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, 
      Horsepower @ RPM: 295 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/22
      Curb Weight: 4,430 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana
      Base Price: $39,980
      As Tested Price: $43,184 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Rear Seat BluRay Entertainment System - $1,810.00
      Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00
      Body Side Molding - $209.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      We had high hopes for the Hyundai Tucson when we did a first drive back in August 2015. But when we did our full review last April, we ended it by saying the model wasn’t “the slam dunk we thought it was.” This was due to some key issues such as a small cargo area, a tough value argument and a dual-clutch transmission having some hesitating issues. A year later, we find ourselves revisiting the Tucson. There has been a software update to the transmission, along with some minor changes to the infotainment system and interior.
      A quick refresher on the Tucson’s powertrain lineup: A 2.0L four-cylinder producing 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque is used on the base SE and SE Plus. The rest of the Tucson lineup features a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic comes standard on the 2.0L, while the turbo 1.6 gets a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine does show some turbo lag when leaving a stop, but it will soon pick up steam and move the Tucson at a pretty decent rate. The engine doesn’t feel overtaxed when you need to make a pass. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission still has issues. While Hyundai has reduced some of the hesitation issues we experienced in the last Tucson via a software update, there is still a fair amount of this when leaving from a dead stop. We also noticed some rough upshifts during our week. At least the ride and handling characteristics have not changed since our last test. The Tucson still provides one of the smoothest rides in the class, even with the Limited’s 19-inch wheels. It doesn’t flinch when going around a corner as body motions are kept in check. A Mazda CX-5 would be more fun to drive as it is quicker when transitioning from one corner to another and the steering has the right amount of weight and feel. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. The interior remains mostly unchanged except for a couple of minor things. The 8-inch touchscreen system now features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We’re impressed with how fast the system was able to find the iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface. The other change deals with more soft-touch materials being added to various parts of the interior. There is still a fair amount of hard plastics, even on the high-end Limited model which is very disappointing. There is still a lot to like about the Tucson’s interior. Space is plentiful for those sitting in the front or rear seats, even with the optional panoramic sunroof. The list of standard equipment is quite extensive as well. Limited models get automatic headlights, power and heated front seats, an 8-speaker Infinity sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push-button start, and blind-spot monitoring. Cargo space still trails competitors with only 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 61.9 cubic feet when folded. The CR-V offers 35.2 and 70.9 cubic feet respectively. The Limited seen here came with a $35,210 as-tested price, which is about average for a fully-loaded crossover in this class. But the Tucson becomes a bit of a tough sell when dropping to the lower trims as you cannot get certain features. As we noted in our full review last year, “if you want navigation or dual-zone climate control on the Sport, you’re out of luck.” Despite some of the changes made for 2017, our verdict is much the same as the 2016 Tucson. There is a lot to like about the Tucson, but there are still some issues the company needs to address - smoothing out the dual-clutch and trying to make the model a better value.  
      Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Tucson, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Tucson
      Trim: Limited AWD
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/28/25
      Curb Weight: 3,686 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
      Base Price: $31,175
      As Tested Price: $35,201 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ultimate Package - $2,750.00
      Cargo Cover - $190.00
      Reversible Cargo Tray - $100.00 
      Rear Bumper Applique - $70.00
      First Aid Kit - $30.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      We had high hopes for the Hyundai Tucson when we did a first drive back in August 2015. But when we did our full review last April, we ended it by saying the model wasn’t “the slam dunk we thought it was.” This was due to some key issues such as a small cargo area, a tough value argument and a dual-clutch transmission having some hesitating issues. A year later, we find ourselves revisiting the Tucson. There has been a software update to the transmission, along with some minor changes to the infotainment system and interior.
      A quick refresher on the Tucson’s powertrain lineup: A 2.0L four-cylinder producing 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque is used on the base SE and SE Plus. The rest of the Tucson lineup features a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic comes standard on the 2.0L, while the turbo 1.6 gets a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine does show some turbo lag when leaving a stop, but it will soon pick up steam and move the Tucson at a pretty decent rate. The engine doesn’t feel overtaxed when you need to make a pass. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission still has issues. While Hyundai has reduced some of the hesitation issues we experienced in the last Tucson via a software update, there is still a fair amount of this when leaving from a dead stop. We also noticed some rough upshifts during our week. At least the ride and handling characteristics have not changed since our last test. The Tucson still provides one of the smoothest rides in the class, even with the Limited’s 19-inch wheels. It doesn’t flinch when going around a corner as body motions are kept in check. A Mazda CX-5 would be more fun to drive as it is quicker when transitioning from one corner to another and the steering has the right amount of weight and feel. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. The interior remains mostly unchanged except for a couple of minor things. The 8-inch touchscreen system now features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We’re impressed with how fast the system was able to find the iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface. The other change deals with more soft-touch materials being added to various parts of the interior. There is still a fair amount of hard plastics, even on the high-end Limited model which is very disappointing. There is still a lot to like about the Tucson’s interior. Space is plentiful for those sitting in the front or rear seats, even with the optional panoramic sunroof. The list of standard equipment is quite extensive as well. Limited models get automatic headlights, power and heated front seats, an 8-speaker Infinity sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push-button start, and blind-spot monitoring. Cargo space still trails competitors with only 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 61.9 cubic feet when folded. The CR-V offers 35.2 and 70.9 cubic feet respectively. The Limited seen here came with a $35,210 as-tested price, which is about average for a fully-loaded crossover in this class. But the Tucson becomes a bit of a tough sell when dropping to the lower trims as you cannot get certain features. As we noted in our full review last year, “if you want navigation or dual-zone climate control on the Sport, you’re out of luck.” Despite some of the changes made for 2017, our verdict is much the same as the 2016 Tucson. There is a lot to like about the Tucson, but there are still some issues the company needs to address - smoothing out the dual-clutch and trying to make the model a better value.  
      Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Tucson, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Tucson
      Trim: Limited AWD
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/28/25
      Curb Weight: 3,686 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
      Base Price: $31,175
      As Tested Price: $35,201 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ultimate Package - $2,750.00
      Cargo Cover - $190.00
      Reversible Cargo Tray - $100.00 
      Rear Bumper Applique - $70.00
      First Aid Kit - $30.00
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