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Cheers and Jeers for 2014


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It was a year of fear as the ebola virus was plastered all over the news despite being almost entirely contained to West Africa. Terror group ISIS rose up and took over parts of Iraq as America’s longest war wound down in Afghanistan and officially ended. Protests erupted across the country over the deaths of unarmed black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by white police officers. An apathetic electorate, assisted by gerrymandering, decided that they wanted Congress and governor mansions to be red and gave the President another spanking despite an improved economy, rising employment, and an all-time high Dow Jones. Same-sex marriage became legal in an additional 17 states, now at 35.

Hacking continued to be in the news, as the full extent of purloined personal data from Target’s computers in late 2013 became known early in the year and showed how antiquated credit card security is in the U.S. Home Depot was victim of a major breach. Towards the end of the year, XBOX addicts couldn’t get their fix for a few days, and North Korea allegedly hacked into Sony’s computers as retribution to their pending release of a satirical film, or was it an inside job?

In other international news, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are being reestablished. Three airline disasters, including one jumbo jet that is still missing, took place in the Far East areas of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Prominent passings included Robin Williams, James Garner, and Joan Rivers. Tom Magliozzi, the older of NPR’s “Click and Clack” brother duo, also passed away.

In automotive news, Ford began sales of the all-new Mustang, which debuted to mixed reviews, but the marketplace has flocked to the car so far. Ford also brought out the aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup. This was after a F-250 prototype caught fire in August and quickly vaporized, leading people to ask whether aluminum is the best material for a pickup, combined with lingering questions about durability, repair costs, and insurance costs. Mazda unveiled a new Miata that lost some weight and has a sharper look. Porsche became even more of an SUV company with the runaway sales of the Macan. Subaru sales continue to be through the roof. GM recalled about 30 million vehicles, about double what Toyota did in their crisis about three years ago. A sinkhole opened up at the Corvette museum in February and swallowed 8 Corvettes, 3 of which will be restored. Attendance at the museum spiked up 71%, and the big hole is now being filled up with gravel. Google revealed their prototype of their driverless car, which has the potential of transforming tight urban places. At the end of the year, gas prices dropped by about a third due to increased production in the U.S., which will ensure sales of large vehicles for a while.

Here on the C&G boards, it was another pretty quiet year, though the forum platform got a nice upgrade. Here are a few of the highlights and lowlights in the 13th Annual Edition of Cheers and Jeers:

Cheers to Cadillac for credible performance vehicles with the ATS-V and the CTS-V. Details of the upcoming CT6 are promising. Cadillac sales are down 20% this year, but Cadillac is not doing fire sales anymore and will be plugging gaping holes in the lineup.

Jeers to Cadillac for their lame new naming convention. The updated emblem, which is supposed to be “sleeker and streamlined”, comes across as plain and squat, but worse is their unoriginal naming convention of having a different number designate each model in its hierarchy after CT for the passenger cars and XT for the crossovers and SUVs. The fact that Escalade will retain that name shows the power of having a unique, immediately identifiable name.

Cheers to GM for having the Best New Pickups with the Colorado and Canyon returning to the lineup, and not making them half-baked like the last go-round. They will genuinely be best-in-class, albeit a shrunken class of other aged vehicles, but they will have a year ahead of the new Tacoma to establish themselves. The diesel engine coming next year will make them that much more compelling.

Cheers to GM CEO Mary Barra for her adept handling of the recalls. She’s bringing a clarity of direction with limited obfuscation. Jeers to GM for not resolving the safety issues to begin with, and for GM somehow initially forgetting that the Saturn Ion had the same defective part. The defective ignition switch has been blamed for 42 deaths. Now GM is erring on the side of caution for recalls, which is probably necessary for the sake of PR, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Jeers to Takata for dragging their feet to recall defective airbags that spew metal debris.

Cheers to FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) for producing the audacious Challenger and Charger Hellcat, with their 707 hp and 200 mph top speed. Perhaps the Hellcat was in response to the new Mustang and pending Camaro changeover, but the American muscle car is more alive than ever in terms of performance.

Cheers to FCA again for having the full-size pickup with best mileage by placing a Fiat-sourced diesel engine in the light-duty Ram EcoDiesel and keeping the truck current. GM had plans for a small Duramax for the light-duty Silverado, but that project got shelved during the bankruptcy.

Jeers to Ford on the beer can F-150, which is not a game-changer. The styling is overwrought inside and out. Ford pickups have historically been overweight, and a 700 pound weight loss is really only about a 300 pound weight advantage compared to the competition. The new 2.7 liter EcoBoost engine has gotten good reviews so far and gives the best mileage for any gas-powered pickup, but will truck buyers feel comfortable about having such a small engine, and how will reliability be over the long term?

Cheers to Ford for the trusty, dearly, and now departed Econoline/E-Series, which was discontinued in 2014 after having the same platform architecture since the 1975 model year. RIP. The Econoline name dates back to 1961. While “eco” names have been in vogue with branding the last 10 years, Ford actually phased out the Econoline name in 2001. As balthazar pointed out, Ford and Mercedes had E-350 and E350 models concurrently. But out with the old, and in with the newfangled Transit. Only GM still has old-school vans with the Chevy Express and GMC Savana.

Cheers to Tesla for the quickest production automobile, the all-wheel-drive, 691 hp, 964 lb-ft Model S P85D. Tesla CEO and publicity hound Elon Musk closed the year by making the announcement that their six year old Roadster can be upgraded to achieve a 400 miles range, which would conceivably make an electric car practical for far more than the 80% or so it is for now, at least in terms of range. Earlier in the year, Tesla announced their first rollouts of their battery changing stations, which will swap out the battery faster than a typical car fills with gas. On the last day of the year, Musk announced that a robotic snake is being worked on to automatically plug in the charger, because that is just too much work.

Cheers to C&G Admin William Maley, aka mudmonster, for the Best Post on learning to drive a stick: http://www.cheersandgears.com/topic/83744-learning-the-dark-arts-of-driving-a-manual-transmission. How many of us were able to relate to the frustration, sheer terror, or satisfaction of doing the same thing in our youths? More Cheers for his consistently good car reviews.

Jeers to the Worst Post on spiritual and philosophical matters and inexplicably posted in the Mercury forum: http://www.cheersandgears.com/topic/83093-here-is-practical-explanation-about-next-life-purpose-of-human-life-philosophicalreligious-facts-theories-etc/#entry743913. However, perhaps it could be said that a diversity of thought can help foster a better understanding to all of us.

Finally, Cheers to all the staff and members of C&G. The constancy of the posters is like comfort food: ocnblu alternating between cars and trucks, with it now beng truck time with a pending Colorado. GMTruck74 having that constant yearning for a new GMC, and possibly getting a GMC Canyon. smk4565 being smk4565. Cmicasa did bring some needed energy to the boards late in the year. And thanks to board owner Drew Dowdell, aka oldsmoboi, for keeping the board chugging along. Cheers to all!

Hope everybody has a safe and prosperous Happy New Year!

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Thanks once again, bobo, for the yearly wrap-up!  As always, there are some things to cheer and jeer about, some of us would have maybe chose to put some of those things in the opposite category, but hey, it is always entertaining to read your traditional overview.  Cheers!

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Great wrap up as usual, I've been even less active here than usual but it's nice to see this place is still here.  2015 marks my 13th year on C&G and honestly it is quite surprising as this is the only website I have visited nearly daily for so long.  It's a testament to the quality of the members here and the postings that makes C&G what it is.  Here's to many more years!

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Great wrap up as usual, I've been even less active here than usual but it's nice to see this place is still here.  2015 marks my 13th year on C&G and honestly it is quite surprising as this is the only website I have visited nearly daily for so long.  It's a testament to the quality of the members here and the postings that makes C&G what it is.  Here's to many more years!


thanks for peeking in from time to time.  We've got some nice improvements, expansions, and refreshes coming over the next 8 months.

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      We're now at the end of our 2014 review wrap-up which deals with the largest group of vehicles I dealt with this past year: Crossovers.
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      The turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder in the Santa Fe Sport produces 264 horsepower and 269 pound-feet torque. This comes paired up to a six-speed automatic with the choice of either front or all-wheel drive. In my tester, I had the front-wheel drive version. Compared to the somewhat out-of-breath 2.4, the 2.0T seems like the perfect match for the Santa Fe Sport. With the turbo spooled up, the Santa Fe Sport moves with authority. With torque arriving at 1,750 rpm, the Santa Fe Sport gets out of its own way and feels like power is always available. Even though this is a four-cylinder, Hyundai has done a lot of work in refinement to make it feel more like a V6. There’s barely a hint of buzzing or racket that is common to four-cylinders. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T FWD at 19 City/27 Highway/22 Combined. My average for the week landed around 23.1 MPG.Aside from the different engine, the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is very much the same as the model I drove back in 2013. The styling is very distinctive for the class and equipment is very generous with such features as dual-zone climate control, heated leather seats, and sun shades for the rear windows. Making this even sweeter is a base price $30,650 which for what you get makes it quite a steal for the class.
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      Now compared to the Sorento SX Limited I drove back last year, the SX really doesn’t have any differences on the exterior when compared to SX Limited aside from wheel finish. The SX came with nineteen-inch alloy wheels, while the Limited gets a chrome finish. Inside there are only few minor differences between the two trim levels such the SX Limited getting Napa leather and premium black trim. Otherwise there isn’t any real difference between the two trims as they both have heated and cooled seats, Kia’s UVO infotainment system, push-button start, and sunroof. So unless you really want Napa leather and chrome wheels, the SX seems like the better buy.Now not much has changed under the Sorento since we last reviewed it. The standard 3.3L GDI V6 still makes 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, and comes paired with a six-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive. Like I said in my review of the Sorento SX Limited, the V6 is quite punchy and has no problem of getting the vehicle up to speed. Fuel economy is rated at 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. I saw an average of 21.3 MPG. The Sorento’s ride still retains its comfortable characteristics of isolating bumps and imperfections.
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      Toyota must have borrowed some of Lexus’ ride engineers to work on the new Highlander because it rides like a Lexus. Driving on some of the roughest roads in Detroit, the Highlander’s suspension was able to cope and provide a very smooth ride. There has also been work done on noise isolation to make road and wind noise almost non-existent.My Highlander Limited Platinum rolled up with an as tested price of $46,156, making it one of the more expensive choices in the crossover arena. But with all of the changes and improvements, I think the Highlander can justify the price. If you are considering a seven-seat crossover, the Highlander deserves a space at the top of the list.
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    • By William Maley
      Oh Toyota. I’m not sure who was it at the company who decided to market the Sienna with ‘Swagger Wagon’ tagline, because at first I thought it was kind of crazy. The tagline first appeared in an ad featuring the van and two parents rapping. At first I thought someone at the marketing department was having a YOLO moment. But the crazy thing was it worked. People took notice of the Sienna and began to put on their list of vehicles to look at. So when a Sienna XLE came in for week’s review, I wondered if there was something to this van or if the tagline Toyota had created was only promoting something mediocre.
      You can’t miss the Sienna due to how big it it. With measurements of 200.2 inches for overall length and 78.2 inches for overall width, the Sienna has to be the biggest minivan on sale. It also looks like Toyota did some rummaging from other vehicles in their lineup as the front grille looks to come from the Venza crossover, while the rear tailgate appears to come from one of Toyota’s large SUVs. The Sienna isn’t the the ugliest minivan on sale, but it isn’t the best looking either.

      Heading inside and its apparent Toyota has done a lot to make the Sienna feel more like a luxury car than a minivan. My XLE tester featured a leather interior with heated seats for the front passengers; Toyota’s Entune infotainment system, tri-zone climate control, backup camera, and a rear infotainment system. Controls are within easy reach for the radio and climate control, though I had to remind myself to look at the top of dash to the trip computer to see where I set the temperature and fan speed. Bit of an odd choice to put it there and not on the infotainment screen. Second row passengers get captain chairs with the ability to recline with a foot rest. My brother named the seats the ‘kickass seats’ and the idea of them are kickass. In practice, the idea falls short as you won’t be able to fully recline with the footrest because there isn’t enough space in the van to pull this off. Even with the seat fully back, there isn’t enough space. If Toyota was to do a Sienna XL or Grand version which adds a few more inches to the length, it might be plausible. At least head and legroom for both second and third row passengers are very generous. Cargo space is right in the midpack with the Sienna offering 39.1 cubic feet with all three rows up and 150 cubic feet with the third row folded and the second row removed.Power comes from Toyota’s venerable 3.5L V6 with 266 horsepower and 245 horsepower. It can be paired with front-wheel or my tester’s all-wheel drive system. Both drivetrains feature a six-speed automatic. The V6 is very much able to hold its own in the Sienna as power was abundant and was able to get the van up to speed in no problem. The six-speed automatic delivers smooth $h!s, while the optional all-wheel drive keeps the vehicle on the road with almost no hint that its working. Fuel economy for the Sienna XLE AWD is rated at 16 City/23 Highway/19 Combined. My week average landed around 18 MPG.
      The Sienna’s ride is what you would expect in a minivan; a suspension that has been tuned for coddling its occupants with nary a bump or road imperfection. This does mean the Sienna rolls when cornering, but then again this isn’t meant to a sports car. Noise levels are kept to a decent level in day to day driving, though freeway driving does bring in a bit more road noise than any other minivan I have driven.
      So while the ‘swagger wagon’ tagline may make some people scratch their heads, it does give a light to the Sienna which I think is one of the best vans I have driven yet. It has more than enough luxuries and space for you and your passengers to enjoy wherever they are going, along with a ride that makes you feel you’re in a luxury car. Win win in my book.
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      Year: 2014
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Sienna
      Trim: XLE AWD
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 266 @ 6,200
      Torque @ RPM: 245 @ 4,700
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      Curb Weight: 4,735 lbs
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      As Tested Price: $40,322 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge)
      XLE Navigation Package with Entune App Suite - $1,735.00
      Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - $500.00
      XM Satellite Radio - $449.00
      Carpet Floor Mats w/Door Sill Protector - $330.00
      Roof Rack Cross Bars - $185.00
      Cargo Net - $49.00
      First Aid Kit - $29.00

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    • By William Maley
      While crossovers haven taken the space that SUVs occupied only a few years ago, a number of automakers are still producing them as there is still an audience for them. One that wants the off-road and towing ability SUVs offer. So come along as we take a look at three specimens in our latest 2014 review wrap-up.
      First Up: 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium
      It is hard to believe that 30 years ago, Toyota introduced the 4Runner. The sister vehicle to the all-mighty Land Cruiser was to give Toyota a true competitor to the likes of the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Bronco. Since that time, the 4Runner has grown up somewhat in terms of size and position, but it never lost its mission; a vehicle that can get you anywhere. But with the recent 4Runner, does it still hold true to that mission?

      The 4Runner’s exterior has a look of being able to get you anywhere with no problem. This is firmly expressed in the front end as it looks like it’s wearing a muzzle. There’s a large grille to allow the standard V6 engine to breath, along with C-Shaped faux air vents above the front bumper. The rest of the 4Runner’s design is the same as the model shown in 2010 with the folded angle design, flared wheel arches, and rear tailgate with a power window. A set of seventeen-inch wheels finish off the look of the 4Runner. Inside, the rugged attitude continues with chunky controls for the climate control, infotainment system, and transfer case. A large instrument cluster provides all of the key details needed to go off the beaten path. Despite its rugged attitude, the 4Runner is a nice place to sit in. Seats are comfortable and come with heat as part of the Premium package. Rear seat passengers will find a decent amount of legroom, though I found headroom is a little bit tight due to the optional sunroof.Power comes from a 4.0L V6 engine with 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired up to a five-speed automatic and a part-time four-wheel drive system. The V6 is a workhorse for Toyota’s pickups and SUVs, and its easy to see why. Power comes on immediately and the engine roars with glee. The five-speed automatic doesn’t quite fully mesh with the V6 as first-gear takes a bit longer to kick down than I was expecting. Thankfully, all other gears did not have this same experience. Fuel economy is rated at 17 City/21 Highway/18 Combined. I got 17.4 MPG during my week of testing.

      As for ride and handling, the 4Runner exhibits a mostly comfortable ride with the suspension able to smooth out potholes and road imperfections. Wind and road noise were kept at decent level. On the curves, the 4Runner does exhibit a bit of body roll and lean due to its off-road suspension. Steering was perfectly weighted and provided excellent response for an SUV. Off the beaten path is where the 4Runner truly shines with impressive ground clearance and ability to go over some of the roughest terrain with no problem. This is an SUV that dreams of going on the trail.The 4Runner is built for those who seek adventure and their travels take them off the beaten path more often than not. If your travels are limited to payment, then you’ll be better off with a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the 4Runner, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

      Year: 2014
      Make: Toyota
      Model: 4Runner
      Trim: SR5 Premium
      Engine: 4.0L DOHC VVT-i 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Part-Time Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 270 @ 5,600
      Torque @ RPM: 278 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/21/18
      Curb Weight: 4,675 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $37,615
      As Tested Price: $39,045 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge)
      Rigid Running Boards - $345.00
      Carpet Floor Mats & Floor Mat - $225.00
      Next: 2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury
      Did you know that there two variations of the Toyota Land Cruiser sold in the U.S.? No, I’m not referring to the Lexus LX 570 which is a dressed up Land Cruiser. I’m referring to another model in the Land Cruiser family, the Land Cruiser Prado. This model sold in certain parts of the world is a direct competitor to the Land Rover LR4 with a body-on-frame SUV with all of the four-wheel drive tech to get through some of the worst conditions that mother nature has on offer. So you might be wondering where is this smaller Land Cruiser is in the U.S.? Well you only need to head down to your local Lexus dealer and check out the GX 460. But in this age where crossovers are taking the place of SUVs, does the GX 460 have a place anymore?

      You can’t miss the GX 460 at all, especially in the front. The model now features the gaping maw that is known as the spindle grille. I really don’t think the spindle grille works on the GX as it looks like an afterthought to make it fit in with the rest of the Lexus lineup. But the rest of the GX’s design is mostly the same as the first-generation model introduced back in 2002. That means a high-stance, a side-hinged tailgate, and large headlights with LEDs. Moving inside, the GX 460 feels slightly old when compared to competitors as the basic dashboard layout hasn’t changed a lot since it was introduced back in 2002. You also won’t find the remote touch infotainment system or a configurable gauge package in the GX either. At least Lexus has gotten the luxuries part right in the GX with leather, soft touch plastic, and wood trim along the door panels and dash. Seats in my GX tester were wrapped in semi-aniline leather and came equipped with heat for the first two rows, while cooled seats were standard for the front passengers. There is a third-row in the GX, but it really is only usable for small kids. Also with the third row up, cargo space is non-existent.Power comes from a 4.6L V8 engine with 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and a full-time four-wheel drive system. Despite the high power numbers, the 4.6L feels like its struggling to move the GX. Tipping the scales at 5,340 pounds explains some of struggle, as does a lazy throttle. Plus points on the V8 is not much noise when idling or accelerating in the lower rpms. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth shifts and seemed to be in a good rhythm with the engine.
      The GX comes with a full-suite of off-road technologies such as a central differential lock, adjustable suspension, and hill descent control which means you’ll be able to go anywhere you want. But in reality, many GXs will be in the urban jungle. During my week of testing, the only real off-roading I did in the GX was driving down a gravel road which really didn’t challenge the four-wheel drive system at all.

      As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2014 GX 460 at 15 City/20 Highway/17 Combined. You’ll be lucky if you can get 15 if you decide to drive like your grandmother. Drive normally and you’ll likely see numbers of around 12 to 13 MPG. Ouch.I was bit worried on how the GX would handle day to day driving duties as it has all of those four-wheel drive technologies, along with a tall ride height. But the GX surprised me as it provided a very comfortable and smooth ride. Bumps and road imperfections didn’t upset the GX ride, while road and wind noise were kept down.
      The only way I could recommend the Lexus GX 460 is that you want something luxurious to take on your adventure to death valley or the wilderness. If your main driving takes to on the mean streets, then a crossover such as the Acura MDX or Buick Enclave would be a better choice.
      Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the GX 460, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

      Year: 2014
      Make: Lexus
      Model: GX 460
      Trim: Luxury
      Engine: 4.6L DOHC VVT-i 32-Valve V8
      Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 301 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 329 @ 3,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined -
      Curb Weight: 5,340 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $60,715
      As Tested Price: $62,770 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge)
      Mark Levinson Premium Audio - $1,145.00
      Next: 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ 4WD
      There are very few times where I’ll drop my jaw because of the price tag of a vehicle I’m reviewing, whether its a bit too high or low. Such was the case for the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ that stopped by for a weeklong review. When I was reading through the window sticker, I dropped the sheet after seeing the price tag of $69,130. After letting the shock pass over me, I was wondering who would buy an almost $70,000 Tahoe? A GMC Yukon Denali I can see, but a Tahoe?!

      Well Chevrolet has got the design part of the Tahoe right. The new model has the same silhouette as the last-generation, but Chevrolet’s designers have given it some distinctive touches. Up front is a larger grille with larger chrome pieces and uniquely shaped headlights. Around back is a slightly tweaked tailgate design with new taillights.Moving inside and Chevrolet deserves a gold medal for the improvements made in here. Gone is the bland dashboard design with the hard plastic and terrible looking wood trim. In its place is a dashboard full of contours and distinctive shapes, along with much better materials such as leather and soft-touch plastics on the dash which makes it a pleasant place to be in. My LTZ tester came with a eight-inch touchscreen and Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. MyLink still has some bugs to work out such as how long it takes to respond when pressed and overall speed, but at least stability is much better than when I last used it in the Silverado.
      Second row passengers get a set of captain chairs with heat, along with a set of climate controls to make themselves them comfortable. Space back here is good for headroom. Legroom I found was a little-bit tight. The third row is best reserved for small kids as head and legroom are very much at a premium for adults, or to be folded into the floor to increase cargo space.
      Power comes from the 5.3L V8 that powers so many of GM’s light-duty trucks and SUVs. Ratings are 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and optional four-wheel drive system. Those looking for a more powerful V8 in their GM SUV will need to step up to the GMC Yukon Denali and Cadillac Escalade for the 6.2L V8. As I have stated before in the Silverado/Sierra review with the 5.3L V8, the throttle response when leaving a stop is very sluggish. It feels like there is a hump you have to overcome with the throttle before you get the full power of the V8. I get this is a way for GM to save fuel, but I think there are better ways to do the same thing. Once over the hump, the V8 engine has more than enough oomph to get you moving while providing very little noise. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2015 Tahoe 4WD at 16 City/22 Highway/18 Combined. My average for the week was around 15 MPG.

      On the ride and handling front, the Tahoe is excellent. The model feels more like a luxury sedan than an SUV with good isolation of bumps and imperfections, and outside noises being kept to an almost whisper. Some of the credit has to go to the Magneride magnetic ride control system which adjusts damping characteristics in as little as 10 milliseconds. Steering is somewhat light, but has good feel.So after a week in the Tahoe, I can see kind of see why it has a high price tag. The new model is a massive improvement over the old one and leaves competitors such as the Nissan Armada in the dust. But I’m still wondering if the Tahoe is a just a hair too high price-wise for its own good.
      Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Tahoe, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

      Year: 2015
      Make: Chevrolet
      Model: Tahoe
      Trim: LTZ 4WD
      Engine: 5.3L EcoTec V8
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 355 @ 5600
      Torque @ RPM: 383 @ 4100
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/22/18
      Curb Weight: 5,683 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Arlington, Texas
      Base Price: $62,000
      As Tested Price: $69,130 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Sun, Entertainment, Destination Package - $3,255.00
      Adaptive Cruise Control - $1,695.00
      Max Trailering Packager - $500.00
      Crystal Red Metallic Paint - $495.00
      Theft-Deterrent System - $395.00
      Cocoa/Mahogany Trim - $295.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Next in the wrap-up in 2014 vehicle reviews, I take look at green vehicles. In this case they all happen to be the hybrid variety.
      2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
      The second time is the charm? That’s the hope for Honda with the 2014 Accord Hybrid. The previous incarnation of the hybridized Accord was a sporty model that really didn’t see any improvement in fuel economy. This in turn caused it to be a flop.Honda went back to drawing board and have introduced an Accord Hybrid that promises best-in-class fuel economy. Can it right the wrong of the previous model?

      The Accord Hybrid looks for the most part like your standard Accord sedan with a two bar grille, large greenhouse, and a short rear end. The differences are mostly cosmetic as certain chrome pieces and the headlights have a blue tint. Theres also a set of hybrid badges on the front fenders, and a set of seventeen-inch wheels. Inside is the same story as the exterior, with the only real changes for the Accord Hybrid are a new instrument cluster to display information about the hybrid system and a EV button to put the vehicle into a fully electric mode. Getting inside, you find a nice selection of quality materials and loads of space for front and rear passengers.My Touring tester came with Honda’s dual-screen infotainment system which features an eight-inch screen sitting on top of the dash and a smaller touchscreen to change stations/tracks or whatever audio input. There’s also a set of buttons and a knob sitting right above the transmission tunnel to take you to different parts of the system. As I wrote in my first drive of the Accord Hybrid in 2013, the system is a bit of a mess. The touchscreen is slow to respond when you’re trying to change stations or switch from the radio to the USB input. Also, reaching for the controls towards the bottom is quite a reach. Honda really needs to go back to the drawing board with their infotainment system.
      The Accord Hybrid features Honda’s newest hybrid system called Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) system. This system is comprised of,
      2.0L DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder Atkinson-Cycle engine producing 141 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque
      Two 124 kW electric motors - One acting as a propulsion motor, one acting as a generator
      1.3 kWh Lithium-Ion battery
      Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT)
      Power Control Unit

      Impressive to say in the least. It’s even better when the system is engaged. The Accord Hybrid never felt lacking in power as the electric motor and 2.0L engine worked together to provide enough thrust for whatever situation I found myself in. More impressive was the seemless transition from electric only to hybrid power. There was no sign of the change over unless I was watching the gauge cluster. Fuel economy is rated at 50 City/45 Highway/47 Combined. I got close to those numbers with an average of 42 MPG for the week. I think I could have matched or even surpassed those numbers if given another week with the Accord Hybrid.On the ride and handling front, the Accord Hybrid is very similar to the standard Accord. The suspension is able to cope with bumps and imperfections with no problem at all. On the curves, the Accord Hybrid is a joy as it keeps you grounded and provides little body roll. Steering has good heft and feel. Wind noise is kept to a decent level, but road noise is very apparent. I would put some of the blame on the low-rolling resistance tires.
      The Accord Hybrid puts Honda in a good position within the midsize hybrid sedan class with an impressive powertrain layout placed in the well-regarded package that is the Accord. Its going to take something big to knock off the Accord Hybrid as the best in class.
      Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Accord Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

      Year: 2014
      Make: Honda
      Model: Accord Hybrid
      Trim: Touring
      Engine: Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD)
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 141 @ 6200, Electric Motor - 166 @ 3857-8000
      Torque @ RPM: Gas Engine - 122 @ 3500-6000, Electric Motor - 226 @ 0-3857
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 50/45/47
      Curb Weight: 3,602 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Marysville, Ohio
      Base Price: $34,905
      As Tested Price: $35,695 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)
      Next: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advance
      There are some cars that your’s truly finds impressive and would gladly buy, but knows that he wouldn’t recommend it because of some issue. That’s the case with the 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In, a model that somehow I liked after spending a week in it, but has a key problem that makes it hard to recommend.

      The Prius Plug-In looks for the most part like the standard Prius. The only differences between the two is Plug-In Hybrid badging on the front fenders, new wheels, and a additional fuel filler door on the passenger side where the charging port lives (more on that in a moment). As for the interior, my tester came fully loaded with such items as leatherette, infotainment system with a JBL audio system, and heads-up display. Nice items for the most part, but I should warn that the leatherette feels very synthetic and nasty. I would go with the cloth. On the plus side, the Prius Plug-In does feature a lot of room for your passengers and cargo.Under the hood, you’ll find the almost the same Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain as in the the standard Prius. A 1.8L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder paired up to a 60 kW electric motor delivering a total output of 134 horsepower. The difference is in the batteries. While the standard Prius has a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery, the Plug-In gets a Lithium-Ion battery. The new battery allows the Prius Plug-In to travel up to 11 Miles on electric power alone. During my week, I found myself using the EV mode a lot as it provided decent power to get around town and was very quiet. On the range front, I was able to get around 10 to 12 miles per charge. As for the charging port I mentioned earlier, that allows the Prius Plug-In to charge in 1.5 hours when plugged into a 240V charger or 3 hours when plugged into a 120V outlet). For other situations such as the freeway, I left the vehicle in the hybrid mode. This highlights a couple problems with the Prius. First it takes a few seconds longer for it to get up to speed. Second is the amount the noise that comes up when you decide that more power is needed. It sounded like a weed-whacker was being thrashed under the hood. As for fuel economy, I got around 51 MPG for the week. On the ride and handling front, the Prius Plug-In is much the same as the standard Prius; providing a comfortable, albeit noisy ride.

      So while I liked the Prius Plug-In, there is a big problem; price. A base Prius Plug-In will set you back $29,990 which seems somewhat reasonable. My tester which was the Advance model and came to an as-tested price of $38,907 with options. No that is not a misprint. Now the Prius Plug-In does qualify for a few tax incentives which helps offset the price somewhat. But for around the same money, you could get into a Chevrolet Volt. You do lose some practicality, but gain more in EV range.So the Prius Plug-In is a vehicle I like, but the pricetag makes it one I would pass on.'
      Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius Plug-In, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

      Year: 2014
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Prius Plug-In
      Trim: Advance
      Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive (1.8L DOHC 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder, 60 kW Electric Motor)
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 98 @ 5,200, Electric Motor - 80 @ N/A, Total Output - 134
      Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 4,000, Electric Motor - 153 @ 0
      Fuel Economy: 95 MPGe, 50 MPG
      Curb Weight: 3,216 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Tsutsumi, Japan
      Base Price: $34,905
      As Tested Price: $38,907 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)
      Technology Package - $2,610
      Illuminated Door Sill - $279.00
      Carpeted Floor Mats & Trunk Mat - $225.00
      Cargo Net - $49.00
      First Aid Kit - $29.00
      Next: 2014 Lexus CT 200h F-Sport
      The Lexus CT 200h F-Sport is an intriguing idea. A luxury compact hatchback that is fuel efficient and sporty. So while the idea seems ok in theory, how does it work in the real world?

      The CT 200h in my eyes happens to be black sheep in Lexus family mostly because of how it looks. A five-door hatchback with a long front end and a new spindle grille which you either love or hate it. Around back is a flat rear tailgate which I think makes the CT a bit ungainly to look at. A set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels and F-Sport badging on the front fenders which come as part of the F-Sport package finish off the look. Inside is a nicely trimmed interior with supportive leather seats and handsome trim. The layout of dashboard is easy to understand and controls are in easy reach for the driver and passenger. The optional Lexus Inform infotainment system has been updated to look a bit fresher and improve user experience. However, the Lexus Remote Touch controller makes using the system a frustrating experience as it seems to be really sensitive. On the plus side, the CT 200h is spacious for back seat passengers and cargo.Power comes from Lexus Hybrid Drive which pairs a 1.8L four-cylinder and 60 kW electric motor to produce a total output of 134 horsepower. This is paired up to a CVT. Now most reviews of the CT 200h say its painfully slow, but I care to disagree. Despite a curb weight of 3,130 pounds, I found the powertrain to be adequate as it took a few ticks longer for the CT to get up to speed than other comparable models. I should warn that if you decide to slam the pedal to floor, the engine and CVT will make a horrific noise that will make you think twice of doing that. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2014 CT 200h at 43 City/40 Highway/42 Combined. I saw an average of 39 MPG.

      Now this particular CT 200h was equipped with the F-Sport package which adds a sport tuned suspension and that’s about it. Compared to other Lexus models equipped with F-Sport package, I felt the CT F-Sport was somewhat lacking as the suspension was the only real mechanical change to it. Maybe there was some limitations to it being a hybrid, but I think there is room for improvement. The revised suspension means there is a noticeable difference in how the CT handles. Body roll and lean is decreased somewhat when compared to the standard CT. Steering is decent with good weight, but those hoping for an improvement in feel will be disappointed. For day to day driving, the CT 200h F-Sport is a bit more stiff than the standard CT, but not to the point where you’ll be crying uncle.So for the most part, the CT 200h F-Sport succeeds in its mission of providing a fun to drive luxury hatchback that is also ok on fuel. I would like to like to see Lexus do some more with the F-Sport package such as adding more sport goodies to the drivetrain and suspension. Maybe that’s in store for the next-generation.
      Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the CT 200h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

      Year: 2014
      Make: Lexus
      Model: CT 200h
      Trim: F-Sport
      Engine: Lexus Hybrid Drive(1.8L DOHC 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder, 60 kW Electric Motor)
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 98 @ 5,200, Electric Motor - 80 @ N/A, Total Output - 134
      Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 4,000, Electric Motor - 153 @ 0
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 43/40/42
      Curb Weight: 3,130 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
      Base Price: $32,050
      As Tested Price: $39,030 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge)
      Navigation System - $3,490
      F-Sport w/NuLuxe Interior - $1,180
      F-Sport Premium Package - $900.00
      Intuitive Park Assist - $500.00

      View full article
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