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Found 489 results

  1. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com June 5, 2013 “The Power To Surprise” This was Kia’s tagline back in early to mid 2000’s. It was supposed to reflect that the automaker had grown from its cheap car roots to being somewhere in the range of mediocre. It is sad Kia doesn’t use that tagline anymore since now, their lineup really does have “The Power To Surprise”. Case in point, the 2013 Kia Sportage. The longest running nameplate in Kia’s lineup has changed from a rough and ready compact SUV to a compact crossover with some very distinctive looks. But is that all there is to the Sportage's "Power to Surprise"? I spent a week with a 2013 Kia Sportage SX to find out. Let's start with the exterior; a dramatic departure from previous models. The Sportage looks be something you would expect to see from the Europeans, not Kia. Up front is Kia's family grille and headlights with a strip of LEDs running along the outside edge. The side profile shows the curvy lines and sloping roofline. Also the doors feature scalloping to add a bit more character. The back is very smooth and clean. There are a couple of problems with Sportage’s design. The thick D-Pillars and sloping roofline make outward visibility somewhat null and void. Thankfully my test Sportage had a back-up camera to help me out somewhat. However, I was wishing for a blind-spot monitoring system whenever I was on the freeway. The other problem deals with the tailgate release. Any idea where it is? If you said the bottom edge, then give yourself a pat on the back. The problem with this location is that its a bit of stretch to get there. I’m hoping a power tailgate is in the cards for the Sportage. Heading inside, you get the impression that Kia had locked their exterior and interior design teams into two separate rooms and weren't allowed to see each others work till the Sportage was put into production. It doesn’t seem the interior really belongs here at all. Also, I found most of the dash materials to be of the hard plastic variety. This is somewhat of a disappointment since Kia has made great strides in adding more soft touch materials. Build quality is very high with no apparent gaps or trim pieces loose. Up front, driver and passengers get power adjustments and heated leather seats. The driver also gets a cooled seat, a surprising feature to find in the entry-level compact crossover class. The center stack is well laid out and controls are within easy reach. My test Sportage also came equipped with the optional navigation system which in my books is still one of the best out there for its ease of use and amount of features. In the backseat, headroom is somewhat tight due to the panoramic sunroof. Legroom though is very good. Under the hood, you’ll find two different engines. LX and EX models use a 2.4L inline-four producing 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. The SX model uses a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four with direct-injection making 260 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. That is mated to a six-speed automatic to either the front-wheels or my test vehicle’s AWD system. With torque arriving between 1,850 and 3,000 rpm, the Sportage SX really scoots. This is very noticeable when you’re trying to make a pass or you stomp on the accelerator. Also noticeable is how much time it takes for the turbo to spool up. You’re wondering where the power is when you leave a stop and a few moments, the power arrives. It isn’t a deal breaker per say, but adjust your driving habits accordingly. The six-speed does a very impressive job of providing smooth shifts. The EPA rates the 2013 Sportage SX at 20 City/25 Highway/22 Combined. During my time, I saw an average of around 21 MPG. The Sportage SX’s ride attempts to be sporty with a firmer suspension. However the suspension doesn’t quite make it the Sportage SX feel sporty at all. It does reduce body rolls, but also makes for a very unpleasant ride - especially if you live in area where the roads are less than perfect. Steering is okay with the system providing a good amount of weight. Kia has got half of the recipe right with the Sportage SX. The turbo engine adds quite the punch and the exterior design could be in an art museum for how beautiful it looks. However the interior looks to be a bit of an afterthought and the ride needs some finessing. If Kia can work on those problems, the Sportage could be one of the best in class. Disclaimer: Kia provided the Sportage, Insurance, and one tank of gas. Year - 2013 Make – Kia Model – Sportage Trim – SX AWD Engine – 2.0L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 260 @ 6,000 RPM Torque @ RPM – 269 @ 1,850-3,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/25/22 Curb Weight – 3,355 lbs Location of Manufacture – Gwangju, South Korea Base Price - $28,400.00 Estimated As-Tested Price - $32,450.00* (Includes $850.00 destination charge) Options: SX Premium Package - $2,000 Navigation Package - $1,200 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  2. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com May 16, 2013 When is a sport compact car not a sport compact? Bit of an odd question I know, but that has been in my head since I got a 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo. It has the looks, powertrain, and seats with the word Turbo stitched into them. But there is one part of the vehicle that doesn’t quite make the cut. So where does the Veloster Turbo stack up in the sport compact hierarchy? The Veloster Turbo is definitely a looker. Starting with a normal Veloster and its unique alienistic design and third door, Hyundai designers added more distinctiveness. Up front, the Veloster Turbo comes with larger grille that could give most Audi grilles a run for their money on size. The large grille also allows for more air to help provide cooling to the raditor and intercooler. Also up front are a set of LED Accent lighting in the front headlights and new body panels,. The back end gets a new diffuser with center mounted exhaust ports. Finishing off the looks is a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels and black paint. There is one slight problem with the Veloster Turbo’s design. The back end has a uniquely styled rear hatch with curved glass and a spoiler. While it adds street cred to the design, it also makes it very difficult to see everything out of the back. I was very thankful my tester had a backup camera which made it somewhat easier to see out of the back. Inside the Veloster Turbo, it's mostly the same as the normal Veloster. The only real change is the standard black leather seats with colored accenting (blue in my case) and turbo scripting. Front seats are comfortable and provide good support when driving long distances or if you want to have a bit of fun. The back seat is another story. Anyone can fit back there if they’re under six feet, but they really won’t be comfortable thanks to tight head and legroom. Then there is the issue of getting into the back. Because of third door’s shape and small opening, you have to contort your body in such a way to fit in. Hyundai should have stuck a sticker on the back window that read “to be used in case of emergencies”. The Veloster Turbo comes equipped with a surprising amount of standard equipment such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, proximity key with push-button start, an eight-speaker Dimension audio system, seven-inch touch screen, and Hyundai’s BlueLink connectivity system. My car was equipped with the $2,500 Ultimate Package which adds a panoramic sunroof, navigation, backup camera with sensors, and automatic headlights. This is a option I highly recommend. Using the infotainment system was a breeze thanks to Hyundai making the user interface easy to understand and a touchscreen that responds very quickly when touched. Also, the screen provided very clean and crisp graphics. The eight-speaker Dimension audio system filled the Veloster Turbo’s cabin with excellent sound, though I was wishing for a bit of sound deadening when on the highway so I didn’t have to have the system cranked when I was listening to certain things. Under the Veloster Turbo’s hood is a 1.6L turbo, direct-injected four-cylinder engine making 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That can be paired with a six-speed manual, or on my test Veloster Turbo, a six-speed automatic. With a curb weight of 3,005 pounds and torque arriving at 1,750 rpm, the Veloster Turbo really hustles. Every time I stepped on accelerator, a big grin would appear on my face as the power rush down to the wheels and moved the vehicle along at a pretty rapid rate. Even with all of this performance, the Veloster Turbo does very well on fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2013 Veloster Turbo at 24 City/31 Highway/28 combined. During my week, I averaged 28 MPG in mixed driving. Now onto the most argued point of the Veloster Turbo; the suspension. Now you might think that Hyundai decided to tweak the suspension to give it a more sporty feel. No. The Veloster Turbo uses the same suspension as the normal Veloster. The real change is an optional set of Michelin Pilot Super Sport Summer tires that my car was equipped with. Other than that, Hyundai made some tweaks to the steering and brakes to help differentiate the two models. Out on the open road, the Veloster Turbo was a very capable partner. While it cannot fully hide its basic roots (the Veloster Turbo does exhibit some body roll), the improved steering, grippier tires, and new brakes really make the Veloster Turbo a joy to drive. In day to day driving, the Veloster Turbo is surprisingly comfortable and easy to live with. Now to answer a question that I asked at the beginning: Where does the Veloster Turbo stack up in the sport compact hierarchy? Well it happens to be at the bottom mostly due to it having the same suspension as the base Veloster. Hyundai has got everything else to make the Veloster Turbo a real contender. But as we’ve seen before, Hyundai is a quick learner and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull something magical right out of their hat with a refresh or new model. But let's remove the sport compact comparisons for the time being and look at the Veloster Turbo as a whole. During my time, I realized Hyundai created something very special with this vehicle. The distinctive looks are only part of the story as the powertrain seems to pull off an amazing feat of excellent performance and fuel economy. Partner that with the amount of standard equipment it comes with and you have a package that very few vehicles can even match. The Veloster Turbo is a ‘sport compact’ in most areas, but very good vehicle all around. It's one vehicle that I would gladly own. Disclaimer: Hyundai provided the Veloster Turbo, Insurance, and one tank of gas Year - 2013 Make – Hyundai Model – Veloster Trim – Turbo Engine – 1.6L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 201 @ 6,000 RPM Torque @ RPM – 195 @ 1,750 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/31/28 Curb Weight – 3,005 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ulsan, South Korea Base Price - $22,950.00 As Tested Price - $27,520.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge) Options: Ultimate Package - $2,500.00 Michelin Pilot Super Sport Summer Tires - $1,200.00 Carpet Floor Mats - $95.00 View full article
  3. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com May 16, 2013 When is a sport compact car not a sport compact? Bit of an odd question I know, but that has been in my head since I got a 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo. It has the looks, powertrain, and seats with the word Turbo stitched into them. But there is one part of the vehicle that doesn’t quite make the cut. So where does the Veloster Turbo stack up in the sport compact hierarchy? The Veloster Turbo is definitely a looker. Starting with a normal Veloster and its unique alienistic design and third door, Hyundai designers added more distinctiveness. Up front, the Veloster Turbo comes with larger grille that could give most Audi grilles a run for their money on size. The large grille also allows for more air to help provide cooling to the raditor and intercooler. Also up front are a set of LED Accent lighting in the front headlights and new body panels,. The back end gets a new diffuser with center mounted exhaust ports. Finishing off the looks is a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels and black paint. There is one slight problem with the Veloster Turbo’s design. The back end has a uniquely styled rear hatch with curved glass and a spoiler. While it adds street cred to the design, it also makes it very difficult to see everything out of the back. I was very thankful my tester had a backup camera which made it somewhat easier to see out of the back. Inside the Veloster Turbo, it's mostly the same as the normal Veloster. The only real change is the standard black leather seats with colored accenting (blue in my case) and turbo scripting. Front seats are comfortable and provide good support when driving long distances or if you want to have a bit of fun. The back seat is another story. Anyone can fit back there if they’re under six feet, but they really won’t be comfortable thanks to tight head and legroom. Then there is the issue of getting into the back. Because of third door’s shape and small opening, you have to contort your body in such a way to fit in. Hyundai should have stuck a sticker on the back window that read “to be used in case of emergencies”. The Veloster Turbo comes equipped with a surprising amount of standard equipment such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, proximity key with push-button start, an eight-speaker Dimension audio system, seven-inch touch screen, and Hyundai’s BlueLink connectivity system. My car was equipped with the $2,500 Ultimate Package which adds a panoramic sunroof, navigation, backup camera with sensors, and automatic headlights. This is a option I highly recommend. Using the infotainment system was a breeze thanks to Hyundai making the user interface easy to understand and a touchscreen that responds very quickly when touched. Also, the screen provided very clean and crisp graphics. The eight-speaker Dimension audio system filled the Veloster Turbo’s cabin with excellent sound, though I was wishing for a bit of sound deadening when on the highway so I didn’t have to have the system cranked when I was listening to certain things. Under the Veloster Turbo’s hood is a 1.6L turbo, direct-injected four-cylinder engine making 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That can be paired with a six-speed manual, or on my test Veloster Turbo, a six-speed automatic. With a curb weight of 3,005 pounds and torque arriving at 1,750 rpm, the Veloster Turbo really hustles. Every time I stepped on accelerator, a big grin would appear on my face as the power rush down to the wheels and moved the vehicle along at a pretty rapid rate. Even with all of this performance, the Veloster Turbo does very well on fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2013 Veloster Turbo at 24 City/31 Highway/28 combined. During my week, I averaged 28 MPG in mixed driving. Now onto the most argued point of the Veloster Turbo; the suspension. Now you might think that Hyundai decided to tweak the suspension to give it a more sporty feel. No. The Veloster Turbo uses the same suspension as the normal Veloster. The real change is an optional set of Michelin Pilot Super Sport Summer tires that my car was equipped with. Other than that, Hyundai made some tweaks to the steering and brakes to help differentiate the two models. Out on the open road, the Veloster Turbo was a very capable partner. While it cannot fully hide its basic roots (the Veloster Turbo does exhibit some body roll), the improved steering, grippier tires, and new brakes really make the Veloster Turbo a joy to drive. In day to day driving, the Veloster Turbo is surprisingly comfortable and easy to live with. Now to answer a question that I asked at the beginning: Where does the Veloster Turbo stack up in the sport compact hierarchy? Well it happens to be at the bottom mostly due to it having the same suspension as the base Veloster. Hyundai has got everything else to make the Veloster Turbo a real contender. But as we’ve seen before, Hyundai is a quick learner and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull something magical right out of their hat with a refresh or new model. But let's remove the sport compact comparisons for the time being and look at the Veloster Turbo as a whole. During my time, I realized Hyundai created something very special with this vehicle. The distinctive looks are only part of the story as the powertrain seems to pull off an amazing feat of excellent performance and fuel economy. Partner that with the amount of standard equipment it comes with and you have a package that very few vehicles can even match. The Veloster Turbo is a ‘sport compact’ in most areas, but very good vehicle all around. It's one vehicle that I would gladly own. Disclaimer: Hyundai provided the Veloster Turbo, Insurance, and one tank of gas Year - 2013 Make – Hyundai Model – Veloster Trim – Turbo Engine – 1.6L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 201 @ 6,000 RPM Torque @ RPM – 195 @ 1,750 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/31/28 Curb Weight – 3,005 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ulsan, South Korea Base Price - $22,950.00 As Tested Price - $27,520.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge) Options: Ultimate Package - $2,500.00 Michelin Pilot Super Sport Summer Tires - $1,200.00 Carpet Floor Mats - $95.00
  4. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com May 2, 2013 In 1999, Lexus introduced the first luxury car-based crossover named the RX. It became a huge success for the company and defined the compact luxury crossover class we know of today. But since that time, the competition has been improving. Vehicles such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz, and even the Cadillac SRX have been making inroads and slowly cutting away the RX’s sales lead. Lexus has been on the attack to stop the advance of competitors by introducing a refreshed 2013 RX, which includes a new F-Sport model that promises a more capable and sporty RX. Does the new F-Sport model help or hurt the RX? Aggressive is the key word in describing the RX350 F-Sport exterior looks. Lexus did a excellent job of making the F-Sport really stand out. The front features Lexus’ spindle grille with a mesh insert, more aggressive front bumper, and a set of new headlights with LED daytime running lights running along the inner edge. Other F-Sport appointments include nineteen-inch alloy wheels with a graphite finish that help set off the very unique and optional Claret Mica (deep red) paint. The interior of RX350 F-Sport is much like the standard RX with some touches to it give some sport. There are set of alloy pedals, leather seats with F-Sport logo embroidered into them, a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, and metal trim pieces. I feel like Lexus is trying a bit too hard to convince everyone that is their sporty model with all of these touches. Just tone it down somewhat. Comfort is a big plus in the RX. Front seat passengers get power adjustments, heat, and ventilated seats. In the back, passengers will find a good amount of head and legroom. Plus, passengers can recline and adjust their seats to make themselves more comfortable. Cargo space is very impressive, with RX having the best in class of 40 cubic feet. That grows to 80 cubic feet with the rear seats down. The main point of contention in the RX’s interior is the center stack. Controls seem somewhat cramped thanks to the odd placement of the transmission selector. Also, the screen for the infotainment seems a bit too far in the center stack. I will give Lexus kudos though for putting the screen at just the right height. The 2013 RX comes equipped with Lexus’ Remote Touch which is this joystick/mouse controller you use to move around the infotainment system. Previously, I have complained about the Remote Touch system being a bit slow to perform a function where I could have done it a bit faster with a touchscreen. Since spending a week with the remote touch system, I got the hang of it and found it to be just as quick if I was using a touchscreen thanks to the layout of the infotainment system. That said, Remote Touch can be sometimes a bit touchy. If you’re trying to make a selection and your hand moves ever so slightly on the remote touch joystick/mouse thing, the selection is cancelled and you’re left yelling at the system. Its not bad, but it isn’t good either. Powering the RX 350 F-Sport is the same engine you’ll find under the standard RX; a 3.5L V6 making 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. F-Sport models get an eight-speed transmission with all-wheel drive, while base RX 350s stick with a six-speed automatic and the choice between front or all-wheel drive. The 3.5L’s performance can be classified as adequate. It's not the most powerful engine in the class, but it's also not sluggish. The 3.5L can get you moving at a decent rate, but be prepared to push the pedal a bit more if you need to get moving quicker. The eight-speed automatic is very smooth and responsive. You won’t notice the transmission working its way through the gears unless one of your eyes is glued to the tachometer. The paddles do make the F-Sport a bit more engaging to drive and can be activated when the transmission is in either drive or the manual mode. However, I wished the paddles were on the steering column and not the the steering wheel. In the fuel economy department, the RX 350 F-Sport sees a minor increase when compared to the normal RX 350 mostly thanks to the eight-speed transmission. EPA rates the RX 350 F-Sport at 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined, compared to the RX 350’s 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. During my week, I saw an average of 21 MPG. F-Sport models get firmer suspension and steering tuning, and new a lateral damping system that Lexus claims brings the a more engaging driving experience to the RX. The improvements are there... somewhat. The RX 350 F-Sport does roll less when in turns, but that’s really about it. The changes seem to bring more problems than improvements. An example is the steering. I found it to be heavy and wanting to fight me every time I turned the wheel. Lumbering was the word I would use to describe it. Oddly when I was driving around in the RX F-Sport, I kept thinking how much more I liked driving the Cadillac SRX I had a few weeks before. The ride does suffer a bit as well as the firmer suspension does let more road imperfections into the cabin. It's not to the point of where your kidneys are getting repeatedly punched, but it's very un-Lexus like. The good news is the quietness that Lexus is known for remains very well and true in the F-Sport model. Sadly there is one more problem with the RX 350 F-Sport, the value for money argument. For the $51,729 as-tested price, you get such items as navigation, twelve-speaker sound system, blind-spot monitoring, and parking assist. But, the Cadillac SRX I had couple weeks before comes with most of these items and a more powerful V6 for about $4,000 less. If you decide to equip an SRX for the same asking price as the F-Sport and you can get such features as a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, and number of other features. The RX 350 F-Sport might look better and have a much better transmission than the standard RX 350, but I feel the normal RX is the much better vehicle all around. The F-Sport just adds more problems and hurts the RX more. If it was just an appearance package, I would be more ok with it. The F in the RX 350 F-Sport must be short for frustrated because that how I’ll felt at the end of my time with it. Disclaimer: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Lexus Model – RX 350 Trim – F-Sport Engine – 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with Dual VVT-i V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 270 @ 6,200 RPM Torque @ RPM – 248 @ 4,700 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21 Curb Weight – 4,510 lbs Location of Manufacture – Cambridge, Ontario; Canada Base Price - $47,000.00 As Tested Price - $51,729.00* (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: Navigation with Voice Command, Lexus Enform - $2,775.00 Blind Spot Monitor - $500.00 Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00 Cargo Net - $59.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  5. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com May 2, 2013 In 1999, Lexus introduced the first luxury car-based crossover named the RX. It became a huge success for the company and defined the compact luxury crossover class we know of today. But since that time, the competition has been improving. Vehicles such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz, and even the Cadillac SRX have been making inroads and slowly cutting away the RX’s sales lead. Lexus has been on the attack to stop the advance of competitors by introducing a refreshed 2013 RX, which includes a new F-Sport model that promises a more capable and sporty RX. Does the new F-Sport model help or hurt the RX? Aggressive is the key word in describing the RX350 F-Sport exterior looks. Lexus did a excellent job of making the F-Sport really stand out. The front features Lexus’ spindle grille with a mesh insert, more aggressive front bumper, and a set of new headlights with LED daytime running lights running along the inner edge. Other F-Sport appointments include nineteen-inch alloy wheels with a graphite finish that help set off the very unique and optional Claret Mica (deep red) paint. The interior of RX350 F-Sport is much like the standard RX with some touches to it give some sport. There are set of alloy pedals, leather seats with F-Sport logo embroidered into them, a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, and metal trim pieces. I feel like Lexus is trying a bit too hard to convince everyone that is their sporty model with all of these touches. Just tone it down somewhat. Comfort is a big plus in the RX. Front seat passengers get power adjustments, heat, and ventilated seats. In the back, passengers will find a good amount of head and legroom. Plus, passengers can recline and adjust their seats to make themselves more comfortable. Cargo space is very impressive, with RX having the best in class of 40 cubic feet. That grows to 80 cubic feet with the rear seats down. The main point of contention in the RX’s interior is the center stack. Controls seem somewhat cramped thanks to the odd placement of the transmission selector. Also, the screen for the infotainment seems a bit too far in the center stack. I will give Lexus kudos though for putting the screen at just the right height. The 2013 RX comes equipped with Lexus’ Remote Touch which is this joystick/mouse controller you use to move around the infotainment system. Previously, I have complained about the Remote Touch system being a bit slow to perform a function where I could have done it a bit faster with a touchscreen. Since spending a week with the remote touch system, I got the hang of it and found it to be just as quick if I was using a touchscreen thanks to the layout of the infotainment system. That said, Remote Touch can be sometimes a bit touchy. If you’re trying to make a selection and your hand moves ever so slightly on the remote touch joystick/mouse thing, the selection is cancelled and you’re left yelling at the system. Its not bad, but it isn’t good either. Powering the RX 350 F-Sport is the same engine you’ll find under the standard RX; a 3.5L V6 making 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. F-Sport models get an eight-speed transmission with all-wheel drive, while base RX 350s stick with a six-speed automatic and the choice between front or all-wheel drive. The 3.5L’s performance can be classified as adequate. It's not the most powerful engine in the class, but it's also not sluggish. The 3.5L can get you moving at a decent rate, but be prepared to push the pedal a bit more if you need to get moving quicker. The eight-speed automatic is very smooth and responsive. You won’t notice the transmission working its way through the gears unless one of your eyes is glued to the tachometer. The paddles do make the F-Sport a bit more engaging to drive and can be activated when the transmission is in either drive or the manual mode. However, I wished the paddles were on the steering column and not the the steering wheel. In the fuel economy department, the RX 350 F-Sport sees a minor increase when compared to the normal RX 350 mostly thanks to the eight-speed transmission. EPA rates the RX 350 F-Sport at 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined, compared to the RX 350’s 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. During my week, I saw an average of 21 MPG. F-Sport models get firmer suspension and steering tuning, and new a lateral damping system that Lexus claims brings the a more engaging driving experience to the RX. The improvements are there... somewhat. The RX 350 F-Sport does roll less when in turns, but that’s really about it. The changes seem to bring more problems than improvements. An example is the steering. I found it to be heavy and wanting to fight me every time I turned the wheel. Lumbering was the word I would use to describe it. Oddly when I was driving around in the RX F-Sport, I kept thinking how much more I liked driving the Cadillac SRX I had a few weeks before. The ride does suffer a bit as well as the firmer suspension does let more road imperfections into the cabin. It's not to the point of where your kidneys are getting repeatedly punched, but it's very un-Lexus like. The good news is the quietness that Lexus is known for remains very well and true in the F-Sport model. Sadly there is one more problem with the RX 350 F-Sport, the value for money argument. For the $51,729 as-tested price, you get such items as navigation, twelve-speaker sound system, blind-spot monitoring, and parking assist. But, the Cadillac SRX I had couple weeks before comes with most of these items and a more powerful V6 for about $4,000 less. If you decide to equip an SRX for the same asking price as the F-Sport and you can get such features as a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, and number of other features. The RX 350 F-Sport might look better and have a much better transmission than the standard RX 350, but I feel the normal RX is the much better vehicle all around. The F-Sport just adds more problems and hurts the RX more. If it was just an appearance package, I would be more ok with it. The F in the RX 350 F-Sport must be short for frustrated because that how I’ll felt at the end of my time with it. Disclaimer: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Lexus Model – RX 350 Trim – F-Sport Engine – 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with Dual VVT-i V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 270 @ 6,200 RPM Torque @ RPM – 248 @ 4,700 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21 Curb Weight – 4,510 lbs Location of Manufacture – Cambridge, Ontario; Canada Base Price - $47,000.00 As Tested Price - $51,729.00* (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: Navigation with Voice Command, Lexus Enform - $2,775.00 Blind Spot Monitor - $500.00 Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00 Cargo Net - $59.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  6. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com April 30, 2013 The last time we reviewed a Cadillac SRX, it came with the choice of two different engines, an interior lifted from the Cadillac CTS, and coming close to being second in sales in the small luxury crossover arena. Fast forward two years and the SRX has undergone a bit of a change; there is now one engine, a revised exterior and interior, and coming very close to the Lexus RX in sales... (RX: 95,381 units. SRX: 57,485 units) A revisit it seemed was in order. That’s what happened a few weeks ago as a 2013 Cadillac SRX AWD Performance Collection was dropped off for a week’s evaluation. The overall design of the 2013 Cadillac SRX hasn’t changed much since its introduction back in 2010. The model wears the ‘Art & Science’ design language very well with a number of sharp angles and creases throughout the shape. The only real changes for 2013 include a new front grille and side vents with new LED lighting. Inside the 2013 SRX, Cadillac revised the interior greatly with a new dashboard layout and instrument cluster from the smaller ATS sedan. Materials are in tip-top shape with a mix of leather, wood trim, and black acrylic for the touch capactive touch buttons. Build quality was excellent on this low mileage tester. I had two disappointments with the SRX’s interior. One was the uncomfortable seats. Getting onto them for the first time, I felt like I was sitting on piece of concrete wrapped in leather. Not what I would call luxurious. The other problem was back seat room. While legroom is decent, headroom comes at cost thanks to a sloping roofline and the standard panoramic sunroof on the Performance Collection. Not disappointing is Cadillac’s CUE (Cadillac User Experience). Since we last tried CUE in a ATS back in December, Cadillac has issued an update to squash some of the bugs and improve the performance of the system. My test SRX came with the update and the system was noticeably smoother. Inputs on the screen and the capacitive touch buttons registered most of the time and moving around the system was snappy. Now Cadillac just needs to work on making the system somewhat less distracting. Powering the SRX is a 3.6L V6 engine with 308 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. That is mated to six-speed automatic transmission to either the front-wheels or all four wheels. Compared to the outgoing 3.0L and 2.8L turbocharged V6 engines, the 3.6L sits in the middle. Low-end power isn’t the 3.6L’s strong suit, but get above 2,000 RPM and the power comes smoothly in. The six-speed automatic provided smooth shifts and didn’t need to downshift as much when I stepped on the accelerator, something that couldn’t be said of the 3.0L. One place where I wished the 3.6L was better was fuel economy. The EPA rates the SRX 3.6L AWD at 16 City/24 Highway/18 Combined. During my week, I averaged 17.2 MPG in mostly suburban driving. Out on the highway, fuel economy rose to 24.2 MPG. Why the low MPG numbers? Part of the blame goes to AWD system in the SRX, but a good majority is to the 4,442 lb curb weight. Driving around in the SRX, my impressions were that Cadillac had focused more on the comfort than the sport. The FE2 suspension absorbs bumps and road imperfections with ease. A bit surprising since the SRX I was rolling in had twenty-inch wheels as standard equipment. Steering is very precise, despite the heavily boosted feeling I was getting. My biggest gripe dealt with the brake pedal. Whenever I put my foot on it to stop the SRX, it feels like I’m pushing through quicksand. This means you’re either not going slow down as fast as you like or come to a panic stop. Not pleasant at all. My test SRX AWD Performance Collection rings up at $49,085, which is a steal when you consider that includes CUE, a Bose surround sound system, keyless entry with push button start, twenty-inch wheels, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, and a number other features as standard equipment. Its very easy to see why the 2013 Cadillac SRX is one of the best sellers in the segment. It offers the right blend of luxury, features, and value in a handsome package. While the SRX will not be coming anywhere close to toppling the Lexus RX in sales (so far in 2013, the RX current holds a 8,548 unit lead over the SRX), Cadillac should be very pleased that they have a very credible alternative. Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Cadillac Model – SRX Trim – AWD Performance Collection Engine – 3.6L SIDI V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 308 @ 6,800 RPM Torque @ RPM – 265 @ 2,400 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/23/18 Curb Weight – 4,442 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ramos Arizpe, CZ Mexico Base Price - $47,715.00 As Tested Price - $49,085.00* (Includes $875.00 destination charge) Options: Black Ice Metallic Paint - $495.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  7. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com April 30, 2013 The last time we reviewed a Cadillac SRX, it came with the choice of two different engines, an interior lifted from the Cadillac CTS, and coming close to being second in sales in the small luxury crossover arena. Fast forward two years and the SRX has undergone a bit of a change; there is now one engine, a revised exterior and interior, and coming very close to the Lexus RX in sales... (RX: 95,381 units. SRX: 57,485 units) A revisit it seemed was in order. That’s what happened a few weeks ago as a 2013 Cadillac SRX AWD Performance Collection was dropped off for a week’s evaluation. The overall design of the 2013 Cadillac SRX hasn’t changed much since its introduction back in 2010. The model wears the ‘Art & Science’ design language very well with a number of sharp angles and creases throughout the shape. The only real changes for 2013 include a new front grille and side vents with new LED lighting. Inside the 2013 SRX, Cadillac revised the interior greatly with a new dashboard layout and instrument cluster from the smaller ATS sedan. Materials are in tip-top shape with a mix of leather, wood trim, and black acrylic for the touch capactive touch buttons. Build quality was excellent on this low mileage tester. I had two disappointments with the SRX’s interior. One was the uncomfortable seats. Getting onto them for the first time, I felt like I was sitting on piece of concrete wrapped in leather. Not what I would call luxurious. The other problem was back seat room. While legroom is decent, headroom comes at cost thanks to a sloping roofline and the standard panoramic sunroof on the Performance Collection. Not disappointing is Cadillac’s CUE (Cadillac User Experience). Since we last tried CUE in a ATS back in December, Cadillac has issued an update to squash some of the bugs and improve the performance of the system. My test SRX came with the update and the system was noticeably smoother. Inputs on the screen and the capacitive touch buttons registered most of the time and moving around the system was snappy. Now Cadillac just needs to work on making the system somewhat less distracting. Powering the SRX is a 3.6L V6 engine with 308 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. That is mated to six-speed automatic transmission to either the front-wheels or all four wheels. Compared to the outgoing 3.0L and 2.8L turbocharged V6 engines, the 3.6L sits in the middle. Low-end power isn’t the 3.6L’s strong suit, but get above 2,000 RPM and the power comes smoothly in. The six-speed automatic provided smooth shifts and didn’t need to downshift as much when I stepped on the accelerator, something that couldn’t be said of the 3.0L. One place where I wished the 3.6L was better was fuel economy. The EPA rates the SRX 3.6L AWD at 16 City/24 Highway/18 Combined. During my week, I averaged 17.2 MPG in mostly suburban driving. Out on the highway, fuel economy rose to 24.2 MPG. Why the low MPG numbers? Part of the blame goes to AWD system in the SRX, but a good majority is to the 4,442 lb curb weight. Driving around in the SRX, my impressions were that Cadillac had focused more on the comfort than the sport. The FE2 suspension absorbs bumps and road imperfections with ease. A bit surprising since the SRX I was rolling in had twenty-inch wheels as standard equipment. Steering is very precise, despite the heavily boosted feeling I was getting. My biggest gripe dealt with the brake pedal. Whenever I put my foot on it to stop the SRX, it feels like I’m pushing through quicksand. This means you’re either not going slow down as fast as you like or come to a panic stop. Not pleasant at all. My test SRX AWD Performance Collection rings up at $49,085, which is a steal when you consider that includes CUE, a Bose surround sound system, keyless entry with push button start, twenty-inch wheels, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, and a number other features as standard equipment. Its very easy to see why the 2013 Cadillac SRX is one of the best sellers in the segment. It offers the right blend of luxury, features, and value in a handsome package. While the SRX will not be coming anywhere close to toppling the Lexus RX in sales (so far in 2013, the RX current holds a 8,548 unit lead over the SRX), Cadillac should be very pleased that they have a very credible alternative. Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Cadillac Model – SRX Trim – AWD Performance Collection Engine – 3.6L SIDI V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 308 @ 6,800 RPM Torque @ RPM – 265 @ 2,400 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/23/18 Curb Weight – 4,442 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ramos Arizpe, CZ Mexico Base Price - $47,715.00 As Tested Price - $49,085.00* (Includes $875.00 destination charge) Options: Black Ice Metallic Paint - $495.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  8. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com April 25, 2013 The compact front-wheel drive coupe class has been on the decline in recent years. Once a bright light in the automotive world with a number of manufacturers competing, the class has shrunk down to just four models; the Honda Civic Coupe, Scion tC, Hyundai Elantra Coupe, and Kia Forte Koup. The oldest one of this group, the Forte Koup, has fallen to the wayside since the other three have either been refreshed or are a new model. But does being the oldest model in this group mean that you shouldn’t take a look at it? I recently found out as I spent a week with a 2013 Kia Forte Koup SX. Doing my first walk around the Koup when it first arrived, my inner monologue chimed in with “wait, is this a Honda Civic Coupe doppelganger?” Looking at the front and side profile, the Forte Koup does seem to pull some liberties from the Civic coupe in the overall design. Thankfully, Kia did make some changes to make it not seem like a carbon copy of a Civic coupe. The front has the now familiar Kia grille all blacked-out and a unique bumper treatment. The side profile features a set of muscular lines and a set of sharp seventeen-inch wheels. Inside, the Forte Koup doesn’t have the same styling exuberance as the exterior. It's pretty much the same interior you’ll find in the Forte sedan and five-door model. It's not the nicest interior, but most of the interior bits are screwed in very well (aside from one door panel that rattled slightly when I was playing certain types of music) and the layout is very utilitarian. Space is very much at a premium thanks to short roof height. Up front, the limited headroom space is eaten up by the optional sunroof. I had to adjust the drivers seat in such a way that my head wasn’t touching the roof, which meant I wasn’t in the most comfortable position during my time. Combine that with a seat that I found to be very uncomfortable, and I would come out feeling very sore from a drive. The backseat should only be reserved for small kids thanks to the tight head and legroom. However, the Forte Koup does fight back with an abundance of equipment. My tester came with such amenities such as heated leather seats, navigation, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, hands-free calling, alloy pedals, and a proximity key. Kia still knows how to do the value argument very well. Under the hood for the Forte Koup SX is a 2.4L DOHC four-cylinder engine producing 173 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. At low rpms, the 2.4L pulls surprisingly well, making it plenty quick for those who drive in the drive in the city or suburbs. Moving higher in the rpm range, the engine begins to run out of steam. This is very noticeable when entering a freeway or deciding to throw the Koup around. Transmissions for the Forte Koup are a six-speed manual or an automatic with paddle shifters. My car came equipped with the automatic and found it to be a perfect companion. The paddle shifters are a great addition since they can operated when the transmission is in Drive or manual mode. My only complaint with the paddle shifter are the placement the paddles. Mounting them on the steering wheel is horrible place since the paddles are always moving around. Putting them on the steering column would be a better idea. Fuel economy for the Forte Koup SX stands at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined when equipped with six-speed automatic. My average for the evaluation stood at 26 MPG. Highway driving saw the number climb to 30.2 MPG. The Forte Koup’s ride is decidedly mixed. On one hand, the Forte’s suspension tuning and heavy-weighted steering make it a pleasure to drive around corners. On the other hand, the Forte Koup’s suspension needs to go to finishing school. I found the ride to be unbearable when driving on the rutted Michigan roads as the suspension has no give at all. The steering also needs some refinement as its too heavy in daily use. At the end of my time with Forte Koup SX, I was left conflicted. The Koup has a lot going for and against it. It's a great value and has some snazzy looks, but the ride and steering are a mixed bag. The big problem is the current Forte Koup isn’t a standout anymore like it used to be. Honda and Scion have introduced new versions of their compact coupes, the Civic and tC respectively. There is also the Hyundai Elantra coupe in play which brings some very startling looks and impressive fuel economy to the class. It's better to wait for the new Forte Koup, due out sometime later this year, than to get the current one. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Kia Model – Forte Koup Trim – SX Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 173 @ 6,000 RPM Torque @ RPM – 168 @ 4,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26 Curb Weight – 2,891 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hwaseong, Gyeonggi; South Korea Base Price - $19,800.00 As Tested Price - $24,520.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge) (Note: This Forte Koup didn't come with a window sticker, so I'm guessing the as tested price here) Options: SX Technology Package - $1,800 Leather Package - $1,000 Sunroof - $795 Rear Spoiler - $395 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  9. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com April 25, 2013 The compact front-wheel drive coupe class has been on the decline in recent years. Once a bright light in the automotive world with a number of manufacturers competing, the class has shrunk down to just four models; the Honda Civic Coupe, Scion tC, Hyundai Elantra Coupe, and Kia Forte Koup. The oldest one of this group, the Forte Koup, has fallen to the wayside since the other three have either been refreshed or are a new model. But does being the oldest model in this group mean that you shouldn’t take a look at it? I recently found out as I spent a week with a 2013 Kia Forte Koup SX. Doing my first walk around the Koup when it first arrived, my inner monologue chimed in with “wait, is this a Honda Civic Coupe doppelganger?” Looking at the front and side profile, the Forte Koup does seem to pull some liberties from the Civic coupe in the overall design. Thankfully, Kia did make some changes to make it not seem like a carbon copy of a Civic coupe. The front has the now familiar Kia grille all blacked-out and a unique bumper treatment. The side profile features a set of muscular lines and a set of sharp seventeen-inch wheels. Inside, the Forte Koup doesn’t have the same styling exuberance as the exterior. It's pretty much the same interior you’ll find in the Forte sedan and five-door model. It's not the nicest interior, but most of the interior bits are screwed in very well (aside from one door panel that rattled slightly when I was playing certain types of music) and the layout is very utilitarian. Space is very much at a premium thanks to short roof height. Up front, the limited headroom space is eaten up by the optional sunroof. I had to adjust the drivers seat in such a way that my head wasn’t touching the roof, which meant I wasn’t in the most comfortable position during my time. Combine that with a seat that I found to be very uncomfortable, and I would come out feeling very sore from a drive. The backseat should only be reserved for small kids thanks to the tight head and legroom. However, the Forte Koup does fight back with an abundance of equipment. My tester came with such amenities such as heated leather seats, navigation, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, hands-free calling, alloy pedals, and a proximity key. Kia still knows how to do the value argument very well. Under the hood for the Forte Koup SX is a 2.4L DOHC four-cylinder engine producing 173 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. At low rpms, the 2.4L pulls surprisingly well, making it plenty quick for those who drive in the drive in the city or suburbs. Moving higher in the rpm range, the engine begins to run out of steam. This is very noticeable when entering a freeway or deciding to throw the Koup around. Transmissions for the Forte Koup are a six-speed manual or an automatic with paddle shifters. My car came equipped with the automatic and found it to be a perfect companion. The paddle shifters are a great addition since they can operated when the transmission is in Drive or manual mode. My only complaint with the paddle shifter are the placement the paddles. Mounting them on the steering wheel is horrible place since the paddles are always moving around. Putting them on the steering column would be a better idea. Fuel economy for the Forte Koup SX stands at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined when equipped with six-speed automatic. My average for the evaluation stood at 26 MPG. Highway driving saw the number climb to 30.2 MPG. The Forte Koup’s ride is decidedly mixed. On one hand, the Forte’s suspension tuning and heavy-weighted steering make it a pleasure to drive around corners. On the other hand, the Forte Koup’s suspension needs to go to finishing school. I found the ride to be unbearable when driving on the rutted Michigan roads as the suspension has no give at all. The steering also needs some refinement as its too heavy in daily use. At the end of my time with Forte Koup SX, I was left conflicted. The Koup has a lot going for and against it. It's a great value and has some snazzy looks, but the ride and steering are a mixed bag. The big problem is the current Forte Koup isn’t a standout anymore like it used to be. Honda and Scion have introduced new versions of their compact coupes, the Civic and tC respectively. There is also the Hyundai Elantra coupe in play which brings some very startling looks and impressive fuel economy to the class. It's better to wait for the new Forte Koup, due out sometime later this year, than to get the current one. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Kia Model – Forte Koup Trim – SX Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 173 @ 6,000 RPM Torque @ RPM – 168 @ 4,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26 Curb Weight – 2,891 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hwaseong, Gyeonggi; South Korea Base Price - $19,800.00 As Tested Price - $24,520.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge) (Note: This Forte Koup didn't come with a window sticker, so I'm guessing the as tested price here) Options: SX Technology Package - $1,800 Leather Package - $1,000 Sunroof - $795 Rear Spoiler - $395 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  10. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 1, 2013 October 2009 was a monumental month for Toyota. It was at the Tokyo Motor Show where the company revealed a very interesting concept called the FT-86; a small, lightweight two-door coupe that was jointly worked on by Toyota and Subaru. This sent shockwaves across the automotive landscape. Had Toyota rediscovered its sporty side it once had during the eighties and nineties? Or was it fluke? When the company announced that a production model would be coming along with a Subaru version, it seemed the answer was yes, they have discovered their sporty side once more. Speculation, rumors, and a number of concepts from Toyota, Scion, and Subaru would come out over the next couple years before the official introductions in late 2011 and early 2012. There would be the Toyota GT86 which was a callback to the mid-eighties RWD Corolla AE86. Next was the Subaru BRZ which differed from the rest of the Subaru lineup by being a RWD model, not AWD. Finally for North America was the Scion FR-S, providing a unique product for Toyota’s youth brand. Its been a long wait for these coupes, but was it worth it? To answer this question, I got a 2013 Scion FR-S for the holidays. The Look The FR-S’ exterior design is what you expect out of a sporting car; a small, low slung body mounted on top of a short wheelbase. Key design cues to take note are the embellished front and rear fenders, a distinct character line running along the door, rear diffuser with reverse lights, and on the front fenders, a little 86 badge paying homage to the mid-eighties Corolla AE86. Inside the FR-S, its a simple and clean layout. Materials are hard plastics of varying quality which will annoy some people. I had no problems with it since the money was wisely spent elsewhere in the vehicle. The controls are logically laid out and easy to reach. Scion fitted a set of sport seats for the driver and front passenger. The seats provide good bolstering and support when you’re driving aggressively. However I couldn’t fit into the seats comfortably due to my shoulders being a bit too wide for the seats. I know I happen to be an odd case on this, but its worth noting if you’re looking into this. The back seat area is only really usable for storing stuff or putting small kids. All Part of a Balanced Diet Underneath the Scion FR-S’ skin is a recipe for balance. Power comes from 2.0L Subaru Boxer-four that’s fitted with Toyota's D-4S direct injection system. Horsepower is rated at 200 (@ 7,000 RPM) and torque is at 151 lb-ft (@ 5,100 RPM). The reason for going with the boxer engine is due to how low the engine can be set in a vehicle. The lower the engine, the lower center of gravity a vehicle has. For transmissions, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual or my test FR-S’ six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With the automatic, you choice of three different drive modes (Normal, Sport and Snow) that changes the behavior of the transmission. The FR-S also features a limited-slip differential as standard equipment. Suspension duties are taken care by a set up MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone in the rear. A set of 17-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in Michelin Primacy HP summer tires. Driving the FR-S down a nice twisty backroad is a very rewarding experience. The engine does have to be worked to reach its sweet spot, but the reward is a nice growl from the exhaust and the knowledge that the engine doesn't mind being pushed. The six-speed automatic is surprisingly quick and smooth, especially when you put the vehicle into sport mode as the transmission holds onto the gears through the corners and blips the throttle. You can also do the shifting yourself via the paddle shifters whether the transmission is in Drive or in the manual mode. While its fun to play with paddles, I found leaving the vehicle in Drive with the Sport mode on did a better job than me. I also found myself wishing the paddles were on the steering column than the wheel, so I wouldn't be playing the game of ‘where are the paddles now?’ The suspension does an excellent job of keeping FR-S level and balanced when going from corner to corner. Steering is very quick and precise, and provides a very good amount of a road feel. A bit surprising when you find out the FR-S steering is a electric power system, not hydraulic. Also surprising was a VSC Sport button which dials back the stability control up to a point to allow you to explore the limits of the FR-S. It’s A Double Edge Sword Now all those things I have listed above really do make the FR-S a great back road car, but it doesn’t make it a great daily driver for a good amount of people. For starters, I wished the engine had a bit more power, especially in the mid-range. Trying to make a pass or merge with traffic meant I had essentially step on it to perform. Also the suspension which is great in the corners is horrid on Metro Detroit roads. The suspension doesn’t have enough give whenever you drive over potholes or road imperfections and you will feel it very clearly. One thing I wasn't complaining about the FR-S was fuel economy. The EPA rates the FR-S at 25 City/34 Highway/28 Combined. During the week, I averaged 30.4 MPG. On the freeway I saw 34.2 MPG. The Time Has Come The Scion FR-S is a very special and impressive coupe. From the very unique looks to the way it drives, Scion has a alternative to the sport compacts and sports cars in the price bracket. The base price of $24,500 for a six-speed manual and $25,300 for a six-speed automatic makes it a steal. Its not for everyone though. The rough ride brought on by firm suspension, spartan interior, and engine not having enough power will scare some people away. But for those who can put up with these faults will bask in knowledge of having one of best driving vehicles on sale today. Disclaimer: Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2013 Scion FR-S 16 images 0 comments Year - 2013 Make – Scion Model – FR-S Trim – N/A Engine – 2.0L Direct and Port-Injected Boxer-Four Driveline – Rear-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 200 HP (@ 7,000 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 151 lb-ft (@ 5,400 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/34/28 Curb Weight – 2,806 lbs Location of Manufacture - Ōta, Gunma, Japan Base Price - $25,300.00 As Tested Price - $26,099.00* (Includes $730.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear Bumper Applique - $69.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  11. William Maley

    2013 Scion FR-S

    By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 1, 2013 October 2009 was a monumental month for Toyota. It was at the Tokyo Motor Show where the company revealed a very interesting concept called the FT-86; a small, lightweight two-door coupe that was jointly worked on by Toyota and Subaru. This sent shockwaves across the automotive landscape. Had Toyota rediscovered its sporty side it once had during the eighties and nineties? Or was it fluke? When the company announced that a production model would be coming along with a Subaru version, it seemed the answer was yes, they have discovered their sporty side once more. Speculation, rumors, and a number of concepts from Toyota, Scion, and Subaru would come out over the next couple years before the official introductions in late 2011 and early 2012. There would be the Toyota GT86 which was a callback to the mid-eighties RWD Corolla AE86. Next was the Subaru BRZ which differed from the rest of the Subaru lineup by being a RWD model, not AWD. Finally for North America was the Scion FR-S, providing a unique product for Toyota’s youth brand. Its been a long wait for these coupes, but was it worth it? To answer this question, I got a 2013 Scion FR-S for the holidays. The Look The FR-S’ exterior design is what you expect out of a sporting car; a small, low slung body mounted on top of a short wheelbase. Key design cues to take note are the embellished front and rear fenders, a distinct character line running along the door, rear diffuser with reverse lights, and on the front fenders, a little 86 badge paying homage to the mid-eighties Corolla AE86. Inside the FR-S, its a simple and clean layout. Materials are hard plastics of varying quality which will annoy some people. I had no problems with it since the money was wisely spent elsewhere in the vehicle. The controls are logically laid out and easy to reach. Scion fitted a set of sport seats for the driver and front passenger. The seats provide good bolstering and support when you’re driving aggressively. However I couldn’t fit into the seats comfortably due to my shoulders being a bit too wide for the seats. I know I happen to be an odd case on this, but its worth noting if you’re looking into this. The back seat area is only really usable for storing stuff or putting small kids. All Part of a Balanced Diet Underneath the Scion FR-S’ skin is a recipe for balance. Power comes from 2.0L Subaru Boxer-four that’s fitted with Toyota's D-4S direct injection system. Horsepower is rated at 200 (@ 7,000 RPM) and torque is at 151 lb-ft (@ 5,100 RPM). The reason for going with the boxer engine is due to how low the engine can be set in a vehicle. The lower the engine, the lower center of gravity a vehicle has. For transmissions, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual or my test FR-S’ six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With the automatic, you choice of three different drive modes (Normal, Sport and Snow) that changes the behavior of the transmission. The FR-S also features a limited-slip differential as standard equipment. Suspension duties are taken care by a set up MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone in the rear. A set of 17-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in Michelin Primacy HP summer tires. Driving the FR-S down a nice twisty backroad is a very rewarding experience. The engine does have to be worked to reach its sweet spot, but the reward is a nice growl from the exhaust and the knowledge that the engine doesn't mind being pushed. The six-speed automatic is surprisingly quick and smooth, especially when you put the vehicle into sport mode as the transmission holds onto the gears through the corners and blips the throttle. You can also do the shifting yourself via the paddle shifters whether the transmission is in Drive or in the manual mode. While its fun to play with paddles, I found leaving the vehicle in Drive with the Sport mode on did a better job than me. I also found myself wishing the paddles were on the steering column than the wheel, so I wouldn't be playing the game of ‘where are the paddles now?’ The suspension does an excellent job of keeping FR-S level and balanced when going from corner to corner. Steering is very quick and precise, and provides a very good amount of a road feel. A bit surprising when you find out the FR-S steering is a electric power system, not hydraulic. Also surprising was a VSC Sport button which dials back the stability control up to a point to allow you to explore the limits of the FR-S. It’s A Double Edge Sword Now all those things I have listed above really do make the FR-S a great back road car, but it doesn’t make it a great daily driver for a good amount of people. For starters, I wished the engine had a bit more power, especially in the mid-range. Trying to make a pass or merge with traffic meant I had essentially step on it to perform. Also the suspension which is great in the corners is horrid on Metro Detroit roads. The suspension doesn’t have enough give whenever you drive over potholes or road imperfections and you will feel it very clearly. One thing I wasn't complaining about the FR-S was fuel economy. The EPA rates the FR-S at 25 City/34 Highway/28 Combined. During the week, I averaged 30.4 MPG. On the freeway I saw 34.2 MPG. The Time Has Come The Scion FR-S is a very special and impressive coupe. From the very unique looks to the way it drives, Scion has a alternative to the sport compacts and sports cars in the price bracket. The base price of $24,500 for a six-speed manual and $25,300 for a six-speed automatic makes it a steal. Its not for everyone though. The rough ride brought on by firm suspension, spartan interior, and engine not having enough power will scare some people away. But for those who can put up with these faults will bask in knowledge of having one of best driving vehicles on sale today. Disclaimer: Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2013 Scion FR-S 16 images 0 comments Year - 2013 Make – Scion Model – FR-S Trim – N/A Engine – 2.0L Direct and Port-Injected Boxer-Four Driveline – Rear-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 200 HP (@ 7,000 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 151 lb-ft (@ 5,400 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/34/28 Curb Weight – 2,806 lbs Location of Manufacture - Ōta, Gunma, Japan Base Price - $25,300.00 As Tested Price - $26,099.00* (Includes $730.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear Bumper Applique - $69.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  12. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 8, 2013 At one time in the U.S. auto market, you had a wide variety of compact pickups to choose from. You could get a Chevrolet S-10, Ford Ranger, Nissan Hardbody, or a number of other pickups. But now there isn’t such a thing as a compact pickup. The last compact pickup truck, the Ford Ranger, said farewell in 2011. Other compact pickups have grown into what we now call the midsize class. That brings us to the current crop of midsize pickups; the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. These two models make up the current selection of midsize pickups. But is that a good thing? Why are there only two models in the midsize pickups class? I recently had a 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab to find out. Variety is the Spice of Life The 2013 Tacoma comes in a variety of configurations to suit your needs. Whether you need a single cab with a four-cylinder engine or a crew cab with a V6 and off-road package, Toyota probably has a Tacoma for you. Our test Tacoma was a SR5 Access Cab, Toyota’s name for extended cab. Toyota has made some tweaks the Tacoma’s exterior in 2012, mostly in the front. There is a new grille, headlights, and bumper that help make the Tacoma’s 2005 design look somewhat newer. The Tacoma’s standard truck bed measures out at 73.5 inches long, which means the truck can handle a run to the hardware store to pick up supplies with no problem. Stepping inside the Tacoma Access Cab, you do notice that it hasn’t aged very well. Despite Toyota’s best efforts to spruce it up by installing a new steering wheel, revising the graphics on the gauges, and changing the colors on the center stack, the interior feels like it has just rolled off the assembly line back in 2005. Materials are what you would usually find in most mid-size trucks, hard plastics in the usual places. However, the Tacoma’s interior does have some positive points. For starters, the dash layout is simple and the controls are within easy reach. The front seats are very comfortable with a good amount of adjustments and bolstering. Then there is the Access Cab which increases interior space and provides additional space. You can fit two people in the back in the jump seats, but only if they are small kids. Power? Yes. Fuel Economy and Ride? Umm.. The Tacoma can be equipped with either a 2.7L four-cylinder or what our test Tacoma was equipped with, a 4.0L V6. I should explain Toyota uses two variations of the 4.0L in their Trucks and SUVs. For the Tundra and 4Runner, Toyota employs a 4.0L producing 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. In the Tacoma, Toyota uses the same 4.0L producing less power at 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet torque. Transmission choices for the Tacoma include a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The 4.0L V6 feels faster than what is indicated on the speedometer thanks to the bulk of torque being on the low-end and the automatic’s gearing spaced out to provide more performance. With an empty bed and dry payment, you can easily get a squeal from the rear tires. On the expressway, the V6 was able get up to speed very quickly and make passes with no sweat. I never thought that I needed the higher performing 4.0L in the week I had the Tacoma. One item Toyota does need to address with the Tacoma’s 4.0L V6 is fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD at 16 City/21 Highway/18 Combined, which is similar to full-size pickups equipped V8 engines. During my time with the Tacoma, I averaged about 17.6 MPG. The Tacoma’s suspension uses a double wishbone with gas-filled shocks in the front and leaf springs in the back. This setup provided a soft, yet very bouncy ride. I kept wondering if I was riding a mechanical bull and not a truck. I’m sure if the bed had a load, the bounciness would subside a bit. One surprise of the Tacoma was its steering. Toyota uses a variable assist rack and pinion system and it provided an excellent amount of feel and weight. Combine it with smaller dimensions of the Tacoma and it is a breeze to maneuver around tight spaces. There’s A Good Truck Here, But Needs Some Drastic Changes The 2013 Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 has left me torn. On one hand, the Tacoma has a comfortable and straightforward interior layout, a punchy V6, and good maneuverability. On the other hand, the Tacoma gets about the same fuel economy as full-size trucks, an interior that feels very old, and the bouncy ride. There’s another nail in the Tacoma’s coffin and that is the price. As tested, the Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 stickers at $30,580.00. At a glance, this seems somewhat reasonable. However with that same amount of cash, you could head down to your local Chevrolet, Ford, Ram dealer and get a full-size truck that is equipped similar to the Tacoma. Toyota is now at a point with the Tacoma where it has two options; either leave the Tacoma as-is or begin making some changes to full unleash the potential of this truck. Those changes include swapping the five-speed automatic for a six-speed automatic and seeing if they can squeeze some more fuel economy out of the 4.0L V6. I hope Toyota goes with the latter option since the midsize truck market could use a kick in the pants. Album: 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD 18 images 0 comments Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Tacoma Access Cab Trim – SR5 V6 Engine – 4.0L DOHC 24V VVT-i V6 Driveline – Part Time Four-Wheel Drive, Five-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 236 @ 5,200 RPM Torque @ RPM – 266 @ 4,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/21/18 Curb Weight – 4,100 lbs Location of Manufacture – San Antonio, TX Base Price - $26,185.00 As Tested Price - $30,580.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: SR5 Value Package - $2,335.00 V6 Tow Package - $650.00 Running Boards - $376.00 Six-Speaker, AM/FM/SirusXM/CD/MP3/WMA/Bluetooth/Aux/iPod Sound System - $300.00 Floor Mats and Door Sill Protector -$195.00 Exhaust Tip - $85.00 Daytime Running Lights - $40.00 First Aid Kit - $39.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  13. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 8, 2013 At one time in the U.S. auto market, you had a wide variety of compact pickups to choose from. You could get a Chevrolet S-10, Ford Ranger, Nissan Hardbody, or a number of other pickups. But now there isn’t such a thing as a compact pickup. The last compact pickup truck, the Ford Ranger, said farewell in 2011. Other compact pickups have grown into what we now call the midsize class. That brings us to the current crop of midsize pickups; the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. These two models make up the current selection of midsize pickups. But is that a good thing? Why are there only two models in the midsize pickups class? I recently had a 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab to find out. Variety is the Spice of Life The 2013 Tacoma comes in a variety of configurations to suit your needs. Whether you need a single cab with a four-cylinder engine or a crew cab with a V6 and off-road package, Toyota probably has a Tacoma for you. Our test Tacoma was a SR5 Access Cab, Toyota’s name for extended cab. Toyota has made some tweaks the Tacoma’s exterior in 2012, mostly in the front. There is a new grille, headlights, and bumper that help make the Tacoma’s 2005 design look somewhat newer. The Tacoma’s standard truck bed measures out at 73.5 inches long, which means the truck can handle a run to the hardware store to pick up supplies with no problem. Stepping inside the Tacoma Access Cab, you do notice that it hasn’t aged very well. Despite Toyota’s best efforts to spruce it up by installing a new steering wheel, revising the graphics on the gauges, and changing the colors on the center stack, the interior feels like it has just rolled off the assembly line back in 2005. Materials are what you would usually find in most mid-size trucks, hard plastics in the usual places. However, the Tacoma’s interior does have some positive points. For starters, the dash layout is simple and the controls are within easy reach. The front seats are very comfortable with a good amount of adjustments and bolstering. Then there is the Access Cab which increases interior space and provides additional space. You can fit two people in the back in the jump seats, but only if they are small kids. Power? Yes. Fuel Economy and Ride? Umm.. The Tacoma can be equipped with either a 2.7L four-cylinder or what our test Tacoma was equipped with, a 4.0L V6. I should explain Toyota uses two variations of the 4.0L in their Trucks and SUVs. For the Tundra and 4Runner, Toyota employs a 4.0L producing 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. In the Tacoma, Toyota uses the same 4.0L producing less power at 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet torque. Transmission choices for the Tacoma include a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The 4.0L V6 feels faster than what is indicated on the speedometer thanks to the bulk of torque being on the low-end and the automatic’s gearing spaced out to provide more performance. With an empty bed and dry payment, you can easily get a squeal from the rear tires. On the expressway, the V6 was able get up to speed very quickly and make passes with no sweat. I never thought that I needed the higher performing 4.0L in the week I had the Tacoma. One item Toyota does need to address with the Tacoma’s 4.0L V6 is fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD at 16 City/21 Highway/18 Combined, which is similar to full-size pickups equipped V8 engines. During my time with the Tacoma, I averaged about 17.6 MPG. The Tacoma’s suspension uses a double wishbone with gas-filled shocks in the front and leaf springs in the back. This setup provided a soft, yet very bouncy ride. I kept wondering if I was riding a mechanical bull and not a truck. I’m sure if the bed had a load, the bounciness would subside a bit. One surprise of the Tacoma was its steering. Toyota uses a variable assist rack and pinion system and it provided an excellent amount of feel and weight. Combine it with smaller dimensions of the Tacoma and it is a breeze to maneuver around tight spaces. There’s A Good Truck Here, But Needs Some Drastic Changes The 2013 Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 has left me torn. On one hand, the Tacoma has a comfortable and straightforward interior layout, a punchy V6, and good maneuverability. On the other hand, the Tacoma gets about the same fuel economy as full-size trucks, an interior that feels very old, and the bouncy ride. There’s another nail in the Tacoma’s coffin and that is the price. As tested, the Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 stickers at $30,580.00. At a glance, this seems somewhat reasonable. However with that same amount of cash, you could head down to your local Chevrolet, Ford, Ram dealer and get a full-size truck that is equipped similar to the Tacoma. Toyota is now at a point with the Tacoma where it has two options; either leave the Tacoma as-is or begin making some changes to full unleash the potential of this truck. Those changes include swapping the five-speed automatic for a six-speed automatic and seeing if they can squeeze some more fuel economy out of the 4.0L V6. I hope Toyota goes with the latter option since the midsize truck market could use a kick in the pants. Album: 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD 18 images 0 comments Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Tacoma Access Cab Trim – SR5 V6 Engine – 4.0L DOHC 24V VVT-i V6 Driveline – Part Time Four-Wheel Drive, Five-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 236 @ 5,200 RPM Torque @ RPM – 266 @ 4,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/21/18 Curb Weight – 4,100 lbs Location of Manufacture – San Antonio, TX Base Price - $26,185.00 As Tested Price - $30,580.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: SR5 Value Package - $2,335.00 V6 Tow Package - $650.00 Running Boards - $376.00 Six-Speaker, AM/FM/SirusXM/CD/MP3/WMA/Bluetooth/Aux/iPod Sound System - $300.00 Floor Mats and Door Sill Protector -$195.00 Exhaust Tip - $85.00 Daytime Running Lights - $40.00 First Aid Kit - $39.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  14. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 5, 2013 This is how I think a conversation would go with someone about the 2013 Kia Sorento SX V6 I had in for review. “Hey William.” “Hey.” “So what are you reviewing this week?” “The 2013 Kia Sorento SX V6.” “Didn’t Kia introduce a refreshed Sorento?” “Yes at the LA Auto Show. It will be a 2014 model coming out sometime in the first quarter of 2013.” “Why are you reviewing the 2013 model if the 2014 model is coming soon?” “Well for two reasons. One: I have a point of comparison when I get the chance to check out the 2014 model. Two: I want to see if a person should wait to get the 2014 model or go ahead with the 2013 model.” “Ahh.” Shall we dive in? Since its introduction in 2009 as a 2011 model, the second-generation Kia Sorento’s design really hasn’t changed much. The front end features Kia’s signature grille and a set of unique headlights. The side profile has deeply chiseled door panels and windows that are pushed somewhat into the body. On the SX model you gain painted front and rear bumpers, a rear spoiler, and a set of eighteen-inch wheels to give it a very dramatic look. Inside the Sorento feels older than it should. Blame the hard plastics and some of equipment used up front, most notably the climate control system. Aside from this, the interior features very good build quality. Front and second row passengers will feel very comfortable thanks to the very good amount of head and legroom, and adjustments provided. The third row is best left for small kids or folded flat since that expands cargo room from a meager 9.1 cubic feet to 37 cubic feet of space. Equipment is very generous on the Sorento SX. Starting at $33,400, the SX model includes leather seats for all three rows, heated front seats, push-button start, rear ventilation, an Infinity sound system, USB and Aux jack, and Bluetooth as standard equipment. My test Sorento SX also came equipped with the Premium package which adds such items as navigation, heated steering wheel, a memory function for the driver’s seat and mirrors, and a panoramic sunroof. For the extra $3,200 the package adds onto the Sorento SX’s price tag, I find it to be a very good value since models from competitors would cost somewhat more to come close to matching the SX’s equipment level. The 2013 Sorento comes with three different engine choices. The base LX model gets a 2.4L four-cylinder engine. There is also a 2.4L four-cylinder with direct injection that is available on the LX and standard on the EX. Lastly, there is a 3.5L V6 that’s standard on the SX and optional on the LX and EX. The 3.5L V6 produces 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The power is fed through a six-speed automatic down to either the front wheels or optional all-wheel drive system. The V6 packs quite the punch for any situation you encounter. Whether its to merge onto a freeway or leaving a stop, the V6’s power is immediate and smooth. More surprisingly was how quiet the V6 engine was. The only way you knew the engine was doing anything besides dropping the hammer was watching the rev counter. The six-speed automatic was very smooth and quick to downshift at a moments notice. My only real disappointment with V6 was fuel economy. The EPA rates the Sorento SX V6 with AWD at 18 City/24 Highway/20 combined. During my week, I got an average of 20.5 MPG. However when I was driving the Sorento in the city, I saw my average MPG drop to around 15.8 MPG. If you’re planning to drive a lot in the city, you should consider the four-cylinder. The Sorento’s AWD system is a full-time unit that features a locking center differential. I found the system to be very capable when driving through the aftermath of a snowstorm. The system provided enough traction to get and keep the vehicle on the move, even in some unplowed roads. One oddity in the Sorento SX was a hill descent control system. Hill descent control uses the ABS to control each wheel's speed to get down a hill in rough terrain at a very slow speed. I’m not quite sure how many Sorento owners will utilize this feature, but it's there if you need it. The Sorento SX’s ride and drive can be best explained in three (or four) words; quiet and mostly comfortable. The suspension is tuned for comfort which provides a very smooth and stable ride. Steering is perfectly weighted for the intended application and is surprisingly quick to respond. Driving on the highway, the Sorento exhibits barely any noise from the suspension or the road, making this a very relaxing highway cruiser. The 2013 Kia Sorento SX with AWD starts $33,400.00. Add a few options and destination and you're looking at $37,575.00, the price of my tester. Now some people will argue that seems a bit much for a seven-seat crossover. However I would rebut that for price, the Sorento SX brings forth a number of features that the competition either doesn't have or you would need to tick a few more option boxes to come close. If you were to ask me before the showing of the 2014 Sorento would I recommend the current Sorento, the answer is yes. The 2013 Kia Sorento SX is a very capable and value oriented crossover; providing a good mix of looks, equipment, power, and comfort in one package. But with the 2014 Sorento around the corner, I would say wait and see. The 2014 model brings forth a number of improvements, including a new 3.3L V6 and a more modern interior. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2013 Kia Sorento SX 21 images 0 comments Year - 2013 Make – Kia Model – Sorento Trim – SX AWD Engine – 3.5L DOHC CVVT V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive with Locking Center Differential, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – 276 (@ 6,300 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 248 (@ 5,000 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/24/20 Curb Weight – 3,935 lbs Location of Manufacture – West Point, Georgia Base Price - $33,400.00 (SX with AWD) As Tested Price - $37,575.00 (Includes $800.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package 3 - $3,200.00 Cargo Cover - $125.00 Cargo Net - $50.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  15. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 5, 2013 This is how I think a conversation would go with someone about the 2013 Kia Sorento SX V6 I had in for review. “Hey William.” “Hey.” “So what are you reviewing this week?” “The 2013 Kia Sorento SX V6.” “Didn’t Kia introduce a refreshed Sorento?” “Yes at the LA Auto Show. It will be a 2014 model coming out sometime in the first quarter of 2013.” “Why are you reviewing the 2013 model if the 2014 model is coming soon?” “Well for two reasons. One: I have a point of comparison when I get the chance to check out the 2014 model. Two: I want to see if a person should wait to get the 2014 model or go ahead with the 2013 model.” “Ahh.” Shall we dive in? Since its introduction in 2009 as a 2011 model, the second-generation Kia Sorento’s design really hasn’t changed much. The front end features Kia’s signature grille and a set of unique headlights. The side profile has deeply chiseled door panels and windows that are pushed somewhat into the body. On the SX model you gain painted front and rear bumpers, a rear spoiler, and a set of eighteen-inch wheels to give it a very dramatic look. Inside the Sorento feels older than it should. Blame the hard plastics and some of equipment used up front, most notably the climate control system. Aside from this, the interior features very good build quality. Front and second row passengers will feel very comfortable thanks to the very good amount of head and legroom, and adjustments provided. The third row is best left for small kids or folded flat since that expands cargo room from a meager 9.1 cubic feet to 37 cubic feet of space. Equipment is very generous on the Sorento SX. Starting at $33,400, the SX model includes leather seats for all three rows, heated front seats, push-button start, rear ventilation, an Infinity sound system, USB and Aux jack, and Bluetooth as standard equipment. My test Sorento SX also came equipped with the Premium package which adds such items as navigation, heated steering wheel, a memory function for the driver’s seat and mirrors, and a panoramic sunroof. For the extra $3,200 the package adds onto the Sorento SX’s price tag, I find it to be a very good value since models from competitors would cost somewhat more to come close to matching the SX’s equipment level. The 2013 Sorento comes with three different engine choices. The base LX model gets a 2.4L four-cylinder engine. There is also a 2.4L four-cylinder with direct injection that is available on the LX and standard on the EX. Lastly, there is a 3.5L V6 that’s standard on the SX and optional on the LX and EX. The 3.5L V6 produces 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The power is fed through a six-speed automatic down to either the front wheels or optional all-wheel drive system. The V6 packs quite the punch for any situation you encounter. Whether its to merge onto a freeway or leaving a stop, the V6’s power is immediate and smooth. More surprisingly was how quiet the V6 engine was. The only way you knew the engine was doing anything besides dropping the hammer was watching the rev counter. The six-speed automatic was very smooth and quick to downshift at a moments notice. My only real disappointment with V6 was fuel economy. The EPA rates the Sorento SX V6 with AWD at 18 City/24 Highway/20 combined. During my week, I got an average of 20.5 MPG. However when I was driving the Sorento in the city, I saw my average MPG drop to around 15.8 MPG. If you’re planning to drive a lot in the city, you should consider the four-cylinder. The Sorento’s AWD system is a full-time unit that features a locking center differential. I found the system to be very capable when driving through the aftermath of a snowstorm. The system provided enough traction to get and keep the vehicle on the move, even in some unplowed roads. One oddity in the Sorento SX was a hill descent control system. Hill descent control uses the ABS to control each wheel's speed to get down a hill in rough terrain at a very slow speed. I’m not quite sure how many Sorento owners will utilize this feature, but it's there if you need it. The Sorento SX’s ride and drive can be best explained in three (or four) words; quiet and mostly comfortable. The suspension is tuned for comfort which provides a very smooth and stable ride. Steering is perfectly weighted for the intended application and is surprisingly quick to respond. Driving on the highway, the Sorento exhibits barely any noise from the suspension or the road, making this a very relaxing highway cruiser. The 2013 Kia Sorento SX with AWD starts $33,400.00. Add a few options and destination and you're looking at $37,575.00, the price of my tester. Now some people will argue that seems a bit much for a seven-seat crossover. However I would rebut that for price, the Sorento SX brings forth a number of features that the competition either doesn't have or you would need to tick a few more option boxes to come close. If you were to ask me before the showing of the 2014 Sorento would I recommend the current Sorento, the answer is yes. The 2013 Kia Sorento SX is a very capable and value oriented crossover; providing a good mix of looks, equipment, power, and comfort in one package. But with the 2014 Sorento around the corner, I would say wait and see. The 2014 model brings forth a number of improvements, including a new 3.3L V6 and a more modern interior. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2013 Kia Sorento SX 21 images 0 comments Year - 2013 Make – Kia Model – Sorento Trim – SX AWD Engine – 3.5L DOHC CVVT V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive with Locking Center Differential, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – 276 (@ 6,300 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 248 (@ 5,000 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/24/20 Curb Weight – 3,935 lbs Location of Manufacture – West Point, Georgia Base Price - $33,400.00 (SX with AWD) As Tested Price - $37,575.00 (Includes $800.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package 3 - $3,200.00 Cargo Cover - $125.00 Cargo Net - $50.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  16. By Chris Doane January 29, 2013 I know I won’t get much, if any, sympathy when I say that, sometimes, there are letdowns when you review cars. Last week, the car I was evaluating was a $100,000, 400hp, German coupe. (Read my review of the 2012 BMW 650i xDrive coupe here) I’ve now stepped directly from that into a Kia Rio. I’ll pause for your laughter. For the price of the super coupe, you can buy 5.4 Kia Rios. You could keep that .4 for spare parts? But don’t let price fool you. Oddly enough, there is something about the way the Kia drives that beats the German car hands down. If you guessed power, speed or luxury, then you’re either not familiar with these cars, or you’re three martinis into “lunch” at the bar. What the much cheaper Kia does have over the German car is steering feel. The coupe from Deutschland has 262 more horse power, yards and yards of leather, but in the Kia, I actually have some sense of what the front wheels are doing via what I feel through the steering wheel. And I’ll take some feel over none any day. If driving is something you enjoy, steering feel is pretty useful information to have when zipping through the corners. Even if driving is nothing more than a task for you, it’s pretty nice to know when the front wheels feel like they’re about to lose traction. While no one would ever mistake the Rio for a sporty, corner carving car, the Rio SX model has a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, and light, responsive steering that, somehow, make this small, underpowered car a little bit fun to drive. It’s a bit like a go-kart, only with airbags, a trunk and room for five passengers. Well, 4.5 anyway. The main reason I say “a little bit fun to drive” is because of the 1.6L, 138hp four cylinder motor in the Rio. Those hot, 17-inch wheels on this Rio SX might make it look quick, but this hatchback ain’t going anywhere fast. While there is certainly power to be had from this little four-banger, you’ve got to rev the snot out of it to reach that power. Once the tachometer reads 4500-5000rpm, then you approach something that could be considered acceleration. In regular, everyday driving, the lack of power isn’t really an issue. You’ll get through the city, and around the highways, just fine. But in some situations, like passing on even a modest incline, you might think twice. As I attempted to pass an older, slower Nissan on a slight uphill, the pass happened in such slow fashion that I would’ve had time to say hello to the driver, ask if he was hungry, make a sandwich, and pass it over. Wait, did he want Grey Poupon? So we don’t have speed, but that should come as no surprise since this car is intended more for fuel efficiency. The Rio is rated for 28mpg city, 36mpg highway, and we observed a 31mpg average with sporty driving habits and more highway driving than city driving. There is also an “eco” button you can press that reigns in the engine, and transmission shift points, for increased fuel economy. Even though the fuel economy is fairly good, the tank in the Rio is pretty tiny at 11.3 gallons. If you have a long commute, you’ll still be filling up a lot, but at least you’ll only be pumping in 11 gallons each time. If you want to know when that tank is about to run dry, it’s not a good idea to rely on the digital, remaining range readout in the gauge cluster. One moment, the Rio SX told me I could drive another 31 miles before I was out of fuel. Less than 5 minutes of regular driving later, it told me I had no range remaining. Inside the Rio, it’s about what you’d expect in a $18,545 car. A nicely designed, mostly hard plastic interior, but with soft touch material in the right spots and a backup camera. Wait, what? A backup camera in a $18,545 car? Touch-screen nav too? Don’t forget the power fold mirrors. Though, in a car this narrow, I’m not really sure why you’d ever need to fold in the mirrors. Of those features, it’s the backup camera that is almost a necesity due to the massive blind spots the stylish C-pillars create. Without a rear-facing camera, backing out of a parking spot involves more prayer than driving skill. Normally, in cars of this price range, the seats suffer when it comes to comfort. Somehow, the chairs in the Rio manage not to do that. They certainly aren’t heavily padded or bosltered seats, but after three hours of wheeling, I was perfectly comfortable, and ready for three more. Frankly, the best part of the Rio is how fantastic it looks. If you venture back even a few years ago and look at the cars Kia was producing then, you’d never have guessed this company was capable of designing something this good looking. Not only does the exterior design trump the Scion xB, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa, but it certainly holds its’ own against the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta as well. 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door - $17,700 -Carpeted Floor Mats - $95 -Destination - $750 TOTAL - $18,545 Album: 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door 7 images 0 comments View full article
  17. By Chris Doane January 29, 2013 I know I won’t get much, if any, sympathy when I say that, sometimes, there are letdowns when you review cars. Last week, the car I was evaluating was a $100,000, 400hp, German coupe. (Read my review of the 2012 BMW 650i xDrive coupe here) I’ve now stepped directly from that into a Kia Rio. I’ll pause for your laughter. For the price of the super coupe, you can buy 5.4 Kia Rios. You could keep that .4 for spare parts? But don’t let price fool you. Oddly enough, there is something about the way the Kia drives that beats the German car hands down. If you guessed power, speed or luxury, then you’re either not familiar with these cars, or you’re three martinis into “lunch” at the bar. What the much cheaper Kia does have over the German car is steering feel. The coupe from Deutschland has 262 more horse power, yards and yards of leather, but in the Kia, I actually have some sense of what the front wheels are doing via what I feel through the steering wheel. And I’ll take some feel over none any day. If driving is something you enjoy, steering feel is pretty useful information to have when zipping through the corners. Even if driving is nothing more than a task for you, it’s pretty nice to know when the front wheels feel like they’re about to lose traction. While no one would ever mistake the Rio for a sporty, corner carving car, the Rio SX model has a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, and light, responsive steering that, somehow, make this small, underpowered car a little bit fun to drive. It’s a bit like a go-kart, only with airbags, a trunk and room for five passengers. Well, 4.5 anyway. The main reason I say “a little bit fun to drive” is because of the 1.6L, 138hp four cylinder motor in the Rio. Those hot, 17-inch wheels on this Rio SX might make it look quick, but this hatchback ain’t going anywhere fast. While there is certainly power to be had from this little four-banger, you’ve got to rev the snot out of it to reach that power. Once the tachometer reads 4500-5000rpm, then you approach something that could be considered acceleration. In regular, everyday driving, the lack of power isn’t really an issue. You’ll get through the city, and around the highways, just fine. But in some situations, like passing on even a modest incline, you might think twice. As I attempted to pass an older, slower Nissan on a slight uphill, the pass happened in such slow fashion that I would’ve had time to say hello to the driver, ask if he was hungry, make a sandwich, and pass it over. Wait, did he want Grey Poupon? So we don’t have speed, but that should come as no surprise since this car is intended more for fuel efficiency. The Rio is rated for 28mpg city, 36mpg highway, and we observed a 31mpg average with sporty driving habits and more highway driving than city driving. There is also an “eco” button you can press that reigns in the engine, and transmission shift points, for increased fuel economy. Even though the fuel economy is fairly good, the tank in the Rio is pretty tiny at 11.3 gallons. If you have a long commute, you’ll still be filling up a lot, but at least you’ll only be pumping in 11 gallons each time. If you want to know when that tank is about to run dry, it’s not a good idea to rely on the digital, remaining range readout in the gauge cluster. One moment, the Rio SX told me I could drive another 31 miles before I was out of fuel. Less than 5 minutes of regular driving later, it told me I had no range remaining. Inside the Rio, it’s about what you’d expect in a $18,545 car. A nicely designed, mostly hard plastic interior, but with soft touch material in the right spots and a backup camera. Wait, what? A backup camera in a $18,545 car? Touch-screen nav too? Don’t forget the power fold mirrors. Though, in a car this narrow, I’m not really sure why you’d ever need to fold in the mirrors. Of those features, it’s the backup camera that is almost a necesity due to the massive blind spots the stylish C-pillars create. Without a rear-facing camera, backing out of a parking spot involves more prayer than driving skill. Normally, in cars of this price range, the seats suffer when it comes to comfort. Somehow, the chairs in the Rio manage not to do that. They certainly aren’t heavily padded or bosltered seats, but after three hours of wheeling, I was perfectly comfortable, and ready for three more. Frankly, the best part of the Rio is how fantastic it looks. If you venture back even a few years ago and look at the cars Kia was producing then, you’d never have guessed this company was capable of designing something this good looking. Not only does the exterior design trump the Scion xB, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa, but it certainly holds its’ own against the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta as well. 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door - $17,700 -Carpeted Floor Mats - $95 -Destination - $750 TOTAL - $18,545 Album: 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door 7 images 0 comments
  18. By Chris Doane January 7, 2013 It’s midweek and I’m cruising down the interstate when I come up behind one of the Passat TDI’s diesel brethren from a few decades prior: An early 1980’s Mercedes 300D. The tortured Benz was loud, emitting a smoke screen, and judging from its’ lack of ability to pass a semi-truck, the non-turbocharged 300D. A quick look at the trunk lid badging confirmed that. Back in the 1980’s, I’m not really sure what the appeal of the 300D would’ve been. Gasoline was around $1.20 a gallon and luxury buyers wouldn’t have thought twice about filling up at that price. The 300D had 83hp, 120 lb-ft of torque, and without the turbocharger, looked to have “John Deere” acceleration qualities. Fuel economy usually fell between the high 20’s and low 30’s. As it turned out, the biggest redeeming quality, realized years later, was that the diesel motors in the 300 were built to be absolutely bombproof. The first 100,000 miles on these motors was simply the break-in period. These days, Mercedes 300D’s reaching half a million miles, or more, is not uncommon. The one I saw looked as though it might be past the half-million mark, but there it was, still going. Well, sort of. Pulling my mind back into the cabin of the Passat TDI, the contrast is pretty stark. I’m driving at a casual 72mph, and the car isn’t even breaking a sweat, humming along at 2200rpm. No diesel racket, no smelly gray cloud, no lack of ability to pass at highway speeds. Thirty years of diesel technology advancements had now turned a car that roared, coughed and smoked into a sedan that behaved like all the rest and sipped diesel at a minuscule rate. Same, but different Walk onto a Volkswagen dealer lot, and the only real visual cue to tell the diesel Passat apart from the gasoline model is “TDI” badge on the back. Once you pop the hood, you’ll be face to face with the TDI’s biggest change: The 140hp, 2.0L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. As with all diesels, it’s the 236 lb-ft of torque that really gives the Passat TDI its’ oomph. Past the different power plant, the other significant change is waiting for you in the trunk where the urea filler spout is located. Urea, or AdBlue as VW dubs it, is a liquid that is injected into the exhaust, greatly reducing the terribleness of diesel exhaust and allowing the car to meet U.S. emissions regulations. That might sound like an added hassle, but one tank of urea in the Passat should last you 10,000 miles, and is timed to be part of your regular oil changes. If the urea tank does happen run low, as it did during my week with the Passat, the car gives you somewhat of a stern warning, but it comes well in advance of the urea tank going dry. With 800 miles of urea range remaining, the warning light advised the engine would not be able to start once the tank was empty. The good news is a gallon of urea cost me only $6.99 at a local auto parts store and took all of three minutes to buy and pour into the tank. If you can’t manage to do that within 800 miles, the problem might be sitting in the driver’s seat. Both the diesel and gasoline-powered Passats feature a smooth shifting, 6-speed DSG transmission. You’ll barely feel the first two shifts, and you’d have to have your eyes glued to the tachometer to know the cogs are swapping once you’re into third gear. MPGs The Passat TDI is a pretty purpose driven vehicle. It’s meant to be a comfortable, mid-size cruiser that gets phenomenal fuel economy, and it reaches those goals with ease. The interior feels quite large, front and back, and the materials have not been cheapened in the way that the Jetta’s have. While I’m still pretty sure the only people fingering the dashboards are automotive writers, if you feel the need, you will find it’s fairly soft. More importantly, the 8-way power seats are “drive all day” comfortable. The most impressive part, and the reason you’ll buy this sedan, is the fuel economy. With the automatic transmission, the EPA says the Passat will get 30mpg in the city and 40mpg on the highway. However, that’s not really accurate. One of the quirks with diesel engines is that it takes longer for them to break in than gasoline motors. 10,000 miles is usually the number most TDI aficionados use for a good break in period. During that break in period, the piston rings in the engine will become better seated and the compression in the engine will improve. The end result of that is even better fuel economy. The Passat I drove had nearly 17,000 miles on it by the time I slid behind the wheel, so this diesel engine should’ve been operating much closer to its full potential than a brand new engine. Much of the driving I did was on hilly roads, and with a less-than-light foot. Despite that, the Passat still averaged 42-44mpg. That’s 2-4mpg above the EPA highway rating while driving like a teenager who’d just got his license and the keys to dad’s car. Once I eased off the throttle and returned to a regular pace, the mpg started creeping towards 50mpg. Use the cruise control for all your highway driving, and a mileage number just past 50mpg wouldn’t be out of the question. On the downside, the Passat’s fun factor rates somewhere around “mashed potatoes.” The suspension is tuned much more for comfort than it is for cornering. There is a decent helping of body roll in the corners, and over large bumps, or rough road, the Passat can feel downright floaty. That’s great if your mom is in the passenger seat, but not so good if you want to go hunting for the corner apex. Additionally, the turbo lag is pretty noticeable. Floor the accelerator, and for the first two seconds, not much happens. That can make jumping out into traffic from a dead stop a pretty interesting gamble. Once the turbo is spooled up, power delivery is adequate. The Highway Choice In the end, I can forgive the Passat TDI for not being a sport sedan because that just isn’t what it’s supposed to be. In the same way that a hybrid or electric car makes sense for city drivers, this VW makes huge sense for people who spend most of their commute on the highway. Unfortunately, a fun-to-drive diesel doesn’t really exist in the U.S. market yet, but a midsize sedan that can achieve 50+ mpg can’t be ignored. Going out to the car the next morning and thinking “didn’t the fuel gauge say that yesterday morning?” was certainly not a bad feeling. 2012 VW Passat TDI SEL Base price - $32,915 Destination - $795 Total = $33,710 Album: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI 6 images 0 comments
  19. By Chris Doane January 7, 2013 It’s midweek and I’m cruising down the interstate when I come up behind one of the Passat TDI’s diesel brethren from a few decades prior: An early 1980’s Mercedes 300D. The tortured Benz was loud, emitting a smoke screen, and judging from its’ lack of ability to pass a semi-truck, the non-turbocharged 300D. A quick look at the trunk lid badging confirmed that. Back in the 1980’s, I’m not really sure what the appeal of the 300D would’ve been. Gasoline was around $1.20 a gallon and luxury buyers wouldn’t have thought twice about filling up at that price. The 300D had 83hp, 120 lb-ft of torque, and without the turbocharger, looked to have “John Deere” acceleration qualities. Fuel economy usually fell between the high 20’s and low 30’s. As it turned out, the biggest redeeming quality, realized years later, was that the diesel motors in the 300 were built to be absolutely bombproof. The first 100,000 miles on these motors was simply the break-in period. These days, Mercedes 300D’s reaching half a million miles, or more, is not uncommon. The one I saw looked as though it might be past the half-million mark, but there it was, still going. Well, sort of. Pulling my mind back into the cabin of the Passat TDI, the contrast is pretty stark. I’m driving at a casual 72mph, and the car isn’t even breaking a sweat, humming along at 2200rpm. No diesel racket, no smelly gray cloud, no lack of ability to pass at highway speeds. Thirty years of diesel technology advancements had now turned a car that roared, coughed and smoked into a sedan that behaved like all the rest and sipped diesel at a minuscule rate. Same, but different Walk onto a Volkswagen dealer lot, and the only real visual cue to tell the diesel Passat apart from the gasoline model is “TDI” badge on the back. Once you pop the hood, you’ll be face to face with the TDI’s biggest change: The 140hp, 2.0L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. As with all diesels, it’s the 236 lb-ft of torque that really gives the Passat TDI its’ oomph. Past the different power plant, the other significant change is waiting for you in the trunk where the urea filler spout is located. Urea, or AdBlue as VW dubs it, is a liquid that is injected into the exhaust, greatly reducing the terribleness of diesel exhaust and allowing the car to meet U.S. emissions regulations. That might sound like an added hassle, but one tank of urea in the Passat should last you 10,000 miles, and is timed to be part of your regular oil changes. If the urea tank does happen run low, as it did during my week with the Passat, the car gives you somewhat of a stern warning, but it comes well in advance of the urea tank going dry. With 800 miles of urea range remaining, the warning light advised the engine would not be able to start once the tank was empty. The good news is a gallon of urea cost me only $6.99 at a local auto parts store and took all of three minutes to buy and pour into the tank. If you can’t manage to do that within 800 miles, the problem might be sitting in the driver’s seat. Both the diesel and gasoline-powered Passats feature a smooth shifting, 6-speed DSG transmission. You’ll barely feel the first two shifts, and you’d have to have your eyes glued to the tachometer to know the cogs are swapping once you’re into third gear. MPGs The Passat TDI is a pretty purpose driven vehicle. It’s meant to be a comfortable, mid-size cruiser that gets phenomenal fuel economy, and it reaches those goals with ease. The interior feels quite large, front and back, and the materials have not been cheapened in the way that the Jetta’s have. While I’m still pretty sure the only people fingering the dashboards are automotive writers, if you feel the need, you will find it’s fairly soft. More importantly, the 8-way power seats are “drive all day” comfortable. The most impressive part, and the reason you’ll buy this sedan, is the fuel economy. With the automatic transmission, the EPA says the Passat will get 30mpg in the city and 40mpg on the highway. However, that’s not really accurate. One of the quirks with diesel engines is that it takes longer for them to break in than gasoline motors. 10,000 miles is usually the number most TDI aficionados use for a good break in period. During that break in period, the piston rings in the engine will become better seated and the compression in the engine will improve. The end result of that is even better fuel economy. The Passat I drove had nearly 17,000 miles on it by the time I slid behind the wheel, so this diesel engine should’ve been operating much closer to its full potential than a brand new engine. Much of the driving I did was on hilly roads, and with a less-than-light foot. Despite that, the Passat still averaged 42-44mpg. That’s 2-4mpg above the EPA highway rating while driving like a teenager who’d just got his license and the keys to dad’s car. Once I eased off the throttle and returned to a regular pace, the mpg started creeping towards 50mpg. Use the cruise control for all your highway driving, and a mileage number just past 50mpg wouldn’t be out of the question. On the downside, the Passat’s fun factor rates somewhere around “mashed potatoes.” The suspension is tuned much more for comfort than it is for cornering. There is a decent helping of body roll in the corners, and over large bumps, or rough road, the Passat can feel downright floaty. That’s great if your mom is in the passenger seat, but not so good if you want to go hunting for the corner apex. Additionally, the turbo lag is pretty noticeable. Floor the accelerator, and for the first two seconds, not much happens. That can make jumping out into traffic from a dead stop a pretty interesting gamble. Once the turbo is spooled up, power delivery is adequate. The Highway Choice In the end, I can forgive the Passat TDI for not being a sport sedan because that just isn’t what it’s supposed to be. In the same way that a hybrid or electric car makes sense for city drivers, this VW makes huge sense for people who spend most of their commute on the highway. Unfortunately, a fun-to-drive diesel doesn’t really exist in the U.S. market yet, but a midsize sedan that can achieve 50+ mpg can’t be ignored. Going out to the car the next morning and thinking “didn’t the fuel gauge say that yesterday morning?” was certainly not a bad feeling. 2012 VW Passat TDI SEL Base price - $32,915 Destination - $795 Total = $33,710 Album: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI 6 images 0 comments View full article
  20. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com January 24, 2013 The letter R in the automotive world means an automaker has added a bit of spice to one of their vehicles. Examples include Acura Integra Type R and Volkswagen Golf R32 and R. The best example of the letter R being used by an automaker is Volvo. A brand known for safety and button-down styling would surprise the world when it introduced the 850 T-5 R sedan and wagon in 1995. Draped in some very wild colors, the 850 T-5 R was for its time one of fastest vehicles on the planet thanks to some major tweaks to the powertrain and suspension. Volvo would follow up with the 1999 V70R and the 2003 - 2006 S60R and V70R models, all of them proving improved performance over the base models. But since the S60R and V70R models left the Volvo lineup, there hasn’t quite been the craziness the R models brought forth. Instead Volvo fell back into its safety ritual, but with more distinctive designs. Two key things would happen to Volvo within the past couple of years to bring them back into the crazy fold. First would be Volvo strengthening and expanding its partnership with its racing and performance partner Polestar. Second would be the introduction of the R-Design trim for the S60 and XC60. R-Design brings some tweaks to exterior, engine, and chassis. That brings us to the 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design. Does it show signs that craziness has entered Volvo once more? Subtlety? Where?! Volvo’s have been known to be very understated in their designs and the S60 R-Design is no exception to that rule, if you don’t decide to get your R-Design in what Volvo calls Rebel Blue. While I did like the bold color choice, some people weren’t so impressed with it. If you want to be fully understated with your S60 R-Design, go with another color. Aside from the color, there’s a lot to appreciate about the S60’s design. The new S60 is an evolution of the first-generation model with some coupe cues in the form of a short rear overhang and sloping roof. Volvo has also fitted a unique set of headlights with LEDs sitting right beside it. The R-Design package layers on a lower front spoiler, eighteen-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, rear diffuser with dual-exhaust pipes, and a little R-Design badge on the front denoting its status. A Lesson in Simplicity The S60 R-Design’s interior is one of simplicity. The dashboard is very clean in its design with a mixture of a soft-touch materials, metal accents around the vents and door pulls, and a unique metal center stack. Its a very handsome and and well-built interior. The front seats, draped in black leather, were some of the most comfortable seats I have sat in all year. Providing eight-way adjustments, heat, and the right amount of bolstering, the seats had the right of comfort and support for enthusiastic or long drives. Backseat passengers will appreciate the amount of headroom. Legroom can vary from good to none depending on how far the front seat is set. Simplicity is a good word to describe the infotainment system. Instead of going with a controller like BMW, Mercedes and Audi, or a touchscreen with capacitive touch buttons like Cadillac and Lincoln, Volvo went with using a center stack full of buttons and knobs for to move around and control the system which appears on a seven-inch non-touch color screen. Some will complain that the center stack has way too many buttons and is a distraction to see which button you need to press. I would agree that when you're first using it, but after a while, it becomes second nature. While its very easy to use the system, I found that doing certain functions like moving around the map was a pain in the butt. I hope Volvo keeps the idea of simplicity when working on the next generation of their infotainment system, but maybe adds a joystiq or something that makes certain functions easier to do. Those Crazy Swedes Under the S60 T6 AWD R-Design is Volvo’s T6 engine; a turbocharged straight-six. In the normal S60 T6, you’re looking at 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. In the R-Design model, you’re looking at 325 horsepower (@ 5,400 RPM) and 354 lb-ft of torque (@ 3,200 - 3,600 RPM). This is in part due to Polestar which increased the boost of the turbocharger and installed a new module which changes ignition, fuel mapping and throttle response. Power is sent to a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission down to a Haldex-built AWD system. The engine has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. If you go about and drive the S60 R-Design normally, the engine is able to keep up with traffic very well with nary a hint of its performance cred. However if you decide to slam the pedal to the floor or throw the transmission into either sport or manual mode, the engine will throw you back into your seat and climb in speed at a very alarming rate. Plus, you get this amazing growl from the exhaust. The six-speed automatic does an amazing job of proving smooth and unobtrusive shifts whether I had my foot to the floor or moving along at a normal pace. I did wish the R-Design came with some paddles to have more fun with the engine. I did have an odd problem with this S60 R-Design’s gas pedal. If I put my foot on the pedal normally, about a quarter-way down, I found that I would going into hyperspace speed. But if maybe go an eighth of the way down on the pedal, the car accelerates normally. I’m not whether this is a programming issue or not, but reading through some other reviews of this car don’t mention this problem, so its just an issue with this particular vehicle. The Haldex-built AWD system was non-intrusive and provided a feeling of sure-footedness no matter the conditions outside. Combined with Volvo’s Corner Traction Control system, the AWD system made the vehicle feel small and nimble when going through corners. Fuel economy wise, S60 T6 R-Design is right in the middle of the pack in the compact luxury car class with the EPA rating it 18 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. For the week, I averaged 21.2 MPG with mostly suburban driving. A word of warning though; if you decide to stick your foot in the S60 T6 R-Design more often than not, be prepared to see your average MPG drop into the mid-teens. The R-Design’s suspension is mostly the same as the normal S60. There are MacPherson struts up front and a independent rear suspension setup with stabilizer bars at either end. For the R-Design model, Volvo adds a 15 millimeter drop to the suspension, stiffer springs and bushings, strut tower brace, and Mono-tube shocks in the rear. These changes give the S60 R-Design almost the same handling characteristics as those from Germany. As for driving on a day to day basis, the R-Design suspension was able to cope with road imperfections very well. The steering comes in the form of a rack and pinion setup with variable power assist. The steering hits the right balance of weight and feel whether you're attacking your favorite road or doing the daily drive. It gives the Germans and even the Cadillac ATS a run for their money. It's A Volvo After All Being a Volvo of course, the S60 R-Design is filled to the brim with safety technologies. Along with the AWD system and Corner Traction Control, the R-Design is fitted airbags all around the vehicle, Volvo’s Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), a rearview camera, and City Safety which uses a sensor mounted at the top of the windshield to monitor traffic ahead of you and put the brakes on if the vehicle senses an impending collision. One feature I wished was standard on the S60 R-Design was Volvo’s BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) which can tell you if a vehicle is in your blind spot. This would be really helpful since rear visibility is terrible thanks to some thick C-Pillars. BLIS is a $700 option on the R-Design, but I do hope Volvo makes it standard sometime in the S60’s lifecycle. Welcome To Crazy Town The 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design shows signs of craziness returning to Volvo. The evidence for this includes the wild blue paint, body modifications that are subtle, the two-sidedness of the powertrain, and a very impressive chassis setup. While Volvo might not have the same cachet as a BMW or an Audi, the S60 R-Design can match them in other areas. If you’re the person who doesn't like to follow the leader, the S60 R-Design is worth a look. Disclaimer: Volvo Cars of North America provided the S60 R-Design, Insurance, and one tank of gas. Album: 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Year - 2013 Make – Volvo Model – S60 Trim – T6 AWD R-Design Engine – 3.0L Turbocharged Inline-Six Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 325 @ 5400 RPM Torque @ RPM – 354 @ 3000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21 Curb Weight – 3,835 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ghent, Belgum Base Price - $43,900.00 As Tested Price - $48,195.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: S60 Platinum Package - $2,700.00 Climate Package - $700.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  21. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com January 24, 2013 The letter R in the automotive world means an automaker has added a bit of spice to one of their vehicles. Examples include Acura Integra Type R and Volkswagen Golf R32 and R. The best example of the letter R being used by an automaker is Volvo. A brand known for safety and button-down styling would surprise the world when it introduced the 850 T-5 R sedan and wagon in 1995. Draped in some very wild colors, the 850 T-5 R was for its time one of fastest vehicles on the planet thanks to some major tweaks to the powertrain and suspension. Volvo would follow up with the 1999 V70R and the 2003 - 2006 S60R and V70R models, all of them proving improved performance over the base models. But since the S60R and V70R models left the Volvo lineup, there hasn’t quite been the craziness the R models brought forth. Instead Volvo fell back into its safety ritual, but with more distinctive designs. Two key things would happen to Volvo within the past couple of years to bring them back into the crazy fold. First would be Volvo strengthening and expanding its partnership with its racing and performance partner Polestar. Second would be the introduction of the R-Design trim for the S60 and XC60. R-Design brings some tweaks to exterior, engine, and chassis. That brings us to the 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design. Does it show signs that craziness has entered Volvo once more? Subtlety? Where?! Volvo’s have been known to be very understated in their designs and the S60 R-Design is no exception to that rule, if you don’t decide to get your R-Design in what Volvo calls Rebel Blue. While I did like the bold color choice, some people weren’t so impressed with it. If you want to be fully understated with your S60 R-Design, go with another color. Aside from the color, there’s a lot to appreciate about the S60’s design. The new S60 is an evolution of the first-generation model with some coupe cues in the form of a short rear overhang and sloping roof. Volvo has also fitted a unique set of headlights with LEDs sitting right beside it. The R-Design package layers on a lower front spoiler, eighteen-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, rear diffuser with dual-exhaust pipes, and a little R-Design badge on the front denoting its status. A Lesson in Simplicity The S60 R-Design’s interior is one of simplicity. The dashboard is very clean in its design with a mixture of a soft-touch materials, metal accents around the vents and door pulls, and a unique metal center stack. Its a very handsome and and well-built interior. The front seats, draped in black leather, were some of the most comfortable seats I have sat in all year. Providing eight-way adjustments, heat, and the right amount of bolstering, the seats had the right of comfort and support for enthusiastic or long drives. Backseat passengers will appreciate the amount of headroom. Legroom can vary from good to none depending on how far the front seat is set. Simplicity is a good word to describe the infotainment system. Instead of going with a controller like BMW, Mercedes and Audi, or a touchscreen with capacitive touch buttons like Cadillac and Lincoln, Volvo went with using a center stack full of buttons and knobs for to move around and control the system which appears on a seven-inch non-touch color screen. Some will complain that the center stack has way too many buttons and is a distraction to see which button you need to press. I would agree that when you're first using it, but after a while, it becomes second nature. While its very easy to use the system, I found that doing certain functions like moving around the map was a pain in the butt. I hope Volvo keeps the idea of simplicity when working on the next generation of their infotainment system, but maybe adds a joystiq or something that makes certain functions easier to do. Those Crazy Swedes Under the S60 T6 AWD R-Design is Volvo’s T6 engine; a turbocharged straight-six. In the normal S60 T6, you’re looking at 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. In the R-Design model, you’re looking at 325 horsepower (@ 5,400 RPM) and 354 lb-ft of torque (@ 3,200 - 3,600 RPM). This is in part due to Polestar which increased the boost of the turbocharger and installed a new module which changes ignition, fuel mapping and throttle response. Power is sent to a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission down to a Haldex-built AWD system. The engine has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. If you go about and drive the S60 R-Design normally, the engine is able to keep up with traffic very well with nary a hint of its performance cred. However if you decide to slam the pedal to the floor or throw the transmission into either sport or manual mode, the engine will throw you back into your seat and climb in speed at a very alarming rate. Plus, you get this amazing growl from the exhaust. The six-speed automatic does an amazing job of proving smooth and unobtrusive shifts whether I had my foot to the floor or moving along at a normal pace. I did wish the R-Design came with some paddles to have more fun with the engine. I did have an odd problem with this S60 R-Design’s gas pedal. If I put my foot on the pedal normally, about a quarter-way down, I found that I would going into hyperspace speed. But if maybe go an eighth of the way down on the pedal, the car accelerates normally. I’m not whether this is a programming issue or not, but reading through some other reviews of this car don’t mention this problem, so its just an issue with this particular vehicle. The Haldex-built AWD system was non-intrusive and provided a feeling of sure-footedness no matter the conditions outside. Combined with Volvo’s Corner Traction Control system, the AWD system made the vehicle feel small and nimble when going through corners. Fuel economy wise, S60 T6 R-Design is right in the middle of the pack in the compact luxury car class with the EPA rating it 18 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. For the week, I averaged 21.2 MPG with mostly suburban driving. A word of warning though; if you decide to stick your foot in the S60 T6 R-Design more often than not, be prepared to see your average MPG drop into the mid-teens. The R-Design’s suspension is mostly the same as the normal S60. There are MacPherson struts up front and a independent rear suspension setup with stabilizer bars at either end. For the R-Design model, Volvo adds a 15 millimeter drop to the suspension, stiffer springs and bushings, strut tower brace, and Mono-tube shocks in the rear. These changes give the S60 R-Design almost the same handling characteristics as those from Germany. As for driving on a day to day basis, the R-Design suspension was able to cope with road imperfections very well. The steering comes in the form of a rack and pinion setup with variable power assist. The steering hits the right balance of weight and feel whether you're attacking your favorite road or doing the daily drive. It gives the Germans and even the Cadillac ATS a run for their money. It's A Volvo After All Being a Volvo of course, the S60 R-Design is filled to the brim with safety technologies. Along with the AWD system and Corner Traction Control, the R-Design is fitted airbags all around the vehicle, Volvo’s Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), a rearview camera, and City Safety which uses a sensor mounted at the top of the windshield to monitor traffic ahead of you and put the brakes on if the vehicle senses an impending collision. One feature I wished was standard on the S60 R-Design was Volvo’s BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) which can tell you if a vehicle is in your blind spot. This would be really helpful since rear visibility is terrible thanks to some thick C-Pillars. BLIS is a $700 option on the R-Design, but I do hope Volvo makes it standard sometime in the S60’s lifecycle. Welcome To Crazy Town The 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design shows signs of craziness returning to Volvo. The evidence for this includes the wild blue paint, body modifications that are subtle, the two-sidedness of the powertrain, and a very impressive chassis setup. While Volvo might not have the same cachet as a BMW or an Audi, the S60 R-Design can match them in other areas. If you’re the person who doesn't like to follow the leader, the S60 R-Design is worth a look. Disclaimer: Volvo Cars of North America provided the S60 R-Design, Insurance, and one tank of gas. Album: 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Year - 2013 Make – Volvo Model – S60 Trim – T6 AWD R-Design Engine – 3.0L Turbocharged Inline-Six Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 325 @ 5400 RPM Torque @ RPM – 354 @ 3000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21 Curb Weight – 3,835 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ghent, Belgum Base Price - $43,900.00 As Tested Price - $48,195.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: S60 Platinum Package - $2,700.00 Climate Package - $700.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  22. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com January 9, 2013 Ask someone to say the first thing that comes to their mind when you mention the word hybrid, and more often than not they will say the Toyota Prius. Despite not being the first hybrid on sale in the U.S. (that honor falls to the 1999 Honda Insight, which went on sale a full two years before the Prius in the U.S.), the Prius became a sales success and symbol for the hybrid vehicle. Why? The Prius offered the right mix of unheard fuel economy, features, and practicality in one package. Now in its third-generation, the unassuming hybrid hatchback falls into two polar opposite camps of thought. Those who love its efficiency and reliability and those who think the Pruis is an anathema to everything held dear by car enthusiasts. I'm an auto enthusiast, so when I recently spent a week in a 2012 Toyota Prius, I naturally approached the car with skepticism. Is it as good as the high fuel economy fans claim? Is it kryptonite to automotive enthusiasts? Read on to find out. Encounters of the Hybrid Kind The third-generation Prius is very much like the previous-generation model with its alien spaceship look. The third-generation model carries on the oval-esque shape with some aerodynamic tweaks including a smoother front end, squared-off corners on the rear end, and a new rear spoiler. These design changes help drop the drag coefficient from 0.26 cd to 0.25 cd. Other items of note include a set of LED taillights and an optional solar panel (part of a $3,820.00 Deluxe Solar Roof package) that power fans to cool down the vehicle’s interior without turning on the vehicle. I didn't get chance to try it since the average temperature here in Detroit was in the mid-thirties during my time and I rather enter a warm, not cold Prius. What would make this optional solar panel even better is the ability to charge the battery when the Prius is parked and keep the Prius warm in winter. Inside, the alien spaceship design theme continues with a floating center stack, a uniquely-styled shift knob, and a digital gauge cluster sitting on top and in the middle of the dashboard. The placement of gauge cluster does make it somewhat harder to make a quick glance while on the move. My test Prius did come with a heads-up display which had a speedometer and a power gauge letting you know how much power you’re drawing from the hybrid system. I do want to talk to the person who decided to hide the buttons for the heated seats underneath the center stack. The only way you know where they’re hiding is when you enter or exit the Prius. Did no one at Toyota bring this up during one of the design meetings? Seating was decent for both front and rear passengers with enough head and legroom. Materials are what you would find in current Toyota models; hard plastics and very synthetic-feeling leather. This would be ok if the price tag of this Prius wasn’t $33,118.00. The only real positive to the interior is that build quality is very good throughout the interior. As I mentioned earlier, this Prius was equipped with the $3,820.00 Deluxe Solar Roof package. Besides the solar roof, the package includes a seven-inch touch screen, navigation, Toyota’s Entune System, Bluetooth, an eight-speaker JBL system, and Toyota’s safety connect which provides emergency assistance services. The touchscreen was very responsive when pressed and provided the right amount brightness whether it was day or night. The eight-speaker JBL system provided ok sound, but I found that I had to turn it up when driving the Prius on the highway as there was too much road noise. As for Entune, I didn't get chance to try it since I didn't have the application on my iPhone to utilize the system. Yes, you need the Entune application on either your iPhone or Android phone to use it. Under the Skin, It’s a Prius Alright Pop the hood of the Prius and right before your eyes is one part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive; a 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine producing 98 horsepower (@ 5,200 rpm) and 105 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,000 rpm), and a electric motor producing 80 horsepower and 153 lb-ft of torque. Total power output is rated at 134 horsepower. The other part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive is a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack sitting in the back of the Prius. Your only transmission is a CVT. The Prius’ powertrain gets the job done. It will take a few seconds longer to get up to the speed on the road. Not much noise from either the engine or CVT enters the cabin when you accelerate normally. If you need to get a move on because there is a larger vehicle bearing down onto you or need to merge onto the highway, the drone of the engine and CVT are very apparent. Thankfully, the hybrid system seamlessly transitions electric power. The center stack has three buttons that can change the behavior of the hybrid system. The first is an EV mode which allows the Prius to travel a short distance on electric power alone below 25 MPH. The hybrid system will turn if you go above 25 or press further down on the pedal. With a light foot, I was able to go about a mile on electric power alone. Next is Eco mode which reduces throttle response in an emphasis to get better fuel economy numbers. This is ok if you don’t have a lot of traffic behind you or in a hurry to move along. If you don’t meet either or the criteria, leave Eco mode off. Finally there is Power mode which is the opposite of Eco mode. This mode noticeably increases throttle response to help you in certain situations like merging onto a highway. Fuel economy is very impressive for this small car. The EPA rates the Prius at 51 City/48 Highway/50 Combined. During my week with the Prius, I averaged 47.9 MPG with mostly suburban driving and sticking my foot into it. Ride and handling is taken care with a pair of MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar up front and a torsion beam setup in the rear. While the setup isn’t technologically advanced like the rest of the Prius, it provides a somewhat comfortable ride. I did wish for some more damping when driving over craters that are called potholes in the Detroit area. Steering for the Prius comes in the form of an electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion system. The steering has some heft and some feel, something the old Prius lacked. That doesn’t make it a driver’s car since the Prius’ suspension is more tuned for comfort and the standard low-rolling resistance tires don’t provide enough grip. The Prius is a quiet vehicle when driven below 50 MPH. Go above that and you’ll notice an abundance of road and wind noise. I’m hoping with the next-generation Prius, Toyota puts in some more sound deadening material. Visibility is very good for the front and side. Rear visibility takes a hit due to the rear hatch shape and the large spoiler sitting in the middle of the hatch. Thankfully, the Prius did come equipped with a standard rear view camera. The Prius truly delivers on its promise of greenness with some impressive fuel economy numbers, clever technologies to make every use up every last drop of gas, unique design, and comfortable ride. However, the Prius has some faults. The road and wind noise while going above 50 MPH tops my list followed by the interior materials. That said the Toyota Prius is the perfect vehicle for someone who commutes in town and wants to tell everyone that they’re saving the planet. For me, I’ll pass on the Prius. Cheers Fuel Economy Technology Exterior Looks Somewhat Comfortable Ride Jeers Wind and Road Noise at Speed Engine and CVT During Hard Acceleration Materials Used in the Cabin Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2012 Toyota Prius Four 18 images 0 comments Year - 2012 Make – Toyota Model – Prius Trim – Four Engine – 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Electronically Controlled continuously Variable Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 98 HP (@ 5,200 RPM), (Electric) 80 HP (N/A), (Combined) 134 HP Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 105 lb-ft (@ 4,000 RPM), (Electric) 153 HP (N/A), (Combined) N/A Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 51/48/50 Curb Weight – 3,042 lbs Location of Manufacture – Tsutsumi, Japan Base Price - $28,235.00 As Tested Price - $33,118.00 (Includes $760.00 Destination Charge) Options Deluxe Solar Roof Package: $3,820.00 Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat: $225.00 Cargo Net: $49.00 First Aid Kit: $29.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  23. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com January 9, 2013 Ask someone to say the first thing that comes to their mind when you mention the word hybrid, and more often than not they will say the Toyota Prius. Despite not being the first hybrid on sale in the U.S. (that honor falls to the 1999 Honda Insight, which went on sale a full two years before the Prius in the U.S.), the Prius became a sales success and symbol for the hybrid vehicle. Why? The Prius offered the right mix of unheard fuel economy, features, and practicality in one package. Now in its third-generation, the unassuming hybrid hatchback falls into two polar opposite camps of thought. Those who love its efficiency and reliability and those who think the Pruis is an anathema to everything held dear by car enthusiasts. I'm an auto enthusiast, so when I recently spent a week in a 2012 Toyota Prius, I naturally approached the car with skepticism. Is it as good as the high fuel economy fans claim? Is it kryptonite to automotive enthusiasts? Read on to find out. Encounters of the Hybrid Kind The third-generation Prius is very much like the previous-generation model with its alien spaceship look. The third-generation model carries on the oval-esque shape with some aerodynamic tweaks including a smoother front end, squared-off corners on the rear end, and a new rear spoiler. These design changes help drop the drag coefficient from 0.26 cd to 0.25 cd. Other items of note include a set of LED taillights and an optional solar panel (part of a $3,820.00 Deluxe Solar Roof package) that power fans to cool down the vehicle’s interior without turning on the vehicle. I didn't get chance to try it since the average temperature here in Detroit was in the mid-thirties during my time and I rather enter a warm, not cold Prius. What would make this optional solar panel even better is the ability to charge the battery when the Prius is parked and keep the Prius warm in winter. Inside, the alien spaceship design theme continues with a floating center stack, a uniquely-styled shift knob, and a digital gauge cluster sitting on top and in the middle of the dashboard. The placement of gauge cluster does make it somewhat harder to make a quick glance while on the move. My test Prius did come with a heads-up display which had a speedometer and a power gauge letting you know how much power you’re drawing from the hybrid system. I do want to talk to the person who decided to hide the buttons for the heated seats underneath the center stack. The only way you know where they’re hiding is when you enter or exit the Prius. Did no one at Toyota bring this up during one of the design meetings? Seating was decent for both front and rear passengers with enough head and legroom. Materials are what you would find in current Toyota models; hard plastics and very synthetic-feeling leather. This would be ok if the price tag of this Prius wasn’t $33,118.00. The only real positive to the interior is that build quality is very good throughout the interior. As I mentioned earlier, this Prius was equipped with the $3,820.00 Deluxe Solar Roof package. Besides the solar roof, the package includes a seven-inch touch screen, navigation, Toyota’s Entune System, Bluetooth, an eight-speaker JBL system, and Toyota’s safety connect which provides emergency assistance services. The touchscreen was very responsive when pressed and provided the right amount brightness whether it was day or night. The eight-speaker JBL system provided ok sound, but I found that I had to turn it up when driving the Prius on the highway as there was too much road noise. As for Entune, I didn't get chance to try it since I didn't have the application on my iPhone to utilize the system. Yes, you need the Entune application on either your iPhone or Android phone to use it. Under the Skin, It’s a Prius Alright Pop the hood of the Prius and right before your eyes is one part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive; a 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine producing 98 horsepower (@ 5,200 rpm) and 105 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,000 rpm), and a electric motor producing 80 horsepower and 153 lb-ft of torque. Total power output is rated at 134 horsepower. The other part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive is a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack sitting in the back of the Prius. Your only transmission is a CVT. The Prius’ powertrain gets the job done. It will take a few seconds longer to get up to the speed on the road. Not much noise from either the engine or CVT enters the cabin when you accelerate normally. If you need to get a move on because there is a larger vehicle bearing down onto you or need to merge onto the highway, the drone of the engine and CVT are very apparent. Thankfully, the hybrid system seamlessly transitions electric power. The center stack has three buttons that can change the behavior of the hybrid system. The first is an EV mode which allows the Prius to travel a short distance on electric power alone below 25 MPH. The hybrid system will turn if you go above 25 or press further down on the pedal. With a light foot, I was able to go about a mile on electric power alone. Next is Eco mode which reduces throttle response in an emphasis to get better fuel economy numbers. This is ok if you don’t have a lot of traffic behind you or in a hurry to move along. If you don’t meet either or the criteria, leave Eco mode off. Finally there is Power mode which is the opposite of Eco mode. This mode noticeably increases throttle response to help you in certain situations like merging onto a highway. Fuel economy is very impressive for this small car. The EPA rates the Prius at 51 City/48 Highway/50 Combined. During my week with the Prius, I averaged 47.9 MPG with mostly suburban driving and sticking my foot into it. Ride and handling is taken care with a pair of MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar up front and a torsion beam setup in the rear. While the setup isn’t technologically advanced like the rest of the Prius, it provides a somewhat comfortable ride. I did wish for some more damping when driving over craters that are called potholes in the Detroit area. Steering for the Prius comes in the form of an electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion system. The steering has some heft and some feel, something the old Prius lacked. That doesn’t make it a driver’s car since the Prius’ suspension is more tuned for comfort and the standard low-rolling resistance tires don’t provide enough grip. The Prius is a quiet vehicle when driven below 50 MPH. Go above that and you’ll notice an abundance of road and wind noise. I’m hoping with the next-generation Prius, Toyota puts in some more sound deadening material. Visibility is very good for the front and side. Rear visibility takes a hit due to the rear hatch shape and the large spoiler sitting in the middle of the hatch. Thankfully, the Prius did come equipped with a standard rear view camera. The Prius truly delivers on its promise of greenness with some impressive fuel economy numbers, clever technologies to make every use up every last drop of gas, unique design, and comfortable ride. However, the Prius has some faults. The road and wind noise while going above 50 MPH tops my list followed by the interior materials. That said the Toyota Prius is the perfect vehicle for someone who commutes in town and wants to tell everyone that they’re saving the planet. For me, I’ll pass on the Prius. Cheers Fuel Economy Technology Exterior Looks Somewhat Comfortable Ride Jeers Wind and Road Noise at Speed Engine and CVT During Hard Acceleration Materials Used in the Cabin Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2012 Toyota Prius Four 18 images 0 comments Year - 2012 Make – Toyota Model – Prius Trim – Four Engine – 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Electronically Controlled continuously Variable Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 98 HP (@ 5,200 RPM), (Electric) 80 HP (N/A), (Combined) 134 HP Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 105 lb-ft (@ 4,000 RPM), (Electric) 153 HP (N/A), (Combined) N/A Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 51/48/50 Curb Weight – 3,042 lbs Location of Manufacture – Tsutsumi, Japan Base Price - $28,235.00 As Tested Price - $33,118.00 (Includes $760.00 Destination Charge) Options Deluxe Solar Roof Package: $3,820.00 Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat: $225.00 Cargo Net: $49.00 First Aid Kit: $29.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  24. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 6, 2012 Much like the competition, Kia offers a variety of powertrains in their midsize sedan competitor, the Optima, to meet the demands of consumers. There’s a base four-cylinder model, a turbocharged-four taking the place of a V6, and hybrid model. I’ve reviewed the base four-cylinder Optima back in July, and found it to be one of best midsize sedans on sale. Now it’s time to see where the Optima Hybrid can match the high bar set by the regular Optima or not. The differences between a normal Optima and an Optima Hybrid are very noticeable on the exterior. The biggest giveaway that you’re driving an Optima Hybrid besides the hybrid badge on the back is a unique set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels. Other changes Kia has done to the Optima Hybrid include a revised rear fascia and a new rear spoiler. On the interior, Kia has changed the instrument cluster to one that gives information on how much battery charge there is left, an eco gauge, and a small color screen providing trip computer info. The optional navigation unit (part of the $5,350.00 premium technology package) has a screen providing information about the system. The Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is made up of a 2.4L gas engine producing 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) and 154 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,250 RPM), an electric motor producing 40 HP (@ 1,400-6,000 RPM) and 151 lb-ft of torque (0 - 1,400 RPM), and a 270V lithium-polymer battery. Total output of the hybrid system is 206 HP and 195 lb-ft of torque going through a six-speed automatic. The best way to describe the Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is ‘almost fully realized’. When pulling away from a stop, the Hybrid pulls away quickly whether on electric or hybrid power. On open roads and in traffic, I never found myself wishing for more power since the powertrain is able to keep up. The downside to this system is the transition from electric to hybrid power is very noticeable. When the switch happens, you can hear the gas engine hesitate for a brief moment and feel some sort of vibration. The Optima Hybrid got EPA ratings of 35 City/40 Highway/37 combined. However a few weeks after turning the Optima Hybrid back in, Hyundai and Kia announced they had overstated fuel economy on certain 2011-2013 vehicles. The Optima Hybrid was one of those vehicles affected and has revised EPA fuel economy numbers of 34 City/39 Highway/36 combined. During the week, I averaged 37.2 on mostly rural and suburban roads. On the freeway, I hit 40 MPG with the cruise control set on 70 MPH. Kia didn’t change much with handling and ride of the Optima Hybrid, which means the sporty and composed ride from the standard Optima remains. Steering on the Optima Hybrid is the same as the normal Optima as well; not a lot of feel and a surprising amount of heaviness to it. Wind and road noise on the Optima Hybrid were kept to a minimum. The Kia Optima Hybrid is very good first effort. Building upon a good base of the normal Optima, the hybrid model possesses very good performance and decent fuel economy for the class. Kia does need to work on smoothing out the transition from electric to hybrid power though. There is one problem for the Kia Optima Hybrid, the competition. On paper, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the new Ford Fusion Hybrid best the Optima Hybrid in fuel economy ratings. The only thing Kia can fight back with is the amount of equipment that you can get for the price. The Optima Hybrid I had in for review cost $32,500.00. But for that price, I got heated and cooled front seats, heated back seats, panoramic sunroof, navigation, a premium sound system, and much more. To try and match the equipment level of the Optima Hybrid, you’ll have to spend a few thousand more on the competitors. Is that enough though to convince someone to check it out? If you’re looking for a midsize hybrid to stand out, check out the Optima Hybrid. If fuel economy is a concern, look at the Camry and Fusion. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2012 Make – Kia Model – Optima Hybrid Trim – N/A Engine – 2.4L Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) , (Electric) 40.2 HP (@ 1,400 to 6,000 RPM), (Combined) 206 HP Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 154 lb-ft (@ 4,250 RPM), (Electric) 166 HP (@ 0 - 1,400 RPM), (Combined) 195 lb-ft Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 34/39/36 Curb Weight – 3,490 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hwasung, South Korea Base Price - $25,700.00 As Tested Price - $32,500.00 (Includes $750.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  25. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 6, 2012 Much like the competition, Kia offers a variety of powertrains in their midsize sedan competitor, the Optima, to meet the demands of consumers. There’s a base four-cylinder model, a turbocharged-four taking the place of a V6, and hybrid model. I’ve reviewed the base four-cylinder Optima back in July, and found it to be one of best midsize sedans on sale. Now it’s time to see where the Optima Hybrid can match the high bar set by the regular Optima or not. The differences between a normal Optima and an Optima Hybrid are very noticeable on the exterior. The biggest giveaway that you’re driving an Optima Hybrid besides the hybrid badge on the back is a unique set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels. Other changes Kia has done to the Optima Hybrid include a revised rear fascia and a new rear spoiler. On the interior, Kia has changed the instrument cluster to one that gives information on how much battery charge there is left, an eco gauge, and a small color screen providing trip computer info. The optional navigation unit (part of the $5,350.00 premium technology package) has a screen providing information about the system. The Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is made up of a 2.4L gas engine producing 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) and 154 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,250 RPM), an electric motor producing 40 HP (@ 1,400-6,000 RPM) and 151 lb-ft of torque (0 - 1,400 RPM), and a 270V lithium-polymer battery. Total output of the hybrid system is 206 HP and 195 lb-ft of torque going through a six-speed automatic. The best way to describe the Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is ‘almost fully realized’. When pulling away from a stop, the Hybrid pulls away quickly whether on electric or hybrid power. On open roads and in traffic, I never found myself wishing for more power since the powertrain is able to keep up. The downside to this system is the transition from electric to hybrid power is very noticeable. When the switch happens, you can hear the gas engine hesitate for a brief moment and feel some sort of vibration. The Optima Hybrid got EPA ratings of 35 City/40 Highway/37 combined. However a few weeks after turning the Optima Hybrid back in, Hyundai and Kia announced they had overstated fuel economy on certain 2011-2013 vehicles. The Optima Hybrid was one of those vehicles affected and has revised EPA fuel economy numbers of 34 City/39 Highway/36 combined. During the week, I averaged 37.2 on mostly rural and suburban roads. On the freeway, I hit 40 MPG with the cruise control set on 70 MPH. Kia didn’t change much with handling and ride of the Optima Hybrid, which means the sporty and composed ride from the standard Optima remains. Steering on the Optima Hybrid is the same as the normal Optima as well; not a lot of feel and a surprising amount of heaviness to it. Wind and road noise on the Optima Hybrid were kept to a minimum. The Kia Optima Hybrid is very good first effort. Building upon a good base of the normal Optima, the hybrid model possesses very good performance and decent fuel economy for the class. Kia does need to work on smoothing out the transition from electric to hybrid power though. There is one problem for the Kia Optima Hybrid, the competition. On paper, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the new Ford Fusion Hybrid best the Optima Hybrid in fuel economy ratings. The only thing Kia can fight back with is the amount of equipment that you can get for the price. The Optima Hybrid I had in for review cost $32,500.00. But for that price, I got heated and cooled front seats, heated back seats, panoramic sunroof, navigation, a premium sound system, and much more. To try and match the equipment level of the Optima Hybrid, you’ll have to spend a few thousand more on the competitors. Is that enough though to convince someone to check it out? If you’re looking for a midsize hybrid to stand out, check out the Optima Hybrid. If fuel economy is a concern, look at the Camry and Fusion. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2012 Make – Kia Model – Optima Hybrid Trim – N/A Engine – 2.4L Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) , (Electric) 40.2 HP (@ 1,400 to 6,000 RPM), (Combined) 206 HP Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 154 lb-ft (@ 4,250 RPM), (Electric) 166 HP (@ 0 - 1,400 RPM), (Combined) 195 lb-ft Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 34/39/36 Curb Weight – 3,490 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hwasung, South Korea Base Price - $25,700.00 As Tested Price - $32,500.00 (Includes $750.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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