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  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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.
  12. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 18, 2012 This week in the Cheers & Gears Detroit garage is the 2012 Nissan cube 1.8S Indigo Limited Edition. The 1.8S is the mid-level model in the cube lineup and comes with a 1.8L inline-four producing 122 HP and 127 lb-ft of torque and can go through either a six-speed manual or Nissan's Xtronic CVT. Our model is equipped with the CVT. Our cube is also equipped with Indigo Limited Edition package which adds keyless entry, push-button start, an upgraded six-speaker sound system with a subwoofer, a five-inch touchscreen, navigation, rear-view camera, unique black and indigo upholstery, and fifteen-inch alloy wheels. That package and few other options brings the as-tested price to $20,975 (Includes $780.00 destination charge). First Impressions so far Really like the blue and the fifteen-inch alloys on the cube I think there is about a quarter-mile of headroom inside Like the way the cube drives, perfect for those who live in a city I'll have more updates as the week goes on. In the meantime, drop your questions and I will do my best to answer them. Update - September 24, 2012 My time with the Nissan cube is coming to close as it will go back tomorrow, and for what it is, its a very good package. The cube provides a surprising amount of space and equipment for the price tag. The cube is also one of those vehicles which actually provides excellent visibility and maneuverability, making it perfect for city or suburban driving. However if you decide to do any driving on the freeway or long-distance with the cube, be prepared for a large amount of wind- and road-noise (mostly due to the shape) and the seats not being real comfortable for the long distance. The cube wasn't built for that in mind. Fuel economy has been really impressing me with an average of 31.5 MPG. If you have any last minute questions on the cube, get them in and I will do my best to answer them. 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.
  13. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 18, 2012 This week in the Cheers & Gears Detroit garage is the 2012 Nissan cube 1.8S Indigo Limited Edition. The 1.8S is the mid-level model in the cube lineup and comes with a 1.8L inline-four producing 122 HP and 127 lb-ft of torque and can go through either a six-speed manual or Nissan's Xtronic CVT. Our model is equipped with the CVT. Our cube is also equipped with Indigo Limited Edition package which adds keyless entry, push-button start, an upgraded six-speaker sound system with a subwoofer, a five-inch touchscreen, navigation, rear-view camera, unique black and indigo upholstery, and fifteen-inch alloy wheels. That package and few other options brings the as-tested price to $20,975 (Includes $780.00 destination charge). First Impressions so far Really like the blue and the fifteen-inch alloys on the cube I think there is about a quarter-mile of headroom inside Like the way the cube drives, perfect for those who live in a city I'll have more updates as the week goes on. In the meantime, drop your questions and I will do my best to answer them. Update - September 24, 2012 My time with the Nissan cube is coming to close as it will go back tomorrow, and for what it is, its a very good package. The cube provides a surprising amount of space and equipment for the price tag. The cube is also one of those vehicles which actually provides excellent visibility and maneuverability, making it perfect for city or suburban driving. However if you decide to do any driving on the freeway or long-distance with the cube, be prepared for a large amount of wind- and road-noise (mostly due to the shape) and the seats not being real comfortable for the long distance. The cube wasn't built for that in mind. Fuel economy has been really impressing me with an average of 31.5 MPG. If you have any last minute questions on the cube, get them in and I will do my best to answer them. 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
  14. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 30, 2012 If there was an automaker who closely followed Mitsubishi’s story in the U.S. to a degree, that automaker would be Suzuki. Suzuki, much like Mitsubishi was a rising star in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with vehicles like the Swift, Sidekick, Grand Vitara, XL7, and SX4. However in the late 2000’s, Suzuki began a fast decline into obscurity. Magazine and television ads began to disappear slowly, dealers either closed up shop or turned to something else, and people began to think that Suzuki was gone. Well, Suzuki is still around and building vehicles for the U.S. The brand’s newest vehicle, the Kizashi, is its second-take on a midsize sedan. Suzuki’s first attempt was the 2004 Verona. A rebadged Daewoo Magnus, the Verona was very forgettable and was pulled off the market. Since going on sale in 2010, the Kizashi has received favorable reviews in the automotive press as it is often lauded as one of the best sedans currently on sale. The buying public on the other hand doesn’t even know it exists. Does the Kizashi deserve more attention or should it stay in obscurity just like its brand? Next: The Outside Look Exterior Designers for the Kizashi went for a muscular, bold look. That’s evident when you look at the Kizashi ‘s front end where there is a sculpted hood, two-tiered front grille arrangement, a set of projector headlights, and flared front fenders. The side has a set of body skirts along the doors and a set of eighteen-inch sport wheels, which are standard equipment on the Sport GTS model, which we evaluated. Around the back, Suzuki’s designers did their own interpretation of the “Bangle-Butt” and it has actually worked. Other design cues for the back include an integrated spoiler with stoplight on the trunk lid and a set of chrome surrounds hiding the exhausts. Suzuki mostly pulls off the look on the Kizashi except for one item: ahead of the front wheels, Suzuki slapped on some bright orange reflectors for the turn signals. This addition doesn’t make sense for a vehicle design in the 21st century. Next: Come On In Interior The Kizashi’s interior is really impressive for a Suzuki. That might sound like an underhanded compliment, but anyone who has sat in past Suzuki vehicles knows, the interiors left a lot to desire. Materials used throughout are a combination of soft- and hard-touch plastics, and metal trim. Build quality is very good with no apparent gaps or separation of materials on the 14,000 mile example we had for review. The Sport GTS model comes with set a of bolstered, cloth bucket seats for the front passengers. The driver gets a power seat with ten-way adjustment, lumbar, and memory function. Finding a comfortable position in the seat does take some time, but you can find one. Back seat passengers will find a cloth-covered bench seat and a surprising amount of head and legroom. The Kizashi Sport GTS comes well equipped for the pricetag. Standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer, dual-zone climate controls, Rockford Fosgate sound system, USB input for your MP3 player, sunroof, and 60/40 folding rear seats. The only options on our Kizashi were a trunk mat, floor mats, first aid kit, and a Bluetooth system. Next: Under the Hood Powertrain All Kizashi models come with one engine choice; a 2.4L inline-four producing either 185 HP (@ 6500 RPM) if you go for the six-speed manual or 180 HP (@ 6000 RPM) if you pick the CVT. Torque is 170 lb-ft (@ 4000 RPM), no matter the transmission choice. You also have the choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive. If you do go for all-wheel drive like ours, you only transmission choice is the CVT. Leaving from a stop, the 2.4L is initially sluggish before it starts to build some speed at a quick rate, as the engine revs up. If you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway, the 2.4 is able to perform without a sweat. The CVT makes sure to keep you in the power as best as it can and is very smooth. Also, Suzuki fitted steering wheel paddles to the Sport GTS to mimic a six-speed transmission. The paddles do work very well, giving you the feeling of total control when taking the Kizashi for an enthusiastic drive. The Kizashi’s AWD system is unique as you can turn the system on and off via a button next to the steering wheel. The only way you know when you have engaged the system is an AWD light turns on in the instrument cluster. The system will seamlessly kick on if the Kizashi has a loss of traction or if you decide to be aggressive. The sacrifice you make for the sure footedness of all-wheel drive is less than ideal fuel economy rating. The EPA rates the Kizashi Sport GTS AWD EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. This comes from the extra 292 lbs the AWD system adds to the Kizashi’s weight. Average for the week was 24.5 MPG. On the highway, the Kizashi did much better, recording an average of 32.3 MPG. Next: The Drive Ride & Drive The Kizashi’s suspension is made up of MacPherson struts up front and a five-point multilink setup in the rear. Steering comes in the form of an electric power steering system with a rack and pinion setup. The steering feels like something you would find in a sports car. Each turn of the Kizashi’s steering wheel is directly sent to front tires. In turn, the system provides a surprising amount of road feel for the driver. This combination makes the Kizashi a joy to drive on curvy roads. During normal driving, the Kizashi does a good job of proving a mostly comfortable and stable ride for passengers. Driving on rough surfaces, the Kizashi’s suspension does a decent job of minimizing the impacts. Noise from engine is mostly well-muted. The same cannot be said for road and wind noise as both are somewhat existent, but not to the point where you carry some ear plugs. Next: The Verdict Verdict I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel at the time of the Kizashi’s departure, after the week-long evaluation. When that time came, I felt surprised and amazed at Suzuki’s second mid-size effort. The muscular and sporty exterior hides one of the best suspension and all-wheel-drive setups in the class. Plus, the Kizashi has one of the better CVTs in the industry and comes with a nicely-equipped interior. However, the Kizashi isn’t the most fuel-efficient vehicle, despite being one of the smallest and lightest in its class. Plus, the 2.4L is very sluggish on initial acceleration. Those problems pale in comparison to the biggest drawback the Kizashi has, Suzuki itself. As I eluded in the introduction, Suzuki in the U.S. isn’t doing so hot. In a report back in April, we wondered whether the brand was preparing to the North American market leave because of certain developments. Some of those included cutting auto show appearances, saying goodbye to the top U.S. product planning and marketing executive, and suspending social media outreach. Since that report, the news for Suzuki hasn’t got any better. For 2012, sales are still down and the company is focusing on controlling its expenses. Add to the lack advertising and the silence any new products coming to U.S., and it’s easy to see why everyone is wondering what the future holds for Suzuki in the U.S. That leaves me in a tough spot with the Kizashi since I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone. However, the uncertainty of Suzuki in the States gives me some hesitation on recommending it. If you’re shopping for a new midsize sedan, you do at least need to give the Kizashi a chance. Vehicles like the Kizashi only appear once in a while and might be not be long before this disappears. Cheers: Exterior Styling Interior Equipment Interior Space CVT AWD System Handling during sporty and normal driving Jeers: Reflectors on front fenders Fuel economy of the AWD Model Suzuki going dark on everything Year - 2012 Make – Suzuki Model – Kizashi Trim – Sport GTS Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four Driveline – All Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM - 180 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 170 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 22/29/25 Curb Weight – 3533 lbs Location of Manufacture – Sagara, Japan Base Price - $25,899.00 As Tested Price - $26,404.00* (Doesn’t include 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.
  15. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 30, 2012 If there was an automaker who closely followed Mitsubishi’s story in the U.S. to a degree, that automaker would be Suzuki. Suzuki, much like Mitsubishi was a rising star in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with vehicles like the Swift, Sidekick, Grand Vitara, XL7, and SX4. However in the late 2000’s, Suzuki began a fast decline into obscurity. Magazine and television ads began to disappear slowly, dealers either closed up shop or turned to something else, and people began to think that Suzuki was gone. Well, Suzuki is still around and building vehicles for the U.S. The brand’s newest vehicle, the Kizashi, is its second-take on a midsize sedan. Suzuki’s first attempt was the 2004 Verona. A rebadged Daewoo Magnus, the Verona was very forgettable and was pulled off the market. Since going on sale in 2010, the Kizashi has received favorable reviews in the automotive press as it is often lauded as one of the best sedans currently on sale. The buying public on the other hand doesn’t even know it exists. Does the Kizashi deserve more attention or should it stay in obscurity just like its brand? Next: The Outside Look Exterior Designers for the Kizashi went for a muscular, bold look. That’s evident when you look at the Kizashi ‘s front end where there is a sculpted hood, two-tiered front grille arrangement, a set of projector headlights, and flared front fenders. The side has a set of body skirts along the doors and a set of eighteen-inch sport wheels, which are standard equipment on the Sport GTS model, which we evaluated. Around the back, Suzuki’s designers did their own interpretation of the “Bangle-Butt” and it has actually worked. Other design cues for the back include an integrated spoiler with stoplight on the trunk lid and a set of chrome surrounds hiding the exhausts. Suzuki mostly pulls off the look on the Kizashi except for one item: ahead of the front wheels, Suzuki slapped on some bright orange reflectors for the turn signals. This addition doesn’t make sense for a vehicle design in the 21st century. Next: Come On In Interior The Kizashi’s interior is really impressive for a Suzuki. That might sound like an underhanded compliment, but anyone who has sat in past Suzuki vehicles knows, the interiors left a lot to desire. Materials used throughout are a combination of soft- and hard-touch plastics, and metal trim. Build quality is very good with no apparent gaps or separation of materials on the 14,000 mile example we had for review. The Sport GTS model comes with set a of bolstered, cloth bucket seats for the front passengers. The driver gets a power seat with ten-way adjustment, lumbar, and memory function. Finding a comfortable position in the seat does take some time, but you can find one. Back seat passengers will find a cloth-covered bench seat and a surprising amount of head and legroom. The Kizashi Sport GTS comes well equipped for the pricetag. Standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer, dual-zone climate controls, Rockford Fosgate sound system, USB input for your MP3 player, sunroof, and 60/40 folding rear seats. The only options on our Kizashi were a trunk mat, floor mats, first aid kit, and a Bluetooth system. Next: Under the Hood Powertrain All Kizashi models come with one engine choice; a 2.4L inline-four producing either 185 HP (@ 6500 RPM) if you go for the six-speed manual or 180 HP (@ 6000 RPM) if you pick the CVT. Torque is 170 lb-ft (@ 4000 RPM), no matter the transmission choice. You also have the choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive. If you do go for all-wheel drive like ours, you only transmission choice is the CVT. Leaving from a stop, the 2.4L is initially sluggish before it starts to build some speed at a quick rate, as the engine revs up. If you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway, the 2.4 is able to perform without a sweat. The CVT makes sure to keep you in the power as best as it can and is very smooth. Also, Suzuki fitted steering wheel paddles to the Sport GTS to mimic a six-speed transmission. The paddles do work very well, giving you the feeling of total control when taking the Kizashi for an enthusiastic drive. The Kizashi’s AWD system is unique as you can turn the system on and off via a button next to the steering wheel. The only way you know when you have engaged the system is an AWD light turns on in the instrument cluster. The system will seamlessly kick on if the Kizashi has a loss of traction or if you decide to be aggressive. The sacrifice you make for the sure footedness of all-wheel drive is less than ideal fuel economy rating. The EPA rates the Kizashi Sport GTS AWD EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. This comes from the extra 292 lbs the AWD system adds to the Kizashi’s weight. Average for the week was 24.5 MPG. On the highway, the Kizashi did much better, recording an average of 32.3 MPG. Next: The Drive Ride & Drive The Kizashi’s suspension is made up of MacPherson struts up front and a five-point multilink setup in the rear. Steering comes in the form of an electric power steering system with a rack and pinion setup. The steering feels like something you would find in a sports car. Each turn of the Kizashi’s steering wheel is directly sent to front tires. In turn, the system provides a surprising amount of road feel for the driver. This combination makes the Kizashi a joy to drive on curvy roads. During normal driving, the Kizashi does a good job of proving a mostly comfortable and stable ride for passengers. Driving on rough surfaces, the Kizashi’s suspension does a decent job of minimizing the impacts. Noise from engine is mostly well-muted. The same cannot be said for road and wind noise as both are somewhat existent, but not to the point where you carry some ear plugs. Next: The Verdict Verdict I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel at the time of the Kizashi’s departure, after the week-long evaluation. When that time came, I felt surprised and amazed at Suzuki’s second mid-size effort. The muscular and sporty exterior hides one of the best suspension and all-wheel-drive setups in the class. Plus, the Kizashi has one of the better CVTs in the industry and comes with a nicely-equipped interior. However, the Kizashi isn’t the most fuel-efficient vehicle, despite being one of the smallest and lightest in its class. Plus, the 2.4L is very sluggish on initial acceleration. Those problems pale in comparison to the biggest drawback the Kizashi has, Suzuki itself. As I eluded in the introduction, Suzuki in the U.S. isn’t doing so hot. In a report back in April, we wondered whether the brand was preparing to the North American market leave because of certain developments. Some of those included cutting auto show appearances, saying goodbye to the top U.S. product planning and marketing executive, and suspending social media outreach. Since that report, the news for Suzuki hasn’t got any better. For 2012, sales are still down and the company is focusing on controlling its expenses. Add to the lack advertising and the silence any new products coming to U.S., and it’s easy to see why everyone is wondering what the future holds for Suzuki in the U.S. That leaves me in a tough spot with the Kizashi since I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone. However, the uncertainty of Suzuki in the States gives me some hesitation on recommending it. If you’re shopping for a new midsize sedan, you do at least need to give the Kizashi a chance. Vehicles like the Kizashi only appear once in a while and might be not be long before this disappears. Cheers: Exterior Styling Interior Equipment Interior Space CVT AWD System Handling during sporty and normal driving Jeers: Reflectors on front fenders Fuel economy of the AWD Model Suzuki going dark on everything Year - 2012 Make – Suzuki Model – Kizashi Trim – Sport GTS Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four Driveline – All Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM - 180 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 170 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 22/29/25 Curb Weight – 3533 lbs Location of Manufacture – Sagara, Japan Base Price - $25,899.00 As Tested Price - $26,404.00* (Doesn’t include 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
  16. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 6, 2012 Mazda is not in the best of health. The past year has been a struggle for the ’zoom-zoom’ brand; Mazda’s growing reliance on their plants in Japan despite other automakers leaving to other places due to the rising yen, leaving the production line at the Flat Rock, MI plant, laying off workers at their U.S. headquarters, and other troubling news, all contribute to a disconcerting future. The company is banking on two items that will hopefully begin to turn their fortunes around. The first item is the new SKYACTIV technology which is claimed to improve fuel- efficiency while keeping the ‘zoom-zoom’ the brand is known for. The second item is Mazda’s new compact crossover, the CX-5. The new crossover will be featuring the full suite of SKYACTIV and new design language that will be appearing on future Mazdas. Can SKYACTIV deliver on its promises? Is the new CX-5 the vehicle to begin turning the tide? Next: Outside Exterior The CX-5 is Mazda’s first production model to use their new Kodo ("Soul of Motion") design language. Overall, the design is almost a carbon copy of the Minagi concept shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Up front, the most prominent design cue on the CX-5 is the large, five-point grille. This takes the place of the goofy smile grille that is prominent on many Mazda vehicles. Sitting on either side of the grille are a set of optional HID headlights (come as part of the $1,185 tech package). Along the side, Mazda has extended the line running along the front fenders partway into the front doors. Mazda also has a distinct character line running along near the bottom of doors, looking like a wave. The back end has a rounded shape, which is partly hidden by a spoiler sitting on top. "What is key is that in any market we operate in, Mazda's market share is small. Our customers are not people who go with the flow, but who make their own decisions and want something distinctive. That gives me lots of freedom," said Mazda’s chief designer, Akira Tamatani when asked about the design of the new Mazda CX-5 and 6. We think Mazda has succeeded on making the CX-5 very distinctive from its counterparts. Next: Inside Interior Distinctive isn’t the first or last or any word I would use to describe the interior of the CX-5. The interior design is very plain and the use of black throughout the interior can make you feel somewhat depressed. I wished Mazda could have taken some of Kodo design cues from the exterior or use some other color in the interior. Otherwise, the interior materials are the class average. Fit and finish is excellent. The CX-5 Touring comes with standard cloth seats. The seats provide enough adjustments to find a comfortable position, and have enough bolstering to keep you and your passengers in the seat whenever you decide to go for a run. Backseat passengers will find enough room for their head and legs. However, if you decide to take the CX-5 on a long trip, be prepared to pack a pillow or two. The seats don’t have enough padding for long distances and you will be aching when you get to your destination. As for standard equipment, the CX-5 Touring comes pretty loaded. You get keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 5.8-inch color display for the radio, and AM/FM/HD/CD/Aux/USB/Bluetooth audio system. Mazda has done something interesting with the optional navigation system on the CX-5. Like Chrysler, Mazda has turned to a navigation company, TomTom in this case, to provide maps and data. The system worked perfectly and was able to get me to wherever I needed without any problems. My only wish is that Mazda could have made the screen a little larger than 5.8-inches. Next: Under the Hood Powertrain Before we go into the CX-5’s powertrain, it would be a perfect time to explain what the big deal is with Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology. SKYACTIV is Mazda’s umbrella term for their new technology used in its new powertrains and weight-loss (we’ll dive into that when we get to the ride and drive section), which is aimed to improve fuel economy while keeping the zoom-zoomness. The first half of the SKYACTIV tech appeared this year in the compact Mazda3; the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder and the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. Mazda put a lot of engineering effort into the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G to make sure they met their goals of performance and fuel economy. The 2.0L includes direct-injection, a special exhaust manifold which allows the engine compression to be at an impressive 13:1 ratio, and a unique piston design. Those efforts led to the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G to produce 155 HP (@ 6000 RPM) and 150 lb-ft of torque (@ 4000 RPM). A lot of work also went into the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. When leaving from a stop, the transmission uses a torque converter to get you going very smoothly. Once the CX-5 reaches a certain speed, the torque converter locks up and the transmission switches to a clutch pack, which makes every makes every shift happen quickly. This combination allows the CX-5 to return some impressive fuel economy numbers. The EPA puts the CX-5 Touring with front-wheel drive at 26 City/32 Highway/29 combined. All-wheel drive drops fuel economy to 25 City/31 Highway/28 combined. Does the SKYACTIV powertain deliver on its promises? Almost. The 2.0L SKYACTIV-G doesn’t have enough low-end torque to get you on your way from a stop as quick as you would like. There is a SKYACTIV Diesel engine coming and a rumored 2.5L SKYACTIV-G being prepared for next model year which could solve this problem. Plus, the six-speed automatic is slow to react whenever you need it needs to downshift, causing the you to either push further down on the accelerator or throwing the transmission into the manual mode and downshift yourself. Otherwise, the SKYACTIV powertrain is an amazing feat of engineering. Once you’re on your way, the 2.0L keeps up with traffic very well, whether in the city or on the highway. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth and quick shifts. Then there’s the fuel economy. On the first day I had the CX-5, I got 29 MPG driving on suburban roads. Not bad for a crossover I thought. The rest of the time, the CX-5 and I went to Northern Michigan for vacation where it averaged an impressive 37 MPG on rural and highway roads. Next: On the Road Ride & Drive We explained one half of Mazda’s SkyActiv technologies, the powertrain in the last section. Now it’s onto the other half of the SkyActiv, the weight-loss. The CX-5 is the first Mazda vehicle to be built from the ground up with this idea. The body is this first application of a new lightweight steel which allows the vehicle to shed weight while retaining rigidity of regular steel. Mazda also cut weight wherever they could, right down to the bolts used in the vehicle. This weight-loss not only helps in the fuel economy, it also makes the CX-5 more agile when driving enthusiastically. Along with the light-weight mantra, Mazda uses independent front and rear suspension, and an electric rack-and-pinion steering system. This combination makes the CX-5 a joy to drive on your favorite road. The suspension reduces body roll and keeps the CX-5 stable when corning. The steering is weighted just right and provides the same feel and accuracy like you would find on smaller Mazdas. When taking the CX-5 on the test loop I put all of the vehicles in for evaluation, I had to keep reminding myself; this is a crossover, not a sports car. As for driving around to get to work or other places, the CX-5 provides a composed and well-damped ride on smooth surfaces. On rough roads, the CX-5 could use a little bit more damping as some bumps and jostles make their way inside. On the highway, there is minimal wind, road, and engine noise. Visibility is good in the front and side. Rear visibility is poor due to the large d-pillars, but Mazda does make a rear-view camera standard on the Touring model. Next: The Verdict Verdict Mazda deserves a pat on the back with the new CX-5 and SKYACTIV. The SKYACTIV technology almost delivers on its promise of delivering performance and fuel economy in one package. The CX-5 is one of the best driving and best looking small crossovers on the market. Combine the two together and what you get is one very good crossover. There are some faults to CX-5 though. The interior is very plain when compared to the exterior and the seats could use a little bit more padding. Also, the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G engine needs a bit more oomph on the low-end and the six-speed automatic needs to be quicker on the downshifts on certain situations. Mazda put a tall order on the CX-5 and SKYACTIV to begin reversing their poor fortunes. Judging from the sales charts, it looks like Mazda is starting to slowly turn around to a better time. Disclaimer: Mazda provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Cheers Distinctive Exterior Styling Impressive Fuel Economy Loads of standard equipment Smooth and quick automatic transmission Handling in sporty and normal driving Light curb weight Back seat space Jeers 2.0L lacking low-end oomph Six-speed slowness to downshift in certain situations Interior lacking some pizzaz Seats lacking in padding Year - 2013 Make – Mazda Model – CX-5 Trim – Touring Engine – SKYACTIV-G 2.0LFour-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-speed automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 155 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 150 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 26/32/29 Curb Weight – 3272 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hiroshima, Japan Base Price - $23,895.00 As Tested Price - $27,005.00* (Includes $795 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
  17. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 6, 2012 Mazda is not in the best of health. The past year has been a struggle for the ’zoom-zoom’ brand; Mazda’s growing reliance on their plants in Japan despite other automakers leaving to other places due to the rising yen, leaving the production line at the Flat Rock, MI plant, laying off workers at their U.S. headquarters, and other troubling news, all contribute to a disconcerting future. The company is banking on two items that will hopefully begin to turn their fortunes around. The first item is the new SKYACTIV technology which is claimed to improve fuel- efficiency while keeping the ‘zoom-zoom’ the brand is known for. The second item is Mazda’s new compact crossover, the CX-5. The new crossover will be featuring the full suite of SKYACTIV and new design language that will be appearing on future Mazdas. Can SKYACTIV deliver on its promises? Is the new CX-5 the vehicle to begin turning the tide? Next: Outside Exterior The CX-5 is Mazda’s first production model to use their new Kodo ("Soul of Motion") design language. Overall, the design is almost a carbon copy of the Minagi concept shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Up front, the most prominent design cue on the CX-5 is the large, five-point grille. This takes the place of the goofy smile grille that is prominent on many Mazda vehicles. Sitting on either side of the grille are a set of optional HID headlights (come as part of the $1,185 tech package). Along the side, Mazda has extended the line running along the front fenders partway into the front doors. Mazda also has a distinct character line running along near the bottom of doors, looking like a wave. The back end has a rounded shape, which is partly hidden by a spoiler sitting on top. "What is key is that in any market we operate in, Mazda's market share is small. Our customers are not people who go with the flow, but who make their own decisions and want something distinctive. That gives me lots of freedom," said Mazda’s chief designer, Akira Tamatani when asked about the design of the new Mazda CX-5 and 6. We think Mazda has succeeded on making the CX-5 very distinctive from its counterparts. Next: Inside Interior Distinctive isn’t the first or last or any word I would use to describe the interior of the CX-5. The interior design is very plain and the use of black throughout the interior can make you feel somewhat depressed. I wished Mazda could have taken some of Kodo design cues from the exterior or use some other color in the interior. Otherwise, the interior materials are the class average. Fit and finish is excellent. The CX-5 Touring comes with standard cloth seats. The seats provide enough adjustments to find a comfortable position, and have enough bolstering to keep you and your passengers in the seat whenever you decide to go for a run. Backseat passengers will find enough room for their head and legs. However, if you decide to take the CX-5 on a long trip, be prepared to pack a pillow or two. The seats don’t have enough padding for long distances and you will be aching when you get to your destination. As for standard equipment, the CX-5 Touring comes pretty loaded. You get keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 5.8-inch color display for the radio, and AM/FM/HD/CD/Aux/USB/Bluetooth audio system. Mazda has done something interesting with the optional navigation system on the CX-5. Like Chrysler, Mazda has turned to a navigation company, TomTom in this case, to provide maps and data. The system worked perfectly and was able to get me to wherever I needed without any problems. My only wish is that Mazda could have made the screen a little larger than 5.8-inches. Next: Under the Hood Powertrain Before we go into the CX-5’s powertrain, it would be a perfect time to explain what the big deal is with Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology. SKYACTIV is Mazda’s umbrella term for their new technology used in its new powertrains and weight-loss (we’ll dive into that when we get to the ride and drive section), which is aimed to improve fuel economy while keeping the zoom-zoomness. The first half of the SKYACTIV tech appeared this year in the compact Mazda3; the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder and the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. Mazda put a lot of engineering effort into the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G to make sure they met their goals of performance and fuel economy. The 2.0L includes direct-injection, a special exhaust manifold which allows the engine compression to be at an impressive 13:1 ratio, and a unique piston design. Those efforts led to the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G to produce 155 HP (@ 6000 RPM) and 150 lb-ft of torque (@ 4000 RPM). A lot of work also went into the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. When leaving from a stop, the transmission uses a torque converter to get you going very smoothly. Once the CX-5 reaches a certain speed, the torque converter locks up and the transmission switches to a clutch pack, which makes every makes every shift happen quickly. This combination allows the CX-5 to return some impressive fuel economy numbers. The EPA puts the CX-5 Touring with front-wheel drive at 26 City/32 Highway/29 combined. All-wheel drive drops fuel economy to 25 City/31 Highway/28 combined. Does the SKYACTIV powertain deliver on its promises? Almost. The 2.0L SKYACTIV-G doesn’t have enough low-end torque to get you on your way from a stop as quick as you would like. There is a SKYACTIV Diesel engine coming and a rumored 2.5L SKYACTIV-G being prepared for next model year which could solve this problem. Plus, the six-speed automatic is slow to react whenever you need it needs to downshift, causing the you to either push further down on the accelerator or throwing the transmission into the manual mode and downshift yourself. Otherwise, the SKYACTIV powertrain is an amazing feat of engineering. Once you’re on your way, the 2.0L keeps up with traffic very well, whether in the city or on the highway. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth and quick shifts. Then there’s the fuel economy. On the first day I had the CX-5, I got 29 MPG driving on suburban roads. Not bad for a crossover I thought. The rest of the time, the CX-5 and I went to Northern Michigan for vacation where it averaged an impressive 37 MPG on rural and highway roads. Next: On the Road Ride & Drive We explained one half of Mazda’s SkyActiv technologies, the powertrain in the last section. Now it’s onto the other half of the SkyActiv, the weight-loss. The CX-5 is the first Mazda vehicle to be built from the ground up with this idea. The body is this first application of a new lightweight steel which allows the vehicle to shed weight while retaining rigidity of regular steel. Mazda also cut weight wherever they could, right down to the bolts used in the vehicle. This weight-loss not only helps in the fuel economy, it also makes the CX-5 more agile when driving enthusiastically. Along with the light-weight mantra, Mazda uses independent front and rear suspension, and an electric rack-and-pinion steering system. This combination makes the CX-5 a joy to drive on your favorite road. The suspension reduces body roll and keeps the CX-5 stable when corning. The steering is weighted just right and provides the same feel and accuracy like you would find on smaller Mazdas. When taking the CX-5 on the test loop I put all of the vehicles in for evaluation, I had to keep reminding myself; this is a crossover, not a sports car. As for driving around to get to work or other places, the CX-5 provides a composed and well-damped ride on smooth surfaces. On rough roads, the CX-5 could use a little bit more damping as some bumps and jostles make their way inside. On the highway, there is minimal wind, road, and engine noise. Visibility is good in the front and side. Rear visibility is poor due to the large d-pillars, but Mazda does make a rear-view camera standard on the Touring model. Next: The Verdict Verdict Mazda deserves a pat on the back with the new CX-5 and SKYACTIV. The SKYACTIV technology almost delivers on its promise of delivering performance and fuel economy in one package. The CX-5 is one of the best driving and best looking small crossovers on the market. Combine the two together and what you get is one very good crossover. There are some faults to CX-5 though. The interior is very plain when compared to the exterior and the seats could use a little bit more padding. Also, the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G engine needs a bit more oomph on the low-end and the six-speed automatic needs to be quicker on the downshifts on certain situations. Mazda put a tall order on the CX-5 and SKYACTIV to begin reversing their poor fortunes. Judging from the sales charts, it looks like Mazda is starting to slowly turn around to a better time. Disclaimer: Mazda provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Cheers Distinctive Exterior Styling Impressive Fuel Economy Loads of standard equipment Smooth and quick automatic transmission Handling in sporty and normal driving Light curb weight Back seat space Jeers 2.0L lacking low-end oomph Six-speed slowness to downshift in certain situations Interior lacking some pizzaz Seats lacking in padding Year - 2013 Make – Mazda Model – CX-5 Trim – Touring Engine – SKYACTIV-G 2.0LFour-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-speed automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 155 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 150 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 26/32/29 Curb Weight – 3272 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hiroshima, Japan Base Price - $23,895.00 As Tested Price - $27,005.00* (Includes $795 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.
  18. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 4, 2012 Hybrid vehicles usually fall into two completely different categories. The first category is filled with vehicles whose main purpose to use a hybrid powertrain is to eek out every drop of gas, which typically means they lack the fun to drive factor. The second category is the opposite; vehicles which use their hybrid powertrain, using a smaller engine, to produce the power and fuel economy of a larger engine. There are a few automakers who have figured out how to balance these polar opposites with a hybrid powetrain. The latest automaker who thinks it has got the balance correct is Infiniti with the hybrid version of the M sedan. But did Infiniti get it right? Next: The Outside Exterior The M Hybrid follows the same design doctrine of other M models. The front end of features a long hood that curves downward from the middle and rise back up before sitting next to the front fenders. A large, rectangular chrome grille and a set of projector headlights don the fascia. Around the side, the front and rear wheel wells are pushed out to cover the standard eighteen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The roof line slopes down to the trunk where in turn it gradually rises back up to the lip of the trunk lid. The short rear end has a curved trunk lid, a chrome bar hiding the trunk release and rearview camera, and a set of polished exhausts. The overall look of the M Hybrid is very daring and elegant to my eyes. I would put it in the same category as the Jaguar XF and Lexus GS as being my favorite mid-size luxury sedan designs. Next: The Inside Interior The M Hybrid’s interior is an exercise in the details. That’s very evident when you look inside and notice how the metal trim flows along with the leather and wood trim in the dash and door panels. Also, the M Hybrid doesn’t skimp out on the stitched leather, using a good amount on the seats, door panels, and dash. The wood used in this M Hybrid was the optional Japanese White Ash wood trim which has a silver powder finish to make it really stand out. All of these little details make the M Hybrid feel very special. For the front seat passengers, the M Hybrid comes equipped with supportive, powered leather seats. Back seat passengers sit on a very comfortable leather bench seat. Legroom is very good throughout the M Hybrid, while headroom is somewhat tight for backseat passengers due to the sloped roof. Trunk space is also on the tight side, measuring 11.3 cu.ft , due to the large lithium-ion battery pack. Our Infiniti M Hybrid came equipped with two massive option packages. The $3,800 premium package adds a eight-inch touchscreen, hard-drive based Navigation system, 9.3 GB music jukebox, XM NavTraffic and weather, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, Bluetooth audio streaming, climate-controlled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The other option package on our test vehicle was the $3,350 Deluxe Touring Package which adds the Japanese White Ash wood trim, semi-aniline leather-appointed seats, suede-like headliner, forest air system, power rear sunshade, and a 5.1-channel, 16-speaker Bose sound system. Both packages are very much worth it as they add some needed features for the class and add on to the specialness of the M Hybrid’s interior. Next: Power! Powertrain The heart of the M Hybrid is Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system. The system is made up of a 3.5L all-aluminum V6 producing 302 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque, a 50kW electric motor producing 67 HP and 199 lb-ft of torque, and a lithium-ion battery pack. Total output of the Hybrid system is 360 HP. How the M Hybrid delivers its power depends on the circumstances and how much the battery is charged. Leaving a stop with the battery fully or half charged, the M Hybrid will enter EV mode. Using only the electric motor, the M Hybrid able to sustain speeds in urban areas for a good distance. When the battery gets depleted, the 3.5L V6 seamlessly kicks on. If you need to merge onto a freeway or make a pass, the V6 and electric work together to provide more than enough power to get you through. The seven-speed automatic transmission does a very good job of making sure it is in the right gear as the situation demands. Also, the shifts are very quick and smooth. The M Hybrid also has Infiniti’s Drive Mode which allows the driver to change the throttle response, engine and transmission behavior via a knob in the car. Four settings are available: Snow, Eco, Standard, and Sport. Snow: Softens throttle response even more to reduce wheel spin in snowy conditions Eco: Softens the throttle response to help improve efficiency Standard: Sets throttle response and shifts points to provide a balance between responsiveness and fuel efficiency Sport: Increases throttle response and holds gears longer when driving aggressively Fuel economy for the M Hybrid is rated at 27 City/31 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week was 27 MPG, mostly on suburban and rural roads. Next: The Drive Ride & Drive The M Hybrid’s suspension is the same one used on the standard M37 and M56. Double wishbones are used up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, with stabilizer bars at both ends. The only difference between the regular M and the Hybrid is a set double-piston shock absorbers that have been tuned for the M Hybrid. The ride is soft and comfortable, no matter the road surface. Road, wind, and engine noise are kept to a minimum, making the M Hybrid a perfect long drive companion. But what if you want to have a little bit fun? The M Hybrid is a very willing partner. The suspension is very surefooted on curvy roads. Steering is very good, providing good feel and response. One surprise is the M Hybrid’s brakes. Most hybrids exhibit the mushy pedal syndrome, which doesn’t inspire much confidence and could cause you to have a longer braking distance. The M Hybrid differs from this by having a brake pedal that doesn’t feel as mushy, which gives you more confidence and shorter stopping distances. Despite the extra weight and soft suspension tuning, the M Hybrid can be very fun. Visibility for the M Hybrid is good for the front and side. Rear visibility is a little bit tricky due to the smallish rear window. Infiniti has included a rear-view camera as standard equipment, making it a bit easier. Next: The Verdict Verdict So has Infiniti figured out the balance of performance and economy with the M Hybrid? In a word, yes. Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system delivers the same performance as a V8 and delivers some impressive fuel economy numbers. Add in a well-appointed interior and a distinct exterior shape, and the M Hybrid stands on its own. Aside from some rear headroom and trunk space concerns, the M Hybrid is one of the best arguments that choosing a hybrid doesn't mean you have to choose more power or better fuel economy; you can have both in perfect harmony. Disclaimer: Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Cheers Exterior Design Interior Appointments Powertrain Fuel Economy Smooth Ride Handling Jeers Rear Headroom Trunk Space Year - 2012 Make – Infiniti Model – M Trim – M Hybrid Engine – 3.5L V6, 50 kW Electric Motor Driveline – Rear Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 302 @ 6800 (V6), 67 @ 1770 (Electric Motor), 360 HP (Total Outout) Torque @ RPM – 258 @ 5500 (V6), 199 @ 1770 (Electric Motor) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/31/29 Curb Weight – 4129 lbs Location of Manufacture – Tochigi, Japan Base Price - $53,700.00 As Tested Price - $61,745.00 (Includes $895.00 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.
  19. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 4, 2012 Hybrid vehicles usually fall into two completely different categories. The first category is filled with vehicles whose main purpose to use a hybrid powertrain is to eek out every drop of gas, which typically means they lack the fun to drive factor. The second category is the opposite; vehicles which use their hybrid powertrain, using a smaller engine, to produce the power and fuel economy of a larger engine. There are a few automakers who have figured out how to balance these polar opposites with a hybrid powetrain. The latest automaker who thinks it has got the balance correct is Infiniti with the hybrid version of the M sedan. But did Infiniti get it right? Next: The Outside Exterior The M Hybrid follows the same design doctrine of other M models. The front end of features a long hood that curves downward from the middle and rise back up before sitting next to the front fenders. A large, rectangular chrome grille and a set of projector headlights don the fascia. Around the side, the front and rear wheel wells are pushed out to cover the standard eighteen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The roof line slopes down to the trunk where in turn it gradually rises back up to the lip of the trunk lid. The short rear end has a curved trunk lid, a chrome bar hiding the trunk release and rearview camera, and a set of polished exhausts. The overall look of the M Hybrid is very daring and elegant to my eyes. I would put it in the same category as the Jaguar XF and Lexus GS as being my favorite mid-size luxury sedan designs. Next: The Inside Interior The M Hybrid’s interior is an exercise in the details. That’s very evident when you look inside and notice how the metal trim flows along with the leather and wood trim in the dash and door panels. Also, the M Hybrid doesn’t skimp out on the stitched leather, using a good amount on the seats, door panels, and dash. The wood used in this M Hybrid was the optional Japanese White Ash wood trim which has a silver powder finish to make it really stand out. All of these little details make the M Hybrid feel very special. For the front seat passengers, the M Hybrid comes equipped with supportive, powered leather seats. Back seat passengers sit on a very comfortable leather bench seat. Legroom is very good throughout the M Hybrid, while headroom is somewhat tight for backseat passengers due to the sloped roof. Trunk space is also on the tight side, measuring 11.3 cu.ft , due to the large lithium-ion battery pack. Our Infiniti M Hybrid came equipped with two massive option packages. The $3,800 premium package adds a eight-inch touchscreen, hard-drive based Navigation system, 9.3 GB music jukebox, XM NavTraffic and weather, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, Bluetooth audio streaming, climate-controlled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The other option package on our test vehicle was the $3,350 Deluxe Touring Package which adds the Japanese White Ash wood trim, semi-aniline leather-appointed seats, suede-like headliner, forest air system, power rear sunshade, and a 5.1-channel, 16-speaker Bose sound system. Both packages are very much worth it as they add some needed features for the class and add on to the specialness of the M Hybrid’s interior. Next: Power! Powertrain The heart of the M Hybrid is Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system. The system is made up of a 3.5L all-aluminum V6 producing 302 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque, a 50kW electric motor producing 67 HP and 199 lb-ft of torque, and a lithium-ion battery pack. Total output of the Hybrid system is 360 HP. How the M Hybrid delivers its power depends on the circumstances and how much the battery is charged. Leaving a stop with the battery fully or half charged, the M Hybrid will enter EV mode. Using only the electric motor, the M Hybrid able to sustain speeds in urban areas for a good distance. When the battery gets depleted, the 3.5L V6 seamlessly kicks on. If you need to merge onto a freeway or make a pass, the V6 and electric work together to provide more than enough power to get you through. The seven-speed automatic transmission does a very good job of making sure it is in the right gear as the situation demands. Also, the shifts are very quick and smooth. The M Hybrid also has Infiniti’s Drive Mode which allows the driver to change the throttle response, engine and transmission behavior via a knob in the car. Four settings are available: Snow, Eco, Standard, and Sport. Snow: Softens throttle response even more to reduce wheel spin in snowy conditions Eco: Softens the throttle response to help improve efficiency Standard: Sets throttle response and shifts points to provide a balance between responsiveness and fuel efficiency Sport: Increases throttle response and holds gears longer when driving aggressively Fuel economy for the M Hybrid is rated at 27 City/31 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week was 27 MPG, mostly on suburban and rural roads. Next: The Drive Ride & Drive The M Hybrid’s suspension is the same one used on the standard M37 and M56. Double wishbones are used up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, with stabilizer bars at both ends. The only difference between the regular M and the Hybrid is a set double-piston shock absorbers that have been tuned for the M Hybrid. The ride is soft and comfortable, no matter the road surface. Road, wind, and engine noise are kept to a minimum, making the M Hybrid a perfect long drive companion. But what if you want to have a little bit fun? The M Hybrid is a very willing partner. The suspension is very surefooted on curvy roads. Steering is very good, providing good feel and response. One surprise is the M Hybrid’s brakes. Most hybrids exhibit the mushy pedal syndrome, which doesn’t inspire much confidence and could cause you to have a longer braking distance. The M Hybrid differs from this by having a brake pedal that doesn’t feel as mushy, which gives you more confidence and shorter stopping distances. Despite the extra weight and soft suspension tuning, the M Hybrid can be very fun. Visibility for the M Hybrid is good for the front and side. Rear visibility is a little bit tricky due to the smallish rear window. Infiniti has included a rear-view camera as standard equipment, making it a bit easier. Next: The Verdict Verdict So has Infiniti figured out the balance of performance and economy with the M Hybrid? In a word, yes. Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system delivers the same performance as a V8 and delivers some impressive fuel economy numbers. Add in a well-appointed interior and a distinct exterior shape, and the M Hybrid stands on its own. Aside from some rear headroom and trunk space concerns, the M Hybrid is one of the best arguments that choosing a hybrid doesn't mean you have to choose more power or better fuel economy; you can have both in perfect harmony. Disclaimer: Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Cheers Exterior Design Interior Appointments Powertrain Fuel Economy Smooth Ride Handling Jeers Rear Headroom Trunk Space Year - 2012 Make – Infiniti Model – M Trim – M Hybrid Engine – 3.5L V6, 50 kW Electric Motor Driveline – Rear Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 302 @ 6800 (V6), 67 @ 1770 (Electric Motor), 360 HP (Total Outout) Torque @ RPM – 258 @ 5500 (V6), 199 @ 1770 (Electric Motor) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/31/29 Curb Weight – 4129 lbs Location of Manufacture – Tochigi, Japan Base Price - $53,700.00 As Tested Price - $61,745.00 (Includes $895.00 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
  20. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 21, 2012 One nameplate that has seen its share of ups and downs in Nissan’s lineup is the Quest. Introduced back in 1993 as a contender in the Minivan marketplace, the Quest came out of partnership between Nissan and Ford. For nine years, the Quest enjoyed success as being an alternative to the stalwarts of the class; the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. When it came time to introduce the next Quest, Nissan went down a very different path. Arriving in 2003, the second generation Quest did ‘shift’ what a minivan could be. The styling was out there for a van, looking like Nissan asked a group of art school students to design a production-ready van. Even more surprising was how much fun the Quest was to drive. Hampered by its unusual looks, the second-generation Quest didn’t do well in sales and Nissan pulled it off the market in 2009. So that brings us to the third-generation Quest. Introduced last year, the new Nissan Quest takes another try with an unconventional look. The question is, will it work? Next: Step Outside Exterior The Nissan Quest’s design is very distinctive from its contemporaries, looking like Nissan imported one of its vans from Japan. Well, that is what Nissan is doing with the Quest; an Americanized version of the Japanese market Elgrand van. Starting with the front end, Nissan wisely decided to remove the chromed-out front end on the Elgrand and go for a pentagonal grille, with chrome trim running around the perimeter. Nissan also swapped out the huge stacked headlights and went for a set of projector headlights. The side profile of Quest features wrap-around glass running from the front door all the way to the tailgate. The glass helps disguise the B, C, and D-Pillars. There are also two character lines; one starting from where the hood and front end meet to the front door and other starting from the taillights and running along the sliding door. Finally, Nissan fitted ground effects and a set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels. The back end of Quest drops Elgrand’s full length taillights. Instead, Nissan goes for a regular pair of taillights which are separated by a chrome bar that hides the release for the power tailgate. Next: Come On In Interior The seating arrangement is the Quest’s strongest and weakest point. Up front, driver and passenger are seated in leather-wrapped, heated, and powered seats. (Driver gets eight-way with memory, passenger gets four-way). For the second row, it’s a set of captain chairs that can recline and move forward and back to make yourself comfortable. The third row is a bench seat which can fit three kids or two adults. Headroom is very generous due to high roof. Legroom is very good for the first two rows. In the third row, legroom can vary due to how far the second row seats are set back. Adults can sit back here comfortably if the seats are set all the way forward or have been pushed back slightly. If the seats are pushed all the way back, then it’s really only comfortable for kids. Nissan has also outfitted the backseat area with some surprising luxuries. For starters, passengers sitting back have their own control for the HVAC system, power windows for the second row, and pull-up shades for the second and third-row windows. However, the seating arrangement also highlights the Quest’s biggest weakness, cargo space. *Underfloor Luggage area is included in the Quest’s measurement With all of the seats up, the Quest is right behind the Odyssey and Sienna in cargo space. But when it comes time to load up more cargo, the Quest loses big time. The reason is due to the second and third row seats being permanently locked in, meaning you can’t take the seats out of the Quest or fold them into the floor. The only thing you can do to the seats is to fold them down. Materials used throughout ranged from leather on the door pulls, soft touch materials on the dash, and hard plastics on the non-touch point. All of the materials look like they belong on a $43,000 minivan. Build quality is very high with no gaps nor pieces coming apart. One item that drove me crazy during the week I had the Quest was the placement of the shifter. Nissan places the right next to the controls for the HVAC and Radio. Put the Quest into drive, and the shifter blocks your view of the controls and forces you to reach around to get to them. For your entertainment, the Quest LE comes equipped with a 4.3-inch touchscreen that provides navigation, car information, and AM/FM/SiriusXM Satellite Radio/CD/MP3/USB/Bluetooth. All of that audio comes out a 13-speaker Bose system which fills the car with very good sound quality. Back seat passengers can watch a movie on a DVD entertainment system which includes an 11-inch screen and wireless headphones. Next: Vroom, Vroom Engine The Quest comes with only one powertrain; a 3.5L VQ V6 producing 260 HP and 240 lb-ft of torque. That power is sent to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission which is then routed to the front wheels. For a van that tips the scales at 4,568 lbs, the 3.5L V6 had no problem of getting up to speed at all. Whenever you needed the power to leave a stop or make a pass, the 3.5L was always at the ready. As for the CVT, it was a good partner to the 3.5L. The CVT made sure you are always in the power and provided a nice smoothness. Fuel economy for the 3.5L is 19 City/24 Highway/21 combined. Our average for the week was 21.3 MPG, mostly on highway and rural roads. Next: Time to Drive Ride & Drive The Quest’s ride is comfortable and confident, thanks in part to the Quest’s independent four-wheel suspension made up of MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link setup in the back. Even driving on some back roads which haven’t been paved in a while, the Quest’s suspension isolated the bumps and ruts very well. As for sound insulation, the Quest does a good job of minimizing the amount of road and wind noise. Engine noise is also kept to a minimum. Steering comes in the form of a speed-sensitive, power-assisted rack and pinion setup. The setup provides the right amount of weight for the situation and good road feel. Visibility is very good for the front and side of the Quest. Rear visibility is tricky due to large D-Pillars. Thankfully, Nissan fits a rear-view camera as standard equipment on the Quest ranging from the top of the line LE to the mid-level SV. One item I wish Nissan would fit on to the Quest is its around-view system, which provides views of the sides and back. Not only would the system make it easier to backup, but also would add a measure a safety when backing out of certain situations, like a family gathering. Next: The Verdict Verdict The Nissan Quest dares to be different in the minivan class and it mostly pays off. The interior and the appointments place the Quest at the top of the class. Plus, the 3.5L V6 and Xtronic CVT make the Quest a pleasure to drive. But the Quest does have a big flaw. Due to the seats being permanently locked in place, the cargo capacity is severely limited. This could be a deal breaker for most buyers since you lose out on a good amount of cargo space because you cannot take them out of the vehicle. Other competitors offer much more space because you can either remove or fold the seats into the floor. The Quest is the best in class if your primary concern is to have the most luxuries in a minivan. If luxury isn’t your primary concern, look to another van. Cheers Interior Interior Features Powertrain Ride Jeers Cargo Space Placement of the shifter Disclaimer: Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Year - 2012 Make – Nissan Model – Quest Trim – LE Engine – 3.5L VQ V6 Driveline – Front Wheel Drive, Xtronic CVT Horsepower @ RPM - 260 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 240 @ 4400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/24/21 Curb Weight – 4568 lbs Location of Manufacture – Kyushu, Japan Base Price - $41,350.00 As Tested Price - $43,715.00 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears and a connoisseur of minivans. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  21. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 21, 2012 One nameplate that has seen its share of ups and downs in Nissan’s lineup is the Quest. Introduced back in 1993 as a contender in the Minivan marketplace, the Quest came out of partnership between Nissan and Ford. For nine years, the Quest enjoyed success as being an alternative to the stalwarts of the class; the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. When it came time to introduce the next Quest, Nissan went down a very different path. Arriving in 2003, the second generation Quest did ‘shift’ what a minivan could be. The styling was out there for a van, looking like Nissan asked a group of art school students to design a production-ready van. Even more surprising was how much fun the Quest was to drive. Hampered by its unusual looks, the second-generation Quest didn’t do well in sales and Nissan pulled it off the market in 2009. So that brings us to the third-generation Quest. Introduced last year, the new Nissan Quest takes another try with an unconventional look. The question is, will it work? Next: Step Outside Exterior The Nissan Quest’s design is very distinctive from its contemporaries, looking like Nissan imported one of its vans from Japan. Well, that is what Nissan is doing with the Quest; an Americanized version of the Japanese market Elgrand van. Starting with the front end, Nissan wisely decided to remove the chromed-out front end on the Elgrand and go for a pentagonal grille, with chrome trim running around the perimeter. Nissan also swapped out the huge stacked headlights and went for a set of projector headlights. The side profile of Quest features wrap-around glass running from the front door all the way to the tailgate. The glass helps disguise the B, C, and D-Pillars. There are also two character lines; one starting from where the hood and front end meet to the front door and other starting from the taillights and running along the sliding door. Finally, Nissan fitted ground effects and a set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels. The back end of Quest drops Elgrand’s full length taillights. Instead, Nissan goes for a regular pair of taillights which are separated by a chrome bar that hides the release for the power tailgate. Next: Come On In Interior The seating arrangement is the Quest’s strongest and weakest point. Up front, driver and passenger are seated in leather-wrapped, heated, and powered seats. (Driver gets eight-way with memory, passenger gets four-way). For the second row, it’s a set of captain chairs that can recline and move forward and back to make yourself comfortable. The third row is a bench seat which can fit three kids or two adults. Headroom is very generous due to high roof. Legroom is very good for the first two rows. In the third row, legroom can vary due to how far the second row seats are set back. Adults can sit back here comfortably if the seats are set all the way forward or have been pushed back slightly. If the seats are pushed all the way back, then it’s really only comfortable for kids. Nissan has also outfitted the backseat area with some surprising luxuries. For starters, passengers sitting back have their own control for the HVAC system, power windows for the second row, and pull-up shades for the second and third-row windows. However, the seating arrangement also highlights the Quest’s biggest weakness, cargo space. *Underfloor Luggage area is included in the Quest’s measurement With all of the seats up, the Quest is right behind the Odyssey and Sienna in cargo space. But when it comes time to load up more cargo, the Quest loses big time. The reason is due to the second and third row seats being permanently locked in, meaning you can’t take the seats out of the Quest or fold them into the floor. The only thing you can do to the seats is to fold them down. Materials used throughout ranged from leather on the door pulls, soft touch materials on the dash, and hard plastics on the non-touch point. All of the materials look like they belong on a $43,000 minivan. Build quality is very high with no gaps nor pieces coming apart. One item that drove me crazy during the week I had the Quest was the placement of the shifter. Nissan places the right next to the controls for the HVAC and Radio. Put the Quest into drive, and the shifter blocks your view of the controls and forces you to reach around to get to them. For your entertainment, the Quest LE comes equipped with a 4.3-inch touchscreen that provides navigation, car information, and AM/FM/SiriusXM Satellite Radio/CD/MP3/USB/Bluetooth. All of that audio comes out a 13-speaker Bose system which fills the car with very good sound quality. Back seat passengers can watch a movie on a DVD entertainment system which includes an 11-inch screen and wireless headphones. Next: Vroom, Vroom Engine The Quest comes with only one powertrain; a 3.5L VQ V6 producing 260 HP and 240 lb-ft of torque. That power is sent to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission which is then routed to the front wheels. For a van that tips the scales at 4,568 lbs, the 3.5L V6 had no problem of getting up to speed at all. Whenever you needed the power to leave a stop or make a pass, the 3.5L was always at the ready. As for the CVT, it was a good partner to the 3.5L. The CVT made sure you are always in the power and provided a nice smoothness. Fuel economy for the 3.5L is 19 City/24 Highway/21 combined. Our average for the week was 21.3 MPG, mostly on highway and rural roads. Next: Time to Drive Ride & Drive The Quest’s ride is comfortable and confident, thanks in part to the Quest’s independent four-wheel suspension made up of MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link setup in the back. Even driving on some back roads which haven’t been paved in a while, the Quest’s suspension isolated the bumps and ruts very well. As for sound insulation, the Quest does a good job of minimizing the amount of road and wind noise. Engine noise is also kept to a minimum. Steering comes in the form of a speed-sensitive, power-assisted rack and pinion setup. The setup provides the right amount of weight for the situation and good road feel. Visibility is very good for the front and side of the Quest. Rear visibility is tricky due to large D-Pillars. Thankfully, Nissan fits a rear-view camera as standard equipment on the Quest ranging from the top of the line LE to the mid-level SV. One item I wish Nissan would fit on to the Quest is its around-view system, which provides views of the sides and back. Not only would the system make it easier to backup, but also would add a measure a safety when backing out of certain situations, like a family gathering. Next: The Verdict Verdict The Nissan Quest dares to be different in the minivan class and it mostly pays off. The interior and the appointments place the Quest at the top of the class. Plus, the 3.5L V6 and Xtronic CVT make the Quest a pleasure to drive. But the Quest does have a big flaw. Due to the seats being permanently locked in place, the cargo capacity is severely limited. This could be a deal breaker for most buyers since you lose out on a good amount of cargo space because you cannot take them out of the vehicle. Other competitors offer much more space because you can either remove or fold the seats into the floor. The Quest is the best in class if your primary concern is to have the most luxuries in a minivan. If luxury isn’t your primary concern, look to another van. Cheers Interior Interior Features Powertrain Ride Jeers Cargo Space Placement of the shifter Disclaimer: Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Year - 2012 Make – Nissan Model – Quest Trim – LE Engine – 3.5L VQ V6 Driveline – Front Wheel Drive, Xtronic CVT Horsepower @ RPM - 260 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 240 @ 4400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/24/21 Curb Weight – 4568 lbs Location of Manufacture – Kyushu, Japan Base Price - $41,350.00 As Tested Price - $43,715.00 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears and a connoisseur of minivans. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  22. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 7, 2012 Mitsubishi, a brand that was riding high in the early to mid-nineties with vehicles like the Eclipse, Galant, Montero, and Diamante has fallen into obscurity very rapidly. In the same time frame, the crossover utility vehicle has become the ubiquitous go-to car for many American shoppers. As arguably one of the mostly hotly competitive sales segments, Mitsubishi's challenge is to make a stand out vehicle for shoppers drowning in a sea of model names. To overcome this challenge, Mitsubishi has brought not one, but two distinct crossovers; the Outlander and Outlander Sport. But, does standing out help or hurt a crossover like the Outlander or Outlander Sport. To find out, a 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC was dropped off for a week long evaluation. Next: The Outside Story Exterior Mitsubishi’s most well known model in production is arguably the Lancer Evolution. As such, you can hardly blame Mitsubishi for taking that look and injecting it into the rest of their lineup. The GT’s front end appears to be directly lifted from the Evolution, with its large, bold grille and chrome bar running around the perimeter. A set of projector headlights and fog lights sit on either side. On the side, flared wheel arches conceal a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels, standard on the GT. The back end has angled d-pillars and chrome-like taillights. Another design consideration Mitsubishi made with the Outlander GT was practicality. That’s very evident with the spilt opening tailgate. The rear window flips up while the tailgate base flops down. In most cases, this design would make it harder to get items into the back of a vehicle. But Mitsubishi designers made the base as short as possible to make it a non-issue. Visually, the Outlander is an interesting mix of Lancer Evolution DNA blended with the practicality of a crossover. Next: Welcome to the Interior Interior At first glance, the Outlander GT scores very high with its interior. The design is very bold with a curved dash, and the use black and silver trim throughout. However, look and touch the interior a little bit closer and you realize there was some cost cutting. Opening the door to enter or exit the Outlander GT, you’ll notice the hollowness and tinny noise of the doors. This would be ok for a vehicle built in the 1980s, not for a vehicle built in 2012. Materials used throughout the vehicle range from ok stitched leather-like material to hollow, cheap plastics that are used in most parts of the dashboard. Build quality is mostly good, with no outrageous panel gaps or missing pieces. Our Outlander GT tester was equipped with a Navigation package that brought forth a five-inch touchscreen with a 40 GB hard drive for music storage and a backup camera. The interface and graphics felt a full decade behind the times and moving around was a pain due to the small buttons on either of the screen. Sound quality was a positive thanks to the 710-Watt Rockford Fosgate audio system which comes as part of the optional Premium package. Another disappointment was there was no standard Bluetooth or a USB/Aux jack in our test Outlander. Bluetooth is prewired and the buttons to use the system are on the steering wheel. Also, the only aux jacks in the vehicle were RCA jacks. The only way to get USB and Bluetooth is to order the FUSE Hands-free Link System. With an as tested price of $33,605, it is not unreasonable to expect all of these features to be included. As for comfort, the Outlander is a mixed bag depending on where you end up sitting. The front seats are soft, come heated, and provide a surprising amount of bolstering. The driver gets six-way adjustment and lumbar. The second row provides adjustment for recline and whether you want more legroom or cargo space. There is a third-row seat, but that is realistically for emergencies when you have to seat small kids. Trying to fit my 5’7 frame into the back seat was easier than expected. However, I wasn’t comfortable at all. Especially considering my knees were up to my nose. Next: A Peek Under the Hood Powertrain The Outlander comes with the choice of either a four-cylinder or V6 motor. Our Outlander GT was equipped with the 3.0L MIVEC V6 producing 230 HP and 215 lb-ft of torque. The power is sent through a six-speed automatic to all four wheels courtesy of Mitsubishi’s S-AWC system. Compared to its rivals, the Outlander GT is a bit down on power. That’s very evident when leaving a stop or making a pass as the V6 has to dig deep in RPMs to get the power. However the 3.0L V6 is very smooth, albeit a bit noisy. The six-speed automatic does its best to keep you in the power and delivers very smooth shifts. Mitsubishi also fitted magnesium paddle shifters from the Evolution to have a bit of fun. While very cool and fun to use while driving, I don’t see many owners using them at all. And we get to final piece of the Outlander GT’s powertrain, the S-AWC system. S-AWC or Super All Wheel Control is one of Mitsubishi’s AWD systems that use a central differential to send power to whichever wheel to help improve traction. Also, S-AWC comes with a knob in the Outlander GT that changes the settings for the system for whatever weather conditions you find yourself in. The system has three settings; Tarmac, Snow, and Lock. The lock setting locks the central differential and provides increased traction for the worst conditions. This means the Outlander can actually go off-road unlike other crossovers. Fuel economy on the 3.0L is 19 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. My average for the week was a surprising 23.5 MPG. Next: Time to Drive Ride & Drive The Outlander GT was a bit of surprise on how much fun it was. The suspension is very firm and the steering is nicely weighted for enthusiastic driving. Combine those two items with the S-AWC system and six-speed automatic, and you have a very capable and fun crossover. However, that firm ride does mean you will feel every single bump and distortion out on the road. Also, those looking for quiet ride should look away from the Outlander GT. There is too much tire noise at any speed and an abundance of wind noise when on the freeway. Engine noise is minimal. Next: And the Verdict... Verdict Style over substance? That was how I was going to start the verdict of the Mitsubishi Outlander GT, but then I thought about and changed it to this: style with a little bit of substance over substance? Why? Well, besides having a distinct exterior and interior design, the Outlander GT does bring forth some very good items. Those include the S-AWC system, comfortable seating (except for the third row), and a fun drive. However, you need much more than style and some substance to make a vehicle standout in its class. And in the case of the Outlander GT, it falls flat. Certain things like the stiff ride can be fixed by ordering a different model than the GT. But other items like the interior quality and engine make the Outlander feel old and outclassed. Mitsubishi has shown a new Outlander at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year. Underneath the Outlander’s new sheetmetal lies a new vehicle architecture and will have the choice between gas and plug-in hybrid power. The new Outlander also gets revised interior and new safety equipment. The question is will the new Outlander be able to fix the problems of the current one? Cheers: Exterior and Interior Styling S-AWC System Seating Steering Interior Build Quality Jeers: Quality of materials Firm Ride on Streets and Expressway V6 Engine (Power) Navigation Unit (outdated interface) No Standard Bluetooth/Aux Jack For The Price Disclaimer: Mitsubishi provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year - 2012 Make – Mitsubishi Model – Outlander Trim – GT S-AWC Engine – 3.0 SOHC MIVEC V6 Driveline – All Wheel Drive, Six Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 230 @ 6250 Torque @ RPM - 215 @ 3750 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/25/21 Curb Weight – 3780 lbs Location of Manufacture – Mizushima, Japan Base Price - $27,895.00 As Tested Price - $33,605.00 (Includes $810.00 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
  23. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 7, 2012 Mitsubishi, a brand that was riding high in the early to mid-nineties with vehicles like the Eclipse, Galant, Montero, and Diamante has fallen into obscurity very rapidly. In the same time frame, the crossover utility vehicle has become the ubiquitous go-to car for many American shoppers. As arguably one of the mostly hotly competitive sales segments, Mitsubishi's challenge is to make a stand out vehicle for shoppers drowning in a sea of model names. To overcome this challenge, Mitsubishi has brought not one, but two distinct crossovers; the Outlander and Outlander Sport. But, does standing out help or hurt a crossover like the Outlander or Outlander Sport. To find out, a 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC was dropped off for a week long evaluation. Next: The Outside Story Exterior Mitsubishi’s most well known model in production is arguably the Lancer Evolution. As such, you can hardly blame Mitsubishi for taking that look and injecting it into the rest of their lineup. The GT’s front end appears to be directly lifted from the Evolution, with its large, bold grille and chrome bar running around the perimeter. A set of projector headlights and fog lights sit on either side. On the side, flared wheel arches conceal a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels, standard on the GT. The back end has angled d-pillars and chrome-like taillights. Another design consideration Mitsubishi made with the Outlander GT was practicality. That’s very evident with the spilt opening tailgate. The rear window flips up while the tailgate base flops down. In most cases, this design would make it harder to get items into the back of a vehicle. But Mitsubishi designers made the base as short as possible to make it a non-issue. Visually, the Outlander is an interesting mix of Lancer Evolution DNA blended with the practicality of a crossover. Next: Welcome to the Interior Interior At first glance, the Outlander GT scores very high with its interior. The design is very bold with a curved dash, and the use black and silver trim throughout. However, look and touch the interior a little bit closer and you realize there was some cost cutting. Opening the door to enter or exit the Outlander GT, you’ll notice the hollowness and tinny noise of the doors. This would be ok for a vehicle built in the 1980s, not for a vehicle built in 2012. Materials used throughout the vehicle range from ok stitched leather-like material to hollow, cheap plastics that are used in most parts of the dashboard. Build quality is mostly good, with no outrageous panel gaps or missing pieces. Our Outlander GT tester was equipped with a Navigation package that brought forth a five-inch touchscreen with a 40 GB hard drive for music storage and a backup camera. The interface and graphics felt a full decade behind the times and moving around was a pain due to the small buttons on either of the screen. Sound quality was a positive thanks to the 710-Watt Rockford Fosgate audio system which comes as part of the optional Premium package. Another disappointment was there was no standard Bluetooth or a USB/Aux jack in our test Outlander. Bluetooth is prewired and the buttons to use the system are on the steering wheel. Also, the only aux jacks in the vehicle were RCA jacks. The only way to get USB and Bluetooth is to order the FUSE Hands-free Link System. With an as tested price of $33,605, it is not unreasonable to expect all of these features to be included. As for comfort, the Outlander is a mixed bag depending on where you end up sitting. The front seats are soft, come heated, and provide a surprising amount of bolstering. The driver gets six-way adjustment and lumbar. The second row provides adjustment for recline and whether you want more legroom or cargo space. There is a third-row seat, but that is realistically for emergencies when you have to seat small kids. Trying to fit my 5’7 frame into the back seat was easier than expected. However, I wasn’t comfortable at all. Especially considering my knees were up to my nose. Next: A Peek Under the Hood Powertrain The Outlander comes with the choice of either a four-cylinder or V6 motor. Our Outlander GT was equipped with the 3.0L MIVEC V6 producing 230 HP and 215 lb-ft of torque. The power is sent through a six-speed automatic to all four wheels courtesy of Mitsubishi’s S-AWC system. Compared to its rivals, the Outlander GT is a bit down on power. That’s very evident when leaving a stop or making a pass as the V6 has to dig deep in RPMs to get the power. However the 3.0L V6 is very smooth, albeit a bit noisy. The six-speed automatic does its best to keep you in the power and delivers very smooth shifts. Mitsubishi also fitted magnesium paddle shifters from the Evolution to have a bit of fun. While very cool and fun to use while driving, I don’t see many owners using them at all. And we get to final piece of the Outlander GT’s powertrain, the S-AWC system. S-AWC or Super All Wheel Control is one of Mitsubishi’s AWD systems that use a central differential to send power to whichever wheel to help improve traction. Also, S-AWC comes with a knob in the Outlander GT that changes the settings for the system for whatever weather conditions you find yourself in. The system has three settings; Tarmac, Snow, and Lock. The lock setting locks the central differential and provides increased traction for the worst conditions. This means the Outlander can actually go off-road unlike other crossovers. Fuel economy on the 3.0L is 19 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. My average for the week was a surprising 23.5 MPG. Next: Time to Drive Ride & Drive The Outlander GT was a bit of surprise on how much fun it was. The suspension is very firm and the steering is nicely weighted for enthusiastic driving. Combine those two items with the S-AWC system and six-speed automatic, and you have a very capable and fun crossover. However, that firm ride does mean you will feel every single bump and distortion out on the road. Also, those looking for quiet ride should look away from the Outlander GT. There is too much tire noise at any speed and an abundance of wind noise when on the freeway. Engine noise is minimal. Next: And the Verdict... Verdict Style over substance? That was how I was going to start the verdict of the Mitsubishi Outlander GT, but then I thought about and changed it to this: style with a little bit of substance over substance? Why? Well, besides having a distinct exterior and interior design, the Outlander GT does bring forth some very good items. Those include the S-AWC system, comfortable seating (except for the third row), and a fun drive. However, you need much more than style and some substance to make a vehicle standout in its class. And in the case of the Outlander GT, it falls flat. Certain things like the stiff ride can be fixed by ordering a different model than the GT. But other items like the interior quality and engine make the Outlander feel old and outclassed. Mitsubishi has shown a new Outlander at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year. Underneath the Outlander’s new sheetmetal lies a new vehicle architecture and will have the choice between gas and plug-in hybrid power. The new Outlander also gets revised interior and new safety equipment. The question is will the new Outlander be able to fix the problems of the current one? Cheers: Exterior and Interior Styling S-AWC System Seating Steering Interior Build Quality Jeers: Quality of materials Firm Ride on Streets and Expressway V6 Engine (Power) Navigation Unit (outdated interface) No Standard Bluetooth/Aux Jack For The Price Disclaimer: Mitsubishi provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year - 2012 Make – Mitsubishi Model – Outlander Trim – GT S-AWC Engine – 3.0 SOHC MIVEC V6 Driveline – All Wheel Drive, Six Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 230 @ 6250 Torque @ RPM - 215 @ 3750 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/25/21 Curb Weight – 3780 lbs Location of Manufacture – Mizushima, Japan Base Price - $27,895.00 As Tested Price - $33,605.00 (Includes $810.00 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.
  24. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com July 3, 2012 2011 was a tumultuous year for the Chevrolet Volt: sales didn't meet the high expectations set by General Motors, dealers had problems trying to get them off their lot, and then there was the battery fires which prompted a recall and a congressional hearing. 2012 so far is turning out to be a much better year for the Volt. Currently, the Volt is outselling Chevrolet's other halo car, the Corvette. (7,057 Volts vs. 5,547 Corvettes) and is on track to hit 20,000 units before the end of the year. It seemed like a perfect time to revisit the Volt and wonder if it could reach the 20,000 mark. Has anything changed since the last time the Volt visited the C&G Garage? The big news for the 2012 Volt was a price drop to $39,995 (includes a $850 destination charge). To accomplish that, Chevrolet removed some of the standard features for the 2011 model and made them options. If you want your 2012 Volt to be like the 2011 model, you will have to pony up some more money. Also, the 2012 Volt comes with option of Chevrolet's MyLink Infotainment which adds the ability of playing Pandora and Stitcher internet radio. Other than that, the Volt is pretty much the same. Next: The Exterior & Interior So, the exterior is the same? Since its last visit to the Cheers and Gears garage in February 2011, the Volt's exterior hasn't changed much. The front end features a fascia that is integrated well into the hood and front fenders to help improve aerodynamics. Also, the front end features a closed shield grill and projector headlights that extend into the front fenders. The side profile shows off the Volt's aerodynamic shape very well and features a chrome strip running underneath the windows. The Volt's back end is tall and has a squared off shape that is hidden by a spoiler. And the Interior? Also unchanged. Stepping into the Volt for the first time feels like you have entered the future. The Volt's instrument cluster says farewell to analog gauges and uses a large LCD screen to display all of the necessary information clearly. The center stack is mostly comprised of capacitive-touch controls that are simple to use, except in direct sunlight where its difficult to figure out which button does what. Sitting on top of the stack is a LCD touchscreen that handles climate, audio, economy information, and the optional navigation system. One thing that could upset buyers about the Volt are some of the materials used for the dash. The center stack and certain parts of the interior use hard plastics. Even though the plastics are nicely grained and help cut down on weight, some buyers would expect better quality materials for the price. As for interior space, the Volt has enough headroom for both front and rear seat passengers. Legroom does come at premium, especially for the back seat passengers due to the placement of the battery. Next: Powertrain, Fuel Economy, Charging, and Verdict. What about the powertrain? How does it drive? The Volt comes equipped with an electric motor delivering 111 kW (149 HP) and 368 lb-ft of torque. The electric power comes from a large 5.5 ft., 435 lb., t-shaped 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that is mounted in the middle of the vehicle. The final piece of the Volt's powertrain is a 84 HP 1.4L engine acting as a generator once you deplete the battery, giving you an extra 300 miles. Driving the Volt is like driving any other vehicle, albeit with barely any engine noise. Acceleration is very surprising due to low end torque of the electric motor. Getting up to speed on freeway onramps or leaving a stoplight was no problem for the Volt. The transition from the Volt running on electric power alone, to using the gas engine is very seamless. The only giveaways that the transition has happened are the battery gauge changing to a gas gauge in the gauge screen and the slight hum from the 1.4L engine. The Volt's handling is very planted, likely due to the placement of the 435 lb. battery. But it's also tuned for comfort, floating along the rough surfaces that dot the Detroit area. If you're expecting a quiet ride, you'll get it under 50 MPH. Over 50 MPH and you'll be able to make out road noise, especially in the back. Steering also follows the comfort route, feeling light and somewhat "numb". Fuel Economy? The EPA rates the Volt at 95 City/93 Highway/94 Combined on EV power and 35 City/40 Highway/37 Combined when the gasoline engine kicks on. My average for the time I had the Volt was around 50 MPG. I'm betting the average would be higher if I had not taken a 100 Mile round-trip on the freeway and the battery only having a 20 Mile charge. Once the battery was depleted and the gas engine kicked in, the averaged dropped from 50 MPG to the low to mid 40's. If you want the max fuel economy out of your Volt, stay within the 40 Mile EV range. How long did it take to charge the battery? Chevrolet says to charge a depleted Volt battery takes about four hours with the 240V charger or ten to twelve hours when using the 120V charger. I matched the ten to twelve hours charge time for a depleted battery. As for when the battery is about halfway used, charging time is about five to six hours. And the verdict? The Volt appears to have survived its first year with some minor bumps and bruises. The press about the fires and poor sales seem to be going away. In its place are the positives of the Volt; the quietness of the powertrain, extended range provided by the gas engine, and driving like a normal car. Some will balk at the high price and not getting that many luxuries. But with the Volt, you're buying it for the technologies. If you want luxuries, there's the Cadillac ELR coming in 2014. The Chevrolet Volt solves one of the biggest problems plaguing electric vehicles; range anxiety. And people are beginning to take notice. Can it reach 20,000 sales? The answer looks to be yes. Before I end this review, I need to make a note about electric vehicles in general. At this present time, electric vehicles aren't quite ready for primetime, but they're getting close. The problems are still price and battery capacity. The Volt might be the best comprise for an electric car, but it still falls into the price problem as other EVs. Electric vehicles are for small audience, despite almost everyone wanting one. If you really have your heart set on an electric vehicle, be prepared to ask some difficult questions and doing some homework on your driving habits. Because that could make difference owning an electric or making an expensive mistake. Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year - 2012 Make - Chevrolet Model - Volt Trim - N/A Engine - 1.4L Four-Cylinder, Voltec Electric Drive System Driveline - Front Wheel Drive, Automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 149 HP Torque @ RPM - 368 @ 0 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 95 City/93 Highway/94 Combined (EV Power), 35 City/40 Highway/37 Combined (Range Extender) Curb Weight - 3781 lbs Location of Manufacture - Detroit, Michigan Base Price - $39,145.00 As Tested Price - $44,970.00 (Includes $850.00 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 July 3, 2012 2011 was a tumultuous year for the Chevrolet Volt: sales didn't meet the high expectations set by General Motors, dealers had problems trying to get them off their lot, and then there was the battery fires which prompted a recall and a congressional hearing. 2012 so far is turning out to be a much better year for the Volt. Currently, the Volt is outselling Chevrolet's other halo car, the Corvette. (7,057 Volts vs. 5,547 Corvettes) and is on track to hit 20,000 units before the end of the year. It seemed like a perfect time to revisit the Volt and wonder if it could reach the 20,000 mark. Has anything changed since the last time the Volt visited the C&G Garage? The big news for the 2012 Volt was a price drop to $39,995 (includes a $850 destination charge). To accomplish that, Chevrolet removed some of the standard features for the 2011 model and made them options. If you want your 2012 Volt to be like the 2011 model, you will have to pony up some more money. Also, the 2012 Volt comes with option of Chevrolet's MyLink Infotainment which adds the ability of playing Pandora and Stitcher internet radio. Other than that, the Volt is pretty much the same. Next: The Exterior & Interior So, the exterior is the same? Since its last visit to the Cheers and Gears garage in February 2011, the Volt's exterior hasn't changed much. The front end features a fascia that is integrated well into the hood and front fenders to help improve aerodynamics. Also, the front end features a closed shield grill and projector headlights that extend into the front fenders. The side profile shows off the Volt's aerodynamic shape very well and features a chrome strip running underneath the windows. The Volt's back end is tall and has a squared off shape that is hidden by a spoiler. And the Interior? Also unchanged. Stepping into the Volt for the first time feels like you have entered the future. The Volt's instrument cluster says farewell to analog gauges and uses a large LCD screen to display all of the necessary information clearly. The center stack is mostly comprised of capacitive-touch controls that are simple to use, except in direct sunlight where its difficult to figure out which button does what. Sitting on top of the stack is a LCD touchscreen that handles climate, audio, economy information, and the optional navigation system. One thing that could upset buyers about the Volt are some of the materials used for the dash. The center stack and certain parts of the interior use hard plastics. Even though the plastics are nicely grained and help cut down on weight, some buyers would expect better quality materials for the price. As for interior space, the Volt has enough headroom for both front and rear seat passengers. Legroom does come at premium, especially for the back seat passengers due to the placement of the battery. Next: Powertrain, Fuel Economy, Charging, and Verdict. What about the powertrain? How does it drive? The Volt comes equipped with an electric motor delivering 111 kW (149 HP) and 368 lb-ft of torque. The electric power comes from a large 5.5 ft., 435 lb., t-shaped 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that is mounted in the middle of the vehicle. The final piece of the Volt's powertrain is a 84 HP 1.4L engine acting as a generator once you deplete the battery, giving you an extra 300 miles. Driving the Volt is like driving any other vehicle, albeit with barely any engine noise. Acceleration is very surprising due to low end torque of the electric motor. Getting up to speed on freeway onramps or leaving a stoplight was no problem for the Volt. The transition from the Volt running on electric power alone, to using the gas engine is very seamless. The only giveaways that the transition has happened are the battery gauge changing to a gas gauge in the gauge screen and the slight hum from the 1.4L engine. The Volt's handling is very planted, likely due to the placement of the 435 lb. battery. But it's also tuned for comfort, floating along the rough surfaces that dot the Detroit area. If you're expecting a quiet ride, you'll get it under 50 MPH. Over 50 MPH and you'll be able to make out road noise, especially in the back. Steering also follows the comfort route, feeling light and somewhat "numb". Fuel Economy? The EPA rates the Volt at 95 City/93 Highway/94 Combined on EV power and 35 City/40 Highway/37 Combined when the gasoline engine kicks on. My average for the time I had the Volt was around 50 MPG. I'm betting the average would be higher if I had not taken a 100 Mile round-trip on the freeway and the battery only having a 20 Mile charge. Once the battery was depleted and the gas engine kicked in, the averaged dropped from 50 MPG to the low to mid 40's. If you want the max fuel economy out of your Volt, stay within the 40 Mile EV range. How long did it take to charge the battery? Chevrolet says to charge a depleted Volt battery takes about four hours with the 240V charger or ten to twelve hours when using the 120V charger. I matched the ten to twelve hours charge time for a depleted battery. As for when the battery is about halfway used, charging time is about five to six hours. And the verdict? The Volt appears to have survived its first year with some minor bumps and bruises. The press about the fires and poor sales seem to be going away. In its place are the positives of the Volt; the quietness of the powertrain, extended range provided by the gas engine, and driving like a normal car. Some will balk at the high price and not getting that many luxuries. But with the Volt, you're buying it for the technologies. If you want luxuries, there's the Cadillac ELR coming in 2014. The Chevrolet Volt solves one of the biggest problems plaguing electric vehicles; range anxiety. And people are beginning to take notice. Can it reach 20,000 sales? The answer looks to be yes. Before I end this review, I need to make a note about electric vehicles in general. At this present time, electric vehicles aren't quite ready for primetime, but they're getting close. The problems are still price and battery capacity. The Volt might be the best comprise for an electric car, but it still falls into the price problem as other EVs. Electric vehicles are for small audience, despite almost everyone wanting one. If you really have your heart set on an electric vehicle, be prepared to ask some difficult questions and doing some homework on your driving habits. Because that could make difference owning an electric or making an expensive mistake. Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year - 2012 Make - Chevrolet Model - Volt Trim - N/A Engine - 1.4L Four-Cylinder, Voltec Electric Drive System Driveline - Front Wheel Drive, Automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 149 HP Torque @ RPM - 368 @ 0 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 95 City/93 Highway/94 Combined (EV Power), 35 City/40 Highway/37 Combined (Range Extender) Curb Weight - 3781 lbs Location of Manufacture - Detroit, Michigan Base Price - $39,145.00 As Tested Price - $44,970.00 (Includes $850.00 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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