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  1. Even though electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles are still outliers in the automotive marketplace, 2013 saw a massive increase in sales. The Detroit News reports that the sales of electrics and plug-in hybrid vehicles increased 84 percent to just over 96,000 vehicles according to data from Wards Automotive. Of that total, 47,600 were electric vehicles, representing a 241 percent increase when compared to 2012. The remainder was plug-in hybrids, up 27 percent. Some of the increase can be attributed to improving battery technology and the massive increase of sales for the Tesla Model S. But what really helped sales of electric and plug-in vehicles was price cuts. Nearly every automaker who sells one has cut the price tag and most have seen increases in sales. The Detroit News also points out electrics and plug-in vehicles could have hard time this year with gas prices projected to be lower than in past years. Source: The Detroit News 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. Author's Note: With 2013 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, we've decided to clear out the remaining 2013 vehicle reviews this week. Everyday a new review will appear on the front page. If you miss one day, don't worry, we'll have links to the previous reviews just below. -WM Monday: Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Tuesday: Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Wednesday: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD Thursday: Toyota Land Cruiser Toyota's hybrid lineup here in the U.S. covers both extremes. On one end is the Toyota Prius c, the cheapest and most fuel efficient hybrid model in the lineup. On the other end is the Lexus LS 600h L, the pinnacle of Toyota and Lexus engineering. Here is a model that is the most powerful hybrid that is on sale and the most expensive one as well. The 2013 LS 600h L starts off at $119,910. Let's dive into an alternate reality and figure out whether or not LS 600h L is worth the coin or not. 2013 saw Lexus giving the LS lineup a bit of a facelift to make it look more dynamic. Up front, the now common spindle grille has been fitted and features a metal slat insert with chrome trim running along the outer edge. A new set of LED headlights sit on either side of the grille. The side profile retains the greenhouse as seen on the 2006 model, but now features chrome trim along the sills and a set of nineteen-inch wheels. The back end gets a bit of a nip and tuck, along with a set of LED lights. Now the L in the LS 600h L means that this model is a long-wheelbase. A standard LS has a length of 200 inches and rides on a wheelbase of 116.9 inches. The LS 600h L has a length of 205 inches and rides on a wheelbase of 121.7 inches, increases of 5 and 4.8 inches respectively. The only way you can tell that you're looking at the long-wheelbase LS besides parking it next to a standard LS is looking at the longer rear door. The LS 600h L's interior is a lesson in how to build one that is very luxurious and elegant. Materials are all high-quality choices ranging from cream leather on the seats and dash to real wood trim along the door panels and dash board. The front seats have to be the most comfortable I have ever sat in with the balance between comfort and firmness being just right. There are a number of adjustments available via the sixteen-way power seat and power adjustable seatbelt to make yourself fit right in. The center stack features a high-resolution 12.3 inch screen and houses Lexus' Enform infotainment system. Much like the GS 350 F-Sport I drove earlier this year, the LS 600h L's screen is divided into two parts. The majority of the screen is dedicated to navigation, media, climate, and trip information. The remaining part is dedicated to what's playing and climate. I really like this setup and hope more automakers who put bigger screens into vehicles consider this. What I don't like about the infotainment system is Lexus' Remote Touch. As I have said before in the RX 350 and GS 350 reviews, the system is good in theory, but in the real world it falls flat. The joystick controller is finicky to use, and you have to pay close attention to make sure the cursor is over the item you want and not something else. On the move, the problems are exacerbated since you have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you are going into the selection you want. There is some hope though as Lexus revealed a new Remote Touch system in the upcoming RC coupe that features a touchpad and not a joystick. I can only hope that this version makes its way into other Lexus vehicles. If you think the front is impressive, you haven't seen what's in store for the back seat passengers. For starters, the extra length gives you loads of legroom to stretch out and relax. This particular tester came equipped with the Executive-Class Seating Package. For the asking price of $7,555.00 , the LS 600h L becomes a vehicle you want to be driven in and not drive. This package nets you the following: Adjustable Rear Seats (Backseat passenger gets an ottoman) Heated, Cooled, and Massaging Seats Blu-Ray Entertainment system Controls for media and climate control system Electric Sun Shades Pop-Up Table Cool Box With this package, it's a fight of who gets to sit back here. Anyone can find a comfortable position in the back thanks to the number of adjustments on offer. The ottoman is more of a gimmick than something you'll actually use since there isn't enough space to fully have it up, even with the front passenger seat moved all the way forward. Other features such as the sun shades and blue-ray player are nice and make the experience of riding in this car magical. Your Seat is Waiting See the next page for powertrain and driving impressions. Under the hood of the LS 600h L is the most powerful version of Lexus' Hybrid Synergy Drive system. A 5.0L V8 engine with 389 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque is paired with a 165 kW electric motor. Total output stands at 438 horsepower. A Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack provides the power to the electric motor. Lexus employs a CVT to get the power down to all four wheels. Despite the LS 600h L weighing 5,202 pounds, the powertrain is more than capable of getting this off the line quickly. As I was told at the launch of the 2013 LS, the hybrid powertrain has the power delivery of a V12 engine and I can attest that it does. Power comes on very smooth and effortless. If you decide to floor the pedal, you're rewarded with the LS 600h L moving like a bat of out of hell. As for the CVT, it is very smooth and unobtrusive. For a few times, I thought I was driving an automatic and not a CVT. The only giveaway that you are driving a CVT is the pitch of the transmission getting louder and louder if you floor the pedal. Being a hybrid vehicle, you would expect amazing fuel economy coming from this big sedan. But in the case of the the LS 600h L, that isn't true at all. The EPA rates the 2013 LS 600h L at 19 City/23 Highway/20 Combined. To put that into perspective, the the 2013 LS 460 L with AWD is rated at 16 City/23 Highway/18 Combined. Not that much improvement compared to the standard gas model. Somehow I was able to get an average of 22 MPG for the week. Ride and handling duties are done with an air suspension and Lexus' Drive Mode Selector. For the LS 600h L, you have the choice of six different modes: Normal: Standard throttle mapping and suspension tuning, gearshifts tuned for comfort. Comfort: Softens Suspension Tuning Eco: Slower throttle mapping, reduced operation of the climate control EV Mode: Allows a vehicle to travel on electric power for a short distance Sport: Quicker throttle mapping, stiffer suspension tuning Sport+: Much quicker throttle mapping, even stiffer suspension tuning, heavier steering, number of powertrain enhancements Now I only tried Sport and Sport+ briefly in the LS 600h L and wondered why these setting were even put in. There is a noticeable difference in the stiffness of the suspension and throttle response, but trying to push around a vehicle that has an overall length of 205 inches isn't a good idea at all. The passengers in the back seat who are getting flung around would agree with this. Where's the Rinse Cycle? Instead, I found myself switching between Normal, Comfort, and Eco for the week and being surprised at how comfortable this vehicle can be. In Normal or Eco, the air suspension isolates bumps and kinks on the road. In Comfort, the suspension takes that a step further, proving a ride that feels like you're driving on glass. Wind and road noise in the cabin are non-existent. As for the LS 600h L's steering, it has a surprising amount of weight and feel. I was expecting the steering to be light and have no feel. Not so in the LS and I appreciated that very much. After spending a week in the alternate-reality field of the LS 600h L, I have come to this conclusion: most reviews of the LS 600h L focus on the hybrid part and say that for fuel economy improvements the hybrid system offers, the LS 600h L doesn't make any real sense and you would better off with the standard LS 460 L or a competitor. I would agree with this, but I think the LS 600h L needs to be looked in a different light. The LS 600h L wasn't built for to be driven in. It was built for those who want be driven and not have everyone notice you. That's where the LS 600h L succeeds. I just wonder how many people who fit this classification exist. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LS 600h L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2013 Make: Lexus Model: LS 600h L Trim: N/A Engine: Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive: 5.0L 32-Valve V8 with VVT-iE, 650 Volt Electric Motor, Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) Battery Pack Driveline: All-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: (Gas) 389 @ 6,400; (Electric) 221 @ 0; (Combined) 434 Torque @ RPM: (Gas) 385 @ 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/23/20 Curb Weight: 5,202 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $119,110.00 As Tested Price: $135,029.00 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) Options: Executive-Class Seating Package - $7,555.00 Advance Pre-Collision System - $6,500.00 Trunk Mat - $105.00 Cargo Net - $64.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  3. Author's Note: With 2013 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, we've decided to clear out the remaining 2013 vehicle reviews this week. Everyday a new review will appear on the front page. If you miss one day, don't worry, we'll have links to the previous reviews just below. -WM Monday: Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Tuesday: Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Wednesday: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD Friday: Lexus LS 600h L In this age of crossovers, the Toyota Land Cruiser is a bit of dinosaur. It rides on a ladder-frame and not a uni-body platform. Power comes from a big V8 engine and not a downsized V6 with turbochargers. It features a full-time four-wheel drive system with a load of off-road technologies but not an all-wheel drive system. There has to be a reason why the Land Cruiser exists. After spending a week in one, I might have the reason. The Land Cruiser's exterior can trace its roots back to the 1998 model as the two models share an overall profile. The front end is slightly angled and features a large grille and headlights with LEDs. Along the side are embellished front and rear fenders that have a set of five-spoke eighteen-inch wheels wrapped in meaty off-road tires sitting underneath. There is also a large glass area and chrome trim along the door panels. The back end has a split opening tailgate and more chrome trim pieces. Compared to its contemporaries (Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz GL), the Land Cruiser is somewhat plain looking.Inside, the decision was made to have durability as the priority, followed by luxury. This is very clear when looking at the materials used as most can be classified as hard and plastic. The wood trim seen in the photos is described by Toyota as "wood-grain-style trim". Now for what the Land Cruiser costs ($79,728 as tested), I was expecting a bit more luxury. But after giving it some thought and taking into account what the Land Cruiser is built for (tackling the Amazon rainforest for example), I'm ok with the decisions since the materials will last a long time and are easy to clean up. The seating arrangement in the Land Cruiser is for eight people which is somewhat surprising since it is smaller than the largest Toyota SUV, the Sequoia. Compared to the Sequoia, the Land Cruiser rides on a wheelbase that 9.8 inches shorter and overall length is 10.2 inches shorter. The front features two bucket seats with power adjustments and heat. I found the seats mostly comfortable, though I was wishing for more thigh support. The second row features seating for three people via a bench seat. Head and legroom is excellent and there is heat for the seats. The third row is a different story. To begin, the seats are folded up like jump seats that you might find in a military airplane. Once the seats are folded down and put yourself back there, you find out that legroom is non-existent and the seating position isn't comfortable at all. One of the saving graces of the Land Cruiser has to be the amount of equipment that comes standard. There is four-zone climate control, six-inch touchscreen with Toyota's Entune infotainment system, navigation, 14-speaker JBL premium sound system, privacy glass, auto-dimming mirrors, and smart key access. How do I get the seats down? For impressions on the powertrain and ride, see the next page. Under the hood is a 5.7L V8 engine that is also used in the Lexus LX 570 (sister SUV), Toyota Sequoia, and Tundra pickup. This engine produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic gets the power to all four wheels via full-time four-wheel drive system. To say I was bit concerned about how the engine would fare is a understatement. The Land Cruiser tips the scales at 5,730 pounds and I was thinking that the V8 wouldn't have the oomph to move it. I shouldn't have thought that as the V8 is more than capable of moving it. Acceleration is very brisk and I never had the feeling that more power was needed at all. As an added bonus, the 5.7L is muted when at idle and utters a murmured growled when climbing the rev range. The six-speed automatic is smooth going through the gears and didn't show any signs of gear hunting. For the 2013 model year, Toyota decided to ante up the Land Cruiser's off-road credentials. First is the introduction of the Multi-Terrain Select system that modulates the amount of wheelspin to help get the vehicle though varying terrain conditions. The other addition is CRAWL Control with an Off-Road Turn Assist. This system allows the driver to choose from five different settings that regulates acceleration (going forward or backwards) and braking to let a driver focus on getting the vehicle through rough or steep grades. This system also utilizes the hill decent control and accent control. Sadly I didn't get the chance to try any of these systems out during my time with the Land Crusier.Now with a big V8 engine and a full-time four-wheel drive system, the Land Cruiser has no problem sucking down gas. The EPA rates the Land Cruiser at 13 City/18 Highway/15 Combined. My average for the week landed at 15 MPG. For the suspension, Toyota employs a double-wishbone setup with gas shocks and a hollow stabilizer bar for the front, and a four-link, coil-spring with lateral-rod setup in the rear. Toyota also employs a system called Kinetic Dynamic Suspension which uses hydraulic cylinders to put pressure on the swaybars to increase or decrease the stiffness. On-road, the system increases pressure to help reduce body roll when cornering. Off-road, the system reduces pressure to increase wheel travel. The Land Cruiser's on-road ride is better than I was expecting. On smooth and rough surfaces, the Land Cruise glides along effortlessly. Road noise is non-existent and wind noise is kept at a decent level. Show the Land Cruiser a corner and you'll have a feeling of motion sickness. There is noticeable body roll and lean when going around corners. All large SUVs exhibit this, but most competitors do a much better job of reducing roll. Look Mom, I'm off-roading! The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser is very old school in many ways, but there is a reason for it. The Land Cruiser has a reputation of being a vehicle that can take you anywhere. In that regard, it makes sense why Toyota made certain decisions for this model. If you are looking for a vehicle to get you across the Sahara desert or the Rocky Mountains, there is no better choice than the Land Cruiser. But if you're looking for a SUV to just drive around and not go off-road, the Land Cruiser is just too much 'SUV' for that. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Land Cruiser, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2013 Make: Toyota Model: Land Cruiser Trim: N/A Engine: 5.7L, 32-valve DOHC V8 with dual independent VVT-i Driveline: Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 381 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/18/15 Curb Weight: 5,730 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toyota City, Japan Base Price: $78,555.00 As Tested Price: $79,728.00 (Includes $845.00 Destination Charge) Options: All-Weather Floor & Cargo Mats - $250.00 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.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  4. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com December 18, 2013 Author's Note: With 2013 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, we've decided to clear out the remaining 2013 vehicle reviews this week. Everyday a new review will appear on the front page. If you miss one day, don't worry, we'll have links to the previous reviews just below. -WM Monday: Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Tuesday: Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Thursday: Toyota Land Cruiser Friday: Lexus LS 600h L A few weeks ago, I reviewed the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and really came away impressed. Now I was wondering how the larger brother, the 2013 Santa Fe would fare. Well I have an answer to that as I spent a week in the 2013 Santa Fe Limited AWD. Explaining the styling of the Santa Fe is pretty simple. Take a Santa Fe Sport and stretch out like taffy: Voilà, you have the Santa Fe. Compared to the Sport, the 2013 Santa Fe rides on a wheelbase that is 3.9 inches longer and overall length is 8.5 inches longer. Aside from different measurements, the models share many design cues. The front end features a large grille that I found to be almost too big and a set of distinctly-shaped headlights. The side profile reveals body sculpting, a bold character line, and a set of nineteen-inch alloy wheels. Compared to the Veracruz, Hyundai's first attempt at a seven-seat crossover, the new Santa Fe looks much more stylish. The story inside for the Santa Fe is almost similar to the Santa Fe Sport. It is a pleasant place to be with lots of soft touch materials along the door panels and dashboard. A couple pieces of wood trim along the dash add a nice contrasting touch. However a couple areas in the Santa Fe such as the release for the center console lid showed signs of wear and made me wonder about some of the materials used. Now this being a media car, I know they have a rough and tumble life. But with this Santa Fe having just under 7,000 miles and showing signs of wear, it makes me wonder what this vehicle would be like in a few years time.The center stack is comprised of a large eight-inch touchscreen that comes as part of the $2,900 Technology Package that includes navigation and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system. As I said before, Hyundai's infotainment system has to be one of the fastest systems on the marketplace today. It also is one the easiest to use with a simple interface and large touch points. If you don't opt for the tech package, a 4.3-inch screen sits in that space and looks a bit odd. Underneath are controls for the HVAC system which are easy to understand and use. There is an odd thing about the seating arrangement in the Santa Fe lineup. The base GLS trim only comes with seating for seven-people via a second-row bench, while the Limited trim comes with seating for six thanks to two captain chairs. You can't option for six seats in the GLS or seven in the Limited. I'm wondering why Hyundai decided to give only one choice dependent on the trim. My best guess? Keep it simple. Comfort wise, head and legroom are excellent for the second-row. The third-row is best reserved for small kids or folded into the floor to expand cargo space from 13.5 Cubic Feet to 40.9 Cubic Feet. See the next page for thoughts on the powertrain and ride. Under the hood is Hyundai's 3.3L GDI V6 engine with 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. This is mated to a six-speed automatic to either the front wheels or our tester's optional all-wheel drive system. As I have said previously on the 3.3L V6, it moves any vehicle with authority. The Santa Fe is no exception. This engine is also very refined with not much noise coming from the engine bay. The six-speed automatic is quick on up and downshifts, and provides a seamless transition between them. Fuel economy wise, the 2013 Santa Fe with AWD is rated by the EPA at 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. My average for the week landed around 21 MPG.The suspension duties are taken up by a set of MacPherson struts up front and a compact multi-link independent setup at the rear. This setup provides a very comfortable ride with most bumps and imperfections being ironed out. Take into consideration that this Santa Fe was equipped with the nineteen-inch alloy wheels and this suspension setup is more impressive. Hyundai has fitted the Santa Fe with their Driver-Selectable Steering Modes which can vary the steering weight from light (Comfort) to heavy (Sport). As I have said previously, I don't like this system since Comfort and Sport are on the extreme ends and really doesn't improve the driving experience. I found myself leaving it in normal and being happy with it. Much like the Santa Fe Sport, I found myself being impressed with the Santa Fe. Hyundai focused on the key areas that many buyers are looking for in a crossover; value for money, space, and comfort. This would be a crossover I would recommend to anyone. There is a 'but' to this review. As I said earlier, this Santa Fe showed signs of wear and tear at such a low amount of miles which makes me question some of the material choices and therefore quality. I'm wondering if this was a fluke and other Santa Fes don't show signs like this. If so, I would say Hyundai has done an excellent job on the Santa Fe and its worth a look. If not, then I think it's time for Hyundai to be asking some tough questions. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Santa Fe Limited, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2013 Make: Hyundai Model: Santa Fe Trim: Limited AWD Engine: 3.3L GDI DOHC 24-valve V6 Driveline: All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 252 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/24/20 Curb Weight: 4,297 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, Korea Base Price: $34,850.00 As Tested Price: $38,730.00 (Includes $845.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $2,900.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  5. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com December 17, 2013 Author's Note: With 2013 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, we've decided to clear out the remaining 2013 vehicle reviews this week. Everyday a new review will appear on the front page. If you miss one day, don't worry, we'll have links to the previous reviews just below. -WM Monday: Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Wednesday: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD Thursday: Toyota Land Cruiser Friday: Lexus LS 600h L The compact crossover marketplace has become one of the most crowded and contested in the automotive world. It seems a month doesn't go by without news of a new or redesigned compact crossover. Automakers are trying to differentiate their crossovers by going somewhat daring with their designs, making them fun to drive, filling them with tech, and other items. But there is one thing some automakers can play to their advantage, name recognition. No one is more apparent of this than Toyota. The automaker is patient zero of the compact crossover marketplace with the RAV4, first introduced back in 1996. For the past three-generations, the RAV4 has been one of the best selling compact crossovers in the U.S. This past year saw Toyota introduce the latest-generation of the RAV4. The question of course is whether in light of fresh competition, can the RAV4 retain its title of being one of the best sellers? With the fourth-generation RAV4, Toyota made drastic changes to the design. The most notable one is around back with Toyota retiring the swing-out tailgate and spare-tire carrier. Instead, the 2013 RAV4 features a standard liftgate with large taillights and a rear spoiler sitting on top. Moving to the front, the RAV4 has a new front clip with a split grille layout and chrome accent bars running into the headlights. Along the side, designers did some sculpting and added a bit of a downward slope to the roofline. A final touch for the RAV4's design is body cladding along the bottom of the entire vehicle. Much like C&G's Managing Editor Drew Dowdell said in his quick drive of the RAV4, I wasn't too keen on the design at first, but it has grown on me since then.Moving inside, the RAV4 features a mix of good and bad ideas. The good ideas start with an improved dashboard that features a leather-like material and stitching. There's also a color touchscreen radio that is standard across the range and can be equipped with the user-friendly Entune infotainment system with navigation on the XLE and Limited. While the graphics look somewhat dated compared to competitors, the interface is very intuitive. Other good ideas for the RAV4 include in airy cabin thanks to large amount of glass in the vehicle. The back seat provides comfortable seating for two people despite them being somewhat firmer than the ones up front. Cargo Space in the RAV4 is best in class with 38.4 Cubic Feet with the rear seats up and 73.4 Cubic Feet with the rear seats down. The bad ideas in the RAV4 begin with other materials used inside. Hard plastics are very noticeable all around the interior from the door panels to the center console. Certain pieces of interior are finished faux 'carbon fiber' looking trim which looks completely out of place. That trim also appears to have issues with quality as it looked pretty scratched up in this 10,000 mile example. Also, I wish Toyota would give the navigation system a dedicated button on the radio and not have it buried in the Apps section of the system. No Toyota. Just No. To find out how the RAV4's powertrain and suspension fared, see the next page. Only one engine is available, a 2.5L four-cylinder with 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic comes standard, while the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive is available. My tester came with the all-wheel drive system. Despite having the lowest numbers powertrain-wise in the class, the RAV4 doesn't feel like it at all. This is due to the six-speed automatic which is smart enough to keep the four-cylinder right in the sweet spot of the power band. You also have the choice of two different drive modes. ECO dulls the throttle response and limits the output of the climate control system. I only tried this setting a couple of times and didn't particular like it at all since it makes the four-cylinder feel very sluggish, like it's trying to move a vehicle that's three times heavier than the RAV4. Then there is Sport which improves the throttle response and quickens the shifts from the six-speed automatic. It does improve the performance and driving fun of the RAV4 somewhat.Fuel economy-wise, the EPA rates the 2013 RAV4 AWD at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. My average for the week landed around 22 MPG. On the ride-and-handling front, the RAV4 sits right in the middle. The suspension is comprised of a MacPherson strut setup in the front and a double wishbone coil spring setup in the back that provided a very comfortable ride which was able to absorb bumps and imperfections. In the corners, the RAV4 feels confident around the corners and body roll is kept in check. While it's no match for the Mazda CX-5 in driving fun, the RAV4 should fill the role of being a crossover that gets you from point a to b with no problem. One area I wish Toyota would work on is minimizing the amount of road and engine noise coming into the cabin. Much like Drew in his conclusion of the RAV4, I have to say the RAV4 is just right. The total package from the powertrain to the list of standard equipment should help keep the RAV4 up there in the best selling compact crossovers. But I have to wonder this: What if Toyota gave the RAV4 a bit more time in development? Would it look somewhat like the Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5?Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the RAV4, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Year: 2013 Make: Toyota Model: RAV4 Trim: XLE AWD Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder with VTT-i Driveline: All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 176 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 172 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/29/25 Curb Weight: 3,585 lbs Location of Manufacture: Woodstock, Ontario Base Price: $25,690.00 As Tested Price: $28,552.00 (Includes $845.00 Destination Charge) Options: Display Audio with Navigation and Entune - $1,030.00 Running Boards - $549.00 Roof Rack Cross Bars - $229.00 Body Side Molding - $209.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  6. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com December 16, 2013 Author's Note: With 2013 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, we've decided to clear out the remaining 2013 vehicle reviews this week. Everyday a new review will appear on the front page. If you miss one day, don't worry, we'll have links to the previous reviews just below. -WM Tuesday: Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Wednesday: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD Thursday: Toyota Land Cruiser Friday: Lexus LS 600h L During the life of the third-generation Nissan Maxima, the automaker created a new SE model that featured a 160 horsepower V6 engine (up to 190 later in its life), five-speed manual, stiffer suspension setup, and other changes to differentiate it from the standard model. Nissan dubbed it the four-door sports car and placed a sticker on the rear window denoting its status. Jump ahead to 2009 and the introduction of the seventh-generation Maxima, Nissan resurrected the four-door sports car moniker. With sleek styling, a 290 horsepower V6 under its hood, and sport tuned suspension, is the Maxima worthy of the 'four-door sports car' moniker? More importantly, where does the Maxima stack up in the full-size sedan class? Even though the current Maxima is going on five years, it still looks very fresh on the outside. The front is very familiar to the Infiniti M Hybrid I drove last year with a long front end and grille. You also have a flowing hood shape and distinguishing headlights. The back is reminiscent of the last-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class and there is a set of dual exhaust pipes peeking out from the bumper.Stepping inside, you can tell very much the Maxima is not aging very well. The design is very minimal with a lot of black plastic, leather, and dark wood trim on the center stack and console. The only contrast inside is the silver trim around the vents and on the steering wheel. I have to give Nissan credit for making that black dash soft-touch and padded. You'll also find soft-touch materials along the door panels and center armrest. Despite the claims that the Maxima is a full-size sedan, it really doesn't feel like it inside. You only have 95 Cubic Feet of Passenger space, much smaller than Toyota Avalon (103.6 Cubic Feet of Passenger space), Chevrolet Impala (105 Cubic Feet of Passenger space), and Kia Cadenza (106.8 Cubic Feet of Passenger space). This means the Maxima really doesn't have space for someone stretch out in the back seat. Yes, there is plenty of headroom and a decent amount of legroom. But sitting in the Maxima's back seat, I felt like I was sitting in a mid-size, not full-size sedan.My test Maxima came equipped with the optional nine-speaker Bose audio system and Nissan's infotainment system with a hard-drive based navigation system. The Bose system did an excellent job of pumping out sound from XM or my iPod. As for the infotainment system, the graphics are starting look relatively dated when compared to competitors. Blame the color choices and somewhat low-res screen. Performance-wise, Nissan's infotainment system is up there with Kia's UVO system by moving from one function to another in a second or so. Pairing my phone with the Maxima was easy since there was an option in the infotainment system to pair it, not the clumsy voice-command system from the Pathfinder. For powertrain and ride impressions, see page two. Powering the Maxima is a 3.5L VQ V6 with 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with Nissan's Xtronic CVT. The V6 has the same ferocity in its power delivery as you'll see in some V8 engines when you floor the go pedal. You'll also notice a fair bit of torque steer through the steering wheel as well. But when you decide to calm down, you'll find the V6 has a strong pull at the low end. NVH for the 3.5 is excellent. The Xtronic CVT is still one of the best CVTs on the marketplace with its ability to not exhibit the common traits of CVTs. In the Maxima, the Xtronic CVT has a special Ds mode which mimics a six-speed automatic. It's very a clever solution since it can trick anyone thinking you have a standard automatic and not a CVT. Fuel economy wise, the EPA rates the 2013 Maxima 3.5 SV at 19 City/26 Highway/22 Combined. My week saw an average of 23.2 MPG on premium gas. The Maxima's trump card in the full-size sedan class is how much fun it is to drive. The suspension is setup in a way that where it minimizes body roll and keeps you planted, without sacrificing a lot of the ride comfort. Steering provides very good feel and is quick to your inputs. As for ride comfort, the Maxima smoothed over bumps and imperfections with no problem. What is disappointing is the amount of road and wind noise that comes into the cabin. Out of all the full-size sedans I have driven, I can safely say the Maxima was the noisiest. On one hand, the Maxima is a really fun full-size sedan. A smart suspension setup and excellent steering make it very much worthy of the 'four-door sports car' moniker. But, the Maxima has been leap-frogged by everyone in the full-size sedan class. They have nicer interiors, more space, and quieter cabins. The 2013 Nissan Maxima is a very special car, but it's time for this 'four-door sports car' to take its final curtain call and have a new model ready in the wings. Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Maxima, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2013 Make: Nissan Model: Maxima Trim: 3.5 SV Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 261 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/26/22 Curb Weight: 3,568 lbs Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, Tennessee Base Price: $35,080 As Tested Price: $40,385 (Includes $780.00 Destination Charge) Options: SV Technology Package - $1,850.00 SV Value Package - $1,000.00 Monitor Package - $700.00 HID Xenon Headlights - $400.00 Rear Spoiler - $380.00 Floor Mats & Trunk Mat - $195.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  7. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com December 4, 2013 When Toyota introduced the refreshed Yaris subcompact last year, they also introduced a new tagline which is somewhat questionable. The tagline was "Yaris, it's a car!" So we know the Yaris is a car and not anything else, but is it one that you should go out and spend your money on? I spent a week with the 2013 Yaris L three-door to find out. Let's start with the obvious: This particular Yaris is a three-door model, which happens to be the only three-door subcompact on sale in the U.S. As for the design, Toyota cleaned up the Yaris by smoothing out some of the lines and removing some questionable details such as a single black push button/handle found on the previous model's tailgate. The front also sees some minor changes with a new front clip and headlights. Inside, the Yaris has just the bare essentials. This is due to this particular model being the base L. There is a wide dash that is mostly bare aside from the radio and climate controls sitting in the middle. Materials are pretty poor with hard plastic along the dash and door panels that look very cheap. I know that the Yaris L is a cheap car, but other vehicles with similar starting price use better materials. Two examples of this are the Kia Rio and Chevrolet Sonic. As for features, it's an odd game of 'it has this, but not that'. You get a radio that is very much familiar to the Scion FR-S and comes with CD, USB and Aux inputs and Bluetooth. Also standard is air conditioning. What isn't standard is a height adjustment for the front seats and remote mirrors. For those, you have to step up to the LE which costs only costs $935 more when compared to the price of the L model when equipped with the automatic. As for seating comfort, the front seats provided sufficient support. Without the ability to adjust the seat height, I always felt that I was sitting atop a milk crate while driving. The back seats provide decent legroom. Headroom is tight for those above 5'5" as your head will be touching the roof.For more on the engine and what it's like to drive, see the next page. Powering the Yaris is a 1.5L DOHC four-cylinder engine with 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual comes standard on the L 3-Door, but our tester was equipped with the optional four-speed automatic transmission. With all of this 'performance', the Yaris L shows significant signs of struggle. You have to have your foot close or almost to the floor to attempt passing, merging, and even trying to keep up with traffic sometimes. The four-speed automatic does its best to try and keep the vehicle moving, but you can tell it's working its heart out. This is a vehicle that deserves an extra 20 to 30 horsepower and torque, and two more gear ratios. Fuel economy wise, the EPA rates the Yaris L 3-Door at 30 City/35 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week was 32.1 MPG. That is good, but competitors with a bit more oomph can match and exceed that. The Yaris L's ride is actually surprising. When you think of a subcompact, you think darty and sporty. The Yaris is not quite that. The ride is actually very soft, which means you don't feel bumps and road imperfections that much. It also means the Yaris isn't the vehicle you want to have some fun with thanks to the suspension and skinny tires. The steering weight is right in the middle, but kind of numb in feel. This isn't a deal breaker at all. What could be a deal breaker is the amount of road, wind, and engine noise coming into the cabin. There were times when I had to turn up the radio because of the cacophony of noises.Toyota completely missed the mark with the 2013 Yaris. It seems that the team working on it were trying to build a vehicle for the 2000s when everybody else was trying to build one for this decade. Just looking at the Yaris and comparing it to other vehicles such as the RAV4 and Avalon, I know Toyota can do much better. That's not even the biggest problem for the Yaris L; it's the poor value for the money. As I eluded to earlier, you can step up to the LE 3-Door for only $935 more which nets you height adjustment, remote mirrors, cruise control, and loads of other features. Why would you buy the Yaris L over the LE? The only reason I see is that you have $935 in your pocket, but you also have a bad value. You could also check out the Nissan Versa Note or Kia Rio LX for around the same money as the Yaris L and get much more equipment and a better value for money argument. The Toyota Yaris L is indeed a car... and that's about all anyone, even Toyota, can think of to say about it. Click Pictures to Enlarge Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Yaris, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2013 Make: Toyota Model: Yaris 3-Door Trim: L Engine: 1.5L 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i four-cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Four-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 106 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 103 @ 4,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 30/36/32 Curb Weight: 2,315 lbs Location of Manufacture: Kanegasaki, Japan Base Price: $15,095 As Tested Price: $16,477 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear Spoiler - $329.00 Carpeted Floor Mats/Cargo Mats - $180.00 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.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  8. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 27, 2013 Back in the late nineties and early 2000s, hybrid vehicles were seen as being on the fringe of the automotive marketplace. Built with fuel economy in mind, the first hybrid vehicles were for those who wanted to stand out while getting impressive fuel economy. Fast forward to today and hybrid vehicles are now part of the mainstream. A number of manufacturers are offering hybrids in different types of vehicles. From compact cars all the way to luxury SUVs. But not every type of vehicle has a hybrid model. For example, there are no compact crossovers that offer a hybrid option. Somewhat weird when you consider the compact crossover class is currently the hot thing in the marketplace. Instead, some automakers are going with small vans/wagons for a hybrid with more space. Case in point, the 2013 Toyota Prius V. Introduced back in 2011, the Prius V takes the formula of the standard Prius and puts it into a larger package. Does this formula work though? The Prius V's exterior design can be summed up like: It's a Prius, but larger. Park a Prius and a Prius V next to each other and you can tell they share a family resemblance. Compared to the Prius, the V is about 5.3 inches longer, 1.2 inches wider, and 3.3 inches taller. Aside from the bigger dimensions, Toyota put on a new front end and restyled the rear end.The model seen here is the Prius V Two, the base model in the Prius V lineup. When I first got in and looked around, the song 'Bare Necessities' from The Jungle Book played in my head. The Two model looks and feels bare. Stepping inside, you are surrounded by the color grey from the door panels to the seats. It was too much grey for my taste. Materials in the Prius V range from textured hard plastics on the dashboard to vinyl on the door panels and the lid of the top glove box. I'm ok with the hard plastics, but the vinyl is an odd choice. As for features, the Two model comes well-equipped for the $27,748.00 price tag. There is a touchscreen radio, backup camera, Bluetooth, USB and Aux jacks, steering wheel controls, and automatic climate control.The front seats are very plush and provide the driver and passenger the basic adjustments to get themselves situated. I was wishing for a bit more support from the seats for longer trips as I was feeling pain in my lower back. Passengers in the back will find loads of head and legroom. Plus, passengers can move the seat forward and back, and recline to make themselves comfortable. Cargo space in the Prius V is huge. With the back seats up, you'll find 34.3 to 40.2 cubic feet of space. This is dependent on how far forward the back seat is. Fold the rear seats down and you have 67.3 cubic feet of space. Compared to its closest competitor the Ford C-Max Hybrid, the Prius V has about 9.8 to 15.7 cubic feet of more space with the seats up and 14.7 cubic feet more with the seats folded. Onto the next page for powertrain and ride impressions. Powering the Prius V is the same Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain that you'll find in a regular Prius. You have a 1.8L four-cylinder engine (98 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque) paired with a 60 kW electric motor. Total output of this system stands at 134 horsepower. A Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack provides power to the electric motor while a continuously variable transmission makes sure all of the power gets to the front wheels. The Prius V's powertain feels very overwhelmed. This is due to the V weighing 232 pounds more than the standard Prius. Leaving a stop or trying to make a pass, I found the powertrain was better at making noise than actual power. I really do think an extra 15 to 20 in horsepower and torque would really help out. The Prius V also features three different drive modes: Eco, Power, and EV. Eco cuts back on the available power from the hybrid system in a effort to boost fuel economy. Power increases throttle response and uses all available power from the system. EV allows the Prius V to travel a short distance on electric power only. During my week, I found myself using Power to get up to speed at a decent rate, while using EV mode to drive around in my neighborhood without using any gas. EPA rates the 2013 Toyota Prius V at 44 City/40 Highway/42 Combined. During my week long test, I saw an average of 43 MPG. The Prius V redeems itself somewhat in ride and handling. The suspension does a great job of ironing out bumps and providing a smooth ride for passengers. Steering is provided by electrically-power assisted system and it provides decent feel and weight for normal driving. This isn't the vehicle to go for an exuberant drive as the Prius V's handling is somewhat sloppy with the soft suspension tuning and the low-rolling resistance tires. Much like the Prius I had last fall, the Prius V exhibits the same abundance of road and wind noise no matter if you are driving in the neighborhood or go out onto the freeway. I'm really wishing Toyota addresses this with the next-generation Prius V. Is a bigger Prius a good thing? It really comes down to your priorities. If you're looking for a hybrid vehicle that delivers impressive fuel economy numbers while having a surprising amount space, then you should consider the Prius V. Otherwise, the negatives such as abundant road and wind noise, and poor performance have me going towards models like the Ford C-Max Hybrid. It's a matter of personal preference. The Prius V just doesn't meet mine. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius V, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Year: 2013 Make: Toyota Model: Prius V Trim: Two Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 1.8L - 98 @ 5,200; Electric - 80 @ 0 Torque @ RPM: 1.8L - 105 @ 4,000; Electric - 153 @ 0 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 44/40/42 Curb Weight: 3,274 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tsutsumi, Japan Base Price: $26,650.00 As Tested Price: $27,748.00 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: 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.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  9. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 20, 2013 On the eve of the LA Auto Show, Ford revealed to everyone the Edge Concept. This concept gives us an idea of what the blue oval has in store for the next model due in a couple years time. Being a concept, you would expect a number of amazing technologies. The Edge Concept delivers on that with a collision avoidance system that can brake and swerve around a potential crash, fully automated parking system that find a parking spot and park itself with a press of a button inside or on the keyfob, and a new adaptive steering system that can automatically adjust the reaction of the front wheels to provide a more engaging and confidence-inspiring in all situations. On the exterior, Ford's designers took the the current Edge shape and made it much sharper with a bit more sheetmetal, large grille, creased character lines, and LED lighting. For the interior, Ford fitted Nubuck leather trim and highly stylized pedals. Also appearing is actual buttons and knobs to control MyFordTouch. Ford is keeping quiet what is powering the Edge concept, but in the press release, the company says the concept utilizes the next-generation turbocharged EcoBoost engines. Source: Ford William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. Press Release is on Page 2 WITH SELF-PARKING TECHNOLOGY AND OBSTACLE AVOIDANCE CAPABILITY, FORD EDGE CONCEPT IS TOMORROW’S UTILITY TODAY Ford Edge Concept revealed today at Los Angeles Auto Show offers strong hints at the technology, dynamic design and premium craftsmanship that will define the company’s next global utility vehicles Advanced, automated driving technologies include self-parking and obstacle avoidance systems currently under development by Ford; these technologies preview a future of semi- and fully autonomous driving options, delivering tomorrow’s technology today Sleek exterior design communicates athleticism, confidence and capability; interior finished with premium materials and craftsmanship surpassing segment expectations Ford utility vehicles will be America’s best-selling utility brand for three straight years in 2013, outpacing the nearest competitor by 32 percent through October of this year Ford, the company that defined the crossover utility vehicle segment, today introduced new automated driving technologies in the Ford Edge Concept. The technologies include a push-button and remote-operated parking feature customers could use from either inside or outside the vehicle. “The original Ford Edge offered customers in North America a fresh, compelling choice for an accommodating, efficient and safe medium utility vehicle,” said Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president and president of The Americas, Ford Motor Company. “The next-generation Edge – previewed in the Ford Edge Concept – will build on these cornerstones to create a global vehicle with technology to make life easier, and design and craftsmanship to appeal to customers around the globe.” Key attributes of the Ford Edge Concept – a sleek, sporty appearance; capability; fuel efficiency; and technology that assists the driver – are in line with what customers value around the world, which is driving global growth in the utility vehicle segment. Data provided by IHS Automotive indicate global utility vehicle sales grew 45 percent between 2007 and 2012. The utility segment now accounts for more than 13 million sales annually – 17 percent of the global automotive market. Utility vehicle sales in China are projected to grow significantly, by more than 100 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to IHS Automotive. In South America the utility segment is projected to grow 39 percent, and in Europe it is projected to grow 27 percent over the same period. The current Ford Edge remains a segment sales leader in the United States. Edge is especially well-received in Southern California, where it accounts for nearly one in four sales this year of five-passenger medium utility vehicles. With market share of 23 percent, Ford Edge is the best-selling five-passenger utility vehicle in Southern California, according to Ford analysis of retail registration data from R.L. Polk. Moreover, U.S. Ford-brand utility sales overall are up 12 percent through October compared to last year, and Ford utility vehicles will be America’s best-selling utility brand for three straight years in 2013, as it is outpacing the nearest competitor by 32 percent through October. Advanced features to make smarter vehicles and better drivers Driver-assist technologies and semi-automated features in Edge Concept hint at a future offering even more intelligent and capable vehicles from Ford. These sensor-based technologies form the building blocks for the future of automated driving, and will help make driving safer and more efficient. “The rate of change in vehicle technology right now is unprecedented,” noted Raj Nair, Ford group vice president of global product development. “Our engineers around the world are advancing the systems that will ultimately help make drivers smarter, safer and more efficient. From advanced engine systems to collision avoidance and automated driving systems, Ford will continue to lead in delivering the technologies consumers want and need.” Fully assisted parking aid, a prototype technology, lets customers park their vehicles at the touch of a button, or even by remote control. The concept builds on Ford’s current active park assist feature. It can find a perpendicular parking space using ultrasonic sensors. From inside, the driver pushes a button to activate the system; from outside the vehicle, fully assisted parking aid can be remotely activated, allowing customers to wait until the vehicle has pulled out of a tight parking spot before entering. Using similar sensor and automated vehicle control technology, Ford has also begun a research project designed to refine advanced obstacle avoidance systems. In this case, the research and development vehicle is able to issue warnings if it detects slow-moving or stationary obstacles in the same lane ahead. If the driver fails to steer or brake following the warnings, the system will automatically steer and brake the vehicle to avoid a collision. Adaptive steering, another new technology from Ford featured on Edge Concept, makes steering at low speeds dramatically easier, and steering in all conditions feel more confident and engaging. The technology, which builds on Ford’s electric power-assisted steering system, controls the relationship between how much the driver turns the wheel and how much the road wheels turn. This means that low-speed steering – such as pulling into or out of a parking space – requires much less turning of the wheel. Tomorrow’s technology available today Developing technology that can help people around the world feel more confident and secure is a high priority for Ford. Ford Edge Concept features many of the automated driver-assist technologies – the building blocks to fully automated vehicles of the future – that the company offers on its global products today. These include: Active park assist, which can ease the stress of parallel parking by using sensors and the steering system to guide a vehicle into a parking spot; the driver controls the gas and brake pedals. Available on 12 Ford models today Lane-Keeping System, which uses a forward-facing camera that can scan the road surface for lane markings. The system can evaluate if the vehicle is drifting out of its lane and then alert the driver by vibrating the steering wheel. If the driver does not respond to the vibrations, the system provides steering torque to nudge the vehicle back toward the center of the lane. Available on 11 Ford models today Adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, which uses radar to detect moving vehicles immediately ahead, and can modify cruising speed if necessary. Available on 10 Ford models today Blind Spot Information System, which uses radar sensors in the rear corners that monitor the spaces next to and just behind the vehicle. On the road, these sensors trigger a warning light in the mirror when there is another vehicle in the driver’s blind spot. Available on 13 Ford models today Sleek, athletic exterior design defines Ford Edge Concept The technologies in the Ford Edge Concept complement the vehicle’s exterior design, which is carefully sculpted, fluid and athletic. The side view is highlighted by a D-pillar line that comes down the rail, takes a jog and returns. Strong shoulders on Ford Edge Concept add to the feel and appearance of a runner in the starting blocks. The rearward slope of the grille influences the shape of the hood, which is both muscular and more compact. In a unique execution, the three-bar grille is connected to LED headlamps in a premium fashion. To aid the fuel efficiency of a next-generation EcoBoost® engine with start-stop technology, the Edge Concept has a new high-tech application of Active Grille Shutters. The shutters automatically open and close to maintain ideal engine operating temperature and maximize aerodynamic efficiency. When activated, a panel slips down from above, then two more move into place, appearing as if they radiate from the Ford oval. The brighter finish gives a stunning contrast to the black background. To improve efficiency further, unique air curtains are positioned on the lower part of the fascia. The air curtains and ducting are designed to guide air from the front of the vehicle, out through the front wheel wells and down the vehicle side. LED lighting is used on both the headlamps and taillamps of the Ford Edge Concept. Functional and decorative design elements combine to create a stunning display – these technical graphics are a hallmark of modern Ford design. The headlamps light up in complete white, creating an uninterrupted, homogeneous display. Individual LEDs light up crystal cubes on the high beams. The turn signal transforms from a chrome-appearing piece into bright amber, lit from behind through microscopic holes in the bezel, adding to the laser-thin appearance of the headlamps. The taillamps are executed in a similar fashion, cleverly and stylishly connected to the backlight. The exterior is painted in Copper Flame, a modern interpretation of a premium color currently popular on Ford cars. Elevated craftsmanship, elegant colors and rich materials The interior of Ford Edge Concept is open and airy, with a level of craftsmanship and material quality that consumers around the world will appreciate. “We wanted the interior to be consistent in its dynamic character with the exterior of the Ford Edge Concept,” said Hak Soo Ha, interior design manager. “We call the interior environment Dynamic Sanctuary, because it combines the energetic character of the exterior with a more premium cabin execution. The shapes provide a dynamic, in-motion impression that soothes rather than fatigues.” Premium interior elements include: Leather-wrapped and hand-stitched instrument panel 10-inch touch screen center display with MyFord Touch® Dynamic center stack with premium mechanical switchgear Unique gear shifter Bright work on the armrest, door-release bezel and air registers Floating binnacle top Unique steering wheel Scuff plate with bright silver finish, matte black paint and LED-lit “Edge” High levels of craftsmanship and rich materials unify the interior of Ford Edge Concept. Copper is used as the accent color in the carpet, instrument panel and other areas for its premium appearance, complementing the exterior paint color. Premium black Nubuck wraps the upper instrument panel, center console and door elements, enhanced by elegant stitching. The heavy, oiled-grain texture has a feel similar to leather used on high-end furniture; this is juxtaposed with smooth leather on the touchpoints. The vehicle’s leather seats are executed with a distinct perforation pattern, as well as premium stitching and accent plating in the head restraint and top of the shoulder bolster. “The Ford Edge Concept is the latest example of a utility vehicle that delivers the attributes global customers value most – design, fuel efficiency, driving dynamics, and customer-focused technology to help the driver feel more confident,” said Hinrichs.
  10. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 13, 2013 The past few years has seen Hyundai rise as a dominant player in automotive marketplace. Vehicles like the Sonata, Elantra, and the Accent have shown how far the Korean automaker has come and being rewarded for their efforts. There is one segment that Hyundai hasn't quite cracked yet; crossovers. It's not for the lack of trying. Hyundai has been trying its darndest since the first-generation Santa Fe rolled off in 2002. Some of their efforts have included making the second-generation Santa Fe larger and introducing a smaller and larger crossover to complement it. That didn't quite work, so Hyundai went back to the drawing board and came up with a new idea. Last year, they introduced the next-generation Santa Fes; a large seven-seat model called the Santa Fe and a new midsize model called the Santa Fe Sport. Is this idea working? To find out, I spent some time with the 2013 Santa Fe Sport. The Santa Fe Sport is one the first Hyundai vehicles to introduce their new 'Fluidic Precision' design language. The new design language gives the Sport a very muscular and expressive presence. The front end has a comically large chrome grille and sharp looking headlight units. Along the side profile is a strong character line that starts from the front wheel well and extends all of the way to rear taillights. Hyundai's designers raked the rear windows to add a nice stylish touch. This also means rear visibility becomes limited. Finishing the Santa Fe Sport off is a set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels in a graphite finish.Heading inside, the Santa Fe Sport is a very pleasant and comfortable place to be. The dash and door panels comes with lot of soft-touch materials and leather. The center stack layout is simple and the controls are well-placed for easy reach. As for comfort, my test Santa Fe Sport came equipped powered and heated front seats for the front passengers. You can easily find a comfortable position with no sweat. The back seat passengers also have it good with more than enough head and legroom. Also, you can get the Santa Fe Sport equipped with the rear seats that adjust forward and back, recline, and provide heat. My test Santa Fe Sport was also equipped with the optional navigation system and I have to say I was impressed. Hyundai installed their latest system which introduces a number of small changes such as improved maps and performance. The system is very easy to use and snappy. A number of automakers should take a look at Hyundai's system if they want to produce a quick and smooth infotainment system. Now that I have talked about the exterior and interior of the Santa Fe Sport, it's time for a look under the hood. The Santa Fe Sport is available with two engines. The one I had is the base 2.4L direct-injected four-cylinder with 190 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. This was paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is an option as is the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder with 264 horsepower and 269 pound-feet torque. The 2.4L does get the Santa Fe Sport moving, but you feel like it's under a lot of stress. Getting up to speed takes a few seconds longer than expected. Plus, the engine quickly runs out of breath as you try to make a pass or merge onto a freeway until the next gear hits. This surprised me a bit since this is the almost the same engine you'll find under the hood of the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. I praised the Optima's 2.4L for being peppy and smooth. While the 2.4L in the Santa Fe is smooth, it is not peppy. There is an Active Eco button that helps improve fuel economy, but it reduces the engine's power. The six-speed automatic does a good job when you're leaving a stop gently or moving along smoothly. Hammer the throttle and the automatic is somewhat confused before figuring out what it should do. EPA rates the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport FWD 2.4 at 21 City/29 Highway/24 Combined. During my week with it, I averaged 25.2 MPG.The Santa Fe Sport's ride is very comprised and quiet. Driving along the interstate for brief trip, the Santa Fe Sport exhibited minimal road and wind noise. The suspension is able to smooth out bumps and road imperfections with no problem. Here's lookin at you kid... Click Image to Enlarge If you are expecting any driving fun since it's named the Santa Fe Sport, then I need to explain the Sport is more of differentiation about the vehicle's size, not the fun-to-drive-ness. Much like the other crossovers in the class, the Santa Fe Sport has a bit of lean when turning due to its suspension tuning. The Santa Fe Sport also features Hyundai's Flex Steer which allows a driver to choose how much weight they want in their steering. In my review of the Elantra GT, I found myself leaving the system in Normal since the other two options were on the extreme. The same holds true for the Santa Fe Sport. Using the flex-steer system, I found myself using the Normal setting more than Comfort (too light) and Sport (too heavy). At the end of the week, I found the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport to be a very competent crossover. Hyundai focused on the areas that are important to buyers in this class; comfort, value for money, and styling. The only real concern I have is with the base engine as I found it to be somewhat stressed. For a fair number of buyers, the 2.4 will be ok if you equip it with front-wheel drive. If you are considering all-wheel drive, I would push for the 2.0T engine. Otherwise, Hyundai seems to be going in the right direction with the Santa Fe Sport. It could be the breakout hit they are looking for. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Santa Fe Sport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Year: 2013 Make: Hyundai Model: Santa Fe Sport Trim: FWD 2.4 Engine: 2.4L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 190 @ 6,300 Torque @ RPM: 181 @ 4,250 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,459 lbs Location of Manufacture: West Point, Georgia Base Price: $24,450.00 As Tested Price: $32,175.00 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: Leather & Premium Equipment Package - $2,950.00 Technology Package - $2,700.00 Popular Equipment Package - $950.00 Cargo Cover - $150.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $100.00 Cargo Net - $50.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  11. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 6, 2013 Chrysler has a habit of building a car that can cause everyone to go gaga and have the desire to own one. In the early 2000s, it was the PT Cruiser that caused many people to go crazy with lust. Then in 2005, lighting stuck once again with the introduction of the 300. Its bold styling and available HEMI V8 struck a chord with people. Here was a vehicle that looked like a million bucks, but was very much attainable. However the 300 lost it's exclusiveness and became old news. But a couple years ago, Chrysler under the guiding hand of Fiat launched a new 300. The new model was leaner and possibly a little meaner as well. But the question for the new 300 is this; can it be the attainable dream car like the previous model? I had a 2013 300S for a week to find out. The first-generation 300 received many praises for its very distinctive exterior design. That left Chrysler's designers in a tough spot with designing the next-generation model. Do they stick with what worked for the 300 and make minor changes or start anew? They went with the former and somehow made the new model look more exclusive. Park an old and new 300 and you can tell there's a family resemblance between them. The difference between the old and new is that new 300 features a smoother front and rear end, bolder wheel wells, and a set of LEDs arranged in a C-shape in the headlights. S models take the 300's design further by adding dark grey trim pieces and twenty-inch wheels with black paint on the wheel pockets. These additions really make the 300S stand out.One of the biggest complaints with the last 300 was the use of questionable materials in the interior. The outside looked great, but was let down by an interior that could be described as disappointing. The new model fixes that by a wide margin. Chrysler made the 300S look and feel like a more expensive car by using better materials such as soft-touch materials along the dash and door panels, brushed metal trim, and leather on the steering wheel and seats. Controls felt solid and build quality was excellent. The only item I would change in the 300S' interior is switching out the black seats for the optional red ones. I thought the red seats would be somewhat garish. But after spending a week in what felt like complete darkness thanks to black leather on the seats and black dashboard, the red leather would provide some contrast. As for comfort, the driver and passenger get enveloped in supportive leather seats with power adjustments and heat. Taking a quick trip up to Mid-Michigan for the day, I found that I was very comfortable and had no pain in my back. The back seat provides an adequate amount of head and legroom. However, there is a feeling of claustrophobia thanks to a high beltline and a small greenhouse. A large eight-inch touchscreen sits on top of the center stack and features Chrysler's UConnect infotainment system. UConnect controls the radio, climate, navigation, and number of other functions in the 300. This system is has to be one the most user-friendly infotainment system I have used thanks to large touch points and switching from one function to another very quickly. One point of contention with UConnect is the Garmin navigation system. Some complain that it looks like MyFirstNavigation, but I would argue that its easier to use than fair number of competitors. Sure it's simplistic, but the system gets the job done.Now that I have talked about the show in 300S, Let us dive into what makes this go on the next page. The 300 comes with the choice of a V6 or the HEMI V8. In this particular 300S, it was equipped with Chrysler's 3.6L Pentastar V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque, up from the standard 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is thanks to a sport-tuned exhaust and cold-air induction system. An eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF gets the power to the rear wheels. The 3.6L V6 is a very strong engine whether you're leaving a stop or needing to make a pass. There always seems to be enough power ready at your command. What impressed me more was the eight-speed automatic. This transmission plays very well with the V6, keeping it in the zone of power with no sweat. Shifts were unobtrusive and mostly quick when downshifting. I do wish the upshifts were a little bit faster when I hit the go pedal though.The eight-speed automatic also has one of oddest and confusing gear selectors on the market today. It's supposed to work like your standard gear selector where you pull back to go into reverse or drive and push forward to go into park. But I never could seem to get into the gear I wanted on the first try. I would figure out that there are notches when you push or pull the selector, which helped out somewhat. I was left wondering why Chrysler thought this was a good idea. Maybe with a refresh or next-generation, a rotary knob will take the place. Fuel economy wise, the 3.6L is rated at 19 City/31 Highway/23 Combined. During my week, I saw an average of 25.3 MPG. Chrysler found a nice midpoint with comfort and sport with the 300S' ride. We'll start with the comfort. The suspension tuning and long-wheelbase make any road almost feel smooth, even with the standard twenty-inch wheels on the S model. Wind and road noise hardly make an appearance as well. As for the sport, Chrysler fits a touring suspension which helps reduce body roll. Steering has a nice feel and weight when being pushed. However, the large size of the 300S makes it a bit of a handful when being driven hard.In every facet, Chrysler has improved the 300. Under the familiar but somehow new body lies a number of major changes that make new model not only a standout in the Chrysler family, but in the entire marketplace. Also considering the as-tested price of $37,925 makes the 300S a bit of bargain. The affordable dream car is back with a vengeance. Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the 300S, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Year: 2013 Make: Chrysler Model: 300 Trim: S Engine: 3.6L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 300 @ 6350 Torque @ RPM: 264 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/31/23 Curb Weight: 4,029 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $33,145 As Tested Price: $37,925 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: SafetyTec - $1,995.00 UConnect 8.4N AM/FM/Sat/Nav - $995.00 Light Group - $795.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  12. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com October 30, 2013 The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder caused quite the ruckus when it was introduced at the 2012 New York Auto Show. Nissan announced that the new Pathfinder was leaving its off-road roots that it had for the majority of its life and was turning into a crossover. Of course, most everyone in the automotive world went mad and complained that Nissan was tarnishing the good name of the Pathfinder by going the crossover route. However, Nissan is having the last laugh as sales of the new Pathfinder are booming. In 2011, Nissan moved 25,935 Pathfinders. So far this year, Nissan has more than double that with 63,826 Pathfinders finding a good home. But there comes a question; with this transformation, has Nissan been able to make a crossover that deserves the Pathfinder name? When I first saw pictures of the 2013 Pathfinder, I thought it looked awkward. In person, it still looks awkward to my eyes. I think it's due to Nissan trying to mesh two design philosophies into one vehicle. Up front is the design language that Nissan uses for its trucks and SUVs. You have a trapezoidal grille and massive headlights that are surrounded with chrome trim. The side profile and back end are more reminiscent of Nissan's passenger sedans with flowing lines and a large greenhouse.The Pathfinder's interior is your standard Nissan fare with a plain looking design. Material quality ranges from soft-touch on the interior's touch points to hard materials along the bottom of the dashboard. There is wood trim along the center stack and console that adds a nice touch. Taking center stage on the center stack is a seven-inch screen. At first, I thought it was touchscreen that was broken since it wasn't responding. Then I realized Nissan pulled a bit of a bait and switch. If you want a touchscreen on your Pathfinder, you have to step up to the Platinum model which costs an extra $5,000 over the SL model. To move around the system, you have a set of buttons and a large knob below the screen. Once you get the hang of how to work the system, it becomes somewhat easier. But in the back of my head, I'm wondering why Nissan just doesn't go ahead with a touchscreen for the SL.That's not the only problem with the Pathfinder SL's tech. The other one is with the Bluetooth system. To start, you can only make phone calls with the system and not stream any audio from your phone or audio device. Nissan has rectified this with the 2014 SL by making it an option, but I think this should be standard across the Pathfinder lineup. Also trying to pair my phone was a pain in the butt ordeal. Whereas most systems have you go into the settings menu to pair your phone, the Pathfinder has you use the voice button on the steering wheel to setup your phone. The only way you know this is by either looking in the owners manual or accidentally hitting the voice button. The setup process is thankfully painless, as is answering phone calls. Trying to make a call is another story. Nissan's voice system couldn't figure out what name I was trying to say and would ask me to repeat. I just found it easier to say the number or dial from my phone and send it to the vehicle. Click images to enlarge The Pathfinder SL comes with seating for seven people. Comfort varies on where you're sitting in the vehicle. Up front, passengers will find plush seats with good support and adjustments. The second-row offers passengers an abundance of head and legroom. Sadly, I didn't find the seats as comfortable because there isn't enough seat padding and I found the second-row isn't set as high like in the GMC Acadia. The third-row is easy to get to thanks to Nissan's EZ Flex Seating System which flips up the bottom cushion and tilts the back cushion to make the seat more compact and easier to move. This system also allows the seat to be moved if there is an infant seat by only tilting the back cushion. Space in the third row is tight for legroom, while headroom is decent. For Powertrain and Ride Impressions, See The Next Page. Powering all Pathfinders is the well-known 3.5L VQ V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet torque paired with Nissan's XTronic CVT. You have the choice of either front-wheel or ALL-MODE 4x4-i. In my notes for the Pathfinder, the power delivery feels like the vehicle is climbing a hill while struggling to keep the speed prior to reaching an rpm where the power delivery becomes more immediate. The engine doesn't feel as powerful on the lower end as it does on the higher end. I'm not sure if this is an issue with the engine's computer or the CVT. Speaking of the CVT, it does a excellent job of keeping the 3.5L V6 quiet, except when you accelerate and the prolonged drone enters the cabin. The EPA rates the 2013 Pathfinder at 19 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. During my week, I saw an average of 22.1 MPG. My test Pathfinder came equipped with Nissan's ALL-MODE 4x4-i and it offers three different models via a knob in the center stack, 2WD: Leaves the Pathfinder in front-wheel drive Auto: All-Wheel Drive system kicks in if the system detects a loss of traction Lock: All-Wheel Drive System stays on for a certain amount of time and at certain speed before switching back to Auto. I mostly left the system in 2WD, but I switched into Auto when a nasty storm rolled through and dumped a lot of rain. The system did its job and I got to my destination safely. As for ride and handling, the Pathfinder is one of the more plush riding crossovers on sale. The suspension isolates bumps and road imperfections from passengers. Steering is light and doesn't really have that much feel, the two traits that are common in the class and are acceptable. One disappointment was how much wind noise the Pathfinder exhibited, especially around the a-pillars.The Pathfinder's transformation of being a rough and tough SUV to family friendly crossover has mostly worked out. Nissan got most of the basics right with a comfortable ride, plush interior, high fuel economy numbers, and some clever features. However, some odd decisions made with the infotainment unit, a horrid bluetooth system, and the odd behavior of the powertrain rob the Pathfinder of the best-in-class crown. If Nissan can address these problems in the near future, then we might have a real competitor to GM's Lambda family. Click image to enlarge Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Pathfinder SL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Year: 2013 Make: Nissan Model: Pathfinder Trim: SL i-4X4 Engine: 3.5L VQ V6 Driveline: All-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ 6400 Torque @ RPM: 240 @ 4400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/25/21 Curb Weight: 4,312 lbs Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, TN Base Price: $36,070 As Tested Price: $40,470 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: SL Premium Package - $2,650.00 Roof Rail Cross Bars - $300.00 Illuminated Kick Plates - $275.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $200.00 Splash Guards - $175.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  13. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com October 23, 2013 Whether it was deserved or not, the previous Beetle earned the dubious title of 'chick car'. It's easy to see how the Beetle earned this title; a bubbly design, flower shaped wheels, and a flower vase. This wasn't helped by the addition of the Beetle Convertible which only reinforced the 'chick car' mantra.. But Volkswagen pulled something short of a miracle with this current Beetle; made it look like the classic Beetle that we know and love without giving it any details that could make it a 'chick car'. Could they pull off the same feat with the new convertible? I spent a week with the 2013 Beetle Convertible Turbo to find out. The Beetle Convertible Turbo is still a Beetle design-wise, but has been brought into the modern era. Certain elements from the New Beetle are still around in this new model with round headlights and wide fenders. Other than that, the Beetle Convertible really stands out with longer front end, a deck-lid spoiler, D-Shaped headlights, and eighteen-inch alloy wheels. Like the previous Beetle Convertible, the new model sticks with a fabric roof. I like how Volkswagen was able to keep the roofline from Beetle when making the Beetle Convertible. The top can be raised and lowered within ten seconds and up to 31 MPH. The top folds into the back of the vehicle, but doesn't go into the trunk. Instead it sits in a little space behind the back seats. That means some of the folded top sticking out from the space it sits in. Volkswagen does provide a cover to put over the top, but it's about as easy to put on as trying to wrestle a greased pig. First off, the cover is just huge. Trying pull it out of trunk kind of reminded me of how a dentist pulls a tooth out; yank and pull till it comes out. From there you have get the cover installed onto the roof by a number of clips and tucking it in. I only tried it once and then took the cover off. There has to be an easier way to do this.The Beetle Convertible's interior has been toned down somewhat when compared to the last-generation model. You don't have a funky center stack or a vase where you can stick a flower into. It's more in line with Volkswagen's lineup. That doesn't mean that interior is boring, there are some touches that make the Beetle Convertible special. For starters, you have a two-tone dashboard (Beige and Black in my case) and a separate set of gauges mounted at the top of the dash that gives you the oil temp, turbo boost, and a stopwatch. Materials throughout are mix of hard and soft-touch plastics. Click images to enlarge Front seat passengers are firmly held in with very supportive front seats. I was disappointed that for the as-tested price, the Beetle Convertible Turbo doesn't come with power seats. The back seat is just there for show since no one can actually fit there comfortably. The nice thing is that Volkswagen includes a wind deflector that you can install right over the back seat. For your entertainment, Volkswagen has installed the Fender Audio System in the Beetle convertible. Now I was impressed by the system in the Jetta Hybrid I had back in summer. In the convertible, it impressed even more. With the top down, the Fender system was able to produce a very clear sound. No matter what I threw at the system with the top up or down, the Fender system performed flawlessly. What I wasn't so impressed by was the optional navigation system. The screen is too small and the touch points on the screen are hard to hit and require you to hit them a couple times for something to happen. I'm wishing that Volkswagen makes the larger touchscreen used on the high-trim Passats available to other models. For powertrain and driving impressions, see the next page. Powering the Beetle Convertible Turbo is Volkswagen's veritable 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder. It produces 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. You have a choice of either a manual or DSG gearbox, both six-speeds. The engine really gets the Beetle Convertible moving thanks to the 207 pound-feet of torque arriving at 1,700 rpm. At no point was I thinking 'this needs more power', the 2.0T is just enough. Plus, the 2.0T makes a lovely exhaust burble when you have the top down. The DSG is somewhat mixed. In low-speed situations, the DSG acts confused and goes into a herky-jerky mode when changing gears. Put it on a open road and the DSG comes alive with lighting quick shifts. Fuel economy wise, the EPA rates the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible at 21 City/29 Highway/24 Combined. I was hoping the fuel economy numbers were better considering the size of Beetle convertible. My average for the week was around 24.1 MPG.When building a convertible, there are two problems that need to be solved. The first is excessive wind noise when the top is up and the second is the flexing of the body cause by the roof being removed. In the case of the Beetle Convertible, Volkswagen was able to minimize both to a point. With the wind noise, the convertible's top is comprised of six layers of varying materials (ranging from a fabric used on the exterior layer to an insulating fleece) in a effort to reduce it. I can say that driving around town and on the expressway, the car is quieter than I was expecting. Yes, there is some wind noise that makes its way in, but its not to the point where you need to crank the radio up. As for the body flex, the Beetle Convertible comes with a fair number for reinforcements such as a thicker bar used in the A-Pillars and more sheet metal in the lower body. This makes the Beetle Convertible 20 percent stiffer when compared to the last-generation model. Driving on some rough roads, I wasn't able to feel or notice any flex in body. Driving around in the Beetle Convertible Turbo, I was worried it was going to be too stiff with a sports suspension and eighteen-inch wheels. Thankfully Volkswagen was able to find a balance between the two. Driving around in town or out on the expressway, the suspension does a really nice job of isolating most road imperfections. Out on the curvy stuff, the Beetle Convertible Turbo is very much fun to drive at moderate speeds. The suspension keeps the vehicle in check and the steering provides excellent weight and decent feel. But like C&G's Managing Editor Drew Dowdell found out in his Beetle Turbo review back in 2012, it doesn't like to be pushed hard. The suspension isn't able to handle being pushed to its limits, becoming somewhat squirrely. Keep it at 5, 6 on the fun to drive scale and you'll do fine.There is one issue that I need to address with this particular Beetle Convertible Turbo and that is the pricetag. The Beetle Convertible Turbo is Sound/Nav model and as tested costs $33,765. Quite the chunk of change for a small convertible. That of course brings up the question of what else you could buy. Well you can step up to a Chevrolet Camaro or Ford Mustang with their respective V6 engines or you can go down slightly and get a nicely loaded MINI Cooper Convertible or a Roadster. Now if you drop down to Beetle Convertible Turbo w/Sound, you're looking at a price of around $30,000, making this somewhat more compelling. When the Beetle Convertible Turbo drove away, I watched it and felt a little bit sad about it. Every time I put the top down, put some music on, and drove, I felt happy. This is a vehicle that can make a bad day go away. Sure there will be those who will call the Beetle Convertible Turbo a 'chick car' still. But with the new design, turbo powerplant, great lengths to the wind noise and strength, and other items help the Beetle Convertible Turbo remove the dubious honor it once held. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided The Beetle Convertible Turbo, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Year: 2013 Make: Volkswagen Model: Beetle Convertible Trim: Turbo Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged and Intercooled Inline Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission Horsepower @ RPM: 210 @ 5,300 Torque @ RPM: 274 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,272 lbs Location of Manufacture: Pubela, Mexico Base Price: $32,970.00 As Tested Price: $33,765.00* (Includes $795.00 destination charge) Options: N/A William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  14. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com October 16, 2013 Last year, I had the great fortune of going to the Midwest Automotive Media Association's Spring Rally. The rally brings automotive media and manufacturers together for a couple days of driving new vehicles. During my time there, I had the chance to slip behind the wheel of the recently launched Lexus GS 350. But this wasn't any ordinary GS 350. It happened to be the new GS 350 F-Sport model. When I wrote my wrap-up of the event, I said this about the GS: "Has Lexus created a vehicle that can give everyone in the midsize luxury sedan class something to worry about? Oh very much so." Bit of a bold proclamation. I wanted to find out if that would hold true after an extended stay on the roads I drive on and Lexus obliged by handing over a 2013 GS 350 F-Sport for a week's stay. Polarizing. That's the word I would use to describe the GS 350 F-Sport's exterior design. To start, there is Lexus' spindle grille in the front. This is either a love it or hate it relationship. Personally, I love the spindle grille on the GS, especially when it has the mesh-grille insert. There is also a set of LED daytime running lights running along the inner edge and a more aggressive front bumper with vents to feed air to the massive brakes. Along the sides are a high belt line, side skirts, and a set of nineteen-inch alloy wheels in a graphite finish. Towards the back, a rear lip spoiler and valance finish off the sporty touches. It's shock and awe in one complete package. Heading inside, the GS 350 F-Sport looks and feels like a sporty sedan. You have loads of black leather and soft-touch materials that contrast very well with the grey trim pieces used in the dash. The front seats are well-bolstered and provide a wide range of adjustments such as adjustable side bolsters and power thigh support for the driver. Heat and ventilation are included for both seats. The ventilation was much appreciated during the week as it was pretty warm. The back seat isn't as big as you might think. A large transmission tunnel means it's only really comfortable for two passengers. Also headroom comes at a premium due to a sloping roofline. Techwise, the GS 350 comes with a large 12.3-inch screen that houses Lexus' Enform infotainment system. The screen is divided up into two parts. The majority of the screen is dedicated to navigation, media selection, climate and information. The remainder of the screen is used for telling you what's playing and a overview of the climate system. I like this layout since I can have the navigation and what's playing on my iPod at the same time. Well done, Lexus! To move around the system, there is Lexus Remote Touch. The system uses a joystick to navigate around the menus and select functions. I'm not a fan of Remote Touch since the system is a bit touchy and you have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you are going into the selection you want. Enough about the design and seating arrangements, lets dive into how it drives. Powering the GS 350 F-Sport is a 3.5L V6 with 306 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is the sole choice. The 3.5L is very Lexus-like at the low end, quiet and smooth. Surprisingly, it also packs a bit of punch as well. Keep the revs climbing the 3.5L emits a very lovely engine note. The six-speed automatic never put a gear cog wrong. It somehow knew what gear the vehicle needed to be in. The GS also comes with Lexus Drive Mode Selector which offers four different configurations for the powertrain and suspension. The modes are as followed: Normal: Standard throttle mapping and suspension tuning, gearshifts tuned for comfort. Eco: Slower throttle mapping, reduced operation of the climate control Sport: Quicker throttle mapping, stiffer suspension tuning Sport+: Much quicker throttle mapping, even stiffer suspension tuning, heavier steering, number of powertrain enhancements During the week, I found myself cycling though all of the modes and using them for their respective needs. Normal worked very well in the city and in the suburbs. Eco did great on the freeway and the long rural roads of Northern Michigan. Sport and Sport+ were left to the curvy roads as the engine could be worked. The GS 350 F-Sport comes with Adaptable Variable Suspension (AVS). The suspension can be adjusted by a driver via the Drive Mode Selector to either be stiff or soft. The same is true for the steering as it can be adjusted to provide a heavier feel. Do they work? In short, yes. Flicking the Drive Mode Selector into Sport and Sport+ transforms the GS into something of a road demon. Moving along on one of the test roads I use, the GS felt much more agile than I was expecting. Body lean was kept to a minimum. Steering was excellent with good feel and weight when it was being pushed. Switching back into Normal and Eco mode, the GS 350 F-Sport becomes a very sensible luxury sedan. The suspension softens up and provides a very smooth ride. Sound deadening is excellent with wind and road noise kept to a minimum. Fuel Economy for the GS 350 F-Sport is rated at 19 City/28 Highway/23 Combined. During the week, I got an average of 26 MPG. Going back to beginning of this review, I was wondering if I could stand behind the verdict I gave to GS 350 F-Sport when I briefly drove it last year. The answer is a resounding yes. I don't how Lexus was able to pull this off, but somehow it has created a midsize luxury sedan that is very much fun to drive and provides many luxuries for its occupants. The GS 350 F-Sport should make everyone in midsize luxury sedan class a bit nervous and worried. Especially if Lexus engineers take what they learned from the GS F-Sport and applies it onto a GS-F. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided The GS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Year: 2013 Make: Lexus Model: GS 350 Trim: F-Sport Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve VVT-i V6 Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM: 306 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 274 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/28/23 Curb Weight: 3,795 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $46,900.00 As Tested Price: $55,869.00* (Includes $875.00 destination charge) Options: F-Sport Package - $5,690.00 Navigation Package - $1,735.00 Blind Spot Monitor System - $500.00 Trunk Mat - $105.00 Cargo Net - $64.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  15. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com October 2, 2013 To say the current crop of mid-size sedans is downright impressive would be massive understatement. We have sedans that can be compared with more expensive models in styling, are fun to drive, and get fuel economy numbers that only compacts and subcompacts were getting a few years ago. It's hard to place where the starting point is for this current group of mid-size sedans, but I have a possible answer. The year is 2010. Hyundai introduced the next-generation Sonata to the marketplace and it was a suckerpunch to the midsize marketplace. Here was a mid-size sedan that brought forth amazing styling, impressive powertrain tech, and value for money that no one else could match. Everyone knew that a new, credible challenger had arrived and it was time to step up. After four years since its introduction, the Sonata is beginning to show its age when compared to its competitors. Sales though haven't slowed down at all. Can the current Sonata still stand tall or is it time for the curtain to fall on this sedan? The Sonata is still an impressive looking sedan. Despite going on almost four years in the marketplace, the Sonata looks like it was just released. You can tell that Hyundai's designers were influenced by the first-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS as the two share a similar shape. Other details to take note are dual exhausts and a set of eighteen-inch wheels. The interior is a whole another story as it looks and feels very old. Someone at Hyundai must have been going through a dark period since there are large swaths of black throughout. There is black plastic and soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels. The seats are draped in black leather and mesh fabric. The only bright spot inside is the contrasting silver trim pieces along the center stack. So far, the Sonata SE ties with the Nissan Rogue SL for the most depressing interior of 2013. Another problem for the Sonata, at least for me, was the front seat adjustment. When I first got into the it, I felt like I was sitting too high. But when I tried to lower the seat, I was at the lowest position. Now I happen to be 5'7" tall and usually can find a comfortable position in a vehicle, not in the Sonata. After a couple days of driving around, I got used to the position. It does make me wonder if someone taller than me would have the same problem. As for back seat space, headroom comes at a premium due to the sloping coupe roofline. Legroom though is decent. Hyundai still has the value argument down to a T. SE models come standard with a proximity key, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, and Hyundai's BlueLink telematic system. For an extra $2,900, you can order the SE Navigation and Sunroof package which includes navigation, sunroof, a Dimension Premium Audio System, and backup camera. It's an option package I highly recommend. With the outside and inside stories done, lets look at the Sonata's powertrain. Hyundai was the first automaker to drop the V6 engine and replace it with a turbo-four in the midsize class. The 2.0L turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder packs 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0T only comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddles on the wheel. The 2.0L turbo is quite peachy. Imagine a bottle rocket being shot off and not slowing down, that's Hyundai's 2.0L turbo in a nutshell. The 269 pound-feet of torque spans from 1,750 rpm to 4,500 rpm (torque peaks at 3,500 rpm), meaning the Sonata 2.0T doesn't suffer from turbo lag and pulls off the illusion of being a bigger engine than it really is. Even more surprising: the 2.0T doesn't exhibit the thrashiness or buzzing that you would expect in a four-cylinder. The six-speed automatic works excellent as the computer puts the vehicle in the right gear at the right time. There are paddles but I didn't use them due to the reluctant nature of the automatic. Just leave it in drive and let the transmission do its thing. Fuel economy wise, I was on the low-end of the Sonata 2.0T's ratings. My average for the week landed around 22.0 MPG which happens to be the same as the 2.0T's City rating. If you have a lighter foot, you will likely be closer to the combined rating of 26 MPG. Out on the highway, I got close to 34 MPG rating with an average of 32. The Sonata SE model differs from the base GLS and top trim Limited in its suspension as it gets sport-tuned springs and dampers. Out on a curvy road, the Sonata SE does feel somewhat sporty. The revised springs and dampers helps the SE model feel much more planted and reduce body roll. Don't think it's in the same league as the 2014 Mazda6 though. The Sonata SE's steering doesn't feel like its connected to the vehicle. I know that I'm turning the steering wheel and the vehicle is moving, but there isn't that feedback coming through the steering wheel. Plus, if you push the Sonata hard, it begins to show signs of body roll. Moving off the twisty roads and onward to the freeway and streets, the Sonata SE shines here. The suspension copes very well when driven over rutted roads. Road and wind noise are mostly kept in check. Close to four years on, the Sonata is still a very impressive sedan. Sure, the interior is darker than Alaska during the winter solstice and provides one of the oddest seating positions that I have ever experienced. But Hyundai got the fundamentals right with the Sonata; a handsome design, punchy engine that gets decent fuel economy, comfortable ride, and pricetag that cannot be beat. The current Sonata started a revolution in the midsize sedan and the fact it's still selling so well means the next-generation model has a tough act to follow. Disclaimer: Hyundai provided the Sonata 2.0T, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year: 2013 Make: Hyundai Model: Sonata Trim: SE 2.0T Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM: 274 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 1,400 - 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/34/26 Curb Weight: 3,452 lbs Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama Base Price: $25,895.00 As Tested Price: $29,205.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge) Options: SE Navigation and Sunroof Package - $2,900.00 Rear Spoiler - $250.00 Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror with HomeLink and Compass - $250.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $100.00 iPod Cable - $35.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  16. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 25, 2013 Can a vehicle have a midlife crisis? If your answer is the "Toyota Avalon', then the answer would be yes. For the past two generations, the Avalon was positioned for older buyers who wanted to stay in the Toyota family. This plan worked for sixteen years, but it also earned the Avalon the dubious honor of the Japanese Buick. Ouch. With the third-generation Avalon, Toyota had a quandary. Do they stick with the old person's car or do they go down a different road? They went with the latter option and made the Avalon younger. Toyota turned to their U.S. branch and gave them a mission; design and build an Avalon that attracts a younger audience. 'Younger' in this case is 40 to 60 year olds. Going younger to attract a younger audience? I decided to find out if that was possible and an Avalon Hybrid was dropped off for a week. The Avalon Hybrid is one of the more striking full-size sedans on the market today. A coupe-like roofline is the major styling point of the Avalon, helping the vehicle look much more youthful. The front end utilizes a two-tier grille layout. The bottom grille is large and wide, somehow reminding me of an Aston Martin. On top is a slim chrome bar the extends the length of the front end and features Toyota's emblem. The side features sculpturing along the doors and a distinctive line running from the front door to the trunk lid. There are also a fair number of hybrid badges throughout the Avalon Hybrid's body. Moving inside, the Avalon Hybrid is very well-appointed. In the Limited trim, you get leather throughout and stitching on the dashboard and door panels. The only item I wish Toyota would fix is the wood trim since you can tell it's plastic. Build quality is excellent. The Avalon Hybrid's center stack is one of the nicest stacks I have seen and used in awhile. You have a textured material surrounding the six or seven-inch touchscreen and climate control that feels very premium. There is also Toyota's IntelliTouch controls, which is what the brand calls the capacitive buttons throughout the center stack. Toyota deserves a lot credit with their IntelliTouch controls since they don't require someone to hit them about seventeen different times to have something happen. Touch it once and an action happens. My Avalon Hybrid came equipped with the seven-inch touchscreen which brings forth the infotainment system from Lexus. I have to say this is much better than the infotainment system used on the six-inch screen since its much better to look at and use on a daily basis with a much newer interface that has larger touch points and a bit more color. Comfort is mostly excellent throughout the interior. Driver and passenger get a set of leather seats with power adjustments and the choice of either heat or ventilation. Backseat passengers get loads of legroom. Headroom can be tight for taller passengers due to the sloping roof. On the Limited trim, backseat passengers also get heated seats. Nice touch. Enough about the comfort and luxuries, lets dive into the powertrain. Under the Avalon Hybrid's hood is Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system which pairs a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle four cylinder (156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque) and an electric motor (105 kW and 199 pound-feet of torque). Total output stands at 200 horsepower. A continuously-variable transmission routes the power to the front wheels. With a curb weight that's over 3,500 pounds, the hybrid's powertrain specs seem a bit low. However, the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain is very much up to the job. It takes a few ticks longer to get up to speed when compared to the V6, but it offers the same smoothness and refinement. The CVT doesn't make itself known to everyone unless you floor the throttle and whine of the transmission appears. You have the choice of four different drive modes on the Avalon Hybrid to alter the behavior of the engine and other bits. They include; EV Mode: Allows a vehicle to travel on electric power for a short distance Eco Mode: Increases the resistance to push down on the pedal, adjusts engine and climate control for better fuel economy. Sport Mode: Adjusts throttle and steering response Normal Mode: Balance between Eco and Sport To change from one mode to another, there is a set of buttons just behind the gear selector. For the majority of the week, I left the vehicle in Eco and found it to be ok in normal driving. There were times when I switched it back to normal or to sport to get moving and keep up with traffic as the throttle response wasn't there. The 2013 Avalon Hybrid is rated ay 40 City/39 Highway/40 Combined. During the course of a week, I averaged 40.7 MPG in mixed driving. Very impressive. As I wrote in my first drive of the Toyota Avalon and Avalon Hybrid last November, I described the handling characteristics as being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde since it was smooth and comfortable when driven normally, but becomes surprisingly agile when pushed. I want to revisit that for a moment. Compared to the Chevrolet Impala and Kia Cadenza I recently drove, the Avalon Hybrid isn't as smooth or comfortable. I found that it would let more bumps and road imperfections into the interior. This is due to the Avalon's suspension tuning leaning more towards sport than comfort. As for driving fun, the Avalon is still tops in this class. The suspension keeps the Avalon Hybrid's body roll in check and the steering has the heft and feel that you'll find in sporty vehicles. Toyota has seemingly pulled off a fountain of youth trick with the Avalon Hybrid. A vehicle which was the equivalent of the couch you would find at your grandparent's house has undergone massive transformation into a well-done full-size sedan that offers a fine blend of fuel economy and a somewhat sporty drive. Sometimes a midlife crisis is a very good thing. Disclaimer: Toyota provided the Avalon Hybrid, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year: 2013 Make: Toyota Model: Avalon Hybrid Trim: Limited Engine: 2.5L 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i Atkinson-Cycle Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Continuously-Variable Transmission Horsepower @ RPM: (Gas) 156 @ 5,700; (Electric) 105 kW @ 4,500; (Combined) 200 @ N/A Torque @ RPM: (Gas) 156 @ 4,500; (Electric) 199 @ 0 - 1,500 rpm; (Combined) N/A Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 40/39/40 Curb Weight: N/A lbs Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, Kentucky Base Price: $41,400.00 As Tested Price: $44,853.00* (Includes $795.00 destination charge) Options: Technology Package - $1,750.00 Blizzard Pearl Paint - $395.00 Floor and Trunk Mats - $225.00 Wireless Charging Capability for eBin - $200.00 Emergency Assistance Kit - $59.00 First Aid Kit - $29.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  17. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 28, 2013 "Why is Volkswagen doing a hybrid version of the Jetta?!" That was my response when the news first came that Volkswagen would be introducing the Jetta Hybrid. On one hand this doesn't make sense. Volkswagen is known as the diesel automaker with five vehicles that offer amazing fuel economy and performance. Plus, diesel vehicles in the U.S. are making huge inroads. According to R.L. Polk, registration of diesel vehicles have increased 24.3 percent from 2010 to 2012. However there are still a fair number of the public who believe that diesel is EVIL! Instead they are turning to hybrids which also offers amazing fuel economy numbers. Volkswagen not wanting to miss out on this has created the Jetta Hybrid. But this being Volkswagen, they did it their way. In this case, you'll find a turbocharged engine, dual-clutch gearbox, and promises of fun to driveness. Does it fully work? The Jetta Hybrid's design is very much a Jetta. That's to say the current incarnation is very conservative. You'll find crisp lines and a tailored rear end as its distinctive design cues. Some believe the design will age well in the coming years. I agree with that, but is that something you should be proud of in a design? There are little giveaways that help differentiate the Jetta Hybrid from a normal Jetta, but you're going to have to get close to notice them. There is a new grille and small spoiler in a effort to improve aerodynamics. Other changes include LED taillights, new wheels, and a number of 'hybrid' badges on the vehicle. Moving inside, it's hard to tell the difference between a normal Jetta and Jetta Hybrid. The only real giveaway that you're in the Hybrid is a new gauge cluster that replaces the tachometer with an Eco/Power/Charge gauge that makes no sense. Sure it will tell you how aggressive you are on the throttle, but it's not tied to something quantifiable. Stick with the trip computer in the gauge cluster that provides a screen that shows which powertrain is working if you want to maximize your MPGs. Much like the exterior, the Jetta Hybrid's interior design is plain. Material quality is pretty poor as the door panels and lower trim pieces are hard plastics that look like they came from milk crates. This is a huge no-no on a vehicle with a $30k+ pricetag. The only real bright spots inside were a soft touch dash and aluminum-like trim pieces. Another downside to the Jetta Hybrid is the infotainment system. Volkswagen uses a small five-inch touch screen that provides radio, navigation, and information about the hybrid system. While I liked the simple navigation interface and the screens showing the important hybrid information, the rest of the system is not great. The touch points on the screen are too small and I found myself repeatedly hitting them to get something to happen. You also can't pan from one part of the map to another which I found somewhat annoying. Finally, I don't like that Volkswagen uses this small screen in a number of their high-end compact vehicles (Jetta Hybrid, GLI, GTI, and Beetle Turbo). I would be willing to shell out a few more dollars just so I can have a larger screen. Not all is bad with the Jetta Hybrid's interior. To start, the Jetta Hybrid has one of the largest interiors in the compact class. That means you and your passengers will be able to find a comfortable position in the vehicle. There is also the excellent Fender audio system which pumped out some great sound. I originally thought this would be just a stick-on name to a mediocre sound system, but I was wrong. The heart of the Jetta Hybrid is 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder, paired with a 20kW electric motor. Total output stands at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A 220-volt, 60-cell lithium-ion battery pack helps power the electric motor. Volkswagen uses their seven-speed DSG transmission to send the power to front wheels. The hybrid powertrain provides a surprising punch of power. The 1.4L turbo engine shows little lag and paired with the electric motor, provides smooth acceleration no matter the occasion. The smooth shifting DSG is lightning quick with its gear changes. At low speeds or if you are gentle on the throttle, the Jetta Hybrid will run on the electric motor alone for a time up to 37 MPH. You can also engage E-Mode which turns the engine off and lets you use the electric motor only. I found myself turning on E-Mode when entering my neighborhood to save more gas. The one complaint I'll level at the powertrain is when I'm leaving a stop. The powertrain goes through a shuddering stage as the computer works out which mode it should go into. Volkswagen still has some bugs to work out. Fuel economy is rated at 42 City/48 Highway/45 Combined. During my week, I got an average 40.1 MPG in mixed driving. This is a vehicle where you have to learn how to drive it correctly if you want to attain high MPG numbers. Fun to drive isn't something you would expect of a hybrid, but the Jetta Hybrid is that. Borrowing the suspension from the Jetta GLI, the Hybrid is engaging on a nice curvy road. It's a shame I can't say the same about the Hybrid's steering which is light and not very good at communicating the road to the driver. On the flip side, the suspension is very competent on providing a comfortable and smooth ride. The steering makes it a breeze of navigating tight parking spots and the city. The big question when talking about hybrids is 'how are the brakes?' The Jetta Hybrid is much like any other hybrid; the brakes are very grabby. Weirdly, I found the pedal would offer some brake feel sometimes and there would be none other times. This is something I believe Volkswagen should go back to the drawing board on. The Jetta Hybrid leaves me in a bit of a quandary. On one hand the Jetta Hybrid is packs a nice punch of power from the hybrid powertrain and is very competent when you want to have some fun. But the fuel economy, interior material quality, and as-tested pricetag give me hesitation. Factor in the similar fuel economy and lower pricetag of the Jetta TDI and the Jetta Hybrid becomes a bit tougher to argue. In summary: If you want the best hybrid, go with the Prius. If you want the most fuel economy in the Volkswagen family and something fun, go with the Jetta TDI. The Jetta Hybrid just cannot make a very compelling argument. Disclaimer: Volkswagen provided the Jetta Hybrid, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year: 2013 Make: Volkswagen Model: Jetta Hybrid Trim: SEL Premium Engine: 1.4L Turbocharged and Intercooled Inline Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed DSG Transmission Horsepower @ RPM: (Gas) 150 @ 5,000; (Electric) 27 @ 0; (Combined) 170 @ 5,000 Torque @ RPM: (Gas) 184 @ 1,600; (Electric) 114 @ 0; (Combined) 184 @ 1,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 42/48/45 Curb Weight: 3,312 lbs Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico Base Price: $31,180.00 As Tested Price: $32,010.00* (Includes $795.00 destination charge) Options: First Aid Kit - $35.00 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.
  18. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 21, 2013 Read any recent reviews of Hyundai vehicles? If you have, then I'm sure you have noticed a trend. A number of reviews (including mine) have included some variation of this line: 'Hyundai is a fast learner and the next or refreshed model will be great.' Case in point, the Genesis Coupe. When the Genesis Coupe went on sale in 2009, eyebrows were raised. A year before, Hyundai unveiled the Genesis sedan and people were trying fathom the idea of a rear-drive Hyundai. Much like the sedan, the Genesis Coupe was mostly well-received aside from a few problems; the gearbox was a bit of a mess, the brakes needed some work, and the handling was a bit of a handful. Fast forward to 2012 and Hyundai gave the Genesis Coupe a massive refresh to address those problems. I recently spent a week with a 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track to see if the mantra of 'the next model will be better' works or not, and find out if it deserves to be on the list of sports cars. The Genesis Coupe is a pretty good looking coupe. Hyundai's 'fluidic design' makes a noticeable appearance with sharp creases and a distinctive character line along the doors to the rear. The rear end is short and comes with a rear spoiler to accentuate its sportiness. There is one part of the Genesis Coupe that you either love or hate and that is the front end. For the 2013 model, Hyundai changed up the front end with a new hexagonal grille, new HID headlights and fog lights, and new hood with faux hood scoops. The new look does give it more aggression, but it also makes it look somewhat ugly. Inside, the Genesis Coupe is all business. You slip into nicely bolstered leather front seats with power adjustments that hold you in if you decide to have a bit of fun. You'll also take in sporty touches such as a brushed trim along the center stack and a trio of gauges that show ECO (fuel economy), torque, and oil temp. The gauges are a bit hard to look at a glance thanks to their low position on the center stack. Also, I'm trying figure out why Hyundai put an ECO gauge since there is a average fuel economy screen in the trip computer. My tester came equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen that houses Hyundai's BlueLink infotainment system and navigation. I found the screen to be somewhat of a reach, but the system responded quickly and provided excellent graphics. As for the back seat, that's best left for small children, items, and your imaginary friends. You have the choice of two different engines for the Genesis Coupe. The base is a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder, while a 3.8L Direct-Injected V6 is the top engine. My tester came with the 3.8 and it packs quite the punch with 348 horsepower and 295 pound-feet. To say the engine is intoxicating to play with is a massive understatement. To start, the 3.8L loves to pull. Hit the accelerator pedal and the Genesis coupe snarls into life and moves you at a serious rate. 60 MPH is dealt within 5 seconds. Hyundai has also fitted a sound enhancer that brings the howl inside. It made me bury the throttle to the floor many times during the week. Where the Genesis Coupe hits a wall is the optional eight-speed automatic. While it's smooth and knows what gear it should be in when driven sensibly or hard, it's the transition between the two that trips up the transmission. It seems the programming goes into schizophrenic phase and cannot decide what to do for a moment or so and then it figures it out and moves on. Not what I was expecting. Fuel economy for the 2013 Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track is rated at 16 City/25 Highway/19 Combined. My average for the week was around 20.2 MPG in mixed conditions. The Genesis 3.8 Track comes equipped with a track tuned suspension which makes it a love and hate relationship. You'll love how the Genesis Coupe is able to corner on your favorite road. You'll hate how stiff it is when your driving back and forth daily. The same applies to the steering. You'll enjoy the heftiness and feel it provides when you're attacking the road. However the heavy weight is verging on too much when your driving around on regular roads. It's a give and take with the Track model. Those looking for something not as harsh should look at the Genesis Coupe 3.8 Grand Touring. As for the brakes, the Track model comes equipped with a Brembo brake package. This braking system is very well done and brings the Genesis Coupe to a stop in short time. The mantra of Hyundai builds a great car the second time around rings very true with the 2013 Genesis Coupe. It wasn't that the original model was bad, there was just a lot of room for improvements. Hyundai made those improvements and created a car that fully belongs in the sports car class. Disclaimer: Hyundai provided the Genesis Coupe, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year: 2013 Make: Hyundai Model: Genesis Coupe Trim: 3.8 Track Engine: 3.8L GDI Dual CVVT V6 Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM: 348 @ 6,400 rpm (Premium) / 344 @ 6,400 rpm (Regular) Torque @ RPM: 295 lb-ft @ 5,100 rpm (Premium) / 292 lb-ft @ 5,100 rpm (Regular) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/25/19 Curb Weight: 3,613 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, Korea Base Price: $34,250.00 As Tested Price: $35,290.00* (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: Carpeted Floor Mats - $110.00 iPod Cable - $35.00 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.
  19. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 15, 2013 Answer: This vehicle in 2012 sold 404,886 units, making it the best selling passenger car in the U.S. for the past eleven years Question: What is the Toyota Camry? Why has the Toyota Camry been the best selling car in the U.S. for eleven years? After spending a week with a 2013 Camry XLE four-cylinder, I might have the answer to this question. The Camry's exterior design doesn't take any real risks. You won't find any distinctive sculpting, bold character lines, sloping roofline, or any other design cues that happen to be the hot thing at the moment. Toyota designers took the last-generation Camry, cleaned it up a bit by giving it some more tone and smoothing it out. I found it to be a nice looking vehicle. Inside is somewhat a mess. The overall look feels somewhat dated with a mismatch design, hard materials in places where you think there should be soft-touch materials, and somewhat dated climate control interface. This isn't a good sign considering Toyota had just launched this generation of Camry for the 2012 model year. There a few good points to the Camry's interior though. All of seats are very comfortable and there is a surprising amount of head and legroom for the front and back seat. Toyota's Entune infotainment system is one the easiest systems to use and provides a wide selection of audio choices and applications (such as Bing, OpenTable, and Pandora) you can access. I just wished the system was a little bit quicker when moving around the different functions and the screen did not wash out as easily in daylight. The 2013 Camry sticks with the tried and true four-cylinder, V6, and hybrid powertrain lineup. My XLE tester came equipped with the 2.5L four-cylinder with 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic that routes power to the front wheels. The engine and six-speed transmission might the bright spot in the Camry since its a very smooth and refined affair. Plus, I found the engine to provide enough power for daily driving. EPA rates the 2013 Camry XLE four-cylinder at 25 City/35 Highway/28 Combined. During my week with the Camry, I got 30.2 MPG. Competent would the perfect word to describe the Camry's ride and handling. The suspension does a great impression of doing a big sedan ride as it smooths over bumps and road imperfections. The Camry does exhibit some lean and roll when cornering, but how many Camry drivers are going to push their car to the limit? Not many. Why do many people buy the Camry? Well, partly its due to the Camry being a good car. Its not the most stylish, nor fun to drive. What the Camry does right is the basics; offer a vehicle that seat four comfortably, provides a comfortable ride and very good fuel economy, and a pricetag that doesn't hurt the bank. There is also the long standing reputation the Camry has built over the years. Looking for a vehicle that is reliable and worryfree? You want a Camry. Those two items have made the Camry a perennial breadwinner for Toyota. However, the current Camry is just average. Back in the early to mid-nineties, if you wanted the best midsize sedan, you went to the Toyota dealer and pickup up a Camry. Now with the likes of the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Honda Accord, the 2013 Camry is riding on its reputation and name. I understand why many people get the Camry, but you doing yourself a great disservice by not looking at others. The midsize marketplace is as strong as it ever was. To sum up, the 2013 Toyota Camry is a good car and many will buy it. However, there are a fair number of vehicles who are much better and deserve a look. 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. Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Camry Trim – XLE Engine – 2.5L DOHC 16-Value w/Dual VTT-i Four-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – 178 @ 6,000 RPM Torque @ RPM – 170 @ 4,100 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/35/28 Curb Weight – 3,245 lbs Location of Manufacture – Georgetown, Kentucky Base Price - $24,855.00 As Tested Price - $29,570.00* (Includes $795.00 destination charge) Options: Leather Package - $1,675.00 Convenience Package - $1,195.00 Display Audio with Navigation and Entune - $1,050.00
  20. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com July 24, 2013 Stopgap. Standby. Stand-In. Makeshift. Temporary. Interim. Placeholder. All of these words in one way or another have been used to describe Cadillac's current flagship, the XTS. When the XTS was introduced back in 2012, it filled the gap left by the DTS and STS. It also became a vehicle to serve as the flagship until the long-rumored rear-wheel drive flagship appears. But do all these words hurt the XTS? Is it something more than a placeholder in the Cadillac lineup? I recently spent a week with a 2013 XTS Platinum AWD to answer this question. The XTS might be my favorite Cadillac design to date. The overall shape makes a callback to current crop of Cadillac vehicles, most notably the ATS and SRX. Up front is massive front grille with the distinct satin-chrome grille insert for Platinum models. On either side is a set of sweptback HID headlights that move when you turn the steering wheel. The headlights also feature LED lighting along the outer edge and another set of LEDs underneath. The side profile shows off a set of twenty-inch aluminum wheels, chrome trim along the door sills and windows, and illuminated door handles. The back features vertical taillights with some fin action to give homage to the late-fifties' Cadillacs and a stoplamp that doubles as a spoiler. Moving inside, the XTS is General Motors most ambitious effort on adding technologies to a vehicle. The driver faces a color display that offers four different gauge layouts and abundance of information screens that you can throw on to the screen. I found the display easy to read and very informative. Also new is a color heads-up display which displays your speed and other key information. Cadillac's CUE infotainment system is standard on the XTS Platinum and much like the SRX I had back in March, the system has been getting better. CUE is much smoother and the responsiveness is quick when you press the screen or capacitive buttons. Still, the distraction problem is very evident and it does take some time to fully understand how to use the system. Luxuries abound in the XTS Platinum's interior. You have leather lining the door panels, dashboard, and plush seats. Driver and front passenger get power adjustments, heat, and ventilated seats. In the back, you'll find an abundance of legroom, decent headroom, manual sunshades for the windows, rear climate control, and heated seats. Powering this big Cadillac is the venerable 3.6L Direct Injected V6 with 304 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic routes the power to either the front wheels or all four wheels. The 3.6L is not the right engine for the XTS. When you think back to the big Cadillacs of yesteryear, all of them used a big V8 engine with the torque arriving on the low end of the RPM spectrum. The XTS' 3.6L is the complete opposite. With torque arriving at 5,200 RPM, you really have to work the engine if you want to get moving. Add on a curb weight of 4,215 pounds for the XTS Platinum with AWD, and you're in for a world of hurt. Now General Motors has announced a new twin-turbo 3.6L Direct Injected V6 with 410 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque for the 2014 XTS. Lets hope this is the engine to give it some needed kick. As for the other parts of the drivetrain, the six-speed automatic works perfectly by delivering very smooth shifts. The Haldex all-wheel drive system was very unobtrusive whenever it worked its magic. Fuel economy is another disappointment for the XTS. The EPA rates the 2013 XTS Platinum AWD at 17 City/26 Highway/20 Combined. During my week, I averaged 19 MPG in mixed conditions. What does the XTS does uphold in big Cadillac tradition is excellent ride and comfort. General Motors went all out on the XTS' suspension by equipping Magnetic Ride Control and a rear air suspension system. These two systems paired together provided one of the smoothest rides I have ever experienced. Bumps and road imperfections seem to be ironed out. Steering also follows big Cadillac tradition; light and really no road feel. This is ok since it’s a big luxury sedan, not a small, sports sedan. One other feature I should mention is Cadillac's Safety Seat Alert. This system is tied in with a number of safety systems in the vehicle such as the lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert. If one the safety systems detect an obstacle or the car going over the lane, it will activate the safety seat alert and vibrate the bottom cushion to alert the driver. When I first experienced it, it made me jump. I wasn't sure what was happening until I looked at the window sticker and realized my tester was equipped with it. After that, I found the system to be a unique way to alert a driver what’s going on without using any buzzers or beeps. If you're wondering, you can turn the system off. So does the XTS deserve the placeholder sticker? The answer isn't that simple. On one hand, the XTS appears to be a stand in for the long-rumored Cadillac flagship that is reportedly coming out in either 2016 or 2017. Plus, the XTS doesn't follow the current convention that Cadillacs are supposed to attack the roads like their German counter parts. But the XTS is very much an old school Cadillac in many ways. The number of luxury appointments and tech will make you feel that you're in a very special car and the suspension setup provides one of the smoothest rides around. The only thing missing is an engine that can provide the smooth low-end power needed for it. It might be a placeholder, but it is one that is very deserving of the wreath and crest badge. Disclaimer: General Motors Provided the XTS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year - 2013 Make – Cadillac Model – XTS4 Trim – Platinum Engine – 3.6L VVT SIDI V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – 304 @ 6,800 RPM Torque @ RPM – 264 @ 5,200 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/26/20 Curb Weight – 4,215 lbs Location of Manufacture – Oshawa, Ontario Base Price - $60,385.00 As Tested Price - $64,695.00* (Includes $920.00 destination charge) Options: Driver Assist Package - $2,395.00 Crystal Red Tintcoat Paint - $995.00 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.
  21. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com July 16, 2013 Can there be strength in numbers? In the compact car class, no one can really agree on that. All agree that having a sedan is very important. From there it gets somewhat unclear. Some manufacturers stick with just a sedan; others go with either a hatchback or a coupe. Hyundai is one the few automakers who offers all three with their Elantra lineup. You have the Elantra sedan, coupe, and GT (hatchback). The GT is the company's latest attempt at compact hatchback and Hyundai says it provides versatility and 'European' driving dynamics. The question is the Elantra the added strength or the weak link in the Elantra family? The Elantra GT is definitely the sportier and possibly sexier looking out of the Elantra lineup. Part of this comes from the GT being about nine inches shorter and riding on a shorter wheelbase than the Elantra sedan and coupe. The other part comes from European influences throughout the design. This is thanks to the kissing cousin of the Elantra GT, the i30. Both models share an upright front end with a hexagonal grille, sharp creases and sculpting along the side, and a sloping rear hatch. Inside, the Elantra GT doesn't share the sexy looks as the exterior. Instead, Hyundai goes with a conservative look with black and silver dash pieces, curves, and blue backlighting. It’s a look that works, but I kept thinking it could use pizzazz. What doesn't need to change is build quality as my tester was top notch. Space is a mixed bag for the Elantra GT. The back seat provides good legroom, but is a bit short on head room thanks the sloping roofline and a panoramic sunroof. The Elantra GT does claw back some points in terms of cargo space. With the back seats up, the Elantra GT gets 23 cubic feet of space. Fold the seats down and you get a massive 51 cubic feet of space, making it the best in class. Hyundai still knows how to do the value argument very well and it shows on the Elantra GT. All models come equipped with air conditioning, Bluetooth, six-speaker audio system, heated front seats, keyless entry, and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system. This Elantra GT also came equipped with the Style package (seventeen-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, and panoramic sunroof) and Tech Package (navigation, dual-zone climate control, and push-button start). As tested price? $25,365. For that price, the Elantra GT makes many of its competitors red in the face. You'll only find one engine in the Elantra GT and that would be a 1.8L GDI four-cylinder with 148 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic are your choices for the transmission. The 1.8L is a very spritely engine. Thanks to a curb weight of around 2959 lbs, the Elantra GT moves like no other. The same cannot be said for the six-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai seemed put a big emphasis on fuel efficiency with this transmission and it shows with somewhat sluggish gear changes and a tall first gear. Those looking for a bit more excitement should look into the six-speed manual. Fuel economy for the Elantra GT is rated at 27 City/37 Highway/30 Combined. During my week, I saw an average of around 28 MPG in mixed conditions. Hyundai has been getting its share of complaints about how their sporty vehicles don't feel as sporty as they should. With the Elantra GT, Hyundai seems to be turning that around. If you order your Elantra GT with the Style Package, you get a sport-tuned suspension which makes it very enjoyable on your favorite road. However, Hyundai made sure the sport-tuned suspension didn't knock out fillings when its driven day to day. The suspension is able to cope with imperfections very well. Steering is a bit of a mess. Standard on the Elantra GT is Hyundai's Flex Steer which varies the weight of the steering via three settings: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. In theory, the system should provide the right weighting for the occasion. In reality, it’s a much different story. The problem is that Comfort is way too light and Sport is verging on an exercise regime. I found myself leaving the system in Normal as it provided the best balance of the two. I think Hyundai is getting there, but taking a glance at that Mazda3's steering might help out. The 2013 Elantra GT leaves a big mark on the compact car marketplace. Sleek styling, a nice ride balance between sport and comfort, loads of cargo, and list of features that embarrasses many rivals. The downsides are only a few; the Flex Steer steering system that presents more problems than solutions, a somewhat sluggish automatic, and tight headroom in the back. Hyundai is a believer that strength does come in numbers in the compact class. The Elantra GT solidifies it. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Elantra GT, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year - 2013 Make – Hyundai Model – Elantra GT Trim – N/A Engine – 1.8L DOHC D-CVVT Inline-Four Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – 148 @ 6,500 RPM Torque @ RPM – 131 @ 4,700 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/37/30 Curb Weight – 2,959 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ulsan, Korea Base Price - $19,395.00 As Tested Price - $25,365.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge) Options: Style Package - $2,750.00 Tech Package - $2,350.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $95.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  22. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com June 27, 2013 What if I hadn't driven the Mazda CX-5 and Kia Sportage? That was a thought that kept popping into my head when I was driving around in the 2013 Nissan Rogue a couple weeks ago. The Rogue is the oldest model in the compact crossover class, introduced back in 2007 and getting a refresh in 2011. But having driven the CX-5 and Sportage recently, could the Rogue stand up? The Nissan Rogue doesn't really shatter the status quo in design. In fact, the Rogue could be classified as the status quo. The profile of the Rogue mimics Nissan's larger Murano crossover in every which way. Up front is unique front grille treatment and a hood with creases running towards the middle. The side has a set of very stylish eighteen-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels and not so stylish chrome trim pieces and door handles. These pieces just look like an afterthought. Stepping inside, the Rogue is a dreary place to be. Amy Winehouse's Back to Black was playing in my head as I looked around and saw the black leather seats, black dashboard, and black and silver trim pieces. This isn't helped by the materials used which range from ok to bad. This is an interior that could use some rehab. What the Rogue doesn't need help is with passenger comfort. My SL tester came equipped with a power driver's seat which made finding a comfortable position very easy. Back seat passengers will find plenty of head and legroom. Cargo space measures out to 27.9 cu.ft. with the seats up and 57.9 cu.ft. with the seats down, making the Rogue one the smallest in the class. Feature wise, the Rogue has pretty much got it covered. My SL tester came equipped with leather, heated front seats, automatic temperature control, sunroof, seven-speaker Bose Audio system, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and a five-inch color touchscreen with navigation. One note on the touchscreen: During the day, I found the screen washes out very easily, making it difficult to see the navigation or what's playing. Powering all Rogues is a 2.5L DOHC Four-Cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with Nissan's XTronic CVT and is sent to the front wheels or my test vehicle's AWD system. Despite the small numbers, the 2.5L is very much suited for the job. During my week, I never found myself wishing for more power in any situation. Whether I was leaving a stop, merging onto a freeway, or cruising down the road, the 2.5L just worked. A lot of credit goes to Nissan's excellent XTronic CVT. The CVT knows what RPM the engine needs to be whatever situation is at hand. Plus, the XTronic CVT that doesn't make that much cabin noise... Well aside from flooring it. The EPA rates the 2013 Rogue AWD at 22 City/27 Highway/24 Combined. During my week, I averaged 25 MPG. The Rogue's ride is what most people want in a compact crossover; a soft and comfortable ride. On rougher surfaces, the Rogue's suspension does transmit those imperfections. Wind and road noise are kept to a minimum. One item Nissan should be given a lot of credit for adding as an option is their Around View Monitor system. Part of the SL option package, the Around View Monitor system adds four cameras (one up front, one in the back, and one on each side-view mirror) that give a full 360' view when backing up or trying to parallel park. This is one system I hope other automakers are taking notes on. The 2013 Nissan Rogue is very much a competent compact crossover. It does everything well that you might throw at it in your daily life. But the problem for the Rogue is that it doesn't really stand out in the compact crossover class like before. Consider the two vehicles I mentioned at the top of this review, the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5. Both vehicles are examples on how far the compact crossover class has moved on and how far back the Rogue is in comparison. A competent compact crossover can get you far, but not far enough when there is fresh meat in the marketplace. Here's to hoping the next Rogue brings it. Disclaimer: Nissan provided the Rogue, Insurance, and one tank of gas. 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. Year - 2013 Make – Nissan Model – Rogue Trim – SV AWD Engine – 2.5L DOHC Inline-Four Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Continuously Variable Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – 170 @ 6,000 RPM Torque @ RPM – 175 @ 4,400 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/27/24 Curb Weight – N/A Location of Manufacture – Kyūshū, Japan Base Price - $26,050.00 As Tested Price - $30,965.00* (Includes $825.00 destination charge) Options: SL Package - $3,900.00 Floor Mats & Cargo Area Protection - $190.00
  23. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com June 20, 2013 If you have been paying any attention for the past few weeks here at Cheers & Gears, you know I had the chance to drive two top selling compact luxury crossovers; the Lexus RX 350 and Cadillac SRX. Both of them left me wondering why they are so popular. The Cadillac had a great design and tech, but the engine was somewhat pokey and the fuel economy left a lot to be desired. The Lexus had an exciting exterior and very impressive fuel economy, but driving dynamics were a mixed bag and the feature set for the price left me scratching my head. There had to be a compact luxury crossover that didn't leave me with that feeling. A few weeks ago, another compact luxury crossover arrived in my driveway for a week's evaluation. It was not one of the usual suspects from Germany, instead it hailed from Sweden. The Volvo XC60 is latest model to join Volvo's XC lineup and is the second best-selling model right behind the S60. Was this the crossover to make me feel different? The XC60 follows Volvo's current design motif of minimalistic styling. Key items to take note are the strong shoulder line running along the side, scalloping on the doors, and tall taillights on the rear end. The overall look of the XC60 reminded me of the upcoming V60 wagon just with a taller ride height. Inside, the XC60 has one of the best interiors in the class. Leather, soft touch materials, and metal trim pieces line the door panels and dashboard; making it feel more expensive than it really is. This is helped by the excellent build quality on my test vehicle. What isn't so impressive is the XC60's infotainment system. Much like the S60 R-Design I had back in December, the XC60 uses a center stack full of buttons and knobs to move around and control the system. While the control layout is easy to use once you figure out which button does what, there were times where I was wishing Volvo had put in a touchscreen to perform certain tasks. Comfort is a big plus in the XC60. Driver and passenger get heated and power adjustable seats. Backseat passengers will find a very good amount of head and legroom. Taking the XC60 for a nice long drive, I found the seats provide excellent support and comfort. Powering this XC60 is Volvo's tried and true 3.0L turbocharged inline-six with 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is your sole choice with this powertrain, as is all-wheel drive. Those looking for more power should look at the XC60 T6 R-Design increases horsepower to 325 and torque to 350. The T6 engine is a perfect choice for the XC60, considering the vehicle as a whole tips the scales at 4,225 pounds. No matter when you're leaving a stop, cruising along the interstate, or whatever, the T6 produces the right amount of motivation. The six-speed automatic doesn't exhibit any hunting of gears; it knew what gear it needed to be in at the time. EPA rates the 2013 XC60 T6 AWD at 17 City/23 Highway/20 Combined. During my week, I averaged around 21 MPG. The XC60's ride is one the best if your priority is comfort. The suspension provides one of the smoothest rides in the class, no matter the road surface I was driving on. Steering was a bit of surprise as I was expecting light and indirect. This isn't so as the steering provides very good feel and feedback. Road and wind noise were kept to a minimum, making this a great road trip vehicle. At the end of the week, I found myself liking the XC60 over the SRX and RX 350 by a wide margin. The minimalist styling, handsome interior, punchy powertain, and comfort ride make this almost a best-in-class. The only thing that hold it back is the controls for the infotainment system. Throw in the fact that as equipped, this XC60 lists for $48,145, undercuts many of its competitors - making this a very compelling choice in the class. Disclaimer: Volvo provided the XC60, Insurance, and one tank of gas. 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. Year - 2013 Make – Volvo Model – XC60 Trim – T6 AWD Engine – Turbocharged 3.0L Inline-Six Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 300 @ 5,600 RPM Torque @ RPM – 325 @ 2,100-4,200 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/23/20 Curb Weight – 4,225 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ghent, Belgum Base Price - $40,450.00 As Tested Price - $48,145.00* (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: Platnum Trim Package - $4,600.00 Climate Package - $900.00 19' FENRIR Alloy Wheels - $750.00 Terra Bronze Metallic - $550.00
  24. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com June 14, 2013 Monday: Chevrolet Malibu Turbo Wednesday: GMC Acadia Denali Friday: Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond How do you write a review on a vehicle that will be going away after this year? This thought had been rolling around in my mind since the 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond Edition arrived for a few days of evaluation. You can’t suggest any improvements since they will never be implemented, nor give a clear indication of whether you would recommend a vehicle or not. It seems like a futile exercise. But after giving it some serious thought, I felt the best way to do this review is to figure out what went wrong and determine the Avalanche’s legacy. Let’s dive in shall we? The current Avalanche, which was introduced back in 2006 as a 2007 model still looks as fresh as the day it was first shown. You have to give General Motors a round of applause for designing such a handsome group of machines that are a part of the GMT900 platform family. Draped in black paint, the Avalanche’s exterior shows that a simple design with minor touches such as a chrome grille, twenty-inch aluminum wheels, and chrome trim pieces works very well. The only real exterior design change to make note of is the Black Diamond emblem next to back doors, denoting that this is final year of the Avalanche. Stepping inside the Avalanche, the simple design theme continues. While other truck manufacturers are going with many shapes, buttons, and screens, the Avalanche’s dash is very clean and logically laid out. Gauges and controls are within easy reach and can be read at a quick glance. Passenger comfort in the Avalanche is excellent. Front passengers are treated to very supportive seats that are power adjustable and provide heat and cooling. Back seat passengers will find enormous amount of head and legroom. One downside the to the Avalanche’s cabin is the materials. I’ve complained about this before in the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra Denali HD reviews, and will be doing it again with the Avalanche. For a vehicle with an as-tested pricetag of $51,295, using hard plastics and glossy, plastic wood is a massive no-no. Now, I have sat in the new GM trucks and it seems GM has learned its lesson. I just wished they learned it sooner. The big selling point on the Avalanche was its unique midgate. Basically, there is a tailgate that sits between the bed and cab. Flip the tailgate down and you expand the standard 5’3” bed to a whopping 8’2” bed. You can expand the space even more by removing the bed lid and rear window. The process of expanding the bed is very easy; just flip the seats down, turn a couple of knobs to unlock the midgate, and turn a latch. Well done, GM. The Avalanche is powered by GM’s familiar 5.3L Vortec V8 engine, which produces 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. While on paper the engine sounds perfect for the vehicle, on the road it’s a bit of a different story. Step on the accelerator and the V8 makes a lovely noise that makes you think you’re really moving. It’s only when you look down at the speedometer that you realize you’re really not. This is thanks to the Avalanche’s 5,803 lb curb weight, which makes the 5.3L V8 somewhat overmatched. Thankfully, the six-speed automatic in the Avalanche is a high point. The transmission shifts very smoothly and is quick to go down a couple gears when passing power is needed. Fuel economy on the Avalanche is rated at 15 City/21 Highway/17 Combined. During my six day evaluation of the Avalanche, I recorded an average around 15.2 MPG. On the highway, I saw my fuel economy rise to about 20 MPG. One place that the Avalanche really surprised me is with its ride. I was expecting the ride to be bouncy and too firm. But taking the Avalanche out for the first time, I was shocked on how smooth the ride was. The suspension seemed to smooth out the imperfections and potholes that dot the roads of the Metro Detroit area. Much of this can be traced to Avalanche having the same suspension tuning as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and not the Silverado. At the end of the six days that I had the Avalanche, I found it to be a very capable and impressive truck. The capability the midgate offers can’t be matched by any other truck, nor can any other truck match the comfort and space of the Avalanche. It seems to be a jack of all trades that works. If you’re interested in an Avalanche, you should head over to your Chevrolet dealer...Right now. Going back to beginning of the review, I left two questions unanswered. First, what went wrong with the Avalanche? Well, nothing went wrong with the Avalanche per se. Sales began to plummet at a steady rate after 2003, when the truck recorded its best sales of 93,482. Over time, truck manufacturers introduced four-door versions of their light-duty trucks that ultimately caused the downfall of the Avalanche. Second, what will be the Avalanche’s legacy? That’s a tougher question to answer right now. It could just fall to the wayside in automotive history or it could have a spot in it. It seems GM is hoping the latter happens since all of Avalanche models for 2013 are Black Diamond Edition to mark the end. GM should be proud with what they accomplished with the Avalanche. It might not have been a success in the sales chart, but it was a true success as trying to be something different in the class. Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Chevrolet Model – Avalanche Trim – Black Diamond LTZ Engine – Vortec 5.3L SFI V8 Driveline – Four-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 320 @ 5,400 RPM Torque @ RPM – 335 @ 4,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/21/17 Curb Weight – 5,803 lbs Location of Manufacture – Silao, GJ Mexico Base Price - $47,885.00 As Tested Price - $51,745.00 (Includes $995.00 destination charge) Options: Sun & Entertainment Package - $2,435.00 Heavy Duty Trailering Package - $230.00 Trailer Brake Controller - $200.00 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.
  25. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com June 12, 2013 Monday: Chevrolet Malibu Turbo Wednesday: GMC Acadia Denali Friday: Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond If there is one vehicle or group of vehicles that show the success of General Motors after bankruptcy a few years ago, many would point towards their full-size crossover lineup. The Lambda full-size crossovers (Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and the dearly departed Saturn Outlook) came at time when buyers were looking for something with a lot of space and got much better fuel economy than than traditional body-on-frame full size SUVs. The Lambda crossover formula of one engine, two different drivetrains, and number of different models brought many buyers into the showroom and helped keep GM somewhat afloat. For the 2013 model year, GM has given the Lambda trio a bit of a nip and tuck on the exterior and interior. Cheers & Gears' Managing Editor, Drew Dowdell was one of the first people to drive 2013 Buick Enclave and came away very impressed. Now it's my turn and I got my hands on the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali. Would I come away as impressed? Read on. The 2013 Acadia Denali received a major transformation unlike the Enclave and Traverse, and it has become the best looking of the trio. GMC designers thought it was time to let the Acadia embrace the ‘Professional Grade' mantra. This is very evident in the front as the Acadia gains a similar front end as the new 2014 trucks. The Denali model adds a really cool looking chrome “three-dimensional” grill, body color-matched lower cladding, and a set of LED daytime running lamps. Other Denali cues include a set of twenty-inch machined alloy wheels and chrome exhaust exits on the rear bumper. Moving inside, the Acadia Denali really increases the level of luxuries from the outgoing model. To start, the dashboard has soft-touch upper surface with French stitching that is paired with metal trim pieces. Seats for all three rows are wrapped in what GMC calls ‘Cocoa Dune’ leather, which is a darker shade of beige that looks really good. One part of the interior trim that needs to be dinged is the shiny, fake wood trim on the door panels and center console. It doesn’t look like it should belong here at all. One item GMC kept from the old Acadia is the room and comfort for the new model. Front seat passengers are treated to power seats with heat and ventilation. Second row passengers get loads of headroom, while legroom is surprisingly somewhat tight for taller passengers. You can adjust the seat to give yourself more legroom if you feel somewhat tight. The third row has enough space that adults can fit back here somewhat comfortably, but it's best reserved for kids. Techwise, the 2013 Acadia Denali comes with the newest version of GMC’s Intellink infotainment system that uses which uses touch-sensitive buttons and a high-resolution screen to provide audio, navigation, Pandora, Bluetooth, and a number of other functions. Using the system is easy with the capacitive touch buttons and voice commands, but I think the touchscreen could be bit larger since the information seems a bit crowded and it's not always easy to do certain things, like change a station. Also, I want to talk to the person who decided that the best place to put the trip computer buttons on the bottom of the unit. It took me ten minutes just to figure out that’s where the buttons were placed. Who thought this was a good idea? Who?! An odd omission from the Acadia Denali is a proximity key and push button start. I would be ok with this if this was a Chevrolet Traverse or the base Acadia. But this is the Acadia Denali, a vehicle that as tested costs $52,075 and it doesn’t have this?! It's a little thing I will admit, but a good amount of the competition has this feature. Come on GM. Under the hood is the venerable 3.6L DI V6 engine that has powered Lambda trio since their introduction back in 2007. Power output still stands at 288 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. That’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission to either the front wheels or all four wheels via an AWD system. Tipping the scales at 4,850 lbs, the 3.6 really isn’t suited for the job. It will get you moving, but you’re just wondering if there is an invisible boat and trailer hooked up to the vehicle. The Acadia Denali and for that matter the entire GM full-size crossover lineup need a new engine as soon as possible. The six-speed automatic is very quick when down and upshifting, and doesn’t exhibit any type of noise, vibration or harshness. The EPA rates the 2013 Acadia Denali AWD at 16 City/23 Highway/18 Combined. During my time, I averaged around 17 MPG. This is mostly due to me driving in the city for most of the time and keeping the pedal close to floor to get it moving. The refreshed Acadia Denali also retains the excellent ride and handling qualities from the previous model. The fully independent suspension and dual-flow dampers give a very luxurious ride that a number of competitors can only dream of. Even on the roughest roads here in Southeast Michigan, the Acadia Denali didn’t flinch. Out on the highway, the smooth ride combined with a very quiet interior make the Acadia Denali one of the best road trip vehicles out there. Steering is surprisingly accurate and offers just right amount of weight, which means the Acadia does ok when going around a corner. Yes the Acadia Denali does weigh 4,850 lbs, but at least you and your passengers will not experience any type of motion sickness. GM knew it couldn’t mess with the massive success of the Lambda crossovers when they were working on the refresh. So they kept what worked and improved the areas that needed it. After spending a few days with the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali, I say its almost the best in class in large crossover. For it to become the best, GM just needs to work on putting a more powerful engine into it. Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – GMC Model – Acadia Trim – Denali AWD Engine – 3.6L SIDI V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 288 @ 6,300 RPM Torque @ RPM – 270 @ 3,400 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/23/18 Curb Weight – 4,850 lbs Location of Manufacture – Lansing, MI Base Price - $47,945.00 As Tested Price - $52,075.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: Navigation & Rear Seat Entertainment - $2,240.00 White Diamond Tricoat - $995.00 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.

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