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Found 300 results

  1. G. David Felt Alternative Fuels & Propulsion writer www.CheersandGears.com Top 10 Least Reliable Cars Consumers Report published their annual best and worst reliable cars. If your wanting to look at the best go here Reliable Cars. For this story, you could watch the videos and dive through the mountain of spreadsheets that consumers reports has for their data, but MSN Auto helped out by focusing on the top 10 least reliable cars and here is their list. The predicted reliability score was 125% below that of the average car. #1 - Scion xB 125% below the average auto #2 - Mercedes-Benz S-Class 127% below average #3 - Infiniti Q50 127% below average #4 - Jeep Grand Cherokee (Diesel) 134% below average #5 - Dodge Dart 140% below average #6 - Chevrolet Cruze 1.4T 143% below average #7 - Nissan Pathfinder 154% below average #8 - Ford Fiesta 162% below average #9 - Jeep Cherokee (4-cyl) 176% below average #10 - Fiat 500L 219% below average The issues seem to be focused on either the power train, suspension such as the active system in the S-Class from Mercedes-Benz or electrical. The one area that no car seemed to really have issues with is the body / paint jobs. So the question to be asked here is as follows: Are we building auto's to complex for our own good? Do we really need all these electronics in an auto? Do we really need all the sophisticated power train variables? Would it be better to focus on a more radical jump in autos by setting a dead line to move away from fossil fuel auto's to EV or Hydrogen? The questions can be endless and I hope this gets you to start thinking about what is important to you. One thing is for sure, some of these auto's will not be on my list for shopping, others would be such as the Cheverolet Cruze which got knocked for drive shaft / axel seals and GM has addressed this according to GM's web site. What are your thoughts on this list? Is it right or is Consumers reports to critical?
  2. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been working hard on trying to fix the nagging issues with the nine-speed automatic in the Jeep Cherokee and certain Chrysler 200s with constant updates. But those updates aren't making a dent in those issues as a number of complaints of hard shifts, lunging, and unexpected disengagement of the transmission litter the 2014 Jeep Cherokee page on SaferCar.gov. Automotive News has learned that Chrysler will be issuing a new update to 2014 and 2015 model year Jeep Cherokees and certain 2015 Chrysler 200s for the nine-speed transmission. This update only applies for models equipped with the 2.4L four-cylinder. A spokeswoman from FCA says the update is "intended to keep the vehicle performing as intended, and to prevent durability issues from occurring in the future." Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)
  3. 2014 Review Wrap-Up: Crossovers

    We're now at the end of our 2014 review wrap-up which deals with the largest group of vehicles I dealt with this past year: Crossovers. Next: Dodge Journey Crossroad Let us go back to the most recent dark age of Chrysler. During the floundering years of DiamlerChrysler to Cerberus ownership, Chrysler produced some of the worst vehicles to ever appear. Models such as the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger, Caliber, Jeep Compass, and Patriot left a bad taste in buyer’s mouths and would be one of the factors that would lead the company into bankruptcy. But after going through bankruptcy and being under the guidance of Fiat, Chrysler would rise from the ashes. One of the first things Fiat did for the company was to infuse the company with some much needed funds to give some of their vehicles much needed changes. One of those vehicles was the Dodge Journey, a small five to seven seat crossover that received mixed reviews when introduced back in 2007. With the changes that Chrysler and Fiat bestowed on the Journey, is it one that you should consider? The basic shape of the Journey hasn’t really changed much since it was first introduced back in 2007, which unfortunately means that it looks like other crossovers in the marketplace. The Crossroad trim adds some ruggedness to the Journey with dark grille inserts and surrounds, off-road inspired front and rear fascias, 19-inch wheels in a dark finish, and black headlight housings. Inside is where some of the major changes happened as Dodge ripped out the old interior layout and materials and replaced it with a new dashboard with a better control layout and better materials. The excellent UConnect infotainment system with an 8.4 inch screen was in my tester and it still remains very easy to use. Seats are leather with "sport mesh" inserts which were kind of odd feeling, but providing a nice level of comfort. My Journey was a five-seater version which I think is the best way to configure the Journey as there is enough space for passengers and cargo. Jumping to seven-seat model means cramped space for passengers in the third row and barely any cargo space.The Journey has a choice of two different engines. The base is a 2.4L four-cylinder, while my tester came with the optional Pentastar 3.6L V6. The V6 produces 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired to a six-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive system. The V6 is more than capable of moving the 4,238 pound as power is very abundant throughout the rev range. The six-speed automatic showed no signs of confusions when going through the gears, although on my tester, downshifts seemed to a take a second or two longer. One downside to the V6 is fuel economy. The EPA rates the Journey V6 with AWD at 16 City/24 Highway/19 Combined. My week of driving returned an average of 18. Not bad, but not good when compared to such competitors as the Kia Sorento and Toyota Highlander. The Journey’s ride is mostly composed over smooth and somewhat rutted roads. On rougher surfaces, the suspension has its work cut out and some road jostles do make their way into the cabin. Cornering is what you expect in a crossover, a bit of lean and body roll. Steering feels somewhat rubbery, but provides some decent feel.The changes Chrysler and Fiat did to the Journey did give it a new lease on life. However, the Journey doesn’t really have anything that sets it apart except price. A base Journey will $20,295, while my somewhat optioned Journey Crossroads hits the road $31,380. If price your main concern, then give the Journey a look. Otherwise, you might be better off with another crossover. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Journey Crossroad, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Dodge Model: Journey Trim: Crossroad AWD Engine: 3.6L Pentastar V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 283 @ 6,350 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19 Curb Weight: 4,238 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico Base Price: $28,395 As Tested Price: $31,380 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Navigation and Sound Group I - $995.00 Popular Equipment Group - $995.00 Next: Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T When I reviewed the Hyundai Sonata Fe Sport back in 2013, I said that it was a mostly competent crossover. The only downside was the base 2.4L four-cylinder as it felt that was under a lot of stress to get the vehicle moving. I said that 2.4 would be ok for most buyers if you decided to get the Santa Fe Sport with front-wheel drive. But if you were to go for all-wheel drive, the optional 2.0T would be a better choice. But is it? Well I had some time in a Santa Fe Sport 2.0T to find out if my original opinion was right. The turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder in the Santa Fe Sport produces 264 horsepower and 269 pound-feet torque. This comes paired up to a six-speed automatic with the choice of either front or all-wheel drive. In my tester, I had the front-wheel drive version. Compared to the somewhat out-of-breath 2.4, the 2.0T seems like the perfect match for the Santa Fe Sport. With the turbo spooled up, the Santa Fe Sport moves with authority. With torque arriving at 1,750 rpm, the Santa Fe Sport gets out of its own way and feels like power is always available. Even though this is a four-cylinder, Hyundai has done a lot of work in refinement to make it feel more like a V6. There’s barely a hint of buzzing or racket that is common to four-cylinders. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T FWD at 19 City/27 Highway/22 Combined. My average for the week landed around 23.1 MPG.Aside from the different engine, the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is very much the same as the model I drove back in 2013. The styling is very distinctive for the class and equipment is very generous with such features as dual-zone climate control, heated leather seats, and sun shades for the rear windows. Making this even sweeter is a base price $30,650 which for what you get makes it quite a steal for the class. So if you were considering getting a Santa Fe Sport, you might want to consider the 2.0T. It makes a good crossover into an impressive one. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Hyundai Model: Santa Fe Sport Trim: 2.0T Engine: 2.0L Turbo GDI DOHC 16-valve Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 264 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 1,750 - 3,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/27/22 Curb Weight: 3,569 lbs Location of Manufacture: West Point, GA Base Price: $30,650 As Tested Price: $33,385 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge) Options: Navigation Package - $1,750.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $110.00 Next: Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Within the past few years, the compact crossover market has been booming. It seems every year that a new automaker joins the group with their interpretation of a compact crossover. But what about the old guard? How do they stack up? Well I spent some time in one of them, the Volkswagen Tiguan to find out. Looking at the Volkswagen Tiguan, you can’t help but think its a smaller Touareg. The overall profile and shape make you think the Volkswagen just left their larger crossover in the wash a bit too long. Up front is Volkswagen’s two slim bar grille with large headlights and a strand of LEDs. Along the side is a lot of glass area to make the interior feel more spacious, along with body cladding and a set of eighteen-inch wheels. The back features flared haunches and a set of large taillights.Inside is a mixed bag. Let’s begin with the good points. Controls for the standard infotainment system is in easy reach for the driver and passenger. Seats came wrapped in a beige leatherette which felt fine and provided good support. Back seat space is excellent with an abundance of head and legroom. Now onto the bad points. To start, material quality is somewhat disappointing. There is some spots of soft touch material, but the majority of the interior is made up of hard plastics. This would be fine if this was a crossover around the high $20,000 mark, not one that costs $35,490. Then there is the standard infotainment system on the SEL. This is the small screen system Volkswagen uses on many of their vehicles and comes with a litany of problems. To start is the graphic interface looks it has come from the early to mid-2000s which also means the touch points are very small, making them somewhat hard to hit. Also the small screen makes it hard to look at glance, meaning you have to take your eyes off the road for a few seconds longer than looking at larger screen. Then there is the rear cargo space which measures out to 23.8 cubic feet, which makes it the smallest in the small crossover class. Powering all Tiguans is Volkswagen’s well known turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet. This is paired to a six-speed automatic and optional 4Motion all-wheel drive system. The turbo 2.0L gives the Tiguan some scoot with torque coming in 1700 rpm and it never feels that it will run out of power the higher you climb in the rev range. Plus the turbo-four is very refined with no hint the buzz that is common in four cylinders. The six-speed automatic makes the most of the power and delivers quick shifts. Fuel economy is somewhat of a disappointment with ratings of 20 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. I got around 22.4 MPG during my week. Some reviewers have called the Tiguan’s handling GTI-like. I thought that was a bit dubious, but I have to admit that is the best way to describe it. The suspension limits the amount of body roll, while the tires and 4Motion all-wheel drive kept the Tiguan glued to the road. Steering has good feel and weight to it. On the day to day front, the Tiguan does ok with minimizing road imperfections and bumps. It likely helps that my Tiguan was equipped with the 18-inch wheels and not the optional 19-inch wheels which make the ride unbearable.The Volkswagen Tiguan is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it has some good looks and impressive handling characteristics. On the other hand, there is a number of problems with the interior, fuel economy is a bit meh, and the price tag of $35,490 is a bit too much. You’ll be better off with looking at a Mazda CX-5 or a Subaru Forester. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Tiguan SEL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Volkswagen Model: Tiguan Trim: SEL 4Motion Engine: 2.0L TSI Turbocharged Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 200 @ 5100 Torque @ RPM: 207 @ 1700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/23 Curb Weight: 3,591 lbs Location of Manufacture: Wolfsburg, Germany Base Price: $34,625 As Tested Price: $35,490 (Includes $865.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Next: 2015 Kia Sorento SX AWD The current Kia Sorento is one of my favorite crossovers on sale as it has a nice equation of standard equipment and improvements, with similar pricing to the older model. One downside to the Sorento I drove last year was the price tag. With an as-tested price of $41,600 for the SX Limited I drove, I felt it was bit much for what you got, especially considering you could get mostly everything in the SX model for about $2,000 less. So when a 2014 Kia Sorento SX AWD arrived for weeklong test, it was time to see if I could stand on that opinion. Now compared to the Sorento SX Limited I drove back last year, the SX really doesn’t have any differences on the exterior when compared to SX Limited aside from wheel finish. The SX came with nineteen-inch alloy wheels, while the Limited gets a chrome finish. Inside there are only few minor differences between the two trim levels such the SX Limited getting Napa leather and premium black trim. Otherwise there isn’t any real difference between the two trims as they both have heated and cooled seats, Kia’s UVO infotainment system, push-button start, and sunroof. So unless you really want Napa leather and chrome wheels, the SX seems like the better buy.Now not much has changed under the Sorento since we last reviewed it. The standard 3.3L GDI V6 still makes 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, and comes paired with a six-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive. Like I said in my review of the Sorento SX Limited, the V6 is quite punchy and has no problem of getting the vehicle up to speed. Fuel economy is rated at 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. I saw an average of 21.3 MPG. The Sorento’s ride still retains its comfortable characteristics of isolating bumps and imperfections. So after spending a week in the Sorento SX, I would stand by my opinion of going with this model than the Sorento SX Limited. It just makes more sense as it does cents. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Sorento SX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Kia Model: Sorento Trim: SX AWD Engine: 3.3L GDI V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 252 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined -18/24/20 Curb Weight: 3,894 lbs Location of Manufacture: West Point, Georgia Base Price: $38,300 As Tested Price: $39,195 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Next: Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum In the talk of the seven-seat crossovers, we tend to mention the likes of the Chevrolet Traverse and its ilk; the Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, and Honda Pilot. But there some models that deserve a spot in the light. Case in point is the redesigned Toyota Highlander. The Highlander retains the boxy silhouette that has been a part of the vehicle for the past two-generations. But Toyota has given the Highlander a bit more of of muscular attitude to fit it more in line with Toyota’s SUV lineup. The new model has wider haunches, a more imposing trapazodial grille, larger head and taillights, and five spoke wheels. Moving inside, the Highlander has gone under a massive change. Higher quality materials and new dash layout help make the Highlander feel more premium.The dash layout now features a shelf sitting underneath the climate control and passenger side airbag to provide a spot for your phone or any small product. My particular Highlander comes equipped with seating for seven, though you can get seating for eight. Second row passengers get an impressive amount of head and legroom, however the flip-up cupholder on the passenger side seat is a bit flimsy and I worry it could break. Third-row passengers get decent headroom, but legroom is non-existent.Power comes from Toyota’s 3.5L V6 with 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive system. This is the powertrain I would go for instead of the base 2.7L four-cylinder as its up to the duty of moving the portly Highlander (can get up to 4,500 lbs). The V6 has enough grunt to get the Highlander moving and keep up with the flow of traffic. Engine refinement is tops with barely any noise or harshness coming from the V6. The transmission is smart enough to keep the engine in the area of power and provides smooth shifts. As for fuel economy, Toyota says the Highlander V6 AWD gets 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. During my week, I saw an average of 21.1 MPG. Toyota must have borrowed some of Lexus’ ride engineers to work on the new Highlander because it rides like a Lexus. Driving on some of the roughest roads in Detroit, the Highlander’s suspension was able to cope and provide a very smooth ride. There has also been work done on noise isolation to make road and wind noise almost non-existent.My Highlander Limited Platinum rolled up with an as tested price of $46,156, making it one of the more expensive choices in the crossover arena. But with all of the changes and improvements, I think the Highlander can justify the price. If you are considering a seven-seat crossover, the Highlander deserves a space at the top of the list. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Toyota Model: Highlander Trim: Limited Platinum Engine: 3.5L DOHC Dual VVT-i V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 270 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 4,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/24/20 Curb Weight: 4,508 lbs Location of Manufacture: Princeton, IN Base Price: $43,590 As Tested Price: $46,156 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tow Hitch w/Wiring Harness - $699.00 Remote Start - $499.00 Glass Breakage Sensor - $299.00 Body Side Molding - $209.00
  4. 2014 Review Wrap-Up; 2014 Toyota Sienna XLE

    Oh Toyota. I’m not sure who was it at the company who decided to market the Sienna with ‘Swagger Wagon’ tagline, because at first I thought it was kind of crazy. The tagline first appeared in an ad featuring the van and two parents rapping. At first I thought someone at the marketing department was having a YOLO moment. But the crazy thing was it worked. People took notice of the Sienna and began to put on their list of vehicles to look at. So when a Sienna XLE came in for week’s review, I wondered if there was something to this van or if the tagline Toyota had created was only promoting something mediocre. You can’t miss the Sienna due to how big it it. With measurements of 200.2 inches for overall length and 78.2 inches for overall width, the Sienna has to be the biggest minivan on sale. It also looks like Toyota did some rummaging from other vehicles in their lineup as the front grille looks to come from the Venza crossover, while the rear tailgate appears to come from one of Toyota’s large SUVs. The Sienna isn’t the the ugliest minivan on sale, but it isn’t the best looking either. Heading inside and its apparent Toyota has done a lot to make the Sienna feel more like a luxury car than a minivan. My XLE tester featured a leather interior with heated seats for the front passengers; Toyota’s Entune infotainment system, tri-zone climate control, backup camera, and a rear infotainment system. Controls are within easy reach for the radio and climate control, though I had to remind myself to look at the top of dash to the trip computer to see where I set the temperature and fan speed. Bit of an odd choice to put it there and not on the infotainment screen. Second row passengers get captain chairs with the ability to recline with a foot rest. My brother named the seats the ‘kickass seats’ and the idea of them are kickass. In practice, the idea falls short as you won’t be able to fully recline with the footrest because there isn’t enough space in the van to pull this off. Even with the seat fully back, there isn’t enough space. If Toyota was to do a Sienna XL or Grand version which adds a few more inches to the length, it might be plausible. At least head and legroom for both second and third row passengers are very generous. Cargo space is right in the midpack with the Sienna offering 39.1 cubic feet with all three rows up and 150 cubic feet with the third row folded and the second row removed.Power comes from Toyota’s venerable 3.5L V6 with 266 horsepower and 245 horsepower. It can be paired with front-wheel or my tester’s all-wheel drive system. Both drivetrains feature a six-speed automatic. The V6 is very much able to hold its own in the Sienna as power was abundant and was able to get the van up to speed in no problem. The six-speed automatic delivers smooth $h!s, while the optional all-wheel drive keeps the vehicle on the road with almost no hint that its working. Fuel economy for the Sienna XLE AWD is rated at 16 City/23 Highway/19 Combined. My week average landed around 18 MPG. The Sienna’s ride is what you would expect in a minivan; a suspension that has been tuned for coddling its occupants with nary a bump or road imperfection. This does mean the Sienna rolls when cornering, but then again this isn’t meant to a sports car. Noise levels are kept to a decent level in day to day driving, though freeway driving does bring in a bit more road noise than any other minivan I have driven. So while the ‘swagger wagon’ tagline may make some people scratch their heads, it does give a light to the Sienna which I think is one of the best vans I have driven yet. It has more than enough luxuries and space for you and your passengers to enjoy wherever they are going, along with a ride that makes you feel you’re in a luxury car. Win win in my book. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Sienna, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Toyota Model: Sienna Trim: XLE AWD Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 266 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 245 @ 4,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/23/19 Curb Weight: 4,735 lbs Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana Base Price: $36,185 As Tested Price: $40,322 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge) Options: XLE Navigation Package with Entune App Suite - $1,735.00 Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - $500.00 XM Satellite Radio - $449.00 Carpet Floor Mats w/Door Sill Protector - $330.00 Roof Rack Cross Bars - $185.00 Cargo Net - $49.00 First Aid Kit - $29.00
  5. 2014 Review Wrap-Up: SUVs

    While crossovers haven taken the space that SUVs occupied only a few years ago, a number of automakers are still producing them as there is still an audience for them. One that wants the off-road and towing ability SUVs offer. So come along as we take a look at three specimens in our latest 2014 review wrap-up. First Up: 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium It is hard to believe that 30 years ago, Toyota introduced the 4Runner. The sister vehicle to the all-mighty Land Cruiser was to give Toyota a true competitor to the likes of the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Bronco. Since that time, the 4Runner has grown up somewhat in terms of size and position, but it never lost its mission; a vehicle that can get you anywhere. But with the recent 4Runner, does it still hold true to that mission? The 4Runner’s exterior has a look of being able to get you anywhere with no problem. This is firmly expressed in the front end as it looks like it’s wearing a muzzle. There’s a large grille to allow the standard V6 engine to breath, along with C-Shaped faux air vents above the front bumper. The rest of the 4Runner’s design is the same as the model shown in 2010 with the folded angle design, flared wheel arches, and rear tailgate with a power window. A set of seventeen-inch wheels finish off the look of the 4Runner. Inside, the rugged attitude continues with chunky controls for the climate control, infotainment system, and transfer case. A large instrument cluster provides all of the key details needed to go off the beaten path. Despite its rugged attitude, the 4Runner is a nice place to sit in. Seats are comfortable and come with heat as part of the Premium package. Rear seat passengers will find a decent amount of legroom, though I found headroom is a little bit tight due to the optional sunroof.Power comes from a 4.0L V6 engine with 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired up to a five-speed automatic and a part-time four-wheel drive system. The V6 is a workhorse for Toyota’s pickups and SUVs, and its easy to see why. Power comes on immediately and the engine roars with glee. The five-speed automatic doesn’t quite fully mesh with the V6 as first-gear takes a bit longer to kick down than I was expecting. Thankfully, all other gears did not have this same experience. Fuel economy is rated at 17 City/21 Highway/18 Combined. I got 17.4 MPG during my week of testing. As for ride and handling, the 4Runner exhibits a mostly comfortable ride with the suspension able to smooth out potholes and road imperfections. Wind and road noise were kept at decent level. On the curves, the 4Runner does exhibit a bit of body roll and lean due to its off-road suspension. Steering was perfectly weighted and provided excellent response for an SUV. Off the beaten path is where the 4Runner truly shines with impressive ground clearance and ability to go over some of the roughest terrain with no problem. This is an SUV that dreams of going on the trail.The 4Runner is built for those who seek adventure and their travels take them off the beaten path more often than not. If your travels are limited to payment, then you’ll be better off with a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the 4Runner, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Toyota Model: 4Runner Trim: SR5 Premium Engine: 4.0L DOHC VVT-i 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Part-Time Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 270 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 278 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/21/18 Curb Weight: 4,675 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $37,615 As Tested Price: $39,045 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rigid Running Boards - $345.00 Carpet Floor Mats & Floor Mat - $225.00 Next: 2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury Did you know that there two variations of the Toyota Land Cruiser sold in the U.S.? No, I’m not referring to the Lexus LX 570 which is a dressed up Land Cruiser. I’m referring to another model in the Land Cruiser family, the Land Cruiser Prado. This model sold in certain parts of the world is a direct competitor to the Land Rover LR4 with a body-on-frame SUV with all of the four-wheel drive tech to get through some of the worst conditions that mother nature has on offer. So you might be wondering where is this smaller Land Cruiser is in the U.S.? Well you only need to head down to your local Lexus dealer and check out the GX 460. But in this age where crossovers are taking the place of SUVs, does the GX 460 have a place anymore? You can’t miss the GX 460 at all, especially in the front. The model now features the gaping maw that is known as the spindle grille. I really don’t think the spindle grille works on the GX as it looks like an afterthought to make it fit in with the rest of the Lexus lineup. But the rest of the GX’s design is mostly the same as the first-generation model introduced back in 2002. That means a high-stance, a side-hinged tailgate, and large headlights with LEDs. Moving inside, the GX 460 feels slightly old when compared to competitors as the basic dashboard layout hasn’t changed a lot since it was introduced back in 2002. You also won’t find the remote touch infotainment system or a configurable gauge package in the GX either. At least Lexus has gotten the luxuries part right in the GX with leather, soft touch plastic, and wood trim along the door panels and dash. Seats in my GX tester were wrapped in semi-aniline leather and came equipped with heat for the first two rows, while cooled seats were standard for the front passengers. There is a third-row in the GX, but it really is only usable for small kids. Also with the third row up, cargo space is non-existent.Power comes from a 4.6L V8 engine with 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and a full-time four-wheel drive system. Despite the high power numbers, the 4.6L feels like its struggling to move the GX. Tipping the scales at 5,340 pounds explains some of struggle, as does a lazy throttle. Plus points on the V8 is not much noise when idling or accelerating in the lower rpms. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth shifts and seemed to be in a good rhythm with the engine. The GX comes with a full-suite of off-road technologies such as a central differential lock, adjustable suspension, and hill descent control which means you’ll be able to go anywhere you want. But in reality, many GXs will be in the urban jungle. During my week of testing, the only real off-roading I did in the GX was driving down a gravel road which really didn’t challenge the four-wheel drive system at all. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2014 GX 460 at 15 City/20 Highway/17 Combined. You’ll be lucky if you can get 15 if you decide to drive like your grandmother. Drive normally and you’ll likely see numbers of around 12 to 13 MPG. Ouch.I was bit worried on how the GX would handle day to day driving duties as it has all of those four-wheel drive technologies, along with a tall ride height. But the GX surprised me as it provided a very comfortable and smooth ride. Bumps and road imperfections didn’t upset the GX ride, while road and wind noise were kept down. The only way I could recommend the Lexus GX 460 is that you want something luxurious to take on your adventure to death valley or the wilderness. If your main driving takes to on the mean streets, then a crossover such as the Acura MDX or Buick Enclave would be a better choice. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the GX 460, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Lexus Model: GX 460 Trim: Luxury Engine: 4.6L DOHC VVT-i 32-Valve V8 Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 301 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 329 @ 3,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - Curb Weight: 5,340 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $60,715 As Tested Price: $62,770 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge) Options: Mark Levinson Premium Audio - $1,145.00 Next: 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ 4WD There are very few times where I’ll drop my jaw because of the price tag of a vehicle I’m reviewing, whether its a bit too high or low. Such was the case for the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ that stopped by for a weeklong review. When I was reading through the window sticker, I dropped the sheet after seeing the price tag of $69,130. After letting the shock pass over me, I was wondering who would buy an almost $70,000 Tahoe? A GMC Yukon Denali I can see, but a Tahoe?! Well Chevrolet has got the design part of the Tahoe right. The new model has the same silhouette as the last-generation, but Chevrolet’s designers have given it some distinctive touches. Up front is a larger grille with larger chrome pieces and uniquely shaped headlights. Around back is a slightly tweaked tailgate design with new taillights.Moving inside and Chevrolet deserves a gold medal for the improvements made in here. Gone is the bland dashboard design with the hard plastic and terrible looking wood trim. In its place is a dashboard full of contours and distinctive shapes, along with much better materials such as leather and soft-touch plastics on the dash which makes it a pleasant place to be in. My LTZ tester came with a eight-inch touchscreen and Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. MyLink still has some bugs to work out such as how long it takes to respond when pressed and overall speed, but at least stability is much better than when I last used it in the Silverado. Second row passengers get a set of captain chairs with heat, along with a set of climate controls to make themselves them comfortable. Space back here is good for headroom. Legroom I found was a little-bit tight. The third row is best reserved for small kids as head and legroom are very much at a premium for adults, or to be folded into the floor to increase cargo space. Power comes from the 5.3L V8 that powers so many of GM’s light-duty trucks and SUVs. Ratings are 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and optional four-wheel drive system. Those looking for a more powerful V8 in their GM SUV will need to step up to the GMC Yukon Denali and Cadillac Escalade for the 6.2L V8. As I have stated before in the Silverado/Sierra review with the 5.3L V8, the throttle response when leaving a stop is very sluggish. It feels like there is a hump you have to overcome with the throttle before you get the full power of the V8. I get this is a way for GM to save fuel, but I think there are better ways to do the same thing. Once over the hump, the V8 engine has more than enough oomph to get you moving while providing very little noise. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2015 Tahoe 4WD at 16 City/22 Highway/18 Combined. My average for the week was around 15 MPG. On the ride and handling front, the Tahoe is excellent. The model feels more like a luxury sedan than an SUV with good isolation of bumps and imperfections, and outside noises being kept to an almost whisper. Some of the credit has to go to the Magneride magnetic ride control system which adjusts damping characteristics in as little as 10 milliseconds. Steering is somewhat light, but has good feel.So after a week in the Tahoe, I can see kind of see why it has a high price tag. The new model is a massive improvement over the old one and leaves competitors such as the Nissan Armada in the dust. But I’m still wondering if the Tahoe is a just a hair too high price-wise for its own good. Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Tahoe, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Chevrolet Model: Tahoe Trim: LTZ 4WD Engine: 5.3L EcoTec V8 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 355 @ 5600 Torque @ RPM: 383 @ 4100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/22/18 Curb Weight: 5,683 lbs Location of Manufacture: Arlington, Texas Base Price: $62,000 As Tested Price: $69,130 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Sun, Entertainment, Destination Package - $3,255.00 Adaptive Cruise Control - $1,695.00 Max Trailering Packager - $500.00 Crystal Red Metallic Paint - $495.00 Theft-Deterrent System - $395.00 Cocoa/Mahogany Trim - $295.00
  6. 2014 Review Wrap-Up: Going Green

    Next in the wrap-up in 2014 vehicle reviews, I take look at green vehicles. In this case they all happen to be the hybrid variety. 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring The second time is the charm? That’s the hope for Honda with the 2014 Accord Hybrid. The previous incarnation of the hybridized Accord was a sporty model that really didn’t see any improvement in fuel economy. This in turn caused it to be a flop.Honda went back to drawing board and have introduced an Accord Hybrid that promises best-in-class fuel economy. Can it right the wrong of the previous model? The Accord Hybrid looks for the most part like your standard Accord sedan with a two bar grille, large greenhouse, and a short rear end. The differences are mostly cosmetic as certain chrome pieces and the headlights have a blue tint. Theres also a set of hybrid badges on the front fenders, and a set of seventeen-inch wheels. Inside is the same story as the exterior, with the only real changes for the Accord Hybrid are a new instrument cluster to display information about the hybrid system and a EV button to put the vehicle into a fully electric mode. Getting inside, you find a nice selection of quality materials and loads of space for front and rear passengers.My Touring tester came with Honda’s dual-screen infotainment system which features an eight-inch screen sitting on top of the dash and a smaller touchscreen to change stations/tracks or whatever audio input. There’s also a set of buttons and a knob sitting right above the transmission tunnel to take you to different parts of the system. As I wrote in my first drive of the Accord Hybrid in 2013, the system is a bit of a mess. The touchscreen is slow to respond when you’re trying to change stations or switch from the radio to the USB input. Also, reaching for the controls towards the bottom is quite a reach. Honda really needs to go back to the drawing board with their infotainment system. The Accord Hybrid features Honda’s newest hybrid system called Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) system. This system is comprised of, 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder Atkinson-Cycle engine producing 141 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque Two 124 kW electric motors - One acting as a propulsion motor, one acting as a generator 1.3 kWh Lithium-Ion battery Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT) Power Control Unit Impressive to say in the least. It’s even better when the system is engaged. The Accord Hybrid never felt lacking in power as the electric motor and 2.0L engine worked together to provide enough thrust for whatever situation I found myself in. More impressive was the seemless transition from electric only to hybrid power. There was no sign of the change over unless I was watching the gauge cluster. Fuel economy is rated at 50 City/45 Highway/47 Combined. I got close to those numbers with an average of 42 MPG for the week. I think I could have matched or even surpassed those numbers if given another week with the Accord Hybrid.On the ride and handling front, the Accord Hybrid is very similar to the standard Accord. The suspension is able to cope with bumps and imperfections with no problem at all. On the curves, the Accord Hybrid is a joy as it keeps you grounded and provides little body roll. Steering has good heft and feel. Wind noise is kept to a decent level, but road noise is very apparent. I would put some of the blame on the low-rolling resistance tires. The Accord Hybrid puts Honda in a good position within the midsize hybrid sedan class with an impressive powertrain layout placed in the well-regarded package that is the Accord. Its going to take something big to knock off the Accord Hybrid as the best in class. Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Accord Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Album: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring 14 images 0 comments Year: 2014 Make: Honda Model: Accord Hybrid Trim: Touring Engine: Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 141 @ 6200, Electric Motor - 166 @ 3857-8000 Torque @ RPM: Gas Engine - 122 @ 3500-6000, Electric Motor - 226 @ 0-3857 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 50/45/47 Curb Weight: 3,602 lbs Location of Manufacture: Marysville, Ohio Base Price: $34,905 As Tested Price: $35,695 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Next: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advance Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 → Last » Click here to view the article
  7. 2014 Review Wrap-Up: Going Green

    Next in the wrap-up in 2014 vehicle reviews, I take look at green vehicles. In this case they all happen to be the hybrid variety. 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring The second time is the charm? That’s the hope for Honda with the 2014 Accord Hybrid. The previous incarnation of the hybridized Accord was a sporty model that really didn’t see any improvement in fuel economy. This in turn caused it to be a flop.Honda went back to drawing board and have introduced an Accord Hybrid that promises best-in-class fuel economy. Can it right the wrong of the previous model? The Accord Hybrid looks for the most part like your standard Accord sedan with a two bar grille, large greenhouse, and a short rear end. The differences are mostly cosmetic as certain chrome pieces and the headlights have a blue tint. Theres also a set of hybrid badges on the front fenders, and a set of seventeen-inch wheels. Inside is the same story as the exterior, with the only real changes for the Accord Hybrid are a new instrument cluster to display information about the hybrid system and a EV button to put the vehicle into a fully electric mode. Getting inside, you find a nice selection of quality materials and loads of space for front and rear passengers.My Touring tester came with Honda’s dual-screen infotainment system which features an eight-inch screen sitting on top of the dash and a smaller touchscreen to change stations/tracks or whatever audio input. There’s also a set of buttons and a knob sitting right above the transmission tunnel to take you to different parts of the system. As I wrote in my first drive of the Accord Hybrid in 2013, the system is a bit of a mess. The touchscreen is slow to respond when you’re trying to change stations or switch from the radio to the USB input. Also, reaching for the controls towards the bottom is quite a reach. Honda really needs to go back to the drawing board with their infotainment system. The Accord Hybrid features Honda’s newest hybrid system called Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) system. This system is comprised of, 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder Atkinson-Cycle engine producing 141 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque Two 124 kW electric motors - One acting as a propulsion motor, one acting as a generator 1.3 kWh Lithium-Ion battery Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT) Power Control Unit Impressive to say in the least. It’s even better when the system is engaged. The Accord Hybrid never felt lacking in power as the electric motor and 2.0L engine worked together to provide enough thrust for whatever situation I found myself in. More impressive was the seemless transition from electric only to hybrid power. There was no sign of the change over unless I was watching the gauge cluster. Fuel economy is rated at 50 City/45 Highway/47 Combined. I got close to those numbers with an average of 42 MPG for the week. I think I could have matched or even surpassed those numbers if given another week with the Accord Hybrid.On the ride and handling front, the Accord Hybrid is very similar to the standard Accord. The suspension is able to cope with bumps and imperfections with no problem at all. On the curves, the Accord Hybrid is a joy as it keeps you grounded and provides little body roll. Steering has good heft and feel. Wind noise is kept to a decent level, but road noise is very apparent. I would put some of the blame on the low-rolling resistance tires. The Accord Hybrid puts Honda in a good position within the midsize hybrid sedan class with an impressive powertrain layout placed in the well-regarded package that is the Accord. Its going to take something big to knock off the Accord Hybrid as the best in class. Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Accord Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Honda Model: Accord Hybrid Trim: Touring Engine: Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 141 @ 6200, Electric Motor - 166 @ 3857-8000 Torque @ RPM: Gas Engine - 122 @ 3500-6000, Electric Motor - 226 @ 0-3857 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 50/45/47 Curb Weight: 3,602 lbs Location of Manufacture: Marysville, Ohio Base Price: $34,905 As Tested Price: $35,695 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Next: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In Advance There are some cars that your’s truly finds impressive and would gladly buy, but knows that he wouldn’t recommend it because of some issue. That’s the case with the 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In, a model that somehow I liked after spending a week in it, but has a key problem that makes it hard to recommend. The Prius Plug-In looks for the most part like the standard Prius. The only differences between the two is Plug-In Hybrid badging on the front fenders, new wheels, and a additional fuel filler door on the passenger side where the charging port lives (more on that in a moment). As for the interior, my tester came fully loaded with such items as leatherette, infotainment system with a JBL audio system, and heads-up display. Nice items for the most part, but I should warn that the leatherette feels very synthetic and nasty. I would go with the cloth. On the plus side, the Prius Plug-In does feature a lot of room for your passengers and cargo.Under the hood, you’ll find the almost the same Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain as in the the standard Prius. A 1.8L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder paired up to a 60 kW electric motor delivering a total output of 134 horsepower. The difference is in the batteries. While the standard Prius has a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery, the Plug-In gets a Lithium-Ion battery. The new battery allows the Prius Plug-In to travel up to 11 Miles on electric power alone. During my week, I found myself using the EV mode a lot as it provided decent power to get around town and was very quiet. On the range front, I was able to get around 10 to 12 miles per charge. As for the charging port I mentioned earlier, that allows the Prius Plug-In to charge in 1.5 hours when plugged into a 240V charger or 3 hours when plugged into a 120V outlet). For other situations such as the freeway, I left the vehicle in the hybrid mode. This highlights a couple problems with the Prius. First it takes a few seconds longer for it to get up to speed. Second is the amount the noise that comes up when you decide that more power is needed. It sounded like a weed-whacker was being thrashed under the hood. As for fuel economy, I got around 51 MPG for the week. On the ride and handling front, the Prius Plug-In is much the same as the standard Prius; providing a comfortable, albeit noisy ride. So while I liked the Prius Plug-In, there is a big problem; price. A base Prius Plug-In will set you back $29,990 which seems somewhat reasonable. My tester which was the Advance model and came to an as-tested price of $38,907 with options. No that is not a misprint. Now the Prius Plug-In does qualify for a few tax incentives which helps offset the price somewhat. But for around the same money, you could get into a Chevrolet Volt. You do lose some practicality, but gain more in EV range.So the Prius Plug-In is a vehicle I like, but the pricetag makes it one I would pass on.' Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius Plug-In, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Toyota Model: Prius Plug-In Trim: Advance Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive (1.8L DOHC 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder, 60 kW Electric Motor) Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 98 @ 5,200, Electric Motor - 80 @ N/A, Total Output - 134 Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 4,000, Electric Motor - 153 @ 0 Fuel Economy: 95 MPGe, 50 MPG Curb Weight: 3,216 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tsutsumi, Japan Base Price: $34,905 As Tested Price: $38,907 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $2,610 Illuminated Door Sill - $279.00 Carpeted Floor Mats & Trunk Mat - $225.00 Cargo Net - $49.00 First Aid Kit - $29.00 Next: 2014 Lexus CT 200h F-Sport The Lexus CT 200h F-Sport is an intriguing idea. A luxury compact hatchback that is fuel efficient and sporty. So while the idea seems ok in theory, how does it work in the real world? The CT 200h in my eyes happens to be black sheep in Lexus family mostly because of how it looks. A five-door hatchback with a long front end and a new spindle grille which you either love or hate it. Around back is a flat rear tailgate which I think makes the CT a bit ungainly to look at. A set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels and F-Sport badging on the front fenders which come as part of the F-Sport package finish off the look. Inside is a nicely trimmed interior with supportive leather seats and handsome trim. The layout of dashboard is easy to understand and controls are in easy reach for the driver and passenger. The optional Lexus Inform infotainment system has been updated to look a bit fresher and improve user experience. However, the Lexus Remote Touch controller makes using the system a frustrating experience as it seems to be really sensitive. On the plus side, the CT 200h is spacious for back seat passengers and cargo.Power comes from Lexus Hybrid Drive which pairs a 1.8L four-cylinder and 60 kW electric motor to produce a total output of 134 horsepower. This is paired up to a CVT. Now most reviews of the CT 200h say its painfully slow, but I care to disagree. Despite a curb weight of 3,130 pounds, I found the powertrain to be adequate as it took a few ticks longer for the CT to get up to speed than other comparable models. I should warn that if you decide to slam the pedal to floor, the engine and CVT will make a horrific noise that will make you think twice of doing that. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2014 CT 200h at 43 City/40 Highway/42 Combined. I saw an average of 39 MPG. Now this particular CT 200h was equipped with the F-Sport package which adds a sport tuned suspension and that’s about it. Compared to other Lexus models equipped with F-Sport package, I felt the CT F-Sport was somewhat lacking as the suspension was the only real mechanical change to it. Maybe there was some limitations to it being a hybrid, but I think there is room for improvement. The revised suspension means there is a noticeable difference in how the CT handles. Body roll and lean is decreased somewhat when compared to the standard CT. Steering is decent with good weight, but those hoping for an improvement in feel will be disappointed. For day to day driving, the CT 200h F-Sport is a bit more stiff than the standard CT, but not to the point where you’ll be crying uncle.So for the most part, the CT 200h F-Sport succeeds in its mission of providing a fun to drive luxury hatchback that is also ok on fuel. I would like to like to see Lexus do some more with the F-Sport package such as adding more sport goodies to the drivetrain and suspension. Maybe that’s in store for the next-generation. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the CT 200h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Lexus Model: CT 200h Trim: F-Sport Engine: Lexus Hybrid Drive(1.8L DOHC 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder, 60 kW Electric Motor) Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: Gas Engine - 98 @ 5,200, Electric Motor - 80 @ N/A, Total Output - 134 Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 4,000, Electric Motor - 153 @ 0 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 43/40/42 Curb Weight: 3,130 lbs Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan Base Price: $32,050 As Tested Price: $39,030 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge) Options: Navigation System - $3,490 F-Sport w/NuLuxe Interior - $1,180 F-Sport Premium Package - $900.00 Intuitive Park Assist - $500.00
  8. Cheers and Jeers for 2014

    It was a year of fear as the ebola virus was plastered all over the news despite being almost entirely contained to West Africa. Terror group ISIS rose up and took over parts of Iraq as America’s longest war wound down in Afghanistan and officially ended. Protests erupted across the country over the deaths of unarmed black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by white police officers. An apathetic electorate, assisted by gerrymandering, decided that they wanted Congress and governor mansions to be red and gave the President another spanking despite an improved economy, rising employment, and an all-time high Dow Jones. Same-sex marriage became legal in an additional 17 states, now at 35. Hacking continued to be in the news, as the full extent of purloined personal data from Target’s computers in late 2013 became known early in the year and showed how antiquated credit card security is in the U.S. Home Depot was victim of a major breach. Towards the end of the year, XBOX addicts couldn’t get their fix for a few days, and North Korea allegedly hacked into Sony’s computers as retribution to their pending release of a satirical film, or was it an inside job? In other international news, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are being reestablished. Three airline disasters, including one jumbo jet that is still missing, took place in the Far East areas of Malaysia and Indonesia. Prominent passings included Robin Williams, James Garner, and Joan Rivers. Tom Magliozzi, the older of NPR’s “Click and Clack” brother duo, also passed away. In automotive news, Ford began sales of the all-new Mustang, which debuted to mixed reviews, but the marketplace has flocked to the car so far. Ford also brought out the aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup. This was after a F-250 prototype caught fire in August and quickly vaporized, leading people to ask whether aluminum is the best material for a pickup, combined with lingering questions about durability, repair costs, and insurance costs. Mazda unveiled a new Miata that lost some weight and has a sharper look. Porsche became even more of an SUV company with the runaway sales of the Macan. Subaru sales continue to be through the roof. GM recalled about 30 million vehicles, about double what Toyota did in their crisis about three years ago. A sinkhole opened up at the Corvette museum in February and swallowed 8 Corvettes, 3 of which will be restored. Attendance at the museum spiked up 71%, and the big hole is now being filled up with gravel. Google revealed their prototype of their driverless car, which has the potential of transforming tight urban places. At the end of the year, gas prices dropped by about a third due to increased production in the U.S., which will ensure sales of large vehicles for a while. Here on the C&G boards, it was another pretty quiet year, though the forum platform got a nice upgrade. Here are a few of the highlights and lowlights in the 13th Annual Edition of Cheers and Jeers: Cheers to Cadillac for credible performance vehicles with the ATS-V and the CTS-V. Details of the upcoming CT6 are promising. Cadillac sales are down 20% this year, but Cadillac is not doing fire sales anymore and will be plugging gaping holes in the lineup. Jeers to Cadillac for their lame new naming convention. The updated emblem, which is supposed to be “sleeker and streamlined”, comes across as plain and squat, but worse is their unoriginal naming convention of having a different number designate each model in its hierarchy after CT for the passenger cars and XT for the crossovers and SUVs. The fact that Escalade will retain that name shows the power of having a unique, immediately identifiable name. Cheers to GM for having the Best New Pickups with the Colorado and Canyon returning to the lineup, and not making them half-baked like the last go-round. They will genuinely be best-in-class, albeit a shrunken class of other aged vehicles, but they will have a year ahead of the new Tacoma to establish themselves. The diesel engine coming next year will make them that much more compelling. Cheers to GM CEO Mary Barra for her adept handling of the recalls. She’s bringing a clarity of direction with limited obfuscation. Jeers to GM for not resolving the safety issues to begin with, and for GM somehow initially forgetting that the Saturn Ion had the same defective part. The defective ignition switch has been blamed for 42 deaths. Now GM is erring on the side of caution for recalls, which is probably necessary for the sake of PR, but it’s also the right thing to do. Jeers to Takata for dragging their feet to recall defective airbags that spew metal debris. Cheers to FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) for producing the audacious Challenger and Charger Hellcat, with their 707 hp and 200 mph top speed. Perhaps the Hellcat was in response to the new Mustang and pending Camaro changeover, but the American muscle car is more alive than ever in terms of performance. Cheers to FCA again for having the full-size pickup with best mileage by placing a Fiat-sourced diesel engine in the light-duty Ram EcoDiesel and keeping the truck current. GM had plans for a small Duramax for the light-duty Silverado, but that project got shelved during the bankruptcy. Jeers to Ford on the beer can F-150, which is not a game-changer. The styling is overwrought inside and out. Ford pickups have historically been overweight, and a 700 pound weight loss is really only about a 300 pound weight advantage compared to the competition. The new 2.7 liter EcoBoost engine has gotten good reviews so far and gives the best mileage for any gas-powered pickup, but will truck buyers feel comfortable about having such a small engine, and how will reliability be over the long term? Cheers to Ford for the trusty, dearly, and now departed Econoline/E-Series, which was discontinued in 2014 after having the same platform architecture since the 1975 model year. RIP. The Econoline name dates back to 1961. While “eco” names have been in vogue with branding the last 10 years, Ford actually phased out the Econoline name in 2001. As balthazar pointed out, Ford and Mercedes had E-350 and E350 models concurrently. But out with the old, and in with the newfangled Transit. Only GM still has old-school vans with the Chevy Express and GMC Savana. Cheers to Tesla for the quickest production automobile, the all-wheel-drive, 691 hp, 964 lb-ft Model S P85D. Tesla CEO and publicity hound Elon Musk closed the year by making the announcement that their six year old Roadster can be upgraded to achieve a 400 miles range, which would conceivably make an electric car practical for far more than the 80% or so it is for now, at least in terms of range. Earlier in the year, Tesla announced their first rollouts of their battery changing stations, which will swap out the battery faster than a typical car fills with gas. On the last day of the year, Musk announced that a robotic snake is being worked on to automatically plug in the charger, because that is just too much work. Cheers to C&G Admin William Maley, aka mudmonster, for the Best Post on learning to drive a stick: http://www.cheersandgears.com/topic/83744-learning-the-dark-arts-of-driving-a-manual-transmission. How many of us were able to relate to the frustration, sheer terror, or satisfaction of doing the same thing in our youths? More Cheers for his consistently good car reviews. Jeers to the Worst Post on spiritual and philosophical matters and inexplicably posted in the Mercury forum: http://www.cheersandgears.com/topic/83093-here-is-practical-explanation-about-next-life-purpose-of-human-life-philosophicalreligious-facts-theories-etc/#entry743913. However, perhaps it could be said that a diversity of thought can help foster a better understanding to all of us. Finally, Cheers to all the staff and members of C&G. The constancy of the posters is like comfort food: ocnblu alternating between cars and trucks, with it now beng truck time with a pending Colorado. GMTruck74 having that constant yearning for a new GMC, and possibly getting a GMC Canyon. smk4565 being smk4565. Cmicasa did bring some needed energy to the boards late in the year. And thanks to board owner Drew Dowdell, aka oldsmoboi, for keeping the board chugging along. Cheers to all! Hope everybody has a safe and prosperous Happy New Year!
  9. 2014 Review Wrap-Up: Sports Stuff

    Next up in the 2014 review wrap-up is sporty cars. Originally I was going to call this sports cars, but only one can be considered it. The other two happen to be sporty takes on standard models. First: Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PHRT For an automobile to remain true to its mission for a quarter-of-a-century is an amazing feat. Such is the case for the Mazda MX-5 Miata. When it first was shown back in 1989, it promised to bring fun and sporty driving that roadsters from the fifties and sixties, but with better reliability. Throughout its three generations, the MX-5 Miata has achieved this, along with a loyal and rabid fan base. With a new MX-5 Miata coming over the horizon, I wanted to give the third-generation model a final spin. Well a 2015 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PHRT arrived for a week to do just that. Mazda decided to stick with the shape from the first-generation MX-5 Miata and make evolutionary changes to it. I think this is a wise decision as you can tell there is a direct lineage from first model to the current one. The front end has a rounded shape and the smiling grille that has been a key part of Mazda’s last-generation designs. There is also a lip spoiler which comes as part of the Grand Touring trim level. Along the side are some the largest wheel flares I have ever come across on a vehicle. Its a nice touch as it makes the Miata that much more distinctive. Now the third-generation Miata is special because it introduced a power hardtop. The hardtop gives the Miata a coupe look when it is up and provides extra sound deadening. Putting the hardtop up or down only takes around ten seconds. One note, the hardtop when folded does take up a majority of trunk space. So pack really lightly if you decide to take a trip in one.Getting inside the Miata is a bit of an acrobatic act as the way you have enter involves folding your legs and then lowering yourself into the seat. Once you are settled in, you feel that you have become one with the vehicle thanks to the low seating position which means all controls are in easy reach. The leather bucket seats provide a multitude of adjustments so you can your find your perfect spot. The dash is nothing fancy with black plastics and aluminum trim which helps reduce distraction while driving. Standard on the Grand Touring is a Bose sound system. The system sounds great when you are puttering along in the city or along a back road. But if you decide to hit the freeway, the sound system has it work cut out as it has to try to drown out an abundance of road noise. Power comes from a 2.0L MZR four-cylinder paired with the optional six-speed automatic. This combination produces 158 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. Go for the six-speed manual on the Grand Touring and it nets you an additional nine horsepower. Those numbers are somewhat worrisome when you also take into account a curb weight of 2,619 pounds for the power hardtop model. But once you slip behind the wheel and get moving, those thoughts of being underpowered wash away. The engine has to be worked to use all that power, but Mazda made sure that you enjoyed doing it by making the engine pop and rev freely, giving you the thoughts of driving a sixties roadster.. The six-speed automatic was very smooth and provided crisp shifts. Fuel economy is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/23 Combined. My week saw an average of 25.1 MPG. Of course the real story of any Miata is its handling. I heard all of the superlatives and cheers about the MX-5 Miata’s handling, and I have to say those claims are very much true. The Miata is a joy around curves as the suspension keeps the vehicle steady and makes sure no body roll makes an entrance. Steering was excellent thanks to the right amount weight and feel. This is a vehicle that wants to be pushed and it rewards you when you decide to. When you decide to drive the Miata on a daily basis, the ride does let in a few bumps. After spending a week with the MX-5 Miata, I was sad to see it go. Mazda has been able to keep the spirit of the original Miata with the third-generation model. With excellent handing characteristics, the addition of a power hardtop, and a design all its own, it shows why the Miata has been able to last as long as it has. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the MX-5 Miata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Album: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PHRT 14 images 0 comments Year: 2014 Make: Mazda Model: MX-5 Miata Trim: Grand Touring PHRT Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve VVT Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 158 @ 6700 Torque @ RPM: 140 @ 5000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/23 Curb Weight: 2,619 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $30,550 As Tested Price: $32,735 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package - $1,390 Next: Ram 1500 R/T Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 → Last » Click here to view the article
  10. 2014 Review Wrap-Up: Sports Stuff

    Next up in the 2014 review wrap-up is sporty cars. Originally I was going to call this sports cars, but only one can be considered it. The other two happen to be sporty takes on standard models. First: Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PHRT For an automobile to remain true to its mission for a quarter-of-a-century is an amazing feat. Such is the case for the Mazda MX-5 Miata. When it first was shown back in 1989, it promised to bring fun and sporty driving that roadsters from the fifties and sixties, but with better reliability. Throughout its three generations, the MX-5 Miata has achieved this, along with a loyal and rabid fan base. With a new MX-5 Miata coming over the horizon, I wanted to give the third-generation model a final spin. Well a 2015 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PHRT arrived for a week to do just that. Mazda decided to stick with the shape from the first-generation MX-5 Miata and make evolutionary changes to it. I think this is a wise decision as you can tell there is a direct lineage from first model to the current one. The front end has a rounded shape and the smiling grille that has been a key part of Mazda’s last-generation designs. There is also a lip spoiler which comes as part of the Grand Touring trim level. Along the side are some the largest wheel flares I have ever come across on a vehicle. Its a nice touch as it makes the Miata that much more distinctive. Now the third-generation Miata is special because it introduced a power hardtop. The hardtop gives the Miata a coupe look when it is up and provides extra sound deadening. Putting the hardtop up or down only takes around ten seconds. One note, the hardtop when folded does take up a majority of trunk space. So pack really lightly if you decide to take a trip in one.Getting inside the Miata is a bit of an acrobatic act as the way you have enter involves folding your legs and then lowering yourself into the seat. Once you are settled in, you feel that you have become one with the vehicle thanks to the low seating position which means all controls are in easy reach. The leather bucket seats provide a multitude of adjustments so you can your find your perfect spot. The dash is nothing fancy with black plastics and aluminum trim which helps reduce distraction while driving. Standard on the Grand Touring is a Bose sound system. The system sounds great when you are puttering along in the city or along a back road. But if you decide to hit the freeway, the sound system has it work cut out as it has to try to drown out an abundance of road noise. Power comes from a 2.0L MZR four-cylinder paired with the optional six-speed automatic. This combination produces 158 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. Go for the six-speed manual on the Grand Touring and it nets you an additional nine horsepower. Those numbers are somewhat worrisome when you also take into account a curb weight of 2,619 pounds for the power hardtop model. But once you slip behind the wheel and get moving, those thoughts of being underpowered wash away. The engine has to be worked to use all that power, but Mazda made sure that you enjoyed doing it by making the engine pop and rev freely, giving you the thoughts of driving a sixties roadster.. The six-speed automatic was very smooth and provided crisp shifts. Fuel economy is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/23 Combined. My week saw an average of 25.1 MPG. Of course the real story of any Miata is its handling. I heard all of the superlatives and cheers about the MX-5 Miata’s handling, and I have to say those claims are very much true. The Miata is a joy around curves as the suspension keeps the vehicle steady and makes sure no body roll makes an entrance. Steering was excellent thanks to the right amount weight and feel. This is a vehicle that wants to be pushed and it rewards you when you decide to. When you decide to drive the Miata on a daily basis, the ride does let in a few bumps. After spending a week with the MX-5 Miata, I was sad to see it go. Mazda has been able to keep the spirit of the original Miata with the third-generation model. With excellent handing characteristics, the addition of a power hardtop, and a design all its own, it shows why the Miata has been able to last as long as it has. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the MX-5 Miata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Mazda Model: MX-5 Miata Trim: Grand Touring PHRT Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve VVT Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 158 @ 6700 Torque @ RPM: 140 @ 5000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/23 Curb Weight: 2,619 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $30,550 As Tested Price: $32,735 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package - $1,390 Next: Ram 1500 R/T The past ten to twenty years in the pickup truck market has seen an explosion in trims and model variations. You can get a standard work truck with the vinyl seats or go all the way for a luxury model with such amenities as heated and cool seats, and dual-zone climate control. But one area in the marketplace that has been neglected for sometime is the sports truck. Models such as the Chevrolet 454SS, Ford Lightning, and Dodge Ram SRT-10 really don’t exist anymore. But Ram wants to let you know that sport truck is still a thing and it comes in the form of 1500 R/T Regular Cab. Ram has got the basics down on the 1500 R/T. The R/T comes when you order the Sport trim level with the standard cab and 6’4” bed. Exterior changes include a blacked-out mesh grille, a new hood with faux air vents, twenty-two inch chrome wheels, and dual exhaust pars. Donning a red paint job, the R/T gives the Ram 1500 a mean look. Inside are a set of bucket seats wrapped in cloth and leather, and dash layout familiar to anyone who has been in a recent Chrysler product. This means an eight-inch screen for the UConnect infotainment system and a compressive gauge package. Getting in truck was a little bit of a hassle as its quite leap to get in. A set of step bars would be nice feature for this truck. But once inside, it was easy to get settled and understand where everything was. Power for the R/T is the 5.7L HEMI V8 with 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired up with an eight-speed automatic. Despite a curb weight of 5,106 pounds, this powertrain is able to get the Ram 1500 moving at a rapid rate. 0-60 will take you around the mid-5 second area. The eight-speed automatic provides lightning fast shifts and keeps the truck in the zone of power. I should also mention the noise of HEMI makes you want to push the go pedal that little more to enjoy the sweet sounds. Don’t expect to win any fuel economy awards though. The 1500 R/T is rated at 15 City/22 Highway/17 Combined. I got 18 MPG during my week. As for the ride, the Ram 1500 R/T has to be one of the smoothest rides I have ever experienced in a truck. Thanks a to multi-link, coil spring setup in the rear, bumps and imperfections were mostly ironed out. Even when the Ram was called in to haul a freezer and a wood lathe, the suspension was able to keep the truck level and provide a comfortable ride. Don’t expect the R/T to be a handling champ. Ram didn’t lower the suspension, which means you’ll have a bit of body roll. Also the steering is a bit slow and somewhat light in feel. But for many buyers, this isn’t a big deal. While the marketplace for sport trucks has dwindled a bit, the 2014 Ram 1500 R/T shows that you can still make a decent case for having a fun truck that can still do its fair share of work. Now if we could only convince them about stuffing the 6.4L HEMI into it… Disclaimer: Ram Provided the 1500 R/T, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Ram Model: 1500 Trim: R/T Engine: 5.7 HEMI V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 395 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 410 @ 3,950 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/22/14 Curb Weight: 5,106 lbs Location of Manufacture: Saltillo, Mexico Base Price: $35,105 As Tested Price: $38,595 (Includes $1,195 Destination Charge) Options: Uconnect 8.4N AM/FM/BT/ACCESS/NAV - $500.00 Convenience Group - $495.00 Spray-In Bedliner - $475.00 Remote Start and Security Group - $350.00 Class IV Receiver Hitch - $335.00 Rear Sliding Windows - $140.00 Next: Lexus LS 460 F-Sport Most of the luxury manufacturers have a high-performance model of their flagship sedan to entice those who want a bit of sport along with the amenities of a flagship. Mercedes-Benz is the best known with their S-Class AMG models, followed by the Audi S8 and Jaguar XJR. The latest one to join the fun is Lexus with the LS 460 F-Sport. Is it possible for a company known for producing some of the softest and most comfortable vehicles to embrace the sporty side? The LS hasn’t changed much since we last looked at it in our review of the 600h L last year. What has changed is what the F-Sport package adds. Up front, the spindle grille gets a new mesh insert and larger air intakes. A set of nineteen-inch multi-spoke wheels hide a set of large, Brembo brakes. Around back is a new bumper with chrome exhaust ports. These changes do give the LS a sporty outlook. Although, I not sure if red suits LS as it makes it look a bit gangly. White or black suits it much better. Inside is the same as the exterior. The only real changes of note are new brushed aluminum trim pieces, F-Sport embossed seats, and aluminum pedals. The LS is nice place to sit in and the controls are in easy reach. But I think its aging quite fast, especially when you compare it to like of the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. Not helping matters is the Remote Touch interface which is slow to react and quite jumpy when moving around. Under the hood, you’ll find a 4.6L V8 with 386 horsepower and 367 pound-feet. Opt for the all-wheel drive model and those numbers drop to 360 and 347 respectively. Whichever way you decide to have your power sent to wheels, an eight-speed automatic is standard. Acceleration is very strong and power comes on very smoothly. However if you were expecting some theatrics from the V8 with loud noises, prepare to disappointed. The only real noticeable change from the standard LS to the F-Sport is new piping to channel some of the engine noise inside. The eight-speed automatic is barely noticeable when it shifts. On the fuel economy front, the LS 460 F-Sport RWD is rated at 16 City/24 Highway/19 Combined. I saw 18.6 MPG during my week. Now the big changes the F-Sport brings to the LS deals with the suspension. The air suspension has been lowered by 20 millimeters and has been tuned for more sporty driving. Other changes include low-profile summer tires and a limited-slip differential. I can say there is a difference when you have the LS in the Sport or Sport+ setting when compared to the LS in normal. The suspension stiffens up a bit and keeps the vehicle stable when you decide to have a bit fun in the curves. However, the steering doesn’t have the weight or feel that is needed for a sporting sedan. It veers more to the light and numbness most owners of the LS are used to. As for day to day duties, the LS 460 F-Sport handles that about as well as a standard LS with a quiet and smooth ride. So the LS 460 F-Sport has shown that Lexus is capable of building sporty flagship up to a point. If they can work on the steering, they might have a real contender on their hands. Maybe that’s for the next-generation model. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LS 460 F-Sport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Lexus Model: LS Trim: 460 Engine: 4.6L DOHC 32-valve VVT-iE V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 386 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 367 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19 Curb Weight: 4,365 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $72,140 As Tested Price: $88,080 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge) Options: F-Sport Package - $8,350.00 F-Sport Comfort Package - $1,650.00 Mark Levinson 19-Speaker Audio System - $1,580.00 Pre-Collision System - $1,500.00 LED Headlamps - $1,450.00
  11. With 2014 coming to a close and your's truly still having a number of vehicles that need to have reviews written up, I thought it would be a good idea to finish up the year with the remaining vehicles from the 2014 model year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting a number of quick reviews. This will be leading up to my favorite vehicles I drove in the past year. Let's begin with the smallest vehicles that I reviewed: subcompacts and compacts. First Up: 2015 Honda Fit EX If there was one model that defined the current subcompact class, it would have to be the Honda Fit. When it was first introduced back in 2006, the Fit featured a clever back seat to increase the practicality of the vehicle; impressive driving dynamics, and sipping fuel like no other. Now the subcompact field has grown in terms of quantity and quality of vehicles. Honda has responded by introducing the third-generation Fit this year. How does the new Fit stand up to the new crowd? The Fit retains the shape it has for the past two-generations, but it gets a bit more aggressive and sleeker. The front looks like Honda’s designers watched a bit too much of Iron Man with the solid one piece grille. Other items of note on the front include larger air ducts and slimmer headlights. The side profile boasts two character lines to help give it an identity. Around back are a set of tall taillights and a set of faux vents in the bumper. Stepping inside the Fit, Honda has reworked the dashboard layout with controls for the radio and climate control system angled towards the driver. Material quality has seen a noticeable improvement with soft-touch materials and faux aluminum trim used throughout. The touchscreen radio is easy to use and quick to respond. The big downside is Honda deciding use capacitive-touch buttons for volume and home. There were times when I had to hit the volume button more than once to get it to respond. Honda, please go back to normal buttons and knobs.Even though the new Fit is about 1.6 inches shorter than the previous model, Honda was able to increase passenger space by 4.9 cubic feet. This is due to a longer wheelbase and a thinner, center-mounted gas tank. Sitting in the back. I found more than enough head and legroom. Now the increase in passenger space means cargo space has dropped by about 4 cubic feet. Still, the Fit cargo’s space is impressive with 17 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 53 cubic feet with the seats down. The back seat is also one of the most versatile I have ever come across in a vehicle. The Fit’s ‘Magic’ seat can be set up in four different ways to provide added functionality. Those include: Folding the rear seats down to create more space Folding one part of rear seats (60/40 split) to make room for cargo, while retaining some seat space for a passenger Folding the seat bottoms up to carry tall items Folding the front seats back to create a sudo-bed Power comes from a 1.5L EarthDreams four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. In my tester, the engine was paired up to a CVT. The engine has to be worked to get up to speed which is normal for this type of car. What I’m not so happy with is the amount of buzzy-ness that is coming from the engine. Honda has said they have worked on trying to improve NVH levels in the Fit, though I find that hard to believe due to the amount of engine noise in the cabin. Thankfully, the powertrain does quiet down when you settle into speed. The CVT does behave nicely and doesn’t have the whine that most transmissions of this type are known for till you get higher in the revs. Fuel economy wise, the Fit with the CVT is rated by the EPA at 33 City/41 Highway/36 Combined. My week saw an overall average of 38 MPG. I should note that I did see 40 MPG when I took the Fit on a trip to Northern Michigan. The Fit earned a reputation for being a fun to drive subcompact, and for the most part that still holds true. It feels playful when going through the curvy bits and the chassis keeps the car grounded. The steering is a bit too light, and it doesn’t have quite the feel that the last generation model was known for. But what surprised me is how Fit did on a long drive. Being a subcompact, I thought the Fit would be uncomfortable due to its short wheelbase. But Honda has made some improvements to the suspension to make it more comfortable for long trips. This means the Fit was able to deal with bumps and imperfections without having any of the passengers feeling it. After doing a drive to Northern Michigan, I had no aches or pain when I got out of the Fit. The Honda Fit still stands tall in the subcompact class with its impressive versatility, fuel economy, and driving dynamics. Hopefully Honda has plans in the works for improving the NVH levels in the engine. Otherwise, the Fit is worth a look if you’re shopping for a new subcompact. Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Fit EX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Album: 2015 Honda Fit EX 10 images 0 comments Year: 2015 Make: Honda Model: Fit Trim: EX Engine: 1.5L 16-Valve DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6600 Torque @ RPM: 114 @ 4600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 33/41/36 Curb Weight: 2,630 lbs Location of Manufacture: Yorii, Japan Base Price: $17,560 As Tested Price: $19,180 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Next Page: 2014 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim) Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 → Last » Click here to view the article
  12. 2014 Review Wrap-Up: Subcompacts and Compacts

    With 2014 coming to a close and your's truly still having a number of vehicles that need to have reviews written up, I thought it would be a good idea to finish up the year with the remaining vehicles from the 2014 model year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting a number of quick reviews. This will be leading up to my favorite vehicles I drove in the past year. Let's begin with the smallest vehicles that I reviewed: subcompacts and compacts. First Up: 2015 Honda Fit EX If there was one model that defined the current subcompact class, it would have to be the Honda Fit. When it was first introduced back in 2006, the Fit featured a clever back seat to increase the practicality of the vehicle; impressive driving dynamics, and sipping fuel like no other. Now the subcompact field has grown in terms of quantity and quality of vehicles. Honda has responded by introducing the third-generation Fit this year. How does the new Fit stand up to the new crowd? The Fit retains the shape it has for the past two-generations, but it gets a bit more aggressive and sleeker. The front looks like Honda’s designers watched a bit too much of Iron Man with the solid one piece grille. Other items of note on the front include larger air ducts and slimmer headlights. The side profile boasts two character lines to help give it an identity. Around back are a set of tall taillights and a set of faux vents in the bumper. Stepping inside the Fit, Honda has reworked the dashboard layout with controls for the radio and climate control system angled towards the driver. Material quality has seen a noticeable improvement with soft-touch materials and faux aluminum trim used throughout. The touchscreen radio is easy to use and quick to respond. The big downside is Honda deciding use capacitive-touch buttons for volume and home. There were times when I had to hit the volume button more than once to get it to respond. Honda, please go back to normal buttons and knobs.Even though the new Fit is about 1.6 inches shorter than the previous model, Honda was able to increase passenger space by 4.9 cubic feet. This is due to a longer wheelbase and a thinner, center-mounted gas tank. Sitting in the back. I found more than enough head and legroom. Now the increase in passenger space means cargo space has dropped by about 4 cubic feet. Still, the Fit cargo’s space is impressive with 17 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 53 cubic feet with the seats down. The back seat is also one of the most versatile I have ever come across in a vehicle. The Fit’s ‘Magic’ seat can be set up in four different ways to provide added functionality. Those include: Folding the rear seats down to create more space Folding one part of rear seats (60/40 split) to make room for cargo, while retaining some seat space for a passenger Folding the seat bottoms up to carry tall items Folding the front seats back to create a sudo-bed Power comes from a 1.5L EarthDreams four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. In my tester, the engine was paired up to a CVT. The engine has to be worked to get up to speed which is normal for this type of car. What I’m not so happy with is the amount of buzzy-ness that is coming from the engine. Honda has said they have worked on trying to improve NVH levels in the Fit, though I find that hard to believe due to the amount of engine noise in the cabin. Thankfully, the powertrain does quiet down when you settle into speed. The CVT does behave nicely and doesn’t have the whine that most transmissions of this type are known for till you get higher in the revs. Fuel economy wise, the Fit with the CVT is rated by the EPA at 33 City/41 Highway/36 Combined. My week saw an overall average of 38 MPG. I should note that I did see 40 MPG when I took the Fit on a trip to Northern Michigan. The Fit earned a reputation for being a fun to drive subcompact, and for the most part that still holds true. It feels playful when going through the curvy bits and the chassis keeps the car grounded. The steering is a bit too light, and it doesn’t have quite the feel that the last generation model was known for. But what surprised me is how Fit did on a long drive. Being a subcompact, I thought the Fit would be uncomfortable due to its short wheelbase. But Honda has made some improvements to the suspension to make it more comfortable for long trips. This means the Fit was able to deal with bumps and imperfections without having any of the passengers feeling it. After doing a drive to Northern Michigan, I had no aches or pain when I got out of the Fit. The Honda Fit still stands tall in the subcompact class with its impressive versatility, fuel economy, and driving dynamics. Hopefully Honda has plans in the works for improving the NVH levels in the engine. Otherwise, the Fit is worth a look if you’re shopping for a new subcompact. Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Fit EX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Honda Model: Fit Trim: EX Engine: 1.5L 16-Valve DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6600 Torque @ RPM: 114 @ 4600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 33/41/36 Curb Weight: 2,630 lbs Location of Manufacture: Yorii, Japan Base Price: $17,560 As Tested Price: $19,180 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Next Page: 2014 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim) The automotive marketplace is known sometimes for being the arbiters of fads. Consider such models as Mazda Miata and the clones that followed soon after; or the Chrysler PT Cruiser. The most recent fad that we went through were the box cars, started by the likes of the Nissan Cube and Scion xB. These two models enjoyed some success in sales. Kia would become the third entrant in the box class, with the Soul. Like the Cube and xB, the should would become a decent seller. But in recent years, sales began to wane on the Cube and xB, while Soul continued to rise in sales. So what is it about the Soul that makes it a shining star, while its competitors dim out? The Soul’s overall design hasn’t gone through a major transformation. The reason for that is Kia moving 112,000 Souls last year and the thought of a dramatic change could spell doom for sales. But that doesn’t mean Kia hasn’t made any changes. The front end now features a new lower fascia with a trapezoidal grille and a set of fog lights sitting on either side. The back takes some ideas from the 2012 Soul Trackster concept with a new rear tailgate design and large, wrap-around taillights. Those sharp looking eighteen-inch wheels come as part of the Exclaim (!) model. Moving inside, the Soul underwent a massive change. The interior looks and feels more mature with improved materials and layout. My top-of-line tester came equipped with a number features such as heated and cooled seats, panoramic sunroof, a color LCD in the instrument cluster, automatic climate control, and the latest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system which uses Google’s Android operating system. Getting myself situated in the Soul was easy enough thanks to the power adjustments on the seat and tilt-telescoping wheel. Back seat passengers might find legroom being a little bit tight, but headroom is very much in abundance thanks to the boxy shape.Power comes in the form of two engines. The base is a 1.6L four-cylinder, while my tester featured the 2.0L GDI four-cylinder. The 2.0L produces 164 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice. The 2.0L engine can be classified as being adequate as it seems to produce the same amount power as it does in noise. Stay on flat surfaces and around town duties and the engine does a fine job. But if you need to merge or tackle a steep hill, you’ll need to put the pedal to the floor and enjoy the noises coming from the engine. To be fair, the six-speed automatic does a decent job of keeping the engine right in the sweet spot of power. As fuel economy, the EPA rates the Soul Exclaim at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. I got 27.3 MPG during my week of testing. On the ride and handling front, the Soul did pretty well over some of Michigan’s ‘fantastic’ roads. Bumps and imperfections were mostly ironed over. As for the curves, the Soul’s suspension mostly keeps the vehicle planted. However, the tall shape does mean some body lean appears. The Exclaim model came equipped with the flex-steer system which varies the steering weight. I really don’t like this system as the comfort and sport settings are on the extreme ends (one is really light, while the other is too heavy). I left in normal which provided a nice balance. Much like Kia, I can’t fully explain why the Soul is doing so well. But I have a good guess. Kia has a really impressive package in the Soul with an improved interior, good ride quality, and a funky look that makes it stand out. Whatever the reason is, Kia is doing something right with the Soul. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Soul !, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Kia Model: Soul Trim: ! (Exclaim) Engine: 2.0L GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26 Curb Weight: 2,837 lbs Location of Manufacture: Gwangju, South Korea Base Price: $20,300 As Tested Price: $26,195 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: Sun & Sound Package - $2,600 The Whole Shabang Package - $2,500 Next Page: 2014 Mazda3 Grand Touring Hatchback Its hard to believe that only a couple of years ago, Mazda was beginning to roll out its Skyacitv technologies in the last-generation Mazda3. In my review of the 3, I praised the Skyactiv powertrain for being a clever way of increasing fuel economy without resorting hybrid technologies. I also wondered how the 3 would be once it received the full suite of Skyactiv technologies. Well I had my chance when a 2014 Mazda 3s Grand Touring hatchback arrived for a week-long evaluation. Mazda has been producing some of most distinctive vehicles on the road and the 3 is no different. Armed with the Kodo design language and lovely Soul Red color, the 3 stands out in the compact car crowd. Up front is a tall grille with a slim chrome bar running from underneath the emblem into the front headlights. The side profile reveals stylish curves for the fenders and roofline. Inside, the 3 has really stepped up in terms of design and quality. Materials are top notch, even though Mazda is sticking with the blackout theme. Some contrasting colors would be nice Mazda. Despite an increase an overall size, interior space is still small. Sitting in the back, I found myself wishing for bit more leg and headroom. One big change for the 3 deals with technology. Previous Mazdas featured one of most infuriating infotainment systems I have ever come across with dated graphics, slow response times, not being able to connect phones with Bluetooth, and number of other problems. The 3 now features a new infotainment system with a seven-inch screen mounted on the dash and iDrive-like controller. This new system is easier to use and quick to respond when selecting a function. Also, it quickly connected to my phone. One other technology change deals with heads-up display. Mazda uses a screen that rises from the top of the instrument cluster and projects key information onto it. The trick is that screen is right in line of sight of the windshield which makes you think the information is being projected onto the windshield. Very clever.The Mazda3 comes with two different powertrains. i models get the 2.0L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder while s models come with the larger 2.5L. My 3 was equipped the latter which packed 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic, but you’ll be able to get a six-speed manual. The 2.5 packs quite the punch and gets the 3 moving at a quick pace. Also, Mazda deserves credit for building a four-cylinder that’s refined and smooth. The six-speed automatic is quick on shifts and provides a good pairing for the 2.5. EPA rates the Mazda 3s Grand Touring at 28 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. I saw an average of 31 MPG. The Mazda’3s handling is amazing. Along a curvy stretch of road, the 3’s chassis keeps the model flat. Meanwhile, the steering has good heft and provides a sporting driver the details of the road. It may not be a sports car, but 3 sure acts like one. Now the sports car aspirations do mean the 3 is a little bit more bouncy when dealing with potholes and bumps. Road and wind noise are kept at decent levels. There is one concern I do have with the Mazda3. As tested, my 3s Grand Touring cost $30,415. The price includes $2,500 tech package which includes blind spot monitoring and radar cruise control. It made me wonder if Mazda was asking a bit too much for the new 3. It has value to justify it, but I wonder if someone is willing to drop that much for a Mazda3. So the new Mazda3 is very much improved with the full suite Skyactiv technologies that it could be considered as best in class. The price however does give me pause from fully recommend it. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3 S Grand Touring, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Mazda Model: 3 Hatchback Trim: s Grand Touring Engine: 2.5L DOHC Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5700 Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3250 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/38/32 Curb Weight: 3,002 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan Base Price: $26,495 As Tested Price: $30,415 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: 5GT Technology Package - $2,500 Soul Red Paint - $300
  13. Quick Drive: 2014 Lexus ES 350

    For awhile, the best Buick you could buy was a Lexus ES. Lexus was able to take the formula that Buick had worked so hard on proving a smooth and comfortable car and just do it better. But Buick is back on the upswing. The recently refreshed LaCrosse shows that Buick is back and wanting to challenge the ES on territory it once held. So which is the better model; the LaCrosse or the ES? I spent some time in the 2014 ES 350 to try answer this. The ES 350’s exterior looks awkward as it seems Lexus was trying to make the ES look somewhat sportier, while retaining some of the handsomeness of previous models. The front has the spindle grille with flat bars running across and a set of headlights with LEDs running along the outer edges. Around back, Lexus designers gave it upright and flat look with a new trunk lid. While the ES now has some style, it comes at the cost of looking like a bloated GS. Thankfully the interior avoids the awkwardness. Again, there is a bit of GS influence for the ES’ interior, but Lexus made sure to make ES a bit more inviting. That means cream leather for the seats and bamboo trim along the dash and door panels. The dashboard itself is similar to the GS with a flat face and simple layout of controls. Space-wise, the ES 350 is very impressive. Back seat passengers will find plenty of legroom and headroom. Trunk space measures out to 15.2 cubic feet, slightly larger than the Buick LaCrosse’s 13.3 cubic feet trunk. Lexus’ Enform infotainment system came equipped on my tester which features a new interface which makes it easier to navigate around. However, the remote touch controller is still makes controlling the system tough since you have to move it and press down on it carefully on the function you want. One wrong move and you’ll end up in a function that you didn’t want. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic. The 3.5L V6 is a perfect match for the ES as it provides smooth acceleration throughout and NVH levels that rival Buick’s LaCrosse. The six-speed automatic provided silky smooth shifts and didn’t show any signs of confusion. Fuel economy is rated at 21 City/31 Highway/24 Combined. My average landed around 23 MPG. On the ride and handling front, the ES 350 provides a seemingly smooth ride. The suspension makes sure potholes and road imperfections are smoothed out and don’t make their way into the cabin. One downside is the amount of road noise that come into the cabin. I put the blame on the Bridgestone tires that the ES came equipped with. Out on the curves, the ES 350 does show some sign of body roll if you push it. Keep in mind the ES 350 is meant to be a cruiser, not a curve bruiser. After a week with the Lexus ES 350, I think it does certain things better than the LaCrosse and vice versa. The ES 350 has a much more potent engine, better NVH levels in the engine, and a larger trunk than the LaCrosse. However, the LaCrosse is a bit more quieter, features a better infotainment control system, and looks much nicer than the ES 350. So which is better car? While the Lexus ES 350 is a nice improvement over previous models, the Buick LaCrosse is the better car. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the ES 350, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Lexus Model: ES Trim: 350 Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve VVT-i V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 268 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 4,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/31/24 Curb Weight: 3,549 lbs Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan Base Price: $36,470 As Tested Price: $43,105 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge) Options: Hard Disk Drive Navigation with Lexus Inform: $2,625 Luxury Package: $1,370 High Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlights: $565.00 Intuitive Parking Assist: $500.00 Bamboo & Leather Trimmed Shift Knob and Heated Wood & Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel: $300.00 Power Rear Sunshade: $210.00 Rain Sensing Wipers with Deicer: $155.00
  14. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been the shining star in Jeep’s lineup since its introduction back in 1993. It was the company’s vehicle to take on the world’s best. During its 20-or-so year life, it's had a mixed record on trying to accomplish this mission. But at the Detroit Auto Show this year, the off-road brand showed it meant business. Thanks to a reinvigorated Chrysler and a bit of help from Fiat, Jeep showed off a refreshed Grand Cherokee and made its intent very clear; we’re going to take on the world’s best. To see if the Grand Cherokee can handle this mission, I went back to back with two Grand Cherokees; an Altitude equipped with the 3.6L V6 and a Overland equipped with the new 3.0L EcoDiesel V6. The Grand Cherokee’s shape hasn’t strayed far from the first-generation model shape. Sure the fourth-generation model has a few more angles and a new rear tailgate design, but park the current Grand Cherokee alongside the first-generation model and it's plain to see a family resemblance. From the iconic seven slot grille up front to the square-shaped rear-end, Jeep designers were able to make new Grand Cherokee stand out, but retain a bit of the DNA from the first-generation model. Dependent on which trim level you go for, Jeep has made sure each one is different. The Grand Cherokee Altitude I got first follows the same treatment as the Cherokee Altitude a reviewed a few weeks back. There is a blacked-out grille and a set of twenty-inch wheels wearing a coat of black paint. Contrasting the red paint on my tester, I found myself really liking the looks of the Altitude. Then there is the Overland which adds a chrome grille, HID headlights, twenty-inch chrome wheels, and LED taillights. All of the changes make the Grand Cherokee Overland comparable to a Range Rover in looks.Inside the Grand Cherokee, Jeep has made some big changes. The interior now follows the ideals set by the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger with better materials used throughout the cabin, a screen placed in the middle of the instrument cluster to provide speed and trip computer information, an eight-inch touchscreen with UConnect, and the love it/hate it lever control for the automatic transmission. People sitting the rear seat will find a decent amount of leg and headroom. Again, each trim level has their own take on interior treatment. The Altitude came with black-suede seats which I found to very comfortable and brushed faux-aluminum trim around the dashboard. Like the Cherokee Altitude, the Grand Cherokee Altitude comes with the UConnect system minus the navigation. The system is very easy to move around and navigate, plus you can get navigation from your local Chrysler dealer for a few hundred dollars extra. The Overland fills the Grand Cherokee with a number of luxury appointments such as leather seats with the Overland logo embroidered in the front, heated and ventilated front seats; wood trim, and a premium sound system. Stepping out of the Altitude and into the Overland, I was surprised how much the Grand Cherokee changed. From the sporty feeling I got from the Altitude to luxury in the Overland, I have to say Jeep really nailed making each trim level look and feel different from one another. The Grand Cherokee Altitude came equipped with the 3.6L V6 producing 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. I have written a lot about 3.6L in previous Chrysler vehicles, praising it for being one of the smoothest V6 engines on sale today and being able to move any vehicle with authority after reaching a certain point in the rev range. The story is very much the same in the Grand Cherokee as the V6 is able to move 4,545 pound vehicle with no problem at all. The eight-speed is smooth and provides smart shifts to keep the vehicle in motion. Fuel economy is rated at 17 City/24 Highway/19 Combined for the V6 equipped with four-wheel drive. My average landed around 22.1 MPG. But the big story lies under the Overland. It came with the optional 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 with 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. All of the torque is available at 2,000 rpm which means the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel moves very swift. Whether leaving a stop-light, or making the run onto the expressway, the 3.0L EcoDiesel is able to provide the power when needed. The eight-speed automatic helps keep the diesel engine right in the sweet spot of torquey-goodness. The most surprising part of the EcoDiesel is NVH levels. Step outside the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel when its idling and you can barely tell its running. The clatter usually associated with diesel engines is not apparent. On the fuel economy front, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/24 Combined. I got an average of 24.2 MPG.As for suspension, the Altitude goes with a coil spring setup, while the Overland comes with an air suspension setup. The air suspension setup allows the Grand Cherokee to raise and lower its ride height to provide better aerodynamics out on the expressway and get through some of the roughest off-road trails. Both suspension setups provided excellent ride qualities on even some the roughest surfaces Metro Detroit had to offer. On the curvy bits, both suspensions kept the Grand Cherokee in check by minimizing body roll and lean. That doesn’t mean the Grand Cherokee is sporty as the weight of the vehicle puts that idea out to pasture. If you want sport, then you want the Grand Cherokee SRT. It should be noted that I didn’t get the chance to take either Grand Cherokee off the beaten path. That is something I hope to change whenever I get another Grand Cherokee. After spending two weeks and putting a number of miles on the Grand Cherokees, I came away very impressed. Jeep has built possibly one of the best all-rounders in the midsize class. Taking the 2011 Grand Cherokee redesign, Jeep made a number of changes that fix a number of problems of past Grand Cherokees. But those changes allowed Jeep to pull off a big feat with Grand Cherokee; the wide range of trims that make each one feel like they can take on a different part of the midsize SUV class. There’s the Altitude which provides a stylish alternative to those looking at crossovers, while the Overland gives a formidable challenge to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz ML, BMW X5, and Land Rover LR4. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee sets a new bar for excellence in the SUV class. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Grand Cherokees, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas and Diesel Album: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude 12 images 0 comments Year: 2014 Make: Jeep Model: Grand Cherokee Trim: Altitude 4X4 Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/24/19 Curb Weight: 4,677 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, Michigan Base Price: $31,195 As Tested Price: $38,485 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Customer Preferred Package 23Z - $5,100 Power Sunroof - $995.00 Album: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland EcoDiesel 13 images 0 comments Year: 2014 Make: Jeep Model: Grand Cherokee Trim: Overland 4X4 Engine: 3.0L DOHC Diesel V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 3,600 Torque @ RPM: 420 @ 2,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/24 Curb Weight: 5,393 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, Michigan Base Price: $46,195 As Tested Price: $55,680 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 - $4,500 Advance Technology Group - $1,995 Rear Blu-Ray Entertainment System - $1,995 Click here to view the article
  15. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been the shining star in Jeep’s lineup since its introduction back in 1993. It was the company’s vehicle to take on the world’s best. During its 20-or-so year life, it's had a mixed record on trying to accomplish this mission. But at the Detroit Auto Show this year, the off-road brand showed it meant business. Thanks to a reinvigorated Chrysler and a bit of help from Fiat, Jeep showed off a refreshed Grand Cherokee and made its intent very clear; we’re going to take on the world’s best. To see if the Grand Cherokee can handle this mission, I went back to back with two Grand Cherokees; an Altitude equipped with the 3.6L V6 and a Overland equipped with the new 3.0L EcoDiesel V6. The Grand Cherokee’s shape hasn’t strayed far from the first-generation model shape. Sure the fourth-generation model has a few more angles and a new rear tailgate design, but park the current Grand Cherokee alongside the first-generation model and it's plain to see a family resemblance. From the iconic seven slot grille up front to the square-shaped rear-end, Jeep designers were able to make new Grand Cherokee stand out, but retain a bit of the DNA from the first-generation model. Dependent on which trim level you go for, Jeep has made sure each one is different. The Grand Cherokee Altitude I got first follows the same treatment as the Cherokee Altitude a reviewed a few weeks back. There is a blacked-out grille and a set of twenty-inch wheels wearing a coat of black paint. Contrasting the red paint on my tester, I found myself really liking the looks of the Altitude. Then there is the Overland which adds a chrome grille, HID headlights, twenty-inch chrome wheels, and LED taillights. All of the changes make the Grand Cherokee Overland comparable to a Range Rover in looks.Inside the Grand Cherokee, Jeep has made some big changes. The interior now follows the ideals set by the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger with better materials used throughout the cabin, a screen placed in the middle of the instrument cluster to provide speed and trip computer information, an eight-inch touchscreen with UConnect, and the love it/hate it lever control for the automatic transmission. People sitting the rear seat will find a decent amount of leg and headroom. Again, each trim level has their own take on interior treatment. The Altitude came with black-suede seats which I found to very comfortable and brushed faux-aluminum trim around the dashboard. Like the Cherokee Altitude, the Grand Cherokee Altitude comes with the UConnect system minus the navigation. The system is very easy to move around and navigate, plus you can get navigation from your local Chrysler dealer for a few hundred dollars extra. The Overland fills the Grand Cherokee with a number of luxury appointments such as leather seats with the Overland logo embroidered in the front, heated and ventilated front seats; wood trim, and a premium sound system. Stepping out of the Altitude and into the Overland, I was surprised how much the Grand Cherokee changed. From the sporty feeling I got from the Altitude to luxury in the Overland, I have to say Jeep really nailed making each trim level look and feel different from one another. The Grand Cherokee Altitude came equipped with the 3.6L V6 producing 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. I have written a lot about 3.6L in previous Chrysler vehicles, praising it for being one of the smoothest V6 engines on sale today and being able to move any vehicle with authority after reaching a certain point in the rev range. The story is very much the same in the Grand Cherokee as the V6 is able to move 4,545 pound vehicle with no problem at all. The eight-speed is smooth and provides smart shifts to keep the vehicle in motion. Fuel economy is rated at 17 City/24 Highway/19 Combined for the V6 equipped with four-wheel drive. My average landed around 22.1 MPG. But the big story lies under the Overland. It came with the optional 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 with 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. All of the torque is available at 2,000 rpm which means the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel moves very swift. Whether leaving a stop-light, or making the run onto the expressway, the 3.0L EcoDiesel is able to provide the power when needed. The eight-speed automatic helps keep the diesel engine right in the sweet spot of torquey-goodness. The most surprising part of the EcoDiesel is NVH levels. Step outside the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel when its idling and you can barely tell its running. The clatter usually associated with diesel engines is not apparent. On the fuel economy front, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/24 Combined. I got an average of 24.2 MPG.As for suspension, the Altitude goes with a coil spring setup, while the Overland comes with an air suspension setup. The air suspension setup allows the Grand Cherokee to raise and lower its ride height to provide better aerodynamics out on the expressway and get through some of the roughest off-road trails. Both suspension setups provided excellent ride qualities on even some the roughest surfaces Metro Detroit had to offer. On the curvy bits, both suspensions kept the Grand Cherokee in check by minimizing body roll and lean. That doesn’t mean the Grand Cherokee is sporty as the weight of the vehicle puts that idea out to pasture. If you want sport, then you want the Grand Cherokee SRT. It should be noted that I didn’t get the chance to take either Grand Cherokee off the beaten path. That is something I hope to change whenever I get another Grand Cherokee. After spending two weeks and putting a number of miles on the Grand Cherokees, I came away very impressed. Jeep has built possibly one of the best all-rounders in the midsize class. Taking the 2011 Grand Cherokee redesign, Jeep made a number of changes that fix a number of problems of past Grand Cherokees. But those changes allowed Jeep to pull off a big feat with Grand Cherokee; the wide range of trims that make each one feel like they can take on a different part of the midsize SUV class. There’s the Altitude which provides a stylish alternative to those looking at crossovers, while the Overland gives a formidable challenge to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz ML, BMW X5, and Land Rover LR4. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee sets a new bar for excellence in the SUV class. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Grand Cherokees, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas and Diesel Year: 2014 Make: Jeep Model: Grand Cherokee Trim: Altitude 4X4 Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/24/19 Curb Weight: 4,677 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, Michigan Base Price: $31,195 As Tested Price: $38,485 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Customer Preferred Package 23Z - $5,100 Power Sunroof - $995.00 Year: 2014 Make: Jeep Model: Grand Cherokee Trim: Overland 4X4 Engine: 3.0L DOHC Diesel V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 3,600 Torque @ RPM: 420 @ 2,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/24 Curb Weight: 5,393 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, Michigan Base Price: $46,195 As Tested Price: $55,680 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 - $4,500 Advance Technology Group - $1,995 Rear Blu-Ray Entertainment System - $1,995
  16. Review: 2014 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport

    Trying to make yourself stand out in a crowd is a difficult task. Trying to do that in a competitive crowd such as compact luxury car market can be labeled as ‘Mission Impossible’. Why? Because sooner or later, you’ll be compared to the demigod that is the BMW 3-Series. The 3-Series has been a perennial favorite by many automotive writers and buyers because of its fun-to-drive characteristics and the value of the BMW badge. Since the F30 generation, many believe that the 3-Series has softened a bit. This has allowed competitors such as Cadillac, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and others to try and slip some of those buyers away. Lexus is one of the competitors hoping to give the 3-Series a run for its money by introducing a radical looking third-generation IS. The looks are one thing, but can this Lexus make a stand? I had an IS 350 F-Sport for a week to find out. The IS makes a good first step in differentiating itself from everyone else. The overall shape looks to be an impressionist’s take on a compact luxury sedan. With sharp lines, the now familiar spindle grille, separation of the headlights and daytime running lights, and other details; the IS makes sure that it's the center of attention. One design element I think needs to be called out is the rear rocker panels coming together at an angle and flowing upward to create the leading edge for the taillights. A nice touch. The F-Sport package only ratchets up the attention of the IS by a factor of ten. Such design touches include new body kit, mesh grille insert, and a set of 18-inch wheels finished in graphite. Lexus also worked on making the IS’ interior standout from the crowd as well. The interior layout is very reminiscent to the LF-A supercar with an angular center stack and a minimal amount of buttons, to the configurable gauge cluster a sliding bezel which can positioned three ways (left, middle, and right) to provide key information for the driver. Material quality is for the most part top notch with brushed metal accents and soft-surfaced plastics. A set of sport seats help keep you and your passenger locked in while driving somewhat enthusiastically. Personally I found the side bolstering to a bit too much, which meant I couldn’t fully get into the seat. For your infotainment needs, the IS 350 F-Sport comes with the latest version of Lexus Enform. This new version features a new interface which brings the system into the modern era. You can also divide the screen into two or three parts to show off key information such as navigation, climate, and audio. Moving around the system is done with Lexus’ Remote Touch system. While I like the idea of using a joystick to control the system, the execution is another story. You have to be precise with your movement of the control, especially when you are pressing down to select a function. One slip and you’ll be in another section. The IS’ powertrains carry over from the last generation model. The base IS 250 features a 2.5L V6, while the IS 350 comes with a 3.5L V6. The larger V6 produces 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic comes standard on the rear-drive IS 350, while the all-wheel variant sticks with a six-speed automatic. The 3.5L V6 is a very stout and smooth performer. Power seemed to be available throughout the rev range and getting the IS 350 moving from a stop was no problem. If you put the IS 350 F-Sport into Sport or Sport+, the V6 becomes Mr. Hyde. The engine provides a deeper growl and provides sharper acceleration. When I put the vehicle into Sport+, I was shocked how the V6 engine changed from a smooth operator to one that had the same characteristics of a turbocharged one. The eight-speed automatic has to be one of the best I have experienced as it provided quick and smooth shifts, no matter whether I was driving normally or like a maniac. Fuel economy for the IS 350 F-Sport is rated at 19 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. My week saw an average of 21.8 MPG. Being an F-Sport model, the IS gets a number of tweaks to the suspension and steering. Such tweaks include an adaptive variable suspension, variable gear ratio steering, system a set of summer performance tires, and new brake pads. When the IS 350 F-Sport is in normal mode, its pretty much like your standard Lexus vehicle. The suspension does a mostly good job of isolating bumps and imperfections. There will be a few bumps that make their way into the vehicle due to the stiffer setup the F-Sport is equipped with. Switch the vehicle into Sport+ and the suspension stiffens up and makes the IS 350 a race car. Toss the IS 350 F-Sport into a curve and the model hunkers down with nary a hint of body roll and the tires keeping the vehicle glued to the road. The steering is nicely weighted and provides excellent feel. Lexus has a very credible competitor in compact luxury class with the IS. If you can spare your eyes from the looks, the IS 350 features a wonderful V6 and a impressive interior layout. The cherry on top is the F-Sport package which makes IS 350 a compelling driver’s car. Sure the IS may not have the brand equity that some of its competitors may have. But Lexus has shown that you don’t have to go the Germans to get a fun sedan. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the IS 350, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Lexus Model: IS Trim: 350 RWD Engine: 3.5L 24-Valve DOHC VVT-i V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 306 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 277 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/28/22 Curb Weight: 3,593 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $39,465 As Tested Price: $48,977 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge) Options: F-Sport Package - $3,620 Navigation System/Mark Levinson Premium Audio - $3,225 Blind-Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - $600.00 Paint Protection Plan - $429.00 Variable Gear Ratio Steering - $400.00 Trunk Mat, Cargo New, Wheel Locks, and Rear Bumper Applique - $329.00
  17. Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Altitude

    Drastic changes are hard for a lot of us. Whether it's moving to a new state or country, the arrival of new family member, the prospect of a new job, etc: we wonder if this change will be good or bad for us. The same is true for any automaker. If they have a vehicle that is doing very well in sales and/or reputation, or are planning to resurrect an iconic nameplate, they know that a huge change could make or break the vehicle. Consider the Jeep Cherokee. The off-road brand built the Cherokee from 1977 to 2001, earning a reputation for being a rough and go-anywhere SUV. When news broke that Jeep would be bringing back the Cherokee nameplate, many Jeep fanatics were excited. Many of those fanatics cut their teeth on the Cherokee and were hoping for a return of the rough and ready SUV they loved. Sadly that wouldn’t be case when Jeep revealed the new Cherokee and it didn’t look or drive like the vehicle they knew. This led to many complaining about how the new Cherokee wasn’t like the old one and Jeep should be ashamed. But lets step back and look at this new Cherokee. Did Jeep make a critical mistake or is the new Cherokee a reflection of a marketplace that has changed? Let’s be blunt about the new Cherokee’s styling. It’s very polarizing to say in the least. The overall look appears to have been the result of one team doing the front, while another team handled the back. The front end has a rounded shape with three different pods for lights - from top to bottom: LED running lamps, headlamps and fog lamps - and the iconic seven slot grille donning a black coating on the Altitude model. The back end is slightly rounded as well, with the taillights sitting on the farthest points of the tailgate. Finishing off the Cherokee is a set of blacked-out eighteen-inch wheels. In pictures, the Cherokee may look like a bit of a hot mess. But in person, I actually found the Cherokee to be good looking, and appreciated that Jeep decided to go a different route with the styling. The Cherokee’s interior is nothing like the exterior, which for some is a good thing. The dash layout is conventional, with a conservative design and logical placement of the controls. Material quality is noticeably improved from the outgoing Liberty with wide swaths of soft-touch plastic around the interior, and high-quality cloth wrapping the seats. Nothing in the Cherokee’s interior made me think, ‘well they went a bit cheap here.’ Interior space is also very impressive with back seat passengers getting a pleasant amount of head and legroom. Cargo space is decent with 24.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 54.9 cubic feet with the seats folded. The Cherokee Altitude comes standard with a 5-inch UConnect infotainment system, but my tester came with the optional 8.4-inch UConnect system. This system is one of the easiest and most responsive infotainment systems I have ever come across. One item I should mention with this version of UConnect for Cherokee is that there is no navigation standard. For that, you’ll need to head over to your local Jeep dealer to have it installed. At first, I was a bit upset at there being no navigation. But after a few moments, I appreciated Chrysler’s decision. More people are turning to their smartphones to provide navigation, or just don’t want to spend the money on navigation. The Cherokee comes with the choice of two different engines. The base is the 2.4L MultiAir four-cylinder, while a 3.2L V6 is optional. The Cherokee Altitude I had came equipped with the base four-cylinder which makes 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. Either engine comes paired up with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Being a Jeep, you have the choice of three different four-wheel drive systems. My tester was equipped with the base Jeep Drive I system. The 2.4L provides decent power for any situation that could be thrown at it. Whether it was driving in city traffic or merging onto the highway, the 2.4 never felt lacking for power. The 2.4 also doesn’t lack engine noise either. Leaving a stop, the engine is keen on letting you know that it's working. When you settle into a cruise, the engine settles down to a murmur. The nine-speed has been quite the headache for Chrysler, as it caused the Cherokee launch to be delayed for several months due to a number of problems. Unfortunately, Chrysler still has a few more kinks to iron out with it. To start, the transmission would shudder when upshifting through the first three gears. The other was the transmission wouldn’t go into ninth gear when driving on the freeway. I would have to shift into ninth manually. Now since I drove the Cherokee, Chrysler has issued an update to the nine-speed to fix some of these problems. I’m hoping in the near future to get behind the wheel of another Cherokee to see if it's made a difference. One item I sadly didn’t get chance to try was how the Cherokee drove off the beaten path. I hope to rectify that the next time I get a Cherokee. Fuel economy-wise, the Cherokee Altitude 4X4 is rated by the EPA at 21 City/28 Highway/24 Combined. My week with the Cherokee saw an average of 23.1 MPG. The Cherokee Altitude’s ride and drive characteristics is very much in line with other compact crossovers.The suspension is comprised of MacPherson strut setup up front and a four-link setup in the rear which provides a very comfortable ride on even some of the roughest roads the Metro Detroit area has to offer. Steering is nicely weighted and features good on-center feel. To go back to the question asked at the beginning of this review, I don’t think Jeep made a mistake with the new Cherokee. Sadly, the time when a boxy, go-anywhere SUV has passed. Jeep realized this and built the Cherokee accordingly, but made sure it still had a bit of Jeep DNA in it. For the most part, I have to say I’m very impressed with the Cherokee. But there is the elephant in the room and that happens to be the nine-speed transmission. I like the idea, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. For now, I’m going to put the Cherokee on the wait and see list. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Cherokee Altitude, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Jeep Model: Cherokee Trim: Altitude 4X4 Engine: 2.4L MultiAir 16-Valve Inline-Four Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 171 @ 4,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/24 Curb Weight: 3,941 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toledo, Ohio Base Price: $26,495 As Tested Price: $30,485 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Comfort/Convenience Group - $1,995 Customer Preferred Package 24K - $500.00 Uconnect 8.4A AM/FM/BT/Access - $500.00 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. Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

    If you ever wanted to get a group of automotive writers angry and upset with you, just say or write the following words: I like the Mitsubishi Mirage. When I posted a picture of the vehicle and said those very words in a Facebook post, many automotive writers thought I had lost my mind. But I really did like it and began to wonder if I really had lost it or if everyone else missed the point of the Mirage. That’s what I decided to find out. Let's get something out of the way, the Mirage really doesn’t have any style. The best way I found to describe it is to imagine a kid making a car out of a tub of Play-Doh. What he or she will end up creating is something akin to the Mirage. That’s not to say Mitsubishi hasn’t tried its best to spruce up the Mirage’s looks. There is range of colors from bright green to purple to make the vehicle stand out, while the top of range ES model gets 14-inch alloy wheels. But you can only do so much to make a somewhat bland vehicle stand out. Inside, the Mirage is a mixed bag of what you expect in a cheap car and some surprises. The dashboard looks and feels decent with solid hard plastic and glossy black trim on the surround for the stereo and climate-control system. The door panels are another story as there isn’t very much padding for you to rest your arm and the plastic appears to be scratched by breathing on it. Seats are wrapped in a red-and-gray cloth that helps give the interior a bit of character. But the seats themselves do need some work. The front seats don’t have enough padding or support, which means don’t even try to attempt a long trip in this. The back seat has the same problems with support as the front, but head and legroom are decent. The big surprise with the Mirage’s interior is how much equipment you get. All models come with air conditioning, automatic climate control, power windows, and locks. This particular ES tester came fully stocked with keyless entry, push-button start, navigation, and backup camera. Keep in mind that this vehicle carries an as-tested price of $16,990. Impressive to say in the least. All Mirages come equipped with a 1.2L three-cylinder engine with 74 horsepower and 74 pound-feet torque. This can be paired up to either a five-speed manual or a CVT. While the power numbers seem minuscule, the Mirage doesn’t really need all of that power as it tips the scales at 2,051 pounds for my ES CVT tester. Around town, the Mirage does fine with leaving stop lights and keeping up with traffic. The freeway is another story as the little three-cylinder has to work its heart out to get you up to speed. Not helping matters is the engine noise as you're accelerating. I liken the noise to a lawnmower when you first start it up. On the plus side of the Mirage’s powertrain is the fuel economy. The EPA rates the Mirage equipped with the CVT at 37 City/44 Highway/40 Combined. In my week of driving in the Mirage, I got an average of 42 MPG. The Mirage is really mixed when it comes to driving. The suspension does a decent job of minimizing bumps and road imperfections. But out on curves, the Mirage feels like its going to tip. I kept thinking back to a line from an old television show where they were testing a 1971 Mercury Marquis and said this about the handling: “Through the pylon course, we asked ourselves questions like is it possible for a modern-day automobile to lean over far enough to fall off its springs? What would happen if it did?” The reason for this is the suspension is tuned for third-world countries. Mitsubishi decided to not to do any changes for US-Spec Mirage, a big mistake I feel. Steering has the feel of a stretching rubber band. As my week came to a close, I began to realize that I hadn’t lost my mind for liking the Mirage. Despite all of the problems and complaints I had about this car, I came away impressed. What Mitsubishi has done is built car that was built with the mindset of dirt-cheap driving. In this regard, Mitsubishi has succeeded. It might not be the best to drive, to look at, or to sit in for awhile. But if you want a vehicle with a low price tag and impressive fuel economy, then Mitsubishi has a vehicle for you. Disclaimer: Mitsubishi Provided the Mirage ES, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Album: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES 11 images 0 comments Year: 2014 Make: Mitsubishi Model: Mirage Trim: ES Engine: 1.2L MIVEC 12-valve DOHC three-cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 74 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM: 74 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 37/44/40 Curb Weight: 2,051 lbs Location of Manufacture: Chonburi, Thailand Base Price: $15,195 As Tested Price: $16,990 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: Navigation Package - $900.00 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. Click here to view the article
  19. Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

    If you ever wanted to get a group of automotive writers angry and upset with you, just say or write the following words: I like the Mitsubishi Mirage. When I posted a picture of the vehicle and said those very words in a Facebook post, many automotive writers thought I had lost my mind. But I really did like it and began to wonder if I really had lost it or if everyone else missed the point of the Mirage. That’s what I decided to find out. Let's get something out of the way, the Mirage really doesn’t have any style. The best way I found to describe it is to imagine a kid making a car out of a tub of Play-Doh. What he or she will end up creating is something akin to the Mirage. That’s not to say Mitsubishi hasn’t tried its best to spruce up the Mirage’s looks. There is range of colors from bright green to purple to make the vehicle stand out, while the top of range ES model gets 14-inch alloy wheels. But you can only do so much to make a somewhat bland vehicle stand out. Inside, the Mirage is a mixed bag of what you expect in a cheap car and some surprises. The dashboard looks and feels decent with solid hard plastic and glossy black trim on the surround for the stereo and climate-control system. The door panels are another story as there isn’t very much padding for you to rest your arm and the plastic appears to be scratched by breathing on it. Seats are wrapped in a red-and-gray cloth that helps give the interior a bit of character. But the seats themselves do need some work. The front seats don’t have enough padding or support, which means don’t even try to attempt a long trip in this. The back seat has the same problems with support as the front, but head and legroom are decent. The big surprise with the Mirage’s interior is how much equipment you get. All models come with air conditioning, automatic climate control, power windows, and locks. This particular ES tester came fully stocked with keyless entry, push-button start, navigation, and backup camera. Keep in mind that this vehicle carries an as-tested price of $16,990. Impressive to say in the least. All Mirages come equipped with a 1.2L three-cylinder engine with 74 horsepower and 74 pound-feet torque. This can be paired up to either a five-speed manual or a CVT. While the power numbers seem minuscule, the Mirage doesn’t really need all of that power as it tips the scales at 2,051 pounds for my ES CVT tester. Around town, the Mirage does fine with leaving stop lights and keeping up with traffic. The freeway is another story as the little three-cylinder has to work its heart out to get you up to speed. Not helping matters is the engine noise as you're accelerating. I liken the noise to a lawnmower when you first start it up. On the plus side of the Mirage’s powertrain is the fuel economy. The EPA rates the Mirage equipped with the CVT at 37 City/44 Highway/40 Combined. In my week of driving in the Mirage, I got an average of 42 MPG. The Mirage is really mixed when it comes to driving. The suspension does a decent job of minimizing bumps and road imperfections. But out on curves, the Mirage feels like its going to tip. I kept thinking back to a line from an old television show where they were testing a 1971 Mercury Marquis and said this about the handling: “Through the pylon course, we asked ourselves questions like is it possible for a modern-day automobile to lean over far enough to fall off its springs? What would happen if it did?” The reason for this is the suspension is tuned for third-world countries. Mitsubishi decided to not to do any changes for US-Spec Mirage, a big mistake I feel. Steering has the feel of a stretching rubber band. As my week came to a close, I began to realize that I hadn’t lost my mind for liking the Mirage. Despite all of the problems and complaints I had about this car, I came away impressed. What Mitsubishi has done is built car that was built with the mindset of dirt-cheap driving. In this regard, Mitsubishi has succeeded. It might not be the best to drive, to look at, or to sit in for awhile. But if you want a vehicle with a low price tag and impressive fuel economy, then Mitsubishi has a vehicle for you. Disclaimer: Mitsubishi Provided the Mirage ES, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Mitsubishi Model: Mirage Trim: ES Engine: 1.2L MIVEC 12-valve DOHC three-cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 74 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM: 74 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 37/44/40 Curb Weight: 2,051 lbs Location of Manufacture: Chonburi, Thailand Base Price: $15,195 As Tested Price: $16,990 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: Navigation Package - $900.00 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.
  20. The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla: the two best-selling compact models in the U.S. month after month; the two are on the top of the charts, usually one of the models being number one while the other sits in second place. It’s something that has confounded many automotive writers and enthusiasts as they believe there are better options out there. What they tend forget is those two vehicles have a reputation that very few can even dare match, which for most buyers counts massively. So what is it about these two vehicles that many people decide to purchase? Is it the name alone or something else? But also which one of these two vehicles is deserving of your money? I went back to back with the redesigned Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic to answer these questions. Exterior: 2013 saw Honda give the Civic an emergency update to better combat the swath of new compact models that arrived on the scene. This begins with exterior with a new front that features a revised hood, mesh grille with smiling chrome surround; and set of reshaped headlights. Other changes include new wheel choices and a restyled trunk lid. But somehow, the new Civic still looks like the old model. This is most likely due to model sticking with the same profile as the previous model. It is an improvement, but I wished Honda’s designers could have done more. This leads us to the Corolla which has undergone a massive transformation from bland econobox to something stylish. The new model borrows heavily from the Corolla Furia concept shown last year at the Detroit Auto Show. There’s a bold front end design, short rear end, LED lighting and sharp lines throughout. The S model adds a bit more aggression with a mesh grille, seventeen-inch alloy wheels, and a distinguishing blue color that makes the Corolla really stand out in a crowd. Design-wise, the Corolla takes the win in this round. Interior: Both models have seen a massive improvement with their interiors thanks to improved designs and better materials used throughout. Finding a comfortable position in either car was easy thanks to the range of adjustments available with the optional power seats and adjustable steering wheels that tilt and telescopes in both vehicles. Even the controls for either vehicle were in easy reach for the driver and passenger. So where do the Civic and Corolla differ? The interior rear space according to the auto sheets. Looking at the spec sheets of the two models, the Corolla has more passenger volume than Civic (97.11 cubic feet vs. 92.1 cubic feet). The Corolla also bests the Civic in most rear seat dimensions (except in rear hip room where the Civic holds a 7.5 inch advantage over the Corolla). But sitting in the back of both vehicles tells another story. The Corolla feels a little bit tighter as my head is almost touching the roof (mostly due to the optional sunroof) and my legs being right up against the front seat. The Civic has a little bit more space for my head and legs. Also helping the Civic is the beige color for the interior which helps make it feel larger. The Corolla was done up in a black interior which only made the interior feel smaller. The Civic just takes this round for having a slightly larger back seat and feeling slightly larger. Technology: Both Honda and Toyota were a bit behind on the technology front when compared to competitors, but both Civic and Corolla feature their latest generation of infotainment systems. Honda’s latest infotainment system features some new improvements such as new home screen with large touchscreen buttons to take you to different parts of the system and the introduction of Aha internet radio which allows you to create personalized stations from content on the internet (podcasts, radio, music, etc.). But there still is a lot of the old Honda system here. Case in point is the navigation system which was fine back in 2005, but looks dated when compared to other systems. Also not helping the Civic out is Honda’s decision to go with capacitive touch buttons on the Civics head unit. I found myself having to hit the buttons for the volume or home buttons a few times for it to register. Thankfully, this Civic came equipped with steering wheel controls which I found myself using a lot. Toyota has taken a huge leap forward with their infotainment system with a new interface that is easy to use and understand thanks to a larger font, improved graphics, and bigger touchscreen buttons. Also helping is Toyota’s decision to keep actual buttons to help get you around to different parts of the system. The Corolla’s screen is slightly smaller than the Civics, but I found the Corolla’s screen to be just as bright and readable as the one found in the Civic. An added bonus for the Corolla’s infotainment system is variety of information that comes from XM Radio which includes weather, stock quotes, sport scores, and much more. I don’t how many people are checking your stock quotes via the car’s infotainment system, but everything else is a nice touch. The Corolla with its better interface and feature set takes this round. Powertrain: Both of these compacts utilize 1.8L four-cylinder engines paired to CVTs. The Civic makes do with 143 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque, while the Corolla has 140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. With both vehicles having around the same power, there really isn’t a difference in how quickly they get up to speed. Leaving a stop light or merging onto the freeway, both models got up to speed at a reasonable clip. The difference lies in the refinement of the powertrains. The Civic has a slight advantage over the Corolla in this department as its four-cylinder is just a little bit quieter when at idle or moving. The CVT in the Civic also doesn’t make as much noise when you accelerate as it does in the Corolla. The flip side is when we are talking about fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2014 Honda Civic at 30 City/39 Highway/33 Combined, and the 2014 Toyota Corolla at 29 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. In my testing, the Corolla bested the Civic in average fuel economy with the former getting 32.2 MPG and the latter getting 31.3 MPG. In this round, I think I call this a tie. Ride & Drive: For most drivers, these vehicles will be driven in the city and out on the freeway. How do they fare in this area? Well the Civic is the more comfortable of the two as its able to smooth out the roadway and provide a ride that is reminiscent to bigger sedan. Road and wind noise were kept to a decent level, I.e. I didn’t have to turn up the radio a lot to drown out the noise. The Corolla’s ride is a little bit stiffer due to the S model getting slightly larger wheels and some suspension tuning. This means more bumps and road imperfections are let in. Noise isolation is about the same as the Civic. But what if you decide to have a bit of fun? Then you want the Corolla. I know this is a bit of surprise, but the Corolla S is really good in the corners with new suspension tuning and nicely weighted steering that provides decent feel. The Civic loses a bit here due to its suspension being somewhat softer, although the steering is just as good as the Corolla. In this round, I’ll give half a point to each car. The Civic for better daily ride, while the Corolla nails the fun to drive aspect. Verdict: With a score of 2.5 vs. 1.5, the Corolla is the winner in this comparison. The Corolla has the better looks, infotainment system, and is fun to play around with. The Civic, while coming in second has some redeeming features in its camp. The interior is slightly larger than the Corolla and it offers a more comfortable ride when driving day to day. After spending a week with both vehicles, I can now see why these two are the top selling models in the class. Its not just name itself, but how these two cars are all things to all people. Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Civic EX-L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Toyota Provided the Corolla S, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Album: 2014 Honda Civic EX-L 10 images 0 comments Year: 2014 Make: Honda Model: Civic Trim: EX-L w/Navi Engine: 1.8L 16-Valve SOHC i-VTEC Inline-Four Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 143 @ 6500 Torque @ RPM: 129 @ 4300 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32 Curb Weight: 2,930 lbs Location of Manufacture: Greensburg, Indiana Base Price: $24,240 As Tested Price: $25,030 (Includes $790.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Album: 2014 Toyota Corolla S 11 images 0 comments Year: 2014 Make: Toyota Model: Corolla Trim: S Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i Inline-Four Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 132 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 128 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/37/32 Curb Weight: 2,895 lbs Location of Manufacture: Blue Springs, Mississippi Base Price: $20,400 As Tested Price: $23,570 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge) Options: Driver Connivence Package - $1,510 Power Moonroof - $850.00 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. Click here to view the article
  21. The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla: the two best-selling compact models in the U.S. month after month; the two are on the top of the charts, usually one of the models being number one while the other sits in second place. It’s something that has confounded many automotive writers and enthusiasts as they believe there are better options out there. What they tend forget is those two vehicles have a reputation that very few can even dare match, which for most buyers counts massively. So what is it about these two vehicles that many people decide to purchase? Is it the name alone or something else? But also which one of these two vehicles is deserving of your money? I went back to back with the redesigned Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic to answer these questions. Exterior: 2013 saw Honda give the Civic an emergency update to better combat the swath of new compact models that arrived on the scene. This begins with exterior with a new front that features a revised hood, mesh grille with smiling chrome surround; and set of reshaped headlights. Other changes include new wheel choices and a restyled trunk lid. But somehow, the new Civic still looks like the old model. This is most likely due to model sticking with the same profile as the previous model. It is an improvement, but I wished Honda’s designers could have done more. This leads us to the Corolla which has undergone a massive transformation from bland econobox to something stylish. The new model borrows heavily from the Corolla Furia concept shown last year at the Detroit Auto Show. There’s a bold front end design, short rear end, LED lighting and sharp lines throughout. The S model adds a bit more aggression with a mesh grille, seventeen-inch alloy wheels, and a distinguishing blue color that makes the Corolla really stand out in a crowd. Design-wise, the Corolla takes the win in this round. Interior: Both models have seen a massive improvement with their interiors thanks to improved designs and better materials used throughout. Finding a comfortable position in either car was easy thanks to the range of adjustments available with the optional power seats and adjustable steering wheels that tilt and telescopes in both vehicles. Even the controls for either vehicle were in easy reach for the driver and passenger. So where do the Civic and Corolla differ? The interior rear space according to the auto sheets. Looking at the spec sheets of the two models, the Corolla has more passenger volume than Civic (97.11 cubic feet vs. 92.1 cubic feet). The Corolla also bests the Civic in most rear seat dimensions (except in rear hip room where the Civic holds a 7.5 inch advantage over the Corolla). But sitting in the back of both vehicles tells another story. The Corolla feels a little bit tighter as my head is almost touching the roof (mostly due to the optional sunroof) and my legs being right up against the front seat. The Civic has a little bit more space for my head and legs. Also helping the Civic is the beige color for the interior which helps make it feel larger. The Corolla was done up in a black interior which only made the interior feel smaller. The Civic just takes this round for having a slightly larger back seat and feeling slightly larger. Technology: Both Honda and Toyota were a bit behind on the technology front when compared to competitors, but both Civic and Corolla feature their latest generation of infotainment systems. Honda’s latest infotainment system features some new improvements such as new home screen with large touchscreen buttons to take you to different parts of the system and the introduction of Aha internet radio which allows you to create personalized stations from content on the internet (podcasts, radio, music, etc.). But there still is a lot of the old Honda system here. Case in point is the navigation system which was fine back in 2005, but looks dated when compared to other systems. Also not helping the Civic out is Honda’s decision to go with capacitive touch buttons on the Civics head unit. I found myself having to hit the buttons for the volume or home buttons a few times for it to register. Thankfully, this Civic came equipped with steering wheel controls which I found myself using a lot. Toyota has taken a huge leap forward with their infotainment system with a new interface that is easy to use and understand thanks to a larger font, improved graphics, and bigger touchscreen buttons. Also helping is Toyota’s decision to keep actual buttons to help get you around to different parts of the system. The Corolla’s screen is slightly smaller than the Civics, but I found the Corolla’s screen to be just as bright and readable as the one found in the Civic. An added bonus for the Corolla’s infotainment system is variety of information that comes from XM Radio which includes weather, stock quotes, sport scores, and much more. I don’t how many people are checking your stock quotes via the car’s infotainment system, but everything else is a nice touch. The Corolla with its better interface and feature set takes this round. Powertrain: Both of these compacts utilize 1.8L four-cylinder engines paired to CVTs. The Civic makes do with 143 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque, while the Corolla has 140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. With both vehicles having around the same power, there really isn’t a difference in how quickly they get up to speed. Leaving a stop light or merging onto the freeway, both models got up to speed at a reasonable clip. The difference lies in the refinement of the powertrains. The Civic has a slight advantage over the Corolla in this department as its four-cylinder is just a little bit quieter when at idle or moving. The CVT in the Civic also doesn’t make as much noise when you accelerate as it does in the Corolla. The flip side is when we are talking about fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2014 Honda Civic at 30 City/39 Highway/33 Combined, and the 2014 Toyota Corolla at 29 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. In my testing, the Corolla bested the Civic in average fuel economy with the former getting 32.2 MPG and the latter getting 31.3 MPG. In this round, I think I call this a tie. Ride & Drive: For most drivers, these vehicles will be driven in the city and out on the freeway. How do they fare in this area? Well the Civic is the more comfortable of the two as its able to smooth out the roadway and provide a ride that is reminiscent to bigger sedan. Road and wind noise were kept to a decent level, I.e. I didn’t have to turn up the radio a lot to drown out the noise. The Corolla’s ride is a little bit stiffer due to the S model getting slightly larger wheels and some suspension tuning. This means more bumps and road imperfections are let in. Noise isolation is about the same as the Civic. But what if you decide to have a bit of fun? Then you want the Corolla. I know this is a bit of surprise, but the Corolla S is really good in the corners with new suspension tuning and nicely weighted steering that provides decent feel. The Civic loses a bit here due to its suspension being somewhat softer, although the steering is just as good as the Corolla. In this round, I’ll give half a point to each car. The Civic for better daily ride, while the Corolla nails the fun to drive aspect. Verdict: With a score of 2.5 vs. 1.5, the Corolla is the winner in this comparison. The Corolla has the better looks, infotainment system, and is fun to play around with. The Civic, while coming in second has some redeeming features in its camp. The interior is slightly larger than the Corolla and it offers a more comfortable ride when driving day to day. After spending a week with both vehicles, I can now see why these two are the top selling models in the class. Its not just name itself, but how these two cars are all things to all people. Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Civic EX-L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Toyota Provided the Corolla S, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Year: 2014 Make: Honda Model: Civic Trim: EX-L w/Navi Engine: 1.8L 16-Valve SOHC i-VTEC Inline-Four Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 143 @ 6500 Torque @ RPM: 129 @ 4300 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32 Curb Weight: 2,930 lbs Location of Manufacture: Greensburg, Indiana Base Price: $24,240 As Tested Price: $25,030 (Includes $790.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Year: 2014 Make: Toyota Model: Corolla Trim: S Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i Inline-Four Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 132 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 128 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/37/32 Curb Weight: 2,895 lbs Location of Manufacture: Blue Springs, Mississippi Base Price: $20,400 As Tested Price: $23,570 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge) Options: Driver Connivence Package - $1,510 Power Moonroof - $850.00 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. Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD

    In every automotive manufacturer’s lifecycle, they will at least once build a black sheep. A vehicle which doesn’t quite fit into their lineup, despite how good or bad it is. A perfect example is the Buick Grand National. Taking the Regal Coupe, Buick dropped in a turbocharged V6 which produced anywhere between 200 to 245 horsepower and could smoke a number of performance vehicles in the era. But it didn’t quite fit in with Buick’s smooth-riding, luxury vehicles. Thus it became a black sheep, one that would become legendary in its own right. The black sheep phenomenon seems to be making a return to Buick. Along the rows of the luxurious and quiet vehicles sitting on dealer lots, there’s also a vehicle who has those traits along with a bit of performance. It may not wear the Grand National nameplate, but it wears one that possibly has similar value: Regal GS. Buick has given the entire Regal lineup some changes for the 2014 model beginning with the exterior. For the Regal GS, those changes include a new front clip with a bigger grille and a new trunk lid. Decked out in red paint and featuring inlet vents that look like vampire fangs, the Regal GS has an outlook of quiet aggression. It doesn’t look like it wants to fight, but if its provoked, the Regal GS will throw down. Inside, Buick made some key changes to the Regal GS’ interior There’s a new instrument cluster with a color screen that displays the speedometer and trip computer information. The center stack has been revised with less buttons (thank you), a new climate control system with capacitive touch controls which are hit and miss when your trying to change the temperature or turn on the heated seats; and a larger touchscreen with the latest version of Buick’s Intellilink infotainment system which is easy to use for the most part. The interior is trimmed in high quality leather and soft touch materials, along with black trim to accent the sporty image. The front sport seats are very comfortable and are able to keep you in place if you decide to be exuberant with your driving style. The back seat provides very good legroom, while headroom can be tight for taller passengers due to the sloping roofline. For impressions on the powertrain and handling, see page 2. Previously, the Regal GS produced 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque from a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder. For 2014, Buick cut back the horsepower to 259. But in turn, Buick adjusted where maximum torque was available. In this case, they lowered the point. Buick also increased the RPM range of where you have that torque (2,500 to 4,000 rpm if you're wondering). Like before, the Regal GS is available with either a six-speed manual or automatic. However, new for 2014 is the introduction of a all-wheel drive model with a six-speed automatic. The all-wheel drive system can send up 90 percent of power to the rear wheels. Like the previous GS, the current model offers three different drive modes. Normal provides a nice balance of efficiency and performance. Sport firms up the suspension, while GS firms up the suspension even further, quickens the shifts of the six-speed transmission, sharpens up the throttle response, and sends 15 percent more torque to the rear wheels. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I drove the Regal GS onto one of the roads I use for evaluation. But I can say my jaw was on the floor once I finished driving. Put the Regal GS into the GS mode and it becomes something along the lines of a German sedan. The engine spools up quickly and gets the close to 4,000 pound vehicle moving at a rapid pace. Power is always ready whenever you need it. You also notice the all-wheel drive working, shifting power around to keep the vehicle moving and in control. The six-speed automatic is quick on up or downshifts, though I was wishing for a set of paddles so I could play around with gear selection. Then there is the Regal GS’ handling. Drive it into a corner, and the GS hunkers down. There is minimal body roll and the steering provides excellent weight and feel. Agility was very good and felt like you could push the GS a lot further than you thought at first. But what happens when you drive the Regal GS day to day? Well, the Regal GS has a much stiffer ride than the standard Regal. Even in the normal mode, the Regal GS does bounce around a little bit more than you'd think. I was thankful I had the standard nineteen-inch wheels and not the optional twenty-inch ones as this would only exacerbate this problem. But the Regal GS does retain Buick’s notion of providing a quiet ride. The 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD is an excellent all-weather performance vehicle that could give many competitors, even the Germans a run for their money. But I fear that the Regal GS will go down in history as a black sheep much like the Grand National. Why? Well, Buick lists the Regal GS’ competitors such as the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. A tough set of competitors, many people don’t think of Buick as being a competitor to those brands. The other reason is price. A 2014 Regal GS AWD starts at $39,270. My tester rang in at $43,780. A fair price with all of the options on it, but for many, it will likely make their eyes drop out. This price problem is further exacerbated by another General Motors model; the Buck Regal Turbo. Both models have the similar engines, choices of drivetrains, and number of other items. The difference is that Turbo costs less than GS. This brings up the question of why buy the GS at all. The best answer I can give is that the GS offers more performance thanks to a number of enhancements under the hood and the suspension. If you like being a bit outside the norm, the Regal GS is worth a look. Disclaimer: General Motors Provided the Buick Regal GS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Buick Model: Regal Trim: GS AWD Engine: 2.0L DOHC Turbocharged Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 259 @ 5300 Torque @ RPM: 295 @ 2500-4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/27/22 Curb Weight: 3,981 lbs Location of Manufacture: Oshawa, Ontario Base Price: $39,270.00 As Tested Price: $43,780.00 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: Driver Confidence Package #2 - $1,695.00 Sunroof - $1,000.00 Driver Confidence Package #1 - $900.00 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.
  23. Quick Drive: 2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited

    The Hyundai Elantra has been quite the success since the Korean automaker introduced back in 2012. With distinctive styling, impressive feature set, and value that very few competitors can match. But since that time, competitors have been introducing new and refreshed compact models into the marketplace to challenge the Elantra. What does Hyundai decide to do? They introduced a refreshed version Elantra for 2014. I spent some time in a 2014 Elantra Limited sedan to see if it still is a formidable challenger. This being a mid-cycle refresh, the Elantra doesn’t have any dramatic changes inside or out. The Elantra’s exterior still has the ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language in spades with flowing curves throughout the vehicle. Changes for the 2014 model include a new front grille, LED-trimmed headlights, and LED taillights. These little changes do freshen up the Elantra and make it one of more elegant compact models in the marketplace. As for the interior, Hyundai has made some changes to the trim and infotainment system. Otherwise, the Elantra is still the same high-quality, and comfortable interior as before. One downside to the Elantra is the backseat. Legroom is slightly tight and headroom is only more so due to the sloping roofline. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of a new 2.0L GDI four-cylinder producing 173 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. The downside is that the 2.0L is only available on the new Sport model. The SE and Limited models stick with the 1.8L GDI four-cylinder 145 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. Now I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want the 2.0L engine in the Limited, but I will admit that the 1.8L does get the job done. Power is adequate through the rpm range, so you don’t feel like you need any more power. The six-speed automatic which comes as standard on the Limited is smooth and doesn’t hunt around for gears. Fuel economy on the 2014 Elantra Limited is rated at 27 City/37 Highway/31 Combined. My week saw an average of 32 MPG. Ride characteristics of the Elantra remind me of a larger sedan as it floats over bumps, and provides a mostly quiet ride. On curves, the Elantra sedan is surprisingly a good handler with no body lean. However the steering is a disappointment if you decide to push it as there no feedback. There’s also the Driver Selectable Steering Mode which allows a driver to vary the weight from three different settings. I found this system to be more a gimmick than actual feature. Summing up the 2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited sedan goes like this: It still is a formidable challenger in the compact class. Hyundai tweaked the small things that were needed and left the rest of the car alone. This improved the vehicle from being good to being one the class leaders. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Elantra Limited, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Hyundai Model: Elantra Trim: Limited Engine: 1.8L GDI DOHC D-CVVT Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 145 @ 6,500 Torque @ RPM: 130 @ 4,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/37/31 Curb Weight: 2,943 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $21,650.00 As Tested Price: $25,335.00 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $2,750.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00 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.
  24. Review: 2014 Toyota Tundra Limited CrewMax

    At one time, Toyota had a real shot of toppling the big three in full-size truck sales. When the second-generation Tundra arrived on dealer lots in 2007, Toyota had a huge marketing campaign for it; complete with commercials and magazine ads. People took notice of this and the automaker moved 196,555 units that year. While that still lagged behind the stalwarts (F-Series: 690,589 units; Silverado: 618,257 units), it was dangerously close to the GMC Sierra (208,243 units). But then a funny thing happened. Sales began to drop in the coming years. In 2008, Toyota moved 137,249 Tundras and in the following year, only 79,385 units. Now there are many factors that go into this such as the housing crisis and Toyota offering the Tundra in only a light duty model, but there is one key factor many agree on; after 2007, the marketing seem to disappear in a flash. An odd choice considering that many of its competitors kept advertising like crazy. Which brings us to last year where Toyota introduced the redesigned 2014 Tundra at the Chicago Auto Show. With a restyled exterior, improved interior, and better electronics, Toyota said they were ‘giving customers more of what they want.’ The response was a bit lukewarm if we’re being a kind. But sometimes, first impressions can be deceiving. Maybe the 2014 Tundra has something up its sleeve that we’re not seeing and could give the stalwarts a run for their money. I recently spent a week in a 2014 Tundra CrewMax Limited to see. The 2014 Tundra looks very much like the previous Tundra at first glance, thanks to the two sharing a similar profile. Get in a bit closer and its a little bit more noticeable that the 2014 model is a tad different. Toyota sanded down the bubbly look of the previous Tundra to give the 2014 model a more muscular stance. The front has a long, imposing grille with a non-functional scoop and reshaped headlights with LED accents. Around the side are a set eighteen-inch TRD off-road wheels. The back comes with the Tundra name embossed in the tailgate and a set of chunky taillights. I'm a bit disappointed that Toyota appears to only have done a mild refresh for Tundra since they could have done so much more. I look at the new Corolla and Highlander and wonder what the designers could have done if they were allowed to go crazy with the Tundra. Unlike the mild refresh outside, Toyota engineers really went all out with the Tundra's interior. The previous model was a mishmash of hard and shiny plastics that wasn’t really fitting for any vehicle. The 2014 model takes some inspiration from Ram and Lexus with a combination soft-touch materials, leather, and higher quality plastics. The center stack has been revised with a standard seven-inch touchscreen featuring the latest version of Toyota’s Entune infotainment system and a new dual-zone climate control system. The new Entune system is still easy to use, but now comes with an updated interface which brings it into the current century. It also should be noted that Toyota pulled an idea from GM’s old infotainment system as the main screen can be divided into two to three quadrants to show much more information at a quick glance. Toyota calls the crew-cab Tundra the Crewmax and once you sit the in the back, you understand why. Sitting in the back, you feel like you’re riding in a limousine due to the comfortable seats and impressive amount of legroom. Toyota says the Crewmax has 42.3 inches of legroom, which is about 1.4 inches more than the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. The Tundra Crewmax also beats the Toyota's largest sedan, the Avalon in rear legroom by 3.1 inches. For Thoughts On The Powertrain and Ride, See Page 2 The Tundra’s powertrain lineup is carried over from the previous-generation. That includes a 4.0L V6, 4.7L V8, and a 5.7L V8. My tester came equipped with the 5.7L which makes 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and optional four-wheel drive system. While the power figure seems impressive on paper, a curb weight of 5,890 pounds negates that. Leaving off the line, the 5.7 V8 has excellent response and moves the truck with authority. But as you climb upward in speed, the engine begins to struggle with all of that weight. Not helping matters is throttle response that is somewhat sluggish and you find yourself pushing the pedal further down to reach the power. There also is a unpleasant racket that appears as you climb in speed. The six-speed automatic redeems the powertrain somewhat as its able to deliver smooth shifts quickly. The EPA rates the Tundra equipped with the 5.7L at 13 City/17 Highway/15 Combined. I was able to get 14 MPG for the week. A far cry from truck manufacturers who boast models that can achieve 20 plus MPG on the highway. The Tundra could really use some fuel saving tricks such as direct-injection and cylinder-deactivation. This Tundra came equipped with TRD Off-Road package which adds eighteen-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin LTX AT2 tires, Bilstein shock absorbers, skid plates, and tow hooks. The package really makes the Tundra almost capable in the rough stuff as it was able get through some of the remaining snow in a lot. Toyota has kept solid-rear/leaf-spring setup from the previous-generation. Not surprisingly, the Tundra is a compliant rider as bumps and potholes are transmitted to the passengers. The brand could take some ideas from GM's full-size trucks as they employ the same setup in the rear, but are able to achieve a more comfortable ride. Steering is light and has very good weight whenever you are driving around. After spending a week with the Tundra Limited Crewmax, I found myself scratching my head and wondering who should buy it? The problems with the Tundra range from poor fuel economy, sluggish performance from the V8, and a bouncy ride. But there are some pluses to the Tundra such as the improved interior, the optional TRD package, and an as-tested price of $44,459 make it a real bargain in the full-size class. While the Tundra may not have an ace up its sleeve, it is a good truck. But for many buyers in the full-size truck marketplace, good enough doesn’t cut it. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Tundra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Toyota Model: Tundra Trim: Limited CrewMax Engine: 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve V8 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 381 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/17/15 Curb Weight: 5,850 lbs Location of Manufacture: San Antonio, Texas Base Price: $41,895.00 As Tested Price: $44,459.00 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Limited Premium Package - $595.00 Bedliner - $365.00 Running Boards - $345.00 TRD Off-Road Package - $100.00 Exhaust Tip - $99.00 Door Sill Protector - $65.00 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.
  25. Quick Drive: 2014 Lexus RX 450h

    Time for a pop quiz everyone. Your question: What was the first luxury crossover that was offered with a hybrid powertrain? Time is up! The answer is the Lexus RX. The first hybrid RX was introduced back 2004 and has gone through a number of revisions up to the model seen here; the 2014 Lexus RX 450h. Is it worth the almost $7,000 more over the standard RX 350 to save some gas? Like the last RX I drove last year, the RX 450h has gotten some design tweaks. The most noticeable change is up front with the addition of the spindle grille and new headlights. Like the previous RX, I found myself wondering if the spindle grille works on the RX. After a week, I found myself saying no. The RX 450h comes with Lexus' Hybrid Drive system which pairs a 3.5L DOHC V6 and three electric motors on all-wheel drive models. Front-wheel drive models feature two. This produces a total output of 295 horsepower. The powertrain provided adequate power no matter the situation, putting it in the midpack of luxury crossovers when talking about crossovers. There are four different drive modes available in the RX. First is Eco which increases throttle resistance and reduces power from the climate control system to improve efficiency. I ran this mode for most of the week and didn't noticed that the throttle had more resistance whenever I put my foot down. Next is Sport which tweaks the throttle to make it a bit ore lively. I drove with this mode briefly, but I couldn't tell any difference in the throttle when it was in this mode or normal. EV mode is next which allows the vehicle to run on electric power alone. I found this to be more of a gimmick than an actual feature as it only let me drive a limited distance and below 25. Wrapping up the modes is Normal which offers a nice balance between Eco and Sport. The transmission is a CVT and for the most part, the transmission does its job well. You don't notice it's a CVT till you put your foot to the floor and CVT groan makes an appearance. Keep your foot off the floor and CVT keeps to itself. Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 30 City/28 Highway/29 Combined. My week in the RX hybrid netted me 26.9 MPG. Somewhat disappointing as I had the vehicle in Eco mode for most of the week. As for the RX 450h's ride, I was confused. I was expecting a comfortable and smooth riding crossover. But instead, I got a firm riding crossover. The ride was a bit bouncy and I could feel most bumps. As I wrote in my notes, 'I think Lexus' ride engineers mixed up the suspension settings for the RX 350 F-Sport and RX 450h'. The steering also felt a bit off. It wasn't too light or heavy, but felt like there was a lot of resistance when I was turning the wheel. After spending a week with the RX 450h and reading through my notes, I can say that you are better off passing on the RX 450h. The added cost for the hybrid does give you slightly better fuel economy, but offers a worse ride and steering than the standard RX. You're better off sticking with the regular RX 350. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RX 450h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Lexus Model: RX Trim: 450h Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with VVT-i, Three 650V Electric Motors Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 245 @ 6,000 (3.5L V6), 155 @ 0 (Front Electric Motor), 67 @ 0 (Rear Electric Motor), 295 (Total Output) Torque @ RPM: 234 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 30/28/29 Curb Weight: 4,520 lbs Location of Manufacture: Cambridge, Ontario Base Price: $47,810 As Tested Price: $55,550 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package - $3,060 Navigation System w/Voice Command - $2,275 Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound - $995 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. Click here to view the article

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