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Found 343 results

  1. If the Volkswagen diesel emission scandal hasn't swayed you from wanting one, then you'll be happy to hear Volkswagen will once again be able to sell brand-new 2015 model year TDI models. Green Car Reports says near 11,000 TDI models will soon be back up for sale once they are updated with new software, making them legal. Volkswagen does caution those interested in picking up a new TDI to call their nearest dealership to see if they have any in stock. But that's not all. Volkswagen is offering some massive discounts on these models. CarsDirect reports that Volkswagen is offering 0% APR for up to 72 months and $5,000 cash bonus if you decide to buy. Interested in leasing one? Volkswagen will offer a cash bonus of $8,500. There are a couple of caveats to this offer. First, you need to have an excellent credit history to qualify for either offer. Second is that Volkswagen isn't advertising this offer. "We will not be advertising the available incentives from our financing arm as they [sic] vehicle availability will vary per dealership," said Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan. Source: Green Car Reports, CarsDirect View full article
  2. If the Volkswagen diesel emission scandal hasn't swayed you from wanting one, then you'll be happy to hear Volkswagen will once again be able to sell brand-new 2015 model year TDI models. Green Car Reports says near 11,000 TDI models will soon be back up for sale once they are updated with new software, making them legal. Volkswagen does caution those interested in picking up a new TDI to call their nearest dealership to see if they have any in stock. But that's not all. Volkswagen is offering some massive discounts on these models. CarsDirect reports that Volkswagen is offering 0% APR for up to 72 months and $5,000 cash bonus if you decide to buy. Interested in leasing one? Volkswagen will offer a cash bonus of $8,500. There are a couple of caveats to this offer. First, you need to have an excellent credit history to qualify for either offer. Second is that Volkswagen isn't advertising this offer. "We will not be advertising the available incentives from our financing arm as they [sic] vehicle availability will vary per dealership," said Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan. Source: Green Car Reports, CarsDirect
  3. William Maley

    Afterthoughts: Favorite Vehicles of 2015

    As I hinted in my two final review pieces for 2015, I would be picking my favorite review vehicles from the year. Thus, here we are. 2015 saw almost 80 vehicles being driven by yours truly. From subcompact hatches to heavy duty trucks. There seemed to be an endless variety of vehicles I got to lay my hands on. Trying to pick my favorite vehicles of the past year is a difficult task. To begin with, I have close to 60 vehicles to pick from. These are vehicles that spent a week with me, going through the various motions. Any vehicle that I drove in a first drive event or at media/manufacturer event don't qualify (the Scion iA, iM, and Hyundai Tucson will be eligible for next year). From there, I re-read my reviews and any notes that I have taken on to help jog my memory. Then I start the elimination process till I reach a point that I cannot take any more out. This year, 12 vehicles made the cut. A sizeable group but 2015 was an impressive year. Here are my 12 favorite vehicles of 2015, or as I call it, the dirty dozen. Cadillac CTS VSport Whenever I drive a Cadillac, I think how far the brand has come in a decade. They seem to be getting closer to their overall goal of beating the Germans. But the past two ATSes I have been in, they seem to be missing that final piece. Something that would put them over the top. I was worried the same fate would befall the CTS VSport when it came in. But I was shocked that CTS VSport was well above and beyond many competitors in the class. The twin-turbo 3.6L V6 provided instantaneous power, while returning decent fuel economy. Cadillac was able to find the right balance for the chassis between comfort and sport. Equipped with Magnetic Ride Control, the VSport showed athleticism that would be only reserved for Germans, while returning a ride that was magic carpet smooth. One other item that impressed me was the CTS' interior. Cadillac is finally getting the message that you cannot go most of the way with the design and materials used. High-quality materials paired with a modern design make the CTS a very enjoyable place to be in. Chevrolet SS When we learned that Holden would be ceasing the rear-drive Commodore along with production in 2017, I knew that my chance to get behind the wheel of Chevrolet SS was slipping. Thankfully, the GM Detroit fleet had an SS in the summer and I was able to drive what will be the last Australian-built RWD sedan. The styling I'll admit is the weak point to the SS. For what it is presumed to be - a sports sedan, it doesn't look the part. But the rest of vehicle more than makes up for it. Under the hood is a 6.2L V8 with 4105 horsepower paired with a new six-speed manual option, it makes leaving a stoplight almost like a drag race. What anyone sees of the SS after the light turns green is the rear end. But don't think the SS is just a four-door sedan dragster. The SS boasts excellent handling thanks in part to GM's Magnetic Ride Control. To put this in perspective, I had the chance to drive around some roads with a fellow writer in an ATS-V Coupe. While the ATS-V had a slight power and weight advantage, the SS was able to keep it in its sights partly due to the handling. The grunt of the V8 doesn't hurt either. Chrysler 300S If it ain't broke, why fix it? This one line summed up the 2015 Chrysler 300 when it debuted at the LA Auto Show in 2014. Some were disappointed that Chrysler didn't go far enough with changes for the model which included a new front grille, headlights, and rotary knob for gear selection. But I found it to be a wise decision as the 300 still looks quite modern. The 300S I had for review in the fall came with sharp looking wheels and a vibrant red paint that somehow doesn't make the 300 look like a complete mess. The optional 5.7L HEMI V8 is a delight as it delivers a burble that is reminiscent of muscle cars at idle. The V8 also packs the punch that 300S' exterior is conveying - this is a car you don't want to mess with. It helps that the V8 finally gets the eight-speed transmission that has been part of the V6 since the 2011 redesign. The eight-speed is very responsive and improves overall fuel economy to 19 MPG on the combined cycle. The 300S is still an excellent value for the money as well. The base S model with the V6 begins at $34,895. If you have your heart set on a V8, you only need to add $3,000 to the base price. Ford Fiesta ST The Ford Fiesta ST was one of most talked about vehicles last year when it launched. It got to a point that I had to basically go into radio silence mode about it. It wasn't because I was getting annoyed about everyone talking about the ST. It was more of a wanting to come in with a clear mind and not having my expectations hyped-up for this vehicle. After spending a week in the Fiesta ST, I fell under its spell. The exterior is a key item to this as Ford made the diminutive Fiesta look like villain thanks to a more aggressive front end, lower ride height, and gray wheels. Power comes from a 1.6L EcoBoost with 197 horsepower and it makes the Fiesta go like a rocket ship. The six-speed manual has to be one of the best as the motion of moving through the gears was really smooth, and putting the vehicle into gear felt positive. Then there is the handling. There are very few cars I have driven that have given me a bigger smile than the Fiesta ST. Its small size and suspension tuning means the vehicle quickly transitions from one corner to another without any sign of roll. The steering provides an excellent feel of the road and weight that makes you want to push the Fiesta ST a little bit more. GMC Yukon Denali XL Getting A Cadillac Escalade with a $10,000 discount. That's one way of describing the GMC Yukon Denali XL, but that doesn't tell the whole story. It might not have some of the distinctive features of the Escalade such as different dashboard and some luxurious materials, but the Denali comes very close. For starters, GMC made sure the Yukon Denali stood out from other Yukons. So there is a mesh grille, HID headlights, and twenty-two inch chrome wheels. Small changes but they do make a difference. Then there is the engine, a 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet. The engine is more than enough to get the Yukon moving at a surprising rate. More impressive is an average MPG of 16 for the week I had it. This thanks to a new eight-speed automatic. Hyundai Genesis 3.8 If you want proof that Hyundai is a quick learner, you just need to look at the current Genesis sedan. The first-generation model came with the traits you expected from a Hyundai vehicles; a lot of equipment at a surprising price, and the 10 Year/100,000 warranty. But it wasn't a vehicle that stood out in terms of looks or how it drove. Flash forward to the second-generation model and wow. The Genesis actually has a presence on the road thanks to a design that borrows a lot from the HCD-14 Concept. Then you have the engines. This particular Genesis came with base 3.8L V6 with 311 horsepower and paired with an eight-speed automatic. This powertrain provided more than enough power and was as refined as what you might find in a German vehicle. The ride is also a bright spot as the Genesis was smooth and relaxed, perfect for a holiday road trip. But the best part of the Genesis has to be the value. I drove a base Genesis which came with a price of $38,950 and it came with navigation, heated and powered front seats, dual-zone climate control, LED lighting, and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system as standard. Value of the year?! I believe so. Hyundai Sonata Eco When I drove the Sonata Sport 2.0T back in 2014, I was very disappointed. The interior and turbo-four were huge improvements over the last-generation model. But the exterior lost a lot of pizzaz that the last Sonata featured, and handling of the Sport model was not sporty. If you were to ask me what were my disappointments of that year, the Sonata Sport 2.0T would be towards the top. I didn't have much hope when the Sonata Eco came around to do a weeklong test with me. But the Eco surprised me. You got the feeling of power thanks to 1.6L turbo four that delivers torque at @ 1,500 rpm and continues to 4,500 rpm. Then there is the fuel economy. I was able to achieve 33.4 mpg - the highest average I have seen in a midsize sedan. The comfortable ride was more fitting in the Eco than it was in Sport model. The best part is the value argument. A base Eco will set you back $23,275, but that will net you a power driver's seat, five-inch touchscreen radio, backup camera, and chrome grille. From a disappointment to being named one my favorites, the Sonata Eco should be very proud. Kia Soul EV The Soul EV is Kia's first electric vehicle and it doesn't feel like it. Faint praise, but here me out. Whenever an automaker builds an electric version of existing model, there comes a number of compromises. This includes how do you package the electric powertrain into the vehicle, range, and price to name a few. It becomes more difficult when it's your first production electric. But somehow, Kia was able to avoid a number of pitfalls that plague other electric vehicles. It begins with the vehicle itself. By picking the Soul, Kia was able to fit the electric powertrain with only one compromise. You lose out on some cargo space from a underfloor cargo tray. But with the boxy shape of the Soul, it isn't a big deal. The electric powertrain adds about 600 lbs to the Soul, but thanks to instantaneous torque of the electric, the Soul EV doesn't feel heavy. In fact, it feels spritely when compared to the standard soul. There are some clever features in the Soul EV such as having the climate control system only provide heat and cooling to the driver, a quick-charge port that drops charging time to around four hours, and the ability of the navigation system to guide you to the nearest charging station. Kia Sedona SXL Can a minivan be sexy? Seems like a contradiction at first. But when the minivan in question is the Kia Sedona, then the answer is a resounding yes. The overall look is sleek and daring with bits of chrome, a large glass area, and distinctive headlights. The interior feels more like a luxury car with leather and wood trim. Then there is the second row where you can recline and have a foot rest come up (but there isn't enough space for this work for all passengers). There is also more than enough power from a 3.3L V6 and a comfortable ride. This is a minivan that stands out from the usual suspects. Nissan Murano SL Whenever Nissan can put its head down and have everything work in sync, they can produce some magical stuff. Case in point is the Nissan Murano SL that came in towards the end of this year. The Murano is one of the elder statesmen in crossovers since being launched as a 2003 model. But what made it really stand out was the design. It stood out in a sea of boringness at Nissan. That why I was happy to see Nissan take some chances with the third-generation Murano. From the deep V-shaped front grille to the floating roof, it stands out in a growing crowd of crossovers. Then you step inside, and your jaw will drop to the floor. Nissan used a lot of high-quality materials to make the Murano feel as luxurious as certain luxury models. For example, the ivory wood trim in my tester added a nice touch of class. Nissan also worked on improving the Murano's ride. Driving over some of the roughest roads Michigan had on offer, the Murano just rolled over them like it was nothing. Ram ProMaster City Tradesman Cargo Even though Ram was somewhat late to small cargo van party, they have one of the best ones on sale today in the form of ProMaster City Cargo. The reason? Well, it's built for those who need a lot of space and can handle the tough duties that is thrown a cargo van's way. In terms of space, the ProMaster City is either best-in-class or up there. Consider this, a ProMaster City has a total cargo capacity of 131.7 cubic feet of space - which beats even the long-wheelbase Ford Transit Connect. It is also very versatile with sliding doors on either side and barn doors around. The van can also handle the rigors of work with durable plastics for the front and a limited amount of power accessories. For example, the side view mirrors are adjusted with a control arm. The ProMaster City also has a trick up its sleeve. Driving a cargo van shouldn't be a bouncy affair with or without cargo in the back, and in the case of the ProMaster City it isn't. The suspension is setup in such a way that it provides a comfortable with or without any cargo in the back. Volkswagen Golf GTI This past year hasn't been kind to Volkswagen. When allegations came out in September by the EPA say Volkswagen cheated emissions tests with their 'clean' TDI models. Since Volkswagen admitted they did cheat, it has ballooned into a giant clusterf$ck with people stepping down, large fines being considered, and a number of other issues. But if there is something that Volkswagen can hang their hat on being a success, that would be the seventh-generation Golf GTI. Ever since Volkswagen rediscovered its mojo with the fifth-generation model, the Golf GTI has impressed everyone with its performance and practicality. The seventh-generation model might be the best yet. Thanks to a modular platform known as MQB, Volkswagen was given a clean sheet to build on. It shows when you step inside and there is space for those sitting in the back seat. This also shows in the handling characteristics where Golf GTI feels composed on the curves. Nary a hint of body roll and the suspension quick to react in when going from corner to corner. But the suspension delivers one of the most comfortable rides when doing the daily commute. Volkswagen does offer adaptive dampers for Golf GTI, but I think the standard suspension is enough. And there you go. My favorite cars from 2015. If you're wondering about reviews for 2016 models. Those will be returning after the Detroit Auto Show. View full article
  4. William Maley

    Afterthoughts: Favorite Vehicles of 2015

    As I hinted in my two final review pieces for 2015, I would be picking my favorite review vehicles from the year. Thus, here we are. 2015 saw almost 80 vehicles being driven by yours truly. From subcompact hatches to heavy duty trucks. There seemed to be an endless variety of vehicles I got to lay my hands on. Trying to pick my favorite vehicles of the past year is a difficult task. To begin with, I have close to 60 vehicles to pick from. These are vehicles that spent a week with me, going through the various motions. Any vehicle that I drove in a first drive event or at media/manufacturer event don't qualify (the Scion iA, iM, and Hyundai Tucson will be eligible for next year). From there, I re-read my reviews and any notes that I have taken on to help jog my memory. Then I start the elimination process till I reach a point that I cannot take any more out. This year, 12 vehicles made the cut. A sizeable group but 2015 was an impressive year. Here are my 12 favorite vehicles of 2015, or as I call it, the dirty dozen. Cadillac CTS VSport Whenever I drive a Cadillac, I think how far the brand has come in a decade. They seem to be getting closer to their overall goal of beating the Germans. But the past two ATSes I have been in, they seem to be missing that final piece. Something that would put them over the top. I was worried the same fate would befall the CTS VSport when it came in. But I was shocked that CTS VSport was well above and beyond many competitors in the class. The twin-turbo 3.6L V6 provided instantaneous power, while returning decent fuel economy. Cadillac was able to find the right balance for the chassis between comfort and sport. Equipped with Magnetic Ride Control, the VSport showed athleticism that would be only reserved for Germans, while returning a ride that was magic carpet smooth. One other item that impressed me was the CTS' interior. Cadillac is finally getting the message that you cannot go most of the way with the design and materials used. High-quality materials paired with a modern design make the CTS a very enjoyable place to be in. Chevrolet SS When we learned that Holden would be ceasing the rear-drive Commodore along with production in 2017, I knew that my chance to get behind the wheel of Chevrolet SS was slipping. Thankfully, the GM Detroit fleet had an SS in the summer and I was able to drive what will be the last Australian-built RWD sedan. The styling I'll admit is the weak point to the SS. For what it is presumed to be - a sports sedan, it doesn't look the part. But the rest of vehicle more than makes up for it. Under the hood is a 6.2L V8 with 4105 horsepower paired with a new six-speed manual option, it makes leaving a stoplight almost like a drag race. What anyone sees of the SS after the light turns green is the rear end. But don't think the SS is just a four-door sedan dragster. The SS boasts excellent handling thanks in part to GM's Magnetic Ride Control. To put this in perspective, I had the chance to drive around some roads with a fellow writer in an ATS-V Coupe. While the ATS-V had a slight power and weight advantage, the SS was able to keep it in its sights partly due to the handling. The grunt of the V8 doesn't hurt either. Chrysler 300S If it ain't broke, why fix it? This one line summed up the 2015 Chrysler 300 when it debuted at the LA Auto Show in 2014. Some were disappointed that Chrysler didn't go far enough with changes for the model which included a new front grille, headlights, and rotary knob for gear selection. But I found it to be a wise decision as the 300 still looks quite modern. The 300S I had for review in the fall came with sharp looking wheels and a vibrant red paint that somehow doesn't make the 300 look like a complete mess. The optional 5.7L HEMI V8 is a delight as it delivers a burble that is reminiscent of muscle cars at idle. The V8 also packs the punch that 300S' exterior is conveying - this is a car you don't want to mess with. It helps that the V8 finally gets the eight-speed transmission that has been part of the V6 since the 2011 redesign. The eight-speed is very responsive and improves overall fuel economy to 19 MPG on the combined cycle. The 300S is still an excellent value for the money as well. The base S model with the V6 begins at $34,895. If you have your heart set on a V8, you only need to add $3,000 to the base price. Ford Fiesta ST The Ford Fiesta ST was one of most talked about vehicles last year when it launched. It got to a point that I had to basically go into radio silence mode about it. It wasn't because I was getting annoyed about everyone talking about the ST. It was more of a wanting to come in with a clear mind and not having my expectations hyped-up for this vehicle. After spending a week in the Fiesta ST, I fell under its spell. The exterior is a key item to this as Ford made the diminutive Fiesta look like villain thanks to a more aggressive front end, lower ride height, and gray wheels. Power comes from a 1.6L EcoBoost with 197 horsepower and it makes the Fiesta go like a rocket ship. The six-speed manual has to be one of the best as the motion of moving through the gears was really smooth, and putting the vehicle into gear felt positive. Then there is the handling. There are very few cars I have driven that have given me a bigger smile than the Fiesta ST. Its small size and suspension tuning means the vehicle quickly transitions from one corner to another without any sign of roll. The steering provides an excellent feel of the road and weight that makes you want to push the Fiesta ST a little bit more. GMC Yukon Denali XL Getting A Cadillac Escalade with a $10,000 discount. That's one way of describing the GMC Yukon Denali XL, but that doesn't tell the whole story. It might not have some of the distinctive features of the Escalade such as different dashboard and some luxurious materials, but the Denali comes very close. For starters, GMC made sure the Yukon Denali stood out from other Yukons. So there is a mesh grille, HID headlights, and twenty-two inch chrome wheels. Small changes but they do make a difference. Then there is the engine, a 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet. The engine is more than enough to get the Yukon moving at a surprising rate. More impressive is an average MPG of 16 for the week I had it. This thanks to a new eight-speed automatic. Hyundai Genesis 3.8 If you want proof that Hyundai is a quick learner, you just need to look at the current Genesis sedan. The first-generation model came with the traits you expected from a Hyundai vehicles; a lot of equipment at a surprising price, and the 10 Year/100,000 warranty. But it wasn't a vehicle that stood out in terms of looks or how it drove. Flash forward to the second-generation model and wow. The Genesis actually has a presence on the road thanks to a design that borrows a lot from the HCD-14 Concept. Then you have the engines. This particular Genesis came with base 3.8L V6 with 311 horsepower and paired with an eight-speed automatic. This powertrain provided more than enough power and was as refined as what you might find in a German vehicle. The ride is also a bright spot as the Genesis was smooth and relaxed, perfect for a holiday road trip. But the best part of the Genesis has to be the value. I drove a base Genesis which came with a price of $38,950 and it came with navigation, heated and powered front seats, dual-zone climate control, LED lighting, and Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system as standard. Value of the year?! I believe so. Hyundai Sonata Eco When I drove the Sonata Sport 2.0T back in 2014, I was very disappointed. The interior and turbo-four were huge improvements over the last-generation model. But the exterior lost a lot of pizzaz that the last Sonata featured, and handling of the Sport model was not sporty. If you were to ask me what were my disappointments of that year, the Sonata Sport 2.0T would be towards the top. I didn't have much hope when the Sonata Eco came around to do a weeklong test with me. But the Eco surprised me. You got the feeling of power thanks to 1.6L turbo four that delivers torque at @ 1,500 rpm and continues to 4,500 rpm. Then there is the fuel economy. I was able to achieve 33.4 mpg - the highest average I have seen in a midsize sedan. The comfortable ride was more fitting in the Eco than it was in Sport model. The best part is the value argument. A base Eco will set you back $23,275, but that will net you a power driver's seat, five-inch touchscreen radio, backup camera, and chrome grille. From a disappointment to being named one my favorites, the Sonata Eco should be very proud. Kia Soul EV The Soul EV is Kia's first electric vehicle and it doesn't feel like it. Faint praise, but here me out. Whenever an automaker builds an electric version of existing model, there comes a number of compromises. This includes how do you package the electric powertrain into the vehicle, range, and price to name a few. It becomes more difficult when it's your first production electric. But somehow, Kia was able to avoid a number of pitfalls that plague other electric vehicles. It begins with the vehicle itself. By picking the Soul, Kia was able to fit the electric powertrain with only one compromise. You lose out on some cargo space from a underfloor cargo tray. But with the boxy shape of the Soul, it isn't a big deal. The electric powertrain adds about 600 lbs to the Soul, but thanks to instantaneous torque of the electric, the Soul EV doesn't feel heavy. In fact, it feels spritely when compared to the standard soul. There are some clever features in the Soul EV such as having the climate control system only provide heat and cooling to the driver, a quick-charge port that drops charging time to around four hours, and the ability of the navigation system to guide you to the nearest charging station. Kia Sedona SXL Can a minivan be sexy? Seems like a contradiction at first. But when the minivan in question is the Kia Sedona, then the answer is a resounding yes. The overall look is sleek and daring with bits of chrome, a large glass area, and distinctive headlights. The interior feels more like a luxury car with leather and wood trim. Then there is the second row where you can recline and have a foot rest come up (but there isn't enough space for this work for all passengers). There is also more than enough power from a 3.3L V6 and a comfortable ride. This is a minivan that stands out from the usual suspects. Nissan Murano SL Whenever Nissan can put its head down and have everything work in sync, they can produce some magical stuff. Case in point is the Nissan Murano SL that came in towards the end of this year. The Murano is one of the elder statesmen in crossovers since being launched as a 2003 model. But what made it really stand out was the design. It stood out in a sea of boringness at Nissan. That why I was happy to see Nissan take some chances with the third-generation Murano. From the deep V-shaped front grille to the floating roof, it stands out in a growing crowd of crossovers. Then you step inside, and your jaw will drop to the floor. Nissan used a lot of high-quality materials to make the Murano feel as luxurious as certain luxury models. For example, the ivory wood trim in my tester added a nice touch of class. Nissan also worked on improving the Murano's ride. Driving over some of the roughest roads Michigan had on offer, the Murano just rolled over them like it was nothing. Ram ProMaster City Tradesman Cargo Even though Ram was somewhat late to small cargo van party, they have one of the best ones on sale today in the form of ProMaster City Cargo. The reason? Well, it's built for those who need a lot of space and can handle the tough duties that is thrown a cargo van's way. In terms of space, the ProMaster City is either best-in-class or up there. Consider this, a ProMaster City has a total cargo capacity of 131.7 cubic feet of space - which beats even the long-wheelbase Ford Transit Connect. It is also very versatile with sliding doors on either side and barn doors around. The van can also handle the rigors of work with durable plastics for the front and a limited amount of power accessories. For example, the side view mirrors are adjusted with a control arm. The ProMaster City also has a trick up its sleeve. Driving a cargo van shouldn't be a bouncy affair with or without cargo in the back, and in the case of the ProMaster City it isn't. The suspension is setup in such a way that it provides a comfortable with or without any cargo in the back. Volkswagen Golf GTI This past year hasn't been kind to Volkswagen. When allegations came out in September by the EPA say Volkswagen cheated emissions tests with their 'clean' TDI models. Since Volkswagen admitted they did cheat, it has ballooned into a giant clusterf$ck with people stepping down, large fines being considered, and a number of other issues. But if there is something that Volkswagen can hang their hat on being a success, that would be the seventh-generation Golf GTI. Ever since Volkswagen rediscovered its mojo with the fifth-generation model, the Golf GTI has impressed everyone with its performance and practicality. The seventh-generation model might be the best yet. Thanks to a modular platform known as MQB, Volkswagen was given a clean sheet to build on. It shows when you step inside and there is space for those sitting in the back seat. This also shows in the handling characteristics where Golf GTI feels composed on the curves. Nary a hint of body roll and the suspension quick to react in when going from corner to corner. But the suspension delivers one of the most comfortable rides when doing the daily commute. Volkswagen does offer adaptive dampers for Golf GTI, but I think the standard suspension is enough. And there you go. My favorite cars from 2015. If you're wondering about reviews for 2016 models. Those will be returning after the Detroit Auto Show.
  5. The end of another year is upon us and I’m in the process of picking my favorite vehicles from the year. But before we get to that, I need to give some vehicles their time in the review spotlight. Trying to crank a review or a two a week is a hard task for some folks, myself included. I tend to spend a week with a vehicle, driving it in my daily routine, taking notes and photos, and hopefully beginning the review before the vehicle leaves. But that last part is the thickest part as it doesn’t always work out because of life. Whether it's a personal or family emergency, vacation, changes in work, or just being distracted, life always finds a way to get in and mess up whatever you are trying to do. Towards the end of every year, I have a small number of vehicles that have fallen between the cracks and are just waiting for me to find them and write something up. This year is no different as seven vehicles have been waiting patiently for their turn and their time has come. We're going to be looking at the last three of the seven. For this piece, I’ll be listing the good and bad of each vehicle, along with some notes that I took on each vehicle. 2015 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 3.7L VQ DOHC 24-valve V6 (330 Horsepower, 270 Pound-Feet) Seven-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $53,500/$62,755 Cheers: Comfortable ride, large back seat, still looks stylish on the exterior Jeers: Interior is starting to look dated, Fuel economy could be better, Competitors are much more modern Notes: Let’s play a game. See if you can try to spot the differences between the 2015 Infiniti Q70L and the 2012 Infiniti M35h. Ready? Go. Now if you figured out the Q70L is longer than the M35h, then pat yourself on the back. Since Infiniti went to the Q nomenclature, the only real change to their midsize luxury sedan was to introduce a long-wheelbase model. Compared to the standard Q70, the adds about 5.9 inches to the wheelbase. Sitting in the back seat was very pleasurable thanks to a large amount of legroom on offer. Disappointingly, there isn’t any seat adjustments for the rear passengers, nor any heat. Despite getting up in age, the Q70L is still a striking vehicle to look. The flowing lines up front and along the side still look fresh as the day it was first introduced into the world. Twenty-inch wheels only add a bit of prestige to the model. But the interior is where you begin to feel the age of the Q70. Despite the model being trimmed in leather and wood, the Q70’s interior hasn’t changed at all since we last drove it back in 2012. The center stack is pushed out, giving a cramped feeling for passengers sitting up front. Not helping is the very dated infotainment system which looks like it has come from the Windows 98 era. For the Q70L, there is a choice of a 3.7L V6 or a 5.6L V8. Our tester had the V6 with 330 horsepower paired up to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Power comes on a very linear rate though you’ll need to plant your foot to the pedal if you are making a pass. This introduces a sound of the engine being put under a lot of strain. The ride is somewhat stiff as it seems to pick out a fair amount of imperfections on the road and transmit them to the passengers. A lot of this comes down to the optional twenty-inch wheels, and we expect the standard eighteen-inch wheels to provide a much better ride. At least, wind and road noise are kept to near-silent levels. While the introduction of the long-wheelbase for the Q70 does give it some new blood, there isn’t a good reason why anyone should choose it over one of the new midsize luxury sedans in the class. Let’s hope Infiniti has a replacement coming very soon. 2015 Kia Forte5 SX 1.6L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder Six-Speed Manual Base/As-Tested: $20,890/$26,035 Cheers: Exterior Styling, Fuel Economy, Space Jeers: Wrong gearing in vehicle, Engine doesn’t feel quick, Interior looking very dated, not really sporty Notes: We have hot hatches and we have cold hatches (the non-sporty variety). Is there space for something warm? Maybe if the 2015 Kia Forte5 SX is something to go on. The Forte5 as the name suggests is a five-door hatchback and looks much sportier than the Forte sedan. This is thanks to a new front end with a wide and narrow grille, and a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels done in a five leaf pattern. These wheels might be my favorite OEM wheels. Inside is where the Forte5 begins to lose some points. The dashboard makes the interior feel much older than it is (Forte5 was introduced back in 2013 as a 2014 model) thanks to hard plastics and parts having a scratchy texture. We hope a Kia is planning a refresh for the interior in the near future. Not helping are the leather power seats which comes as part of the SX Premium package. While they do provide a decent level of comfort and support for short trips, the seats cannot provide long-distance support. My brother and I learned this as the Forte5 was pressed into Christmas travel duty. But Kia wins some points back in the interior. The back seat is large, providing more than enough head and legroom for anyone sitting back here. Also, the Forte5 can be equipped with everything except the kitchen sink. Our tester boasted heated seats for front and rear passengers, a cooled seat for the driver, memory seat for the driver, a touchscreen with navigation, dual-zone climate control, and a sunroof. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Our tester came with the standard six-speed manual, but you can go with a six-speed automatic. This is the same engine we liked in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, but in the Forte5, it is a bit of a mess. The engine seems smothered and not as powerful as the Veloster Turbo. The cause is due to the manual. The gears are too short to allow the engine to fully produce all of the power it is capable of. Also, the short gearing means you’ll be seeing the revs up at 3,000 rpm at a 70 MPH cruise. Some longer gearing could solve both of these problems. At least, fuel economy wasn’t badly affected. Close to 700 Miles were put on the Forte5 SX and we got an average of 33.2 MPG on mostly highway and rural roads. Ride and handling are somewhere in the middle. The Forte5’s suspension is able to deal with most bumps and imperfections on the road with no problem. Bigger bumps do unsettle the vehicle a little bit. In the corners, the Forte5 feels steady and doesn’t show any sign of roll. But it isn’t any fun to pilot around such as a Mazda3. This mostly comes down to the steering with Kia’s FlexSteer system that allows you to vary the weight from light to heavy. We don’t like this system as the light setting is way too light and the heavy setting doesn’t feel hefty. Kia would do itself a lot of good by throwing out the FlexSteer system and do a new steering system that is somewhere in the middle. 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve Dual Independent VVT-i V8 Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $44,000/$45,465 Cheers: Off-Road Package Comes With Everything, Excellent Value, Comfortable Ride Jeers: V8 Feels Sluggish, Fuel Economy Notes: Toyota decided to go back to some of their roots when it comes to their trucks and SUVs. Earlier in the year, the automaker launched the TRD Pro series for the 4Runner, Tacoma, and Tundra. The TRD Pro boasts changes to suspension, wheels, and exterior to make them ready to go off the beaten trail. Our first taste in the TRD Pro came in the form of a Tundra CrewMax. There is no mistaking the TRD Pro Tundra as it comes in a wild orange paint, paired with an old school Toyota grille (reminiscent of Toyota’s SUVs in the late eighties and early nineties) and eighteen-inch off-road alloy wheels finished in black and wrapped in meaty off-road tires. We like the TRD Pro embossed into the rear fenders as it adds a touch of distinctiveness. Inside is your standard Tundra interior with black cloth seats embroidered with the TRD Pro logo. Under the skin, Toyota made some small changes to the Tundra TRD Pro with revised suspension tuning, new front springs, outboard off-road shocks in the rear, and skid plates. We gave the TRD Pro a light exercise around a dirt field and it passed with flying colors. The suspension has more than enough travel to traverse various heights of terrain and the steering provides a good feel on the terrain you are driving on. This is a truck I love to go on a trail to see what it is fully capable of. These changes to make the Tundra a capable off-roader don’t hurt it on a day to day basis. The suspension provides a smooth ride, and there isn’t much noise coming from the tires. The one problem that is holding the Tundra TRD Pro back is the engine. Toyota uses a 5.7L I-FORCE V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This engine never feels powerful due to two reasons; a curb weight of 5,625 lbs and a lazy throttle. These two cause you to put your foot farther down on the pedal to get to that power. That also means your fuel economy will be hurting. Average for the week in the Tundra TRD Pro was 12.9 MPG. Toyota really needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to make a V8 that can balance power and fuel economy. Otherwise, Toyota has a really interesting offering in the truck market with the TRD Pro. Disclaimer: Infiniti, Kia, and Toyota Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas View full article
  6. The end of another year is upon us and I’m in the process of picking my favorite vehicles from the year. But before we get to that, I need to give some vehicles their time in the review spotlight. Trying to crank a review or a two a week is a hard task for some folks, myself included. I tend to spend a week with a vehicle, driving it in my daily routine, taking notes and photos, and hopefully beginning the review before the vehicle leaves. But that last part is the thickest part as it doesn’t always work out because of life. Whether it's a personal or family emergency, vacation, changes in work, or just being distracted, life always finds a way to get in and mess up whatever you are trying to do. Towards the end of every year, I have a small number of vehicles that have fallen between the cracks and are just waiting for me to find them and write something up. This year is no different as seven vehicles have been waiting patiently for their turn and their time has come. We're going to be looking at the last three of the seven. For this piece, I’ll be listing the good and bad of each vehicle, along with some notes that I took on each vehicle. 2015 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 3.7L VQ DOHC 24-valve V6 (330 Horsepower, 270 Pound-Feet) Seven-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $53,500/$62,755 Cheers: Comfortable ride, large back seat, still looks stylish on the exterior Jeers: Interior is starting to look dated, Fuel economy could be better, Competitors are much more modern Notes: Let’s play a game. See if you can try to spot the differences between the 2015 Infiniti Q70L and the 2012 Infiniti M35h. Ready? Go. Now if you figured out the Q70L is longer than the M35h, then pat yourself on the back. Since Infiniti went to the Q nomenclature, the only real change to their midsize luxury sedan was to introduce a long-wheelbase model. Compared to the standard Q70, the adds about 5.9 inches to the wheelbase. Sitting in the back seat was very pleasurable thanks to a large amount of legroom on offer. Disappointingly, there isn’t any seat adjustments for the rear passengers, nor any heat. Despite getting up in age, the Q70L is still a striking vehicle to look. The flowing lines up front and along the side still look fresh as the day it was first introduced into the world. Twenty-inch wheels only add a bit of prestige to the model. But the interior is where you begin to feel the age of the Q70. Despite the model being trimmed in leather and wood, the Q70’s interior hasn’t changed at all since we last drove it back in 2012. The center stack is pushed out, giving a cramped feeling for passengers sitting up front. Not helping is the very dated infotainment system which looks like it has come from the Windows 98 era. For the Q70L, there is a choice of a 3.7L V6 or a 5.6L V8. Our tester had the V6 with 330 horsepower paired up to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Power comes on a very linear rate though you’ll need to plant your foot to the pedal if you are making a pass. This introduces a sound of the engine being put under a lot of strain. The ride is somewhat stiff as it seems to pick out a fair amount of imperfections on the road and transmit them to the passengers. A lot of this comes down to the optional twenty-inch wheels, and we expect the standard eighteen-inch wheels to provide a much better ride. At least, wind and road noise are kept to near-silent levels. While the introduction of the long-wheelbase for the Q70 does give it some new blood, there isn’t a good reason why anyone should choose it over one of the new midsize luxury sedans in the class. Let’s hope Infiniti has a replacement coming very soon. 2015 Kia Forte5 SX 1.6L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder Six-Speed Manual Base/As-Tested: $20,890/$26,035 Cheers: Exterior Styling, Fuel Economy, Space Jeers: Wrong gearing in vehicle, Engine doesn’t feel quick, Interior looking very dated, not really sporty Notes: We have hot hatches and we have cold hatches (the non-sporty variety). Is there space for something warm? Maybe if the 2015 Kia Forte5 SX is something to go on. The Forte5 as the name suggests is a five-door hatchback and looks much sportier than the Forte sedan. This is thanks to a new front end with a wide and narrow grille, and a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels done in a five leaf pattern. These wheels might be my favorite OEM wheels. Inside is where the Forte5 begins to lose some points. The dashboard makes the interior feel much older than it is (Forte5 was introduced back in 2013 as a 2014 model) thanks to hard plastics and parts having a scratchy texture. We hope a Kia is planning a refresh for the interior in the near future. Not helping are the leather power seats which comes as part of the SX Premium package. While they do provide a decent level of comfort and support for short trips, the seats cannot provide long-distance support. My brother and I learned this as the Forte5 was pressed into Christmas travel duty. But Kia wins some points back in the interior. The back seat is large, providing more than enough head and legroom for anyone sitting back here. Also, the Forte5 can be equipped with everything except the kitchen sink. Our tester boasted heated seats for front and rear passengers, a cooled seat for the driver, memory seat for the driver, a touchscreen with navigation, dual-zone climate control, and a sunroof. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Our tester came with the standard six-speed manual, but you can go with a six-speed automatic. This is the same engine we liked in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, but in the Forte5, it is a bit of a mess. The engine seems smothered and not as powerful as the Veloster Turbo. The cause is due to the manual. The gears are too short to allow the engine to fully produce all of the power it is capable of. Also, the short gearing means you’ll be seeing the revs up at 3,000 rpm at a 70 MPH cruise. Some longer gearing could solve both of these problems. At least, fuel economy wasn’t badly affected. Close to 700 Miles were put on the Forte5 SX and we got an average of 33.2 MPG on mostly highway and rural roads. Ride and handling are somewhere in the middle. The Forte5’s suspension is able to deal with most bumps and imperfections on the road with no problem. Bigger bumps do unsettle the vehicle a little bit. In the corners, the Forte5 feels steady and doesn’t show any sign of roll. But it isn’t any fun to pilot around such as a Mazda3. This mostly comes down to the steering with Kia’s FlexSteer system that allows you to vary the weight from light to heavy. We don’t like this system as the light setting is way too light and the heavy setting doesn’t feel hefty. Kia would do itself a lot of good by throwing out the FlexSteer system and do a new steering system that is somewhere in the middle. 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve Dual Independent VVT-i V8 Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $44,000/$45,465 Cheers: Off-Road Package Comes With Everything, Excellent Value, Comfortable Ride Jeers: V8 Feels Sluggish, Fuel Economy Notes: Toyota decided to go back to some of their roots when it comes to their trucks and SUVs. Earlier in the year, the automaker launched the TRD Pro series for the 4Runner, Tacoma, and Tundra. The TRD Pro boasts changes to suspension, wheels, and exterior to make them ready to go off the beaten trail. Our first taste in the TRD Pro came in the form of a Tundra CrewMax. There is no mistaking the TRD Pro Tundra as it comes in a wild orange paint, paired with an old school Toyota grille (reminiscent of Toyota’s SUVs in the late eighties and early nineties) and eighteen-inch off-road alloy wheels finished in black and wrapped in meaty off-road tires. We like the TRD Pro embossed into the rear fenders as it adds a touch of distinctiveness. Inside is your standard Tundra interior with black cloth seats embroidered with the TRD Pro logo. Under the skin, Toyota made some small changes to the Tundra TRD Pro with revised suspension tuning, new front springs, outboard off-road shocks in the rear, and skid plates. We gave the TRD Pro a light exercise around a dirt field and it passed with flying colors. The suspension has more than enough travel to traverse various heights of terrain and the steering provides a good feel on the terrain you are driving on. This is a truck I love to go on a trail to see what it is fully capable of. These changes to make the Tundra a capable off-roader don’t hurt it on a day to day basis. The suspension provides a smooth ride, and there isn’t much noise coming from the tires. The one problem that is holding the Tundra TRD Pro back is the engine. Toyota uses a 5.7L I-FORCE V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This engine never feels powerful due to two reasons; a curb weight of 5,625 lbs and a lazy throttle. These two cause you to put your foot farther down on the pedal to get to that power. That also means your fuel economy will be hurting. Average for the week in the Tundra TRD Pro was 12.9 MPG. Toyota really needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to make a V8 that can balance power and fuel economy. Otherwise, Toyota has a really interesting offering in the truck market with the TRD Pro. Disclaimer: Infiniti, Kia, and Toyota Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
  7. The end of another year is upon us and I’m in the process of picking my favorite vehicles from the year. But before we get to that, I need to give some vehicles their time in the review spotlight. Trying to crank a review or a two a week is a hard task for some folks, myself included. I tend to spend a week with a vehicle, driving it in my daily routine, taking notes and photos, and hopefully beginning the review before the vehicle leaves. But that last part is the thickest part as it doesn’t always work out because of life. Whether it's a personal or family emergency, vacation, changes in work, or just being distracted, life always finds a way to get in and mess up whatever you are trying to do. Towards the end of every year, I have a small number of vehicles that have fallen between the cracks and are just waiting for me to find them and write something up. This year is no different as seven vehicles have been waiting patiently for their turn and their time has come. We're going to be looking at the first four of the seven. For this piece, I’ll be listing the good and bad of each vehicle, along with some notes that I took on each vehicle. 2016 Acura ILX A-Spec 2.4L 16-Valve, DOHC i-VTEC Four-Cylinder (201 Horsepower, 180 Pound-Feet of Torque) Eight-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic Base/As-Tested: $31,830/$32,830 Cheers: Excellent handling in the corners, improved styling, large back seat Jeers: Engine has to be worked hard, a large amount of wind and road noise, bouncy ride, questionable material choice, poor value when compared to competitors. Notes: Acura went back to the drawing board this year with the ILX in an effort to fix the slumping sales of the model. Some of the fixes do make a difference such as a new front clip and headlights that give some much need aggression. Inside, a set of leather and suede seats add a nice touch and provide good comfort. It should be noted the seats come with the A-Spec package. The engine lineup which included a 2.0L, 2.4L, and hybrid has been simplified to just the 2.4 with 201 horsepower. This eliminates one of the big problems for the ILX of being too slow if you opted for the hybrid or 2.0L. One item that Acura didn’t mess with was the handling. The ILX is a sweetheart around corners as it provides minimal body roll and excellent steering. Acura also made sure that the ILX’s suspension was compliant when dealing with bumps on a day-to-day basis, something it does very well. Sadly, that is where the good points of the ILX end. Despite Acura’s attempt on improving the ILX’s interior, it looks and in some parts, feels like the Civic that it is based on. Not something you want to be said since this vehicle competes in the same class as the Audi A3 and Buick Verano, both with impressive interiors. The 2.4L has the power to compete with the vehicles in the class. But to access this power, you’ll need to be working the engine somewhat hard - around 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. This would be ok if the ILX had a six-speed manual. But Acura dropped it for this year, replacing it with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. There isn’t anything wrong with the dual-clutch transmission, it’s quite smooth and doesn’t hesitate when going up or down. But it makes working the engine to its fullest, boring and not joyful. But the biggest problem for the ILX is the price. This particular ILX came with an as-tested price of $32,830 and that doesn’t include one of the huge changes for the model, a load of additional safety equipment. Acura added a number of safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, and road departure mitigation. To get all of this, you need to either get the ILX Technology Plus ($32,990) or the ILX Technology Plus and A-Spec ($34,890). Around that price, you could get yourself into a well-equipped Buick Verano Turbo with much more amenities and better performance. 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 3.2L 24-Valve VVT V6 (271 Horsepower, 239 Pound-Feet of Torque) Nine-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $30,395/$36,869 Cheers: Sharp Looks, Very Capable Off-Road, V6 Performance Jeers: Ninth-Gear Seems Non-Existent, Price-Tag, Annoying Stop-Start System Notes: In my original review of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, I said that I was very impressed as Jeep made the leap from a boxy, go-anywhere SUV to sharp looking crossover with some Jeep DNA still there. But I wasn’t as impressed with the nine-speed automatic as it shuddered through the first three gears and wouldn’t go into ninth. At the time, I put the Cherokee on the wait and see list. A year has passed and another Cherokee has come in for a review. This particular Cherokee is the top of the line Trailhawk and it features a number of changes to make it a ‘Trail-Rated’ model by Jeep. Outside are a set of tow hooks on the front and rear bumper to pull out the vehicle if it gets stuck. A set seventeen-inch aluminum wheels come wrapped in meaty all-terrain tires to get you through whatever muck you decide to go through. Done up in a sharp red, the Cherokee Trailhawk makes no apologies of what its intended purpose is - going off-road. Under the skin, the Cherokee Trailhawk comes with Jeep Active Drive II. This four-wheel drive system is quite advanced as it offers a low-range setting for rock crawling and a rear lock to improve traction. Other changes for the Trailhawk include an off-road suspension with a one-inch lift, skid plates, and a 56:1 crawl ratio. We did some light off-roading on a dirt trail and found the Trailhawk to very capable as the four-wheel drive kept power flowing to us moving. Also, the suspension provided a very comfortable ride over the trail. Power for the Trailhawk comes from the optional 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet. This engine feels plenty powerful for any situation that it is thrown at it. It also very refined during acceleration and at cruise. One part of the engine we aren’t keen on is the stop-start system. We found it be somewhat annoying as the engine wouldn’t always shut off, despite our foot planted firmly on the brake pedal. We mostly left it off for the majority of the week. As for the nine-speed automatic, it has been cleaned up for the most part. Gone is the shuddering we experienced in our first Cherokee, replaced by smooth and crisp shifts. Still, the transmission was very hesitant to go into ninth gear. We drove about 50 miles on the freeway at a 70 MPH cruise to see if it would go into ninth and no luck. At least, the ride is smooth and refined, even with the off-road tires. The big problem for the Cherokee Trailhawk is the price. The base model will set you back $30,395. Our test Trailhawk with a few options such as the V6, navigation, and a couple of other packages to reach an as-tested price of $36,869. That is a lot of money for a small crossover. But considering the number of changes to make the Trailhawk a very capable model, we think that for some folks who want the capability of something like a Wrangler, but with a bit more comfort should give this model a look. Everyone else should stick with the Latitude or Altitude models. 2016 Mazda CX-5 Touring 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder (184 Horsepower, 185 Pound-Feet of Torque) Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $26,465/$28,835 Cheers: Improved Dash Makes Huge Difference, New Infotainment System, Performance and Fuel Economy, Excellent Handling Jeers: Road and Wind Noise are still in abundance Notes: It seems every time we get into the CX-5, Mazda has done some sort of change to it. The last time we drove a CX-5, it came with the new 2.5L version of the Skyactiv-G four-cylinder. The 2016 model fixes two of the biggest complaints we had in previous CX-5’s; the plain dashboard and poor infotainment system. We’ll start with the dash. First seen in the 2016 Mazda6, the dashboard looks more premium thanks to improved materials and new shapes. The new dash also brings in Mazda Connect, the latest infotainment system. This system is a huge improvement over the old system in terms of overall performance and usability. We didn’t have the issue of the navigation system showing you traveling on a different than the one you were on like we did in the 6. The CX-5 is still a joy to drive thanks to the 2.5L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder providing more than enough power for any situation and the chassis that provides superb handling in the corners. One issue we hope Mazda addresses in the future is noise isolation. There is still an abundance of wind and road noise entering the cabin. The 2016 Mazda CX-5 shows the continual improvement that the Japanese automaker has been doing is making it a better vehicle. 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve Dual VVT-i V6 (268 Horsepower, 248 Pound-Feet of Torque) Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $36,080/$37,130 Cheers: Stylish Look, Powerful V6, Upscale Interior, Excellent Fuel Economy Jeers: Sporty ride may turn off some buyers Notes: I came away very impressed when I drove the Avalon Hybrid a couple years ago. The combination of sharp styling, sporty ride, and amazing fuel economy made me pick this as one of my favorite vehicles of that year. But would the regular Avalon receive the same praise? Mostly. The Avalon is still one the sharpest looking full-size sedans with a low-slung front end, narrow grille, and coupe-like roofline. The interior is much the same as the hybrid with loads of space for both front and rear seat passengers, comfortable leather seats, and a impressive design with quality materials used throughout. Unlike the hybrid, our XLE Touring came with the smaller seven-inch Entune infotainment system. It still is easy to use and quick to respond whenever you touch the screen or one of the capacitive touch buttons. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 which is used in a number of other Toyota and Lexus products. Horsepower is rated at 268 and torque is rated at 248 pound-feet. The engine is quite a peach as speed comes on at a very quick rate. But the engine is also quiet during acceleration, making a perfect highway companion. In the corners, the Avalon displays a level of athleticism not seen in other full-size sedans. Body roll is kept in check and the steering provides decent weight. This does mean the Avalon isn’t as comfortable as competitors as some bumps do make their way into the interior. Disclaimer: Acura, Jeep, Mazda, and Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
  8. The end of another year is upon us and I’m in the process of picking my favorite vehicles from the year. But before we get to that, I need to give some vehicles their time in the review spotlight. Trying to crank a review or a two a week is a hard task for some folks, myself included. I tend to spend a week with a vehicle, driving it in my daily routine, taking notes and photos, and hopefully beginning the review before the vehicle leaves. But that last part is the thickest part as it doesn’t always work out because of life. Whether it's a personal or family emergency, vacation, changes in work, or just being distracted, life always finds a way to get in and mess up whatever you are trying to do. Towards the end of every year, I have a small number of vehicles that have fallen between the cracks and are just waiting for me to find them and write something up. This year is no different as seven vehicles have been waiting patiently for their turn and their time has come. We're going to be looking at the first four of the seven. For this piece, I’ll be listing the good and bad of each vehicle, along with some notes that I took on each vehicle. 2016 Acura ILX A-Spec 2.4L 16-Valve, DOHC i-VTEC Four-Cylinder (201 Horsepower, 180 Pound-Feet of Torque) Eight-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic Base/As-Tested: $31,830/$32,830 Cheers: Excellent handling in the corners, improved styling, large back seat Jeers: Engine has to be worked hard, a large amount of wind and road noise, bouncy ride, questionable material choice, poor value when compared to competitors. Notes: Acura went back to the drawing board this year with the ILX in an effort to fix the slumping sales of the model. Some of the fixes do make a difference such as a new front clip and headlights that give some much need aggression. Inside, a set of leather and suede seats add a nice touch and provide good comfort. It should be noted the seats come with the A-Spec package. The engine lineup which included a 2.0L, 2.4L, and hybrid has been simplified to just the 2.4 with 201 horsepower. This eliminates one of the big problems for the ILX of being too slow if you opted for the hybrid or 2.0L. One item that Acura didn’t mess with was the handling. The ILX is a sweetheart around corners as it provides minimal body roll and excellent steering. Acura also made sure that the ILX’s suspension was compliant when dealing with bumps on a day-to-day basis, something it does very well. Sadly, that is where the good points of the ILX end. Despite Acura’s attempt on improving the ILX’s interior, it looks and in some parts, feels like the Civic that it is based on. Not something you want to be said since this vehicle competes in the same class as the Audi A3 and Buick Verano, both with impressive interiors. The 2.4L has the power to compete with the vehicles in the class. But to access this power, you’ll need to be working the engine somewhat hard - around 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. This would be ok if the ILX had a six-speed manual. But Acura dropped it for this year, replacing it with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. There isn’t anything wrong with the dual-clutch transmission, it’s quite smooth and doesn’t hesitate when going up or down. But it makes working the engine to its fullest, boring and not joyful. But the biggest problem for the ILX is the price. This particular ILX came with an as-tested price of $32,830 and that doesn’t include one of the huge changes for the model, a load of additional safety equipment. Acura added a number of safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, and road departure mitigation. To get all of this, you need to either get the ILX Technology Plus ($32,990) or the ILX Technology Plus and A-Spec ($34,890). Around that price, you could get yourself into a well-equipped Buick Verano Turbo with much more amenities and better performance. 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 3.2L 24-Valve VVT V6 (271 Horsepower, 239 Pound-Feet of Torque) Nine-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $30,395/$36,869 Cheers: Sharp Looks, Very Capable Off-Road, V6 Performance Jeers: Ninth-Gear Seems Non-Existent, Price-Tag, Annoying Stop-Start System Notes: In my original review of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, I said that I was very impressed as Jeep made the leap from a boxy, go-anywhere SUV to sharp looking crossover with some Jeep DNA still there. But I wasn’t as impressed with the nine-speed automatic as it shuddered through the first three gears and wouldn’t go into ninth. At the time, I put the Cherokee on the wait and see list. A year has passed and another Cherokee has come in for a review. This particular Cherokee is the top of the line Trailhawk and it features a number of changes to make it a ‘Trail-Rated’ model by Jeep. Outside are a set of tow hooks on the front and rear bumper to pull out the vehicle if it gets stuck. A set seventeen-inch aluminum wheels come wrapped in meaty all-terrain tires to get you through whatever muck you decide to go through. Done up in a sharp red, the Cherokee Trailhawk makes no apologies of what its intended purpose is - going off-road. Under the skin, the Cherokee Trailhawk comes with Jeep Active Drive II. This four-wheel drive system is quite advanced as it offers a low-range setting for rock crawling and a rear lock to improve traction. Other changes for the Trailhawk include an off-road suspension with a one-inch lift, skid plates, and a 56:1 crawl ratio. We did some light off-roading on a dirt trail and found the Trailhawk to very capable as the four-wheel drive kept power flowing to us moving. Also, the suspension provided a very comfortable ride over the trail. Power for the Trailhawk comes from the optional 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet. This engine feels plenty powerful for any situation that it is thrown at it. It also very refined during acceleration and at cruise. One part of the engine we aren’t keen on is the stop-start system. We found it be somewhat annoying as the engine wouldn’t always shut off, despite our foot planted firmly on the brake pedal. We mostly left it off for the majority of the week. As for the nine-speed automatic, it has been cleaned up for the most part. Gone is the shuddering we experienced in our first Cherokee, replaced by smooth and crisp shifts. Still, the transmission was very hesitant to go into ninth gear. We drove about 50 miles on the freeway at a 70 MPH cruise to see if it would go into ninth and no luck. At least, the ride is smooth and refined, even with the off-road tires. The big problem for the Cherokee Trailhawk is the price. The base model will set you back $30,395. Our test Trailhawk with a few options such as the V6, navigation, and a couple of other packages to reach an as-tested price of $36,869. That is a lot of money for a small crossover. But considering the number of changes to make the Trailhawk a very capable model, we think that for some folks who want the capability of something like a Wrangler, but with a bit more comfort should give this model a look. Everyone else should stick with the Latitude or Altitude models. 2016 Mazda CX-5 Touring 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder (184 Horsepower, 185 Pound-Feet of Torque) Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $26,465/$28,835 Cheers: Improved Dash Makes Huge Difference, New Infotainment System, Performance and Fuel Economy, Excellent Handling Jeers: Road and Wind Noise are still in abundance Notes: It seems every time we get into the CX-5, Mazda has done some sort of change to it. The last time we drove a CX-5, it came with the new 2.5L version of the Skyactiv-G four-cylinder. The 2016 model fixes two of the biggest complaints we had in previous CX-5’s; the plain dashboard and poor infotainment system. We’ll start with the dash. First seen in the 2016 Mazda6, the dashboard looks more premium thanks to improved materials and new shapes. The new dash also brings in Mazda Connect, the latest infotainment system. This system is a huge improvement over the old system in terms of overall performance and usability. We didn’t have the issue of the navigation system showing you traveling on a different than the one you were on like we did in the 6. The CX-5 is still a joy to drive thanks to the 2.5L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder providing more than enough power for any situation and the chassis that provides superb handling in the corners. One issue we hope Mazda addresses in the future is noise isolation. There is still an abundance of wind and road noise entering the cabin. The 2016 Mazda CX-5 shows the continual improvement that the Japanese automaker has been doing is making it a better vehicle. 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve Dual VVT-i V6 (268 Horsepower, 248 Pound-Feet of Torque) Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $36,080/$37,130 Cheers: Stylish Look, Powerful V6, Upscale Interior, Excellent Fuel Economy Jeers: Sporty ride may turn off some buyers Notes: I came away very impressed when I drove the Avalon Hybrid a couple years ago. The combination of sharp styling, sporty ride, and amazing fuel economy made me pick this as one of my favorite vehicles of that year. But would the regular Avalon receive the same praise? Mostly. The Avalon is still one the sharpest looking full-size sedans with a low-slung front end, narrow grille, and coupe-like roofline. The interior is much the same as the hybrid with loads of space for both front and rear seat passengers, comfortable leather seats, and a impressive design with quality materials used throughout. Unlike the hybrid, our XLE Touring came with the smaller seven-inch Entune infotainment system. It still is easy to use and quick to respond whenever you touch the screen or one of the capacitive touch buttons. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 which is used in a number of other Toyota and Lexus products. Horsepower is rated at 268 and torque is rated at 248 pound-feet. The engine is quite a peach as speed comes on at a very quick rate. But the engine is also quiet during acceleration, making a perfect highway companion. In the corners, the Avalon displays a level of athleticism not seen in other full-size sedans. Body roll is kept in check and the steering provides decent weight. This does mean the Avalon isn’t as comfortable as competitors as some bumps do make their way into the interior. Disclaimer: Acura, Jeep, Mazda, and Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas View full article
  9. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD

    It may seem a bit odd to call the Nissan Murano a trailblazer in the crossover class. But when it launched in December of 2002 as 2003 model, it was quite the revelation. Here was a crossover from a volume manufacturer that was not only sharp looking, but had a lot of features were found on luxury models at the time. It proved to a winning formula for Nissan. With the second-generation Murano, Nissan focused luxury and refinement. But the Murano also lost some of the distinctiveness from the design of the first-generation model. Now enter the third-generation Murano. This version continues the second-generation focus on luxury, but also brings back sharp looks from the first. This combination should work, right? We spent a week in the Murano SL AWD to find out. Nissan goes one of two ways when it comes to designing vehicles; they either take their time and put a lot of effort into a vehicle or spend about 30 minutes drawing something and calling it good. The Murano is the former of the two. The Murano’s design is basically the Resonance concept from a few years back. The front end gets a deep V grille with a chrome bar running around the outside. The side profile shows a unique floating roof design that is accomplished by blacking out the D-Pillars. This could make anyone think the roof is only being supported by glass. Around back are a set of taillights that are shaped like boomerangs - much like the 370Z coupe. Some may criticize the Murano for being a bit polarizing. But considering the first-generation model had such design touches as a wide chrome grille and dark orange color, the third-generation appears to be taking the design ideals of the first-gen model and putting them to good use. The Murano’s interior has to be one of Nissan’s best efforts. The levels of quality and features blow many competitors out of the water and even embarrasses some models from luxury brands. This particular Murano was finished in an Ivory color that not only made the interior look vibrant, it also made it feel slightly larger. Most of the dash and door panels are covered in the soft-touch materials, increasing the premium feel. One nice touch in our Murano tester is the Ivory wood trim which adds a touch of elegance. Seats are Nissan’s ‘zero-gravity’ seats which are said to use space-age technology to reduce fatigue and improve lower back support. While we aren’t fully sure on what ‘space-age tech’ Nissan is using, we’ll admit the seats for both front and rear passengers are quite comfortable and supportive. Front-seat passengers get power adjustments and heat in the SL trim. Rear seat passengers will find oodles of head and legroom, even with an optional panoramic sunroof. The Murano is one the first Nissan models to come with the latest version of Nissan Connect that comes with an eight-inch touchscreen and a updated interface. The system is now easier to use thanks to large touchpoints to various functions such as navigation and the radio. For those who rather control the system with actual buttons, there are those as well. Performance is ok with certain functions such as generating a route for the navigation system or changing to the various source. But it becomes somewhat sluggish when you are switch around to the various pages on the home screen. Nissan still has a couple of issues to iron out with their infotainment system. First, I had no metadata appear on the system when I was doing Bluetooth streaming from my phone. This could be an issue with this particular model as a Nissan Maxima equipped with the same system had no problem. The other was the system saying SiriusXM reception was lost despite there being a signal and broadcasting the station. I found that if I switched to a different source and went back to SiriusXM, the problem would be gone. A couple other colleagues who have driven Muranos have experienced the same problem. A software update might fix both problems I experienced. Power is provided by a 3.5L V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque (available @ 4,400 rpm). This paired to Nissan’s XTronic CVT and the choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The V6 is a perfect fit for the Murano as it provides more than enough power to get up to speed a decent rate. The XTronic CVT features artificial shift points to provide linear acceleration and cut a fair amount of droning. We found the shift points worked in situations where you accelerating at a steady rate such as going on a freeway. Other times such as making a pass, the points seemed nonexistent and the high rpm drone would appear. In terms of fuel economy, the Murano AWD is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/24 Combined. Our week with the Murano saw an average of 22 MPG in mostly city driving. The Murano’s ride is superbly comfortable. Equipped with 18-inch wheels, the Murano glides over bumps and imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels. Steering was a slight disappointment. You have to turn the wheel further than you might think to get the steering reaction that is needed. Some of this comes down to how light the weight for the steering was. It was like running your fingers through a pool of water. Another disappointment came in overall visibility as thick rear pillars block a fair amount of the rear view. At least, the SL comes standard with a backup camera and blind-spot monitoring. We also recommend opting for the Around-View camera system as it gives you a full 360 view of the vehicle when parking. While the Murano has some issues with the infotainment, overall visibility, and steering, it remains a very capable crossover. With sleek styling, loads of luxury equipment, and a plush ride, the Murano not only gives a number of mainstream models such as Ford Edge a run for their money, it could make anyone have second thoughts with a luxury model. Nissan says the Murano is their flagship for their crossover lineup. We cannot find a more fitting term for this vehicle. Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Murano SL AWD, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Nissan Model: Murano Trim: SL AWD Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6 Driveline: Xtronic CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 240 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/24 Curb Weight: 3,977 lbs Location of Manufacture: Canton, TN Base Price: $38,550 As Tested Price: $41,905 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $2,260.00 Floor Mats & Cargo Area Protection - $210.00
  10. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD

    It may seem a bit odd to call the Nissan Murano a trailblazer in the crossover class. But when it launched in December of 2002 as 2003 model, it was quite the revelation. Here was a crossover from a volume manufacturer that was not only sharp looking, but had a lot of features were found on luxury models at the time. It proved to a winning formula for Nissan. With the second-generation Murano, Nissan focused luxury and refinement. But the Murano also lost some of the distinctiveness from the design of the first-generation model. Now enter the third-generation Murano. This version continues the second-generation focus on luxury, but also brings back sharp looks from the first. This combination should work, right? We spent a week in the Murano SL AWD to find out. Nissan goes one of two ways when it comes to designing vehicles; they either take their time and put a lot of effort into a vehicle or spend about 30 minutes drawing something and calling it good. The Murano is the former of the two. The Murano’s design is basically the Resonance concept from a few years back. The front end gets a deep V grille with a chrome bar running around the outside. The side profile shows a unique floating roof design that is accomplished by blacking out the D-Pillars. This could make anyone think the roof is only being supported by glass. Around back are a set of taillights that are shaped like boomerangs - much like the 370Z coupe. Some may criticize the Murano for being a bit polarizing. But considering the first-generation model had such design touches as a wide chrome grille and dark orange color, the third-generation appears to be taking the design ideals of the first-gen model and putting them to good use. The Murano’s interior has to be one of Nissan’s best efforts. The levels of quality and features blow many competitors out of the water and even embarrasses some models from luxury brands. This particular Murano was finished in an Ivory color that not only made the interior look vibrant, it also made it feel slightly larger. Most of the dash and door panels are covered in the soft-touch materials, increasing the premium feel. One nice touch in our Murano tester is the Ivory wood trim which adds a touch of elegance. Seats are Nissan’s ‘zero-gravity’ seats which are said to use space-age technology to reduce fatigue and improve lower back support. While we aren’t fully sure on what ‘space-age tech’ Nissan is using, we’ll admit the seats for both front and rear passengers are quite comfortable and supportive. Front-seat passengers get power adjustments and heat in the SL trim. Rear seat passengers will find oodles of head and legroom, even with an optional panoramic sunroof. The Murano is one the first Nissan models to come with the latest version of Nissan Connect that comes with an eight-inch touchscreen and a updated interface. The system is now easier to use thanks to large touchpoints to various functions such as navigation and the radio. For those who rather control the system with actual buttons, there are those as well. Performance is ok with certain functions such as generating a route for the navigation system or changing to the various source. But it becomes somewhat sluggish when you are switch around to the various pages on the home screen. Nissan still has a couple of issues to iron out with their infotainment system. First, I had no metadata appear on the system when I was doing Bluetooth streaming from my phone. This could be an issue with this particular model as a Nissan Maxima equipped with the same system had no problem. The other was the system saying SiriusXM reception was lost despite there being a signal and broadcasting the station. I found that if I switched to a different source and went back to SiriusXM, the problem would be gone. A couple other colleagues who have driven Muranos have experienced the same problem. A software update might fix both problems I experienced. Power is provided by a 3.5L V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque (available @ 4,400 rpm). This paired to Nissan’s XTronic CVT and the choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The V6 is a perfect fit for the Murano as it provides more than enough power to get up to speed a decent rate. The XTronic CVT features artificial shift points to provide linear acceleration and cut a fair amount of droning. We found the shift points worked in situations where you accelerating at a steady rate such as going on a freeway. Other times such as making a pass, the points seemed nonexistent and the high rpm drone would appear. In terms of fuel economy, the Murano AWD is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/24 Combined. Our week with the Murano saw an average of 22 MPG in mostly city driving. The Murano’s ride is superbly comfortable. Equipped with 18-inch wheels, the Murano glides over bumps and imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels. Steering was a slight disappointment. You have to turn the wheel further than you might think to get the steering reaction that is needed. Some of this comes down to how light the weight for the steering was. It was like running your fingers through a pool of water. Another disappointment came in overall visibility as thick rear pillars block a fair amount of the rear view. At least, the SL comes standard with a backup camera and blind-spot monitoring. We also recommend opting for the Around-View camera system as it gives you a full 360 view of the vehicle when parking. While the Murano has some issues with the infotainment, overall visibility, and steering, it remains a very capable crossover. With sleek styling, loads of luxury equipment, and a plush ride, the Murano not only gives a number of mainstream models such as Ford Edge a run for their money, it could make anyone have second thoughts with a luxury model. Nissan says the Murano is their flagship for their crossover lineup. We cannot find a more fitting term for this vehicle. Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Murano SL AWD, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Nissan Model: Murano Trim: SL AWD Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6 Driveline: Xtronic CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 240 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/24 Curb Weight: 3,977 lbs Location of Manufacture: Canton, TN Base Price: $38,550 As Tested Price: $41,905 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $2,260.00 Floor Mats & Cargo Area Protection - $210.00 View full article
  11. If you needed a cargo van in the past, you could only get one in either large and extra-large. There wasn’t really an option for something smaller, which left a number of business in a tough spot. They needed something that could carry deliveries or equipment, but be somewhat maneuverable and get decent gas mileage. Sure, some automakers offered a cargo version of their minivans. But they were not big sellers and some worried about the overall durability. In 2009, Ford introduced the Transit Connect to the U.S. marketplace. This small van was aimed at small businesses who needed something that delivered good gas mileage, but was still capable of holding a fair amount of cargo. The van became an instant hit not only with small business, but also large corporations who saw the Transit Connect as a way to lower their fuel bills for their fleet. Now other automakers are throwing their hat into the small cargo van ring to serve this audience. The most recent is Ram with the introduction of the ProMaster City. Based on the Fiat Doblo sold in Europe, Ram hopes the ProMaster City can give the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 a run for its money. We spent a week in a ProMaster City Tradesman Cargo to find out. The basic shape of Fiat Doblo is unchanged. Ram has made some changes such as front bumper with a crosshair grille, and lights that are DOT compliant. The ProMaster isn’t going to be taking home any awards for design, most business/commercial buyers won't care. They're just looking for a flat surface to paint a logo. What they do care about is cargo space and that’s where the ProMaster City shines. Ram quotes total cargo space at 131.7 cubic feet which is larger than any other cargo van in the class, even the long-wheelbase Transit Connect. Other specs that make the ProMaster City perfect for cargo carrying duties include a low floor height (21.5 inches), wide cargo floor (60.4 inches and 48.4 inches at the wheel well), and payload capacity (1,886 lbs). The ProMaster also is very versatile thanks to split opening doors in the back, and sliding doors on either side. It was just the right vehicle for the week as the ProMaster was put on IKEA duty and easily swallowed the flat-pack furniture that we bought. Move up front and you’ll find a sparsely furnished interior with seating for two. Much of interior is carried over from Doblo. The only changes Ram made are a new steering wheel with audio controls and an AM/FM radio. Hard plastics line the dashboard and door panels, which should stand up to the hard work this van will be put through. Seats provided decent comfort and support. Our only complaint is with the adjustment knob for the seat. It's too far back to reach easily and the narrow space between the knob and door pillar makes adjusting the seat a pain. Our ProMaster City tester came equipped with the optional Uconnect 5.0 system with a backup camera. This system offers AM/FM/Bluetooth/USB/Aux and a trip computer. The system is very easy to use with large touchpoints, quick performance, and redundant buttons around the screen. The backup camera is a godsend as the rear windows in the ProMaster City Cargo are covered. The camera makes it easy to backup into tight spaces or when you are pulling out from a parking space. For power, Ram called in the 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir inline-four with 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque (available at 3,800 rpm). This is paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The inline-four does feel torquey and willing to get up to city speed limits in a flash. Anything above that and the ProMaster City feels slow. Ram quotes a 0-60 MPH time of under ten seconds and it feels like it. The nine-speed automatic has been improving with every Chrysler vehicle that we have driven. The transmission smoothly transitions from gear to gear is willing to downshift when needed. Still, we weren’t able to get the vehicle into the mythical ninth-gear in our testing. Even doing an 80-Mile round trip on the freeway, we found the transmission would only go into eighth gear. The EPA rates the ProMaster City fuel economy at 21 City/29 Highway/24 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 22 MPG in mostly city driving. Ram made a number of changes to the suspension to get the ProMaster City ready for the U.S. Including raising the ride height and changing a number of components. It has paid off as the van provided a smooth ride even over some of the roughest roads. The ProMaster City also has one of the tightest turning circles of 32 feet, perfect for urban environments. However, the ProMaster isn’t what you would call fun to drive. There is an abundance of body roll when cornering, due to van’s height’s exceeding its width. Also, the steering a bit rubbery when you turn the wheel. This is pretty much expected for the class. Again, this isn’t a priority for most buyers. While Ram is late to small van party, it has very capable van in the form of the ProMaster City. It offers a number of best-in class figures, a comfortable ride, and decent performance. Paired with a lot of features for the price, the ProMaster City will give buyers what they want in a small van at a surprising price. Considering Ram has moved 8,113 ProMaster Cities through November, buyers seem to agree. Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the ProMaster City, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Ram Trucks Model: ProMaster City Trim: Tradesman Cargo Engine: 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir Inline-Four Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Nine-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 178 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 3,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,512 lbs Location of Manufacture: Bursa, Turkey Base Price: $24,130 As Tested Price: $25,475 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tradesman Cargo Van Package 24C - (-$1,000) Rear Back-Up Camera Group - $565.00 UConnect 5.0 AM/FM/BT - $495.00 Speed Control - $225.00 Front Carpet Floor Mats by Mopar - $65.00
  12. If you needed a cargo van in the past, you could only get one in either large and extra-large. There wasn’t really an option for something smaller, which left a number of business in a tough spot. They needed something that could carry deliveries or equipment, but be somewhat maneuverable and get decent gas mileage. Sure, some automakers offered a cargo version of their minivans. But they were not big sellers and some worried about the overall durability. In 2009, Ford introduced the Transit Connect to the U.S. marketplace. This small van was aimed at small businesses who needed something that delivered good gas mileage, but was still capable of holding a fair amount of cargo. The van became an instant hit not only with small business, but also large corporations who saw the Transit Connect as a way to lower their fuel bills for their fleet. Now other automakers are throwing their hat into the small cargo van ring to serve this audience. The most recent is Ram with the introduction of the ProMaster City. Based on the Fiat Doblo sold in Europe, Ram hopes the ProMaster City can give the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 a run for its money. We spent a week in a ProMaster City Tradesman Cargo to find out. The basic shape of Fiat Doblo is unchanged. Ram has made some changes such as front bumper with a crosshair grille, and lights that are DOT compliant. The ProMaster isn’t going to be taking home any awards for design, most business/commercial buyers won't care. They're just looking for a flat surface to paint a logo. What they do care about is cargo space and that’s where the ProMaster City shines. Ram quotes total cargo space at 131.7 cubic feet which is larger than any other cargo van in the class, even the long-wheelbase Transit Connect. Other specs that make the ProMaster City perfect for cargo carrying duties include a low floor height (21.5 inches), wide cargo floor (60.4 inches and 48.4 inches at the wheel well), and payload capacity (1,886 lbs). The ProMaster also is very versatile thanks to split opening doors in the back, and sliding doors on either side. It was just the right vehicle for the week as the ProMaster was put on IKEA duty and easily swallowed the flat-pack furniture that we bought. Move up front and you’ll find a sparsely furnished interior with seating for two. Much of interior is carried over from Doblo. The only changes Ram made are a new steering wheel with audio controls and an AM/FM radio. Hard plastics line the dashboard and door panels, which should stand up to the hard work this van will be put through. Seats provided decent comfort and support. Our only complaint is with the adjustment knob for the seat. It's too far back to reach easily and the narrow space between the knob and door pillar makes adjusting the seat a pain. Our ProMaster City tester came equipped with the optional Uconnect 5.0 system with a backup camera. This system offers AM/FM/Bluetooth/USB/Aux and a trip computer. The system is very easy to use with large touchpoints, quick performance, and redundant buttons around the screen. The backup camera is a godsend as the rear windows in the ProMaster City Cargo are covered. The camera makes it easy to backup into tight spaces or when you are pulling out from a parking space. For power, Ram called in the 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir inline-four with 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque (available at 3,800 rpm). This is paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The inline-four does feel torquey and willing to get up to city speed limits in a flash. Anything above that and the ProMaster City feels slow. Ram quotes a 0-60 MPH time of under ten seconds and it feels like it. The nine-speed automatic has been improving with every Chrysler vehicle that we have driven. The transmission smoothly transitions from gear to gear is willing to downshift when needed. Still, we weren’t able to get the vehicle into the mythical ninth-gear in our testing. Even doing an 80-Mile round trip on the freeway, we found the transmission would only go into eighth gear. The EPA rates the ProMaster City fuel economy at 21 City/29 Highway/24 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 22 MPG in mostly city driving. Ram made a number of changes to the suspension to get the ProMaster City ready for the U.S. Including raising the ride height and changing a number of components. It has paid off as the van provided a smooth ride even over some of the roughest roads. The ProMaster City also has one of the tightest turning circles of 32 feet, perfect for urban environments. However, the ProMaster isn’t what you would call fun to drive. There is an abundance of body roll when cornering, due to van’s height’s exceeding its width. Also, the steering a bit rubbery when you turn the wheel. This is pretty much expected for the class. Again, this isn’t a priority for most buyers. While Ram is late to small van party, it has very capable van in the form of the ProMaster City. It offers a number of best-in class figures, a comfortable ride, and decent performance. Paired with a lot of features for the price, the ProMaster City will give buyers what they want in a small van at a surprising price. Considering Ram has moved 8,113 ProMaster Cities through November, buyers seem to agree. Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the ProMaster City, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Ram Trucks Model: ProMaster City Trim: Tradesman Cargo Engine: 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir Inline-Four Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Nine-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 178 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 3,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,512 lbs Location of Manufacture: Bursa, Turkey Base Price: $24,130 As Tested Price: $25,475 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tradesman Cargo Van Package 24C - (-$1,000) Rear Back-Up Camera Group - $565.00 UConnect 5.0 AM/FM/BT - $495.00 Speed Control - $225.00 Front Carpet Floor Mats by Mopar - $65.00 View full article
  13. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Infiniti Q50S 3.7

    In a class that is highly competitive such as the compact luxury sedan segment, trying to make yourself stand out is a tough ask. Some can do it just on reputation, while others must rely on price, design, features, or overall drivability. Infiniti is using technology to have their Q50 sedan stand out in this crowded field. We spent a week in the Q50S 3.7 to see if any of this new technology makes a difference. In terms of styling, the Q50S sits right in the middle of the compact luxury sedan spectrum. It isn’t as shocking as the Lexus IS, but it isn’t boring as a BMW 3-Series. The overall design is reminiscent of the Q70 (formally known as the M37/35h/56) with a narrow grille, a sculpted hood that rises and falls, and a distinctive character line running from the front fender to the rear. This particular Q50S was fitted with 19-inch Rays wheels finished in black and looked quite sharp. It should be noted the wheels are part of a Performance Wheel package that also swaps the standard run-flat tires for a set of summer performance tires. The Q50S’s interior is very scrumptious with leather and soft plastics seemingly lining every surface, and a small amount of wood trim around the center stack. Front seat passengers get supportive seats with power adjustments and the ability to cool and heat. The driver gets a couple of more adjustments in the form of adjustable seat bolsters and a manual extension for the thigh. Rear seat passengers will find plenty of headroom, but legroom is somewhat limited thanks to a tall transmission tunnel. A key feature of the Q50 is Infiniti’s InTouch infotainment system. The system is comprised of two screens; the top one handles navigation and key information about the vehicle, while the bottom one handles audio, climate, vehicle settings, and other functions. Now before you start thinking the dual screen setup is going to be a catastrophe like the system used in Acura vehicles, it isn’t. The difference is that Infiniti uses two touchscreens, unlike the one touchscreen and the other screen being controlled by a knob like a number of Acura models. Using the system was a breeze thanks a simple layout and quick performance. There are a couple of downsides to the InTouch system. First is the navigation system which is looking very dated when compared to other models in the compact luxury class. Second is the bottom screen that washes out in sunlight. In terms of power, the Q50 comes with either a 3.7L V6 or a hybrid powertrain that pairs the V6 with an electric motor. Our tester boasted the V6 with 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. This is paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is very potent as it will pull hard during acceleration and feels eager to get up to speed. But the V6 isn’t the smoothest or most refined at higher rpms as many of its competitors. The seven-speed automatic transmission delivers quick and smooth shifts. In terms of fuel economy, the Q50 with the V6 is rated at 20 City/29 Highway/23 Combined. Our week of driving saw an average of 21.2 MPG. The Q50S boasts a sport-tuned suspension which gives it a button-down feeling on the road. In corners, the Q50 shows excellent control of body motions. Agility is also tops as the Q50S seamlessly moves from corner to corner. The ride is on the firm side, letting in some bumps into the cabin. Noise isolation is excellent. Now the Q50 has one other key item that Infiniti is quick to point out and that is the optional Direct Adaptive Steering system. Unlike most systems where the system is mechanical-based, Direct Adaptive Steering uses a drive-by-wire system that transmits electrical impulses from the steering wheel to the front wheels, causing them to turn. Infiniti has also fitted an electric motor to mimic weight when turning. At first, I thought I was driving a normal steering system as it had good weight and feel for a sporty sedan. It was only when I parked the car and played around with the wheel did I realize something was different. The steering wheel moved very fast and with no feel. It was then I realized I had the drive-by-wire system. After spending a week with the Direct Adaptive Steering system, I’m a bit mixed. Not with the system itself, I actually didn’t have any complaints about the steering feeling disconnected to the road or having enough weight as other reviews. I found it to be like any other steering system. But I find myself wondering if this was done because Infiniti sees the future of steering going to this, or if they did this just for the sake of differentiation? The Infiniti Q50S is a good compact luxury sedan, but it relies too much on technology as a crutch. Yes, it's amazing that the dual-screen infotainment system works very well, but so does a single screen and a controller. The drive-by-wire steering system is a really cool piece of technology, but does it bring any real improvement? If you take the technologies away, you have a sedan that is very competent. But in a class that is highly competitive and models are constantly improving, competent isn’t good enough. Infiniti needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to take a model from competent to a real contender. The bones are there in the Q50, they need a bit more finessing and less tech. Disclaimer: Infiniti Provided the Q50S 3.7, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Infiniti Model: Q50 3.7 Trim: S Engine: 3.7L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Seven-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 328 @ 7,000 Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/29/23 Curb Weight: 3,675 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tochigi, Japan Base Price: $43,650 As Tested Price: $54,055 (Includes $905.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $3,200 Deluxe Package - $3,100 Performance Wheel Package - $1,800 Navigation Package - $1,400
  14. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Infiniti Q50S 3.7

    In a class that is highly competitive such as the compact luxury sedan segment, trying to make yourself stand out is a tough ask. Some can do it just on reputation, while others must rely on price, design, features, or overall drivability. Infiniti is using technology to have their Q50 sedan stand out in this crowded field. We spent a week in the Q50S 3.7 to see if any of this new technology makes a difference. In terms of styling, the Q50S sits right in the middle of the compact luxury sedan spectrum. It isn’t as shocking as the Lexus IS, but it isn’t boring as a BMW 3-Series. The overall design is reminiscent of the Q70 (formally known as the M37/35h/56) with a narrow grille, a sculpted hood that rises and falls, and a distinctive character line running from the front fender to the rear. This particular Q50S was fitted with 19-inch Rays wheels finished in black and looked quite sharp. It should be noted the wheels are part of a Performance Wheel package that also swaps the standard run-flat tires for a set of summer performance tires. The Q50S’s interior is very scrumptious with leather and soft plastics seemingly lining every surface, and a small amount of wood trim around the center stack. Front seat passengers get supportive seats with power adjustments and the ability to cool and heat. The driver gets a couple of more adjustments in the form of adjustable seat bolsters and a manual extension for the thigh. Rear seat passengers will find plenty of headroom, but legroom is somewhat limited thanks to a tall transmission tunnel. A key feature of the Q50 is Infiniti’s InTouch infotainment system. The system is comprised of two screens; the top one handles navigation and key information about the vehicle, while the bottom one handles audio, climate, vehicle settings, and other functions. Now before you start thinking the dual screen setup is going to be a catastrophe like the system used in Acura vehicles, it isn’t. The difference is that Infiniti uses two touchscreens, unlike the one touchscreen and the other screen being controlled by a knob like a number of Acura models. Using the system was a breeze thanks a simple layout and quick performance. There are a couple of downsides to the InTouch system. First is the navigation system which is looking very dated when compared to other models in the compact luxury class. Second is the bottom screen that washes out in sunlight. In terms of power, the Q50 comes with either a 3.7L V6 or a hybrid powertrain that pairs the V6 with an electric motor. Our tester boasted the V6 with 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. This is paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is very potent as it will pull hard during acceleration and feels eager to get up to speed. But the V6 isn’t the smoothest or most refined at higher rpms as many of its competitors. The seven-speed automatic transmission delivers quick and smooth shifts. In terms of fuel economy, the Q50 with the V6 is rated at 20 City/29 Highway/23 Combined. Our week of driving saw an average of 21.2 MPG. The Q50S boasts a sport-tuned suspension which gives it a button-down feeling on the road. In corners, the Q50 shows excellent control of body motions. Agility is also tops as the Q50S seamlessly moves from corner to corner. The ride is on the firm side, letting in some bumps into the cabin. Noise isolation is excellent. Now the Q50 has one other key item that Infiniti is quick to point out and that is the optional Direct Adaptive Steering system. Unlike most systems where the system is mechanical-based, Direct Adaptive Steering uses a drive-by-wire system that transmits electrical impulses from the steering wheel to the front wheels, causing them to turn. Infiniti has also fitted an electric motor to mimic weight when turning. At first, I thought I was driving a normal steering system as it had good weight and feel for a sporty sedan. It was only when I parked the car and played around with the wheel did I realize something was different. The steering wheel moved very fast and with no feel. It was then I realized I had the drive-by-wire system. After spending a week with the Direct Adaptive Steering system, I’m a bit mixed. Not with the system itself, I actually didn’t have any complaints about the steering feeling disconnected to the road or having enough weight as other reviews. I found it to be like any other steering system. But I find myself wondering if this was done because Infiniti sees the future of steering going to this, or if they did this just for the sake of differentiation? The Infiniti Q50S is a good compact luxury sedan, but it relies too much on technology as a crutch. Yes, it's amazing that the dual-screen infotainment system works very well, but so does a single screen and a controller. The drive-by-wire steering system is a really cool piece of technology, but does it bring any real improvement? If you take the technologies away, you have a sedan that is very competent. But in a class that is highly competitive and models are constantly improving, competent isn’t good enough. Infiniti needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to take a model from competent to a real contender. The bones are there in the Q50, they need a bit more finessing and less tech. Disclaimer: Infiniti Provided the Q50S 3.7, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Infiniti Model: Q50 3.7 Trim: S Engine: 3.7L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Seven-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 328 @ 7,000 Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/29/23 Curb Weight: 3,675 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tochigi, Japan Base Price: $43,650 As Tested Price: $54,055 (Includes $905.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $3,200 Deluxe Package - $3,100 Performance Wheel Package - $1,800 Navigation Package - $1,400 View full article
  15. By 2050, eight states in the U.S. and five countries will ban the sale gas powered vehicles and only allow zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) to be sold. Car and Driver reports that eight states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and five countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Quebec, the United Kingdom) will only allow automakers to sell ZEVs by 2050. The announcement was made against the backdrop of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) taking place in Paris. The two groups point that only selling ZEVs allow emissions to be cut by 40 percent, temperatures will stabilize, and a number of other benefits. But there are some stumbling blocks to this goal. The biggest one is can countries and states ban the sale of gas vehicles. There's also the question of whether people will be interested in buying a ZEV. Source: Car and Driver
  16. By 2050, eight states in the U.S. and five countries will ban the sale gas powered vehicles and only allow zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) to be sold. Car and Driver reports that eight states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and five countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Quebec, the United Kingdom) will only allow automakers to sell ZEVs by 2050. The announcement was made against the backdrop of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) taking place in Paris. The two groups point that only selling ZEVs allow emissions to be cut by 40 percent, temperatures will stabilize, and a number of other benefits. But there are some stumbling blocks to this goal. The biggest one is can countries and states ban the sale of gas vehicles. There's also the question of whether people will be interested in buying a ZEV. Source: Car and Driver View full article
  17. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Cadillac CTS VSport

    Cadillac has changed a lot during the past decade and a half. Once considered the brand that old folks would buy for their comfort and plushness, Cadillac has grown into a real competitor for the Germans. To see how the brand became a threat, all you need to do look at the CTS. The first and second-generation CTS models showed real promise as Cadillac got the handling and design characteristics right. But there was always something lacking that kept it a few rungs down, whether it be the interior, drivetrain, or something else. Enter the third-generation CTS and Cadillac appears to have taken the lessons it learned from past models, along with a lot of development work to get to this point. Is it a real threat? We spent some time in the CTS VSport model to find out. In terms of design, the current CTS is toned-down when compared to the last-generation model. There is a fair amount of sharp lines and angles throughout the body, but it doesn’t quite have that shock and awe look that the previous CTS had. Instead, the current CTS’ design is much more fluid and complete. Every panel and line seems to flow and makes the model seem like it was sculpted from a block of steel, not bits and pieces. The only downside to CTS’ design is the rear end as it looks like it was done at the last minute and doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the vehicle. Cadillac has also gotten the details right with the CTS. Little things such as LED lighting, headlights that extend into the front fenders, rear spoiler, and chrome exhaust ports. A set of nineteen-inch wheels adds some aggression for the VSport. Step inside the CTS’ interior and it's clear to see that Cadillac finally understands how to craft a luxury interior. The last-generation model featured a modern-looking interior, but it was let down by questionable material choices. Cadillac finally has both in the CTS. The interior is meant to be an intimate experience with the dashboard flowing into the door panels and high window sills. Swaths of leather are paired with real aluminum and wood trim. This might be one of the best interiors in the midsize luxury sedan class. The CTS VSport gets a set of leather seats with extra bolstering to keep you in place when you decide to play. Whenever you decide to stop playing around, you’ll find the seats provide excellent support and comfort for long distances. The back seat may seem small when compared to competitors, but it’s a different story when you sit back there. Even for taller passengers, the rear seat provides more than enough head and legroom. Infotainment duties are handled by CUE (Cadillac User Experience) and it sadly hasn’t gotten any better. The capacitive touch buttons still don’t always recognize a finger press and you’ll need to hit them a few times for a response. The system is slow to respond to simple tasks such as changing a station or bringing up the navigation. I know criticizing CUE is now at the ‘kicking the dead horse level’, but this is a key part of the vehicle. If it doesn’t work smoothly, you’re going to lose people who are interested in the car. For power, the CTS VSport employs a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 with 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine is quite a revelation when you first take it out. It feels more like a V8 in how eager the engine is to get up to speed. Cadillac says 90 percent of the torque is available between 2,500 to 5,500 rpm, giving the engine strong power in most driving conditions. It shows as the CTS VSport was eager to get up to speed at a rapid rate. Also, the engine had a lot of power in reserve for times when it was called on. The eight-speed automatic performed fast gear changes. Fuel economy for the CTS VSport is rated at 16 City/24 Highway/18 Combined. I saw an average of 20.1 MPG in mostly city driving. Aside from the twin-turbo engine, the VSport boasts some other goodies. There is a sports-tuned suspension with GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system, electronic limited-slip differential, and a set of performance tires. This combination makes the CTS VSport one of, if not the best handling sedan in the class. Put the vehicle into Sport and it hunkers down onto the road. Body motions are nonexistent when cornering and the steering provides excellent feel and weight. When you’re not horsing around and just doing the daily grind, the CTS is a pleasant and comfortable place. Put the CTS VSport into Comfort and suspension will soften to glide over most bumps. Road and wind noise are kept to levels that are considered to be silent. Cadillac has a real world-beater on their hands with the CTS. In VSport form, the CTS gives all of the midsize luxury sedans a real run for their money in terms of handling and power. The CTS also boasts one of the nicest interiors and unique exteriors in the class. CUE is still a problem for the CTS and Cadillac need to address this system ASAP. But there are still some issues for Cadillac as a whole. Perceptions of the brand still linger and the dealership experience still doesn’t quite match what you might find other luxury automakers. So while the CTS is now at a point where it can be considered best-in-class, the rest of Cadillac needs to catch up. Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the CTS VSport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Cadillac Model: CTS Trim: VSport Engine: 3.6L Twin-Turbo V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5,750 Torque @ RPM: 430 @ 3,500 - 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/18 Curb Weight: 3,952 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI Base Price: $59,340 As Tested Price: $60,435 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Performance Brake Linings - $100.00
  18. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Cadillac CTS VSport

    Cadillac has changed a lot during the past decade and a half. Once considered the brand that old folks would buy for their comfort and plushness, Cadillac has grown into a real competitor for the Germans. To see how the brand became a threat, all you need to do look at the CTS. The first and second-generation CTS models showed real promise as Cadillac got the handling and design characteristics right. But there was always something lacking that kept it a few rungs down, whether it be the interior, drivetrain, or something else. Enter the third-generation CTS and Cadillac appears to have taken the lessons it learned from past models, along with a lot of development work to get to this point. Is it a real threat? We spent some time in the CTS VSport model to find out. In terms of design, the current CTS is toned-down when compared to the last-generation model. There is a fair amount of sharp lines and angles throughout the body, but it doesn’t quite have that shock and awe look that the previous CTS had. Instead, the current CTS’ design is much more fluid and complete. Every panel and line seems to flow and makes the model seem like it was sculpted from a block of steel, not bits and pieces. The only downside to CTS’ design is the rear end as it looks like it was done at the last minute and doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the vehicle. Cadillac has also gotten the details right with the CTS. Little things such as LED lighting, headlights that extend into the front fenders, rear spoiler, and chrome exhaust ports. A set of nineteen-inch wheels adds some aggression for the VSport. Step inside the CTS’ interior and it's clear to see that Cadillac finally understands how to craft a luxury interior. The last-generation model featured a modern-looking interior, but it was let down by questionable material choices. Cadillac finally has both in the CTS. The interior is meant to be an intimate experience with the dashboard flowing into the door panels and high window sills. Swaths of leather are paired with real aluminum and wood trim. This might be one of the best interiors in the midsize luxury sedan class. The CTS VSport gets a set of leather seats with extra bolstering to keep you in place when you decide to play. Whenever you decide to stop playing around, you’ll find the seats provide excellent support and comfort for long distances. The back seat may seem small when compared to competitors, but it’s a different story when you sit back there. Even for taller passengers, the rear seat provides more than enough head and legroom. Infotainment duties are handled by CUE (Cadillac User Experience) and it sadly hasn’t gotten any better. The capacitive touch buttons still don’t always recognize a finger press and you’ll need to hit them a few times for a response. The system is slow to respond to simple tasks such as changing a station or bringing up the navigation. I know criticizing CUE is now at the ‘kicking the dead horse level’, but this is a key part of the vehicle. If it doesn’t work smoothly, you’re going to lose people who are interested in the car. For power, the CTS VSport employs a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 with 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine is quite a revelation when you first take it out. It feels more like a V8 in how eager the engine is to get up to speed. Cadillac says 90 percent of the torque is available between 2,500 to 5,500 rpm, giving the engine strong power in most driving conditions. It shows as the CTS VSport was eager to get up to speed at a rapid rate. Also, the engine had a lot of power in reserve for times when it was called on. The eight-speed automatic performed fast gear changes. Fuel economy for the CTS VSport is rated at 16 City/24 Highway/18 Combined. I saw an average of 20.1 MPG in mostly city driving. Aside from the twin-turbo engine, the VSport boasts some other goodies. There is a sports-tuned suspension with GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system, electronic limited-slip differential, and a set of performance tires. This combination makes the CTS VSport one of, if not the best handling sedan in the class. Put the vehicle into Sport and it hunkers down onto the road. Body motions are nonexistent when cornering and the steering provides excellent feel and weight. When you’re not horsing around and just doing the daily grind, the CTS is a pleasant and comfortable place. Put the CTS VSport into Comfort and suspension will soften to glide over most bumps. Road and wind noise are kept to levels that are considered to be silent. Cadillac has a real world-beater on their hands with the CTS. In VSport form, the CTS gives all of the midsize luxury sedans a real run for their money in terms of handling and power. The CTS also boasts one of the nicest interiors and unique exteriors in the class. CUE is still a problem for the CTS and Cadillac need to address this system ASAP. But there are still some issues for Cadillac as a whole. Perceptions of the brand still linger and the dealership experience still doesn’t quite match what you might find other luxury automakers. So while the CTS is now at a point where it can be considered best-in-class, the rest of Cadillac needs to catch up. Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the CTS VSport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Cadillac Model: CTS Trim: VSport Engine: 3.6L Twin-Turbo V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5,750 Torque @ RPM: 430 @ 3,500 - 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/18 Curb Weight: 3,952 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI Base Price: $59,340 As Tested Price: $60,435 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Performance Brake Linings - $100.00 View full article
  19. Last year at the LA Auto Show, Chrysler gave the 300 lineup a modest refresh. A new grille and headlights for the exterior, while interior boasted a new gauge cluster and dial for the gear shifter. Some people thought Chrysler should have gone farther, but we think the right call was made here. Our 300 came in the S trim which brought a blacked-out grille, headlights, wheels, and new lip spoiler. Paired with a coat of red paint, the 300S strikes a nice balance of aggression and handsomeness. Despite the looks, the 300 is still a tricky vehicle when it comes to overall visibility. Due to the limited area of glass, the 300 has large blind spots that make it tricky to park or safely change lanes. We highly recommend optioning the park assist and blind spot systems to make the 300 that much easier to live with. Powertrains haven’t changed much since we last checked out the 300 back in 2013. A 3.6L V6 with 292 horsepower (300 horsepower for the S) comes standard, while a 5.7 HEMI V8 with 364 horsepower is an option. No matter which engine you choose, an eight-speed automatic is standard. We had the V8 in our 300S tester and it fits the vehicle's persona. With a distinctive engine note at idle and plenty of punch throughout the rev range, the V8 is perfect for those who want power. The new eight-speed automatic is very fast with shifts and helps boost fuel economy to 16 City/25 Highway/19 Combined. In terms of handling, the 300S gets a retuned suspension to help reduce body roll and feel more planted. It does make a difference as the S feels slightly more capable around corners than the standard 300. Steering is quite good with the right amount of weight and feel. For day to day driving, the 300S is very comfortable as the suspension is able to glide over bumps. Wind and road noise are kept in check. The Chrysler 300S starts at $34,895 for the V6 and $37,895 for the V8. Our tester came to an as-tester price of $42,865 with a couple of options. So while the Chrysler 300 may not have gone under the dramatic changes many wanted, the changes Chrysler did make keep the 300 as one of the best bang for your buck vehicles. Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the 300S, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Chrysler Model: 300 Trim: S Engine: 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 363 @ 5,200 Torque @ RPM: 394 @ 4,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/25/19 Curb Weight: 4,326 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $34,895 As Tested Price: $42,685 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 300S Premium Group - $3,295 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 - $3,000 Redline 3-Coat Pearl Exterior Paint - $500 Next Page: 2015 Dodge Durango R/T The Dodge Durango is already an imposing looking crossover with its boxy shape, crosshair grille, and a long taillight. But what if you want something more aggressive in a Durango? Dodge has you covered with the R/T trim. The R/T begins with changes to exterior such as a body-colored grille element, twin-exhaust ports, and a set twenty-inch wheels finished in a dark gray. These little changes increase the aggressive look that Dodge is conveying with the Durango. The interior is the same as any other Durango with a clean dash and seating for six or seven people. But the Durango is on the lower end in terms of cargo space. With all three rows up, the Durango offers 17.2 cubic feet. This increases to 47.7 cubic feet with the third row folded and 84.5 with both rear rows folded. Those who want more cargo space should look at GM’s full-size crossovers. The other change for the R/T is the 5.7L HEMI V8 with 360 horsepower becoming standard. This engine fits the attitude that the R/T is presenting. Start the Durango R/T and the V8 comes alive with a burble that is reminiscent of a muscle car. That impression continues when you step on the accelerator and engine roars to life, delivering power at a very quick rate. This is helped by a new eight-speed automatic which provides lightning-fast shifts to keep the V8 in the zone of power. Fuel economy may be the big downside to the V8 as it is rated at 14 City/22 Highway/16 Combined. We got 17.1 MPG during our week. Handling-wise, the Durango is a delight. Body motions are kept in check and the steering provides a nice feel of the road. The ride is very smooth and quiet, making it a perfect long distance cruiser. As for pricing, the 2015 Dodge Durango R/T starts at $42,495. Our tester with a few options climbed to $48,525. Considering the performance and styling tweaks the R/T offers, along with the amities of the standard Durango, the R/T is very much worth a look. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Durango R/T, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Dodge Model: Durango Trim: R/T AWD Engine: 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 360 @ 5,150 Torque @ RPM: 390 @ 4,250 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 14/22/16 Curb Weight: 5,331 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI Base Price: $42,495 As Tested Price: $48,525 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear DVD Entertainment Center - $1,995 Premium Nappa Leather Group - $1,295 Second-Row Fold/Tumble Captain Chairs - $995.00 UConnect 8.4AN AM/FM/SXM/HD/BT/NAV - $750.00
  20. Last year at the LA Auto Show, Chrysler gave the 300 lineup a modest refresh. A new grille and headlights for the exterior, while interior boasted a new gauge cluster and dial for the gear shifter. Some people thought Chrysler should have gone farther, but we think the right call was made here. Our 300 came in the S trim which brought a blacked-out grille, headlights, wheels, and new lip spoiler. Paired with a coat of red paint, the 300S strikes a nice balance of aggression and handsomeness. Despite the looks, the 300 is still a tricky vehicle when it comes to overall visibility. Due to the limited area of glass, the 300 has large blind spots that make it tricky to park or safely change lanes. We highly recommend optioning the park assist and blind spot systems to make the 300 that much easier to live with. Powertrains haven’t changed much since we last checked out the 300 back in 2013. A 3.6L V6 with 292 horsepower (300 horsepower for the S) comes standard, while a 5.7 HEMI V8 with 364 horsepower is an option. No matter which engine you choose, an eight-speed automatic is standard. We had the V8 in our 300S tester and it fits the vehicle's persona. With a distinctive engine note at idle and plenty of punch throughout the rev range, the V8 is perfect for those who want power. The new eight-speed automatic is very fast with shifts and helps boost fuel economy to 16 City/25 Highway/19 Combined. In terms of handling, the 300S gets a retuned suspension to help reduce body roll and feel more planted. It does make a difference as the S feels slightly more capable around corners than the standard 300. Steering is quite good with the right amount of weight and feel. For day to day driving, the 300S is very comfortable as the suspension is able to glide over bumps. Wind and road noise are kept in check. The Chrysler 300S starts at $34,895 for the V6 and $37,895 for the V8. Our tester came to an as-tester price of $42,865 with a couple of options. So while the Chrysler 300 may not have gone under the dramatic changes many wanted, the changes Chrysler did make keep the 300 as one of the best bang for your buck vehicles. Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the 300S, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Chrysler Model: 300 Trim: S Engine: 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 363 @ 5,200 Torque @ RPM: 394 @ 4,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/25/19 Curb Weight: 4,326 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $34,895 As Tested Price: $42,685 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 300S Premium Group - $3,295 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 - $3,000 Redline 3-Coat Pearl Exterior Paint - $500 Next Page: 2015 Dodge Durango R/T The Dodge Durango is already an imposing looking crossover with its boxy shape, crosshair grille, and a long taillight. But what if you want something more aggressive in a Durango? Dodge has you covered with the R/T trim. The R/T begins with changes to exterior such as a body-colored grille element, twin-exhaust ports, and a set twenty-inch wheels finished in a dark gray. These little changes increase the aggressive look that Dodge is conveying with the Durango. The interior is the same as any other Durango with a clean dash and seating for six or seven people. But the Durango is on the lower end in terms of cargo space. With all three rows up, the Durango offers 17.2 cubic feet. This increases to 47.7 cubic feet with the third row folded and 84.5 with both rear rows folded. Those who want more cargo space should look at GM’s full-size crossovers. The other change for the R/T is the 5.7L HEMI V8 with 360 horsepower becoming standard. This engine fits the attitude that the R/T is presenting. Start the Durango R/T and the V8 comes alive with a burble that is reminiscent of a muscle car. That impression continues when you step on the accelerator and engine roars to life, delivering power at a very quick rate. This is helped by a new eight-speed automatic which provides lightning-fast shifts to keep the V8 in the zone of power. Fuel economy may be the big downside to the V8 as it is rated at 14 City/22 Highway/16 Combined. We got 17.1 MPG during our week. Handling-wise, the Durango is a delight. Body motions are kept in check and the steering provides a nice feel of the road. The ride is very smooth and quiet, making it a perfect long distance cruiser. As for pricing, the 2015 Dodge Durango R/T starts at $42,495. Our tester with a few options climbed to $48,525. Considering the performance and styling tweaks the R/T offers, along with the amities of the standard Durango, the R/T is very much worth a look. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Durango R/T, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Dodge Model: Durango Trim: R/T AWD Engine: 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 360 @ 5,150 Torque @ RPM: 390 @ 4,250 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 14/22/16 Curb Weight: 5,331 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI Base Price: $42,495 As Tested Price: $48,525 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear DVD Entertainment Center - $1,995 Premium Nappa Leather Group - $1,295 Second-Row Fold/Tumble Captain Chairs - $995.00 UConnect 8.4AN AM/FM/SXM/HD/BT/NAV - $750.00 View full article
  21. I remember being at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show and being at introduction of the Buick Encore. After seeing the model introduced, I just found myself wondering why. Why do we need a subcompact crossover? Why does Buick have it and not Chevrolet? Wouldn’t it be better as a Chevrolet? Little did I or anyone realize that within a few years, the subcompact crossover would be the hot thing. It seems Buick would be a pioneer in this class. The Encore is a rebadged version of the Opel Mokka sold in Europe and somehow Buick was able to make it look a bit more premium. This is due to Buick’s designers making a number of small tweaks such as a new waterfall grille, portholes on the hood, blue tinted headlights, and a set of eighteen-inch five-spoke wheels. The same is true for the interior as Buick has added some luxury touches such as faux metal and wood trim, soft-touch materials, and blue backlighting. This particular Encore also came equipped with some handsome two-tone leather seats. Oddly, there are no power adjustments for the seats. To get that you’ll need to step up to the top Premium trim. Personally, I would like to see all Encores come with power adjustments as standard. At least all Encores get Buick’s Interlink infotainment system. Now being a subcompact crossover, you might think it is a penalty box for rear passengers and cargo. Not so in the Encore. The rear seats provide more than enough head and legroom, but getting in and out is somewhat hard due to a small rear door opening. Cargo space is decent with 18.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 48.4 cubic feet with the seats down. You can also fold the front passenger seat down to increase cargo capacity. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This only comes paired to a six-speed automatic. There is a choice of front or all-wheel drive, with my tester having the latter. If you are planning to stay in urban environments, the 1.4T is perfect as it provides enough squirt to get you up to speed. If your travels take you to the country or highways, then you might want to look at something else. The 1.4T runs out of steam quite fast and you’ll find your foot on the floor to try and merge into traffic or make a pass. Now Buick has a possible solution to the power problem with a new turbo 1.6 on the 2016 Encore Sport Touring. We hope to get our hands on that soon. At least Buick got the ride characteristics right on the Encore. The suspension is able to soak up bumps and provides a smooth ride. Also, the small dimensions and light steering makes the Encore very nimble in small spaces. Buick’s QuietTuning makes sure no road and wind noise enters the cabin making the model one the quietest in the class. The Buick Encore may now be overshadowed by newer models in the class. But it still is worth of a look, especially if you live in an urban area. Disclaimer: Buick Provided the Encore, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Buick Model: Encore Trim: Leather Group AWD Engine: 1.4L DOHC Turbocharged Inline-Four Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 138 @ 4,900 Torque @ RPM: 148 @ 1,850 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/30/26 Curb Weight: 3,358 lbs Location of Manufacture: Bupyeong, South Korea Base Price: $29,450 As Tested Price: $33,620 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: White Pearl Tricoat - $995.00 Power Moonroof - $900.00 Bose Premium Audio - $595.00 Buick Intellilink with 7-Inch Screen and Navigation - $495.00 Cargo Mat - $60.00 Cargo Net - $60.00 The brief on the Yukon Denali XL is on the next page. The Cadillac Escalade has been a huge success for the company since being launched in 1999. In fact, many consider the full-size SUV to be the flagship, even with the new CT6 around the corner. But not everyone can plunk down the $72,970 required to get into the base model. So is there a good alternative to Escalade? Yes and it comes from GMC. The GMC Yukon Denali was launched a year before the Escalade, offering a number luxury appointments and features not commonly seen on full-size SUVs. Since then, the Denali has become a sub-brand and making some of GMC models feel and look like something you would get a luxury car dealer. But the Yukon has remained the crown jewel for the Denali brand. The Yukon Denali and the model seen here, the Yukon Denali XL don’t really differentiate in terms of overall design from the standard Yukon design. But it’s small details that make the Denali stand out. There is a new chrome grille, HID headlights, twenty-two inch aluminum wheels, optional retractable running boards, and a number of chrome pieces. It is subtle, but it does make a big difference. Compared to the previous-generation, the 2015 Yukon Denali XL shows a noticeable improvement in terms of design and materials. The dashboard layout has been cleaned up and controls are within easy reach for driver and passenger. Materials are a few steps above what you’ll find in the previous Denali thanks to soft-touch plastics, leather, and faux aluminum trim. I do wish GMC did a little something more for the Denali’s interior to make it stand out just a little further. Maybe real aluminum trim? At least GMC got passenger and cargo space in the Yukon Denali XL right. Sitting in the rear two rear rows isn’t a penalty as there an abundance of head and legroom. The only downside might be narrow space to get into the third-row by moving the second-row seat. Cargo space is large with 38.9 cubic feet on offer with both rear rows up. This increases to 76.7 cubic feet with the third-row down and 121.7 cubic feet with the second-row down. For power, comes with the 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. A new eight-speed automatic comes into play for this year's model. Despite the Yukon Denali XL weighing over 6,000 pounds, the larger V8 shrugs it off like it was nothing thanks to the large torque figure and automatic transmission being smart with its shifts. Now going for the larger V8 means slightly lower numbers of 14 City/24 Highway/16 Combined compared to the 5.3 V8’s economy figures of 15/22/18. Both figures represent models equipped with four-wheel drive. In terms of ride and handling, the Yukon Denali XL provides a relaxed ride with bumps and imperfections ironed out. This is very impressive when you consider my tester came equipped with the larger wheels. Thank GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system that comes standard. The system also makes a difference when cornering as the Denali shows barely any sign of body roll. The Yukon Denali XL starts at $70,220 for the base four-wheel drive model. My modestly equipped tester came in at $78,725. That might seem a bit much, but consider that a similarly equipped Cadillac Escalade ESV will cost $10,000 to $12,000 more. So if you want something close to an Escalade without a large pricetag, GMC has got you covered. Disclaimer: GMC Provided the Yukon Denali XL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: GMC Model: Yukon XL Trim: Denali Engine: 6.2L EcoTec V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 460 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 14/20/16 Curb Weight: 6,009 lbs* Location of Manufacture: Arlington, Texas Base Price: $70,220 As Tested Price: $78,725 (Includes $1,195 Destination Charge and $500 Open Road Package Discount) *Note: Weight corresponds to Yukon XL Denali equipped with 20-inch wheels Options: Denali Premium Package - $3,165.00 Open Road Package - $2,860.00 Twenty-Two Aluminum Wheels - $895.00 Midnight Amethyst Metallic Paint - $495.00 Theft-Deterrent System - $395.00
  22. I remember being at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show and being at introduction of the Buick Encore. After seeing the model introduced, I just found myself wondering why. Why do we need a subcompact crossover? Why does Buick have it and not Chevrolet? Wouldn’t it be better as a Chevrolet? Little did I or anyone realize that within a few years, the subcompact crossover would be the hot thing. It seems Buick would be a pioneer in this class. The Encore is a rebadged version of the Opel Mokka sold in Europe and somehow Buick was able to make it look a bit more premium. This is due to Buick’s designers making a number of small tweaks such as a new waterfall grille, portholes on the hood, blue tinted headlights, and a set of eighteen-inch five-spoke wheels. The same is true for the interior as Buick has added some luxury touches such as faux metal and wood trim, soft-touch materials, and blue backlighting. This particular Encore also came equipped with some handsome two-tone leather seats. Oddly, there are no power adjustments for the seats. To get that you’ll need to step up to the top Premium trim. Personally, I would like to see all Encores come with power adjustments as standard. At least all Encores get Buick’s Interlink infotainment system. Now being a subcompact crossover, you might think it is a penalty box for rear passengers and cargo. Not so in the Encore. The rear seats provide more than enough head and legroom, but getting in and out is somewhat hard due to a small rear door opening. Cargo space is decent with 18.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 48.4 cubic feet with the seats down. You can also fold the front passenger seat down to increase cargo capacity. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This only comes paired to a six-speed automatic. There is a choice of front or all-wheel drive, with my tester having the latter. If you are planning to stay in urban environments, the 1.4T is perfect as it provides enough squirt to get you up to speed. If your travels take you to the country or highways, then you might want to look at something else. The 1.4T runs out of steam quite fast and you’ll find your foot on the floor to try and merge into traffic or make a pass. Now Buick has a possible solution to the power problem with a new turbo 1.6 on the 2016 Encore Sport Touring. We hope to get our hands on that soon. At least Buick got the ride characteristics right on the Encore. The suspension is able to soak up bumps and provides a smooth ride. Also, the small dimensions and light steering makes the Encore very nimble in small spaces. Buick’s QuietTuning makes sure no road and wind noise enters the cabin making the model one the quietest in the class. The Buick Encore may now be overshadowed by newer models in the class. But it still is worth of a look, especially if you live in an urban area. Disclaimer: Buick Provided the Encore, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Buick Model: Encore Trim: Leather Group AWD Engine: 1.4L DOHC Turbocharged Inline-Four Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 138 @ 4,900 Torque @ RPM: 148 @ 1,850 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/30/26 Curb Weight: 3,358 lbs Location of Manufacture: Bupyeong, South Korea Base Price: $29,450 As Tested Price: $33,620 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: White Pearl Tricoat - $995.00 Power Moonroof - $900.00 Bose Premium Audio - $595.00 Buick Intellilink with 7-Inch Screen and Navigation - $495.00 Cargo Mat - $60.00 Cargo Net - $60.00 The brief on the Yukon Denali XL is on the next page. The Cadillac Escalade has been a huge success for the company since being launched in 1999. In fact, many consider the full-size SUV to be the flagship, even with the new CT6 around the corner. But not everyone can plunk down the $72,970 required to get into the base model. So is there a good alternative to Escalade? Yes and it comes from GMC. The GMC Yukon Denali was launched a year before the Escalade, offering a number luxury appointments and features not commonly seen on full-size SUVs. Since then, the Denali has become a sub-brand and making some of GMC models feel and look like something you would get a luxury car dealer. But the Yukon has remained the crown jewel for the Denali brand. The Yukon Denali and the model seen here, the Yukon Denali XL don’t really differentiate in terms of overall design from the standard Yukon design. But it’s small details that make the Denali stand out. There is a new chrome grille, HID headlights, twenty-two inch aluminum wheels, optional retractable running boards, and a number of chrome pieces. It is subtle, but it does make a big difference. Compared to the previous-generation, the 2015 Yukon Denali XL shows a noticeable improvement in terms of design and materials. The dashboard layout has been cleaned up and controls are within easy reach for driver and passenger. Materials are a few steps above what you’ll find in the previous Denali thanks to soft-touch plastics, leather, and faux aluminum trim. I do wish GMC did a little something more for the Denali’s interior to make it stand out just a little further. Maybe real aluminum trim? At least GMC got passenger and cargo space in the Yukon Denali XL right. Sitting in the rear two rear rows isn’t a penalty as there an abundance of head and legroom. The only downside might be narrow space to get into the third-row by moving the second-row seat. Cargo space is large with 38.9 cubic feet on offer with both rear rows up. This increases to 76.7 cubic feet with the third-row down and 121.7 cubic feet with the second-row down. For power, comes with the 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. A new eight-speed automatic comes into play for this year's model. Despite the Yukon Denali XL weighing over 6,000 pounds, the larger V8 shrugs it off like it was nothing thanks to the large torque figure and automatic transmission being smart with its shifts. Now going for the larger V8 means slightly lower numbers of 14 City/24 Highway/16 Combined compared to the 5.3 V8’s economy figures of 15/22/18. Both figures represent models equipped with four-wheel drive. In terms of ride and handling, the Yukon Denali XL provides a relaxed ride with bumps and imperfections ironed out. This is very impressive when you consider my tester came equipped with the larger wheels. Thank GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system that comes standard. The system also makes a difference when cornering as the Denali shows barely any sign of body roll. The Yukon Denali XL starts at $70,220 for the base four-wheel drive model. My modestly equipped tester came in at $78,725. That might seem a bit much, but consider that a similarly equipped Cadillac Escalade ESV will cost $10,000 to $12,000 more. So if you want something close to an Escalade without a large pricetag, GMC has got you covered. Disclaimer: GMC Provided the Yukon Denali XL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: GMC Model: Yukon XL Trim: Denali Engine: 6.2L EcoTec V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 460 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 14/20/16 Curb Weight: 6,009 lbs* Location of Manufacture: Arlington, Texas Base Price: $70,220 As Tested Price: $78,725 (Includes $1,195 Destination Charge and $500 Open Road Package Discount) *Note: Weight corresponds to Yukon XL Denali equipped with 20-inch wheels Options: Denali Premium Package - $3,165.00 Open Road Package - $2,860.00 Twenty-Two Aluminum Wheels - $895.00 Midnight Amethyst Metallic Paint - $495.00 Theft-Deterrent System - $395.00 View full article
  23. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Kia Sedona SXL

    In a person’s life, there will be an event that happens on a rare occurrence. Seeing a comet streak across the sky or watching the Detroit Lions have a winning season. For those who care about the automobile, seeing a new Bentley or Rolls-Royce model being introduced counts as one of these events. Similarly, seeing an automaker introduce a new minivan can be put on that list. Very few automakers compete in the minivan class as it's dominated by the stalwarts such as Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna. But once in a blue moon, a new minivan comes around to challenge them. Case in point is the 2015 Kia Sedona. Kia’s minivan underwent a massive revision and came back last year to try and take a nice chunk of the minivan marketplace. We spent a week in the Sedona SXL to see if Kia has a chance. Kia’s designers must have been impressed when Nissan launched the current Quest minivan a few years back. We mention that because that’s what the Sedona’s overall look reminds us of. Both vans feature a cargo van look with flat sides and a large area of glass. Where the Sedona differs from the Quest is the front end. There is a distinctive grille insert surrounded by chrome. A set of trapezoidal headlights flank either side with a strand of LEDs splitting the middle and running towards the outer edge. The Sedona’s interior follows the same template as Kia’s larger sedans, the Cadenza and K900, with a modern design and quality materials used throughout. Stepping inside our SXL tester and for a moment, we thought this was a luxury sedan, not a minivan. From the two-tone Nappa leather used on the seats to the solid feeling controls for the infotainment system, the Sedona oozes a lot of class. The Sedona can seat up to eight people through our SXL tester was equipped for seven due to the second row having the optional captain chairs. No matter which row you find yourself in, there is more than enough head and legroom for even the tallest of passengers. Those sitting in the second row of the SXL will be pleased as they can recline and bring up a footrest for that extra level of comfort. But much like the Toyota Sienna which had this feature, there isn’t enough space to pull this off for most passengers. In terms of cargo space, the Sedona isn’t quite as big as the Sienna. With all three rows up, the Sedona offers 33.9 cubic feet of space. Fold the third row down and space increases to 78.4. With the second row down, space measures 142 cubic feet. For comparison, the Sienna offers about eight more cubic feet of space. There’s also one specific problem for the Sedona SXL. The second-row seats cannot do the Slide-n-Stow (Kia’s name for the folding seat system) or be removed from the van because they are locked into place. This means you will lose a bit more cargo space. If you do want the maximum cargo space in your Sedona, stick with one of the lower trims. The Sedona SXL also came equipped with the latest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system. As we have written in previous Kia reviews, this system is one of the best in terms of overall usability and performance. A simple interface with large touchpoints and redundant buttons is paired with quick performance in terms of moving from various functions to figuring our directions for the navigation. A number of OEMs would be wise to study Kia’s system. For power, the Sedona uses the 3.3L V6 found in the Cadenza and Sorento crossover. This V6 produces 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission gets power to the front wheels. The V6 moves the Sedona without any complaints. The automatic transmission provided smooth shifts and was quick to downshift whenever more power was needed, such as making a pass. In terms of fuel economy, the Sedona SXL is rated at 17 City/22 Highway/19 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 20.3 MPG. Now it should be noted that lower trims of the Sedona return better fuel economy numbers of 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined thanks to lower curb weights. The Sedona’s ride quality is comfortable on most road surfaces, although the nineteen-inch wheels on our SXL tester did let in a few bumps. Road and wind noise were kept to a minimum. Despite the large size of the Sedona, we found it to be quite maneuverable thanks to light steering and an around-view camera system that provided different views to help us to get into tight parking spaces. Handling characteristics are what you would expect in a minivan, a fair amount of lean and not that much feel from the steering. If you want a little bit of sport in a minivan, then look at the Dodge Grand Caravan or Honda Odyssey. The Kia Sedona comes as a bit of surprise in the minivan marketplace. While the likes Dodge, Honda, and Toyota have a tight grasp on the class, Kia uses the formula that has propelled it to the spotlight time and time again; offering a sleek design with loads of equipment that won’t break the bank. Whether that makes a difference in the sales chart remains to be seen. But if you are considering a minivan and want to stand out from the usual suspects, the Sedona is very much worth your consideration. Disclaimer: Kia provided the Sedona SXL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Kia Model: Sedona Trim: SXL Engine: 3.3L DOHC GDI CVVT V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 276 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/22/19 Curb Weight: 4,720 lbs Location of Manufacture: South Korea Base Price: $39,700 As Tested Price: $43,295 (Includes $985.00 Destination Charge) Options: SXL Technology Package - $2,700.00 View full article
  24. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Kia Sedona SXL

    In a person’s life, there will be an event that happens on a rare occurrence. Seeing a comet streak across the sky or watching the Detroit Lions have a winning season. For those who care about the automobile, seeing a new Bentley or Rolls-Royce model being introduced counts as one of these events. Similarly, seeing an automaker introduce a new minivan can be put on that list. Very few automakers compete in the minivan class as it's dominated by the stalwarts such as Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna. But once in a blue moon, a new minivan comes around to challenge them. Case in point is the 2015 Kia Sedona. Kia’s minivan underwent a massive revision and came back last year to try and take a nice chunk of the minivan marketplace. We spent a week in the Sedona SXL to see if Kia has a chance. Kia’s designers must have been impressed when Nissan launched the current Quest minivan a few years back. We mention that because that’s what the Sedona’s overall look reminds us of. Both vans feature a cargo van look with flat sides and a large area of glass. Where the Sedona differs from the Quest is the front end. There is a distinctive grille insert surrounded by chrome. A set of trapezoidal headlights flank either side with a strand of LEDs splitting the middle and running towards the outer edge. The Sedona’s interior follows the same template as Kia’s larger sedans, the Cadenza and K900, with a modern design and quality materials used throughout. Stepping inside our SXL tester and for a moment, we thought this was a luxury sedan, not a minivan. From the two-tone Nappa leather used on the seats to the solid feeling controls for the infotainment system, the Sedona oozes a lot of class. The Sedona can seat up to eight people through our SXL tester was equipped for seven due to the second row having the optional captain chairs. No matter which row you find yourself in, there is more than enough head and legroom for even the tallest of passengers. Those sitting in the second row of the SXL will be pleased as they can recline and bring up a footrest for that extra level of comfort. But much like the Toyota Sienna which had this feature, there isn’t enough space to pull this off for most passengers. In terms of cargo space, the Sedona isn’t quite as big as the Sienna. With all three rows up, the Sedona offers 33.9 cubic feet of space. Fold the third row down and space increases to 78.4. With the second row down, space measures 142 cubic feet. For comparison, the Sienna offers about eight more cubic feet of space. There’s also one specific problem for the Sedona SXL. The second-row seats cannot do the Slide-n-Stow (Kia’s name for the folding seat system) or be removed from the van because they are locked into place. This means you will lose a bit more cargo space. If you do want the maximum cargo space in your Sedona, stick with one of the lower trims. The Sedona SXL also came equipped with the latest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system. As we have written in previous Kia reviews, this system is one of the best in terms of overall usability and performance. A simple interface with large touchpoints and redundant buttons is paired with quick performance in terms of moving from various functions to figuring our directions for the navigation. A number of OEMs would be wise to study Kia’s system. For power, the Sedona uses the 3.3L V6 found in the Cadenza and Sorento crossover. This V6 produces 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission gets power to the front wheels. The V6 moves the Sedona without any complaints. The automatic transmission provided smooth shifts and was quick to downshift whenever more power was needed, such as making a pass. In terms of fuel economy, the Sedona SXL is rated at 17 City/22 Highway/19 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 20.3 MPG. Now it should be noted that lower trims of the Sedona return better fuel economy numbers of 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined thanks to lower curb weights. The Sedona’s ride quality is comfortable on most road surfaces, although the nineteen-inch wheels on our SXL tester did let in a few bumps. Road and wind noise were kept to a minimum. Despite the large size of the Sedona, we found it to be quite maneuverable thanks to light steering and an around-view camera system that provided different views to help us to get into tight parking spaces. Handling characteristics are what you would expect in a minivan, a fair amount of lean and not that much feel from the steering. If you want a little bit of sport in a minivan, then look at the Dodge Grand Caravan or Honda Odyssey. The Kia Sedona comes as a bit of surprise in the minivan marketplace. While the likes Dodge, Honda, and Toyota have a tight grasp on the class, Kia uses the formula that has propelled it to the spotlight time and time again; offering a sleek design with loads of equipment that won’t break the bank. Whether that makes a difference in the sales chart remains to be seen. But if you are considering a minivan and want to stand out from the usual suspects, the Sedona is very much worth your consideration. Disclaimer: Kia provided the Sedona SXL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Kia Model: Sedona Trim: SXL Engine: 3.3L DOHC GDI CVVT V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 276 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/22/19 Curb Weight: 4,720 lbs Location of Manufacture: South Korea Base Price: $39,700 As Tested Price: $43,295 (Includes $985.00 Destination Charge) Options: SXL Technology Package - $2,700.00
  25. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Lexus NX 300h AWD

    The big thing for luxury automakers for the past ten to fifteen years has been the crossover. First was the midsize crossover. Then came the full-size. Now the latest craze is compact crossovers. Many luxury automakers have been introducing them within the past few years as a way to draw buyers in. The latest one is Lexus with the NX crossover. This small luxury crossover hopes to carve a nice slice of a growing market. We recently spent a week with the NX 300h to see if it has a chance of pulling this off. The NX’s overall shape looks to be a smaller version of the last-generation RX crossover mixed with some elements of Lexus’ L-Finesse design language. The front end boasts Lexus’ spindle grille paired with slim headlights. The side profile boasts a fair amount of sculpting on the fenders and on the lower door panels. Seventeen-inch wheels come standard, while our tester came equipped with the optional eighteen-inch wheels. Overall, the NX seems to work with the current design language without looking like a complete mess. For the NX’s interior, Lexus made sure there was a fair amount of luxury appointments throughout. There is a fair amount of leather used on the dash, door panels, and center console. Many surfaces also feature stitching to increase the premium feeling. The front seats provided an excellent level of comfort thanks to the power adjustments and amount of padding used. Rear seat passengers will find a decent of legroom, but headroom is slightly tight. Where the NX falls flat is in cargo space. The NX 300h only offers 16.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 53.7 cubic feet with the seats down. Now some this can be attributed to the batteries used on the hybrid version. But the standard NX isn’t that much bigger (17.7 and 54.6 cubic feet respectively), mostly due to the sloping roofline. Like the RC 350 coupe we drove earlier, the NX 300h features the latest iteration of Lexus Remote Touch which swaps the joystick controller for a touchpad. We found the touchpad to be noticeably better than the joystick with moving around and choosing various functions. But we still had some issues with a slight delay of the cursor moving after moving our finger across the pad. We hope Lexus addresses this in a future update for the infotainment system. The NX 300h uses the same hybrid powertrain as seen on the ES 300h, a 2.5L inline-four paired with an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total output stands at 194 horsepower. This comes paired to a CVT to either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models get an additional electric motor on the rear axle to provide the added traction. Lethargic is the best word to describe the NX 300h’s ability to get up to speed. The powertrain seems unwilling to get up to speed at a rate that would satisfy most drivers. You’ll end up having your foot almost planted to the floor to get the powertrain to move the vehicle at a somewhat decent clip. But this also brings a lot droning from the CVT. The NX 300h does regain some points back in a couple of areas. One is the ability to run on electric power only at speeds below 25 MPH. This is perfect for driving in parking lots or in neighborhoods. The other is fuel economy. The EPA rates the NX 300h AWD at 33 City/30 Highway/32 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 31.6 MPG. As for driving, the NX 300h feels balanced. Over the potholed and rough roads of Detroit, the NX 300h felt composed. Bumps were largely isolated and the cabin was as quiet as a library. In the corners, the NX showed very little body roll and felt planted. We did wish the steering didn’t feel rubbery. The Lexus NX 300h is an odd species. On one hand, the NX is very well done for being Lexus’ first compact crossover. The model boasts distinctive exterior styling, well-appointed interior, and a balance between sport and comfort. But the NX 300h has a number of comprises as well. The most apparent is powertrain which feels and sounds quite underpowered. Not helping is a small cargo area and an expensive price tag. The NX 300h starts at $40,645 for the front-wheel drive version and $41,310 for the all-wheel drive version. This about $5,000 more than the NX 200t and we can’t think of any reason aside from the improved fuel economy that you should spend the extra money on the hybrid. You’re better off sticking with the regular NX 200t and having that extra $5,000 going towards some options. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the NX 300h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Lexus Model: NX Trim: 300h AWD Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Dual VVT-i Antkinson Cycle Inline-Four, 650V AC Electric Motor Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 154 @ 5,700 (Gas), 141 @ 0 (Electric), 194 (Total Output) Torque @ RPM: 152 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 33/30/32 Curb Weight: 4,189 lbs Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan Base Price: $41,310 As Tested Price: $52,013 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: Luxury Package - $4,465.00 Navigation Package - $2,140.00 Pre-Collison System w/All-Speed Cruise Control - $900.00 Electrochromic (Auto-Dimming) Outer Mirrors with Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Reverse Tilt, Heated, Memory - $660.00 Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00 60/40 Power Folding Rear Seats - $400.00 Qi-Compatible Wireless Charger - $220.00 Electrochromic (Auto-Dimming) Rear View Mirror and Lexus Homelink Garage Door Opener - $125.00 Cargo Mat - $99.00 Cargo Net - $69.00

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