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Found 271 results

  1. ccap's 2016 Focus

    Hey-o, I haven't really started a running thread for the new car yet so here it is. I think I owned the car for 8 days when I had my windows tinted 20% all the way around. I cannot stand driving a car w/o tint or the look of a vehicle w/o tint. This is about the only "before" picture I have of it. Only a few days and $270 later... There was actually one thing I bought prior to buying a car that I wanted in my next vehicle... a dash cam. After the accident and knowing that had I not had a witness stop and give their side of the story it could have been a hell hole of he-said she-said.. So I did a little research and bought a Spytec A119 w/ the GPS(you can get it w/o the GPS). Super clean and muuuuch easier install than I expected. The only wires exposed are coming from the center console down and then again from the headliner to the cam itself. The rest is completely hidden. A view from the driver's seat... I don't see it at all. That's exactly what I wanted to keep it from being a distraction. A view from the outside. It's very difficult to see. This past week I finally ordered and received my wheels and tires. This is the first vehicle I've ever actually gone through with changing them as I've always wanted to on all of my vehicles. I went with a 18x8 Konig Oversteer wrapped in a 225/45ZR18 Continental ExtremeContact DW. I'll be using the OE setup for the winter months. I'll get better pictures of the wheels when I get home. OE wheel/tire combo = 47lbs New wheel/tire combo = 42.5lbs I think the only other thing that I would really like to do is wrap the chrome door outline in black or a black chrome.
  2. 2016… What a year. This year saw a number of things that no one thought would actually happen did. Not helping matters is the number of famous people that have sadly passed on. Here at the Cheers & Gears Detroit Bureau, it wasn’t such a great year for vehicles. For the 2016 review season, 44 vehicles came in for evaluation. Out of this group, only eight vehicles earned a spot of being my favorite vehicles from the year. Read on to see which vehicles made the cut. 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe It is amazing how far Cadillac has come in the past decade and proof of it can be shown in the ATS- V coupe. A 464 horsepower twin-turbo V6 makes the vehicle fly with no issue. A set of sticky tires and adjustable dampers show the ATS-V is just as capable, maybe more so than its German counterparts. But it can also provide decent ride around town if you set the dampers into a comfort mode. Then there is the look. I’m not usually a fan of red, but it looks killer on the ATS-V coupe. It pairs quite nicely with sharp angles and a low roofline This was one of the models where I found myself grinning from ear to ear because of how much fun I had. 2016 Chevrolet Volt It is amazing how far Chevrolet has come with the Volt. Five years ago, the Volt was this odd looking vehicle with a clever powertrain that made range anxiety nonexistent. Yes, 35 miles of electric-only range didn’t seem like a lot. However, the gas generator acted as an insurance policy if you ran out of juice with the battery. Flash forward to this year and Volt has not only seen an increase in overall range to 53 miles, but it has also gotten sleeker. This is currently my favorite looking Chevrolet vehicle with the new Cruze a close second. Other plus points include an improved interior and smooth ride. The new Bolt is currently basking in the spotlight that the Volt was at one time. But let us not forget the Volt is one of the key reasons why the Bolt exists. 2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack & SRT Hellcat Dodge covered the two extremes of performance this season with the Charger R/T Scat Pack and Hellcat. The Scat Pack was first up and I fell in love with it. For almost $40,000, you basically got an SRT Charger minus the adaptive suspension and number of luxury items. It was great fun with the 6.4L HEMI V8 bellowing down the road and the sharp looking Plum Crazy paint color. I found that you really don’t need the adaptive suspension as the Scat Pack does ok on bumpy roads or curvy roads. Then we come to the Charger SRT Hellcat. 707 horsepower from a supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8. It seems maddening that we are given a vehicle with all of this power for a price tag under $66,000. Trying to describe the way the Hellcat goes is difficult and something you need to experience. This is a vehicle that will make you laugh like a small child every time you decide to drop the hammer to hear the whir of the supercharger and manic sound of the V8. 2016 Kia Optima SXL It is no secret that the Kia Optima is one of my favorite midsize sedans. It offers distinctive looks and feature set at a price that will surprise many. But it was set to fall off my list earlier this year when I drove the Optima EX. The big issues were an uncomfortable ride and poor noise isolation. So when I found out that the top of line SXL was scheduled later in the year, I was worried that it would be plagued by the same issues. But those issues never appeared. The SXL was not only quiet but showed a noticeable improvement in terms of ride comfort. I still don’t know what black magic Kia did on the SXL, but it kept the Optima on my favorites list. Now if they could work on the lazy throttle… 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata “Sometimes to fully test a vehicle, you need to put it in a situation where it isn’t fully comfortable.” That was the case for the Mazda MX-5 Miata as it would not be only driven in the middle of one of the coldest winters in Michigan, but it would also be taking me to and from the Detroit Auto Show. Crazy? Of course. But the MX-5 Miata was wearing a set of winter tires which helped it stick to the road. Despite the cold temps and snow that would fall during the latter half of the week, the MX-5 Miata proved to be just as fun as it would have been in warmer weather. Sharp handling, an engine that loved to rev, and a slick six-speed manual transmission. It didn’t hurt that I could actually fit my suitcase into the trunk of the Miata for the show. 2016 Scion iA I have a trend of driving brands or vehicles that will be ending. Most infamously was the time when I drove a Suzuki SX4 for review and then hearing the news of the brand leaving a couple of days after returning it. That was the case of the Scion iA. A few months after driving the iA, Toyota announced that it was shuttering the brand. Some of the vehicles, like the iA would continue as Toyotas. This was a smart move as the iA proved to be a winner. Being a rebadged Mazda2 was a big reason as to why I liked the iA. It was a fun vehicle to drive around town or on a special road. But it also featured a lot of standard equipment including automatic emergency braking. While the brand is gone, it is good to see the iA lives on. 2016 Toyota Prius Three I have never been a fan of the Prius family. Every Prius that I have reviewed left me wondering who decided to start selling a science experiment and not an actual vehicle. But the 2016 Prius is my biggest shock of the year. Yes, the Prius will take its time getting up to speed on the freeway. But around town, the Prius was a spritely performer. More surprising was how well the Prius drove. Taking a corner, I was expecting to experience motion sickness because of how much body roll previous models had. But the Prius took it like a champ showing little body and some decent steering - thank the new TGNA architecture. It doesn’t hurt that I got 60.2 mpg as my average for the week. Well done Toyota. 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen If there is one shining light at Volkswagen, it would have to be the Golf family. Last year, I named the Golf GTI as one of my favorites. This year, that honor falls to the SportWagen. Yes, it isn’t the sharpest looking vehicle in the class and the DSG transmission needs some more work. But Volkswagen got the basics right. The 1.8T is powerful and delivers excellent fuel economy. The interior spacious for both passengers and cargo - I was able to fit two massive Ikea boxes into it. Volkswagen also mastered the dark art of balancing fun to drive with comfort. I could take the Golf SportWagen down a windy road and be entertained. Afterward, I could drive it around town and not feel any road imperfections. There you go, the eight vehicles that earned a coveted spot on my favorites list. Now it should be noted that some vehicles we’re close to getting onto this list, but were kicked off for one reason or another. Here are those vehicles, Chevrolet Malibu 2LT: Chevrolet did an excellent job with the new Malibu with fixing a number of issues that plagued the old model. But the 2LT introduced a new set of problems - questionable materials, poor road noise isolation, and the lack of options. I really do like the new Malibu, just not in 2LT form. Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible: Loved the V8 performance and noise. Hate the $54,000 pricetag. This might explain why GM has such a large amount of Camaros sitting on dealers. Hyundai Elantra: Hyundai played it safe with the updated Elantra and this would have been ok a couple of years ago. But in light of the redesigned Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic, it wasn’t enough for the Elantra to be a strong contender as it once was. Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X: This was a truck I really wanted to like. Nissan was trying something different with the Titan XD - offer something between a light-duty and heavy-duty pickup. Plus, a nice Cummins V8 diesel could have been the cheery on top. But trying to convince someone that your truck is the best is difficult since truck buyers tend to stick with one brand. Not helping is the lack of cab and bed sizes. At the time of our original review, the XD was only available as a crew cab. A regular cab has been since introduced. But it seems Nissan doesn’t fully understand the truck market. You need to have a lot of options available to buyers at launch, not down the road. View full article
  3. Afterthoughts: My Favorites of 2016

    2016… What a year. This year saw a number of things that no one thought would actually happen did. Not helping matters is the number of famous people that have sadly passed on. Here at the Cheers & Gears Detroit Bureau, it wasn’t such a great year for vehicles. For the 2016 review season, 44 vehicles came in for evaluation. Out of this group, only eight vehicles earned a spot of being my favorite vehicles from the year. Read on to see which vehicles made the cut. 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe It is amazing how far Cadillac has come in the past decade and proof of it can be shown in the ATS- V coupe. A 464 horsepower twin-turbo V6 makes the vehicle fly with no issue. A set of sticky tires and adjustable dampers show the ATS-V is just as capable, maybe more so than its German counterparts. But it can also provide decent ride around town if you set the dampers into a comfort mode. Then there is the look. I’m not usually a fan of red, but it looks killer on the ATS-V coupe. It pairs quite nicely with sharp angles and a low roofline This was one of the models where I found myself grinning from ear to ear because of how much fun I had. 2016 Chevrolet Volt It is amazing how far Chevrolet has come with the Volt. Five years ago, the Volt was this odd looking vehicle with a clever powertrain that made range anxiety nonexistent. Yes, 35 miles of electric-only range didn’t seem like a lot. However, the gas generator acted as an insurance policy if you ran out of juice with the battery. Flash forward to this year and Volt has not only seen an increase in overall range to 53 miles, but it has also gotten sleeker. This is currently my favorite looking Chevrolet vehicle with the new Cruze a close second. Other plus points include an improved interior and smooth ride. The new Bolt is currently basking in the spotlight that the Volt was at one time. But let us not forget the Volt is one of the key reasons why the Bolt exists. 2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack & SRT Hellcat Dodge covered the two extremes of performance this season with the Charger R/T Scat Pack and Hellcat. The Scat Pack was first up and I fell in love with it. For almost $40,000, you basically got an SRT Charger minus the adaptive suspension and number of luxury items. It was great fun with the 6.4L HEMI V8 bellowing down the road and the sharp looking Plum Crazy paint color. I found that you really don’t need the adaptive suspension as the Scat Pack does ok on bumpy roads or curvy roads. Then we come to the Charger SRT Hellcat. 707 horsepower from a supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8. It seems maddening that we are given a vehicle with all of this power for a price tag under $66,000. Trying to describe the way the Hellcat goes is difficult and something you need to experience. This is a vehicle that will make you laugh like a small child every time you decide to drop the hammer to hear the whir of the supercharger and manic sound of the V8. 2016 Kia Optima SXL It is no secret that the Kia Optima is one of my favorite midsize sedans. It offers distinctive looks and feature set at a price that will surprise many. But it was set to fall off my list earlier this year when I drove the Optima EX. The big issues were an uncomfortable ride and poor noise isolation. So when I found out that the top of line SXL was scheduled later in the year, I was worried that it would be plagued by the same issues. But those issues never appeared. The SXL was not only quiet but showed a noticeable improvement in terms of ride comfort. I still don’t know what black magic Kia did on the SXL, but it kept the Optima on my favorites list. Now if they could work on the lazy throttle… 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata “Sometimes to fully test a vehicle, you need to put it in a situation where it isn’t fully comfortable.” That was the case for the Mazda MX-5 Miata as it would not be only driven in the middle of one of the coldest winters in Michigan, but it would also be taking me to and from the Detroit Auto Show. Crazy? Of course. But the MX-5 Miata was wearing a set of winter tires which helped it stick to the road. Despite the cold temps and snow that would fall during the latter half of the week, the MX-5 Miata proved to be just as fun as it would have been in warmer weather. Sharp handling, an engine that loved to rev, and a slick six-speed manual transmission. It didn’t hurt that I could actually fit my suitcase into the trunk of the Miata for the show. 2016 Scion iA I have a trend of driving brands or vehicles that will be ending. Most infamously was the time when I drove a Suzuki SX4 for review and then hearing the news of the brand leaving a couple of days after returning it. That was the case of the Scion iA. A few months after driving the iA, Toyota announced that it was shuttering the brand. Some of the vehicles, like the iA would continue as Toyotas. This was a smart move as the iA proved to be a winner. Being a rebadged Mazda2 was a big reason as to why I liked the iA. It was a fun vehicle to drive around town or on a special road. But it also featured a lot of standard equipment including automatic emergency braking. While the brand is gone, it is good to see the iA lives on. 2016 Toyota Prius Three I have never been a fan of the Prius family. Every Prius that I have reviewed left me wondering who decided to start selling a science experiment and not an actual vehicle. But the 2016 Prius is my biggest shock of the year. Yes, the Prius will take its time getting up to speed on the freeway. But around town, the Prius was a spritely performer. More surprising was how well the Prius drove. Taking a corner, I was expecting to experience motion sickness because of how much body roll previous models had. But the Prius took it like a champ showing little body and some decent steering - thank the new TGNA architecture. It doesn’t hurt that I got 60.2 mpg as my average for the week. Well done Toyota. 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen If there is one shining light at Volkswagen, it would have to be the Golf family. Last year, I named the Golf GTI as one of my favorites. This year, that honor falls to the SportWagen. Yes, it isn’t the sharpest looking vehicle in the class and the DSG transmission needs some more work. But Volkswagen got the basics right. The 1.8T is powerful and delivers excellent fuel economy. The interior spacious for both passengers and cargo - I was able to fit two massive Ikea boxes into it. Volkswagen also mastered the dark art of balancing fun to drive with comfort. I could take the Golf SportWagen down a windy road and be entertained. Afterward, I could drive it around town and not feel any road imperfections. There you go, the eight vehicles that earned a coveted spot on my favorites list. Now it should be noted that some vehicles we’re close to getting onto this list, but were kicked off for one reason or another. Here are those vehicles, Chevrolet Malibu 2LT: Chevrolet did an excellent job with the new Malibu with fixing a number of issues that plagued the old model. But the 2LT introduced a new set of problems - questionable materials, poor road noise isolation, and the lack of options. I really do like the new Malibu, just not in 2LT form. Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible: Loved the V8 performance and noise. Hate the $54,000 pricetag. This might explain why GM has such a large amount of Camaros sitting on dealers. Hyundai Elantra: Hyundai played it safe with the updated Elantra and this would have been ok a couple of years ago. But in light of the redesigned Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic, it wasn’t enough for the Elantra to be a strong contender as it once was. Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X: This was a truck I really wanted to like. Nissan was trying something different with the Titan XD - offer something between a light-duty and heavy-duty pickup. Plus, a nice Cummins V8 diesel could have been the cheery on top. But trying to convince someone that your truck is the best is difficult since truck buyers tend to stick with one brand. Not helping is the lack of cab and bed sizes. At the time of our original review, the XD was only available as a crew cab. A regular cab has been since introduced. But it seems Nissan doesn’t fully understand the truck market. You need to have a lot of options available to buyers at launch, not down the road.
  4. Last fall, I had the chance to drive a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack for a week and fell in love. It was basically an SRT Charger, minus a few items for just under $40,000. This fall, another high-performance Charger came in a week’s stay and it was packing more heat. 707 horsepower to be exact. Yes, I finally got my hands on a Hellcat. What was it like? It was fast, but you want more information than that. That 707 horsepower figure comes courtesy from a 6.2L supercharged HEMI V8. Torque is rated at 650 pound-feet.This is backed up by an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, then you’ll need to get the Challenger Hellcat. Trying to explain just how fast the Charger Hellcat is difficult. This is a car that you need to drive or sit in to experience the ferocity of the V8 engine. The best way I can use to describe the Hellcat’s power delivery is engaging warp drive. Step on the accelerator and the supercharger whirrs into life and the V8 produces a roar very few vehicles can dream. Blink and you’ll be at an illegal speed before you know it. Taking turns in the Hellcat is somewhat difficult because of the accelerator. You need to roll on it if you want to do it smoothly. If you step on the accelerator pedal like you would on a standard vehicle, the back will become very loose and the stability control will kick on to get the vehicle straightened out. This is especially important due to the tires fitted to Hellcat, a set of Pirelli P-Zeros. These tires need to be warmed up before they begin to bite the road. The Hellcat will be a regular at the fuel pump with fuel economy figures of 13 City/22 Highway/16 Combined. I got about 14.3 mpg during my week in mostly city driving. Handling? That’s the surprising part as the Charger Hellcat doesn’t embarrass itself. Fitted with an adaptive suspension system, the Charger Hellcat shows little body roll when put into Sport and provides a smooth ride when in comfort. The steering system provides the right amount of feel and heft you want in a performance vehicle. Bringing a 707 horsepower vehicle to a stop is no easy task, but a set of massive Brembo brakes is up to the task. It brings the Charger Hellcat to a quick halt. The Charger Hellcat looks like your standard SRT Charger with a new front clip and lowered stance. There are some slight differences such as a new hood, 20-inch wheels finished in a dark bronze color, and the requisite Hellcat emblems on the front fenders. Inside, the Hellcat isn’t that much different from the standard Charger aside from the speedometer going 200 mph. It would have been nice if Dodge could have done some sprucing of the interior to not make it feel so dank and dark. A little bit more color on the dash would not be a bad thing. The front seats have extra bolstering to hold you in when you decide to let loose all 707 horsepower or take a turn a bit too fast. As I mentioned in my Ram 1500 Quick Drive last week, the Charger’s UConnect system is beginning to show its age. The interface is still easy to use but is beginning to show signs of aging. Performance isn’t as snappy either as in previous FCA models. Hopefully, the 2017 model is able to get the updated UConnect system that debuted in the Pacifica. The UConnect system in the Charger Hellcat does come with SRT Pages. This allows you to record 0-60, quarter-mile, and reaction times. It also allows you to change various performance settings such as gear changes, suspension, and whether you want the full 707 horsepower or 500. The last one pertains if you happen to have the red key. In terms of pricing, the Charger Hellcat kicks off at $65,495. With options and a $1,700 gas guzzler tax, our tester came to $72,820. Compared to other high-performance sedans, the Hellcat is quite the steal. If it was my money on the line, I would go for the Charger R/T Scat Pack. I get most of the enjoyment of the Hellcat, minus the supercharger whine. But I would have a fair chunk of change that I could spend on hopping it up. But I understand why someone would go for the Charger Hellcat. It is a four-door sedan that provides explosive acceleration and engine note that no other vehicle can dare match. There’s something magical about stepping on the accelerator, being flung back into the seat due to power on tap, and then laughing like a four-year old after what happened. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Charger Hellcat, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas (Author’s Note: That’s a wrap for the 2016 review season. We’ll be back with the first batch of 2017 model year vehicles after New Years. But I will be picking my favorite vehicles I drove this year. Expect to see that before the year comes to a close.) Year: 2016 Make: Dodge Model: Charger Trim: SRT Hellcat Engine: Supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8 Driveline: Eight-speed automatic, Rear-wheel drive Horsepower @ RPM: 707 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 650 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/22/16 Curb Weight: 4,570 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $65,945 As Tested Price: $72,820 (Includes $995 Destination Charge and $1,700 Gas Guzzler Tax) Options: Customer Preferred Package 23T - $1,995.00 20-inch x 9.5-inch Brass Monkey SRT Forged Wheels - $995.00 275/40ZR20 P Zero Summer Tires - $595.00 Redline Red Tri-coat Pearl Exterior Paint - $595.00 View full article
  5. Quick Drive: 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

    Last fall, I had the chance to drive a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack for a week and fell in love. It was basically an SRT Charger, minus a few items for just under $40,000. This fall, another high-performance Charger came in a week’s stay and it was packing more heat. 707 horsepower to be exact. Yes, I finally got my hands on a Hellcat. What was it like? It was fast, but you want more information than that. That 707 horsepower figure comes courtesy from a 6.2L supercharged HEMI V8. Torque is rated at 650 pound-feet.This is backed up by an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, then you’ll need to get the Challenger Hellcat. Trying to explain just how fast the Charger Hellcat is difficult. This is a car that you need to drive or sit in to experience the ferocity of the V8 engine. The best way I can use to describe the Hellcat’s power delivery is engaging warp drive. Step on the accelerator and the supercharger whirrs into life and the V8 produces a roar very few vehicles can dream. Blink and you’ll be at an illegal speed before you know it. Taking turns in the Hellcat is somewhat difficult because of the accelerator. You need to roll on it if you want to do it smoothly. If you step on the accelerator pedal like you would on a standard vehicle, the back will become very loose and the stability control will kick on to get the vehicle straightened out. This is especially important due to the tires fitted to Hellcat, a set of Pirelli P-Zeros. These tires need to be warmed up before they begin to bite the road. The Hellcat will be a regular at the fuel pump with fuel economy figures of 13 City/22 Highway/16 Combined. I got about 14.3 mpg during my week in mostly city driving. Handling? That’s the surprising part as the Charger Hellcat doesn’t embarrass itself. Fitted with an adaptive suspension system, the Charger Hellcat shows little body roll when put into Sport and provides a smooth ride when in comfort. The steering system provides the right amount of feel and heft you want in a performance vehicle. Bringing a 707 horsepower vehicle to a stop is no easy task, but a set of massive Brembo brakes is up to the task. It brings the Charger Hellcat to a quick halt. The Charger Hellcat looks like your standard SRT Charger with a new front clip and lowered stance. There are some slight differences such as a new hood, 20-inch wheels finished in a dark bronze color, and the requisite Hellcat emblems on the front fenders. Inside, the Hellcat isn’t that much different from the standard Charger aside from the speedometer going 200 mph. It would have been nice if Dodge could have done some sprucing of the interior to not make it feel so dank and dark. A little bit more color on the dash would not be a bad thing. The front seats have extra bolstering to hold you in when you decide to let loose all 707 horsepower or take a turn a bit too fast. As I mentioned in my Ram 1500 Quick Drive last week, the Charger’s UConnect system is beginning to show its age. The interface is still easy to use but is beginning to show signs of aging. Performance isn’t as snappy either as in previous FCA models. Hopefully, the 2017 model is able to get the updated UConnect system that debuted in the Pacifica. The UConnect system in the Charger Hellcat does come with SRT Pages. This allows you to record 0-60, quarter-mile, and reaction times. It also allows you to change various performance settings such as gear changes, suspension, and whether you want the full 707 horsepower or 500. The last one pertains if you happen to have the red key. In terms of pricing, the Charger Hellcat kicks off at $65,495. With options and a $1,700 gas guzzler tax, our tester came to $72,820. Compared to other high-performance sedans, the Hellcat is quite the steal. If it was my money on the line, I would go for the Charger R/T Scat Pack. I get most of the enjoyment of the Hellcat, minus the supercharger whine. But I would have a fair chunk of change that I could spend on hopping it up. But I understand why someone would go for the Charger Hellcat. It is a four-door sedan that provides explosive acceleration and engine note that no other vehicle can dare match. There’s something magical about stepping on the accelerator, being flung back into the seat due to power on tap, and then laughing like a four-year old after what happened. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Charger Hellcat, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas (Author’s Note: That’s a wrap for the 2016 review season. We’ll be back with the first batch of 2017 model year vehicles after New Years. But I will be picking my favorite vehicles I drove this year. Expect to see that before the year comes to a close.) Year: 2016 Make: Dodge Model: Charger Trim: SRT Hellcat Engine: Supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8 Driveline: Eight-speed automatic, Rear-wheel drive Horsepower @ RPM: 707 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 650 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/22/16 Curb Weight: 4,570 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $65,945 As Tested Price: $72,820 (Includes $995 Destination Charge and $1,700 Gas Guzzler Tax) Options: Customer Preferred Package 23T - $1,995.00 20-inch x 9.5-inch Brass Monkey SRT Forged Wheels - $995.00 275/40ZR20 P Zero Summer Tires - $595.00 Redline Red Tri-coat Pearl Exterior Paint - $595.00
  6. Like life, reviewing vehicles sometimes mean having a curveball thrown your way. Originally, I was going to be reviewing the Chrysler 200 before its production run would end. Sadly, the 200 was pulled out of Chrysler’s test fleet before I was able to drive. But sometimes, that curveball can be a positive. In this case, a Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn would take its place. More importantly, it would be equipped with the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6. We like this engine in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. How would it fare in the Ram 1500? Quite well. The EcoDiesel V6 in question is a turbocharged 3.0L with 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Our test truck came with four-wheel drive, but you can order the EcoDiesel with two-wheel drive. The EcoDiesel might not have the roar or performance figures of the 5.7L V8 (0-60 takes about 9 seconds for the diesel compared to just a hair over 7 seconds for the V8), but it is a very capable engine. There is a lot of punch on the low end of the rpm band and the engine never feels that it is running out of breath the higher you climb in speed. You can tell the EcoDiesel is a diesel during start up as it has distinctive clatter. Also, it takes a few seconds for the engine to start up if you let the truck sit for awhile. But once the engine is going, you can’t really tell its a diesel. Whether you’re standing outside or sitting inside, the V6 is quiet and smooth. The eight-speed automatic is one of the best transmissions in the class as it delivers imperceptible gear changes. In terms of towing, the EcoDiesel V6 has a max tow rating of 9,210 pounds (regular cab with 2WD). The crew cab with 4WD drops the max tow rating to 8,610 pounds. This does trail the V8 considerably (max tow rating of 10,640). But the EcoDiesel makes up for this in terms of fuel economy. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 19 City/27 Highway/22 Combined for the EcoDiesel equipped 4WD. Our average for the week was a not too shabby 23.4 mpg. This generation of the Ram 1500 has garnered a reputation for having one of the best rides in the class. We can’t disagree. The coil-spring setup on the rear suspension smooths out bumps and other road imperfections very well. Our truck also featured the optional air suspension which is more focused on improving the capability of the pickup and not ride comfort. There are five different ride height settings that allow for easier access when getting in and out of a truck to increasing ground clearance when going off-road. The air suspension will also level out the truck if there is a heavy load in the bed or pulling a trailer. The Ram 1500’s exterior look hasn’t really changed much since we reviewed one back in 2014. Up front is a large crosshair grille finished in chrome and large rectangular headlights with LED daytime running lights. The Laramie Longhorn features it own design cues such as two-tone paint finish, 20-inch wheels, and large badges on the front doors telling everyone which model of Ram you happen to be driving. Inside, the Laramie Longhorn is well appointed with real wood trim on the dash and steering wheel, high-quality leather upholstery for the seats, and acres of soft-touch plastics. Some will snicker at the seat pockets that are designed to look saddle bags, complete with a chrome clasp. Comfort-wise, the Laramie Longhorn’s interior scores very high. The seats provide excellent support for long trips, and no one sitting in the back will be complaining about the lack of head and legroom. One nice touch is all of the seats getting heat as standard equipment, while the front seats get ventilation as well. The UConnect system is beginning to show its age with an interface that is looking somewhat dated and certain tasks taking a few seconds more than previous versions. There is an updated UConnect system that debuted on the 2017 Pacifica with a tweaked interface and quicker performance. Hopefully, this is in the cards for the 2017 Ram 1500. As for pricing, the Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4 comes with a base price $52,365. With options including the 3.0L EcoDiesel, our as-tested price was $60,060. Sadly this is the new reality for pickup trucks. Many buyers want the luxuries and features found on standard vehicles and are willing to pay for it. The Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4 can justify the price for what it offers, but it is still a lot of money to drop. The nice thing about the Ram 1500 is the number of trims on offer. You’ll be able to find a model that should fit your needs and price range. Personally, I would be happy with a Big Horn or Laramie as they would offer everything I would want or need in a truck. But if you want something luxurious with a cowboy twist, you can’t go wrong with Laramie Longhorn. The EcoDiesel is just the cherry on top. Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the 1500, Insurance, and One Tank of Diesel Year: 2016 Make: Ram Trucks Model: 1500 Crew Cab Trim: Laramie Longhorn Engine: 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 3,600 Torque @ RPM: 420 @ 2,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/27/22 Curb Weight: N/A Location of Manufacture: Warren, MI Base Price: $52,365 As Tested Price: $60,060 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge) Options: 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 - $3,120.00 4-Corner Air Suspension - $1,695.00 Wheel to Wheel Side Steps - $600.00 Convenience Group - $495.00 Trailer Brake Control - $280.00 Cold Weather Group - $235.00 3.92 Rear Axle Ratio - $75.00 View full article
  7. Quick Drive: 2016 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn

    Like life, reviewing vehicles sometimes mean having a curveball thrown your way. Originally, I was going to be reviewing the Chrysler 200 before its production run would end. Sadly, the 200 was pulled out of Chrysler’s test fleet before I was able to drive. But sometimes, that curveball can be a positive. In this case, a Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn would take its place. More importantly, it would be equipped with the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6. We like this engine in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. How would it fare in the Ram 1500? Quite well. The EcoDiesel V6 in question is a turbocharged 3.0L with 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Our test truck came with four-wheel drive, but you can order the EcoDiesel with two-wheel drive. The EcoDiesel might not have the roar or performance figures of the 5.7L V8 (0-60 takes about 9 seconds for the diesel compared to just a hair over 7 seconds for the V8), but it is a very capable engine. There is a lot of punch on the low end of the rpm band and the engine never feels that it is running out of breath the higher you climb in speed. You can tell the EcoDiesel is a diesel during start up as it has distinctive clatter. Also, it takes a few seconds for the engine to start up if you let the truck sit for awhile. But once the engine is going, you can’t really tell its a diesel. Whether you’re standing outside or sitting inside, the V6 is quiet and smooth. The eight-speed automatic is one of the best transmissions in the class as it delivers imperceptible gear changes. In terms of towing, the EcoDiesel V6 has a max tow rating of 9,210 pounds (regular cab with 2WD). The crew cab with 4WD drops the max tow rating to 8,610 pounds. This does trail the V8 considerably (max tow rating of 10,640). But the EcoDiesel makes up for this in terms of fuel economy. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 19 City/27 Highway/22 Combined for the EcoDiesel equipped 4WD. Our average for the week was a not too shabby 23.4 mpg. This generation of the Ram 1500 has garnered a reputation for having one of the best rides in the class. We can’t disagree. The coil-spring setup on the rear suspension smooths out bumps and other road imperfections very well. Our truck also featured the optional air suspension which is more focused on improving the capability of the pickup and not ride comfort. There are five different ride height settings that allow for easier access when getting in and out of a truck to increasing ground clearance when going off-road. The air suspension will also level out the truck if there is a heavy load in the bed or pulling a trailer. The Ram 1500’s exterior look hasn’t really changed much since we reviewed one back in 2014. Up front is a large crosshair grille finished in chrome and large rectangular headlights with LED daytime running lights. The Laramie Longhorn features it own design cues such as two-tone paint finish, 20-inch wheels, and large badges on the front doors telling everyone which model of Ram you happen to be driving. Inside, the Laramie Longhorn is well appointed with real wood trim on the dash and steering wheel, high-quality leather upholstery for the seats, and acres of soft-touch plastics. Some will snicker at the seat pockets that are designed to look saddle bags, complete with a chrome clasp. Comfort-wise, the Laramie Longhorn’s interior scores very high. The seats provide excellent support for long trips, and no one sitting in the back will be complaining about the lack of head and legroom. One nice touch is all of the seats getting heat as standard equipment, while the front seats get ventilation as well. The UConnect system is beginning to show its age with an interface that is looking somewhat dated and certain tasks taking a few seconds more than previous versions. There is an updated UConnect system that debuted on the 2017 Pacifica with a tweaked interface and quicker performance. Hopefully, this is in the cards for the 2017 Ram 1500. As for pricing, the Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4 comes with a base price $52,365. With options including the 3.0L EcoDiesel, our as-tested price was $60,060. Sadly this is the new reality for pickup trucks. Many buyers want the luxuries and features found on standard vehicles and are willing to pay for it. The Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4 can justify the price for what it offers, but it is still a lot of money to drop. The nice thing about the Ram 1500 is the number of trims on offer. You’ll be able to find a model that should fit your needs and price range. Personally, I would be happy with a Big Horn or Laramie as they would offer everything I would want or need in a truck. But if you want something luxurious with a cowboy twist, you can’t go wrong with Laramie Longhorn. The EcoDiesel is just the cherry on top. Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the 1500, Insurance, and One Tank of Diesel Year: 2016 Make: Ram Trucks Model: 1500 Crew Cab Trim: Laramie Longhorn Engine: 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 3,600 Torque @ RPM: 420 @ 2,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/27/22 Curb Weight: N/A Location of Manufacture: Warren, MI Base Price: $52,365 As Tested Price: $60,060 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge) Options: 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 - $3,120.00 4-Corner Air Suspension - $1,695.00 Wheel to Wheel Side Steps - $600.00 Convenience Group - $495.00 Trailer Brake Control - $280.00 Cold Weather Group - $235.00 3.92 Rear Axle Ratio - $75.00
  8. Quick Drive: 2016 Fiat 500C Abarth

    The last time I drove a Fiat 500C Abarth, it with six-speed automatic. I found it to be quite a cheeky vehicle with an exhaust note that makes you think you’re driving something a bit more powerful and a look that helped it stand out. But I couldn’t help but wonder how the Abarth is with the manual transmission. About a couple of months ago, I slipped behind the wheel of another 500C Abarth, this time with the manual. The end result was a bit of a letdown. The manual transmission in question is a five-speed and it isn’t any fun to use. The throw is somewhat long and imprecise. A few times, I found myself going into the wrong gear because I couldn’t tell where I was in the gear pattern. Not helping matters is the clutch which not only has a long travel, but it isn’t easy to find the takeoff point. This is one of those vehicles where the automatic makes more sense. The turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder produces 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. The engine is quite the performer with power coming on strong at low rpm. Engage the Sport mode and the engine becomes more spritely. Some reviews criticize the 500 Abarth’s suspension for being a bit too soft for a performance model. I really don’t see that as I think the Abarth strikes a good balance between handling and ride comfort. Yes, the Abarth will show a little bit more body roll in the corners. But it doesn’t detract from the quick direction change the vehicle is able to pull off thanks to its short wheelbase. The ride is slightly bouncy over bumps, but it isn’t to the point of annoyance. One area that the Abarth could use some improvement is in the steering. A little bit more road feel and weight would not be a bad thing for a performance hatch. If you happen to be a shrinking violet, then pass on getting the yellow paint like on my tester. The level of ‘LOOK AT ME’ is turned up to 11. Fiat will say the 500C is a convertible, but it is more of a targa - the roof rails and pillars stay up, and the canvas roof folds. But I do like that you can open or close it at speed. Visibility must have a different meaning in Italian than English since the view from the rear is almost nonexistent with the top up or down. The interior hasn’t changed much which is both good and bad. The good is the retro styling that adds a bit of charm. The bad are how the front seats feel like you're sitting on a stool. If there was a height adjustment for the seats or a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel, this would ok. But since there isn’t, you’ll find yourself in a somewhat awkward seating position. As for pricing, the 500C Abarth with the manual begins at $26,695. With options, the as-tested price came to $31,695. The automatic if you wondering adds $1,350 to the price. But there is some good news over the horizon. Fiat will be cutting prices on a number of their models for 2017, with the biggest ones coming to the 500C. It might be worth waiting for the 2017 model since a lower price could make it slightly easier to convince yourself that you can live with something that is quite small, but packs a lot of character. But be sure to go with the automatic. Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 500C Abarth, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Fiat Model: 500C Trim: Abarth Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L 16-Valve MultiAir Four-Cylinder Driveline: Five-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 160 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 170 @ 2,500-4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/34/30 Curb Weight: 2,545 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico Base Price: $26,695 As Tested Price: $31,965 (Includes $995 Destination Charge) Options: 17-inch Forged Aluminum Hyper Black Wheels - $1,400.00 Popular Equipment Package - $975.00 Beats Audio Package - $700.00 Giallo Moderna Perla (Modern Pearl Yellow) - $500.00 Nero (Black) Mirror Cap with Body Side Stripe - $450.00 Nero (Black) Trimmed Lights - $250.00 View full article
  9. Quick Drive: 2016 Fiat 500C Abarth

    The last time I drove a Fiat 500C Abarth, it with six-speed automatic. I found it to be quite a cheeky vehicle with an exhaust note that makes you think you’re driving something a bit more powerful and a look that helped it stand out. But I couldn’t help but wonder how the Abarth is with the manual transmission. About a couple of months ago, I slipped behind the wheel of another 500C Abarth, this time with the manual. The end result was a bit of a letdown. The manual transmission in question is a five-speed and it isn’t any fun to use. The throw is somewhat long and imprecise. A few times, I found myself going into the wrong gear because I couldn’t tell where I was in the gear pattern. Not helping matters is the clutch which not only has a long travel, but it isn’t easy to find the takeoff point. This is one of those vehicles where the automatic makes more sense. The turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder produces 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. The engine is quite the performer with power coming on strong at low rpm. Engage the Sport mode and the engine becomes more spritely. Some reviews criticize the 500 Abarth’s suspension for being a bit too soft for a performance model. I really don’t see that as I think the Abarth strikes a good balance between handling and ride comfort. Yes, the Abarth will show a little bit more body roll in the corners. But it doesn’t detract from the quick direction change the vehicle is able to pull off thanks to its short wheelbase. The ride is slightly bouncy over bumps, but it isn’t to the point of annoyance. One area that the Abarth could use some improvement is in the steering. A little bit more road feel and weight would not be a bad thing for a performance hatch. If you happen to be a shrinking violet, then pass on getting the yellow paint like on my tester. The level of ‘LOOK AT ME’ is turned up to 11. Fiat will say the 500C is a convertible, but it is more of a targa - the roof rails and pillars stay up, and the canvas roof folds. But I do like that you can open or close it at speed. Visibility must have a different meaning in Italian than English since the view from the rear is almost nonexistent with the top up or down. The interior hasn’t changed much which is both good and bad. The good is the retro styling that adds a bit of charm. The bad are how the front seats feel like you're sitting on a stool. If there was a height adjustment for the seats or a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel, this would ok. But since there isn’t, you’ll find yourself in a somewhat awkward seating position. As for pricing, the 500C Abarth with the manual begins at $26,695. With options, the as-tested price came to $31,695. The automatic if you wondering adds $1,350 to the price. But there is some good news over the horizon. Fiat will be cutting prices on a number of their models for 2017, with the biggest ones coming to the 500C. It might be worth waiting for the 2017 model since a lower price could make it slightly easier to convince yourself that you can live with something that is quite small, but packs a lot of character. But be sure to go with the automatic. Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 500C Abarth, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Fiat Model: 500C Trim: Abarth Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L 16-Valve MultiAir Four-Cylinder Driveline: Five-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 160 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 170 @ 2,500-4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/34/30 Curb Weight: 2,545 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico Base Price: $26,695 As Tested Price: $31,965 (Includes $995 Destination Charge) Options: 17-inch Forged Aluminum Hyper Black Wheels - $1,400.00 Popular Equipment Package - $975.00 Beats Audio Package - $700.00 Giallo Moderna Perla (Modern Pearl Yellow) - $500.00 Nero (Black) Mirror Cap with Body Side Stripe - $450.00 Nero (Black) Trimmed Lights - $250.00
  10. Thankful for in 2016!

    Howdy fellow C&G forum members. This week with the debates in many different threads it got me to thinking and I decided why wait till 2017 when we are so close, I wanted to start this sooner rather than later. So please post what you are thankful for in regards to the forum, friends, enemy's family, life in general. Share good and bad of what has made you thankful for in 2016!
  11. Quick Drive: 2016 Kia Optima SXL

    When I go back and look at the various Kia Optimas I have driven for Cheers & Gears, there has been one variant that I haven’t driven, the 2.0L turbo-four. But this changed back over the summer when a 2016 Kia Optima SXL came into the Cheers & Gears’ Detroit bureau for a week-long evaluation. The SXL serves as the Optima’s flagship trim with more premium materials and the turbo-four. As I mentioned in my Optima EX review from earlier this year, the redesigned Optima looks familiar to the previous model. But that isn’t a bad thing per say. It is still as sharp looking as the previous model and the changes done such as a new trunk lid, LED taillights, a smaller grille, and reshaped headlights. The SXL takes it a step further with a set of 18-inch alloy wheels, Turbo badging on the fender vents, and a little bit more chrome. Finished in a dark blue, the Optima SXL is damn good looking midsize sedan. You won’t find many differences in the SXL’s interior compared to other Optima’s. The key one is the seats being wrapped Nappa leather with a quilted pattern. If I am being honest, I can’t really tell difference between the Nappa leather and the standard leather used on other Kia models. But what I can tell the difference with is the materials used in the SXL’s interior. Kia swaps the soft-touch plastic used on the dash and door panels for stitched leatherette. This is to give the impression that you’re in something more expensive and it works very well. The Optima SXL’s backseat is slightly tighter than the one found in the Optima EX. Why? The SXL comes with a panoramic sunroof as standard, which eats into headroom. Let’s talk about the engine. The SXL features a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder with 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. Leaving a stop, it takes a moment for the engine to fully wake up and you can’t help but wonder where is the power. At first, I thought this new 2.0L developed a bad case of turbo-lag. But I soon realized that it was a lazy throttle that was causing this issue. This is something we have been noticing in recent Hyundai and Kia models equipped with the turbo engine. Once you get over the lazy throttle, the engine moves the Optima with some authority. Merging onto a freeway or making a pass is no problem as the turbo quickly spools up and gives the necessary thrust. It doesn’t hurt the engine is very refined. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 22 City/32 Highway/25 Combined. I achieved a not too shabby 26.1 mpg average for the week. One of my biggest complaints about the last Optima I drove was the uncomfortable ride. The tuning on the EX model let in more bumps and road imperfections inside than what I was expecting. To my surprise, the SXL featured a more comfortable ride. Despite featuring larger wheels, the SXL was able to iron out most bumps and imperfections. I can’t explain why there is a vast difference in terms of ride quality between the two trims at this time. The SXL does retain the sharp handling that we liked in the Optima EX. Body motions are kept in check and the steering provides a nice heft when turning. Some will lament that the steering doesn’t have the same feel as something like the Mazda6, but this has to be Kia’s best effort yet. The Optima SXL begins at $35,790 and that includes every option available on the Optima as standard equipment - 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, a Harman/Kardon audio system, navigation, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, surround view camera system, and much more. Some might balk at the price. But considering what the SXL brings to the table, along with its improved ride quality, it is very much worth the price. Plus, you might be able to work out a deal to where you’ll be able to cut the price. We’ve seen dealers cutting about $2,000 to $4,000 off Optima SXLs in an effort improve sales of the midsize sedan. Who knows, you might be able to get one of best equipped and decent driving midsize sedans at a surprising price. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Optima SXL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Kia Model: Optima Trim: SXL Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 245 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,350-4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/32/25 Curb Weight: 3,594 lbs Location of Manufacture: West Point, Georgia Base Price: $35,790 As Tested Price: $36,615 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article
  12. Quick Drive: 2016 Kia Optima SXL

    When I go back and look at the various Kia Optimas I have driven for Cheers & Gears, there has been one variant that I haven’t driven, the 2.0L turbo-four. But this changed back over the summer when a 2016 Kia Optima SXL came into the Cheers & Gears’ Detroit bureau for a week-long evaluation. The SXL serves as the Optima’s flagship trim with more premium materials and the turbo-four. As I mentioned in my Optima EX review from earlier this year, the redesigned Optima looks familiar to the previous model. But that isn’t a bad thing per say. It is still as sharp looking as the previous model and the changes done such as a new trunk lid, LED taillights, a smaller grille, and reshaped headlights. The SXL takes it a step further with a set of 18-inch alloy wheels, Turbo badging on the fender vents, and a little bit more chrome. Finished in a dark blue, the Optima SXL is damn good looking midsize sedan. You won’t find many differences in the SXL’s interior compared to other Optima’s. The key one is the seats being wrapped Nappa leather with a quilted pattern. If I am being honest, I can’t really tell difference between the Nappa leather and the standard leather used on other Kia models. But what I can tell the difference with is the materials used in the SXL’s interior. Kia swaps the soft-touch plastic used on the dash and door panels for stitched leatherette. This is to give the impression that you’re in something more expensive and it works very well. The Optima SXL’s backseat is slightly tighter than the one found in the Optima EX. Why? The SXL comes with a panoramic sunroof as standard, which eats into headroom. Let’s talk about the engine. The SXL features a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder with 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. Leaving a stop, it takes a moment for the engine to fully wake up and you can’t help but wonder where is the power. At first, I thought this new 2.0L developed a bad case of turbo-lag. But I soon realized that it was a lazy throttle that was causing this issue. This is something we have been noticing in recent Hyundai and Kia models equipped with the turbo engine. Once you get over the lazy throttle, the engine moves the Optima with some authority. Merging onto a freeway or making a pass is no problem as the turbo quickly spools up and gives the necessary thrust. It doesn’t hurt the engine is very refined. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 22 City/32 Highway/25 Combined. I achieved a not too shabby 26.1 mpg average for the week. One of my biggest complaints about the last Optima I drove was the uncomfortable ride. The tuning on the EX model let in more bumps and road imperfections inside than what I was expecting. To my surprise, the SXL featured a more comfortable ride. Despite featuring larger wheels, the SXL was able to iron out most bumps and imperfections. I can’t explain why there is a vast difference in terms of ride quality between the two trims at this time. The SXL does retain the sharp handling that we liked in the Optima EX. Body motions are kept in check and the steering provides a nice heft when turning. Some will lament that the steering doesn’t have the same feel as something like the Mazda6, but this has to be Kia’s best effort yet. The Optima SXL begins at $35,790 and that includes every option available on the Optima as standard equipment - 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, a Harman/Kardon audio system, navigation, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, surround view camera system, and much more. Some might balk at the price. But considering what the SXL brings to the table, along with its improved ride quality, it is very much worth the price. Plus, you might be able to work out a deal to where you’ll be able to cut the price. We’ve seen dealers cutting about $2,000 to $4,000 off Optima SXLs in an effort improve sales of the midsize sedan. Who knows, you might be able to get one of best equipped and decent driving midsize sedans at a surprising price. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Optima SXL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Kia Model: Optima Trim: SXL Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 245 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,350-4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/32/25 Curb Weight: 3,594 lbs Location of Manufacture: West Point, Georgia Base Price: $35,790 As Tested Price: $36,615 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A
  13. Quick Drive: 2016 Lexus LX 570

    Most luxury SUVs will never go fully off-road. The closest they’ll ever get is driving down a gravel road. But that doesn’t mean some automakers aren’t filling them with the latest off-road for that one person who decides to. Case in point is the LX 570. Lexus’ variant of the Toyota Land Cruiser has been updated inside and out to try and draw buyers away from the usual suspects in the class. For 2016, Lexus has softened the LX’s boxy-shape with some rounded edges and more imposing fenders. The front grille has grown in size to match other Lexus vehicles, though to our eyes it looks more like the head from a Cylon in the 1980’s Battlestar Galactica tv show. The rear features new taillights and a reshaped tailgate. The interior has somehow become more opulent since the last LX we drove. A new dash design features real wood trim and more soft-touch materials. Our tester featured leather upholstery that can be described as red-orange. At first, I thought it was a bit much. But over the week I grew to like the color as it adds some personality. Sitting in either the front or second-row seats of the LX is a pleasant experience. There is plenty of head and legroom for both rows, along with heat. Front seats also get ventilation as standard. The third-row seat is a bit of joke. Getting back there in the first place is quite difficult due to the small gap when you move the second-row forward. Once back there, you find legroom is almost negligible. Finally, the way the third row folds up by side walls and not into the floor hampers cargo space - only offering 41 cubic feet. Lexus’ Remote Touch interface has arrived in the LX this year with a gargantuan 12.3-inch screen sitting on top of the dash. On the plus side, the screen is vibrant and easy to read. The negative is the remote touch controller as you’ll find yourself choosing the wrong function because the controller is very sensitive to inputs. Power comes from 5.7L V8 with 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and full-time four-wheel drive system. On paper, the V8 should move the LX 570 with no issue. But a curb weight of 6,000 pounds negates this. Performance can be described as ho-hum as it takes a few ticks longer to get up to speed. At least the eight-speed automatic transmission is a smooth operator and quick to respond when you stab the throttle. The LX 570 is chock full of clever off-road tech such as crawl control, hill start assist, 360-degree camera system, and multi-terrain select system that optimizes various parts of the powertrain and four-wheel drive system. Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to put any of these to the test. No matter the condition of the road, the LX 570 provides a smooth and relaxing ride. Impressive when you consider the LX is riding on a set of 21-inch wheels. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Lexus added a set of adaptive dampers for the 2016 LX and you can adjust the firmness via a knob in the center console - Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. The dampers do help reduce body roll in corners, giving you a little bit more confidence. Steering is what you would expect in an SUV, light and numb. This makes the LX a bit cumbersome to move in certain places such as a parking lot. Compared to the last LX 570 we drove, the 2016 model has gone up in price. Base price now stands at $88,880 and our as-tested price comes in at $96,905. This one feels a bit a more worth of price tag that Lexus is asking for, but I still think a Cadillac Escalade or Range Rover are slightly better in terms of value. If you’re planning a trip to Death Valley or the Rocky Mountains and want something that can you there and back, along with providing all of the luxuries, look no further than the LX. Otherwise, there are a number of other luxury SUVs that make more sense if you’re planning to stay on the pavement. Year: 2016 Make: Lexus Model: LX 570 Trim: N/A Engine: 5.7L 32-Valve, DOHC Dual VVT-i V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 383 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 403 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/18/15 Curb Weight: 6,000 lbs Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japn Base Price: $88,880 As Tested Price: $96,905 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Mark Levinson Audio System - $2,150.00 Dual-Screen DVD Rear-Seat Entertainment System - $2,005.00 Luxury Package - $1,190.00 Heads-Up Display - $900.00 Cargo Mat, Net, Wheel Locks, & Key Glove - $250.00 All-Weather Floor Mats - $165.00 Heated Black Shimamoku Steering Wheel - $150.00 Wireless Charger - $75.00 View full article
  14. Quick Drive: 2016 Lexus LX 570

    Most luxury SUVs will never go fully off-road. The closest they’ll ever get is driving down a gravel road. But that doesn’t mean some automakers aren’t filling them with the latest off-road for that one person who decides to. Case in point is the LX 570. Lexus’ variant of the Toyota Land Cruiser has been updated inside and out to try and draw buyers away from the usual suspects in the class. For 2016, Lexus has softened the LX’s boxy-shape with some rounded edges and more imposing fenders. The front grille has grown in size to match other Lexus vehicles, though to our eyes it looks more like the head from a Cylon in the 1980’s Battlestar Galactica tv show. The rear features new taillights and a reshaped tailgate. The interior has somehow become more opulent since the last LX we drove. A new dash design features real wood trim and more soft-touch materials. Our tester featured leather upholstery that can be described as red-orange. At first, I thought it was a bit much. But over the week I grew to like the color as it adds some personality. Sitting in either the front or second-row seats of the LX is a pleasant experience. There is plenty of head and legroom for both rows, along with heat. Front seats also get ventilation as standard. The third-row seat is a bit of joke. Getting back there in the first place is quite difficult due to the small gap when you move the second-row forward. Once back there, you find legroom is almost negligible. Finally, the way the third row folds up by side walls and not into the floor hampers cargo space - only offering 41 cubic feet. Lexus’ Remote Touch interface has arrived in the LX this year with a gargantuan 12.3-inch screen sitting on top of the dash. On the plus side, the screen is vibrant and easy to read. The negative is the remote touch controller as you’ll find yourself choosing the wrong function because the controller is very sensitive to inputs. Power comes from 5.7L V8 with 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and full-time four-wheel drive system. On paper, the V8 should move the LX 570 with no issue. But a curb weight of 6,000 pounds negates this. Performance can be described as ho-hum as it takes a few ticks longer to get up to speed. At least the eight-speed automatic transmission is a smooth operator and quick to respond when you stab the throttle. The LX 570 is chock full of clever off-road tech such as crawl control, hill start assist, 360-degree camera system, and multi-terrain select system that optimizes various parts of the powertrain and four-wheel drive system. Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to put any of these to the test. No matter the condition of the road, the LX 570 provides a smooth and relaxing ride. Impressive when you consider the LX is riding on a set of 21-inch wheels. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Lexus added a set of adaptive dampers for the 2016 LX and you can adjust the firmness via a knob in the center console - Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. The dampers do help reduce body roll in corners, giving you a little bit more confidence. Steering is what you would expect in an SUV, light and numb. This makes the LX a bit cumbersome to move in certain places such as a parking lot. Compared to the last LX 570 we drove, the 2016 model has gone up in price. Base price now stands at $88,880 and our as-tested price comes in at $96,905. This one feels a bit a more worth of price tag that Lexus is asking for, but I still think a Cadillac Escalade or Range Rover are slightly better in terms of value. If you’re planning a trip to Death Valley or the Rocky Mountains and want something that can you there and back, along with providing all of the luxuries, look no further than the LX. Otherwise, there are a number of other luxury SUVs that make more sense if you’re planning to stay on the pavement. Year: 2016 Make: Lexus Model: LX 570 Trim: N/A Engine: 5.7L 32-Valve, DOHC Dual VVT-i V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 383 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 403 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/18/15 Curb Weight: 6,000 lbs Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japn Base Price: $88,880 As Tested Price: $96,905 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Mark Levinson Audio System - $2,150.00 Dual-Screen DVD Rear-Seat Entertainment System - $2,005.00 Luxury Package - $1,190.00 Heads-Up Display - $900.00 Cargo Mat, Net, Wheel Locks, & Key Glove - $250.00 All-Weather Floor Mats - $165.00 Heated Black Shimamoku Steering Wheel - $150.00 Wireless Charger - $75.00
  15. It has been a couple of years since we last checked out the Toyota 4Runner. Since that time, the crossover marketplace has grown even further and becoming the clear choice for many consumers. But there are still some who want/need the capability of an SUV like the 4Runner. Who should consider it? Toyota hasn’t changed the 4Runner’s exterior since we last checked it out. This isn’t a bad thing since one of the things I liked about it was the styling. The front end still looks like it is wearing a muzzle with a large surround for the grille and chunky front bumper. Other design details to take in are a set of flared out wheel arches, hood scoop, and rear tailgate with a window that can be raised or lowered. The interior follows the exterior with no real changes. Many materials are of the hard plastic variety which is ok considering the off-road character of the 4Runner. Having materials that can stand up to rough and tumble of off-road conditions isn’t a bad thing. The chunky knobs and simple layout of the dashboard are still here, making it easy to find certain controls when on the move. It would be nice if Toyota could swap the 6.1-inch touchscreen for something a little bit larger. It isn’t as easy to read at a glance and more often than not, you’ll be hitting the wrong touchscreen button. At least the Entune infotainment system is simple to understand. Space is plentiful for passengers in both rows with an abundance of head and legroom. There is the option of a third row, but it would be wise to skip it since it isn’t comfortable for most people to due to the minuscule amount of legroom. The powertrain remains a 4.0L V6 with 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, and a five-speed automatic transmission. Most trims will have the choice of either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. The TRD Pro and Trail (the model seen here) only come with four-wheel drive. The power figures may make you believe that the 4Runner has enough grunt for the daily grind, but it falters once you take it out on the road. Around town, the V6 provides a decent amount of grunt. But where the engine falters is trying to make a pass or merging onto a freeway. It seems to make more noise than actual power in these situations. The automatic transmission provides smooth gear changes. But adding an extra gear would not be a bad thing since would drop engine rpm on the expressway and improve overall fuel economy. I got an average of 19 mpg for the week - EPA fuel economy figures stand at 17 City/21 Highway/18 Combined for 4WD models. SUVs have made progress in terms of ride and handling, but you wouldn’t know that if you were driving a Toyota 4Runner. Take for example the ride quality. At low speeds, the 4Runner’s suspension does a good job with smoothing over bumpers. At higher speeds such as driving on a freeway, the ride becomes very bouncy. Going around a corner isn’t a pleasant experience as there is a fair amount of body lean. Steering is on the heavy and makes certain tasks such as pulling into a parking space a bit of a chore. But the 4Runner does redeem itself when it comes to off-road driving. Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to take this 4Runner off-road which is quite a shame because the Trail adds some goodies to help when it comes to going off the beaten path. There is a locking rear differential, Crawl Control which is a low-speed cruise control system to allow the SUV go through a rocky trail, Multi-Terrain Select that alters throttle and traction control settings for various conditions, and the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that adjusts the suspension to allow for more wheel travel. The Toyota 4Runner is an old-school SUV wrapped up in modern clothing. It makes no apologies for what it is and that is something I respect. This is a model that should be considered by those who want to go to special place in the woods or out in the desert on a regular basis. If you’re not planning to go off-road on a regular basis, then the 4Runner is a poor choice. Stick with a crossover or something like a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the 4Runner, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Toyota Model: 4Runner Trim: Trail Premium Engine: 4.0L DOHC Dual VVT-i 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, 4WD Horsepower @ RPM: 270 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 278 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/21/18 Curb Weight: 4,750 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $39,095 As Tested Price: $40,148 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge and $750.00 'Keep it Wild' savings) Options: Remote Engine Start - $499.00 All Weather Mats/Cargo Tray - $200.00 Cargo Cover - $155.00 Cargo Net - $49.00 View full article
  16. Quick Drive: 2016 Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium

    It has been a couple of years since we last checked out the Toyota 4Runner. Since that time, the crossover marketplace has grown even further and becoming the clear choice for many consumers. But there are still some who want/need the capability of an SUV like the 4Runner. Who should consider it? Toyota hasn’t changed the 4Runner’s exterior since we last checked it out. This isn’t a bad thing since one of the things I liked about it was the styling. The front end still looks like it is wearing a muzzle with a large surround for the grille and chunky front bumper. Other design details to take in are a set of flared out wheel arches, hood scoop, and rear tailgate with a window that can be raised or lowered. The interior follows the exterior with no real changes. Many materials are of the hard plastic variety which is ok considering the off-road character of the 4Runner. Having materials that can stand up to rough and tumble of off-road conditions isn’t a bad thing. The chunky knobs and simple layout of the dashboard are still here, making it easy to find certain controls when on the move. It would be nice if Toyota could swap the 6.1-inch touchscreen for something a little bit larger. It isn’t as easy to read at a glance and more often than not, you’ll be hitting the wrong touchscreen button. At least the Entune infotainment system is simple to understand. Space is plentiful for passengers in both rows with an abundance of head and legroom. There is the option of a third row, but it would be wise to skip it since it isn’t comfortable for most people to due to the minuscule amount of legroom. The powertrain remains a 4.0L V6 with 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, and a five-speed automatic transmission. Most trims will have the choice of either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. The TRD Pro and Trail (the model seen here) only come with four-wheel drive. The power figures may make you believe that the 4Runner has enough grunt for the daily grind, but it falters once you take it out on the road. Around town, the V6 provides a decent amount of grunt. But where the engine falters is trying to make a pass or merging onto a freeway. It seems to make more noise than actual power in these situations. The automatic transmission provides smooth gear changes. But adding an extra gear would not be a bad thing since would drop engine rpm on the expressway and improve overall fuel economy. I got an average of 19 mpg for the week - EPA fuel economy figures stand at 17 City/21 Highway/18 Combined for 4WD models. SUVs have made progress in terms of ride and handling, but you wouldn’t know that if you were driving a Toyota 4Runner. Take for example the ride quality. At low speeds, the 4Runner’s suspension does a good job with smoothing over bumpers. At higher speeds such as driving on a freeway, the ride becomes very bouncy. Going around a corner isn’t a pleasant experience as there is a fair amount of body lean. Steering is on the heavy and makes certain tasks such as pulling into a parking space a bit of a chore. But the 4Runner does redeem itself when it comes to off-road driving. Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to take this 4Runner off-road which is quite a shame because the Trail adds some goodies to help when it comes to going off the beaten path. There is a locking rear differential, Crawl Control which is a low-speed cruise control system to allow the SUV go through a rocky trail, Multi-Terrain Select that alters throttle and traction control settings for various conditions, and the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that adjusts the suspension to allow for more wheel travel. The Toyota 4Runner is an old-school SUV wrapped up in modern clothing. It makes no apologies for what it is and that is something I respect. This is a model that should be considered by those who want to go to special place in the woods or out in the desert on a regular basis. If you’re not planning to go off-road on a regular basis, then the 4Runner is a poor choice. Stick with a crossover or something like a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the 4Runner, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Toyota Model: 4Runner Trim: Trail Premium Engine: 4.0L DOHC Dual VVT-i 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, 4WD Horsepower @ RPM: 270 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 278 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/21/18 Curb Weight: 4,750 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $39,095 As Tested Price: $40,148 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge and $750.00 'Keep it Wild' savings) Options: Remote Engine Start - $499.00 All Weather Mats/Cargo Tray - $200.00 Cargo Cover - $155.00 Cargo Net - $49.00
  17. Crossovers are big business and this is nowhere more apparent than in the compact realm. Automakers are either introducing new or redesigned models to make their mark and try to a take a nice slice of the growing demand by consumers. Recently, we spent some time with the redesigned 2017 Kia Sportage SX and refreshed Toyota RAV4 SE to see how they would stack up. Exterior: Toyota did a refresh to the RAV4’s exterior for 2016 to make it look a bit sleeker. A lot of the changes are up front with a new inset grille similar to the Corolla and reshaped headlights. The back features new taillights. The big news for 2016 is the introduction of the SE trim. This brings a unique bumper and lower grille; LED headlights and taillights, and a set of 18-inch wheels. Finished in a bright blue, I had to admit Toyota has done a pretty decent job with the refresh. Meanwhile, Kia’s redesign of the Sportage is well, um, polarizing. The front end is where the Sportage’s design will make you love or hate it. A large version of Kia’s ’tiger nose’ is flanked by headlights that protrude upward. Personally, I really don’t like the front and it spoils the rest of the Sportage’s design. The rear comes with a new tailgate design, taillights that extend into the rear fenders, and a set of dual exhaust tips. Our SX tester also featured 19-inch alloy wheels and bi-xenon headlights. Interior: One of the biggest issues I had with the previous-generation Kia Sportage was the materials used. There were a lot of hard and cheap plastics throughout and it made the work Kia had done for the exterior all for naught. Thankfully, Kia has learned its lesson and has improved the materials. Most of the dash and door panels feature soft-touch plastics. There are still some hard plastics, but in areas where it makes sense such as panels near the floor. A new design for the center stack is angled towards the driver and features large buttons for the climate control and infotainment system. Seats in our SX tester came wrapped in leather and provided the right amount of support and comfort for a long drive. Those sitting in the back will have nothing to complain about in terms of head and legroom. Even those who are slightly above 6-feet will find more than enough headroom. The Sportage does falter when it comes to cargo space. With 30.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, the Sportage trails competitors by a few cubic feet. It only gets worse when you fold the rear seats and you’re provided 60.1 cubic feet, again trailing competitors. Toyota hasn’t changed the RAV4’s interior in terms of design which may disappoint some. It still has a very utilitarian look compared to many of its competitors. But Toyota has changed various trim pieces and removed the awful faux carbon-fiber inlays on the dash. The look is more coherent. Material quality has also seen an improvement with more soft-touch materials and thicker hard plastics. The SE comes with Toyota’s faux leather (Softex) as standard along with power adjustments for the driver. The RAV4’s front seats aren’t quite as comfortable as the Sportage’s due to the lack of thigh support. On a long drive, I found my leg was beginning to fall asleep. The backseat is quite spacious with a large amount of head and legroom. The low placement of the seat may bug some folks. Cargo space is towards the top of the class with 38.4 cubic feet the rear seats up and 73.3 cubic feet with them folded. Infotainment: All RAV4 trims get Toyota’s Entune infotainment system as standard. Our SE tester featured the larger 7-inch system through an option package that also brought forth a JBL audio system. Entune’s interface may look somewhat dated and the screen could be a bit brighter, but Toyota has nailed ease of use and performance with this system. Large touch points, simple layout, and redundant buttons around the screen make Entune a breeze to use. Disappointingly, Entune doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Kia’s UVO infotainment system leaves Entune in the dust. The Sportage SX comes with an 8-inch touchscreen system with navigation as standard equipment. Like Entune, UVO offers a simple interface with quick performance. However, the Sportage offers a more vibrant screen and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Using CarPlay with the Sportage was very easy as the system was able to recognize my iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface within seconds. We didn’t experience any issues of slowdown or apps crashing like in other models we have tested. Power: There are two engines on offer for the 2017 Kia Sportage. The LX and EX models feature a 2.4L four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. The SX comes with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Both engines come paired with a six-speed automatic and the choice of front or all-wheel drive. The power figures may make you believe the Sportage will fly, but this isn’t true. The engine takes a few moments to wake up when leaving a stop due to a hint of turbo lag and a lazy throttle - something we have been noticing in recent Hyundai and Kia turbo models. The engine also doesn’t feel as powerful as you might think due to an increase in overall curb weight. At least the six-speed automatic is excellent, delivering smart and quick shifts Toyota also offers two engines for the RAV4. A 2.5L four-cylinder comes standard and a hybrid powertrain is optional on the XLE and Limited models. The 2.5 produces 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. Like the Sportage, the RAV4 features a six-speed automatic and either front or all-wheel drive. For most drivers, the 2.5 does an adequate job of moving the vehicle at a reasonable clip. It does feel slightly slower than other compact crossovers thanks in part to the torque arriving at a high 4,100 rpm. The transmission provides smooth shifts when driven normally. But when you need to make a pass, it does take its sweet time to downshift. Fuel Economy: The RAV4 AWD is rated by the EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. These numbers put the RAV4 in the middle of the pack the compact crossover class. Our average for the week landed around 24 mpg in mixed driving The Kia Sorento equipped with the turbo and front-wheel drive is towards the bottom with EPA figures of 21 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. We could only get 21 mpg during our week of mixed driving. Add all-wheel drive and numbers drop even further to 20/23/21. Ride & Handling: We had a number of complaints with the last-generation Sportage’s suspension and steering tuning. The ride was too stiff and the suspension would transmit most bumps into the cabin. The steering felt disconnected and very light. Kia has addressed these complaints in the 2017 and it has made the Sportage more well-rounded. Most bumps are now absorbed by the suspension, making for a more comfortable ride. Some bumps do make their way inside, but that is more of a case of the 19-inch wheels fitted to the SX. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Handling is still one of the strongest parts of the Sorento. There is little body roll when cornering. The steering feels heavy and directly connected to the road. The SE trim is new for the 2016 RAV4 and it features a retuned suspension that is said to make the model fun to drive. Sadly, the changes made to the RAV4’s suspension doesn’t make a dent in improving the overall handling. Yes, the changes do reduce body motion when cornering. But the steering still feels somewhat rubbery and the set of Bridgestone Ecopia low-rolling resistance tires will make you think twice about pushing the RAV4 in a corner. What the SE does well is giving the RAV4 a harsh ride. Compared to the last RAV4 we drove back in 2014, the SE let more bumps and imperfections inside the cabin. The RAV4 also could use a bit more time in finishing school as there is a fair amount of road and wind noise coming inside. Pricing & Value: Out of the two models, the 2017 Kia Sportage SX is possibly the better value. With an as-tested price of $33,395, the Sportage SX comes very well equipped with an 8-inch color touchscreen, navigation, Harman/Kardon audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and autonomous emergency braking. This, by the way, is all standard. There are no options available on the SX. The RAV4 SE is cheaper than the Sportage SX in terms of base price ($30,665 vs. $32,500). But it does feature a higher as-tested price of $34,595. This is due to our tester featuring the $3,030 Advanced Technology Package that adds the 7-inch screen with navigation, the JBL audio system, parking sensors, and the Toyota Safety Sense Package (adds Pre-Collision system with pedestrian detection, steering assist, radar cruise control, and automatic high beams). Final Thoughts: This was a tough decision to make since for every positive point both models have, there are two negatives to go with them. Out of these two, the 2017 Kia Sportage narrowly takes the win here. The styling will divide folks and turbo engine isn’t worth the extra cost in terms of performance and fuel economy. But Kia has fixed a number of issues with previous Sportage such as poor interior materials and overall ride quality. It doesn’t hurt the Kia is the slightly better value, although we would go with the EX and the regular four-cylinder. If the RAV4 was the XLE or Limited, it might have taken the win as it would have provided a smoother ride and cost a fair amount less. But the SE comprises a decent crossover with a harsher ride and negating the improvements in handling with a set of eco tires. Still, the RAV4 does offer more cargo space and some safety features not seen on the Sportage. Both of these crossovers are in the middle of the road, but the Sportage is closer to reaching the top. Disclaimer: Kia and Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE Cheers: Cargo Space, Improved Interior, Interesting design Jeers: Engine could use some more oomph, SE trim compromises ride, Expensive Year: 2016 Make: Toyota Model: RAV4 Trim: SE Engine: 2.5L DOHC Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 176 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 172 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/29/25 Curb Weight: 3,630 lbs Location of Manufacture: Woodstock, Ontario Base Price: $30,665 As Tested Price: $34,595 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Advanced Technology Package - $3,030.00 2017 Kia Sportage SX Cheers: Better ride quality, Noticeable interior improvements, Value Jeers: Turbo engine isn't worth the extra cost, Exterior design may turn some people off, Fuel Economy Year: 2017 Make: Kia Model: Sportage Trim: SX Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,450-3,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/26/23 Curb Weight: 3,666 lbs Location of Manufacture: Gwangju, South Korea Base Price: $32,500 As Tested Price: $33,395 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article
  18. Crossovers are big business and this is nowhere more apparent than in the compact realm. Automakers are either introducing new or redesigned models to make their mark and try to a take a nice slice of the growing demand by consumers. Recently, we spent some time with the redesigned 2017 Kia Sportage SX and refreshed Toyota RAV4 SE to see how they would stack up. Exterior: Toyota did a refresh to the RAV4’s exterior for 2016 to make it look a bit sleeker. A lot of the changes are up front with a new inset grille similar to the Corolla and reshaped headlights. The back features new taillights. The big news for 2016 is the introduction of the SE trim. This brings a unique bumper and lower grille; LED headlights and taillights, and a set of 18-inch wheels. Finished in a bright blue, I had to admit Toyota has done a pretty decent job with the refresh. Meanwhile, Kia’s redesign of the Sportage is well, um, polarizing. The front end is where the Sportage’s design will make you love or hate it. A large version of Kia’s ’tiger nose’ is flanked by headlights that protrude upward. Personally, I really don’t like the front and it spoils the rest of the Sportage’s design. The rear comes with a new tailgate design, taillights that extend into the rear fenders, and a set of dual exhaust tips. Our SX tester also featured 19-inch alloy wheels and bi-xenon headlights. Interior: One of the biggest issues I had with the previous-generation Kia Sportage was the materials used. There were a lot of hard and cheap plastics throughout and it made the work Kia had done for the exterior all for naught. Thankfully, Kia has learned its lesson and has improved the materials. Most of the dash and door panels feature soft-touch plastics. There are still some hard plastics, but in areas where it makes sense such as panels near the floor. A new design for the center stack is angled towards the driver and features large buttons for the climate control and infotainment system. Seats in our SX tester came wrapped in leather and provided the right amount of support and comfort for a long drive. Those sitting in the back will have nothing to complain about in terms of head and legroom. Even those who are slightly above 6-feet will find more than enough headroom. The Sportage does falter when it comes to cargo space. With 30.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, the Sportage trails competitors by a few cubic feet. It only gets worse when you fold the rear seats and you’re provided 60.1 cubic feet, again trailing competitors. Toyota hasn’t changed the RAV4’s interior in terms of design which may disappoint some. It still has a very utilitarian look compared to many of its competitors. But Toyota has changed various trim pieces and removed the awful faux carbon-fiber inlays on the dash. The look is more coherent. Material quality has also seen an improvement with more soft-touch materials and thicker hard plastics. The SE comes with Toyota’s faux leather (Softex) as standard along with power adjustments for the driver. The RAV4’s front seats aren’t quite as comfortable as the Sportage’s due to the lack of thigh support. On a long drive, I found my leg was beginning to fall asleep. The backseat is quite spacious with a large amount of head and legroom. The low placement of the seat may bug some folks. Cargo space is towards the top of the class with 38.4 cubic feet the rear seats up and 73.3 cubic feet with them folded. Infotainment: All RAV4 trims get Toyota’s Entune infotainment system as standard. Our SE tester featured the larger 7-inch system through an option package that also brought forth a JBL audio system. Entune’s interface may look somewhat dated and the screen could be a bit brighter, but Toyota has nailed ease of use and performance with this system. Large touch points, simple layout, and redundant buttons around the screen make Entune a breeze to use. Disappointingly, Entune doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Kia’s UVO infotainment system leaves Entune in the dust. The Sportage SX comes with an 8-inch touchscreen system with navigation as standard equipment. Like Entune, UVO offers a simple interface with quick performance. However, the Sportage offers a more vibrant screen and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Using CarPlay with the Sportage was very easy as the system was able to recognize my iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface within seconds. We didn’t experience any issues of slowdown or apps crashing like in other models we have tested. Power: There are two engines on offer for the 2017 Kia Sportage. The LX and EX models feature a 2.4L four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. The SX comes with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Both engines come paired with a six-speed automatic and the choice of front or all-wheel drive. The power figures may make you believe the Sportage will fly, but this isn’t true. The engine takes a few moments to wake up when leaving a stop due to a hint of turbo lag and a lazy throttle - something we have been noticing in recent Hyundai and Kia turbo models. The engine also doesn’t feel as powerful as you might think due to an increase in overall curb weight. At least the six-speed automatic is excellent, delivering smart and quick shifts Toyota also offers two engines for the RAV4. A 2.5L four-cylinder comes standard and a hybrid powertrain is optional on the XLE and Limited models. The 2.5 produces 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. Like the Sportage, the RAV4 features a six-speed automatic and either front or all-wheel drive. For most drivers, the 2.5 does an adequate job of moving the vehicle at a reasonable clip. It does feel slightly slower than other compact crossovers thanks in part to the torque arriving at a high 4,100 rpm. The transmission provides smooth shifts when driven normally. But when you need to make a pass, it does take its sweet time to downshift. Fuel Economy: The RAV4 AWD is rated by the EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. These numbers put the RAV4 in the middle of the pack the compact crossover class. Our average for the week landed around 24 mpg in mixed driving The Kia Sorento equipped with the turbo and front-wheel drive is towards the bottom with EPA figures of 21 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. We could only get 21 mpg during our week of mixed driving. Add all-wheel drive and numbers drop even further to 20/23/21. Ride & Handling: We had a number of complaints with the last-generation Sportage’s suspension and steering tuning. The ride was too stiff and the suspension would transmit most bumps into the cabin. The steering felt disconnected and very light. Kia has addressed these complaints in the 2017 and it has made the Sportage more well-rounded. Most bumps are now absorbed by the suspension, making for a more comfortable ride. Some bumps do make their way inside, but that is more of a case of the 19-inch wheels fitted to the SX. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Handling is still one of the strongest parts of the Sorento. There is little body roll when cornering. The steering feels heavy and directly connected to the road. The SE trim is new for the 2016 RAV4 and it features a retuned suspension that is said to make the model fun to drive. Sadly, the changes made to the RAV4’s suspension doesn’t make a dent in improving the overall handling. Yes, the changes do reduce body motion when cornering. But the steering still feels somewhat rubbery and the set of Bridgestone Ecopia low-rolling resistance tires will make you think twice about pushing the RAV4 in a corner. What the SE does well is giving the RAV4 a harsh ride. Compared to the last RAV4 we drove back in 2014, the SE let more bumps and imperfections inside the cabin. The RAV4 also could use a bit more time in finishing school as there is a fair amount of road and wind noise coming inside. Pricing & Value: Out of the two models, the 2017 Kia Sportage SX is possibly the better value. With an as-tested price of $33,395, the Sportage SX comes very well equipped with an 8-inch color touchscreen, navigation, Harman/Kardon audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and autonomous emergency braking. This, by the way, is all standard. There are no options available on the SX. The RAV4 SE is cheaper than the Sportage SX in terms of base price ($30,665 vs. $32,500). But it does feature a higher as-tested price of $34,595. This is due to our tester featuring the $3,030 Advanced Technology Package that adds the 7-inch screen with navigation, the JBL audio system, parking sensors, and the Toyota Safety Sense Package (adds Pre-Collision system with pedestrian detection, steering assist, radar cruise control, and automatic high beams). Final Thoughts: This was a tough decision to make since for every positive point both models have, there are two negatives to go with them. Out of these two, the 2017 Kia Sportage narrowly takes the win here. The styling will divide folks and turbo engine isn’t worth the extra cost in terms of performance and fuel economy. But Kia has fixed a number of issues with previous Sportage such as poor interior materials and overall ride quality. It doesn’t hurt the Kia is the slightly better value, although we would go with the EX and the regular four-cylinder. If the RAV4 was the XLE or Limited, it might have taken the win as it would have provided a smoother ride and cost a fair amount less. But the SE comprises a decent crossover with a harsher ride and negating the improvements in handling with a set of eco tires. Still, the RAV4 does offer more cargo space and some safety features not seen on the Sportage. Both of these crossovers are in the middle of the road, but the Sportage is closer to reaching the top. Disclaimer: Kia and Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE Cheers: Cargo Space, Improved Interior, Interesting design Jeers: Engine could use some more oomph, SE trim compromises ride, Expensive Year: 2016 Make: Toyota Model: RAV4 Trim: SE Engine: 2.5L DOHC Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 176 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 172 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/29/25 Curb Weight: 3,630 lbs Location of Manufacture: Woodstock, Ontario Base Price: $30,665 As Tested Price: $34,595 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Advanced Technology Package - $3,030.00 2017 Kia Sportage SX Cheers: Better ride quality, Noticeable interior improvements, Value Jeers: Turbo engine isn't worth the extra cost, Exterior design may turn some people off, Fuel Economy Year: 2017 Make: Kia Model: Sportage Trim: SX Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,450-3,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/26/23 Curb Weight: 3,666 lbs Location of Manufacture: Gwangju, South Korea Base Price: $32,500 As Tested Price: $33,395 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A
  19. The Lexus IS is one of my favorite luxury sedans on sale today. The styling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it helps make the IS stand out in a very crowded field of compact luxury sedans. Paired with the excellent 3.5L V6 and F-Sport package, the IS gives the German competition a run for its money in the twisty bits. Since we last drove the IS back in 2014, Lexus has made some changes to IS’ lineup with the base 2.5L V6 being dropped and a new turbocharged four-cylinder taking its place, along with a new variant of 3.5L V6 producing 255 horsepower badged as the IS 300. Recently, I spent some time in the IS 200t F-Sport and it was a bit disappointing. Read on to find out why. The cause for my disappointment? The turbocharged four-cylinder. The engine in question is the same one that is used in the NX 200t, a turbo 2.0L four-cylinder producing 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic comes standard on rear-drive models, while all-wheel drive models retain a six-speed automatic. Compared to the NX 200t, I think this engine has gotten worse in the IS. The major problem is turbo lag. I could count to three after stepping on the accelerator before the turbo would spool up and give the vehicle the needed shove to move along. Even with the vehicle in Sport mode, it takes a moment for the turbo to wake up. Once the turbo is spooled up, it moves the IS with some authority. Power comes on at a steady and smooth rate. The engine also very refined with little noise coming inside. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined. Our average landed around 24 mpg, partly due to my foot putting the pedal almost to the floor in an effort to make the turbo was up. The F-Sport package is the ace up the IS 200t’s sleeve. A revised suspension and steering setup, along with a set of summer tires make the IS a joy to pilot around corners. There is no body roll when entering a corner and the steering provides an excellent feel of the road. Unlike the IS 350 F-Sport, the 250 does without the adaptive dampers. This might make some reconsider as the ride can become somewhat rough over bumpy and pothole-ladened roads. Styling is still polarizing with sharp creases, an interesting lighting setup up front, and a grille that looks like it was styled off the Predator. The F-Sport package actually helps balance this design with new front bumper, mesh grille insert, and a set of 18-inch wheels finished in a dark gray. I’m not usually a fan of red on a vehicle, but it actually works quite well for the F-Sport. The IS’ interior hasn’t changed much since we last visited it in 2014. This means the excellent sport seats and well laid out instrument cluster are here. It also means the smallish screen for the infotainment system and the infuriating Lexus Remote Touch controller. The back seat is still quite small for most passengers, though I would say the Cadillac ATS’ back seat is even smaller. The 2016 IS 200t F-Sport begins at $40,870. Our test car came with a few options such as blind spot monitoring (which you need because rear visibility is poor), radar cruise control, navigation, Mark Levinson audio system, and heated front seats. This brought the as-tested price to $45,705. But for only $1,000 to $1,500 more, you can get into a decently equipped IS 350 F-Sport with adaptive dampers and the better engine. The Lexus IS is still an impressive compact luxury sedan and one that deserves more of the spotlight. But the 2.0L turbo spoils an impressive sedan. This is a case of right car, wrong engine. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the IS 200t, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Lexus Model: IS Trim: 200t F-Sport Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-valve with Dual VVT-iW Inline-Four Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 241 @ 5,800 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,650 - 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/33/26 Curb Weight: 3,583 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $37,325 As Tested Price: $45,705 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: F-Sport Package - $3,545.00 Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio System - $2,645.00 Blind Spot Monitoring w/Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - $600.00 Dynamic Radar Cruise Control - $500.00 F-Sport Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel with Heat - $150.00 View full article
  20. Quick Drive: 2016 Lexus IS 200t F-Sport

    The Lexus IS is one of my favorite luxury sedans on sale today. The styling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it helps make the IS stand out in a very crowded field of compact luxury sedans. Paired with the excellent 3.5L V6 and F-Sport package, the IS gives the German competition a run for its money in the twisty bits. Since we last drove the IS back in 2014, Lexus has made some changes to IS’ lineup with the base 2.5L V6 being dropped and a new turbocharged four-cylinder taking its place, along with a new variant of 3.5L V6 producing 255 horsepower badged as the IS 300. Recently, I spent some time in the IS 200t F-Sport and it was a bit disappointing. Read on to find out why. The cause for my disappointment? The turbocharged four-cylinder. The engine in question is the same one that is used in the NX 200t, a turbo 2.0L four-cylinder producing 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic comes standard on rear-drive models, while all-wheel drive models retain a six-speed automatic. Compared to the NX 200t, I think this engine has gotten worse in the IS. The major problem is turbo lag. I could count to three after stepping on the accelerator before the turbo would spool up and give the vehicle the needed shove to move along. Even with the vehicle in Sport mode, it takes a moment for the turbo to wake up. Once the turbo is spooled up, it moves the IS with some authority. Power comes on at a steady and smooth rate. The engine also very refined with little noise coming inside. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined. Our average landed around 24 mpg, partly due to my foot putting the pedal almost to the floor in an effort to make the turbo was up. The F-Sport package is the ace up the IS 200t’s sleeve. A revised suspension and steering setup, along with a set of summer tires make the IS a joy to pilot around corners. There is no body roll when entering a corner and the steering provides an excellent feel of the road. Unlike the IS 350 F-Sport, the 250 does without the adaptive dampers. This might make some reconsider as the ride can become somewhat rough over bumpy and pothole-ladened roads. Styling is still polarizing with sharp creases, an interesting lighting setup up front, and a grille that looks like it was styled off the Predator. The F-Sport package actually helps balance this design with new front bumper, mesh grille insert, and a set of 18-inch wheels finished in a dark gray. I’m not usually a fan of red on a vehicle, but it actually works quite well for the F-Sport. The IS’ interior hasn’t changed much since we last visited it in 2014. This means the excellent sport seats and well laid out instrument cluster are here. It also means the smallish screen for the infotainment system and the infuriating Lexus Remote Touch controller. The back seat is still quite small for most passengers, though I would say the Cadillac ATS’ back seat is even smaller. The 2016 IS 200t F-Sport begins at $40,870. Our test car came with a few options such as blind spot monitoring (which you need because rear visibility is poor), radar cruise control, navigation, Mark Levinson audio system, and heated front seats. This brought the as-tested price to $45,705. But for only $1,000 to $1,500 more, you can get into a decently equipped IS 350 F-Sport with adaptive dampers and the better engine. The Lexus IS is still an impressive compact luxury sedan and one that deserves more of the spotlight. But the 2.0L turbo spoils an impressive sedan. This is a case of right car, wrong engine. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the IS 200t, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Lexus Model: IS Trim: 200t F-Sport Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-valve with Dual VVT-iW Inline-Four Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 241 @ 5,800 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,650 - 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/33/26 Curb Weight: 3,583 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $37,325 As Tested Price: $45,705 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: F-Sport Package - $3,545.00 Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio System - $2,645.00 Blind Spot Monitoring w/Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - $600.00 Dynamic Radar Cruise Control - $500.00 F-Sport Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel with Heat - $150.00
  21. Review: 2016 Toyota Prius Three

    When Toyota introduced the Prius into the U.S. back in the early 2000s, it was a different time. Gas prices were quite low and everybody was gobbling up big SUVs like they were going out of style. A small vehicle that got high fuel economy numbers didn’t seem that appealing. But then gas prices rose and consumers began to see the inherent value in the Prius. Before too long, the Prius would become the gold standard of hybrid vehicles. Now with gas prices being somewhat steady again, consumers have gone out and started buying larger vehicles again - in this case, crossovers. But the Prius is still around, welcoming those who want to get the most out of a tank of gas, Last fall, the Prius underwent a massive redesign with the big news being a new platform. Is this Prius still the top hybrid? The Toyota Prius has never been considered to be a sexy or stylish vehicle. Nor has been considered to be ugly. It has just sat in the middle of the design spectrum. Toyota decided to bust the Prius out of that design lull with a very polarizing look for the new model. Standing in front of the Prius for the first time, I thought that it looked like a cat toy. This impression comes from a pointy nose, triangular headlights, and creases in the hood. The side profile follows the ideals set by the last-generation model with some aggression. There is sculpting along the doors and rear fenders. The Prius’ interior always looked and felt like an afterthought with a dreary design and cheap materials. Thankfully, Toyota moved the interior up the priority list for the forth-generation Prius and it shows. Stepping inside, you can tell there is a noticeable improvement in material quality. Many surfaces are covered with soft-touch plastics. The center stack and console feature contrasting black and white plastic trim. The white trim is an interesting choice and might make some people think that Toyota’s designers watched a bit too much Star Wars when working on the Prius. Compared to the last Prius, the new model is considerably more comfortable and you could do a long trip without having any issues. The front seats have been lowered slightly and the setback has been slightly angled back. The back seat is slightly smaller than the previous-generation - legroom is down two inches. But an average-sized adult should fit with no issues. Cargo space has been increased to 24.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats. On the technology front, the Prius has seen some major improvements. The center mounted instrument cluster with graphics commonly seen on a microwave has been ditched for a new setup with two color screens. The left screen handles speed and basic trip information. The one on the right shows driving data, a powertrain diagram, and tips on improving overall fuel economy. The displays are very vibrant and easy to read at a quick glance. Below that lies a seven-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Entune’s interface looks slightly dated to competitors and getting into the navigation system is a bit of a mess - you hit the apps button and then hit navigation on the touchscreen. Still, we think Entune is one of the easier systems to use and is quite fast. The powertrain for the Prius is comprised of a 1.8L Atkinson-Cycle four-cylinder engine and two electric motors/generators. Total output stands at 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. The base Prius Two sticks with a nickel-metal hydride battery, while higher trims - like our Three - get a compact lithium-ion battery pack. A CVT routes power to the front wheels. The Prius does take its sweet time to get up speed on the highway and rural roads. This also means you’ll need to plan your passes carefully. But the Prius does zip around the city with no issues - the electric motors offer instantaneous torque and the gas engine is ready to kick in when more power is needed. One improvement we’re glad to see is how much further you can just travel in EV mode. Keep a light foot on the accelerator and you’ll be able to travel a fair distance on just the battery alone. The CVT keeps itself in check most of the time. The only time it makes itself noticeable is during hard acceleration. The 2017 Toyota Prius Three is rated by the EPA at 54 City/50 Highway/52 Combined. Our average for the week was a very surprising 60.2 mpg with most of our driving done in the city. The Prius has never been known for being a decent handling vehicle. Going back through our previous Prius reviews, we have complained about the poor body control and steering that felt like you were stretching a rubber band. But the new Prius is quite shocking. Going around a corner, the Prius doesn’t show any real sign of body roll. Steering has some decent heft and feels more natural. What happened? A lot of the credit has to go to the new underpinnings of the Prius - Toyota New Global Architecture (TGNA). This architecture introduces a new chassis design for the Prius, along with a lower center of gravity. Toyota will be introducing this architecture on other models in the future and it looks to be a winner. One area that the Prius is still struggling is the brakes. The pedal still has a vague feeling and you can’t help but wonder if the vehicle will come to a stop. Toyota has made sure the Prius was still a comfortable car to do the daily grind. Over potholed roads, the Prius’ suspension was able to soak up bumps without them making their way inside. Wind noise is almost nonexistent with a low coefficient of drag of 0.24 probably helping. Road noise is another matter as a fair amount comes inside. The combination of low-rolling resistance tires and not enough sound deadening material on the floor are the possible causes. Toyota could have just rested on their laurels and keep the basic formula that has served the Prius for many years. But instead, Toyota made some massive changes to the Prius and it has resulted in making the model become more well-rounded. The design will not appease everyone and the Prius could do with a little bit more power. But the changes made to the interior and chassis along with the impressive fuel economy more than overshadow these issues. The Prius is not only the hybrid that stands above the rest, it has finally moved on from a science fair experiment to an actual vehicle. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Toyota Model: Prius Trim: Three Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline: Continuously Variable Transmission, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 95 @ 5,200 (Gas), 121 (Total) Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 54/50/52 Curb Weight: 3,050 lbs Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japan Base Price: $26,250 As Tested Price: $29,842 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: Advanced Technology Package - $1,935.00 Body Side Molding - $289.00 Carpet Floor Mats/Cargo Mat - $225.00 Door Edge Guards - $125.00 Rear Bumper Applique - $69.00 Wheel Locks - $65.00 Cargo Net - $49.00 View full article
  22. Review: 2016 Toyota Prius Three

    When Toyota introduced the Prius into the U.S. back in the early 2000s, it was a different time. Gas prices were quite low and everybody was gobbling up big SUVs like they were going out of style. A small vehicle that got high fuel economy numbers didn’t seem that appealing. But then gas prices rose and consumers began to see the inherent value in the Prius. Before too long, the Prius would become the gold standard of hybrid vehicles. Now with gas prices being somewhat steady again, consumers have gone out and started buying larger vehicles again - in this case, crossovers. But the Prius is still around, welcoming those who want to get the most out of a tank of gas, Last fall, the Prius underwent a massive redesign with the big news being a new platform. Is this Prius still the top hybrid? The Toyota Prius has never been considered to be a sexy or stylish vehicle. Nor has been considered to be ugly. It has just sat in the middle of the design spectrum. Toyota decided to bust the Prius out of that design lull with a very polarizing look for the new model. Standing in front of the Prius for the first time, I thought that it looked like a cat toy. This impression comes from a pointy nose, triangular headlights, and creases in the hood. The side profile follows the ideals set by the last-generation model with some aggression. There is sculpting along the doors and rear fenders. The Prius’ interior always looked and felt like an afterthought with a dreary design and cheap materials. Thankfully, Toyota moved the interior up the priority list for the forth-generation Prius and it shows. Stepping inside, you can tell there is a noticeable improvement in material quality. Many surfaces are covered with soft-touch plastics. The center stack and console feature contrasting black and white plastic trim. The white trim is an interesting choice and might make some people think that Toyota’s designers watched a bit too much Star Wars when working on the Prius. Compared to the last Prius, the new model is considerably more comfortable and you could do a long trip without having any issues. The front seats have been lowered slightly and the setback has been slightly angled back. The back seat is slightly smaller than the previous-generation - legroom is down two inches. But an average-sized adult should fit with no issues. Cargo space has been increased to 24.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats. On the technology front, the Prius has seen some major improvements. The center mounted instrument cluster with graphics commonly seen on a microwave has been ditched for a new setup with two color screens. The left screen handles speed and basic trip information. The one on the right shows driving data, a powertrain diagram, and tips on improving overall fuel economy. The displays are very vibrant and easy to read at a quick glance. Below that lies a seven-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Entune’s interface looks slightly dated to competitors and getting into the navigation system is a bit of a mess - you hit the apps button and then hit navigation on the touchscreen. Still, we think Entune is one of the easier systems to use and is quite fast. The powertrain for the Prius is comprised of a 1.8L Atkinson-Cycle four-cylinder engine and two electric motors/generators. Total output stands at 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. The base Prius Two sticks with a nickel-metal hydride battery, while higher trims - like our Three - get a compact lithium-ion battery pack. A CVT routes power to the front wheels. The Prius does take its sweet time to get up speed on the highway and rural roads. This also means you’ll need to plan your passes carefully. But the Prius does zip around the city with no issues - the electric motors offer instantaneous torque and the gas engine is ready to kick in when more power is needed. One improvement we’re glad to see is how much further you can just travel in EV mode. Keep a light foot on the accelerator and you’ll be able to travel a fair distance on just the battery alone. The CVT keeps itself in check most of the time. The only time it makes itself noticeable is during hard acceleration. The 2017 Toyota Prius Three is rated by the EPA at 54 City/50 Highway/52 Combined. Our average for the week was a very surprising 60.2 mpg with most of our driving done in the city. The Prius has never been known for being a decent handling vehicle. Going back through our previous Prius reviews, we have complained about the poor body control and steering that felt like you were stretching a rubber band. But the new Prius is quite shocking. Going around a corner, the Prius doesn’t show any real sign of body roll. Steering has some decent heft and feels more natural. What happened? A lot of the credit has to go to the new underpinnings of the Prius - Toyota New Global Architecture (TGNA). This architecture introduces a new chassis design for the Prius, along with a lower center of gravity. Toyota will be introducing this architecture on other models in the future and it looks to be a winner. One area that the Prius is still struggling is the brakes. The pedal still has a vague feeling and you can’t help but wonder if the vehicle will come to a stop. Toyota has made sure the Prius was still a comfortable car to do the daily grind. Over potholed roads, the Prius’ suspension was able to soak up bumps without them making their way inside. Wind noise is almost nonexistent with a low coefficient of drag of 0.24 probably helping. Road noise is another matter as a fair amount comes inside. The combination of low-rolling resistance tires and not enough sound deadening material on the floor are the possible causes. Toyota could have just rested on their laurels and keep the basic formula that has served the Prius for many years. But instead, Toyota made some massive changes to the Prius and it has resulted in making the model become more well-rounded. The design will not appease everyone and the Prius could do with a little bit more power. But the changes made to the interior and chassis along with the impressive fuel economy more than overshadow these issues. The Prius is not only the hybrid that stands above the rest, it has finally moved on from a science fair experiment to an actual vehicle. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Toyota Model: Prius Trim: Three Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline: Continuously Variable Transmission, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 95 @ 5,200 (Gas), 121 (Total) Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 54/50/52 Curb Weight: 3,050 lbs Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japan Base Price: $26,250 As Tested Price: $29,842 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: Advanced Technology Package - $1,935.00 Body Side Molding - $289.00 Carpet Floor Mats/Cargo Mat - $225.00 Door Edge Guards - $125.00 Rear Bumper Applique - $69.00 Wheel Locks - $65.00 Cargo Net - $49.00
  23. Quick Drive: 2016 Mazda3i Grand Touring

    A couple years back, I drove the recently-redesigned Mazda3 hatchback. I really liked all the improvements Mazda made to the 3, while retaining the fun to drive nature of the previous model. What I wasn’t too keen on was the price. For a vehicle that carried an as-tested price of just over $30,000, I couldn’t fully justify paying that much for a compact. Fast forward to this summer and another Mazda3 came in. This happened to be a sedan and one that was under $24,000. The best part? I felt that it was one of best bangs for your buck. The 3 in question is the 3i Grand Touring sedan. The i is the most important part as it means this 3 is fitted with the 2.0L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder producing 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. s models get the larger 2.5L four-cylinder. Our test sedan came with a six-speed manual. This engine is slightly slower and rougher than the 3s we drove a couple years back. But this engine is much better in terms of performance than some other compacts we have driven recently (Nissan Sentra and redesigned Hyundai Elantra). Mazda gets a lot of praise for their manual transmissions and we’re going to add some more. The gear lever moves with precision and smoothness. The clutch is easy to modulate to get a shudder free start. In terms of fuel economy, the EPA rates the Mazda3i at 29 City/41 Highway/33 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 35 mpg. I should note that the 3 went on a 388 mile round trip across the state for a track school (more on that in a future piece) that mostly involved highway driving. I was able to achieve 40.2 mpg during the trip. This trip also revealed two weaknesses of the 3. First is ride comfort. The 3 didn’t do a great job with isolating most bumps or potholes from entering the interior. This is due to the suspension setup which is tuned for delivering a sporty ride around corners. This would have been worse if our tester came with larger wheels. Second is a common fault with most Mazdas, noise isolation. During this trip, I was able to tell the condition of the road thanks to the abundance of road noise coming inside. There was also a fair amount of wind noise entering the cabin. Mazda says they have added more sound insulation to the 2017 model, we’ll be checking this out in the future. I would be remised if I didn’t talk about the 3’s handling. This is still one of the best driving compacts on sale today with little body roll, quick direction change, and steering that can rival some sports cars. At least sitting inside the 3 was a pleasant experience. The front seats provided excellent support for the long trip and controls were in easy reach. The infotainment system is still a mixed bag where it is easier to use the control knob than the touchscreen to move around the system. Also, the navigation system stumbled a few times where it showed I was traveling on another road than the one I was currently on. Let us step outside for a moment and gaze at the 3’s shape. I still think the Mazda3 is one of the best-looking compacts on sale. The front end has the large grille with chrome trim running along the outer edge and into the headlights. I also like the sculpting along the doors.The only disappointing thing is the back. In sedan form, the Mazda3 doesn’t look quite right. As I mentioned in the beginning, the Mazda3i Grand Touring sedan came with a price of under $24,000 ($23,435 to be exact). For the price, it was well equipped. There was leatherette seats, six-way power adjustments for the driver, navigation, Bose sound system, push-button start, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a backup camera, and a moonroof. The only option was a trunk mat for $70.00. The 2016 Mazda3 is a compelling choice in the compact class if you want something that is fun to drive. If you want something a bit more balanced or can handle a long drive, I’m not sure the 3 can cut it. There are compacts that are quieter and provide a smoother ride. It ultimately comes down to what you want in a compact. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3i, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Mazda Model: 3i Trim: Grand Touring Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv-G DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 155 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 150 @ 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/41/33 Curb Weight: 2,869 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan Base Price: $22,545 As Tested Price: $23,435 (Includes $820 Destination Charge) Options: Cargo Mat - $70.00
  24. A couple years back, I drove the recently-redesigned Mazda3 hatchback. I really liked all the improvements Mazda made to the 3, while retaining the fun to drive nature of the previous model. What I wasn’t too keen on was the price. For a vehicle that carried an as-tested price of just over $30,000, I couldn’t fully justify paying that much for a compact. Fast forward to this summer and another Mazda3 came in. This happened to be a sedan and one that was under $24,000. The best part? I felt that it was one of best bangs for your buck. The 3 in question is the 3i Grand Touring sedan. The i is the most important part as it means this 3 is fitted with the 2.0L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder producing 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. s models get the larger 2.5L four-cylinder. Our test sedan came with a six-speed manual. This engine is slightly slower and rougher than the 3s we drove a couple years back. But this engine is much better in terms of performance than some other compacts we have driven recently (Nissan Sentra and redesigned Hyundai Elantra). Mazda gets a lot of praise for their manual transmissions and we’re going to add some more. The gear lever moves with precision and smoothness. The clutch is easy to modulate to get a shudder free start. In terms of fuel economy, the EPA rates the Mazda3i at 29 City/41 Highway/33 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 35 mpg. I should note that the 3 went on a 388 mile round trip across the state for a track school (more on that in a future piece) that mostly involved highway driving. I was able to achieve 40.2 mpg during the trip. This trip also revealed two weaknesses of the 3. First is ride comfort. The 3 didn’t do a great job with isolating most bumps or potholes from entering the interior. This is due to the suspension setup which is tuned for delivering a sporty ride around corners. This would have been worse if our tester came with larger wheels. Second is a common fault with most Mazdas, noise isolation. During this trip, I was able to tell the condition of the road thanks to the abundance of road noise coming inside. There was also a fair amount of wind noise entering the cabin. Mazda says they have added more sound insulation to the 2017 model, we’ll be checking this out in the future. I would be remised if I didn’t talk about the 3’s handling. This is still one of the best driving compacts on sale today with little body roll, quick direction change, and steering that can rival some sports cars. At least sitting inside the 3 was a pleasant experience. The front seats provided excellent support for the long trip and controls were in easy reach. The infotainment system is still a mixed bag where it is easier to use the control knob than the touchscreen to move around the system. Also, the navigation system stumbled a few times where it showed I was traveling on another road than the one I was currently on. Let us step outside for a moment and gaze at the 3’s shape. I still think the Mazda3 is one of the best-looking compacts on sale. The front end has the large grille with chrome trim running along the outer edge and into the headlights. I also like the sculpting along the doors.The only disappointing thing is the back. In sedan form, the Mazda3 doesn’t look quite right. As I mentioned in the beginning, the Mazda3i Grand Touring sedan came with a price of under $24,000 ($23,435 to be exact). For the price, it was well equipped. There was leatherette seats, six-way power adjustments for the driver, navigation, Bose sound system, push-button start, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a backup camera, and a moonroof. The only option was a trunk mat for $70.00. The 2016 Mazda3 is a compelling choice in the compact class if you want something that is fun to drive. If you want something a bit more balanced or can handle a long drive, I’m not sure the 3 can cut it. There are compacts that are quieter and provide a smoother ride. It ultimately comes down to what you want in a compact. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3i, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Mazda Model: 3i Trim: Grand Touring Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv-G DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 155 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 150 @ 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/41/33 Curb Weight: 2,869 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan Base Price: $22,545 As Tested Price: $23,435 (Includes $820 Destination Charge) Options: Cargo Mat - $70.00 View full article
  25. Review: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe

    It has been about five years since a Cadillac V series model has graced either one the Cheers & Gears’ garages (if you’re wondering, that would be the 2011 CTS-V Coupe that our Managing Editor drove). It isn’t for our lack of trying. I can give you a stack of emails to the person who handles General Motors’ fleet in Detroit that list the ATS-V and CTS-V as a possible test vehicle. But if you keep bugging someone over time, something is bound to change. That is what happened this summer as a Cadillac ATS-V coupe rolled into the Cheers and Gears’ Detroit garage. Was it worth the wait? The standard Cadillac ATS coupe is already a model that stands out in crowd thanks to an aggressive look. The V turns that aggressiveness up to eleven. The front features a dual mesh grille setup (a small one on top and a larger one below), a narrow slot between the grille and hood; and a new bulging hood with an air extractor. A set of optional eighteen-inch alloy wheels fill in the wheel wells nicely and show off the massive Brembo brakes. The back comes with a rear wing and diffuser with quad exhaust tips. Our ATS-V tester featured the optional Carbon Fiber package that adds an exposed carbon fiber weave for the front splitter, hood extractor, and rear diffuser. It also comes with a larger rear wing and extensions for the rocker panels. I’ll admit I found the carbon fiber package to be a bit much with our tester’s red paint at first. It’s like going into an important meeting wearing a zoot suit and alligator shoes. You’ll make an impression, but is it the one you want to put out into the world? I did grow to like this combination as the week went on. That said, I would skip the carbon fiber package. For one, you have to very careful not cause any damage to lower parts when driving over speed bumps and other road imperfections. For example, the low ride height makes it easy for the front splitter to be cracked. Second, this optional package is $5,000. There are better ways you can use that $5,000 such as getting a new set of tires or a plane ticket to get you over to Cadillac’s V driving school. Inside, the ATS-V is a bit of a disappointment. For the nearly $80,000 price tag of our tester, you would think that it would look and feel the part. In certain areas, the ATS-V does. Cadillac has appointed parts of the interior with carbon fiber and suede to give it a sporty feel. Our tester featured the optional Recaro seats which are the first set I actually liked sitting in. A lot of this is due to how you could adjust seat bolstering to make yourself actually fit into the seat, not sitting on top of it. But this where the good points end with the ATS-V’s interior. Despite all of the premium touches Cadillac has added, it doesn’t feel like it is worth the price. Take for example the center stack with CUE. It is just a sheet of piano black trim and makes the interior feel somewhat cheap. You’ll find more piano black trim throughout the interior which reinforces this. The instrument cluster is the same that you’ll find in the standard ATS only with a different font. It would have been nice if Cadillac could have pulled the 12.3-inch screen setup they use on the CTS-V as it looks nicer and would provide the key details needed for a driver. CUE still hasn’t gotten any better in terms of performance and overall usability. Yes, Cadillac has added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to CUE. But we had issues with CarPlay with the system not recognizing our phone and apps crashing. The back seat? Just use it for storage. Trying to fit someone back there could cause you to be accused of cruel and unusual punishment. Power for the ATS-V comes from a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 with 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. This can be paired with either a six-speed manual or our tester’s eight-speed automatic. Start up the engine and it delivers a meaty, if somewhat muted growl. Don’t let that fool you, this engine will throw you in the back of your seat with no issue. Yes, the turbos do mean you’ll have a moment or two for that rush of power to arrive. But once the turbos spool, hold on. Power comes on at a linear rate and never lets up. The eight-speed automatic delivers crisp upshifts, but it does take a second or so for it to downshift. If you’re wondering about fuel economy, the EPA rates the ATS-V automatic at 16 City/24 Highway/19 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 18 mpg. Where the ATS-V truly shines is in the handling. The first time I took the ATS-V down a curvy road, I was gobsmacked at how well it hustled around the corners with no issues. Enter into a corner and ATS-V hunkers down thanks to sticky Michelin Pilot Sport. There is little body roll and the steering provides quick and precise turn-in. The ATS was already a pretty decent handling car, but Cadillac knew that it could be better. The stiffness of the chassis has been increased by 25 percent and there is the newest version of GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system that is faster when it comes adjusting the damping characteristics of the shocks. Three modes (Touring, Sport, and Track) can vary the stiffness of the shocks along with the behavior of the engine and steering. When you decided that you had enough fun and it is time to go back to the daily grind, the ATS-V turns into a comfortable cruiser. With the vehicle in Touring mode, the ride is compliant with some bumps making their way inside. Road and wind noise is kept to very acceptable levels. One item that we were disappointed not to have on our test ATS-V was blind spot monitoring. This is part of a $1,500 Safety and Security package that also adds lane keep assist, forward collision alert, rear-cross traffic alert, and more. For a vehicle that begins that begins just a hair over $62,000, you think blind spot monitor would be standard. It should. Cadillac has been making great strides since the first-generation CTS-V and the ATS-V is the beneficiary of it. The powertrains will nail you to your seats and the handling can match or surpass the class leaders. But Cadillac is still stumbling over some simple things such as the interior materials and the infotainment system. It is an amazing driving vehicle, but it is let down by the interior. At the end of the week, I couldn’t deny this is an impressive vehicle even with the interior issues. It was very much worth the long wait. Cheers: Jaw-Dropping performance, Sharp handling, Looks that make it stand out from the crowd Jeers: Carbon Fiber package isn't worth the money or worry, Interior doesn't feel like it is worth the price, CUE Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the ATS-V, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Cadillac Model: ATS-V Coupe Trim: N/A Engine: 3.6L SIDI DOHC Twin-Turbo V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 464 @ 5,850 Torque @ RPM: 445 @ 3,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19 Curb Weight: 3,803 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI Base Price: $62,665 As Tested Price: $79,205 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carbon Fiber Package - $5,000.00 Recaro Performance Seats - $2,300.00 Luxury Package - $2,100.00 8-Speed Automatic Transmission - $2,000.00 Performance Data Recorder - $1,300.00 Power Sunroof - $1,050.00 18-inch Polished Wheels - $900.00 Dark Gold Brembo Calipers - $595.00 Sueded Microfiber Steering Wheels and Shifter - $300.00

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