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  1. While this year at Nissan is all about the pickup truck, last year it was the ‘Year of the Sedan’. We saw the introduction of the redesigned Maxima, along with refreshes of the Altima and Sentra. There was one slight problem. Compared to the Maxima which stood out with a sharp design, the Altima and Sentra just existed with no real item of note. But maybe there is something to either model that is hidden away. I decided to find out as a 2016 Nissan Sentra SR came in for a week-long evaluation. Nissan isn’t going to take home any awards for the design of the 2016 Sentra. Designers took the 2013 model and made some small changes such as adding a new front clip to help bring the Sentra in line with the current design language, and a more distinctive character line. One change that is worth mentioning about the Sentra’s design is the new SR trim. This trim adds some sporty touches such as a mesh grille insert, sill extensions for the lower body, seventeen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with a dark finish, rear spoiler, and a chrome exhaust tip. These touches help the Sentra stand out in a crowded field. Like the Sentra’s exterior, the interior hasn’t seen any major changes. The design is very conservative with some flowing lines and contrasting trim pieces (silver and piano black). There is a mix of hard and soft touch materials used throughout the interior. Our Sentra tester featured a set optional leather seats that we found to provide decent support for short trips. We did wish the front seats did offer more thigh support on longer trips. The Sentra does have an ace up its sleeve when it comes to the back seat. In most compact cars, the back seat is something you would use sparingly due to the small amount of head and legroom. In the Sentra, the amount of head and legroom can give some midsize sedans a run for their money. I happen to be 5’8” and I had more than enough space to feel very comfortable. The trunk is also large for the class with 15.1 cubic feet of space. Most Sentra models will come equipped a five-inch touchscreen with NissanConnect. This system isn’t one of our favorites for a number of reasons. The interface looks dated when compared to other systems. Not helping matters are some odd omissions from it. For example, if you want to pause an iPod or whatever you have plugged into the USB input, you’ll need to turn down the volume all the way to zero. Why not a pause button?! We also had issues with the system crashing our iPod. The only upsides are the interface being easy to use and providing snappy performance. Power comes from a 1.8L four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with either a six-speed manual (only available on the S and FE+ S) or Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (standard on SV and above, optional on S and FE+ S). Performance is lethargic as the Sentra’s engine takes its sweet time to get up to speed. You can put your foot to the floor and there isn’t any difference in how fast the vehicle climbs up in speed. On the positive side, the engine is fairly muted when accelerating around town. Nissan’s Xtronic CVT is one of the better offerings on sale as it doesn’t have the ‘rubber-band’ effect (engine rpm climbs up before dropping back down). The upside to the low power numbers is fuel economy. The Sentra SR is rated by the EPA at 29 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. Our average for the week was 32.4 mpg. If you’re looking for a compact that feels like a bigger vehicle in terms of ride, the Sentra is the ticket. No matter the type of road you find yourself driving on, the Sentra’s suspension provides a smooth and relaxed ride. We do wish Nissan had added some more sound deadening around the vehicle as you can hear road and tire noise on the highway. Around corners, the Sentra shows little roll and seems to change direction quickly. The steering feels very light which is ok around town, not so much when driving on a curvy road. The 2016 Nissan Sentra doesn’t really stand out in a highly competitive compact car marketplace. Compared with competitors in a number of key areas, the Sentra either finishes in the middle or bottom. The only real plus points are a large back seat and trunk, along with a price tag that won’t break the bank. The Sentra begins at $16,780 for the base S and climbs to $22,170 for the SL. Our SR came equipped with a couple of option packages that added adaptive cruise control, a forward collision mitigation system, leather seats, Bose sound system, and a few other features brings the as-tested price to $25,245. Considering a number of these features are only available on higher trim models of competitors, the Sentra becomes quite the value. Is there anything special to the 2016 Nissan Sentra SR? After spending a week in it, I have to say no. This is a model that is aimed at those who just need a vehicle that can get them from point a to b without any fuss. If you’re looking for something more, there are a lot of options in the compact segment that are worthy of a closer look. Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Sentra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Nissan Model: Sentra Trim: SR Engine: 1.8L DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 128 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/38/32 Curb Weight: 2,920 lbs Location of Manufacture: Aguascalientes, Mexico Base Price: $20,410 As Tested Price: $25,245 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package - $2,590 Technology Package - $1,230 Carpeted Floor Mats and Trunk Mat - $180.00 View full article
  2. The Hyundai Tucson has never been a real serious threat in the compact crossover segment. It isn’t that Hyundai wasn’t trying. They offered a lot of equipment at a low price and went with a unique design. But even with these traits, the Tucson wasn’t able to make a sizable dent into the compact crossover market where the likes of the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester rule the roost. Hyundai isn’t giving up the fight, though. Last year, they launched the third-generation Tucson to make some inroads in the class. As we said in our first drive back in August, “it may be that the 2016 Hyundai Tucson can be considered one of the best in its class.” Let's see how we feel when we revisit the 2016 Tucson after some time has passed. To make the Tucson standout in a crowded class, Hyundai has put a lot of effort into the Tucson’s design. There is a fair amount of European influence with sharp lines and an uncluttered look. Hyundai’s trademark elements such as a large hexagonal grille and slim headlights are here. A set of 19-inch alloys on the Limited are designed in such a way that it looks like an airplane propeller. The design work has paid off as the Tucson is one of the sharpest looking models in the class. The Tucson’s interior doesn’t have the same flair as the exterior which is quite a shame. Is isn’t to say the interior is bad; there is a good mix of hard and soft materials, and controls are arranged in a logical fashion. But I found myself wishing Hyundai would take a small risk and add something special to the interior. Our Tucson Limited tester came with leather seats with power adjustments for the front. Comfort and support levels are excellent. In the back, the Tucson offers plenty of head and legroom for most passengers. As we noted in our first drive, the Tucson loses out in cargo space. Open the tailgate and you’ll be greeted with 31 cubic feet. Fold the rear seats and space increases to 61.9. Competitors such as the Honda CR-V (35.2, 70.9 cubic feet), Subaru Forester (34.4, 74.7 cubic feet), and Toyota RAV4 (38.4, 73.4 cubic feet) offer more space. When it comes to technology, the Tucson Limited does very well. There is an eight-inch touchscreen with the latest version of Hyundai’s infotainment system. We like this system as it is one of the easier systems to use thanks to large touchpoints and buttons under the screen to take you to the various parts of the system. One thing we are slightly disappointed is that you cannot option the larger screen on the Sport trim, which slightly hurts Hyundai’s value argument. Most Hyundai Tucsons will come equipped with a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder producing 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and the choice of either front or all-wheel drive. The turbo engine is potent thanks to the torque being available across a wide range (1,500 to 4,500 rpm). This means the Tucson is able to scoot along when you are trying to make a pass or leaving from a stop. The engine is also very refined with very little noise coming into the cabin. Sadly we cannot say the same about the dual-clutch transmission. Unlike the transmission we tried out on our first drive, the one in our test Tucson had issues of hesitating when leaving a stop and taking its sweet time to downshift whenever we needed to make a pass. At least upshifts were quick and smooth. Now when we turned in our Tucson tester, we learned that Hyundai issued an update for the transmission to fix the hesitation issue. If the Tucson was built before November 17, 2015 - which we suspect ours was - Hyundai’s dealers would perform the update on the vehicle. Tucsons built after November 17th have the update installed. The Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD is rated by the EPA at 24 City/28 Highway/26 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 26 MPG. Those who want to eek out a few more MPGs should look at the Tucson Eco that comes with some fuel saving tricks such as lighter wheels to improve fuel economy to 26 City/33 Highway/29 Combined for the front-wheel drive model. All-wheel drive models see a small decrease in fuel economy numbers. One thing that hasn’t changed from our first drive impressions is the Tucson’s ride and handling characteristics. Over Michigan’s terrible roads with endless bumps and potholes, the Tucson’s suspension was able to iron them out and provide a smooth ride. An extraordinary feat when you take into account the Tucson Limited feature a set of 19-inch wheels. Handling is impressive for a Hyundai with little body roll and the vehicle feeling planted. The only item we wished Hyundai would work on is the steering. There is still a slight dead zone when beginning to turn the wheel. At least some weight does appear the further you turn. It seems Hyundai has mostly hit it out of the park with the new Tucson. Not quite. The big issue for the Tucson is the value argument. Our Limited all-wheel drive came with a base price of $31,300. The as-tested price landed around $34,945 with the Ultimate package that adds HID headlights, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, lane departure warning, and a panoramic sunroof. This about the average price you would expect for other loaded small crossovers. It is only when you drop down to other trims that you begin to realize the Tucson isn’t as a great of a value as you might think. For example, the Eco and Sport don’t come with any options. The only items you get to choose are color and whether you want front or all-wheel drive. If you want navigation or dual-zone climate control on the Sport, you’re out of luck. That isn’t to say there aren't a lot of good things to the Tucson because there are. It stands out with some of the sharpest looks in the class and the turbo engine is one of best we have driven. Hyundai also deserves some kudos for getting the ride and handling balance just right. But the Tucson has a value problem that could drive some folks away, along with a small cargo area for the class. The 2016 Tucson is good, but it isn’t the slam dunk we thought it was. Cheers: Exterior design that stands out, turbo engine, nice balance between sport and comfort Jeers: Value argument tough to argue on lower trims, small rear cargo area, interior design could use some more flair. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Tuscon, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Hyundai Model: Tucson Trim: Limited AWD Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 - 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/28/26 Curb Weight: 3,710 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $31,300 As Tested Price: $34,945 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) Options: Ultimate Package for Limited - $2,750.00 View full article
  3. “You win for bringing the most inappropriate vehicle,” said Drew as I was coming into our rental house for the Detroit Auto Show. I couldn’t say he was wrong. The vehicle in question, a 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring, isn’t what I would call the perfect vehicle for winter or be in traveling to an auto show. But here I was with a Miata parked on the street. I should explain how I ended up with a Miata over the winter. It goes a few months back to a conversation thread I was somehow looking at. In that thread, a Mazda PR person mentioned that they put winter tires on their vehicles for the season. Seeing this, the gears starting working in my head and I wondered if the MX-5 Miata would have that as well. Before too long, I had put in a request for a Miata and I got it scheduled. It was only when I was looking at the schedule did I realize it would coincide with the Detroit Auto Show. Oops. There is some method to this madness. Sometimes to fully test a vehicle, you need to put it in a situation where it isn’t entirely comfortable. So in the case of the Miata, what better time to test it than in the middle of winter and with an auto show to boot? Mazda has done a knockout job with designing the fourth-generation MX-5 Miata. The front is very low with a massive grille to provide air for the engine and narrow headlights. The hood features some slight sculpting to help the front fenders stand out. Along the side, you can see a resemblance to previous Miatas, especially when you drop the top. A set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels come standard on the top Grand Touring trim. Around back is a uniquely shaped rear end. At the moment, the Miata comes only with a manual soft top. Those wanting a hardtop will need to wait for the Miata RF (Retractable Fastback) due sometime this year. Putting the top down is very easy. Just pull a latch and push the top down until you hear a click. Putting the top back is slightly difficult due to where the latch is - behind the folded top and under the trunk lid. Getting your hand back here is tough due to a small and narrow gap. But once you find it and release the top, it is just as fast to put it back up. Getting in and out of the MX-5 Miata can be best described as a comedy of errors. You have to contort yourself in a way to get the top half of your body into the car, followed by the legs. It is easier to get in when the top is down. Once inside, you’ll be impressed with how much work Mazda has put in. The interior design follows what you will see in other Mazda products with a modern and minimalistic look. Interior materials have seen a noticeable improvement with more soft-touch plastics and new trim pieces. Controls are within easy reach for both driver and passenger. The seats are comfortable for short trips, but I found myself wishing for a bit more seat padding and thigh support on longer trips. Driving from my house to Detroit and vice versa, my back started aching part way through the drive. Also, anyone over six-feet will have some difficulty finding a comfortable position due to how snug the cabin is. The trunk is small even for a roadster; only 4.6 cubic feet is on offer. I was able to get my suitcase into the trunk and that’s it. The backpack with my laptop, camera, other items needed for show coverage rode in the passenger seat. The Grand Touring trim comes with the Mazda Connect infotainment system that comes with a seven-inch touchscreen and control knob on the center console. Trying to use the touchscreen is frustrating since it is explained what is enabled for touch control. For example, I can hit play and skip a track when I’m playing my iPod. But if I want to scroll through the artists on my iPod, I cannot do that. You’re better off using the control knob, although it can get in the way when you are shifting gears. One area Mazda deserves some big credit is the Miata’s HVAC system. With the top up, the HVAC quickly warmed up the MX-5 in temperatures ranging from 20° to -4° Fahrenheit. Even with the top down, the HVAC system was able to keep me nice and toasty. Powering the MX-5 Miata is a 2.0L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder with 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual comes standard (which is what our tester came with) and a six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles is optional. Compared to the last Miata we drove (a 2014 Grand Touring PHRT), the 2016 model feels slightly faster. A lot of this comes down to the overall weight of two vehicles - 2,619 for the 2014 PHRT vs. 2,332 for the 2016 Miata. Around town, the Miata just zips up to speed at a very surprising rate. The six-speed manual is a delight to work. With a short throw and a subtle ‘click’ into gear, you find going through the gears a fun experience. I found myself letting the engine climb up to 5,000 rpm before shifting to the next gear just to hear the roar of the engine and give the illusion that I was driving fast, even though I was only going 30 to 45 MPH. It is that little thing that makes driving an MX-5 Miata special. When it comes to fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2016 MX-5 Miata at 27 City/34 Highway/30 Combined. These numbers are easily achievable, even if you drive like a maniac. For the week, I was able to achieve 30.6 MPG. Mazda hasn’t messed with the MX-5 Miata’s handling characteristics. You’ll notice the Miata lean in corners, but this is something that has been in all Miatas. It also helps keep you engaged with driving and not thinking about anything else. If this bugs you, Mazda offers the Club that features a sport suspension with Bilstein shocks. Personally, I found the suspension fitted to the Grand Touring to be just right in the corners. The steering has seen a big change with Mazda swapping the hydraulic system for an electric power steering system. Before anyone starts panicking, this system has to be one of the best I have driven. You do lose some feel, but it builds up weight as you turn. Steering also feels direct. As for the daily drive, the MX-5 Miata’s suspension is a bit too stiff. Bumps and other imperfections on the road are transmitted to the interior. I found myself wishing that Mazda offered the softer suspension setting used on the 1.5L four-cylinder Miata sold elsewhere in the world. If you plan on taking the Miata on a long highway trip, you might want to bring some ear plugs. Road and wind noise are here in droves and it will get very annoying. One item I wished the MX-5 Miata had was a backup camera. Due to how low you’re sitting in the vehicle, you don’t have a good view of the back. There were times I opened the door when I was backing up just to make sure I wasn’t going to crash into anything. One question you probably want to me to answer is, how is the Miata on winter tires? Pretty good. Driving through some snowy roads, the Miata seemed to go through it without the stability or traction control intervening. At a stop, the Miata would spin its rear wheels for a moment. Then the tires would find some grip and get the vehicle moving. Winter tires don't guarantee that you will not slide around, but at least the Miata is one of the vehicles you can easily get back in line if you start skidding. It might not have been one of my brightest ideas to ask for a Miata in the middle of winter and getting it during the week of the Detroit auto show. But the Miata proved its worth in an uncomfortable situation. I wouldn’t want to take the MX-5 Miata on a long trip due to the rough ride and abundance of noises. Even then, I somehow ended up with a smile on my face. Maybe it's due to the Miata still being one of the vehicles that make you feels that you part of the vehicle, controlling the various aspects of it. Despite the snow and the Detroit Auto Show, the Miata proved its worth. Not many convertibles or any other vehicle can claim that. Cheers: Grin-inducing handling around corners, top is easy to put down, handsome exterior and interior Jeers: Suspension will jostle you around on rough roads, wind and road noise in stereo sound, needs backup camera Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the Miata MX-5, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Mazda Model: MX-5 Miata Trim: Grand Touring Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv-G DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 155 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 148 @ 4,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/34/30 Curb Weight: 2,332 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $30,065 As Tested Price: $31,015 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: Advanced Keyless Entry System - $130.00 View full article
  4. In a person’s life, there will be an event that happens on a rare occurrence. Seeing a comet streak across the sky or watching the Detroit Lions have a winning season. For those who care about the automobile, seeing a new Bentley or Rolls-Royce model being introduced counts as one of these events. Similarly, seeing an automaker introduce a new minivan can be put on that list. Very few automakers compete in the minivan class as it's dominated by the stalwarts such as Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna. But once in a blue moon, a new minivan comes around to challenge them. Case in point is the 2015 Kia Sedona. Kia’s minivan underwent a massive revision and came back last year to try and take a nice chunk of the minivan marketplace. We spent a week in the Sedona SXL to see if Kia has a chance. Kia’s designers must have been impressed when Nissan launched the current Quest minivan a few years back. We mention that because that’s what the Sedona’s overall look reminds us of. Both vans feature a cargo van look with flat sides and a large area of glass. Where the Sedona differs from the Quest is the front end. There is a distinctive grille insert surrounded by chrome. A set of trapezoidal headlights flank either side with a strand of LEDs splitting the middle and running towards the outer edge. The Sedona’s interior follows the same template as Kia’s larger sedans, the Cadenza and K900, with a modern design and quality materials used throughout. Stepping inside our SXL tester and for a moment, we thought this was a luxury sedan, not a minivan. From the two-tone Nappa leather used on the seats to the solid feeling controls for the infotainment system, the Sedona oozes a lot of class. The Sedona can seat up to eight people through our SXL tester was equipped for seven due to the second row having the optional captain chairs. No matter which row you find yourself in, there is more than enough head and legroom for even the tallest of passengers. Those sitting in the second row of the SXL will be pleased as they can recline and bring up a footrest for that extra level of comfort. But much like the Toyota Sienna which had this feature, there isn’t enough space to pull this off for most passengers. In terms of cargo space, the Sedona isn’t quite as big as the Sienna. With all three rows up, the Sedona offers 33.9 cubic feet of space. Fold the third row down and space increases to 78.4. With the second row down, space measures 142 cubic feet. For comparison, the Sienna offers about eight more cubic feet of space. There’s also one specific problem for the Sedona SXL. The second-row seats cannot do the Slide-n-Stow (Kia’s name for the folding seat system) or be removed from the van because they are locked into place. This means you will lose a bit more cargo space. If you do want the maximum cargo space in your Sedona, stick with one of the lower trims. The Sedona SXL also came equipped with the latest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system. As we have written in previous Kia reviews, this system is one of the best in terms of overall usability and performance. A simple interface with large touchpoints and redundant buttons is paired with quick performance in terms of moving from various functions to figuring our directions for the navigation. A number of OEMs would be wise to study Kia’s system. For power, the Sedona uses the 3.3L V6 found in the Cadenza and Sorento crossover. This V6 produces 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission gets power to the front wheels. The V6 moves the Sedona without any complaints. The automatic transmission provided smooth shifts and was quick to downshift whenever more power was needed, such as making a pass. In terms of fuel economy, the Sedona SXL is rated at 17 City/22 Highway/19 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 20.3 MPG. Now it should be noted that lower trims of the Sedona return better fuel economy numbers of 18 City/24 Highway/20 Combined thanks to lower curb weights. The Sedona’s ride quality is comfortable on most road surfaces, although the nineteen-inch wheels on our SXL tester did let in a few bumps. Road and wind noise were kept to a minimum. Despite the large size of the Sedona, we found it to be quite maneuverable thanks to light steering and an around-view camera system that provided different views to help us to get into tight parking spaces. Handling characteristics are what you would expect in a minivan, a fair amount of lean and not that much feel from the steering. If you want a little bit of sport in a minivan, then look at the Dodge Grand Caravan or Honda Odyssey. The Kia Sedona comes as a bit of surprise in the minivan marketplace. While the likes Dodge, Honda, and Toyota have a tight grasp on the class, Kia uses the formula that has propelled it to the spotlight time and time again; offering a sleek design with loads of equipment that won’t break the bank. Whether that makes a difference in the sales chart remains to be seen. But if you are considering a minivan and want to stand out from the usual suspects, the Sedona is very much worth your consideration. Disclaimer: Kia provided the Sedona SXL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Kia Model: Sedona Trim: SXL Engine: 3.3L DOHC GDI CVVT V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 276 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/22/19 Curb Weight: 4,720 lbs Location of Manufacture: South Korea Base Price: $39,700 As Tested Price: $43,295 (Includes $985.00 Destination Charge) Options: SXL Technology Package - $2,700.00 View full article
  5. It may seem a bit odd to call the Nissan Murano a trailblazer in the crossover class. But when it launched in December of 2002 as 2003 model, it was quite the revelation. Here was a crossover from a volume manufacturer that was not only sharp looking, but had a lot of features were found on luxury models at the time. It proved to a winning formula for Nissan. With the second-generation Murano, Nissan focused luxury and refinement. But the Murano also lost some of the distinctiveness from the design of the first-generation model. Now enter the third-generation Murano. This version continues the second-generation focus on luxury, but also brings back sharp looks from the first. This combination should work, right? We spent a week in the Murano SL AWD to find out. Nissan goes one of two ways when it comes to designing vehicles; they either take their time and put a lot of effort into a vehicle or spend about 30 minutes drawing something and calling it good. The Murano is the former of the two. The Murano’s design is basically the Resonance concept from a few years back. The front end gets a deep V grille with a chrome bar running around the outside. The side profile shows a unique floating roof design that is accomplished by blacking out the D-Pillars. This could make anyone think the roof is only being supported by glass. Around back are a set of taillights that are shaped like boomerangs - much like the 370Z coupe. Some may criticize the Murano for being a bit polarizing. But considering the first-generation model had such design touches as a wide chrome grille and dark orange color, the third-generation appears to be taking the design ideals of the first-gen model and putting them to good use. The Murano’s interior has to be one of Nissan’s best efforts. The levels of quality and features blow many competitors out of the water and even embarrasses some models from luxury brands. This particular Murano was finished in an Ivory color that not only made the interior look vibrant, it also made it feel slightly larger. Most of the dash and door panels are covered in the soft-touch materials, increasing the premium feel. One nice touch in our Murano tester is the Ivory wood trim which adds a touch of elegance. Seats are Nissan’s ‘zero-gravity’ seats which are said to use space-age technology to reduce fatigue and improve lower back support. While we aren’t fully sure on what ‘space-age tech’ Nissan is using, we’ll admit the seats for both front and rear passengers are quite comfortable and supportive. Front-seat passengers get power adjustments and heat in the SL trim. Rear seat passengers will find oodles of head and legroom, even with an optional panoramic sunroof. The Murano is one the first Nissan models to come with the latest version of Nissan Connect that comes with an eight-inch touchscreen and a updated interface. The system is now easier to use thanks to large touchpoints to various functions such as navigation and the radio. For those who rather control the system with actual buttons, there are those as well. Performance is ok with certain functions such as generating a route for the navigation system or changing to the various source. But it becomes somewhat sluggish when you are switch around to the various pages on the home screen. Nissan still has a couple of issues to iron out with their infotainment system. First, I had no metadata appear on the system when I was doing Bluetooth streaming from my phone. This could be an issue with this particular model as a Nissan Maxima equipped with the same system had no problem. The other was the system saying SiriusXM reception was lost despite there being a signal and broadcasting the station. I found that if I switched to a different source and went back to SiriusXM, the problem would be gone. A couple other colleagues who have driven Muranos have experienced the same problem. A software update might fix both problems I experienced. Power is provided by a 3.5L V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque (available @ 4,400 rpm). This paired to Nissan’s XTronic CVT and the choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The V6 is a perfect fit for the Murano as it provides more than enough power to get up to speed a decent rate. The XTronic CVT features artificial shift points to provide linear acceleration and cut a fair amount of droning. We found the shift points worked in situations where you accelerating at a steady rate such as going on a freeway. Other times such as making a pass, the points seemed nonexistent and the high rpm drone would appear. In terms of fuel economy, the Murano AWD is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/24 Combined. Our week with the Murano saw an average of 22 MPG in mostly city driving. The Murano’s ride is superbly comfortable. Equipped with 18-inch wheels, the Murano glides over bumps and imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels. Steering was a slight disappointment. You have to turn the wheel further than you might think to get the steering reaction that is needed. Some of this comes down to how light the weight for the steering was. It was like running your fingers through a pool of water. Another disappointment came in overall visibility as thick rear pillars block a fair amount of the rear view. At least, the SL comes standard with a backup camera and blind-spot monitoring. We also recommend opting for the Around-View camera system as it gives you a full 360 view of the vehicle when parking. While the Murano has some issues with the infotainment, overall visibility, and steering, it remains a very capable crossover. With sleek styling, loads of luxury equipment, and a plush ride, the Murano not only gives a number of mainstream models such as Ford Edge a run for their money, it could make anyone have second thoughts with a luxury model. Nissan says the Murano is their flagship for their crossover lineup. We cannot find a more fitting term for this vehicle. Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Murano SL AWD, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Nissan Model: Murano Trim: SL AWD Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6 Driveline: Xtronic CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 240 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/24 Curb Weight: 3,977 lbs Location of Manufacture: Canton, TN Base Price: $38,550 As Tested Price: $41,905 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $2,260.00 Floor Mats & Cargo Area Protection - $210.00 View full article
  6. If you needed a cargo van in the past, you could only get one in either large and extra-large. There wasn’t really an option for something smaller, which left a number of business in a tough spot. They needed something that could carry deliveries or equipment, but be somewhat maneuverable and get decent gas mileage. Sure, some automakers offered a cargo version of their minivans. But they were not big sellers and some worried about the overall durability. In 2009, Ford introduced the Transit Connect to the U.S. marketplace. This small van was aimed at small businesses who needed something that delivered good gas mileage, but was still capable of holding a fair amount of cargo. The van became an instant hit not only with small business, but also large corporations who saw the Transit Connect as a way to lower their fuel bills for their fleet. Now other automakers are throwing their hat into the small cargo van ring to serve this audience. The most recent is Ram with the introduction of the ProMaster City. Based on the Fiat Doblo sold in Europe, Ram hopes the ProMaster City can give the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 a run for its money. We spent a week in a ProMaster City Tradesman Cargo to find out. The basic shape of Fiat Doblo is unchanged. Ram has made some changes such as front bumper with a crosshair grille, and lights that are DOT compliant. The ProMaster isn’t going to be taking home any awards for design, most business/commercial buyers won't care. They're just looking for a flat surface to paint a logo. What they do care about is cargo space and that’s where the ProMaster City shines. Ram quotes total cargo space at 131.7 cubic feet which is larger than any other cargo van in the class, even the long-wheelbase Transit Connect. Other specs that make the ProMaster City perfect for cargo carrying duties include a low floor height (21.5 inches), wide cargo floor (60.4 inches and 48.4 inches at the wheel well), and payload capacity (1,886 lbs). The ProMaster also is very versatile thanks to split opening doors in the back, and sliding doors on either side. It was just the right vehicle for the week as the ProMaster was put on IKEA duty and easily swallowed the flat-pack furniture that we bought. Move up front and you’ll find a sparsely furnished interior with seating for two. Much of interior is carried over from Doblo. The only changes Ram made are a new steering wheel with audio controls and an AM/FM radio. Hard plastics line the dashboard and door panels, which should stand up to the hard work this van will be put through. Seats provided decent comfort and support. Our only complaint is with the adjustment knob for the seat. It's too far back to reach easily and the narrow space between the knob and door pillar makes adjusting the seat a pain. Our ProMaster City tester came equipped with the optional Uconnect 5.0 system with a backup camera. This system offers AM/FM/Bluetooth/USB/Aux and a trip computer. The system is very easy to use with large touchpoints, quick performance, and redundant buttons around the screen. The backup camera is a godsend as the rear windows in the ProMaster City Cargo are covered. The camera makes it easy to backup into tight spaces or when you are pulling out from a parking space. For power, Ram called in the 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir inline-four with 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque (available at 3,800 rpm). This is paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The inline-four does feel torquey and willing to get up to city speed limits in a flash. Anything above that and the ProMaster City feels slow. Ram quotes a 0-60 MPH time of under ten seconds and it feels like it. The nine-speed automatic has been improving with every Chrysler vehicle that we have driven. The transmission smoothly transitions from gear to gear is willing to downshift when needed. Still, we weren’t able to get the vehicle into the mythical ninth-gear in our testing. Even doing an 80-Mile round trip on the freeway, we found the transmission would only go into eighth gear. The EPA rates the ProMaster City fuel economy at 21 City/29 Highway/24 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 22 MPG in mostly city driving. Ram made a number of changes to the suspension to get the ProMaster City ready for the U.S. Including raising the ride height and changing a number of components. It has paid off as the van provided a smooth ride even over some of the roughest roads. The ProMaster City also has one of the tightest turning circles of 32 feet, perfect for urban environments. However, the ProMaster isn’t what you would call fun to drive. There is an abundance of body roll when cornering, due to van’s height’s exceeding its width. Also, the steering a bit rubbery when you turn the wheel. This is pretty much expected for the class. Again, this isn’t a priority for most buyers. While Ram is late to small van party, it has very capable van in the form of the ProMaster City. It offers a number of best-in class figures, a comfortable ride, and decent performance. Paired with a lot of features for the price, the ProMaster City will give buyers what they want in a small van at a surprising price. Considering Ram has moved 8,113 ProMaster Cities through November, buyers seem to agree. Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the ProMaster City, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Ram Trucks Model: ProMaster City Trim: Tradesman Cargo Engine: 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir Inline-Four Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Nine-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 178 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 3,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,512 lbs Location of Manufacture: Bursa, Turkey Base Price: $24,130 As Tested Price: $25,475 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tradesman Cargo Van Package 24C - (-$1,000) Rear Back-Up Camera Group - $565.00 UConnect 5.0 AM/FM/BT - $495.00 Speed Control - $225.00 Front Carpet Floor Mats by Mopar - $65.00 View full article
  7. The big thing for luxury automakers for the past ten to fifteen years has been the crossover. First was the midsize crossover. Then came the full-size. Now the latest craze is compact crossovers. Many luxury automakers have been introducing them within the past few years as a way to draw buyers in. The latest one is Lexus with the NX crossover. This small luxury crossover hopes to carve a nice slice of a growing market. We recently spent a week with the NX 300h to see if it has a chance of pulling this off. The NX’s overall shape looks to be a smaller version of the last-generation RX crossover mixed with some elements of Lexus’ L-Finesse design language. The front end boasts Lexus’ spindle grille paired with slim headlights. The side profile boasts a fair amount of sculpting on the fenders and on the lower door panels. Seventeen-inch wheels come standard, while our tester came equipped with the optional eighteen-inch wheels. Overall, the NX seems to work with the current design language without looking like a complete mess. For the NX’s interior, Lexus made sure there was a fair amount of luxury appointments throughout. There is a fair amount of leather used on the dash, door panels, and center console. Many surfaces also feature stitching to increase the premium feeling. The front seats provided an excellent level of comfort thanks to the power adjustments and amount of padding used. Rear seat passengers will find a decent of legroom, but headroom is slightly tight. Where the NX falls flat is in cargo space. The NX 300h only offers 16.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 53.7 cubic feet with the seats down. Now some this can be attributed to the batteries used on the hybrid version. But the standard NX isn’t that much bigger (17.7 and 54.6 cubic feet respectively), mostly due to the sloping roofline. Like the RC 350 coupe we drove earlier, the NX 300h features the latest iteration of Lexus Remote Touch which swaps the joystick controller for a touchpad. We found the touchpad to be noticeably better than the joystick with moving around and choosing various functions. But we still had some issues with a slight delay of the cursor moving after moving our finger across the pad. We hope Lexus addresses this in a future update for the infotainment system. The NX 300h uses the same hybrid powertrain as seen on the ES 300h, a 2.5L inline-four paired with an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total output stands at 194 horsepower. This comes paired to a CVT to either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models get an additional electric motor on the rear axle to provide the added traction. Lethargic is the best word to describe the NX 300h’s ability to get up to speed. The powertrain seems unwilling to get up to speed at a rate that would satisfy most drivers. You’ll end up having your foot almost planted to the floor to get the powertrain to move the vehicle at a somewhat decent clip. But this also brings a lot droning from the CVT. The NX 300h does regain some points back in a couple of areas. One is the ability to run on electric power only at speeds below 25 MPH. This is perfect for driving in parking lots or in neighborhoods. The other is fuel economy. The EPA rates the NX 300h AWD at 33 City/30 Highway/32 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 31.6 MPG. As for driving, the NX 300h feels balanced. Over the potholed and rough roads of Detroit, the NX 300h felt composed. Bumps were largely isolated and the cabin was as quiet as a library. In the corners, the NX showed very little body roll and felt planted. We did wish the steering didn’t feel rubbery. The Lexus NX 300h is an odd species. On one hand, the NX is very well done for being Lexus’ first compact crossover. The model boasts distinctive exterior styling, well-appointed interior, and a balance between sport and comfort. But the NX 300h has a number of comprises as well. The most apparent is powertrain which feels and sounds quite underpowered. Not helping is a small cargo area and an expensive price tag. The NX 300h starts at $40,645 for the front-wheel drive version and $41,310 for the all-wheel drive version. This about $5,000 more than the NX 200t and we can’t think of any reason aside from the improved fuel economy that you should spend the extra money on the hybrid. You’re better off sticking with the regular NX 200t and having that extra $5,000 going towards some options. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the NX 300h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Lexus Model: NX Trim: 300h AWD Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Dual VVT-i Antkinson Cycle Inline-Four, 650V AC Electric Motor Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 154 @ 5,700 (Gas), 141 @ 0 (Electric), 194 (Total Output) Torque @ RPM: 152 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 33/30/32 Curb Weight: 4,189 lbs Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan Base Price: $41,310 As Tested Price: $52,013 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: Luxury Package - $4,465.00 Navigation Package - $2,140.00 Pre-Collison System w/All-Speed Cruise Control - $900.00 Electrochromic (Auto-Dimming) Outer Mirrors with Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Reverse Tilt, Heated, Memory - $660.00 Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00 60/40 Power Folding Rear Seats - $400.00 Qi-Compatible Wireless Charger - $220.00 Electrochromic (Auto-Dimming) Rear View Mirror and Lexus Homelink Garage Door Opener - $125.00 Cargo Mat - $99.00 Cargo Net - $69.00 View full article
  8. In a class that is highly competitive such as the compact luxury sedan segment, trying to make yourself stand out is a tough ask. Some can do it just on reputation, while others must rely on price, design, features, or overall drivability. Infiniti is using technology to have their Q50 sedan stand out in this crowded field. We spent a week in the Q50S 3.7 to see if any of this new technology makes a difference. In terms of styling, the Q50S sits right in the middle of the compact luxury sedan spectrum. It isn’t as shocking as the Lexus IS, but it isn’t boring as a BMW 3-Series. The overall design is reminiscent of the Q70 (formally known as the M37/35h/56) with a narrow grille, a sculpted hood that rises and falls, and a distinctive character line running from the front fender to the rear. This particular Q50S was fitted with 19-inch Rays wheels finished in black and looked quite sharp. It should be noted the wheels are part of a Performance Wheel package that also swaps the standard run-flat tires for a set of summer performance tires. The Q50S’s interior is very scrumptious with leather and soft plastics seemingly lining every surface, and a small amount of wood trim around the center stack. Front seat passengers get supportive seats with power adjustments and the ability to cool and heat. The driver gets a couple of more adjustments in the form of adjustable seat bolsters and a manual extension for the thigh. Rear seat passengers will find plenty of headroom, but legroom is somewhat limited thanks to a tall transmission tunnel. A key feature of the Q50 is Infiniti’s InTouch infotainment system. The system is comprised of two screens; the top one handles navigation and key information about the vehicle, while the bottom one handles audio, climate, vehicle settings, and other functions. Now before you start thinking the dual screen setup is going to be a catastrophe like the system used in Acura vehicles, it isn’t. The difference is that Infiniti uses two touchscreens, unlike the one touchscreen and the other screen being controlled by a knob like a number of Acura models. Using the system was a breeze thanks a simple layout and quick performance. There are a couple of downsides to the InTouch system. First is the navigation system which is looking very dated when compared to other models in the compact luxury class. Second is the bottom screen that washes out in sunlight. In terms of power, the Q50 comes with either a 3.7L V6 or a hybrid powertrain that pairs the V6 with an electric motor. Our tester boasted the V6 with 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. This is paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is very potent as it will pull hard during acceleration and feels eager to get up to speed. But the V6 isn’t the smoothest or most refined at higher rpms as many of its competitors. The seven-speed automatic transmission delivers quick and smooth shifts. In terms of fuel economy, the Q50 with the V6 is rated at 20 City/29 Highway/23 Combined. Our week of driving saw an average of 21.2 MPG. The Q50S boasts a sport-tuned suspension which gives it a button-down feeling on the road. In corners, the Q50 shows excellent control of body motions. Agility is also tops as the Q50S seamlessly moves from corner to corner. The ride is on the firm side, letting in some bumps into the cabin. Noise isolation is excellent. Now the Q50 has one other key item that Infiniti is quick to point out and that is the optional Direct Adaptive Steering system. Unlike most systems where the system is mechanical-based, Direct Adaptive Steering uses a drive-by-wire system that transmits electrical impulses from the steering wheel to the front wheels, causing them to turn. Infiniti has also fitted an electric motor to mimic weight when turning. At first, I thought I was driving a normal steering system as it had good weight and feel for a sporty sedan. It was only when I parked the car and played around with the wheel did I realize something was different. The steering wheel moved very fast and with no feel. It was then I realized I had the drive-by-wire system. After spending a week with the Direct Adaptive Steering system, I’m a bit mixed. Not with the system itself, I actually didn’t have any complaints about the steering feeling disconnected to the road or having enough weight as other reviews. I found it to be like any other steering system. But I find myself wondering if this was done because Infiniti sees the future of steering going to this, or if they did this just for the sake of differentiation? The Infiniti Q50S is a good compact luxury sedan, but it relies too much on technology as a crutch. Yes, it's amazing that the dual-screen infotainment system works very well, but so does a single screen and a controller. The drive-by-wire steering system is a really cool piece of technology, but does it bring any real improvement? If you take the technologies away, you have a sedan that is very competent. But in a class that is highly competitive and models are constantly improving, competent isn’t good enough. Infiniti needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to take a model from competent to a real contender. The bones are there in the Q50, they need a bit more finessing and less tech. Disclaimer: Infiniti Provided the Q50S 3.7, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Infiniti Model: Q50 3.7 Trim: S Engine: 3.7L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Seven-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 328 @ 7,000 Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/29/23 Curb Weight: 3,675 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tochigi, Japan Base Price: $43,650 As Tested Price: $54,055 (Includes $905.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $3,200 Deluxe Package - $3,100 Performance Wheel Package - $1,800 Navigation Package - $1,400 View full article
  9. Being the car guy in the family is sometimes a difficult thing. Case in point is when someone asks for your help with buying a car. About a year or two ago, my dad asked me for some help with buying a new midsize sedan. He had two contenders in mind to replace his 2006 Ford Fusion - the new Fusion or the Nissan Altima. At the time, I had just reviewed the Altima and thought the four-cylinder powertrain needed a bit more refinement. The Fusion had its own set problems as the 1.6L EcoBoost four-cylinder - the engine my dad was considering - was having a number of reliability issues. There was also MyFord Touch which had a number of problems. At the time, I was leaning towards the Fusion when my dad threw a curveball; what about the last-generation Fusion? After giving it a few moments of thought, I thought it would be the best choice at the time. So fast forward to now when a 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD came in for a week’s evaluation and I found myself wondering if my dad had made the right call with going with an older Fusion. Well, let’s find out. The Fusion has a number of items to help make it stand out in the crowded midsize class. The biggest one is the exterior design. The Fusion’s shape follows the trend of four-door coupes with a low roofline and a short rear end. The front end is very much like an Aston Martin with a low-slung front end and a trapezoidal front end. The overall look gives the Fusion an air of looking more expensive than it really is. However, I think the Fusion design is just trying a little bit too hard to stand out. Also, I think the Fusion must have mugged an Aston Martin to use its front clip. As for the Fusion’s interior, I wished Ford had done more in terms of design. Step inside and you find yourself surrounded by materials in black and sliver. While the company does deserve some credit for using high-quality materials throughout the interior, I wished Ford’s designers had taken some of the enthusiasm from the exterior and placed it inside. Front seat passengers get power-adjustments, along with heat and cooling. I found the seats to provide excellent support and comfort. Rear seat passengers will find legroom is decent. Headroom is tight thanks to the sloping roof. When I put my 5’8” frame back here, I found my head to be touching the roof. My tester came equipped with the MyFord Touch infotainment system, This system has been criticized for a number of issues including non-responsive capacitive buttons, laggy performance, and a questionable voice recognition system. Ford has been ironing a number of problems and the good news is that some of the problems are gone. The capacitive buttons actually respond when pressed and a good amount of the lag is gone. But there is still a fair amount lag in the system. An example of this comes when going to my presets on the radio and it taking a few seconds to respond. Also, I found the voice recognition system not recognizing my voice. I tried using the commands the system provides, but it couldn’t understand anything I said to it. Just for a laugh, I swore at the system and the response it gave back was something to effect of ‘Do you need help?’ For Powertrain and Handling Impressions, See Page 2 Being the top-of-the-line Fusion, it means that it gets the turbocharged 2.0L EcoBoost four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic, and the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. My tester had the latter of the two drivetrains. Since this was a turbocharged four-cylinder, I was expecting it to be like other ones I have driven where power would come on instantaneously before running out of steam midway through the rpm band. In the case of the 2.0L EcoBoost, power doesn’t come on instantly. Instead it feels more like a V6, gradually building up power as the revs climb. It should also be noted the 2.0L EcoBoost is quite refined with barely any noise coming from the hood. The six-speed automatic is quick and responsive for any situation you throw at it. Fuel economy is the biggest drawback with the 2.0 EcoBoost. Equipped with all-wheel drive, the 2.0 EcoBoost is rated by the EPA at 22 City/31 Highway/25 Combined. My average for the week was around 24 MPG. Although it should be noted that I was seeing around 20 to 21 when driving in stop and go city traffic during my first few days of testing. Driving around in the Fusion presented a mostly comfortable and quiet ride. I say mostly due to my tester being fitted with optional 19-inch wheels which do let in a few more bumps and imperfections. On the freeway, there is barely the hint of road and wind noise. Out on a twisty road, the Fusion handles quite well. The car barely has any body lean and is very nimble. Steering is quite hefty, but more exuberant drivers will wish for a bit more feel. So at the end my week, I felt a bit mixed about the Fusion. On one hand, Ford has done a lot to make the Fusion stand out with an upscale look, impressive powertrain, and a nice balance between comfort and sport. But there are some big downsides to the Fusion as well: MyFordTouch still has a fair amount of issues, the rear seat is kind of tight, and the optional AWD results in some poor MPGs. The biggest sticking point though is the price. A base Fusion Titanium starts at $30,390. With AWD and options equipped on my tester, it rose to $38,820. That price puts in the range of base and decently equipped compact luxury sedans, Drop AWD and the price goes to around $36,000. Still that's a lot of money for a midsize sedan, especially when many competitors offer a lot of the same features for less money. So when I think back about my dad and whether or not he made the right call with going the older Fusion and not the newer one, I can say now that he made the right call. Disclaimer: Ford Provided the Fusion, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Ford Model: Fusion Trim: Titanium AWD Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Four-Cylinder Driveline: All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 5500 Torque @ RPM: 270 @ 3000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/31/25 Curb Weight: 3,821 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hermosillo, Mexico Base Price: $32,600 As Tested Price: $38,820* (Includes $825 Destination Charge and $490 Sync and Sound Discount) Options: Driver Assist Package - $1,200.00 Adaptive Cruise Control - $995.00 Active Park Assist - $895.00 Navigation System - $795.00 19-Inch Aluminum Wheels - $695.00 Heated and Cooled Front Seats - $395.00 Ruby Red Tinted Clearcoat - $395.00 Rear Inflatable Seatbelts - $190.00 Premium Floor Mats W/ Trunk Mat - $175.00 Heated Steering Wheel - $150.00 View full article
  10. You ever hear someone say, “Eh it was good, but it wasn’t great.”? That really doesn’t tell you anything about the thing you were asking about. Consider asking a friend about a new restaurant and they say that phrase to you, it would drive you mad because your friend hasn’t given you a clear indication of where they stand. Well I’m about to commit this sin with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71. I think the Colorado is a good truck, but not a great one. Now before you start screaming at your screen and writing angry comments, I will explain what I mean. The Colorado has been on sale in a number of market for a few years now, but only arrived in North America last year. This was due to General Motors making a number of changes to get it sellable in the U.S. Market. For example, the exterior of the worldwide Colorado is very different to the one sold in the U.S. The Colorado’s front fascia sold in other markets looks likes it was taken off the Equinox, while the NA-Spec Colorado gets a front fascia thats more akin to the Silverado with longer split grilles and a set of different bumpers and lights. Otherwise, the rest of the NA-Spec truck is the same with a somewhat rounded cab shape and various bed sizes. My tester was equipped with smaller 5’2” box which means you’ll have to do a couple more loads. There is a s 6’2” box available if you want something bigger. Also, my Colorado boasted the Z71 package, which nets you Z71 decals on the rear fenders and a set of 17-inch alloy wheels. Another big change between the Colorado sold here and elsewhere is inside. The two models boast different dashboard layouts for their specific markets. In the case of the North American model, Chevrolet took some ideas from the Silverado and implemented them into the Colorado. Controls are within easy reach of the driver and passenger and the truck boasts a lot features that you would not expect on a midsize only a few years ago. My particular tester came equipped with heated seats, Chevrolet MyLink with Navigation, Automatic Climate Control, Trip Computer, and Bluetooth. Chevrolet MyLink stills has a fair amount of problems with slowness, responding when pressed, and causing my iPod to crash constantly. Seats in the Z71 are a combination of leather and cloth. I found the front seats to provide good support, but I also found that getting the right position took quite awhile. Either I was too far away to reach the steering wheel and pedals comfortably, or my knees would be touching the underside of the steering column. Maybe some power adjustments or smoother manual adjustments would help out here. Back seat space is quite good when it comes to headroom. Legroom is a different story as it's small to nonexistent dependent on how tall the person sitting up front is. It should also be noted that the rear seats can either be flipped up to access a storage shelf or flipped down to provide added cargo space. For thoughts on powertrain and handling, see the next page. Power for the Colorado comes from either a 2.5L four-cylinder or a 3.6L DI V6. There is a Duramax four-cylinder diesel that will be arriving for the 2016 model year. For my tester, it boasted the 3.6 V6 with 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet. This comes paired up with a six-speed automatic and a four-wheel drive system. This engine is the weak link in the Colorado. Most truck engines whether they are a V6 or V8 have their torque right in the low-end of the rpm band. The Colorado V6’s torque is towards the higher end of the rpm, meaning you have to give the V6 some revs to get it moving. The six-speed automatic is smooth in around town and expressway driving. But I found it to be a bit slow when I pressed on the accelerator to make a pass. Fuel economy is rated at 17 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. I got an average of 18.2 MPG. On the ride front, the Colorado is quite good. Compared to the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma, the Colorado delivers a comfortable ride with many bumps and harshness not making it inside the cabin. Also, wind and engine noise were mostly nonexistent. The Colorado also earned bonus points for how maneuverable it was thanks to the small size. Aside from the engine, there is one other sticking point for the Colorado and that happens to price. My tester as shown here came with an as-tested price of $36,710. That’s quite a lot of money for a midsize truck, especially considering the average price of a full-size truck is only $4,000 more or so. So lets go back to the beginning of this review where I said the the Colorado is a good truck, but not a great one. There are lot of things to like about Colorado; its distinctive looks, feature list, ride, and maneuverability. But there are a fair number of items that leave a black eye on the Colorado such as the V6, MyLink, and the price. It leaves the Colorado in this interesting middle ground where it's better than the competition, but not quite as good as it should be. For now, that is enough for GM as the Colorado is more modern than its contemporaries. But I wonder down the road, will this be enough? Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Colorado, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Chevrolet Model: Colorado Trim: Z71 4WD Crew Cab Engine: 3.6L SIDI DOHC VVT V6 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 305 @ 6800 Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined -17/24/20 Curb Weight: 4,380 lbs Location of Manufacture: Wentzville, MO Base Price: $34,115 As Tested Price: $36,710 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge) Options: Bose Audio System - $500.00 Chevrolet MyLink - $495.00 Spray-On Bedliner - $475.00 Trailering Equipment Package - $250.00 View full article
  11. The full-size luxury SUV marketplace are full of models that will never venture off payment. Such models include the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, and Mercedes-Benz GL that have either basic to somewhat advanced four-wheel drive systems. Then there is the Range Rover which boasts a number of off-road technologies and equipment to get you through some of murkiest conditions on earth. Sure, you never see one tackle an off-road trail unless its featured in a promo video, but it’s nice to know the model can get you through. It makes some wonder if there is a competitor that can match the Range Rover in terms of off-road ability and luxuries. Well Lexus believes they have that competitor in the form of the LX 570. I spent a week in it to see if it can compete. The LX 570 is the sister model to the Toyota Land Cruiser, so a fair number of items are shared between the two. For example, the basic shape of the body are similar. Both models boast similar profiles and key design items such as a large glass area and a split-opening tailgate. At least Lexus’ designers should be credited for trying to make the LX look somewhat different from the Land Cruiser. Such details include flared out fenders boasting 20-inch wheels, and a set of running boards. The front-end gets the brand’s distinctive spindle grille and a set of headlights with LEDs. The addition of the spindle grille seems out of place when compared to the rest of the LX’s design. The interior of the LX 570 further differentiates from the Land Cruiser thanks to a new dashboard layout and some luxury touches. Step inside and you’ll notice the large amount of leather and wood trim used throughout. You’ll also notice a large number of buttons and switches throughout the dash and center console. These control aspects of the four-wheel drive and other systems to get you through the muck. The latest version of Lexus’ Enform infortainment system is here, minus the mouse controller. Instead you have a fair number of buttons and a touchscreen to help you move around. It takes a few moments to wrap your head around where everything is, but once it clicks, the system becomes quite easy to use. However, the system is starting to look somewhat dated when compared to competitors. Plus, I want to ask the person who thought it was a great idea to put the fan control in the system and not have a dedicated knob or buttons for it. Passengers up front get power adjustments with memory, along with heat and cooling. I found the front seats to provide excellent support and the heat was very nice for the extreme cold that I found myself driving the LX in. Second row passengers will find an abundance of head and legroom, along with heated seats and a two-zone climate control system. There is a third row, but that’s best left in case of emergencies as legroom is minimal. The third-row also presents a problem for cargo space. With the seats down, the LX 570 only has 15.5 cubic feet of space. Fold the seats up and space increases to 45 cubic feet, but the seats are still in the cargo area. Now you might wonder why the seats don’t fold into the floor. The answer is the four-wheel drive and off-road equipment takes up all that space. Thoughts on Engine and Ride Are on the Next Page Power for the LX 570 comes from a 5.7L V8 with 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and a full-time four-wheel drive system. Tipping the scales at just a hair over 6,000 pounds, the V8 engine has its work cut out for it. But thanks to the engine having a decent amount of torque and a quick-shifting automatic, the LX is able to get out of its way with no sweat. Lexus should also be given credit for the amount of refinement done to the engine as it barely makes a murmur when accelerating. The big downside for this powertrain is fuel economy. The EPA rates the LX 570 at 12 City/17 Highway/14 Combined. I was lucky to get 13 MPG as my average for the week. Now as I mentioned earlier, the LX 570 comes packed with a fair amount of off-road equipment and tech. Here is what LX comes with: Adjustable Suspension Hill-Start Assist Turn Assist: Brakes the outside wheel to provide a tighter turning radius Crawl Control: Adjusts throttle and brakes when driving through difficult terrain So how does the LX 570 fare off-road then? Well mother nature was happy to oblige by dropping a few inches of snow during my time with the vehicle. For the most part, the LX was able to drive through unplowed roads with no problem. The four-wheel drive system kept the vehicle moving while the adjustable suspension kept the body above the snow. One downside on the LX was the tires equipped. The Dunlop Grand Trek tires felt like they were scrambling for traction in the snow. If you’re planning to get an LX to drive in the snow, I would recommend swapping tires. Aside from this brief excursion into the snow, the LX did alright around town and on the expressway. With the suspension set in either comfort or normal, the LX glides over bumps and imperfections. Sound deadening is excellent with nary a hint of road and wind noise entering the cabin. Out on the curves, the LX shows signs of body lean. Even with the suspension set in the Sport setting, the lean is noticeable. Steering is slow, giving the feeling that you are driving a tractor and not an SUV. The Lexus LX 570 has the luxuries and off-road tech which puts it in the direct line of the Range Rover. But the poor gas mileage and cargo space make it an outlier in the full-size luxury SUV class. If you are planning to traverse the Rocky Mountains or go on a summer vacation in the Sahara desert, then the LX 570 makes sense. Otherwise, you have a fair number of competitors that offer better fuel economy and a few more luxuries for the price. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LX 570, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Lexus Model: LX 570 Trim: N/A Engine: 5.7L 32-Valve, DOHC, Dual VVT-i V8 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 383 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 403 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 12/17/14 Curb Weight: 6,000 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi Japan Base Price: $82,930 As Tested Price: $90,720 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: Mark Levinson Audio System - $2,350 Dual-Screen DVD Rear-Seat Entertainment System - $2,005 Luxury Package - $1,510 Intuitive Park Assist - $1,000 View full article
  12. The term black sheep is used to describe someone that is either odd or despicable, especially in terms of a family. Take into consideration Volkswagen. The past 15 years or so have seen a number of black sheep in their lineup. The best example is the Phaeton. Introduced in 2004 as competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and its ilk, the Phaeton was over-engineered and came with impressive luxury features. The problem was convincing people that it was ok to spend $80,000+ on a Volkswagen and was pulled out a few years after its introduction. Then there is the CC. Arriving to the lineup in 2008, the CC was one of the first vehicles to capitalize on the four-door coupe trend. But the past few years have seen the CC fade into the Volkswagen lineup, with the likes of the Jetta and Golf in the spotlight. So why has the CC almost gone into obscurity? I spent a week in the 2015 CC Sport 2.0T to find out. Walking around the CC, you can’t help but think this is possibly the best looking Volkswagen in quite a while. The basic shape hasn’t changed much since it first introduced. A low-slung front end flows into a side profile with a high beltline and sloping roofline. The back has a short deck and a clean looking trunklid with a large VW emblem which conceals the backup camera - the emblem opens up at an angle to reveal the camera. The only real items of change are up front where Volkswagen swapped the grille, air intake, and headlights to bring it more in line with the current lineup. Moving inside, the CC has the air of a luxury vehicle. Soft-touch plastic finished in black and faux aluminum trim give a premium feeling to the vehicle. Controls are within easy reach of the driver and passenger, and have a solid feel to them. The Sport is the base model in the CC lineup, but it doesn’t feel like it with the amount of standard equipment fitted to it. There is leatherette with power adjustments for the front seats, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, a five-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth, HID headlights, and automatic wipers. I do have to call out the five-inch touchscreen. If you have checked out any of my previous Volkswagen reviews, then you know I hate this system as the screen is too small to hit the touch points and the graphics look dated. In the back, you’ll find a bench seat and not the two seat layout that the original CC came with. This was to make the CC somewhat more practical. Sitting in the back, I found legroom to be generous, while headroom was very much at a premium due to the sloping roofline. Also the high beltline does increase the feeling of being cramped. See Page 2 for Powertrain and Handling Thoughts Most CCs come equipped with Volkswagen’s venerable turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Those wanting a bit more power will want to check out the top-of-the-line CC with the 3.6L VR6 producing 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0T comes with a choice of either a six-speed manual or DSG, while the VR6 gets a six-speed automatic only. In my case, I had the 2.0T paired with a six-speed manual, and was delighted by this combination. Despite the low power numbers, the 2.0T feels much more powerful. Power is instantaneous and never seem to fall off a cliff. Even in situations where I needed to make a pass, the 2.0T was there with the power needed to get me moving. The six-speed manual was smooth and provided positive shift action as I went through the gears. As for fuel economy, the CC 2.0T with the manual is rated at 22 City/31 Highway/25 Combined. I got an average of 27.2 MPG for the week. The CC’s ride was surprising in how it balanced comfort and sport. In day to day driving, the CC did an excellent job of isolating bumps and road imperfections. Out on the freeway, the CC kept road noise mostly at bay. Wind noise is somewhat apparent when cruising at high speed. On the curves, the CC is nicely balanced and likes to be pushed. Steering is on the lighter side, but provides decent feel. The Volkswagen CC is still a credible vehicle in the Volkswagen lineup. With sharp looks, an impressive feature list, and a balanced diet of sport and comfort, the CC deserves more recognition. But why has the CC faded into the unknown? It comes down to CC being one of the oldest models in the lineup. It doesn’t help newer models such as the Golf are overshadowing it. But if you’re looking for something a bit different in the midsize/entry-level luxury sedan class, be sure to give the CC a close look. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the CC, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Volkswagen Model: CC Trim: Sport Engine: 2.0L TSI Turbocharged 16-Valve Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 200 @ 5100 Torque @ RPM: 207 @ 1700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/32/25 Curb Weight: 3,358 lbs Location of Manufacture: Emden, Germany Base Price: $32,685 As Tested Price: $33,550 (Includes $865.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article
  13. The midsize sedan field has changed drastically within the past few years. New models are now standing in the spotlight, while older and more established models are beginning to fall flat. The Toyota Camry is beginning to feel some of the pressure. While it still is one of the top selling vehicles in the U.S., the likes of the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Ford Fusion are eating into its sales. Toyota knew it was time to make some changes to keep the Camry on top. The result is the 2015 Camry. I spent a week in the Camry SE Hybrid to see if these changes help or hurt. The 2015 Camry is quite a departure in terms of design. Whereas previous-generations were more reserved and somewhat boring to look at, the 2015 model is quite out there. From a long, slim chrome bar paired with a massive mesh grille up front, to character lines along the side, this Camry has style. A set of grey, 17-inch wheels and hybrid badging finish off the finish off the Hybrid SE. I’m not to keen on the Camry’s overall design, but I have to admit this is the most exciting Camry in a while. The interior is also a departure from previous Camrys. There is some style throughout the interior with slight curves on the dash panels and grey stitching on certain interior pieces. There is also more soft-touch materials used throughout to make the cabin a bit more pleasing to touch. The center stack gets a seven-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system, and a set of large buttons and knobs to control it and the climate control system. Some might complain and make fun of the giant buttons and knobs that Toyota employs., Bbut in the age of using small buttons which are difficult to find, or capacitive-touch buttons which can be hit and miss, I appreciate Toyota’s decision to keep it simple. One item I wish Toyota would fix is the touchscreen as it appears to be washed out in any condition. SE models get a set of sport seats with what Toyota calls ‘sport fabric material’ - a combination of their SofTex vinyl and patterned fabric. Finding a comfortable position in the front is no problem thanks to good support from the seats and a number of adjustments - power for the driver, manual for the passenger. The back seat has no shortage of head and legroom for even the tallest of passengers. See Page 2 Powertrain and Ride Impressions One item Toyota did not dare mess with is the hybrid powertrain. Like on the larger Avalon Hybrid, the Camry Hybrid uses a 2.5L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder paired with an electric motor to produce a total output 200 horsepower. This powertrain is paired to a CVT. There are also three different drive modes which varies power output: Drive: Goes between electric, gas, and hybrid modes automatically. Eco: Restricts throttle response and use of the A/C compressor EV: Runs the vehicle solely on electric power if the vehicle is under 25 MPH The Camry Hybrid is quite the potent vehicle. Leaving a stop light, I was shocked at how it was able to leap off and get moving at a quick rate. Maybe it was due to me thinking I was driving a Prius XL. But the reason for this fast response is due to the 199 pound-feet of torque from the electric motor which is available from 0 to 1,500 rpm. More impressive was how the Camry Hybrid did around town and on the freeway as the powertrain was able to get up to speed at a reasonable rate. I had to remind myself that this a hybrid and not a basic four-cylinder model. Fuel economy is rated at 40 City/38 Highway/40 Combined for the hybrid. My average for the week was around 37 MPG. This was due to frigid weather I was driving in. Now the Hybrid SE model is new for this generation of Camry Hybrid which includes a sport-tuned suspension. Does this make the Camry Hybrid sportier? I have to say no. In the corners, the car felt somewhat squishy - possibly due to the low-rolling resistance tires. Also, the steering felt very rubbery and had no feel. If you want a midsize hybrid sedan that is somewhat fun to drive, I would point you in the direction of the Honda Accord Hybrid. But for day-to-day driving, the Camry Hybrid is quite good. Even with the sport-tuned suspension, the vehicle still kept bumps and imperfections at bay. Wind and road noise were kept at acceptable levels. At the end of my week with the Camry Hybrid SE, I felt that most of these changes have helped the Camry. It may not be the most exciting to look at or to drive, but Toyota focused on improving the basics which will help it in the sales chart. As for the SE trim, I think its a half-baked idea. They have the looks down, now Toyota just needs to work on making the driving a tiny bit more sporting. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Toyota Model: Camry Trim: Hybrid SE Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive (2.5L DOHC 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder, 105 kW Electric Motor) Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 156 @ 5,700 (Gas), 200 (Total Output) Torque @ RPM: 156 @ 4,500 (Gas), 199 @ 0-1,500 (Electric) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 40/38/40 Curb Weight: 3,565 lbs Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY Base Price: $27,995 As Tested Price: $32,987 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite - $1,300.00 Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof - $915.00 Remote Start - $499.00 Clear Protective Film - $395.00 VIP RS3200 Plus Security System - $359.00 Four Season Floor Mat Package - $325.00 Illuminated Door Sill Enhancements - $299.00 Wireless Charging for Electronics - $75.00 View full article
  14. Late last year, I had the chance to pilot the 2014 Lexus ES 350. In my review I said that while the new ES is a noticeable improvement over the old one, competitors such as the Buick LaCrosse have surpassed it. But Lexus has an possible ace up their sleeve and it happens to be the hybrid version of ES. Not many competitors offer a fuel efficient version, so does it give the ES an edge? What differentiates the ES 300h from the ES 350? Not much from the exterior aside from blue tint on the badge, hybrid badges on the door sills, and the"h" on the rear badge. The interior is the same aside from a new instrument cluster with an eco/power gauge and a EV mode button. One item I do have to call out on the ES 300h’s interior is the optional Bamboo trim. Not only is it sharp looking, but adds a nice touch of class to the interior. Power comes from Lexus’ Hybrid Drive system which pairs a 2.0L four-cylinder and a electric motor producing a total output of 200 horsepower. A CVT sends power to the front wheels. This powertrain seems more attune the ES’ mission of providing a smooth and quiet ride. The powertrain is able to get the vehicle moving without much stress or noise in city traffic. Merging onto freeway or trying to make a pass does reveal some noisy clatter from the engine. The CVT doesn’t help matters as the drone that plagues many CVTs when you push further down on the accelerator pedal comes in. Fuel economy for the ES 300h is rated 40 City/39 Highway/40 Combined. My week saw an average of 37 MPG. This was slightly disappointing, but at the time I was driving the ES Hybrid, temps were below freezing which would explain the drop. As for ride and handling, the ES 300h follows in the footsteps of the standard ES 350. The suspension provides a smooth ride. Any imperfections on the road are dealt with and don’t make they way into the cabin. Also not making an appearance inside the cabin is road and wind noise, Thanks to thicker windows and added insulation, the ES is a very quiet car. Helping matters is one of the smoothest transitions from hybrid power to electric power. The only way to know that the hybrid system has kicked on or off is a EV Mode light in the instrument cluster. If your planning to tackle the winding roads, then leave the ES Hybrid at home. Like the standard ES, the hybrid shows a bit of body roll and steering doesn’t have any sign of feel. If I was considering an ES, I would go for the 300h since it fits the ideals of the model - a quiet and comfortable ride paired with a somewhat upscale cabin. Add in the fuel economy and the ES 300h might be a compelling choice for those who just want something luxurious. But for almost the same price as this ES 300h, you can get into a fully loaded Toyota Avalon Hybrid which offers most of the same features as the ES, along with a much better look and a more sporty drive if you are interested in that. So while the ES 300h does give a slight edge to ES, it gets undercut by another member of the family. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the ES300h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: ES Model: 300h Trim: N/A Engine: 2.5L DOHC, 16-Valve with VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: (Gas) 156 @ 5,700, (Total) 200 Torque @ RPM: (Gas) 156 @ 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 40/39/40 Curb Weight: 3,660 lbs Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka Base Price: $40,430 As Tested Price: $46,995 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: Hard Disk Drive Navigation system with Backup Camera - $1,795 Luxury Package - $1,370 HID Headlamps - $565.00 Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert - $500.00 Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00 Power Trunk Closer - $400.00 Bamboo & Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel - $300.00 Power Rear Sunshade - $210.00 View full article
  15. You have to wonder what is in the water at Nissan’s headquarters when you first glance at the Juke crossover. This subcompact crossover/hatchback/thing was very polarizing when it first introduced back in 2010. I was one of those people who thought the Juke was an ugly beast and wondered if Nissan was being mind-controlled by aliens. But since then, I have warmed up to the Juke and appreciated that someone was willing to take a chance on a design that stood out. Would this feeling continue if I was to ever to drive a Juke? Well, I can answer this question after spending some time with a 2015 Juke SL AWD. The Juke’s design is no shrinking violet. The overall shape looks like a design proposal from planet X. Such details as the bug-eye daytime running lights, boomerang taillights, and flared out fenders means you will be the center of attention wherever you drive the Juke. One thing I have to give Nissan credit is giving the Juke the choice of some bold colors. The yellow paint on my tester worked very with the quirkiness of the Juke’s design. The interior doesn’t continue the Juke’s exuberant exterior aside from the motorcycle gas tank where the transmission selector is located. That’s ok because I would feel Nissan would be going a bit too far in terms of design. Instead, Nissan stuck with a simple interior layout with a smooth dashboard and a large center stack. There is a pleasant mix of soft-touch plastics and red trim pieces that give Juke a personality. Standard on the SL was a five-inch touchscreen with NissanConnect. The screen is slightly small to read quickly at a glance. But I will give Nissan some credit for making the system easy to navigate around. Underneath is a simple climate control system with a color screen. But if you press the D-Mode button right above the climate control system, it changes the system into a control panel to choose different driving modes and providing trip computer information. It is a clever solution to providing key information and changing the behavior of how the Juke drives. Now being a subcompact crossover, the Juke doesn’t offer much in rear seat space. The rear windows need a sticker that says “break in case of emergency”. You are better served by folding the rear seats to increase rear cargo space from 10.5 to 35.9 cubic feet. Sitting in the front seats, you might feel somewhat cramped due to the high window sill and the low roofline. At least the seats have enough support and bolstering to keep you in place. For power, the Juke comes with a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. For 2015, you can only get Nissan’s xTronic CVT on the standard Juke. If you want the six-speed manual that was offered for Juke, you’ll need to step up to the Nismo or Nismo RS. Front-wheel drive comes standard, while a torque vectoring all-wheel drive system is optional. The small turbo engine in the Juke is quite a hoot as power comes on early in the rev range and continues towards the middle. This engine is perfectly situated for whenever you want to leave a stoplight in the dust or need to make an avoidance maneuver. The downside is the CVT. It takes some of the fun of playing around with the turbo engine as you can’t fully work with it. Also, the CVT has the tendency to rev high and stay there if you have the Juke in Sport mode, making for a very unpleasant sound to come into the cabin. In terms of fuel economy, the Juke CVT with all-wheel drive is rated by the EPA to get 26 City/31 Highway/28 Combined. My week saw an average of 27 MPG. As for ride and handling, the Juke shines. The suspension is tuned to provide to keep the vehicle flat while cornering. Steering had a good weight and feel for when you feel like wanting to attack the turns. For day to day driving, the suspension is a little bit too firm when driven over bumpy roads. You’ll feel a good amount of bumps in your seat. There is also a bit of wind and road noise when driven at highway speeds. The Nissan Juke starts at $20,250 for the base S model and comes equipped with some nice features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, backup camera, keyless entry and push-button start, and Bluetooth. All-wheel drive adds $1,895 to the base price. Our test Juke SL AWD came with everything available on Juke such as a sunroof, navigation, heated leather seats, and Nissan’s around-view camera system. All this comes with an as-tested price of $28,225. That seems a little much for a subcompact crossover considering you can get a well-equipped compact crossover for the same price. The 2015 Nissan Juke is very much a vehicle that stands out in a crowd. Aside from the shouty design, the way it handles and the zoom of the turbocharged engine can put a smile on anyone’s face. The downsides are a CVT that sucks some of the fun out of the turbo engine and price tag that makes us question whether or not the Juke is worth it. If making a scene is what you want in a car, then you should take a careful look at the Juke. Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Juke, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Nissan Model: Juke Trim: SL AWD Engine: 1.6L DIG Turbocharged Four-Cylinder Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 188 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 177 @ 1,600 - 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/31/28 Curb Weight: 3,209 lbs Location of Manufacture: Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan Base Price: $26,940 As Tested Price: $28,225 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: Center Armrest - $250.00 Carpeted Floor Mats & Cargo Mats - $210.00 View full article
  16. Author's Note: With 2013 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, we've decided to clear out the remaining 2013 vehicle reviews this week. Everyday a new review will appear on the front page. If you miss one day, don't worry, we'll have links to the previous reviews just below. -WM Monday: Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Tuesday: Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Wednesday: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD Friday: Lexus LS 600h L In this age of crossovers, the Toyota Land Cruiser is a bit of dinosaur. It rides on a ladder-frame and not a uni-body platform. Power comes from a big V8 engine and not a downsized V6 with turbochargers. It features a full-time four-wheel drive system with a load of off-road technologies but not an all-wheel drive system. There has to be a reason why the Land Cruiser exists. After spending a week in one, I might have the reason. The Land Cruiser's exterior can trace its roots back to the 1998 model as the two models share an overall profile. The front end is slightly angled and features a large grille and headlights with LEDs. Along the side are embellished front and rear fenders that have a set of five-spoke eighteen-inch wheels wrapped in meaty off-road tires sitting underneath. There is also a large glass area and chrome trim along the door panels. The back end has a split opening tailgate and more chrome trim pieces. Compared to its contemporaries (Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz GL), the Land Cruiser is somewhat plain looking.Inside, the decision was made to have durability as the priority, followed by luxury. This is very clear when looking at the materials used as most can be classified as hard and plastic. The wood trim seen in the photos is described by Toyota as "wood-grain-style trim". Now for what the Land Cruiser costs ($79,728 as tested), I was expecting a bit more luxury. But after giving it some thought and taking into account what the Land Cruiser is built for (tackling the Amazon rainforest for example), I'm ok with the decisions since the materials will last a long time and are easy to clean up. The seating arrangement in the Land Cruiser is for eight people which is somewhat surprising since it is smaller than the largest Toyota SUV, the Sequoia. Compared to the Sequoia, the Land Cruiser rides on a wheelbase that 9.8 inches shorter and overall length is 10.2 inches shorter. The front features two bucket seats with power adjustments and heat. I found the seats mostly comfortable, though I was wishing for more thigh support. The second row features seating for three people via a bench seat. Head and legroom is excellent and there is heat for the seats. The third row is a different story. To begin, the seats are folded up like jump seats that you might find in a military airplane. Once the seats are folded down and put yourself back there, you find out that legroom is non-existent and the seating position isn't comfortable at all. One of the saving graces of the Land Cruiser has to be the amount of equipment that comes standard. There is four-zone climate control, six-inch touchscreen with Toyota's Entune infotainment system, navigation, 14-speaker JBL premium sound system, privacy glass, auto-dimming mirrors, and smart key access. How do I get the seats down? For impressions on the powertrain and ride, see the next page. Under the hood is a 5.7L V8 engine that is also used in the Lexus LX 570 (sister SUV), Toyota Sequoia, and Tundra pickup. This engine produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic gets the power to all four wheels via full-time four-wheel drive system. To say I was bit concerned about how the engine would fare is a understatement. The Land Cruiser tips the scales at 5,730 pounds and I was thinking that the V8 wouldn't have the oomph to move it. I shouldn't have thought that as the V8 is more than capable of moving it. Acceleration is very brisk and I never had the feeling that more power was needed at all. As an added bonus, the 5.7L is muted when at idle and utters a murmured growled when climbing the rev range. The six-speed automatic is smooth going through the gears and didn't show any signs of gear hunting. For the 2013 model year, Toyota decided to ante up the Land Cruiser's off-road credentials. First is the introduction of the Multi-Terrain Select system that modulates the amount of wheelspin to help get the vehicle though varying terrain conditions. The other addition is CRAWL Control with an Off-Road Turn Assist. This system allows the driver to choose from five different settings that regulates acceleration (going forward or backwards) and braking to let a driver focus on getting the vehicle through rough or steep grades. This system also utilizes the hill decent control and accent control. Sadly I didn't get the chance to try any of these systems out during my time with the Land Crusier.Now with a big V8 engine and a full-time four-wheel drive system, the Land Cruiser has no problem sucking down gas. The EPA rates the Land Cruiser at 13 City/18 Highway/15 Combined. My average for the week landed at 15 MPG. For the suspension, Toyota employs a double-wishbone setup with gas shocks and a hollow stabilizer bar for the front, and a four-link, coil-spring with lateral-rod setup in the rear. Toyota also employs a system called Kinetic Dynamic Suspension which uses hydraulic cylinders to put pressure on the swaybars to increase or decrease the stiffness. On-road, the system increases pressure to help reduce body roll when cornering. Off-road, the system reduces pressure to increase wheel travel. The Land Cruiser's on-road ride is better than I was expecting. On smooth and rough surfaces, the Land Cruise glides along effortlessly. Road noise is non-existent and wind noise is kept at a decent level. Show the Land Cruiser a corner and you'll have a feeling of motion sickness. There is noticeable body roll and lean when going around corners. All large SUVs exhibit this, but most competitors do a much better job of reducing roll. Look Mom, I'm off-roading! The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser is very old school in many ways, but there is a reason for it. The Land Cruiser has a reputation of being a vehicle that can take you anywhere. In that regard, it makes sense why Toyota made certain decisions for this model. If you are looking for a vehicle to get you across the Sahara desert or the Rocky Mountains, there is no better choice than the Land Cruiser. But if you're looking for a SUV to just drive around and not go off-road, the Land Cruiser is just too much 'SUV' for that. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Land Cruiser, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2013 Make: Toyota Model: Land Cruiser Trim: N/A Engine: 5.7L, 32-valve DOHC V8 with dual independent VVT-i Driveline: Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 381 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/18/15 Curb Weight: 5,730 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toyota City, Japan Base Price: $78,555.00 As Tested Price: $79,728.00 (Includes $845.00 Destination Charge) Options: All-Weather Floor & Cargo Mats - $250.00 Cargo Net - $49.00 First Aid Kit - $29.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  17. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com October 2, 2013 To say the current crop of mid-size sedans is downright impressive would be massive understatement. We have sedans that can be compared with more expensive models in styling, are fun to drive, and get fuel economy numbers that only compacts and subcompacts were getting a few years ago. It's hard to place where the starting point is for this current group of mid-size sedans, but I have a possible answer. The year is 2010. Hyundai introduced the next-generation Sonata to the marketplace and it was a suckerpunch to the midsize marketplace. Here was a mid-size sedan that brought forth amazing styling, impressive powertrain tech, and value for money that no one else could match. Everyone knew that a new, credible challenger had arrived and it was time to step up. After four years since its introduction, the Sonata is beginning to show its age when compared to its competitors. Sales though haven't slowed down at all. Can the current Sonata still stand tall or is it time for the curtain to fall on this sedan? The Sonata is still an impressive looking sedan. Despite going on almost four years in the marketplace, the Sonata looks like it was just released. You can tell that Hyundai's designers were influenced by the first-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS as the two share a similar shape. Other details to take note are dual exhausts and a set of eighteen-inch wheels. The interior is a whole another story as it looks and feels very old. Someone at Hyundai must have been going through a dark period since there are large swaths of black throughout. There is black plastic and soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels. The seats are draped in black leather and mesh fabric. The only bright spot inside is the contrasting silver trim pieces along the center stack. So far, the Sonata SE ties with the Nissan Rogue SL for the most depressing interior of 2013. Another problem for the Sonata, at least for me, was the front seat adjustment. When I first got into the it, I felt like I was sitting too high. But when I tried to lower the seat, I was at the lowest position. Now I happen to be 5'7" tall and usually can find a comfortable position in a vehicle, not in the Sonata. After a couple days of driving around, I got used to the position. It does make me wonder if someone taller than me would have the same problem. As for back seat space, headroom comes at a premium due to the sloping coupe roofline. Legroom though is decent. Hyundai still has the value argument down to a T. SE models come standard with a proximity key, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, and Hyundai's BlueLink telematic system. For an extra $2,900, you can order the SE Navigation and Sunroof package which includes navigation, sunroof, a Dimension Premium Audio System, and backup camera. It's an option package I highly recommend. With the outside and inside stories done, lets look at the Sonata's powertrain. Hyundai was the first automaker to drop the V6 engine and replace it with a turbo-four in the midsize class. The 2.0L turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder packs 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0T only comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddles on the wheel. The 2.0L turbo is quite peachy. Imagine a bottle rocket being shot off and not slowing down, that's Hyundai's 2.0L turbo in a nutshell. The 269 pound-feet of torque spans from 1,750 rpm to 4,500 rpm (torque peaks at 3,500 rpm), meaning the Sonata 2.0T doesn't suffer from turbo lag and pulls off the illusion of being a bigger engine than it really is. Even more surprising: the 2.0T doesn't exhibit the thrashiness or buzzing that you would expect in a four-cylinder. The six-speed automatic works excellent as the computer puts the vehicle in the right gear at the right time. There are paddles but I didn't use them due to the reluctant nature of the automatic. Just leave it in drive and let the transmission do its thing. Fuel economy wise, I was on the low-end of the Sonata 2.0T's ratings. My average for the week landed around 22.0 MPG which happens to be the same as the 2.0T's City rating. If you have a lighter foot, you will likely be closer to the combined rating of 26 MPG. Out on the highway, I got close to 34 MPG rating with an average of 32. The Sonata SE model differs from the base GLS and top trim Limited in its suspension as it gets sport-tuned springs and dampers. Out on a curvy road, the Sonata SE does feel somewhat sporty. The revised springs and dampers helps the SE model feel much more planted and reduce body roll. Don't think it's in the same league as the 2014 Mazda6 though. The Sonata SE's steering doesn't feel like its connected to the vehicle. I know that I'm turning the steering wheel and the vehicle is moving, but there isn't that feedback coming through the steering wheel. Plus, if you push the Sonata hard, it begins to show signs of body roll. Moving off the twisty roads and onward to the freeway and streets, the Sonata SE shines here. The suspension copes very well when driven over rutted roads. Road and wind noise are mostly kept in check. Close to four years on, the Sonata is still a very impressive sedan. Sure, the interior is darker than Alaska during the winter solstice and provides one of the oddest seating positions that I have ever experienced. But Hyundai got the fundamentals right with the Sonata; a handsome design, punchy engine that gets decent fuel economy, comfortable ride, and pricetag that cannot be beat. The current Sonata started a revolution in the midsize sedan and the fact it's still selling so well means the next-generation model has a tough act to follow. Disclaimer: Hyundai provided the Sonata 2.0T, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year: 2013 Make: Hyundai Model: Sonata Trim: SE 2.0T Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM: 274 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 1,400 - 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/34/26 Curb Weight: 3,452 lbs Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama Base Price: $25,895.00 As Tested Price: $29,205.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge) Options: SE Navigation and Sunroof Package - $2,900.00 Rear Spoiler - $250.00 Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror with HomeLink and Compass - $250.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $100.00 iPod Cable - $35.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  18. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 18, 2013 Remember the Kia Amanti? No? Well to be fair, not many people remember at all either. The Amanti was Kia's first attempt at a full-size sedan that was introduced back in 2003 as a 2004 model. The car was a flop; weird styling cues, poor performance, and Kia's not so sterling reputation at the time sealed the Amanti's fate and in 2009, it was gone. Four years on, Kia is giving the full-size sedan another chance with the 2014 Cadenza. With a more powerful engine, better styling, long list of features, and more, Kia hopes that the second time is the charm. Is it? I spent some time with the Cadenza to find out. The Cadenza's design is, well, kind of boring. This is from Kia, a brand that has produced some very stylish and distinctive vehicles; the Optima, Sportage, new Forte, and Soul. The Cadenza's shape is playing it safe, which I can understand. But with the likes of the new Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300, and Hyundai Azera, the Cadenza looks very plain. The overall profile reminds me of the current BMW 5-Series, especially in the back where two models have a similar design. The front end has Kia's tiger grille and distinctively shaped headlights. The side has a bold door crease and a set of nineteen-inch wheels. Moving inside, the Cadenza shows that Kia has learned lot about doing a luxurious interior. You'll find plenty of stitched leather, soft-touch material, and wood trim lining the dashboard and door panels. Even the key for the Cadenza was done with a piano black finish. The one part I wished Kia could have done somewhat better is the center stack button layout. All of the buttons are similar to each other in shape and size, and you have to look to figure which button takes you to XM and not the CD player. Not a fun experience when you're on the move.Comfort is hit and miss with Cadenza. Passengers will find a pleasant amount of head and legroom, and heated seats for all. The driver gets a ten-way power adjustable seat with three-level heating and ventilation. The passenger only gets two-level heating and a four-way power seat with no height adjustment (not even manual adjustment). Both features I would expect in a vehicle that carries a pricetag of $41,900. It gets worse when you consider the 2014 Chevrolet Impala I had a few weeks back came with two-level heated and ventilated seat and height adjustment for the passenger. Add in the fact that Impala came with a pricetag that $2,490 less than the Cadenza and it's not looking that good. As for tech, the Cadenza starts off with a configurable center gauge display. It's a bit interesting Kia decided to with this instead of a large trip computer screen and a analog speedometer since it looks a little out of place. Still, the screen was vibrant and able to show key information clearly. There is also Kia's next-generation UVO infotainment system. I'll be diving more into this in a separate review. That's it for the software, how is the hardware? On to page two! Powering the Cadenza is the same engine you'll find under the Hyundai Azera; a 3.3L direct-injected V6 with 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is very lively engine and moves the 3,792 pound vehicle with no sweat. The six-speed automatic is very refined with smooth and quick shifts. I wished Kia did not put in paddle shifters in the Cadenza since it feels out of place. Fuel economy numbers for the 19 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. My week's average in the Cadenza was around 21.2 MPG. The Cadenza ride and handling are somewhat surprising for a full size sedan. Driving around town, on the freeway, or on the back roads, the Cadenza provided a very refined ride. Also refined is the Cadenza's quietness. Kia used a lot of sound deadening throughout the vehicle and you can hear difference. As I wrote in my notes, the Cadenza is as quiet or even quieter than the Impala I had a few weeks back.Show the Cadenza a curvy road and this is where things get interesting. The suspension provide firmness and a limited amount of body roll. Steering is light, but provided good feel. I would say the Cadenza is about the same as the Impala in driving fun, but I would put the Impala somewhat higher as I felt more confident in it, mostly due to the Impala's heavier steering feel. One other feature I should mention is the Cadenza's Advance Smart Cruise Control (ASCC) which comes part of the Technology Package. The Advance Smart Cruise Control was one of the smoothest systems I have come across. Keeping up with the flow of traffic was no problem as the system was able to smoothly speed up and slow down. Even when a car cut in front the Cadenza, the system was able to slow down the vehicle and keep a safe distance.Kia almost has a real winner with the 2014 Cadenza. They learned from their past mistakes with the Amanti and produced a vehicle that is close to a very worthy option. The only items that gives me pause are missing items on a vehicle with an almost $42,000 pricetag and a confusing center stack layout. If Kia can remedy those two items, then we'll have a real contender on our hands. Disclaimer: Kia provided the Cadenza, insurance, and one tank of gas. Year: 2014 Make: Kia Model: Cadenza Trim: N/A Engine: 3.3L GDI DOHC V6 Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM: 293 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 255 lb-ft @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/28/22 Curb Weight: 3,792 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hwasung, South Korea Base Price: $35,100.00 As Tested Price: $41,900.00* (Includes $800.00 destination charge) Options: Technology Package - $3,000 Luxury Package - $3,000 White Interior Package - $0.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  19. I’ll admit that I am completely jealous of the European automotive landscape for the variety of vehicles on offer. Aside from the countless number of wagons that would make an automotive writer tremble, there is a wide range of hot hatches on offer. From compact hatchbacks that are lapping the Nürburgring under eight minutes to subcompact models that can provide a thrill for not that much money. The hot hatch is still a new thing to the U.S., with only a small number available in the compact segment. The subcompact hot hatch was mostly nonexistent unless you decided to drop a fair amount of change on a MINI Cooper. Last year, Ford decided to ship over the Fiesta ST, complete with a turbo-four, six-speed manual, and a number of key changes to the suspension and exterior. Have we been missing something in our hot hatch diet? The Fiesta has always been one of sharpest looking subcompacts since going on sale back in 2011, especially if you went for the hatchback. The European style with a rounded shape, low front end, and a number of wheel choices makes the Fiesta stand out. For the ST, Ford put in a new mesh grille insert finished in black, 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color rear spoiler, and a rear diffuser. My Fiesta ST tester came in a bright red-orange paint color, which works very well for the intent of the vehicle. But I found it to be a bit too much in loudness. Despite the color choice, I still think the ST is the best-looking model in the Fiesta lineup. Moving inside, the Fiesta is a mixed bag. The Fiesta ST feels and looks step above many competitors thanks in part to aluminum trim pieces and solid plastics used throughout. But in terms of ergonomics, the Fiesta seems like a step back. The climate controls are so low in the dash, you have to stretch out your arm to get them. Also, you can forget about taking a quick glance at them because of how low the controls are. Then there is touchscreen featuring MyFordTouch that comes standard on the ST. The screen is quite small and makes using the system more of pain since the touch points are much harder to hit. Combined with the sluggish performance and questionable voice recognition system, and MyFordTouch becomes more of a hassle. As for seating, my Fiesta ST tester came equipped with the optional Recaro bucket seats. These seats feature increased bolstering on the bottom and top cushions to keep you from sliding around when you decide to explore the limits. But I found the seats to be more of a hindrance. Getting in and out was somewhat difficult due to increased bolstering, and the seats become very uncomfortable on long trips. Unless you are planning to do track days with your Fiesta ST, just skip the Recaros. As for the back seat, headroom is quite impressive. Legroom is very tight for the class. The Fiesta ST comes with a 1.6L EcoBoost four-cylinder with 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque. This engine only comes with a six-speed manual. With a curb weight of 2,742 lbs, the 1.6L is quite punchy. Power comes on quite early and it seems to never end the further you climb up in the rev range. It doesn’t hurt that the engine has an intoxicating note that will cause you to press the accelerator more often. The six-speed manual is one of the slickest transmissions I have used. The motion to change gears feels like a hot knife going through butter. I found that I was able to go through gears at a quick rate. In terms of fuel economy, the EPA rates the Fiesta ST at 26 City/35 Highway/29 Combined. I found my average to land around 27 MPG in mostly city driving. In terms of handling, the Fiesta ST feels like a dancer as it gracefully goes around corners with no sign of body lean and changes direction quite fast. A lot of this comes down to the changes Ford made to the suspension including a 15-millimeter drop for the suspension and a set of stiffer springs. The steering is very impressive with excellent feel and a nice weight which makes driving the ST that much more fun. For day to day driving, the Fiesta ST is slightly uncomfortable as the stiff suspension will let in some bumps into the interior. But Ford did a great job of isolating a fair amount of road and wind noise from coming inside the Fiesta. There is the thought in the automotive world that it's better to drive a slow car fast than driving a fast car slow. The Ford Fiesta ST shows that it is very much true. This is a vehicle that you play with and not draw the ire of the law. It also helps that a base price of $21,435 nets you a lot of equipment and performance. Not only is the Fiesta ST one of the crown jewels in the hot hatch hierarchy, it’s one the best performance car values on sale today. Now the question I find myself asking is, how do I get one into my hands? Disclaimer: Ford Provided the Fiesta ST, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Ford Model: Fiesta Trim: ST Engine: 1.6L GTDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 197 @ 6,350 Torque @ RPM: 202 @ 4,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/35/29 Curb Weight: 2,742 lbs Location of Manufacture: Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico Base Price: $21,435 As Tested Price: $25,530 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge and $490.00 SYNC & Sound Discount) Options: Recaro Package - $1,995 Navigation - $795.00 Molten Orange Metallic Tricoat - $595.00 17" Premium Painted Wheels - $375.00 View full article
  20. When you frequent certain places with a new car every week, you’re bound to be asked about it. Case in a point a few weeks ago; I was at a car wash getting one of my test cars cleaned up to do a photoshoot. As I’m paying for the wash, the car wash attendant asks me what do I do for a living. I explain that I am an automotive writer. “Oh,” the attendant says. “I thought you worked for a dealership.” “No no,” I said. “A few weeks back. You brought in this car with the bright orange paint. Really stood out. Never seen one before and haven’t since.” “Well, I haven’t seen one aside from the one I brought in,” I said jokingly. We talked for a few more moments before I rolled in into the wash. As I was sitting there, I was racking my brain. What orange car had I brought in a few weeks back? Then it hit me. It was a Lexus. But not just any Lexus. It was their new coupe, the RC 350. Let’s see how this new coupe fares. Lexus has been trying to make their cars look more exciting with varying results. The IS and GS have earned a fair amount of praise from us for their sharp looks. Meanwhile, the crossover and SUV lineup fall in the ‘if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything’ category. The RC straddles the middle. The design is sleek with a low-slung front end, aggressive lines along the side, and similar rear end styling the IS sedan. Opt for the F-Sport package and the RC transforms into an assertive coupe with a body kit, mesh grille insert, vents on the bumpers, and 19-inch wheels finished in gunmetal gray. But there are two key issues in the RC’s design. First is the spindle grille which can make or break a design. In the case of the RC, it seems to break it since it happens to be the widest version available on Lexus vehicle. The grille looks like it could swallow up small children. The RC is also one of those vehicles where the color used can make or break a design. In the case of our tester’s orange color, it was a bit much and looked like a creamsicle. Go with a red or blue, and the RC looks quite sharp. Step inside the RC and it shows its sporting intentions clearly. The dashboard comes from the IS sedan with an angular center space, brushed metal accents and soft-surfaced plastics, and the configurable gauge cluster. The sport seats which come part of the F-Sport package do you hold you in when you decide to explore the limits of the coupe. But I found the seats to have a bit too much side bolstering to allow me to slip into the seat fully. The RC is one of the first Lexus vehicles to debut the latest version of Lexus Enform that drops joystick controller for a touchpad. This fixes one of the biggest issues with the infotainment system where you had to be precise with moving the controller and selecting a function. If you weren’t, you found yourself in a completely different function from the one you wanted. Now the touchpad has an issues where there is delay from when you move your finger across the pad to the cursor moving across the screen. Aside from this, the touchpad is a noticeably better than the joystick controller. For power, the RC 350 packs Lexus’ 3.5L V6 with 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. This only comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. I adored this powertrain combination is the IS 350 F-Sport I drove last year. This still holds true for the RC as there is plenty of power throughout the rev range. The throttle response is ok when the RC is set in Normal, but it becomes noticeably better when put into Sport or Sport+. Plus, there is a noticeable growl coming out the exhaust when you have V6 in either sport mode. The eight-speed automatic delivers smooth and quick shifts. As for fuel economy, the RC 350 is rated by the EPA at 19 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. My week saw an average of 23.1 MPG. Now the F-Sport package adds some goodies underneath the skin such an adaptive variable suspension system and a new variable gear system for the steering. It does make a difference in the corners as the RC is able to smoothly transition from corner to corner and show no sign body roll. Steering is nicely weighted and has an excellent feel of the road. Ride quality is mostly like a standard Lexus vehicle as harshness is dialed out for the most part. Road and wind noise are also kept in close check. For the most, the Lexus RC 350 F-Sport has most of the components to make it a credible coupe to take on the likes of BMW 4-Series, Audi A5, and even the Cadillac ATS. But in this class, looks are the most important item. This is where the RC does stumble. The design is quite polarizing and will draw attention. But the question is whether that attention will lead to like or hate? For me, the RC 350 F-Sport did strike a chord for me. But the orange paint could have drawn me the other way. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RC 350, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Lexus Model: RC 350 Trim: F-Sport Engine: 3.5L 24-Valve DOHC VVT-i V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 306 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 277 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/28/22 Curb Weight: 3,748 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $42,790 As Tested Price: $54,720 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: F-Sport Package - $3,985 Navigation System/Mark Levinsion Audio System - $2,610 Variable Gear Ratio Steering - $1,900 Moonroof - $1,100 Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Pre-Collison System - $500.00 Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00 Foglamps - $410.00 View full article
  21. A lot of automotive writers have a list of vehicles that we wished more people would consider purchasing. For example, my list of vehicles I wished more people would consider includes the Cadillac CTS, Lexus IS, and Mazda6. Let me add another one to this list, the Chevrolet SS. This car on paper has a number of items that should bring in people such as potent V8 engine, a choice of automatic and manual transmissions, long list of standard features, and a price tag under the $50,000 mark. But this isn’t happening. Sales figures for SS came to 2,479 vehicles in 2014. This year isn’t any better with 2,199 vehicles sold through August. Now, we should note that GM was only planning on selling a couple thousand a year - something the company is achieving. But we think the Chevrolet SS is worthy of more and deserves some time in the spotlight. Let us explain. Unfortunately, we must begin with a negative to the Chevrolet SS and that happens to be the exterior. The SS happens to be the Holden Commodore from Australia. With the model coming to the U.S., GM made a number of small changes such swapping out the Holden emblems for Chevrolet ones, putting the SS name to the trunk lid, and adding a set of nineteen-inch alloy wheels. However for a model that has the performance credentials like the SS, we were expecting a bit more in terms of design. Maybe some hood vents, flared out fenders, or more aggressive bumpers to make it stand out. Now the understated look does give the SS an understated look to put under the radar of many folks. But maybe it is a bit too understated. The first day I had the SS, my dad said it looked like a Malibu. Ouch. At least the Chevrolet SS begins to improve when you go inside. This has to be one of GM’s best efforts in terms of interiors outside of Buick and Cadillac. The interior is trimmed with suede with contrasting stitching, soft-touch plastics, and faux aluminum trim. The seats come wrapped in leather with suede inserts. The front seats provide excellent support and hold you whenever you decide it's time to play around. A set of power adjustments and heat and ventilation make the front seats the place you want to be in the SS. For the back seat, passengers will find more than enough head and legroom. Chevrolet has fitted the last-generation version of the MyLink system to the SS. While that means you don’t get a fancier interface to use, it does mean you’ll be avoiding a number of problems that currently plagues the current version. The interface is simple looking and easy to understand. Moving to the various functions of the system only takes a few moments. One other bit of technology that Chevrolet has fitted to the SS is a heads-up display. This display provides key information such as speed, navigation, what’s playing, and much more on the windshield. This helps reduce the time you take eyes off the road. In terms of power, the SS comes packing with a 6.2L V8 with 415 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. Previously, you could only get a six-speed automatic with the SS. But for the 2015 model year, Chevrolet has added a no-cost six-speed manual as an option. The first time you start up the 6.2 V8 in the SS, it sounds like a monster being rudely awaken. The engine boasts a pronounced growl at idle. When you put the vehicle into gear and get moving, the V8 begins to purr and produce a distinctive burble that increases in tempo and volume the higher you climb in the rev range. In terms of outright performance, the SS has oodles of power at its disposal. Whether you are leaving a stop light, merging onto a freeway, or accelerating out of a turn, the V8 has power throughout to get you moving. Our test SS had the six-speed manual and it is unlike any manual transmission that I have driven so have so far. The shifter requires a firm hand and some force to have it go into gear. The clutch is also slightly tricky since there is a small window between moving and stalling. Once you understand these traits, the manual transmission becomes quite fun to play with. Now there is one issue with the manual transmission and that is the skip-shift system. This locks out second and third gears to improve fuel economy. This system proved to be more of an annoyance than help as we found ourselves confused as to why we couldn’t go into second after leaving a stop, before realizing the skip-shift system had kicked in. Also, the engine would bog down when we shifted into fourth. This meant we found ourselves shifting into third to give the engine some breathing room. In terms of fuel economy, the SS equipped with the manual is rated by the EPA at 15 City/21 Highway/17 Combined. Our average for the week was around 16.2 MPG. If you were worried about the size of the SS being a detriment in overall driving experience, you can breathe a sigh of relief as the SS is a fantastic handler. A lot of this comes down to GM fitting the magnetic ride control system on the SS for the 2015 model year. This system uses special shocks filled with magnetic fluid that instantly change the firmness in milliseconds. This allows the SS to hunker down and show no sign of body roll when you are playing around in the corners and also provides a smooth ride when you’re doing some errands. You can adjust how firm or soft the suspension is via a knob in the center console. The steering has a lot of feel that will inspire a fair amount of confidence for a driver. We just wished there was a little bit more weight to go with it. It’s a shame the Chevrolet SS isn’t getting the time in the spotlight that it fully deserves. Now some of this has to put at GM since there hasn’t been any marketing for the vehicle. Do you remember the last time you saw an ad for the SS? We going to assume the answer has been never. But some of this must be leveled at the SS’ design. It just blends in with every other car. But the overall package and performance does combat most of the design issues for the SS. This is a car that you kind of have to take a chance on. But if you decide to do it, the SS will reward you greatly. Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the SS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Chevrolet Model: SS Trim: N/A Engine: 6.2L V8 W/SFI Driveline: Six-Speed Manual Transmission, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 415 @ 5,900 Torque @ RPM: 415 @ 4600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/21/17 Curb Weight: 3,960 lbs Location of Manufacture: Elizabeth, Australia Base Price: $45,745 As Tested Price: $46,740 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article
  22. Trying to make yourself stand out in a crowd is a difficult task. Trying to do that in a competitive crowd such as compact luxury car market can be labeled as ‘Mission Impossible’. Why? Because sooner or later, you’ll be compared to the demigod that is the BMW 3-Series. The 3-Series has been a perennial favorite by many automotive writers and buyers because of its fun-to-drive characteristics and the value of the BMW badge. Since the F30 generation, many believe that the 3-Series has softened a bit. This has allowed competitors such as Cadillac, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and others to try and slip some of those buyers away. Lexus is one of the competitors hoping to give the 3-Series a run for its money by introducing a radical looking third-generation IS. The looks are one thing, but can this Lexus make a stand? I had an IS 350 F-Sport for a week to find out. The IS makes a good first step in differentiating itself from everyone else. The overall shape looks to be an impressionist’s take on a compact luxury sedan. With sharp lines, the now familiar spindle grille, separation of the headlights and daytime running lights, and other details; the IS makes sure that it's the center of attention. One design element I think needs to be called out is the rear rocker panels coming together at an angle and flowing upward to create the leading edge for the taillights. A nice touch. The F-Sport package only ratchets up the attention of the IS by a factor of ten. Such design touches include new body kit, mesh grille insert, and a set of 18-inch wheels finished in graphite. Lexus also worked on making the IS’ interior standout from the crowd as well. The interior layout is very reminiscent to the LF-A supercar with an angular center stack and a minimal amount of buttons, to the configurable gauge cluster a sliding bezel which can positioned three ways (left, middle, and right) to provide key information for the driver. Material quality is for the most part top notch with brushed metal accents and soft-surfaced plastics. A set of sport seats help keep you and your passenger locked in while driving somewhat enthusiastically. Personally I found the side bolstering to a bit too much, which meant I couldn’t fully get into the seat. For your infotainment needs, the IS 350 F-Sport comes with the latest version of Lexus Enform. This new version features a new interface which brings the system into the modern era. You can also divide the screen into two or three parts to show off key information such as navigation, climate, and audio. Moving around the system is done with Lexus’ Remote Touch system. While I like the idea of using a joystick to control the system, the execution is another story. You have to be precise with your movement of the control, especially when you are pressing down to select a function. One slip and you’ll be in another section. The IS’ powertrains carry over from the last generation model. The base IS 250 features a 2.5L V6, while the IS 350 comes with a 3.5L V6. The larger V6 produces 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic comes standard on the rear-drive IS 350, while the all-wheel variant sticks with a six-speed automatic. The 3.5L V6 is a very stout and smooth performer. Power seemed to be available throughout the rev range and getting the IS 350 moving from a stop was no problem. If you put the IS 350 F-Sport into Sport or Sport+, the V6 becomes Mr. Hyde. The engine provides a deeper growl and provides sharper acceleration. When I put the vehicle into Sport+, I was shocked how the V6 engine changed from a smooth operator to one that had the same characteristics of a turbocharged one. The eight-speed automatic has to be one of the best I have experienced as it provided quick and smooth shifts, no matter whether I was driving normally or like a maniac. Fuel economy for the IS 350 F-Sport is rated at 19 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. My week saw an average of 21.8 MPG. Being an F-Sport model, the IS gets a number of tweaks to the suspension and steering. Such tweaks include an adaptive variable suspension, variable gear ratio steering, system a set of summer performance tires, and new brake pads. When the IS 350 F-Sport is in normal mode, its pretty much like your standard Lexus vehicle. The suspension does a mostly good job of isolating bumps and imperfections. There will be a few bumps that make their way into the vehicle due to the stiffer setup the F-Sport is equipped with. Switch the vehicle into Sport+ and the suspension stiffens up and makes the IS 350 a race car. Toss the IS 350 F-Sport into a curve and the model hunkers down with nary a hint of body roll and the tires keeping the vehicle glued to the road. The steering is nicely weighted and provides excellent feel. Lexus has a very credible competitor in compact luxury class with the IS. If you can spare your eyes from the looks, the IS 350 features a wonderful V6 and a impressive interior layout. The cherry on top is the F-Sport package which makes IS 350 a compelling driver’s car. Sure the IS may not have the brand equity that some of its competitors may have. But Lexus has shown that you don’t have to go the Germans to get a fun sedan. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the IS 350, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2014 Make: Lexus Model: IS Trim: 350 RWD Engine: 3.5L 24-Valve DOHC VVT-i V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 306 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 277 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/28/22 Curb Weight: 3,593 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $39,465 As Tested Price: $48,977 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge) Options: F-Sport Package - $3,620 Navigation System/Mark Levinson Premium Audio - $3,225 Blind-Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - $600.00 Paint Protection Plan - $429.00 Variable Gear Ratio Steering - $400.00 Trunk Mat, Cargo New, Wheel Locks, and Rear Bumper Applique - $329.00 View full article
  23. If you wanted a Fiat 500 but had a family, you would have to ultimately pass on it. There just wasn’t enough space for four passengers or even two passengers and all of their stuff. But about year ago, Fiat started selling a bigger 500 known as the 500L which boasted more space and became more appealing to small families. I spent a week in the larger 500 to see if the added size helps or hurts. Even though the 500L shares the 500 name, that is where the similarities end. Fiat designers have added two feet to the 500L, and given it a boxy shape that is more akin to the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube. The front end is very much 500-esq with the winged-Fiat emblem, dual light setup, and narrow vent underneath. Although as someone pointed out to me and I happen to agree with, the 500L’s front-end look likes it has an overbite. Also, I think the choice of wheel covers on the Easy model really don’t help the 500L’s look. I would trade them for a set of wheels from the 500L Trekking model. But I want to give Fiat’s designers some credit on the 500L. The model boasts a large area of glass which not only helps improve visibility, but also makes the interior feel much more spacious. Moving inside, the 500L features the same funkiness found on the standard 500. Such details as a squarish steering wheel, unique dashboard design, and panoramic sunroof give the 500L its own identity. Material and build quality is quite good with mixture of cloth, soft-touch plastic, and hard-touch plastic in the places where you expect them. This particular model came with the optional 6.5-inch UConnect system. Despite a smaller screen, this system keeps the familiar UConnect interface and ease of use that I have praised this system for. Also on my tester was the optional Beats sound system which provided mostly good sound, but I found it to be a bit heavy on the bass, even after I turned it down a bit. One other complaint I have deals with the dual-zone climate control system. I found it to be too low in the center stack to glance at quickly and quite the reach to change temperature or fan speed.Now with an increase in overall size, you would think that the interior has seen an increase in space. You would be correct. Step inside the back seat and there is a stadium style seat arrangement which gives your passengers a higher view, along with a decent amount of legroom. Remember that panoramic sunroof I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that eats into rear headroom. Sitting my 5’8” frame back here, I found my head making contact with the headliner. Anyone taller than me will likely have to crick their neck to fit back here. At least the seats were comfortable. Moving to front, seats provide good comfort and support, along with a small number of adjustments. Thoughts on Power and Ride on page 2 Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder producing 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Those with keen eyes will surmise this sounds very familiar to the 500 Abarth, and you would be correct. On Easy models and up, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic. (Note: Pop models get a six-speed dual-clutch automatic). I had the latter transmission in my tester. Compared to the Abarth I drove a few weeks back, the 500L has about 800 extra pounds to lug around. But the 1.4 doesn’t feel like it's being worked any harder. Acceleration is very smooth and the engine seems to be able to get going at any speed. The six-speed automatic I found tended to hold gears longer that it probably should. At least the transitions between gears were smooth. Fuel economy for the 500L with the automatic is rated at 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. My week saw an average of 24.3 MPG. The 500L is surprisingly good when it comes to day to day driving. The suspension copes with small and medium size bumps pretty well, while larger ones do unsettle it. Road noise is kept to a decent level, but wind noise is very apparent due to the 500L’s shape. The 500L is surprisingly good when it comes into the corners, showing minimal body motion. However the squarish shape and oddly-shaped steering wheel will make you think twice about having some fun with this vehicle.The 500L is wise move for Fiat as it helps bring more buyers into their showroom. But there are two big elephants in the room. One deals with reliability. Both Consumer Reports and TrueDelta have a fair number of complaints about the 500L. In fact, the 500L is one of the lowest rated models in Consumer Reports ratings. The second is the price. The 2015 Easy model starts off at $20,545, while my tester rang in at $26,895 thanks to the automatic transmission and a big option package which included the sunroof and UConnect system. For the same amount of money, you could get into the base 500L Trekking or a fully loaded Kia Soul. These two factors make the 500L less appealing. Add in the upcoming the 500X, and you end up with a lose-lose situation. Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 500L Easy, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Fiat Model: 500L Trim: Easy Engine: 1.4L Turbocharged MultiAir Inline-Four Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 160 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 2,500 - 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25 Curb Weight: 3,254 lbs Location of Manufacture: Kragujevac, Serbia Base Price: $20,545 As Tested Price: $26,895 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Easy Collection 4 - $4,100 AISIN Heavy Duty 6-Speed Automatic Transmission - $1,350 View full article
  24. Being a person who gets the chance to review new vehicles, I have noticed that many of the vehicles that I evaluate are loaded up models. It does put someone like myself in a odd position trying to do a review since I have to try and distill it down to the main items that will be found on the lower tiers as many buyers don’t go for the top models. So whenever I get a mid-level or base trim of a review vehicle, it’s like a breath of fresh air and allows me to focus on the important parts. Case in point is the 2015 Hyundai Genesis which arrived during the Christmas holiday. I wasn’t sure what I was getting, possibly a fully loaded 3.8 V6 model or even the 5.0 V8. But it was the base model 3.8 that was dropped off and I knew it would give me a chance to examine it without any of the gimmicks. When the Genesis was introduced last year, I was unsure about the looks. It boasted a number of design cues from the HCD-14 shown at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show which in my eyes made it look somewhat comical. Then when I did a first drive last spring, I grew to like the looks aside from the grille. After spending a week, I became impressed with the overall design. Compared to the last Genesis which looked to be a generic sedan, the new model has style and presence all over. The Genesis boasts Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language which includes such details as the large hexagonal grille, LED lighting on the front lights, pronounced character line on the belt line, and the rear pillars flowing into the decklid. Moving inside, the Genesis shows how far Hyundai has come with interior design. The last one looked like someone just threw bits and pieces together in a hurry. The 2015 model looks to crib some ideas from the Equus flagship which isn’t a bad thing. A new dashboard design provides a better layout of controls, and the feeling of being closer with the car. An eight-inch touchscreen comes standard and boasts Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system which provides such features as emergency services, along with weather and traffic. Using the touchscreen was a painless affair with the system recognizing whenever I touched the screen, along with a set of buttons to direct you to different parts of the system.As for comfort, the Genesis comes wrapped with supportive leather seats. Front seat passengers get heat, along with 12-way power seats to find a position that works for them. Meanwhile in the back, there is more the enough head and legroom for even the tallest of passengers. Now being it was the holidays when I was driving the Genesis, the trunk was an important part since it would be carrying a lot of stuff. The Genesis passed this with flying colors thanks to a trunk measuring 15.3 cubic feet. It was able to fit luggage for two people and some gifts, and still have enough space for other items. Powertrain and Ride/Handling Thoughts Are On Page 2 Power for the Genesis 3.8 comes from a 3.8L GDI V6 with 311 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic that sends power to the rear-wheels or optional all-wheel drive. Despite what the numbers tell you, the V6 is quite a strong engine. Power is seemingly available through the rpm band and is ready to come on when needed. Helping matters is a smart eight-speed automatic which seemingly knew what gear was needed and was able to apply it without any notice from the driver or passenger. Fuel economy is rated at 18 City/29 Highway/22 Combined. During my week, I saw an average of 24.6 MPG. More surprising was on one stretch of our holiday trip, I saw fuel economy as high as 29.3 MPG. Being called in for holiday road trip, ride quality and sound deadening are two key items that could make or break the Genesis. Luckily it was more than up to the job. Driving on the interstate showed how much work Hyundai has put into the Genesis as bumps and potholes were dealt with and not a hint made them into the interior. Road and wind noise are nonexistent, which helps bolster its appeal. As for handling, Hyundai has made some great strides in this department. The Genesis showed no body roll and provided decent weight in the steering. But don’t think you have found an excellent alternative to the likes of the Cadillac CTS VSport as I think it drives much better than the Genesis.Looking at the base model of any car can give you an idea of whether or not it is the real deal. In the case of the Genesis, this is truly the real deal. The automaker has made great strides in making the Genesis from a nobody into a somebody. With the looks, feel, and drive of a vehicle that costs thousands more, the Hyundai Genesis is not only a bargain, but a damn fine automobile. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Genesis 3.8, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Hyundai Model: Genesis Trim: 3.8 Engine: 3.8 DOHC 24-valve V6 with CVVT Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 311 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 293 @ 5,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/29/22 Curb Weight: 4,138 lbs Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea Base Price: $38,000 As Tested Price: $38,950 (Includes $950.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article
  25. If you have ever looked at the sales charts for Cadillac, you begin to notice a trend. While most of their models are seemingly downward or climbing back up slowly, only two models have been somewhat constant; the SRX and the Escalade. We have taken a look at the SRX and have delved into why it's a big seller. Now it's time to take a look at the Escalade and ask why does it do so well? After the first-generation Escalade, Cadillac has been working on separating the it from the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon in terms of design. The second-generation saw an angled front end, distinctive side molding, and a new rear tailgate. The third-generation went a step further with a new grille design, bigger wheels, and other design touches. For this generation, Cadillac decided to sharpen the lines of Escalade to give it a more striking look. Pair this with the large, five-bar grille and vertical LED headlights up front, and the thin LED taillights in the back and the Escalade may have to be one of the best looking full-size SUVs. My only complaint on the Escalade is the new emblem as it looks a bit out of place. The separation continues inside as the Escalade features the same dashboard as seen on Cadillac’s passenger car lineup. The driver faces a screen which provides the instrument cluster. Cadillac’s implementation of this is one of the best as the screen is clear and vibrant. Also the choice of four different layouts and being able to customize what information is displayed adds a nice touch. That also means Cadillac’s CUE system is present in the center stack. Like other Cadillac models I have driven, the CUE system had its share of slow response time and not recognizing inputs. I’m wondering what Cadillac has in store for the next-generation of CUE and if it can improve its share of problems. Luxuries are top notch with the Escalade featuring quite the assortment of leather, wood, and piano black trim throughout the interior. Leather wrapped seats provide excellent support for long drives. Front seat passengers get 12-way power adjustments to find that perfect position, while ventilated seats provide an added level of comfort dependent on the season. Second row passengers are treated to captain chairs with heat. Headroom I found to be excellent, while legroom is a little bit tight. Like the Tahoe I drove last year, the Escalade’s third row is best reserved for small kids or to be folded into the floor.For powertrain and ride impressions, see page 2 You only have one choice of engine for the Escalade: A 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The engine makes quite the statement of its intention when you first start it up; sounding more like a Corvette than a truck engine. Despite the Escalade’s curb weight of 5,840 pounds, the 6.2L shrugs it off like nothing. Power is seemingly available through the rev range. Helping matters is a new eight-speed automatic which provides buttery smooth shifts and is barely noticeable. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the Escalade 4WD at 15 City/21 Highway/17 Combined. My average for the week landed around 13.2 MPG, mostly due to below zero weather and driving in stop and go traffic. The Escalade’s underpinnings are very much an old-school truck with a live rear axle and body-on-frame construction. But you wouldn’t know that if you took it out onto the road. The ride is very smooth, and no road imperfections make their way in. This is partly due to the Magnetic Ride Control system which quickly adjusts to provide the best ride quality as possible. Also helping is an independent front and five-link rear suspension setup. Steering has excellent weight and feel which makes you feel a little bit more in control with the Escalade. Also Cadillac should be given props for providing a very quiet interior that could rival a library. A noise cancellation system and loads of sound deadening make the Escalade a perfect long distance partner. My only concern with the Escalade’s driving are the brakes. They don’t inspire much confidence. With a mushy pedal feel and having to push farther on the pedal than should be expected, I felt at times that I wasn’t going to be able to stop it in time. This is something I hope GM addresses in the near future.Why is the Escalade one of Cadillac’s top sellers? I think it comes down to a few reasons. One is that the Escalade is one of the elder statesmen of the class, alongside the likes of the Lincoln Navigator and Range Rover. It also helps that the Escalade is part of the pop culture lexicon. Consider how many pictures or movies/TV shows have stars and music artists driving/riding in an Escalade. That does a lot for a vehicle’s rep. Final reason? The Cadillac Escalade is just a dang good SUV. The fourth-generation model shows how much work Cadillac put into this. But it should be noted that all of this work and refinement does come at a cost. A 2015 Escalade starts at $72,970, while my Premium 4WD tester rings in at $89,360. That may put some people off, but I feel Cadillac can very much justify it. In this class, it's about the style, the image, and the luxuries. The Escalade delivers on all three. Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the Escalade Premium, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Cadillac Model: Escalade 4WD Trim: Premium Engine: 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5600 Torque @ RPM: 460 @ 4100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/21/17 Curb Weight: 5,840 lbs* Location of Manufacture: Arlington, Texas Base Price: $84,070 As Tested Price: $89,360 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) *Note: Weight is for Escalade 4WD equipped with 20-inch wheels Options: Kona Brown with Jet Black accents - $2,000 Power Retractable Assist Steps - $1,695 22-inch Dual 7-Spoke Aluminum Wheels - $600.00 View full article

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