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  1. On the day I was getting the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport for a week-long test, meteorologists were calling for a massive snowstorm in Metro Detroit. Depending on where you lived, snowfall was expected to range from six inches to almost a foot. As I was signing the paperwork and getting the key, the snow was beginning to fall at a heavy rate. It would be an interesting week with one of oldest crossovers on sale. The current Outlander Sport has been with us since 2011 and it still stands out from other crossovers in the class. This comes down to an aggressive design and Mitsubishi making a number of changes to the design in the past few years. For 2018, Mitsubishi has updated the Outlander Sport with new bumpers and LED running lights. Up front, Mitsubishi went with a dual grille setup - a narrow one on top and a large mesh one for the bottom. 18-inch wheels come standard on all Outlander Sports and look quite sharp. Mitsubishi hasn’t done much to the Outlander Sport’s interior since its launch and it clearly shows. The design is very uninspired with seemingly endless black plastic and almost no brightwork. Most materials used feel brittle and cheap, which is very disappointing when compared to other models such as the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3. Mitsubishi does redeem itself a little bit with the dash being covered in soft-touch material. Another plus point to the Outlander Sport’s interior is the control layout. The buttons and knobs are laid out in a logical fashion and are within easy reach. Getting comfortable in the front seats is not hard thanks to a decent amount of manual adjustments on offer, along with a tilt-telescoping steering wheel for the driver. Slightly worrying was my test Outlander Sport having a driver’s seat that slightly rocked whenever the vehicle accelerated and stopped. I know this issue isn’t isolated to my test vehicle. Speaking to some who have driven different 2018 Outlander Sports, they have reported the same issue. Mitsubishi really needs to figure out this issue and get a fix out ASAP. The rear seat offers a decent amount of headroom, but there is barely enough legroom for taller passengers. Cargo space is quite good with 21.7 cubic feet of space behind the front seats and 49.5 cubic feet when folded. For 2018, Mitsubishi has installed a new 7-inch infotainment system on all Outlander Sports. Higher trims like our test SEL add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. Compared to Mitsubishi’s previous infotainment systems, the one in the Outlander Sport is excellent. The system is very easy to use with a simple and vibrant interface. Performance is quite good as the system quickly responds to a user’s input. Mitsubishi offers two engines for the Outlander Sport. ES and LE models use a 2.0L four-cylinder, while the SE and SEL models feature a larger 2.4L four-cylinder. Our test vehicle had the latter engine which produces 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a CVT and the choice of front- or Mitsubishi's All-Wheel Control (AWC) system. Out of the two engines, the 2.4 is the one to get as is feels noticeably quicker when leaving a stop. But it will run out of steam at higher speeds, making passing or getting onto the freeway a bit difficult. The CVT is somewhat slow to respond whenever you step on the accelerator. The AWC system redeems the Outlander Sport to a point. AWC offers the driver three different modes - 2WD, 4WD Auto, and 4WD Lock. The difference between the two 4WD settings is Auto only sends power to rear wheels if it detects slip where Lock sends power to all wheels. Putting the system into 4WD Lock, the Outlander Sport easily went through roads with close to a foot of snow on the ground with no issue. The system was able to quickly shift power to the wheels with grip to help keep the car moving. I believe if you fit you a set of snow tires to the Sport, you will have a very good winter vehicle. Fuel economy figures of 22 City/27 Highway/24 Combined put the Outlander Sport towards the bottom of the class. My average for the week landed around 23.2 mpg. For a subcompact crossover, the Outlander Sport’s ride is pleasant. It glides over bumps and other imperfections. Handling is a mixed affair. Drive the Outlander Sport normally around a corner and it feels composed. Begin to push it and there is a fair amount of body roll. Steering has a very rubbery feel and there is a noticeable dead zone when the wheel is centered. This might be the first review I have done where I have two verdicts on the Outlander Sport. As a whole, the model really needs to be replaced. In many areas, the Outlander Sport significantly trails competitors. It doesn’t help that the as-tested price was $29,310 which makes the Sport a bit of poor value. I know dealers put a lot of cash on the hoods of Outlander Sports to get them moving, which is likely one reason why it is Mitsubishi’s best selling model. But I would rather put my money into a Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, the new Hyundai Kona, and others since they are newer and offer so much more. But I will admit that the Outlander Sport came at a very opportune time. The snowstorm really brought up some of the Outlander Sport’s best qualities, primarily the AWC system and punchy four-cylinder around town. I remember an auto writer once saying that some of the most memorable vehicles are those that are not the best, but can show some bright spots in a difficult situation. The Outlander Sport for me is one of those vehicles. Disclaimer: Mitsubishi Provided the Outlander Sport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Mitsubishi Model: Outlander Sport Trim: SEL Engine: 2.4L MIVEC DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 168 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 167 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/28/25 Curb Weight: N/A Location of Manufacture: Okazaki, Japan Base Price: $25,895 As Tested Price: $29,310 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Touring Package - $2,000.00 Diamond White Pearl - $200.00 Tonneau Cover - $150.00 Carpeted Floormats and Portfolio - $125.00 View full article
  2. William Maley

    Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL

    On the day I was getting the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport for a week-long test, meteorologists were calling for a massive snowstorm in Metro Detroit. Depending on where you lived, snowfall was expected to range from six inches to almost a foot. As I was signing the paperwork and getting the key, the snow was beginning to fall at a heavy rate. It would be an interesting week with one of oldest crossovers on sale. The current Outlander Sport has been with us since 2011 and it still stands out from other crossovers in the class. This comes down to an aggressive design and Mitsubishi making a number of changes to the design in the past few years. For 2018, Mitsubishi has updated the Outlander Sport with new bumpers and LED running lights. Up front, Mitsubishi went with a dual grille setup - a narrow one on top and a large mesh one for the bottom. 18-inch wheels come standard on all Outlander Sports and look quite sharp. Mitsubishi hasn’t done much to the Outlander Sport’s interior since its launch and it clearly shows. The design is very uninspired with seemingly endless black plastic and almost no brightwork. Most materials used feel brittle and cheap, which is very disappointing when compared to other models such as the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3. Mitsubishi does redeem itself a little bit with the dash being covered in soft-touch material. Another plus point to the Outlander Sport’s interior is the control layout. The buttons and knobs are laid out in a logical fashion and are within easy reach. Getting comfortable in the front seats is not hard thanks to a decent amount of manual adjustments on offer, along with a tilt-telescoping steering wheel for the driver. Slightly worrying was my test Outlander Sport having a driver’s seat that slightly rocked whenever the vehicle accelerated and stopped. I know this issue isn’t isolated to my test vehicle. Speaking to some who have driven different 2018 Outlander Sports, they have reported the same issue. Mitsubishi really needs to figure out this issue and get a fix out ASAP. The rear seat offers a decent amount of headroom, but there is barely enough legroom for taller passengers. Cargo space is quite good with 21.7 cubic feet of space behind the front seats and 49.5 cubic feet when folded. For 2018, Mitsubishi has installed a new 7-inch infotainment system on all Outlander Sports. Higher trims like our test SEL add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. Compared to Mitsubishi’s previous infotainment systems, the one in the Outlander Sport is excellent. The system is very easy to use with a simple and vibrant interface. Performance is quite good as the system quickly responds to a user’s input. Mitsubishi offers two engines for the Outlander Sport. ES and LE models use a 2.0L four-cylinder, while the SE and SEL models feature a larger 2.4L four-cylinder. Our test vehicle had the latter engine which produces 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a CVT and the choice of front- or Mitsubishi's All-Wheel Control (AWC) system. Out of the two engines, the 2.4 is the one to get as is feels noticeably quicker when leaving a stop. But it will run out of steam at higher speeds, making passing or getting onto the freeway a bit difficult. The CVT is somewhat slow to respond whenever you step on the accelerator. The AWC system redeems the Outlander Sport to a point. AWC offers the driver three different modes - 2WD, 4WD Auto, and 4WD Lock. The difference between the two 4WD settings is Auto only sends power to rear wheels if it detects slip where Lock sends power to all wheels. Putting the system into 4WD Lock, the Outlander Sport easily went through roads with close to a foot of snow on the ground with no issue. The system was able to quickly shift power to the wheels with grip to help keep the car moving. I believe if you fit you a set of snow tires to the Sport, you will have a very good winter vehicle. Fuel economy figures of 22 City/27 Highway/24 Combined put the Outlander Sport towards the bottom of the class. My average for the week landed around 23.2 mpg. For a subcompact crossover, the Outlander Sport’s ride is pleasant. It glides over bumps and other imperfections. Handling is a mixed affair. Drive the Outlander Sport normally around a corner and it feels composed. Begin to push it and there is a fair amount of body roll. Steering has a very rubbery feel and there is a noticeable dead zone when the wheel is centered. This might be the first review I have done where I have two verdicts on the Outlander Sport. As a whole, the model really needs to be replaced. In many areas, the Outlander Sport significantly trails competitors. It doesn’t help that the as-tested price was $29,310 which makes the Sport a bit of poor value. I know dealers put a lot of cash on the hoods of Outlander Sports to get them moving, which is likely one reason why it is Mitsubishi’s best selling model. But I would rather put my money into a Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, the new Hyundai Kona, and others since they are newer and offer so much more. But I will admit that the Outlander Sport came at a very opportune time. The snowstorm really brought up some of the Outlander Sport’s best qualities, primarily the AWC system and punchy four-cylinder around town. I remember an auto writer once saying that some of the most memorable vehicles are those that are not the best, but can show some bright spots in a difficult situation. The Outlander Sport for me is one of those vehicles. Disclaimer: Mitsubishi Provided the Outlander Sport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Mitsubishi Model: Outlander Sport Trim: SEL Engine: 2.4L MIVEC DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 168 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 167 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/28/25 Curb Weight: N/A Location of Manufacture: Okazaki, Japan Base Price: $25,895 As Tested Price: $29,310 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Touring Package - $2,000.00 Diamond White Pearl - $200.00 Tonneau Cover - $150.00 Carpeted Floormats and Portfolio - $125.00
  3. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

    We are currently living in a golden age of compact cars. From distinctive styling to new powertrains that offer impressive power and fuel economy, the compact car has been growing up. One of the key players in this dramatic change is Hyundai. When they introduced the last-generation Elantra for the 2011 model year, it was unlike any compact that Hyundai or for that matter, any automaker had produced. The swoopy lines of the exterior made the Elantra look more expensive than it was. Plus the combination of a smooth ride and long list of standard features helped propel the model towards the top. How do you follow up this impressive act? Hyundai decided to play it safe when it introduced the 2017 Elantra at the 2015 LA Auto Show - evolution and not revolution. Was this the right decision considering the current crop of compacts? We spent a week in the Elantra Limited sedan to find out. The basic shape of the Elantra is mostly unchanged to the last-generation model. But Hyundai has done some finessing to it. The front features a larger hexagonal grille that has been appearing on Hyundai’s crossover lineup. There is also a new front bumper with a vertical strand of LED lights and reshaped headlights. The side profile becomes bolder with sculpting along the doors and more prominent character lines. In the back, the Elantra takes the trunk lid from the larger Sonata and new taillights. It might not be as daring as the new Honda Civic or Mazda3, but the Elantra has an air of elegance. It stands out but doesn’t scream about it. The interior is where you begin to see the big changes. Higher quality materials like soft-touch plastics are used in a lot of the interior. The dashboard design and layout is the same as the Sonata. This means a much easier control layout than the outgoing model and larger buttons for the various controls. Our Limited tester came with a 7-inch touchscreen as standard. Hyundai’s infotainment system is one of the better systems thanks to easy-to-understand interface and blazing performance. The 2017 Elantra brings forth Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. With our iPhone hooked up to the system, we found Hyundai’s implementation to be one of the best. It only took a few seconds for the system to recognize the phone before bringing up the CarPlay interface. From there, performance was smooth and we had no issues with either the system or phone locking up. Compared to the outgoing Elantra, the new model is about an inch longer and wider. This space has been put to good use in the back seat as legroom has improved. Headroom is still a tough affair if you happen to above 5’8” as your head will be touching the roof. The front seats provide a fair amount of adjustments to get yourself comfortable. The one item we would have liked is a bit more thigh support for longer trips. Most Elantras will feature the engine seen in our tester, a 2.0L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet. A six-speed automatic is only available on the Limited, but the base SE has the choice between it and a six-speed manual. Compared to the 2.0L found in the last-generation Elantra, there isn’t any real improvement in the power delivery. It still takes its sweet time to get up to speed whether driving on a country road or merging onto a freeway. Out of all the compacts we have driven in 2016, the Elantra is right alongside the Nissan Sentra for being some of the slowest vehicles in the class. The six-speed automatic does a competent job with providing smooth gear changes. Hyundai has two other engines on offer for the Elantra: A turbocharged 1.4L found in the Eco and updated turbocharged 1.6L coming in the new Elantra Sport. For our money, going with either one of these engines would be the better option. We’ll have a better opinion whenever we get behind the wheel of either model in the future. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2017 Hyundai Elantra stand at 27 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. Our week consisting of 60 percent city driving and 40 percent highway returned an average of 30.7 mpg. If there one area the last Hyundai Elantra did very well, it was ride comfort. The new model continues this with improved suspension tuning that irons out most bumps and imperfections. But Hyundai still has a lot of work to do when it comes to noise isolation. A fair amount of road and wind noise comes inside, making the Elantra not a great choice to do a long trip in. Handling has seen a noticeable improvement with the Elantra showing less body roll in cornering. Thank the additional structural rigidity Hyundai has added to the Elantra. Still, the steering could use a bit more work. It feels way too light and you’ll find yourself doing a fair amount of correction when driving on the highway. Hyundai took a big risk with the last-generation Elantra and it proved to be a major success. The design and features on offer shook up the compact car arena and sent manufacturers back to their drawing boards to build something that could take on the Elantra. But for this new model, Hyundai played it safe. They took an idea that was working and just improved it. In certain areas, this is a good thing. The interior is a much nicer place to be in and the addition of CarPlay and Android Auto is nice to have. But Hyundai could have done more to make the Elantra stand out even further. The 2.0L four-cylinder could have a little bit more power and more work should have been done in terms of keeping outside noises from entering the interior. The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is an improvement over the outgoing model. But in light of fresh competition such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic, the Elantra doesn’t find itself on top as it once did. Cheers: Still sharp looking, Improved interior design, Comfortable ride Jeers: Slow performance, Too much outside noise coming in, Seats could be improved for longer trips Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Elantra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Hyundai Model: Elantra Trim: Limited Engine: 2.0L MPI Atkinson Cycle Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 147 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 132 @ 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32 Curb Weight: 2,811 lbs Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama Base Price: $22,350 As Tested Price: $23,310 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
  4. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

    We are currently living in a golden age of compact cars. From distinctive styling to new powertrains that offer impressive power and fuel economy, the compact car has been growing up. One of the key players in this dramatic change is Hyundai. When they introduced the last-generation Elantra for the 2011 model year, it was unlike any compact that Hyundai or for that matter, any automaker had produced. The swoopy lines of the exterior made the Elantra look more expensive than it was. Plus the combination of a smooth ride and long list of standard features helped propel the model towards the top. How do you follow up this impressive act? Hyundai decided to play it safe when it introduced the 2017 Elantra at the 2015 LA Auto Show - evolution and not revolution. Was this the right decision considering the current crop of compacts? We spent a week in the Elantra Limited sedan to find out. The basic shape of the Elantra is mostly unchanged to the last-generation model. But Hyundai has done some finessing to it. The front features a larger hexagonal grille that has been appearing on Hyundai’s crossover lineup. There is also a new front bumper with a vertical strand of LED lights and reshaped headlights. The side profile becomes bolder with sculpting along the doors and more prominent character lines. In the back, the Elantra takes the trunk lid from the larger Sonata and new taillights. It might not be as daring as the new Honda Civic or Mazda3, but the Elantra has an air of elegance. It stands out but doesn’t scream about it. The interior is where you begin to see the big changes. Higher quality materials like soft-touch plastics are used in a lot of the interior. The dashboard design and layout is the same as the Sonata. This means a much easier control layout than the outgoing model and larger buttons for the various controls. Our Limited tester came with a 7-inch touchscreen as standard. Hyundai’s infotainment system is one of the better systems thanks to easy-to-understand interface and blazing performance. The 2017 Elantra brings forth Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. With our iPhone hooked up to the system, we found Hyundai’s implementation to be one of the best. It only took a few seconds for the system to recognize the phone before bringing up the CarPlay interface. From there, performance was smooth and we had no issues with either the system or phone locking up. Compared to the outgoing Elantra, the new model is about an inch longer and wider. This space has been put to good use in the back seat as legroom has improved. Headroom is still a tough affair if you happen to above 5’8” as your head will be touching the roof. The front seats provide a fair amount of adjustments to get yourself comfortable. The one item we would have liked is a bit more thigh support for longer trips. Most Elantras will feature the engine seen in our tester, a 2.0L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder with 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet. A six-speed automatic is only available on the Limited, but the base SE has the choice between it and a six-speed manual. Compared to the 2.0L found in the last-generation Elantra, there isn’t any real improvement in the power delivery. It still takes its sweet time to get up to speed whether driving on a country road or merging onto a freeway. Out of all the compacts we have driven in 2016, the Elantra is right alongside the Nissan Sentra for being some of the slowest vehicles in the class. The six-speed automatic does a competent job with providing smooth gear changes. Hyundai has two other engines on offer for the Elantra: A turbocharged 1.4L found in the Eco and updated turbocharged 1.6L coming in the new Elantra Sport. For our money, going with either one of these engines would be the better option. We’ll have a better opinion whenever we get behind the wheel of either model in the future. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2017 Hyundai Elantra stand at 27 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. Our week consisting of 60 percent city driving and 40 percent highway returned an average of 30.7 mpg. If there one area the last Hyundai Elantra did very well, it was ride comfort. The new model continues this with improved suspension tuning that irons out most bumps and imperfections. But Hyundai still has a lot of work to do when it comes to noise isolation. A fair amount of road and wind noise comes inside, making the Elantra not a great choice to do a long trip in. Handling has seen a noticeable improvement with the Elantra showing less body roll in cornering. Thank the additional structural rigidity Hyundai has added to the Elantra. Still, the steering could use a bit more work. It feels way too light and you’ll find yourself doing a fair amount of correction when driving on the highway. Hyundai took a big risk with the last-generation Elantra and it proved to be a major success. The design and features on offer shook up the compact car arena and sent manufacturers back to their drawing boards to build something that could take on the Elantra. But for this new model, Hyundai played it safe. They took an idea that was working and just improved it. In certain areas, this is a good thing. The interior is a much nicer place to be in and the addition of CarPlay and Android Auto is nice to have. But Hyundai could have done more to make the Elantra stand out even further. The 2.0L four-cylinder could have a little bit more power and more work should have been done in terms of keeping outside noises from entering the interior. The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is an improvement over the outgoing model. But in light of fresh competition such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic, the Elantra doesn’t find itself on top as it once did. Cheers: Still sharp looking, Improved interior design, Comfortable ride Jeers: Slow performance, Too much outside noise coming in, Seats could be improved for longer trips Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Elantra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Hyundai Model: Elantra Trim: Limited Engine: 2.0L MPI Atkinson Cycle Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 147 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 132 @ 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32 Curb Weight: 2,811 lbs Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama Base Price: $22,350 As Tested Price: $23,310 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00 View full article
  5. William Maley

    Review: 2016 Nissan Sentra SR

    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
  6. William Maley

    Review: 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

    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
  7. 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 Click here to view the article
  8. William Maley

    Review: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

    “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
  9. William Maley

    Review: 2016 Nissan Maxima SR

    “The 2013 Nissan Maxima is a very special car, but it's time for this 'four-door sports car' to take its final curtain call and have a new model ready in the wings.” That was how I ended my review on the last-generation Nissan Maxima. It was a good full-size sedan, but it was getting up there in age and new models were one-upping it. No one knew at the time that this could have been the final Maxima. But thanks to a few people at Nissan’s, the full-size sedan was given a reprieve. Last year, I had the chance to drive the new 2016 Maxima and came away really impressed. But I knew this short drive only told part of the story. How would the Maxima fare when I would drive it for a week? I spent a week in the sportiest Maxima, the SR and have some thoughts on it. As I wrote in my first drive, I thought the Maxima’s design was able to make it stand out not only in the full-size class, but also in Nissan’s very crowded lineup. I still believe this. The Maxima features a lot of items that we have seen on the Murano crossover, such as the V-Motion grille, boomerang headlights and taillights; dual exhaust tips, and blacked-out pillars that give the illusion of a floating roof. The SR adds a sporty flair with a set of nineteen-inch wheels. The Maxima’s interior has undergone a massive change. There are quality materials in abundance with soft-touch plastics, contrasting stitching, and faux aluminum. SR models get a combination of Alcantara and leather wrapping around the seats. Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats feature additional bolstering to hold you in if you decide to test the validity of the ‘4-Door Sports Car’ slogan. I found the seats to provide a nice balance of comfort when driving long distances or making a quick trip, and holding you in when you feel like taking the back roads. The back seat is slightly smaller than what you might expect in a big sedan with headroom coming up short for taller passengers. Legroom is average by full-size sedan standards. Nissan’s designers slightly angled the center stack towards the driver to make the area a bit more intimate. It works as it makes you feel that you are a key part of the vehicle. Controls are large and have a solid feel to them. The Maxima is one Nissan’s vehicles equipped with an eight-inch screen and the latest version of Nissan Connect. The system is pleasant to look at thanks to a new interface. You have the choice of controlling the system by either the touchscreen, buttons on either side screen, or Nissan’s ‘Display Commander’ knob in the center console. No matter which control method you choose, navigating the system is quite easy. Like the Murano I reviewed a couple of months ago, the Maxima experienced the problem of saying it lost XM signal, despite there being a signal and playing a station. I found that switching to another source and then going back to XM, the problem would be gone. A software update could fix this problem. Power for the Maxima comes from a 3.5L V6 producing 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque (@ 4,400 rpm). Nissan retains the Xtronic CVT and front-wheel drive for the Maxima. All-wheel drive was considered, but Nissan ultimately passed due to a projected low take rate. The V6 is really impressive as it moves the 3,564 pound Maxima SR with no problem. Accelerating at a normal rate, the V6 delivers power on a smooth and steady rate. Pin the accelerator to the floor and the V6 roars into life with a mean growl and moves the Maxima at an alarming pace. Where the Maxima’s powertrain falters slightly is with the Xtronic CVT. For a sedan that’s billed as a ‘four-door sports car,’ having a CVT kinds of sours this mission statement. You expect to feel and hear the changing of a transmission for a ‘sports car’ and you don’t get that with a CVT. That isn’t to say the Xtronic CVT is bad. Nissan has done a lot of work to make the CVT bearable such as a mode that mimics the gear changes of an automatic and somehow reducing the amount of droning when the engine is spinning at high rpm. But if you are trying to promote the Maxima as the ‘four-door sports car,’ maybe putting an automatic transmission wouldn’t be such a bad idea. As for fuel economy, the Maxima SR is rated at 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. My average for the week landed around 23.5 MPG is mostly city driving. Nissan is positioning the Maxima SR as the sportiest of all the Maxima trims. Under the skin, Nissan made some changes to the SR’s suspension with new dampers, springs, and stabilizer bar. A set of Goodyear Eagle F1 tires improves overall grip. Out on a curvy road, the Maxima SR is quite surprising. For a large sedan, the Maxima SR is surprisingly very agile with barely any hint of body roll. Steering is nicely weighted and provides decent feel. The downside to the changes in the suspension is a somewhat stiff ride. Certain bumps and imperfections will jostle you and your passengers. At least the Maxima does quite well when it comes to road and wind noise isolation. After spending a week in the Maxima, my level of enthusiasm died down somewhat. Nissan did address a number of issues that plagued the previous Maxima and has made it a real winner in the full-size sedan class. But the fact Nissan is still calling the Maxima a ‘four-door sports car’ and saddles it with a CVT kind of nixes that image they are trying to put out there. If you want something that stands out in a full-size sedan, then the Maxima is worth a look. Just be somewhat realistic on the sporty image that Nissan is trying to convey. Cheers: Sharp Styling, V6 Performance, Sporty Handling Jeers: CVT kind of ruins the 'four-door sports car' image, tight headroom in the back Album: Review: 2016 Nissan Maxima SR 14 images 0 comments Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Maxima SR, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Nissan Model: Maxima Trim: SR Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 300 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 261 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25 Curb Weight: 3,564 lbs Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, TN Base Price: $37,670 As-Tested Price: $38,750 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: Sport Floor Mats, Trunk Mat, and Trunk Net - $255.00 Click here to view the article
  10. William Maley

    Review: 2016 Nissan Maxima SR

    “The 2013 Nissan Maxima is a very special car, but it's time for this 'four-door sports car' to take its final curtain call and have a new model ready in the wings.” That was how I ended my review on the last-generation Nissan Maxima. It was a good full-size sedan, but it was getting up there in age and new models were one-upping it. No one knew at the time that this could have been the final Maxima. But thanks to a few people at Nissan’s, the full-size sedan was given a reprieve. Last year, I had the chance to drive the new 2016 Maxima and came away really impressed. But I knew this short drive only told part of the story. How would the Maxima fare when I would drive it for a week? I spent a week in the sportiest Maxima, the SR and have some thoughts on it. As I wrote in my first drive, I thought the Maxima’s design was able to make it stand out not only in the full-size class, but also in Nissan’s very crowded lineup. I still believe this. The Maxima features a lot of items that we have seen on the Murano crossover, such as the V-Motion grille, boomerang headlights and taillights; dual exhaust tips, and blacked-out pillars that give the illusion of a floating roof. The SR adds a sporty flair with a set of nineteen-inch wheels. The Maxima’s interior has undergone a massive change. There are quality materials in abundance with soft-touch plastics, contrasting stitching, and faux aluminum. SR models get a combination of Alcantara and leather wrapping around the seats. Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats feature additional bolstering to hold you in if you decide to test the validity of the ‘4-Door Sports Car’ slogan. I found the seats to provide a nice balance of comfort when driving long distances or making a quick trip, and holding you in when you feel like taking the back roads. The back seat is slightly smaller than what you might expect in a big sedan with headroom coming up short for taller passengers. Legroom is average by full-size sedan standards. Nissan’s designers slightly angled the center stack towards the driver to make the area a bit more intimate. It works as it makes you feel that you are a key part of the vehicle. Controls are large and have a solid feel to them. The Maxima is one Nissan’s vehicles equipped with an eight-inch screen and the latest version of Nissan Connect. The system is pleasant to look at thanks to a new interface. You have the choice of controlling the system by either the touchscreen, buttons on either side screen, or Nissan’s ‘Display Commander’ knob in the center console. No matter which control method you choose, navigating the system is quite easy. Like the Murano I reviewed a couple of months ago, the Maxima experienced the problem of saying it lost XM signal, despite there being a signal and playing a station. I found that switching to another source and then going back to XM, the problem would be gone. A software update could fix this problem. Power for the Maxima comes from a 3.5L V6 producing 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque (@ 4,400 rpm). Nissan retains the Xtronic CVT and front-wheel drive for the Maxima. All-wheel drive was considered, but Nissan ultimately passed due to a projected low take rate. The V6 is really impressive as it moves the 3,564 pound Maxima SR with no problem. Accelerating at a normal rate, the V6 delivers power on a smooth and steady rate. Pin the accelerator to the floor and the V6 roars into life with a mean growl and moves the Maxima at an alarming pace. Where the Maxima’s powertrain falters slightly is with the Xtronic CVT. For a sedan that’s billed as a ‘four-door sports car,’ having a CVT kinds of sours this mission statement. You expect to feel and hear the changing of a transmission for a ‘sports car’ and you don’t get that with a CVT. That isn’t to say the Xtronic CVT is bad. Nissan has done a lot of work to make the CVT bearable such as a mode that mimics the gear changes of an automatic and somehow reducing the amount of droning when the engine is spinning at high rpm. But if you are trying to promote the Maxima as the ‘four-door sports car,’ maybe putting an automatic transmission wouldn’t be such a bad idea. As for fuel economy, the Maxima SR is rated at 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. My average for the week landed around 23.5 MPG is mostly city driving. Nissan is positioning the Maxima SR as the sportiest of all the Maxima trims. Under the skin, Nissan made some changes to the SR’s suspension with new dampers, springs, and stabilizer bar. A set of Goodyear Eagle F1 tires improves overall grip. Out on a curvy road, the Maxima SR is quite surprising. For a large sedan, the Maxima SR is surprisingly very agile with barely any hint of body roll. Steering is nicely weighted and provides decent feel. The downside to the changes in the suspension is a somewhat stiff ride. Certain bumps and imperfections will jostle you and your passengers. At least the Maxima does quite well when it comes to road and wind noise isolation. After spending a week in the Maxima, my level of enthusiasm died down somewhat. Nissan did address a number of issues that plagued the previous Maxima and has made it a real winner in the full-size sedan class. But the fact Nissan is still calling the Maxima a ‘four-door sports car’ and saddles it with a CVT kind of nixes that image they are trying to put out there. If you want something that stands out in a full-size sedan, then the Maxima is worth a look. Just be somewhat realistic on the sporty image that Nissan is trying to convey. Cheers: Sharp Styling, V6 Performance, Sporty Handling Jeers: CVT kind of ruins the 'four-door sports car' image, tight headroom in the back Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Maxima SR, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Nissan Model: Maxima Trim: SR Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 300 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 261 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25 Curb Weight: 3,564 lbs Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, TN Base Price: $37,670 As-Tested Price: $38,750 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: Sport Floor Mats, Trunk Mat, and Trunk Net - $255.00
  11. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD

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

    Review: 2015 Infiniti Q50S 3.7

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

    Review: 2015 Kia Sedona SXL

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

    Review: 2015 Lexus NX 300h AWD

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

    Review: 2015 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport

    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
  17. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Ford Fiesta ST

    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
  18. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Chevrolet SS

    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
  19. William Maley

    2014 Kia Cadenza

    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! Page 1 of 2 1 2 → Last » Click here to view the article
  20. William Maley

    2014 Kia Cadenza

    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.
  21. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD

    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
  22. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392

    The latter half of the oughts have seen the Detroit automakers come out swinging with their muscle cars. General Motors has gone crazy with the Camaro, while Ford keeps amping up the Mustang. Dodge has been quietly working on improving the Challenger for the most part - and of course introducing the Hellcat V8. But while the Hellcat has taken the spotlight for the Challenger, it has put other Challenger models in the shadow. That’s kind of a shame since Dodge has worked on bettering the Challenger with major improvements and new trims. To find out whether or not other Challenger models deserve a spot in the light, I spent some time in a 2015 Challenger SRT. Looking at the Challenger SRT, you can’t help but think that Dodge issued an edict to its designers saying to keep the basic shape of the original Challenger, but bring it into the 21st century. It seems the edict worked as the current Challenger holds true to the original name-bearer. From the gun-barrel headlights and split grille lines; to the short rear deck and distinctive rear light setup: There is very much a clear lineage to the original Challenger. The SRT tester was draped in a Billet Silver paint color with black strips, and a set of 20-inch forged wheels wearing a coat of black which adds bit of aggression. One of the biggest problems for the pre-refreshed Challenger was its interior. A somewhat plain looking dashboard was mixed with cheap plastics mostly common in compacts from the eighties and a steering wheel that felt more at home in a tractor than a muscle car. But with the refreshed Challenger, Dodge fixed many problems. To start, the dashboard has been completely re-worked with a new design that angles the center stack towards the driver and boasts better materials such as brushed plastic trim, aluminum, and soft-touch materials. Paired with a smaller steering wheel and a set of supportive bucket seats with extra side bolstering to keep you in place, help make the Challenger SRT a very special place indeed. My test Challenger featured the excellent Uconnect infotainment system with the 8.4-inch touchscreen. I have praised the system for being very easy to use and quick to respond. But on the Challenger SRT, Uconnect gets an extra component. Under the screen is a SRT button which brings up a special SRT section. This section allows you to customize settings for the power and adjustable suspension, provide extra gauges such as oil pressure and temperature; and give performance data such 0-60 and quarter-mile times. It's a nice touch for those who go for the SRT model.For Powertrain and Handling Thoughts, See the Next Page Power for the Challenger SRT comes from 6.4L HEMI V8 engine with 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. This can be paired up to either a six-speed manual or my tester’s eight-speed automatic. If you ever wondered what a 70’s muscle car was like, just go for a drive or ride in the SRT. The V8 growls when you start it up or sit at a stop. Plant your foot onto the pedal and the V8 roars to life. Thrust from the V8 engine is able to move the 4,251 pound vehicle like it was nothing. The eight-speed automatic is an excellent partner to V8 as it provides rapid-fire up or downshifts and is able to respond to the needs of driver, whether driving like a mad man or normal. Fuel economy is rated at 15 City/25 Highway/18 Combined. I saw an average of 17 MPG for a week. A big complaint of the Challenger is that compared to its contemporaries - Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang - is that it doesn’t have the nimble handling characteristics. I can see that because the Challenger is not only heavier, but also slightly larger that its competitors. Here are the measurements: Overall Length and Wheelbase: Dodge Challenger: 197.9 inches, 116.2 inches Chevrolet Camaro: 190.6 inches, 112.3 inches Ford Mustang: 188.3 inches, 107.1 inches Overall Width: Dodge Challenger: 75.7 inches Chevrolet Camaro: 75.5 to 76.9 (Z/28) inches Ford Mustang: 75.4 inches Curb Weight: Dodge Challenger: 3,834 to 4,449 pounds Chevrolet Camaro: 3,702 to 4,149 pounds* Ford Mustang: 3,526 to 3,729* (*Camaro and Mustang's curb weight are only for coupes) Dodge and SRT has been working on this with an adjustable suspension system. For 2015, the system has been tweaked to provide more settings and more stiffness when you put it into sport mode. Does it make a difference? It does up to a point. The suspension isn’t fully able hide the weight and size, but it does a surprisingly excellent job of reducing it. Also, the suspension deserves a round of applause for making the Challenger feel more nimble than it should. Driving the Challenger on a curvy road, I was surprised by how fast I could go in corners. Some of the credit should also go the steering which has excellent feel and weight.Now the suspension has one other trick up its sleeve. Put it into normal or comfort, and the Challenger becomes an excellent long-distance cruiser. The suspension in either mode is able to soak up bumps with almost no problem. Wind and road noise is kept a decent level, despite the shape of the Challenger. The Challenger SRT has one big problem and that happens to be the Challenger R/T Scat Pack model. For $7,500 less than the base price of the SRT, you pretty much get everything except the adjustable. This begs the question whether the SRT model is worth the extra change? At the moment, I would say yes because the suspension makes a big difference in how the Challenger handles. But the nevertheless, the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT is huge step in the right direction. It might not have all of the agility or lighter weight that the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, but it definitely has the performance soul to match and/or exceed either one of those. To sum up the Challenger, I liken it to that quiet guy at the bar. You know the one who sitting there quietly, enjoying their drink, and wanting no part in what's taking place. But if provoked, he will smash your head into a door. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger SRT, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Dodge Model: Challenger Trim: SRT 392 Engine: 6.4L HEMI V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 485 @ 6,100 Torque @ RPM: 475 @ 4,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - Curb Weight: 4,251 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $44,995 As Tested Price: $49,675 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: TorqueFlite Eight-Speed Automatic Transmission - $1,400.00 Technology Group - $995.00 UConnect 8.4AN AM/FM/SXM/HD/BT/NAV - $695.00 Twin Center Black Stripes - $595.00
  23. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392

    The latter half of the oughts have seen the Detroit automakers come out swinging with their muscle cars. General Motors has gone crazy with the Camaro, while Ford keeps amping up the Mustang. Dodge has been quietly working on improving the Challenger for the most part - and of course introducing the Hellcat V8. But while the Hellcat has taken the spotlight for the Challenger, it has put other Challenger models in the shadow. That’s kind of a shame since Dodge has worked on bettering the Challenger with major improvements and new trims. To find out whether or not other Challenger models deserve a spot in the light, I spent some time in a 2015 Challenger SRT. Looking at the Challenger SRT, you can’t help but think that Dodge issued an edict to its designers saying to keep the basic shape of the original Challenger, but bring it into the 21st century. It seems the edict worked as the current Challenger holds true to the original name-bearer. From the gun-barrel headlights and split grille lines; to the short rear deck and distinctive rear light setup: There is very much a clear lineage to the original Challenger. The SRT tester was draped in a Billet Silver paint color with black strips, and a set of 20-inch forged wheels wearing a coat of black which adds bit of aggression. One of the biggest problems for the pre-refreshed Challenger was its interior. A somewhat plain looking dashboard was mixed with cheap plastics mostly common in compacts from the eighties and a steering wheel that felt more at home in a tractor than a muscle car. But with the refreshed Challenger, Dodge fixed many problems. To start, the dashboard has been completely re-worked with a new design that angles the center stack towards the driver and boasts better materials such as brushed plastic trim, aluminum, and soft-touch materials. Paired with a smaller steering wheel and a set of supportive bucket seats with extra side bolstering to keep you in place, help make the Challenger SRT a very special place indeed. My test Challenger featured the excellent Uconnect infotainment system with the 8.4-inch touchscreen. I have praised the system for being very easy to use and quick to respond. But on the Challenger SRT, Uconnect gets an extra component. Under the screen is a SRT button which brings up a special SRT section. This section allows you to customize settings for the power and adjustable suspension, provide extra gauges such as oil pressure and temperature; and give performance data such 0-60 and quarter-mile times. It's a nice touch for those who go for the SRT model.For Powertrain and Handling Thoughts, See the Next Page Page 1 of 2 1 2 → Last » Click here to view the article
  24. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD

    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
  25. William Maley

    Review: 2015 Volkswagen CC Sport

    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

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