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Found 6 results

  1. The end of another year is upon us and I’m in the process of picking my favorite vehicles from the year. But before we get to that, I need to give some vehicles their time in the review spotlight. Trying to crank a review or a two a week is a hard task for some folks, myself included. I tend to spend a week with a vehicle, driving it in my daily routine, taking notes and photos, and hopefully beginning the review before the vehicle leaves. But that last part is the thickest part as it doesn’t always work out because of life. Whether it's a personal or family emergency, vacation, changes in work, or just being distracted, life always finds a way to get in and mess up whatever you are trying to do. Towards the end of every year, I have a small number of vehicles that have fallen between the cracks and are just waiting for me to find them and write something up. This year is no different as seven vehicles have been waiting patiently for their turn and their time has come. We're going to be looking at the last three of the seven. For this piece, I’ll be listing the good and bad of each vehicle, along with some notes that I took on each vehicle. 2015 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 3.7L VQ DOHC 24-valve V6 (330 Horsepower, 270 Pound-Feet) Seven-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $53,500/$62,755 Cheers: Comfortable ride, large back seat, still looks stylish on the exterior Jeers: Interior is starting to look dated, Fuel economy could be better, Competitors are much more modern Notes: Let’s play a game. See if you can try to spot the differences between the 2015 Infiniti Q70L and the 2012 Infiniti M35h. Ready? Go. Now if you figured out the Q70L is longer than the M35h, then pat yourself on the back. Since Infiniti went to the Q nomenclature, the only real change to their midsize luxury sedan was to introduce a long-wheelbase model. Compared to the standard Q70, the adds about 5.9 inches to the wheelbase. Sitting in the back seat was very pleasurable thanks to a large amount of legroom on offer. Disappointingly, there isn’t any seat adjustments for the rear passengers, nor any heat. Despite getting up in age, the Q70L is still a striking vehicle to look. The flowing lines up front and along the side still look fresh as the day it was first introduced into the world. Twenty-inch wheels only add a bit of prestige to the model. But the interior is where you begin to feel the age of the Q70. Despite the model being trimmed in leather and wood, the Q70’s interior hasn’t changed at all since we last drove it back in 2012. The center stack is pushed out, giving a cramped feeling for passengers sitting up front. Not helping is the very dated infotainment system which looks like it has come from the Windows 98 era. For the Q70L, there is a choice of a 3.7L V6 or a 5.6L V8. Our tester had the V6 with 330 horsepower paired up to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Power comes on a very linear rate though you’ll need to plant your foot to the pedal if you are making a pass. This introduces a sound of the engine being put under a lot of strain. The ride is somewhat stiff as it seems to pick out a fair amount of imperfections on the road and transmit them to the passengers. A lot of this comes down to the optional twenty-inch wheels, and we expect the standard eighteen-inch wheels to provide a much better ride. At least, wind and road noise are kept to near-silent levels. While the introduction of the long-wheelbase for the Q70 does give it some new blood, there isn’t a good reason why anyone should choose it over one of the new midsize luxury sedans in the class. Let’s hope Infiniti has a replacement coming very soon. 2015 Kia Forte5 SX 1.6L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder Six-Speed Manual Base/As-Tested: $20,890/$26,035 Cheers: Exterior Styling, Fuel Economy, Space Jeers: Wrong gearing in vehicle, Engine doesn’t feel quick, Interior looking very dated, not really sporty Notes: We have hot hatches and we have cold hatches (the non-sporty variety). Is there space for something warm? Maybe if the 2015 Kia Forte5 SX is something to go on. The Forte5 as the name suggests is a five-door hatchback and looks much sportier than the Forte sedan. This is thanks to a new front end with a wide and narrow grille, and a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels done in a five leaf pattern. These wheels might be my favorite OEM wheels. Inside is where the Forte5 begins to lose some points. The dashboard makes the interior feel much older than it is (Forte5 was introduced back in 2013 as a 2014 model) thanks to hard plastics and parts having a scratchy texture. We hope a Kia is planning a refresh for the interior in the near future. Not helping are the leather power seats which comes as part of the SX Premium package. While they do provide a decent level of comfort and support for short trips, the seats cannot provide long-distance support. My brother and I learned this as the Forte5 was pressed into Christmas travel duty. But Kia wins some points back in the interior. The back seat is large, providing more than enough head and legroom for anyone sitting back here. Also, the Forte5 can be equipped with everything except the kitchen sink. Our tester boasted heated seats for front and rear passengers, a cooled seat for the driver, memory seat for the driver, a touchscreen with navigation, dual-zone climate control, and a sunroof. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Our tester came with the standard six-speed manual, but you can go with a six-speed automatic. This is the same engine we liked in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, but in the Forte5, it is a bit of a mess. The engine seems smothered and not as powerful as the Veloster Turbo. The cause is due to the manual. The gears are too short to allow the engine to fully produce all of the power it is capable of. Also, the short gearing means you’ll be seeing the revs up at 3,000 rpm at a 70 MPH cruise. Some longer gearing could solve both of these problems. At least, fuel economy wasn’t badly affected. Close to 700 Miles were put on the Forte5 SX and we got an average of 33.2 MPG on mostly highway and rural roads. Ride and handling are somewhere in the middle. The Forte5’s suspension is able to deal with most bumps and imperfections on the road with no problem. Bigger bumps do unsettle the vehicle a little bit. In the corners, the Forte5 feels steady and doesn’t show any sign of roll. But it isn’t any fun to pilot around such as a Mazda3. This mostly comes down to the steering with Kia’s FlexSteer system that allows you to vary the weight from light to heavy. We don’t like this system as the light setting is way too light and the heavy setting doesn’t feel hefty. Kia would do itself a lot of good by throwing out the FlexSteer system and do a new steering system that is somewhere in the middle. 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve Dual Independent VVT-i V8 Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $44,000/$45,465 Cheers: Off-Road Package Comes With Everything, Excellent Value, Comfortable Ride Jeers: V8 Feels Sluggish, Fuel Economy Notes: Toyota decided to go back to some of their roots when it comes to their trucks and SUVs. Earlier in the year, the automaker launched the TRD Pro series for the 4Runner, Tacoma, and Tundra. The TRD Pro boasts changes to suspension, wheels, and exterior to make them ready to go off the beaten trail. Our first taste in the TRD Pro came in the form of a Tundra CrewMax. There is no mistaking the TRD Pro Tundra as it comes in a wild orange paint, paired with an old school Toyota grille (reminiscent of Toyota’s SUVs in the late eighties and early nineties) and eighteen-inch off-road alloy wheels finished in black and wrapped in meaty off-road tires. We like the TRD Pro embossed into the rear fenders as it adds a touch of distinctiveness. Inside is your standard Tundra interior with black cloth seats embroidered with the TRD Pro logo. Under the skin, Toyota made some small changes to the Tundra TRD Pro with revised suspension tuning, new front springs, outboard off-road shocks in the rear, and skid plates. We gave the TRD Pro a light exercise around a dirt field and it passed with flying colors. The suspension has more than enough travel to traverse various heights of terrain and the steering provides a good feel on the terrain you are driving on. This is a truck I love to go on a trail to see what it is fully capable of. These changes to make the Tundra a capable off-roader don’t hurt it on a day to day basis. The suspension provides a smooth ride, and there isn’t much noise coming from the tires. The one problem that is holding the Tundra TRD Pro back is the engine. Toyota uses a 5.7L I-FORCE V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This engine never feels powerful due to two reasons; a curb weight of 5,625 lbs and a lazy throttle. These two cause you to put your foot farther down on the pedal to get to that power. That also means your fuel economy will be hurting. Average for the week in the Tundra TRD Pro was 12.9 MPG. Toyota really needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to make a V8 that can balance power and fuel economy. Otherwise, Toyota has a really interesting offering in the truck market with the TRD Pro. Disclaimer: Infiniti, Kia, and Toyota Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Click here to view the article
  2. The end of another year is upon us and I’m in the process of picking my favorite vehicles from the year. But before we get to that, I need to give some vehicles their time in the review spotlight. Trying to crank a review or a two a week is a hard task for some folks, myself included. I tend to spend a week with a vehicle, driving it in my daily routine, taking notes and photos, and hopefully beginning the review before the vehicle leaves. But that last part is the thickest part as it doesn’t always work out because of life. Whether it's a personal or family emergency, vacation, changes in work, or just being distracted, life always finds a way to get in and mess up whatever you are trying to do. Towards the end of every year, I have a small number of vehicles that have fallen between the cracks and are just waiting for me to find them and write something up. This year is no different as seven vehicles have been waiting patiently for their turn and their time has come. We're going to be looking at the last three of the seven. For this piece, I’ll be listing the good and bad of each vehicle, along with some notes that I took on each vehicle. 2015 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 3.7L VQ DOHC 24-valve V6 (330 Horsepower, 270 Pound-Feet) Seven-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $53,500/$62,755 Cheers: Comfortable ride, large back seat, still looks stylish on the exterior Jeers: Interior is starting to look dated, Fuel economy could be better, Competitors are much more modern Notes: Let’s play a game. See if you can try to spot the differences between the 2015 Infiniti Q70L and the 2012 Infiniti M35h. Ready? Go. Now if you figured out the Q70L is longer than the M35h, then pat yourself on the back. Since Infiniti went to the Q nomenclature, the only real change to their midsize luxury sedan was to introduce a long-wheelbase model. Compared to the standard Q70, the adds about 5.9 inches to the wheelbase. Sitting in the back seat was very pleasurable thanks to a large amount of legroom on offer. Disappointingly, there isn’t any seat adjustments for the rear passengers, nor any heat. Despite getting up in age, the Q70L is still a striking vehicle to look. The flowing lines up front and along the side still look fresh as the day it was first introduced into the world. Twenty-inch wheels only add a bit of prestige to the model. But the interior is where you begin to feel the age of the Q70. Despite the model being trimmed in leather and wood, the Q70’s interior hasn’t changed at all since we last drove it back in 2012. The center stack is pushed out, giving a cramped feeling for passengers sitting up front. Not helping is the very dated infotainment system which looks like it has come from the Windows 98 era. For the Q70L, there is a choice of a 3.7L V6 or a 5.6L V8. Our tester had the V6 with 330 horsepower paired up to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Power comes on a very linear rate though you’ll need to plant your foot to the pedal if you are making a pass. This introduces a sound of the engine being put under a lot of strain. The ride is somewhat stiff as it seems to pick out a fair amount of imperfections on the road and transmit them to the passengers. A lot of this comes down to the optional twenty-inch wheels, and we expect the standard eighteen-inch wheels to provide a much better ride. At least, wind and road noise are kept to near-silent levels. While the introduction of the long-wheelbase for the Q70 does give it some new blood, there isn’t a good reason why anyone should choose it over one of the new midsize luxury sedans in the class. Let’s hope Infiniti has a replacement coming very soon. 2015 Kia Forte5 SX 1.6L Turbocharged GDI Four-Cylinder Six-Speed Manual Base/As-Tested: $20,890/$26,035 Cheers: Exterior Styling, Fuel Economy, Space Jeers: Wrong gearing in vehicle, Engine doesn’t feel quick, Interior looking very dated, not really sporty Notes: We have hot hatches and we have cold hatches (the non-sporty variety). Is there space for something warm? Maybe if the 2015 Kia Forte5 SX is something to go on. The Forte5 as the name suggests is a five-door hatchback and looks much sportier than the Forte sedan. This is thanks to a new front end with a wide and narrow grille, and a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels done in a five leaf pattern. These wheels might be my favorite OEM wheels. Inside is where the Forte5 begins to lose some points. The dashboard makes the interior feel much older than it is (Forte5 was introduced back in 2013 as a 2014 model) thanks to hard plastics and parts having a scratchy texture. We hope a Kia is planning a refresh for the interior in the near future. Not helping are the leather power seats which comes as part of the SX Premium package. While they do provide a decent level of comfort and support for short trips, the seats cannot provide long-distance support. My brother and I learned this as the Forte5 was pressed into Christmas travel duty. But Kia wins some points back in the interior. The back seat is large, providing more than enough head and legroom for anyone sitting back here. Also, the Forte5 can be equipped with everything except the kitchen sink. Our tester boasted heated seats for front and rear passengers, a cooled seat for the driver, memory seat for the driver, a touchscreen with navigation, dual-zone climate control, and a sunroof. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Our tester came with the standard six-speed manual, but you can go with a six-speed automatic. This is the same engine we liked in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, but in the Forte5, it is a bit of a mess. The engine seems smothered and not as powerful as the Veloster Turbo. The cause is due to the manual. The gears are too short to allow the engine to fully produce all of the power it is capable of. Also, the short gearing means you’ll be seeing the revs up at 3,000 rpm at a 70 MPH cruise. Some longer gearing could solve both of these problems. At least, fuel economy wasn’t badly affected. Close to 700 Miles were put on the Forte5 SX and we got an average of 33.2 MPG on mostly highway and rural roads. Ride and handling are somewhere in the middle. The Forte5’s suspension is able to deal with most bumps and imperfections on the road with no problem. Bigger bumps do unsettle the vehicle a little bit. In the corners, the Forte5 feels steady and doesn’t show any sign of roll. But it isn’t any fun to pilot around such as a Mazda3. This mostly comes down to the steering with Kia’s FlexSteer system that allows you to vary the weight from light to heavy. We don’t like this system as the light setting is way too light and the heavy setting doesn’t feel hefty. Kia would do itself a lot of good by throwing out the FlexSteer system and do a new steering system that is somewhere in the middle. 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve Dual Independent VVT-i V8 Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $44,000/$45,465 Cheers: Off-Road Package Comes With Everything, Excellent Value, Comfortable Ride Jeers: V8 Feels Sluggish, Fuel Economy Notes: Toyota decided to go back to some of their roots when it comes to their trucks and SUVs. Earlier in the year, the automaker launched the TRD Pro series for the 4Runner, Tacoma, and Tundra. The TRD Pro boasts changes to suspension, wheels, and exterior to make them ready to go off the beaten trail. Our first taste in the TRD Pro came in the form of a Tundra CrewMax. There is no mistaking the TRD Pro Tundra as it comes in a wild orange paint, paired with an old school Toyota grille (reminiscent of Toyota’s SUVs in the late eighties and early nineties) and eighteen-inch off-road alloy wheels finished in black and wrapped in meaty off-road tires. We like the TRD Pro embossed into the rear fenders as it adds a touch of distinctiveness. Inside is your standard Tundra interior with black cloth seats embroidered with the TRD Pro logo. Under the skin, Toyota made some small changes to the Tundra TRD Pro with revised suspension tuning, new front springs, outboard off-road shocks in the rear, and skid plates. We gave the TRD Pro a light exercise around a dirt field and it passed with flying colors. The suspension has more than enough travel to traverse various heights of terrain and the steering provides a good feel on the terrain you are driving on. This is a truck I love to go on a trail to see what it is fully capable of. These changes to make the Tundra a capable off-roader don’t hurt it on a day to day basis. The suspension provides a smooth ride, and there isn’t much noise coming from the tires. The one problem that is holding the Tundra TRD Pro back is the engine. Toyota uses a 5.7L I-FORCE V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This engine never feels powerful due to two reasons; a curb weight of 5,625 lbs and a lazy throttle. These two cause you to put your foot farther down on the pedal to get to that power. That also means your fuel economy will be hurting. Average for the week in the Tundra TRD Pro was 12.9 MPG. Toyota really needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to make a V8 that can balance power and fuel economy. Otherwise, Toyota has a really interesting offering in the truck market with the TRD Pro. Disclaimer: Infiniti, Kia, and Toyota Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
  3. The end of another year is upon us and I’m in the process of picking my favorite vehicles from the year. But before we get to that, I need to give some vehicles their time in the review spotlight. Trying to crank a review or a two a week is a hard task for some folks, myself included. I tend to spend a week with a vehicle, driving it in my daily routine, taking notes and photos, and hopefully beginning the review before the vehicle leaves. But that last part is the thickest part as it doesn’t always work out because of life. Whether it's a personal or family emergency, vacation, changes in work, or just being distracted, life always finds a way to get in and mess up whatever you are trying to do. Towards the end of every year, I have a small number of vehicles that have fallen between the cracks and are just waiting for me to find them and write something up. This year is no different as seven vehicles have been waiting patiently for their turn and their time has come. We're going to be looking at the first four of the seven. For this piece, I’ll be listing the good and bad of each vehicle, along with some notes that I took on each vehicle. 2016 Acura ILX A-Spec 2.4L 16-Valve, DOHC i-VTEC Four-Cylinder (201 Horsepower, 180 Pound-Feet of Torque) Eight-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic Base/As-Tested: $31,830/$32,830 Cheers: Excellent handling in the corners, improved styling, large back seat Jeers: Engine has to be worked hard, a large amount of wind and road noise, bouncy ride, questionable material choice, poor value when compared to competitors. Notes: Acura went back to the drawing board this year with the ILX in an effort to fix the slumping sales of the model. Some of the fixes do make a difference such as a new front clip and headlights that give some much need aggression. Inside, a set of leather and suede seats add a nice touch and provide good comfort. It should be noted the seats come with the A-Spec package. The engine lineup which included a 2.0L, 2.4L, and hybrid has been simplified to just the 2.4 with 201 horsepower. This eliminates one of the big problems for the ILX of being too slow if you opted for the hybrid or 2.0L. One item that Acura didn’t mess with was the handling. The ILX is a sweetheart around corners as it provides minimal body roll and excellent steering. Acura also made sure that the ILX’s suspension was compliant when dealing with bumps on a day-to-day basis, something it does very well. Sadly, that is where the good points of the ILX end. Despite Acura’s attempt on improving the ILX’s interior, it looks and in some parts, feels like the Civic that it is based on. Not something you want to be said since this vehicle competes in the same class as the Audi A3 and Buick Verano, both with impressive interiors. The 2.4L has the power to compete with the vehicles in the class. But to access this power, you’ll need to be working the engine somewhat hard - around 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. This would be ok if the ILX had a six-speed manual. But Acura dropped it for this year, replacing it with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. There isn’t anything wrong with the dual-clutch transmission, it’s quite smooth and doesn’t hesitate when going up or down. But it makes working the engine to its fullest, boring and not joyful. But the biggest problem for the ILX is the price. This particular ILX came with an as-tested price of $32,830 and that doesn’t include one of the huge changes for the model, a load of additional safety equipment. Acura added a number of safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, and road departure mitigation. To get all of this, you need to either get the ILX Technology Plus ($32,990) or the ILX Technology Plus and A-Spec ($34,890). Around that price, you could get yourself into a well-equipped Buick Verano Turbo with much more amenities and better performance. 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 3.2L 24-Valve VVT V6 (271 Horsepower, 239 Pound-Feet of Torque) Nine-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $30,395/$36,869 Cheers: Sharp Looks, Very Capable Off-Road, V6 Performance Jeers: Ninth-Gear Seems Non-Existent, Price-Tag, Annoying Stop-Start System Notes: In my original review of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, I said that I was very impressed as Jeep made the leap from a boxy, go-anywhere SUV to sharp looking crossover with some Jeep DNA still there. But I wasn’t as impressed with the nine-speed automatic as it shuddered through the first three gears and wouldn’t go into ninth. At the time, I put the Cherokee on the wait and see list. A year has passed and another Cherokee has come in for a review. This particular Cherokee is the top of the line Trailhawk and it features a number of changes to make it a ‘Trail-Rated’ model by Jeep. Outside are a set of tow hooks on the front and rear bumper to pull out the vehicle if it gets stuck. A set seventeen-inch aluminum wheels come wrapped in meaty all-terrain tires to get you through whatever muck you decide to go through. Done up in a sharp red, the Cherokee Trailhawk makes no apologies of what its intended purpose is - going off-road. Under the skin, the Cherokee Trailhawk comes with Jeep Active Drive II. This four-wheel drive system is quite advanced as it offers a low-range setting for rock crawling and a rear lock to improve traction. Other changes for the Trailhawk include an off-road suspension with a one-inch lift, skid plates, and a 56:1 crawl ratio. We did some light off-roading on a dirt trail and found the Trailhawk to very capable as the four-wheel drive kept power flowing to us moving. Also, the suspension provided a very comfortable ride over the trail. Power for the Trailhawk comes from the optional 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet. This engine feels plenty powerful for any situation that it is thrown at it. It also very refined during acceleration and at cruise. One part of the engine we aren’t keen on is the stop-start system. We found it be somewhat annoying as the engine wouldn’t always shut off, despite our foot planted firmly on the brake pedal. We mostly left it off for the majority of the week. As for the nine-speed automatic, it has been cleaned up for the most part. Gone is the shuddering we experienced in our first Cherokee, replaced by smooth and crisp shifts. Still, the transmission was very hesitant to go into ninth gear. We drove about 50 miles on the freeway at a 70 MPH cruise to see if it would go into ninth and no luck. At least, the ride is smooth and refined, even with the off-road tires. The big problem for the Cherokee Trailhawk is the price. The base model will set you back $30,395. Our test Trailhawk with a few options such as the V6, navigation, and a couple of other packages to reach an as-tested price of $36,869. That is a lot of money for a small crossover. But considering the number of changes to make the Trailhawk a very capable model, we think that for some folks who want the capability of something like a Wrangler, but with a bit more comfort should give this model a look. Everyone else should stick with the Latitude or Altitude models. 2016 Mazda CX-5 Touring 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder (184 Horsepower, 185 Pound-Feet of Torque) Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $26,465/$28,835 Cheers: Improved Dash Makes Huge Difference, New Infotainment System, Performance and Fuel Economy, Excellent Handling Jeers: Road and Wind Noise are still in abundance Notes: It seems every time we get into the CX-5, Mazda has done some sort of change to it. The last time we drove a CX-5, it came with the new 2.5L version of the Skyactiv-G four-cylinder. The 2016 model fixes two of the biggest complaints we had in previous CX-5’s; the plain dashboard and poor infotainment system. We’ll start with the dash. First seen in the 2016 Mazda6, the dashboard looks more premium thanks to improved materials and new shapes. The new dash also brings in Mazda Connect, the latest infotainment system. This system is a huge improvement over the old system in terms of overall performance and usability. We didn’t have the issue of the navigation system showing you traveling on a different than the one you were on like we did in the 6. The CX-5 is still a joy to drive thanks to the 2.5L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder providing more than enough power for any situation and the chassis that provides superb handling in the corners. One issue we hope Mazda addresses in the future is noise isolation. There is still an abundance of wind and road noise entering the cabin. The 2016 Mazda CX-5 shows the continual improvement that the Japanese automaker has been doing is making it a better vehicle. 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve Dual VVT-i V6 (268 Horsepower, 248 Pound-Feet of Torque) Six-Speed Automatic Base/As-Tested: $36,080/$37,130 Cheers: Stylish Look, Powerful V6, Upscale Interior, Excellent Fuel Economy Jeers: Sporty ride may turn off some buyers Notes: I came away very impressed when I drove the Avalon Hybrid a couple years ago. The combination of sharp styling, sporty ride, and amazing fuel economy made me pick this as one of my favorite vehicles of that year. But would the regular Avalon receive the same praise? Mostly. The Avalon is still one the sharpest looking full-size sedans with a low-slung front end, narrow grille, and coupe-like roofline. The interior is much the same as the hybrid with loads of space for both front and rear seat passengers, comfortable leather seats, and a impressive design with quality materials used throughout. Unlike the hybrid, our XLE Touring came with the smaller seven-inch Entune infotainment system. It still is easy to use and quick to respond whenever you touch the screen or one of the capacitive touch buttons. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 which is used in a number of other Toyota and Lexus products. Horsepower is rated at 268 and torque is rated at 248 pound-feet. The engine is quite a peach as speed comes on at a very quick rate. But the engine is also quiet during acceleration, making a perfect highway companion. In the corners, the Avalon displays a level of athleticism not seen in other full-size sedans. Body roll is kept in check and the steering provides decent weight. This does mean the Avalon isn’t as comfortable as competitors as some bumps do make their way into the interior. Disclaimer: Acura, Jeep, Mazda, and Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
  4. I remember being at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show and being at introduction of the Buick Encore. After seeing the model introduced, I just found myself wondering why. Why do we need a subcompact crossover? Why does Buick have it and not Chevrolet? Wouldn’t it be better as a Chevrolet? Little did I or anyone realize that within a few years, the subcompact crossover would be the hot thing. It seems Buick would be a pioneer in this class. The Encore is a rebadged version of the Opel Mokka sold in Europe and somehow Buick was able to make it look a bit more premium. This is due to Buick’s designers making a number of small tweaks such as a new waterfall grille, portholes on the hood, blue tinted headlights, and a set of eighteen-inch five-spoke wheels. The same is true for the interior as Buick has added some luxury touches such as faux metal and wood trim, soft-touch materials, and blue backlighting. This particular Encore also came equipped with some handsome two-tone leather seats. Oddly, there are no power adjustments for the seats. To get that you’ll need to step up to the top Premium trim. Personally, I would like to see all Encores come with power adjustments as standard. At least all Encores get Buick’s Interlink infotainment system. Now being a subcompact crossover, you might think it is a penalty box for rear passengers and cargo. Not so in the Encore. The rear seats provide more than enough head and legroom, but getting in and out is somewhat hard due to a small rear door opening. Cargo space is decent with 18.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 48.4 cubic feet with the seats down. You can also fold the front passenger seat down to increase cargo capacity. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This only comes paired to a six-speed automatic. There is a choice of front or all-wheel drive, with my tester having the latter. If you are planning to stay in urban environments, the 1.4T is perfect as it provides enough squirt to get you up to speed. If your travels take you to the country or highways, then you might want to look at something else. The 1.4T runs out of steam quite fast and you’ll find your foot on the floor to try and merge into traffic or make a pass. Now Buick has a possible solution to the power problem with a new turbo 1.6 on the 2016 Encore Sport Touring. We hope to get our hands on that soon. At least Buick got the ride characteristics right on the Encore. The suspension is able to soak up bumps and provides a smooth ride. Also, the small dimensions and light steering makes the Encore very nimble in small spaces. Buick’s QuietTuning makes sure no road and wind noise enters the cabin making the model one the quietest in the class. The Buick Encore may now be overshadowed by newer models in the class. But it still is worth of a look, especially if you live in an urban area. Disclaimer: Buick Provided the Encore, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Album: 2015 Buick Encore Leather Group AWD 10 images 0 comments Year: 2015 Make: Buick Model: Encore Trim: Leather Group AWD Engine: 1.4L DOHC Turbocharged Inline-Four Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 138 @ 4,900 Torque @ RPM: 148 @ 1,850 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/30/26 Curb Weight: 3,358 lbs Location of Manufacture: Bupyeong, South Korea Base Price: $29,450 As Tested Price: $33,620 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: White Pearl Tricoat - $995.00 Power Moonroof - $900.00 Bose Premium Audio - $595.00 Buick Intellilink with 7-Inch Screen and Navigation - $495.00 Cargo Mat - $60.00 Cargo Net - $60.00 The brief on the Yukon Denali XL is on the next page. Page 1 of 2 1 2 → Last » Click here to view the article
  5. I remember being at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show and being at introduction of the Buick Encore. After seeing the model introduced, I just found myself wondering why. Why do we need a subcompact crossover? Why does Buick have it and not Chevrolet? Wouldn’t it be better as a Chevrolet? Little did I or anyone realize that within a few years, the subcompact crossover would be the hot thing. It seems Buick would be a pioneer in this class. The Encore is a rebadged version of the Opel Mokka sold in Europe and somehow Buick was able to make it look a bit more premium. This is due to Buick’s designers making a number of small tweaks such as a new waterfall grille, portholes on the hood, blue tinted headlights, and a set of eighteen-inch five-spoke wheels. The same is true for the interior as Buick has added some luxury touches such as faux metal and wood trim, soft-touch materials, and blue backlighting. This particular Encore also came equipped with some handsome two-tone leather seats. Oddly, there are no power adjustments for the seats. To get that you’ll need to step up to the top Premium trim. Personally, I would like to see all Encores come with power adjustments as standard. At least all Encores get Buick’s Interlink infotainment system. Now being a subcompact crossover, you might think it is a penalty box for rear passengers and cargo. Not so in the Encore. The rear seats provide more than enough head and legroom, but getting in and out is somewhat hard due to a small rear door opening. Cargo space is decent with 18.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 48.4 cubic feet with the seats down. You can also fold the front passenger seat down to increase cargo capacity. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This only comes paired to a six-speed automatic. There is a choice of front or all-wheel drive, with my tester having the latter. If you are planning to stay in urban environments, the 1.4T is perfect as it provides enough squirt to get you up to speed. If your travels take you to the country or highways, then you might want to look at something else. The 1.4T runs out of steam quite fast and you’ll find your foot on the floor to try and merge into traffic or make a pass. Now Buick has a possible solution to the power problem with a new turbo 1.6 on the 2016 Encore Sport Touring. We hope to get our hands on that soon. At least Buick got the ride characteristics right on the Encore. The suspension is able to soak up bumps and provides a smooth ride. Also, the small dimensions and light steering makes the Encore very nimble in small spaces. Buick’s QuietTuning makes sure no road and wind noise enters the cabin making the model one the quietest in the class. The Buick Encore may now be overshadowed by newer models in the class. But it still is worth of a look, especially if you live in an urban area. Disclaimer: Buick Provided the Encore, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Buick Model: Encore Trim: Leather Group AWD Engine: 1.4L DOHC Turbocharged Inline-Four Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 138 @ 4,900 Torque @ RPM: 148 @ 1,850 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/30/26 Curb Weight: 3,358 lbs Location of Manufacture: Bupyeong, South Korea Base Price: $29,450 As Tested Price: $33,620 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: White Pearl Tricoat - $995.00 Power Moonroof - $900.00 Bose Premium Audio - $595.00 Buick Intellilink with 7-Inch Screen and Navigation - $495.00 Cargo Mat - $60.00 Cargo Net - $60.00 The brief on the Yukon Denali XL is on the next page. The Cadillac Escalade has been a huge success for the company since being launched in 1999. In fact, many consider the full-size SUV to be the flagship, even with the new CT6 around the corner. But not everyone can plunk down the $72,970 required to get into the base model. So is there a good alternative to Escalade? Yes and it comes from GMC. The GMC Yukon Denali was launched a year before the Escalade, offering a number luxury appointments and features not commonly seen on full-size SUVs. Since then, the Denali has become a sub-brand and making some of GMC models feel and look like something you would get a luxury car dealer. But the Yukon has remained the crown jewel for the Denali brand. The Yukon Denali and the model seen here, the Yukon Denali XL don’t really differentiate in terms of overall design from the standard Yukon design. But it’s small details that make the Denali stand out. There is a new chrome grille, HID headlights, twenty-two inch aluminum wheels, optional retractable running boards, and a number of chrome pieces. It is subtle, but it does make a big difference. Compared to the previous-generation, the 2015 Yukon Denali XL shows a noticeable improvement in terms of design and materials. The dashboard layout has been cleaned up and controls are within easy reach for driver and passenger. Materials are a few steps above what you’ll find in the previous Denali thanks to soft-touch plastics, leather, and faux aluminum trim. I do wish GMC did a little something more for the Denali’s interior to make it stand out just a little further. Maybe real aluminum trim? At least GMC got passenger and cargo space in the Yukon Denali XL right. Sitting in the rear two rear rows isn’t a penalty as there an abundance of head and legroom. The only downside might be narrow space to get into the third-row by moving the second-row seat. Cargo space is large with 38.9 cubic feet on offer with both rear rows up. This increases to 76.7 cubic feet with the third-row down and 121.7 cubic feet with the second-row down. For power, comes with the 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. A new eight-speed automatic comes into play for this year's model. Despite the Yukon Denali XL weighing over 6,000 pounds, the larger V8 shrugs it off like it was nothing thanks to the large torque figure and automatic transmission being smart with its shifts. Now going for the larger V8 means slightly lower numbers of 14 City/24 Highway/16 Combined compared to the 5.3 V8’s economy figures of 15/22/18. Both figures represent models equipped with four-wheel drive. In terms of ride and handling, the Yukon Denali XL provides a relaxed ride with bumps and imperfections ironed out. This is very impressive when you consider my tester came equipped with the larger wheels. Thank GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system that comes standard. The system also makes a difference when cornering as the Denali shows barely any sign of body roll. The Yukon Denali XL starts at $70,220 for the base four-wheel drive model. My modestly equipped tester came in at $78,725. That might seem a bit much, but consider that a similarly equipped Cadillac Escalade ESV will cost $10,000 to $12,000 more. So if you want something close to an Escalade without a large pricetag, GMC has got you covered. Disclaimer: GMC Provided the Yukon Denali XL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: GMC Model: Yukon XL Trim: Denali Engine: 6.2L EcoTec V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 460 @ 4,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 14/20/16 Curb Weight: 6,009 lbs* Location of Manufacture: Arlington, Texas Base Price: $70,220 As Tested Price: $78,725 (Includes $1,195 Destination Charge and $500 Open Road Package Discount) *Note: Weight corresponds to Yukon XL Denali equipped with 20-inch wheels Options: Denali Premium Package - $3,165.00 Open Road Package - $2,860.00 Twenty-Two Aluminum Wheels - $895.00 Midnight Amethyst Metallic Paint - $495.00 Theft-Deterrent System - $395.00
  6. Last year at the LA Auto Show, Chrysler gave the 300 lineup a modest refresh. A new grille and headlights for the exterior, while interior boasted a new gauge cluster and dial for the gear shifter. Some people thought Chrysler should have gone farther, but we think the right call was made here. Our 300 came in the S trim which brought a blacked-out grille, headlights, wheels, and new lip spoiler. Paired with a coat of red paint, the 300S strikes a nice balance of aggression and handsomeness. Despite the looks, the 300 is still a tricky vehicle when it comes to overall visibility. Due to the limited area of glass, the 300 has large blind spots that make it tricky to park or safely change lanes. We highly recommend optioning the park assist and blind spot systems to make the 300 that much easier to live with. Powertrains haven’t changed much since we last checked out the 300 back in 2013. A 3.6L V6 with 292 horsepower (300 horsepower for the S) comes standard, while a 5.7 HEMI V8 with 364 horsepower is an option. No matter which engine you choose, an eight-speed automatic is standard. We had the V8 in our 300S tester and it fits the vehicle's persona. With a distinctive engine note at idle and plenty of punch throughout the rev range, the V8 is perfect for those who want power. The new eight-speed automatic is very fast with shifts and helps boost fuel economy to 16 City/25 Highway/19 Combined. In terms of handling, the 300S gets a retuned suspension to help reduce body roll and feel more planted. It does make a difference as the S feels slightly more capable around corners than the standard 300. Steering is quite good with the right amount of weight and feel. For day to day driving, the 300S is very comfortable as the suspension is able to glide over bumps. Wind and road noise are kept in check. The Chrysler 300S starts at $34,895 for the V6 and $37,895 for the V8. Our tester came to an as-tester price of $42,865 with a couple of options. So while the Chrysler 300 may not have gone under the dramatic changes many wanted, the changes Chrysler did make keep the 300 as one of the best bang for your buck vehicles. Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the 300S, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Chrysler Model: 300 Trim: S Engine: 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 363 @ 5,200 Torque @ RPM: 394 @ 4,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/25/19 Curb Weight: 4,326 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $34,895 As Tested Price: $42,685 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 300S Premium Group - $3,295 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 - $3,000 Redline 3-Coat Pearl Exterior Paint - $500 Next Page: 2015 Dodge Durango R/T The Dodge Durango is already an imposing looking crossover with its boxy shape, crosshair grille, and a long taillight. But what if you want something more aggressive in a Durango? Dodge has you covered with the R/T trim. The R/T begins with changes to exterior such as a body-colored grille element, twin-exhaust ports, and a set twenty-inch wheels finished in a dark gray. These little changes increase the aggressive look that Dodge is conveying with the Durango. The interior is the same as any other Durango with a clean dash and seating for six or seven people. But the Durango is on the lower end in terms of cargo space. With all three rows up, the Durango offers 17.2 cubic feet. This increases to 47.7 cubic feet with the third row folded and 84.5 with both rear rows folded. Those who want more cargo space should look at GM’s full-size crossovers. The other change for the R/T is the 5.7L HEMI V8 with 360 horsepower becoming standard. This engine fits the attitude that the R/T is presenting. Start the Durango R/T and the V8 comes alive with a burble that is reminiscent of a muscle car. That impression continues when you step on the accelerator and engine roars to life, delivering power at a very quick rate. This is helped by a new eight-speed automatic which provides lightning-fast shifts to keep the V8 in the zone of power. Fuel economy may be the big downside to the V8 as it is rated at 14 City/22 Highway/16 Combined. We got 17.1 MPG during our week. Handling-wise, the Durango is a delight. Body motions are kept in check and the steering provides a nice feel of the road. The ride is very smooth and quiet, making it a perfect long distance cruiser. As for pricing, the 2015 Dodge Durango R/T starts at $42,495. Our tester with a few options climbed to $48,525. Considering the performance and styling tweaks the R/T offers, along with the amities of the standard Durango, the R/T is very much worth a look. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Durango R/T, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2015 Make: Dodge Model: Durango Trim: R/T AWD Engine: 5.7L HEMI MDS VVT V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 360 @ 5,150 Torque @ RPM: 390 @ 4,250 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 14/22/16 Curb Weight: 5,331 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI Base Price: $42,495 As Tested Price: $48,525 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear DVD Entertainment Center - $1,995 Premium Nappa Leather Group - $1,295 Second-Row Fold/Tumble Captain Chairs - $995.00 UConnect 8.4AN AM/FM/SXM/HD/BT/NAV - $750.00

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