Monday, March 31, 2014


Minivans come in two sizes: compact (small families only) and regular (medium-size families). Large, full-size vans are larger and less maneuverable; they're for very large families and contractors.

Some Minivans that are very popular are the: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Mazda Mazda5, Nissan Quest, Kia Sedona.

Price Plan to spend $19,000-$25,000 for a minivan with basic features and up to about $45,000 for one that's equipped like a luxury car. Full-size vans start in the mid-$20,000s and top off in the high $30,000s.

Key items to look for in a minivan include power-sliding doors, versatile seat configurations, rear air-conditioning, an entertainment system, storage containers and so on. Luxuries like automatic climate control, heated seats, iPod interfaces, navigation systems, keyless start systems and Bluetooth capability are now commonplace options on minivans. Full-size vans offer a few luxuries but are low on conveniences.

Family buyers should zero in on a minivan's second-row seat, as each model generally offers some sort of unique configuration or feature that may benefit your family. Some rotate to face the third row, some stow into the floor, some have built-in footstools, some feature removable center positions and some slide laterally to accommodate three-abreast child seats. All minivans now feature a third row that folds neatly into the floor, but the ease with which it performs this trick varies from model to model, as does the resulting passenger space.

Minivans can seat seven or eight in comfort and are designed to allow parents to move about easily to tend to young children. Full-size vans are cavernous; they can seat anywhere from seven to 15 passengers depending on the van's size.

No matter how you cut it, a minivan is superior to an SUV in its ability to haul passengers and cargo. The cabins are cavernous, though the versatility of its second row comes into play here as well. How heavy and easy are its seats to remove, or do they fold away as the third row does? Full-size vans are typically used by plumbers and contractors, so they obviously can fit a lot of stuff. However, their seats must be physically removed, and doing so is difficult.

V6 power is the standard among minivans, though two offer four-cylinder engines. Expect adequate to brisk acceleration and around 20 mpg combined. Full-size vans carry heavy loads, so they generally require larger V6, V8 or even V10 engines; diesel engines are also common.

Minivans are some of the safest vehicles on the road, though certain models go a few steps further with features like knee airbags and rearview cameras. Shoppers should be aware of crash test scores as well, but it should be noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted more strenuous testing procedures for last year, making the ratings of recently tested models incomparable with those tested in the past.

A few minivans and full-size vans offer all-wheel-drive systems — worth considering if you live in a particularly cold, wet, snowy climate. Keep in mind that AWD vans get lower gas mileage than two-wheel-drive models.

While SUVs may seem like the more stylish choice for family transportation, minivans are definitely the more financially savvy choice: They cost less to buy, insure and maintain. They seat more people comfortably in their roomier cabins. They're just about as fuel-efficient as large crossovers, but have an advantage over full-size truck-based SUVs. Full-size vans' fuel costs can be high, but time-tested components keep repair bills down.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


If Toyota doesn't have the largest and most diverse selection of trucks, SUVs and crossovers, we're not sure who does. There are utilitarian mommy-mobiles, rugged and retro off-roaders and enormous cross-country haulers. Then there's the 2013 Toyota Venza, which seems to exist for people who can't make up their minds. Part wagon and part crossover SUV, this five-passenger family car can be considered alongside any number of different vehicles.

Once you're perched in its driver seat, the Venza feels a little wagon-esque. Though it has a raised ride height, you don't get quite a commanding view of the road. It's more like the 2013 Subaru Outback in this way. However, it does feel more carlike, both in terms of visual perception and driving experience.

A pair of growing teens in the reclining rear seat will find plenty of sprawl space, while once joined by a friend, the three of them will discover the rear seat is just wide enough for their shoulders as well. Plus, a composed ride and quiet cabin give the Venza a grown-up feel that compact crossover SUVs such as the Chevrolet Equinox do not offer. In terms of space and cabin ambience, the Venza is more like a 2013 Ford Edge or Nissan Murano. Similar cargo capacities further the comparison.

Of course, being "like" those aforementioned vehicles doesn't make the 2013 Toyota Venza equal to them in every way. The Outback is more rugged, the Edge gives you a more commanding view of the road and the Equinox is cheaper and better for hauling stuff. Is the Venza an intriguing alternative, however? Absolutely.

The LE comes standard with 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, a windshield wiper de-icer, privacy glass, a blind-spot mirror, keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, reclining rear seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a cargo cover, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a touchscreen interface, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The V6-powered Venza gets 20-inch wheels.

The LE Convenience package adds a power liftgate and a rearview camera. The LE Preferred package adds these items plus a panoramic sunroof and Toyota's Entune suite of smartphone-based app services.

The XLE trim includes the Convenience package items, plus keyless ignition/entry, heated front seats, driver seat memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, Entune, satellite radio and HD radio with iTunes tagging. The XLE Premium package adds the panoramic sunroof, a larger touchscreen interface, a navigation system, real-time traffic (plus other services) and a 13-speaker JBL sound system.

The 2.7-liter inline-4 produces 181 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, a four-cylinder, front-drive Venza went from a standstill to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds -- this is an average time for four-cylinder compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive version gets 22 mpg combined. These estimates are not all that great compared to those same compact crossovers, but the Venza does at least offer the option of four-cylinder power.

The 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 hp and 246 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, an all-wheel-drive Venza V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. This is considerably quicker than both compact and midsize SUVs. At the same time, fuel economy is almost identical to that of the four-cylinder, at an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 18/25/21 with all-wheel drive.

The 2013 Venza doesn't quite exhibit the top-notch interior quality of past Toyota models or its midsize SUV competitors, but the overall design is rather fetching and practical, with a sleek center console that features a high-mounted shift lever for the transmission which frees up space between the seats. This allows for a large console bin, generously sized cupholders and smaller bins perfect for smartphones and other personal effects.

While the Venza's audio controls are more complicated than those found in past Toyotas, the new-for-2013 touchscreen interface is one of the best available. We appreciate its ability to mix and match FM/AM/XM radio presets, and the accompanying steering-wheel-mounted controls are well conceived. For those with more high-tech tastes, the Venza also can be equipped with Toyota's new Entune system. By connecting the car to a smartphone via Bluetooth, it allows you to control Pandora radio, buy movie tickets or reserve a restaurant table through the car's touchscreen.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


This is the list of the TOP five cheapest cars that get 40mpg's. So people who want to spend less but drive more should really get a look at these cars because it does not get any better thasn this at these prices:

2014 Fiat 500 Pop - $16,995
31 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, 34 mpg combined
Fiat’s cute, European, and retro 500 hatchback can also be described as cheap and efficient, as this tiny Italian runabout achieves 40 mpg on the highway when equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission. Sure, you’ll make some compromises in roominess and power (the 1.4-liter engine only produces 100 hp), but the 500 tries its best to make up for these shortcomings with its funky design inside and out. It’s even available as a 500c convertible model, although that car is more expensive at a starting price of $20,495 with destination.

2014 Chevrolet Sonic Sedan Drivers Side View
2014 Chevrolet Sonic sedan LT - $17,205
29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, 33 mpg combined
When equipped with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, the Chevrolet Sonic is a surprisingly fun urban runabout that also happens to get 40 mpg on the highway. To get this rating, buyers must avoid the optional six-speed automatic and stick with the six-speed manual transmission that comes standard when you upgrade to the turbo engine option ($700). The Sonic is available as a standard four-door sedan or a more versatile hatchback model that costs just $700 more. 

 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage DE - $13,790 34 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, 37 mpg combined
The smallest Mitsubishi may not have many other saving graces, but the Mirage is undeniably efficient, with a 42-mpg EPA highway rating. The low starting price represents the base Mitsubishi Mirage DE, which is equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission; outfitting this tiny, three-cylinder, 74-hp hatchback with the optional CVT raises the EPA rating to an even higher 44 mpg highway, but also raises the price by $1000.

2014 Nissan Versa Front Three Quarters
2014 Nissan Versa Sedan S Plus - $14,600
31 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, 35 mpg combined
The Nissan Versa has been one of the cheapest cars in the U.S. market for years now, and you don’t have to add much to the base Versa S to achieve the vaunted 40-mpg mark. Stepping up from the base S with its five-speed manual and into the CVT-equipped S Plus model gets buyers a ticket into the 40-mpg club, even if the Versa sedan is still sparsely-equipped at this low price point. These ratings apply to the Nissan Versa Note hatchback as well, although that model starts at a slightly higher $16,050.

2014 Ford Fiesta Sedan Passengers Three Quarters In Motion
2014 Ford Fiesta sedan SE EcoBoost - $17,400
32 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, 37 mpg combined
Ford’s smallest car in the States is now home to the company’s smallest engine on our shores as well. The Ford Fiesta EcoBoost is powered by a 1.0-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder that nets an impressive 45 mpg on the highway, higher than any other non-hybrid, gasoline-powered car on the market. We were impressed with this surprisingly sprightly little engine in our first drive. It costs just $995 extra on Fiesta SE models and pairs exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission.

Friday, March 28, 2014


The Ford Explorer is a large SUV that can seat the whole family and has been on the market for more than two decades. he Ford Explorer is a sport utility vehicle produced by the American manufacturer Ford since 1990. It is manufactured in Chicago, Illinois. It was also assembled in Hazelwood, Missouri until the plant closed on March 10, 2006. The Ford Explorer was instrumental[neutrality is disputed] in turning the SUV from a special interest vehicle into one of the most popular vehicle types on the road. The model years through 2010 were traditional body-on-frame, mid-size SUVs. 

For the 2011 model year, Ford moved the Explorer to a more modern unibody, full-size crossover SUV/crossover utility vehicle platform, the same Volvo-derived platform the Ford Flex and Ford Taurus use. It is slotted between the traditional body-on-frame, full-size Ford Expedition and the mid-size CUV Ford Edge. Although outwardly similar, the fifth generation Explorer, Ford Edge and Ford Escape do not share platforms. The fifth generation Explorer does, however, share platforms with the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT.

The 2014 FORD EXPLORER is more of an all-weather wagon than a rock-climbing utility vehicle. Today, it comes with either four- or six-cylinder engines (one a turbocharged EcoBoost offering), and with front- or all-wheel drive paired with a standard automatic transmission. The competitor most frequently cited is the Explorer's long-time archrival, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, although the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander are actually closer matches than the somewhat smaller Jeep.

The latest Ford Explorer was introduced in the 2011 model year as an all-new crossover vehicle. Ditching the frame-rail design, the car-based Explorer arrived with seven-seat capability, electronic assistance for its all-wheel-drive system, and a 3.5-liter V-6 engine teamed with a six-speed automatic. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine became an option for the 2012 model year, and delivers up to 28 mpg on the highway--some 25 percent better than any Explorer before it.

The latest Explorer is among our top-rated vehicles for families, for its interior and fuel economy as well as for its carlike handling and excellent safety record. The current Explorer also includes all the latest connectivity systems, including a navigation system with Sirius Travel Link and Sync, which uses Bluetooth to enable voice control of some vehicle systems. There's also MyFord Touch, a system that uses steering-wheel or voice controls to direct audio, navigation, and phone with a large LCD touchscreen to display the interface. It's been controversial, with some publications and customers pointing out glitches and difficulties in getting used to the system, but it is an option.

The Ford Explorer Sport is new in the 2013 model year. It's not a two-door version of the crossover, as the name might have implied in the past. Instead, it's a twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder-powered version of the Explorer with lots of luxury features. It could almost be considered an Explorer "SHO," but it's positioned more as a replacement for the old V-8 versions.

With Ford's turbocharged EcoBoost V-6, the Ford Explorer Sport is outfitted with a 350-horsepower six-cylinder engine and standard all-wheel drive, as well as suspension and steering improvements, making it the closest thing to a performance-oriented Explorer we're likely to see. Its 0-60 mph times are a full two seconds quicker than the standard V-6 Explorer, too--while towing remains as high as 5,000 pounds.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


The 2015 Yukon has many new features such as the projector beam headlights with LED accents, improved aerodynamics, a standard rear spoiler on its liftgate, and more aluminum components to decrease overall weight and improve fuel efficiency.

Speaking of efficiency, the Yukon now comes with one of two EcoTec3 V8 engines, either a 5.3-liter, 355hp model offering 375 lb-ft. of torque, or a 6.2-liter, 420hp model with 470 lb-ft. of torque in the Denali model. Both engines are connected to a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission. To improve overall handling, the Yukon’s wheels are now 1/2-inch wider, and it’s been upgraded with an electronic variable-assist power steering system.

Inside, all Yukons offer three rows of seating, with fold-flat capability for both the second and third row, along with improved legroom for second row seating when compared to prior models. All models offer premium interior materials which provide a luxurious interior while still being quite capable of hauling cargo and passengers. GMC also says it put considerable thought into reducing cabin noise, changing the design of doors, mirrors, windshield and exhaust systems to help provide a quiet ride.

All models include an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a driver dashboard information screen, which gets upgraded from a 4.2-inch to a configurable 8-inch display in the Denali model. Available technologies for the Yukon line include keyless entry and pushbutton start, forward collision alert, front park assist, side blind-zone alert, crash-imminent braking, lane departure warning, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.

The Yukon is available in four basic flavors: The base Yukon, the luxury and performance enhanced Yukon Denali, and its longer brethren the Yukon XL and Yukon Denali XL, both of which are about 20 inches longer – resulting in increased legroom and cargo capacity.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


The Chrysler Crossfire is a rear-wheel drive, 2-door sports car marketed by Chrysler as both coupé and roadster and was built for Chrysler by Karmann of Germany for model years 2004-2008.

Developed during the union of Daimler and Chrysler, the two-seater is based on the R170 platform and shares 80% of its components with Mercedes-Benz SLK320. Having initially arrived in 2001 as a concept car styled by Eric Stoddard, the Chrysler was with further refined by Andrew Dyson before production began in 2003. 

The blended DNA of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corporation produced its first offspring in 2003, and hairdressers rejoiced. The Crossfire is just the kind of florid prêt-à-porter that appeals to people in the look-good business. To be sure, the Crossfire does look good.

The car's name is also an unintentional pun about DaimlerChrysler; in the days since the 1998 merger, executives have been regularly mowed down by crossfire between Stuttgart and Detroit. The name "Crossfire" refers to the two character lines that run from front to rear along the body sides — crossing each other midway through the door panel. Conceived during the period of Chrysler's ownership by Daimler-Benz, the name also refers to the collaboration of the two companies.

The Crossfire, which shares both skeleton and muscle with the first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster, is the first Chrysler product to attain the performance-enhancing SRT label, heretofore bestowed only on Dodges. 

The "street and racing technology" shtick—adding more horsepower, bigger tires, and big attitude—has already been done to a few Dodges, notably, the Ram SRT-10 and Neon-based SRT-4 (all Vipers carry an SRT-10 badge). Buyers who prefer a quick quarter-mile served with essence of tire smoke have approved of the 500-hp pickup and 230-hp subcompact (in fact, various Mopar bolt-on kits will bump the SRT-4's horsepower all the way to 300). These first vehicles have given the SRT moniker a reputation for delivering the real deal. Anticipation runs high for the SRT versions of the Chrysler 300C sedan and Dodge Magnum wagon, now only months away, we are advised.

While we wait, the Crossfire SRT-6 will blaze into dealerships this June as both the $45,695 automatic coupe pictured here and a $49,995 automatic convertible. Criminally, no manual is offered in the SRT-6.

We have written that the base Crossfire has eye-snaring looks and pleasing handling but an engine at least 50 horsepower short of the boiling point. The SRT mods are substantial, as is the price increase. From base Crossfire coupe to SRT-6 coupe, the extra $11,200 buys first and foremost an intercooled supercharger that wrenches another 115 horses from the 3.2-liter, 18-valve V-6. Blown, the V-6 makes 330 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, a twistability increase of 81 pound-feet. And there are only 109 more pounds of curb weight (3220 in all) for the coupe to haul.

Monday, March 24, 2014


The Buick Regal is a mid-size luxury car introduced by General Motors for the 1973 model year. North American production ended in 2004 and began again in 2011. For the 2011 model year, Buick re-introduced the Regal to the North American market, positioned as an upscale sport sedan. Production and sales in China have continued since 1999.

The updated 2014 Buick Regal impresses reviewers with a wide range of standard features and engine choices, though they say that some cars in the class are sportier and more luxurious.

The Regal is a well-honed sports sedan with a taut and steady ride, somewhat sporty handling, and quick steering. Wind noise is well suppressed. The 2.0-liter turbo version we tested was quick, fairly quiet, and delivered 23 mpg overall. For 2014 the standard engine is the 259-hp 2.0-liter turbo. The nicely furnished interior has firm, supportive seats and excellent fit and finish, but the rear seat is snug. The optional eAssist mild hybrid got 29 mpg overall in the similar Chevrolet Malibu we tested. In addition to the engine change, the 2014 freshening includes better infotainment system and available AWD on all trimlines. 

The 2014 Buick Regal features a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that most test drivers agree is powerful, though some think it can feel a bit slow from a stop. A mild-hybrid eAssist powertrain is optional in the 2014 Regal, and critics say the eAssist model is refined and fuel-efficient, though much slower than the turbocharged Regal. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and some test drivers say it has well-timed shifts, while a few criticize it for sometimes taking too long to downshift. 

The 2014 Buick Regal gets an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg city/highway, which is decent for the class, and the eAssist model gets 25/36 mpg city/highway, which is very good for the class. Reviewers say the base Regal’s suspension system balances comfort with relatively agile handling, while GS models have a firmer suspension system that makes them sporty and fun to drive. Still, many test drivers write that if you’re looking for a true sport sedan, you might want to consider other upscale midsize cars.

Automotive journalists write that the 2014 Buick Regal has an interior built with high-quality materials. Test drivers say the 2014 Regal has comfortable front seats, but they think the rear seats could be more spacious. The turbocharged Regal has a larger-than-average trunk, but the eAssist model’s trunk is much smaller because the battery pack takes up space, which reviewers don’t like. 

The Regal has a long list of standard features for the class, including leather upholstery, heated front seats, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, a seven-speaker sound system and Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system, which features a full-color touch-screen display and can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth or a USB port. Optional features include navigation, a sunroof and a number of new-for-2014 safety and driver assistance options, including side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


One of the many things Saab Cars USA marketing V-P Hans Krondahl knows is that everyone needs a gray suit. The gray-suit thing is directly applicable to the new 9-3 sedan Krondahl needs to sell. His contention is that a gray three-piece, although lacking the visual excitement of a sharkskin zoot suit, has broad appeal, is safer socially, and wouldn't scare off the most conservative shopper.

That, then, is the new Saab 9-3 sedan -- a car tailored not to offend. Krondahl can't say what color suit the current 9-3 is, but he and Saab believe it wasn't conservative enough. Company officials blame the hatchback configuration -- a Saab hallmark since the mid-'70s -- as the main culprit for less-than-thrilling sales. Current 9-3 hardtop sales in the U.S. are about 11,000 per year. That's down from the model's best year of 1986 (it was called the 900 then), when Saab sold almost 37,000. By comparison, BMW sold 61,822 3-series hardtops to U.S. customers in 1986, and last year, it sold more than 80,000 of them.

Saab contends that shoppers at the entry level of the luxury market (that includes the Audi A4, BMW 3-series, and Volvo S60) consider the hatchback the automotive equivalent of double-knit polyester. We would add that the current 9-3 is not as luxurious or sporting as those other cars, either.

Like the 9-5, which replaced the 9000 hatchback as a '99 model, the 9-3 comes only in traditional four-door, notchback garb. Saab loyalists who appreciate the uniqueness and practicality of hatches claim Saab sold out to convention. And they're right. But Saab notes the 9-5 has sales that are 70 percent better than the old 9000's. And Saab wants to more than double 9-3 hardtop sales to about 25,000 per year in the U.S.

No surprise then that the new 9-3 looks conspicuously like the wedge-shaped 9-5. It's trimmer-looking. Its bodywork appears taut. With shorter overhangs and bulging wheel arches, the 9-3 has a more tailored, more Germanic look than the overstuffed-envelope style of the current car.

Underneath the new duds is GM's Epsilon platform that the 9-3 shares with the Opel Vectra and the upcoming Chevy Malibu. Say what you will about the lack of a hatch, with this new platform the 9-3 is dramatically better in every mechanical way.

One Saab engineer compared the new car's structure to the old by saying, "It's in a whole different galaxy." That's not as much an overstatement as it sounds. Gone are most of the harsh sounds and vibrations that penetrated the current car's cabin.

The 9-3 was originally based on the GM2900 platform and subsequently changed to the GM Epsilon platform. Other vehicles based on the same platforms include the Opel Vectra and Cadillac BLS. Though the current production model of 9-3 is still based on the Epsilon platform, Saab's current owners, National Electric Vehicle Sweden, are developing the newer Phoenix platform which was conceived post GM divestiture to debut for the 2015 model year. The 9-3 is currently Saab's only model, offered as a saloon, and will be available in three different body styles: saloon, estate and convertible.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


The 2014 Honda Odyssey ranks 1 out of 7 Minivans. This ranking is based on our analysis of published reviews and test drives of the Honda Odyssey, as well as reliability and safety data.
The 2014 Honda Odyssey pleases reviewers with its stellar handling for a minivan, good fuel economy and large, cleverly-equipped interior. For having the best combination of factors that appeal to families, we named the Odyssey our 2014 Best Minivan for Families. 

The 2014 Honda Odyssey is powered by a V6 engine, which reviewers say provides quick acceleration. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and automotive journalists say that it shifts smoothly. The EPA reports that the Odyssey gets 19/28 mpg city/highway, which is very good for the class.  3.5-liter, 24-valve, SOHC i-VTEC® V-6 engine

The high-output, 3.5-liter, 24-valve, SOHC i-VTEC® V-6 engine produces 248 hp and an equally impressive 250 lb-ft of torque, giving the Odyssey strong performance, while maintaining exceptional fuel efficiencyTest drivers say the Odyssey has a comfortable ride, and they are extremely impressed with its responsive handling and sharp steering, both of which belie the minivan’s large size.

Most reviewers think the 2014 Honda Odyssey has a spacious interior with comfortable seating in all three rows and a large, flexible cargo area. Many test drivers also appreciate the Odyssey’s high-quality cabin materials and clever interior features, such as the optional integrated vacuum cleaner. Standard features in the Odyssey include cloth upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, an 8-inch color display, a rearview camera, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth phone compatibility with audio streaming, a USB port and a seven-speaker audio system. 

Optional features include the HondaVAC in-car vacuum, a touch screen, leather upholstery, heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, power sliding doors, a power tailgate, a power moonroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-seat entertainment system and navigation.

The Odyssey had originally been conceived and engineered in Japan, in the wake of country's economic crisis of the 1990s – which in turn imposed severe constraints on the vehicle's size and overall concept, dictating the minivan's manufacture in an existing facility with minimal modification. The result was a smaller minivan, in the Compact MPV class, that was well received in the Japanese domestic market and less well received in North America. The first generation Odyssey was marketed in Europe as the Shuttle.

Friday, March 21, 2014


The Range Rover is the flagship of the Land Rover lineup. It wears a decades-old nameplate that is immediately associated with exquisite luxury, British style and eyebrow-raising off-road capacity. For the latest model year, Land Rover has added a long-wheelbase model that largely that roll and rock on way.s to play.

For the new generation, the Range Rover's tall greenhouse remains intact, a design cue that dates back to the 1970 model. However, an elongated front fascia that recalls the smaller Range Rover Evoque clearly gives it an updated, yet familiar, face. Instead of upright head lamps, the new Range Rover's lights sweep back into the fenders, further accentuating the rounded appearance.

At the rear, the Range Rover's tall tail lamps now feature a swept-around character line, but the automaker's split tailgate design appears to have carried over. New wheels are also clearly inspired by the smaller Evoque.

The full-size luxury 'ute boasts a new all-aluminum unibody structure that helps reduce curb weight by a staggering 700 pounds compared to the old model.

Underneath the sheetmetal, a new fully independent air suspension lifts the aluminum unibody Range Rover for difficult off road conditions. More front and rear wheel travel and pneumatically cross-linked air springs simulate the kind of articulation formerly only available with solid axles, which further improves the outgoing model's already formidable capability. Ground clearance is up 0.67 inches for a total of 11.9 inches when the air suspension is raised to its top position.

Also new is electric power steering with a faster ratio than the outgoing model through most of the wheel's movement but is actually slower on center to keep the "relaxed character" of previous Range Rovers.

Six-piston Brembo front brakes are standard, and both brake discs are gigantic - 14.96 inches up front and 14.37 inches out back. Range Rover 7,716 lbs.  heavy metal weight  towing capacity and a Trailer Stability Assist system is now standard.

The new Rangie continues to use the same pair of V8s as the outgoing model, but the weight loss means acceleration is noticeably improved. The base model Range Rover utilizes a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 375 horsepower 375 lb-ft of torque. The Range Rover Supercharged ups the ante with a force-fed, 510 horsepower version of the same mill with 461 lb-ft of twist. Both engines come mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

Four-wheel-drive of course is standard, and unlike the smaller Range Rover Evoque, the big Rangie still features a two-speed transfer case. Also included is an updated version of the Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which optimizes the SUV for a variety of different off-roading and inclement weather situations.

Like the exterior, the interior also doesn't necessarily move the Range Rover in an all-new direction. However, the upgrades are evident throughout, and they add up to a truly premium cabin.

The basic dashboard and center console are similar to the old Range Rover's, but a new center stack incorporates an updated version of the automaker's infotainment system. The center console, meanwhile, includes the "rises to the occasion" gear lever that first debuted under sister brand Jaguar's watch. The Range Rover's already prodigious rear seat legroom has been increased by a full 4.7 inches, Land Rover says.

An audio system developed by British firm Meridian is standard. Interior details include a choice of several real wood veneers sourced from sustainable forests and real brushed aluminum trims. Twin needle stitching keeps the leather panels looking suitably upmarket, while LED mood lighting sets the stage.

Standard Range Rovers are offered in 15 exterior shades, while the Autobiography is available with a further 22 colors. The Range Rover's roof can be painted in black or silver if buyers tick the contrasting roof option box. An astounding 17 interior options allow for plenty of customizing inside, while 8 alloy wheel designs are available in 19 through 22 inch  rolls around diameters.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Some say the Mazda2’s four-cylinder engine has enough power for a daily driver, though they point out that the Mazda2 takes time to get up to highway speeds. Test drivers report that the standard five-speed manual transmission makes good use of the engine’s power, though a few critics say the clutch feels numb. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional, though some auto writers say that it is less polished than the more modern six-speed transmissions found in rival cars. 

Equipped with the automatic, the Mazda2 gets an EPA-estimated 28/34 mpg city/highway, which is OK for the class, but not as good as the fuel economy of competitors like the Chevrolet Spark. Test drivers say the Mazda2 handles nimbly and is one of the more enjoyable hatchbacks to drive thanks to its razor-sharp steering and responsive brakes.

As with most affordable subcompacts, the Mazda2’s cabin is basic and uses hard plastics, but buyers say that quality upholstery and a simple, uncluttered design give it a touch of class. The front seats are quite supportive, they say, but the rear seats are small even by subcompact car standards. The Mazda2 comes with a four-speaker CD audio system, an auxiliary input, a USB port and keyless entry. 

Optional features include Bluetooth, cruise control and a six-speaker audio system. The Mazda2 lacks features like available navigation and infotainment systems, which are available in many rival cars. Reviewers say that the audio and climate controls are generally easy to use. There’s a typical amount of cargo space for the class, but critics say the Mazda2’s oddly-shaped cargo bay limits its capacity to carry bulky items.

The fun-to-drive, fuel-efficient, 100-hp 1.5L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine earns an EPA-estimated 29/35 mpg with a 5-speed manual or an EPA-estimated 28/34 mpg with an automatic transmission†

Seating for five adults with plenty of storage including a 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback, up to 27.8 cubic feet of cargo space and clever spots to stash small items

Well equipped with standard air conditioning, power mirrors, door locks and windows, plus remote keyless entry

Peace of mind comes standard with safety features that include advanced front air bags, front side-impact air bags and side-impact air curtains‡, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)** and Traction Control System (TCS)

Sport Touring
Engine type 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with VVT
Horsepower 100 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 98 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Redline 6300
Displacement (cc) 1498
Bore x stroke (mm) 78.0 x 78.4
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Fuel system Electronically-controlled multiport fuel injection
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded
Valvetrain Chain-driven dual overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder with variable intake valve timing (VVT)
Ignition system Direct coil-on-plug electronic ignition with platinum-tipped spark plugs
Engine block Aluminum alloy
Cylinder head Aluminum alloy
Emission control type (Fed/Cal) Tier2-BIN5 / ULEV2
EPA-Estimated Fuel economy
Manual transmission (city/HWY)† 29/35
Automatic transmission (city/HWY)† 28/34
Type Front-wheel drive (FWD)
Manual transmission 5-speed overdrive
Automatic transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled overdrive
Brakes Front disc/rear drum
- Front 10.2-inch vented disc
- Rear 7.9-inch drum
- ABS 4-wheel, 4-channel with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist
Steering type Power rack-and-pinion with variable assist
Power assist Electronic Power Assist Steering (EPAS)
Overall steering ratio 15:1
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock 2.7
Turning circle, curb-to-curb (ft) 32.2
- Front MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar
- Rear Torsion beam with coil springs
Wheel size (in) 15 x 6.0
Tire size P185/55R15 V-speed rated all-season radial
Weights & Capacities
Curb weight (lbs)  
- Manual transmission 2306
- Automatic transmission 2359
Fuel capacity (gallons) 11.3

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


The 2014 Nissan Altima ranks 4 out of 21 Affordable Midsize Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of published reviews and test drives of the Nissan Altima, as well as reliability and safety data.

With athletic handling, abundant power and excellent fuel economy, the 2014 Nissan Altima is a practical family sedan that also provides some kicks behind the wheel, reviewers say.

Test drivers are impressed with the ample power offered by the 2014 Nissan Altima’s standard four-cylinder engine and say the optional six-cylinder engine has even more juice. All models come with a continuously variable transmission that reviewers say is responsive and operates smoothly. However, they note that the powertrain can be loud, especially with the four-cylinder engine. The Altima gets an EPA-estimated 27/38 mpg city/highway with the base engine, which is great for the class. The automotive press says that sharp handling makes the Altima a standout among family sedans, most of which are a snooze to drive.

Automotive writers agree that the Altima has an upscale cabin design, and that its plush materials and special “zero-gravity” front bucket seats make for a comfortable ride. The rear seats offer plenty of legroom, test drivers note, though headroom is lacking. The Altima comes standard with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, keyless entry and push-button start. Optional features include NissanConnect, which links with smartphone apps like Facebook, a 7-inch navigation touch screen, a nine-speaker Bose audio system, a rearview camera and a moonroof. Available safety features include blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection.

Inside, the Altima deviates from the Infiniti impersonation. Its plain but straightforward controls remind us of the Mazda 6’s, if anything. Front-seat comfort is excellent, thanks to newly designed buckets. Supportive and soft, the seats have a memory-foam-like feel that embraces your body with a delightfully uniform pressure. The rear seats aren’t quite as comfortable as those in the first-class front row, but there’s plenty of space. Legroom is excellent; think exit row but without the responsibility.

Bucking the trend of offering only four-cylinder engines in mid-size family sedans, Nissan offers an optional 270-hp V-6. The company expects only one in 10 buyers will want it. Most will purchase an Altima with the familiar 2.5-liter four that now sports a variable intake manifold and 182 horsepower. There’s no manual, conventional automatic, or dual-clutch transmission. Every 2013 Altima comes with a CVT. To boost fuel economy, Nissan has reduced this transmission’s internal friction by a claimed 40 percent while increasing the spread between the shortest and the tallest ratios. Tall gearing keeps the engine loping along lazily at speed to help the Altima return a class-leading 38-mpg highway rating. Our observed 26 mpg, achieved in a mix of 80-mph freeway driving, city traffic, and a quick strafe through canyon roads, is closer to the 27-mpg EPA city number.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI joins a diesel fleet that, according to the automaker, represents 75 percent of all diesel-powered vehicles sold in the United States. Although the broader numbers show that diesel-powered passenger vehicles have never enjoyed the sweeping success here that they’ve had in Europe, some brands continue to plod ahead with oil-burning engines and reap relatively strong sales. Volkswagen is one of these brands, having sold more than 1 million diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. since the first Rabbit diesel was sold here in 1977. 

VW’s current 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine, found under the hood of the 2013 Jetta, has enjoyed years of relative success, with Volkswagen often claiming that sales are limited mostly by production capacity. Waitlists at dealers and high TDI resale values seem to back that up. The engine produces 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel our Reflex Silver Metallic example from 0 to 60 mph in 8 seconds flat, then on to the quarter-mile in 16.2 seconds, with a trap speed of 86.3 mph. Those figures might not sound too impressive, but keep in mind that: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Front Three Quarter

The manual transmission is fun to row. Shift lever action is light, but it notches accurately into the gates. The clutch was the main shortfall — not only was the pedal action light, but the engagement point was difficult to judge, resulting in embarrassing stalls for several staffers. Of course, experience is the key, and with a couple back-to-back days behind the wheel, frequent stalls became a distant memory. 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Rear Three Quarters On the road, the Jetta feels light and nimble, largely because it is. At a shade over 3100 pounds, the TDI sits on the lighter side of average for the segment, but that’s not at the expense of solidarity. The chassis is taut and rides a bit firmer than some competitors. The reward is strong composure whether tracking down the interstate or tearing up a back road — something GLI owners are probably more inclined to take part in. Like the shifter, steering is light yet direct, and the driving position is very good, with excellent range to the telescoping steering column — a plus for taller drivers. Taller passengers, however, may find the rear seat slightly cramped, but passable for shorter trips around town. 

This is a compact sedan, after all; those looking for huge rear seatroom are best steered towards the larger Passat TDI. Still, the cabin of the Jetta TDI is a nice place to spend time, and several improvements have been made for the 2013 model year. Power-reclining driver and front passenger seats are now standard, and the steering wheel, shift knob, and hand-brake lever are all leather-wrapped. VW says that a standard soft-touch dash is also coming to the Jetta TDI by year’s end, though our early-2013 tester wasn’t so equipped. That said, the V-Tex black leatherette seat upholstery is of good quality, and our non-optioned car came equipped with Bluetooth, an iPod interface, and keyless entry at no extra cost. Our car was listed at the base price of $23,850. 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Side In Motion

2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Interior Front Seats 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cockpit 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Engine Of course, even more important than all these niceties for most prospective TDI owners is fuel economy, and the EPA rates the 2013 Jetta TDI at 30/42 mpg city/highway, with a combined rating of 34 mpg in mixed driving. That’s a single combined mpg better than the Chevrolet Cruze diesel’s EPA rating, but 10 mpg combined less than the Honda Civic Hybrid and 16 mpg combined less than the Toyota Prius. Driven briskly over several hundred miles of interstate, back roads, and city traffic, we averaged 39.7 mpg combined, besting the EPA average. All in all, we liked the 2013 Jetta TDI quite a bit, especially its combination of fun and frugality -- it’s easily one of the more entertaining cars to drive in this segment. 

That said, there are two big improvements coming in the near future that should up the ante. For the 2014 model year, the rear suspension will be a multi-link design, similar to that found on the European Jetta, that should increase handling capability and ride comfort. Then, for the 2015 model year, the TDI gets a revised 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine, making 10 more horsepower for a total of 150 hp, though torque stays the same at 236 lb-ft. According to Volkswagen, the updated TDI engine will provide better throttle response along with lower emissions and higher fuel efficiency, though it will finally mandate the use of a urea solution, something that Volkswagen had managed to avoid, thus far, in the Jetta. Despite the advantages of the upcoming engine, it would appear most buyers aren’t choosing to wait. As of the end of July, Volkswagen had sold 47,000 diesel-powered cars in America.

Monday, March 17, 2014


2014 Jeep Cherokee is all-new, you’d be excused if you didn’t quite know how to pack for your first road trip in one. Tip: You might want to sneak something along the lines of a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo slip-on driving shoes into your travel bag alongside the trusty old Danner Crater Rim GTX hiking boots. Sure, being a Jeep, you can expect 4WD versions to perambulate bad roads and worse weather in stride, and should you purposely exit the pavement (particularly in the lifted and off-road-tech-gifted Trailhawk—see our first drive) to tackle steep ascents, descents, and seriously scary two-tracks without reaching for the winch and tow straps, you’ll still be in business.

But the front-drive Cherokee is a whole new deal for 2014, even with the base 2.4-liter Tigershark Multiair2 four-cylinder. Built on Fiat’s modular CUS Wide platform, it drives way smaller than the boxy, upright Liberty that it supplants in Jeep’s lineup. The 2014 Cherokee feels planted on the road, more carlike than trucklike, with crisp steering, well-damped body motions, little or no roll in corners, and pinpoint braking control. The structure is solid, with no creaks or groans, even over seriously uneven terrain. Think engaging, balanced sport wagon rather than lumbering, bobble-headed sport-utility. It’s light on its feet like no Cherokee or Liberty before it, despite its 3600-plus pounds of mass.

Although a featherweight compared with the old Liberty, the new Cherokee still hits the scales a few hundred pounds harder than top-selling competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4. So even though the Cherokee four-holer’s 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque are commensurate with the output and oomph of the CR-V, RAV4, and naturally aspirated Escape four-cylinders, power to weight suffers a bit. Jeep’s all-new ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission—standard equipment and a segment first—addresses the power-to-weight deficit versus the competition with a fusillade of ratio scenarios (9.81:1 ratio spread) to meet the requests of the driver’s right foot. Not only is the ZF box quick to find the best available ratio for any given road load, vehicle speed, or throttle position, but it also easily skips past unwanted ratios.

Because of the wide gearing in the Cherokee’s nine-speed gearbox (both first and second in the Jeep are shorter-cogged than the CR-V’s first gear), the Cherokee comes out of the hole enthusiastically. The enthusiasm continues in the first four underdriven gears, such as when bombing around twisty back roads or squirting into a gap in the traffic flow entering the mall. Front-wheel-drive versions of the Cherokee four-cylinder are sufficiently sprightly, but the 4WD four-bangers could benefit from using the Trailhawk’s shorter 4.08:1 final drive. Currently, the nearly 3700-pound front-wheel-drive Cherokee 2.4 and the almost two-ton 4WD four-cylinder Cherokee use the 3.73:1 final drive. The lack of throttle response in 4WD four-cylinders is particularly noticeable at higher speeds, as sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth gears are all overdrive ratios.

As a matter of fact, we never did see ninth gear in our 4WD four-cylinder test vehicle. Even when we were cruising at light throttle or coasting with our foot off the accelerator at 80 mph on California’s 101 freeway, ninth gear was AWOL during our drive. (A Jeep drivetrain expert explained that the transmission’s electronic brain won’t pick a ratio if performance and drive quality will suffer, so we’re thinking maybe 100 mph would be just right for the gas-saving, engine-speed reduction the 0.48:1 ninth-gear ratio might provide.) On the freeway, there isn’t an abundance of power left for passing. An eight-to-four downshift and wide-open-throttle stab in a 4WD four-cylinder Cherokee produce more noise than scoot, and exposure time in the passing lane is uncomfortably long. If you want 4WD, we’d recommend upgrading to the more powerful 3.2-liter V-6.Leave it to the Italians to infuse a rough-and-tumble Jeep with some style. The Cherokee’s cabin is a montage of attractive shapes and materials. 

The seats are supportive and comfortable,Regardless of which shoes you wear, you’re less likely to soil them, thanks to Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control. Standard on 4WD Cherokees, the system allows the driver to select situation-appropriate Auto, Sport, Snow, Mud/Sand, and Rock modes. The $2195 Technology group adds, among other things, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and parallel/perpendicular parking .

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2015 AUDI TT

After teasing us with bits and pieces over the last few months, Audi has finally taken wraps off the redesigned 2015 TT and TTS. The compact 2+2 sportster has gotten a complete revamp, starting out with significant improvements to its exterior design.

Headed straight at us, you’ll notice the TT’s new grille is much wider and flatter than past models, flanked by a pair of flat new headlights, available in Xenon, LED or Audi’s Matrix LED variants, which use a dozen LEDs to provide high-beam control as well as turn sequentially-illuminated turn signals and predictive cornering lights. Frankly, its new front end looks so much more sporty and aggressive to us.
While it measures the same length and height as the previous generation TT, the new car has a longer wheelbase. Moving along to the rear of the car, you’ll find a retractable spoiler which emerges at about 75mph to increase downforce. The body’s curves are unmistakably those of a TT, though the whole design just seems more modern to us.

By making changes to the mix of aluminum and steel body components, Audi was able to shed about 110 pounds from the last generation, bringing total curb weight of the 2.0L variant down to just about 2712 pounds. Speaking of engines, you can choose from a 2.0L turbocharged, direct-injection gas engine in either a 230hp version on the TT or a 310hp version on the TTS. A 2.0L TDI diesel is also available, mated with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive.

You can also choose a six-speed, dual-clutch S tronic transmission with Audi quattro all-wheel drive. Impressively, this variant can do 0 to 62mph in 5.3 seconds, which shaves 0.7 seconds off the manual/front-wheel drive model. Of course, the TTS does even better, with a time of 4.7 seconds in the manual version, though Audi hasn’t quoted acceleration times for the S tronic version of the TTS.

You’ll also notice that the TTS version includes quad exhaust pipes, as well as an even sportier grille, air intakes, sills and rear diffuser.

Inside, the TT looks great, with cockpit-like instrumentation, highlighted by a single 12.3″ TFT display which combines both driving information such as speed and tachometer, as well as multimedia information. This display can be toggled between a driving-focused mode, or an infotainment mode. And if you opt for the top-of-the line TTS model, pretty much every control you need is accessible from the steering wheel. We also love how they’ve integrated the climate controls into the air vents. Talk about intuitive.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


The BRZ is uniquely designed with the heart of Subaru and the soul of a sports car. It's buttoned-up engineering, unbuttoned. For improved response, Subaru engineered the BRZ to send its power to the rear wheels. Combined with a compact, naturally symmetrical drivetrain design, you get a sports car with optimal balance and one of the lowest centers of gravity in its class. 

Drawn from over 40 years of intelligent performance, the unique SUBARU BOXER® engine has pistons that move side to side, cancelling out each others vibrations so it can run smoother and more efficiently. This horizontal layout also offers better balance while delivering a maximum transfer of power.

Right out of the starting gate, you'll feel the performance of a 2.0-liter DOHC aluminum-alloy 16-valve SUBARU BOXER® engine. It's built with a Dual Active Valve Control System along with direct- and port-injection technology to help boost power and efficiency.

The BRZ comes with a 6-speed fully synchronized close-ratio manual transmission for pinpoint command. BRZ Limited also offers an available 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Everything about the BRZ says its cool and composed, including its sport-design instrument cluster featuring a center-mounted analog tachometer and digital speedometer.

Vehicle Stability Control automatically senses steering and braking inputs to help keep the vehicle on the driver's intended path.

The Antilock Braking System (ABS) prevents wheel lock-up and helps maintain driver control. Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) balances braking, while Brake Assist can sense a panic-stop situation and apply full braking force to help stop faster.

The BRZ comes standard with a total of six airbags to help prevent injury: front, front seat side torso/pelvis, and side-curtain.[1] The advanced system uses an array of sensors to help deploy the airbags in the most effective way possible.

The ring-shaped reinforcement frame is designed to shield and protect in a collision. Made of high-tensile strength steel, it directs impact energy around the passenger compartment, rather than through it.

An engine immobilizer is standard on all models, while the BRZ Limited also features an anti-theft security system for added protection of your prized possession.
Standard on: BRZ Limited

Friday, March 14, 2014


The new 2014 Volvo S60 will make you want to grab the keys and hit the road. It has a breathtaking new design , 2014 brings the most dynamic design in a Volvo sedan to date. The C-pillar stretches all the way to the taillights, emphasizing the dynamic, performance nature of this car. A new contour on the shoulders of the lower body creates a powerful double wave. It’s the classic S60, reinvented, for a car that captures the imagination and sets the heart racing.

Fresh luxury , When approaching the interior, we aimed to elevate the immediate sense of luxury and quality upon taking a seat. The new S60 hits the mark. Changes include an available Adaptive Digital TFT Display, air vents with a sleek metal finish, new décor on the gearshift knob featuring a piano black background, and all-new sport seats that deliver additional support and style, just to name a few.

Award-winning safety , Just awarded the 2013 Top Safety Pick+ accolade by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the S60 represents an evolution in Volvo’s long dedication to protecting you on the road. Advanced IntelliSafe Technology includes features like City Safety and Pedestrian Detection, which help prevent slow-moving collisions with smart automatic braking. You can feel safer than ever before in the new S60.The Volvo S60 is the only European brand sedan to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award, for it's high marks in front, side, roof strength and rear crash protection, in addition to earning the top rating of Good in the new Small Overlap Frontal Crash Test.

Take the long way home , Long time a favorite of drivers looking for a thrill, the new 2014 Volvo S60 improves upon an already impressive track record. Faster 0-60, up to 325 hp, and torque vectoring VEQ for corner tracking control are just a few examples of why you’ll love driving the S60. Additionally, the S60 R-Design now offers even more in the way of performance, with paddle shifters and a new sport chassis.

Connectivity comes standard. The new S60 introduces a wide array of safety and entertainment technologies. Innovative radars behind the grille detect pedestrians and bikers, working with City Safety to automatically brake if one suddenly steps or swerves into your lane. The new Adaptive Digital TFT Display lets you customize your dash to match your driving mood. And the Sensus Infotainment system with integrated Bluetooth connects your audio, navigation and cell phone through a 7-inch hi-resolution, color screen.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The 2014 Kia Optima is among the latest to buck the trend of cars that confuse the word “family” with “boring.”

Competing with cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry means that the Optima not only has to equal these more established models, but exceed them. And based on the view from the outside it’s off to a good start. We have long been big fans of the latest version of the Optima, and for 2014 Kia has given it a few enhancements. Both front and rear fascias are new which subtly change the shape, but the big story is the changes to the head/taillights. 

Up front, new LED daytime running lights and the first set of square, multi-element fog lights we have seen. Out back, the LED taillights now spill around the sides up to the rear fenders, with three individual bars giving the Optima a unique visual signature both from the side and the rear. 16-inch alloy wheels have been redesigned as well and come standard.

Under the hood, both engine options carry over. The base engine is a 200-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, while SX and Limited trims can be outfitted with a 274-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that replaces the traditional V-6 option in this segment. 

A six-speed automatic is the only transmission option, and the SX adds a new Drive Mode Select feature which allows the driver to adjust the drivetrain and steering characteristics to their liking. Models with the base engine achieve 23/34 mpg city/highway, while turbo models get 20/31 mpg. 

Moving inside, the 2014 Optima adds new seats and a new flat-bottomed steering wheel. The Optima was already a class leader when it comes to standard options and that continues into 2014, with Bluetooth connectivity, USB ports, air conditioning, power windows and locks, and satellite radio all standard. 

The navigation system gets a new, larger 8-inch display, and accepts voice commands. Also new is a larger, 4.2-inch customizable display in the instrument panel which provides important information to the driver in an easy to see area, improving safety.

Six airbags, antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, and traction control are standard safety features. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is optional, as are rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Real longevity is rare in the automotive industry. Only a handful of models have made it to the half-century mark, but the milestone the Porsche 911 celebrates this year is one the Corvette passed a decade ago. Both have survived rampant model proliferation that has crowded their markets, plus rumors of massive, personality-altering redesigns, as well as the suffocating and ever-changing regulation inherent in one of the most scrutinized consumer-goods industries in the world.

But here are the 2014 models, two old masters that have provided much more than mere transportation in their long, storied histories. And both are recently renewed, creating the perfect occasion for critical analysis.

When lined up against a Corvette, the 911’s major drawbacks have always been power and price. With direct injection and a 7600-rpm redline, the Carrera S’s 3.8-liter flat-six produces 400 horsepower, a substantial 60 shy of the Corvette. And oh, that price! Atop a base of $99,850, the example tested here carries $48,395 in extras—including six items that cost more than $3000 apiece, plus an additional six that are more than $1000 each. This car’s options bill alone is nearly enough to buy you a base Corvette.

Which would cost just $51,995. But this one is armored to pick fights with Porsches. It has the $2800 Z51 handling package (upgraded brakes, shocks, springs, anti-roll bars, wheels, and tires; plus dry-sump oiling and an electronic limited-slip differential with coolers for both it and the transaxle); the $1195 performance exhaust (an extra five horsepower and five pound-feet with angrier vocals); and the top-shelf 3LT interior package for $8005, in which pretty much everything is power adjustable, heated, and leather wrapped. There are a few other extras, too. Even at an as-tested $68,375, the Corvette retains its value proposition. But our prior exposure to the C7 suggests this may finally be a Corvette that doesn’t rely on price alone to conquer the 911 carrera S, Lying roughly equidistant from nowhere you’d want to be and nowhere you’re particularly likely to find yourself, Lockwood Valley Road in Southern California looks like what would happen if someone paved a road over the ocean during a typhoon. With rapid-fire corners and more ups and downs than a Nicholas Sparks script, it’s an entertaining stretch. But its rough, bone-rattling surface is what really lets a driver know what’s up. Important insights such as: “Hey, maybe I need a kidney belt to own this car.” Or, more pertinent here: “That 911carrera S doesn’t lose its cool while being pummeled.” Even when bumps, pits, and what must be asphalt-entombed desert tortoises try to fling the wheels off the pavement, with the engine alternatively zinging and bogging like a jet ski in rough chop, there are no uncertain moments in the 2014 Porsche 911.

It remains a sensationally involving car, even with steering that is marginally less precise than the Corvette’s. Perfectly linear, the Porsche responds predictably to every input, changing direction immediately, rotating as requested by throttle lift, drifting at the behest of the brakes, and settling immediately when you get back on the gas. There’s just a hint of the old Porsche 911’s arse-swapping spook as the immediacy of the directional changes reminds you of the engine’s placement. After all, the car carries nearly two pounds in the caboose for every one in the nose, but it’s a defanged threat nowadays. The 2014 carrera S is an eminently controllable, responsive vehicle that encourages its pilot to use every bit of its performance.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


The Durango comes with either the familiar 5.7-liter Hemi V8 or the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. We tested both around the canyons around Los Angeles, which meant we had highway time, as well as taking it around the twisties. The verdict? If you are a suburban kid-hauler and soccer-team coach using the Durango in lieu of a minivan, then by all means opt for the more fuel efficient and perfectly adequate V6. If, on the other hand, you have stuff to pull – boats, trailers, etc., then it's Hemi time. The V6 produces 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The Hemi cranks 360 hp and 390 lb-ft.
The fuel economy numbers are not official* for the Durango with the new eight-speed tranny, but the company says it results in a nine-percent hike. That will be an improvement over the following current numbers: a two-wheel-drive Durango is rated at 16/23 with the V6 and 14/20 with the V8. 

The all-wheel-drive setup knocks one percent off the V8's fuel economy, and doesn't impact the V6's mpg at all. Nice. By virtue of the improvement in fuel economy and size of the gas tank, Chrysler claims the Durango has the longest one-tank range of 600 miles in the category. Durango also has an Eco driving mode we tested and liked. That system fiddles with throttle sensitivity and cylinder-deactivation. The driver, though, can override that with the push of a button if it's not optimal for driving conditions or the vehicle's load.

As mentioned, the Durango has been given Chrysler's new eight-speed automatic transmission. The new tranny works via the same sort of rotary knob as has been put into the Ram 1500 – a not-exactly-big innovation, but we are digging how it frees up real estate in the dash. It's a simple and elegant change that can become a signature of Ram and Dodge trucks and SUVs, and one we suspect rivals won't copy for fear of looking like followers.

The exterior features a new grille look and taillights meant to elicit a racetrack aura that is defining Dodge's lamp design. We did not get a chance to try the towing package, but the specs say the the V6 will pull 6,200 pounds and the Hemi will tow 7,200 pounds.

Chrysler has added to the Durango's trim levels menu by including a new "Limited" model to go along with the SXT, Rallye, R/T and Ted Turner-money top-o-the-line Citadel. The kit that comes with the Limited includes leather seats, heated seats and steering wheel, an 8.4-inch Uconnect screen and 18-inch wheels. Distinguishing the R/T and Rallye trims are a monochrome exterior, 20-inch black wheels, dual exhaust pipes and black accents around the headlights. LED running lights come standard on Rallye, Limited, R/T and Citadel, while R/T and Citadel get HID headlamps as well.

In case you have missed it, every automaker is moving fast into "smart" systems to prevent collisions, pedestrian accidents and, if they could, your dog from peeing on the living room carpet when you're not home. Durango offers blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross-path alert that helps keep you from backing into a head-down texting driver or pedestrian, collision warning, crash mitigation that works the brakes better than many drivers can and driver's-side knee airbags.

UConnect won AOL Autos' 2012 Technology of the Year Award for the upgraded system that was installed in the 2013 Ram 1500 and Viper. That system is in the Durango, with the added feature of a Yelp app that is pretty handy for finding what you want wherever you are. Taxidermy in LA? Yeah, it told us where to go. A new emergency-help button has been added as well. Entertainment screens have been moved into the seat-backs for backseat passengers, and out of the drop down position from the headliner in the old model.

Because Chrysler sees Dodge as a "value brand," it has to price aggressively, and it is doing just that. The Durango's starting price is still $29,795, excluding destination. The Durango Limited starts at $35,995 (a bump of $800 over the 2013 Crew), while the R/T now starts at $38,995 (up $2,500). The Durango Citadel will start at $40,995 – an increase of $1,000. In true cheeky fashion, Dodge reps compared the price of the Citadel with a Mercedes GL that shares the same platform, has less equipment and costs more than $30K more if you get all the goodies on the GL that are on and in the Durango.

Monday, March 10, 2014


The Subaru Outback is an automotive nameplate used by the Japanese automobile manufacturer Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) since 1994. The "Outback" name has been utilized on two different Subaru branded vehicles. One of these models is based on the mid-sized Subaru Legacy and the other derived from the hatchback version of the Subaru Impreza. Named after the vast, remote, and arid outback regions in Australia—the name is intended to emphasize the moderate off-road capability of the vehicle.

The Subaru Outback has long been considered a safe SUV to own and drive. Just like the newest commercial which says "they lived" you too can benefit from the safety of this awesome SUV.

Among other things the Subaru Outback is designed for optimal balance and an even distribution of power for maximum traction, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive makes for better stability, efficiency and a quicker response to conditions.

Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive flows power to all wheels simultaneously for maximum traction. And in slippery conditions, it instinctively sends power to the wheels with the best traction, helping you stay on the road and on course. Working in conjunction with other Subaru engineering features such as Vehicle Dynamics Control, the Antilock Braking System, and Electronic Brake-force Distribution, the Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system gives you the control, handling and confidence that competitive systems can't match. Using it's Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), a stability control system, the Subaru Outback automatically senses steering and braking inputs to help keep the vehicle on the driver's intended path.

The Subaru Outback also has: EYESIGHT® DRIVER ASSIST
Using two cameras mounted by the rearview mirror to monitor traffic, the EyeSight® Driver Assist system reacts to conditions even before you do. An alert will be sounded along with a visual warning when it senses danger of a collision. It even will apply the brakes automatically if you don't. It can also optimize cruise control and warn you when you're swaying outside the lane.

Every Outback features a total of six front, front seat-side pelvis/torso, and side-curtain airbags.The advanced system uses an array of sensors, including a rollover sensor, to help deploy the airbags in the most effective way possible.

The ring-shaped reinforcement frame is designed to shield and protect in a collision. Made of high-tensile strength steel, it directs impact energy around the passenger compartment, rather than through it.

The Subaru's Antilock Braking System (ABS) prevents wheel lock-up and helps maintain driver control. Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) balances braking, while Brake Assist can sense a panic-stop situation and apply full braking force to help stop faster. This makes the Subaru a very safe car that can save you and your family's lives!

Sunday, March 9, 2014


The Toyota Corolla is a line of subcompact and compact cars manufactured by Toyota. Introduced in 1966, the Corolla managed to become the best-selling car worldwide by 1974 and has been one of the best-selling cars in the world since then. In 1997, the Corolla became the best selling nameplate in the world, surpassing the Volkswagen Beetle. Toyota reached the milestone of 40 million Corollas sold over eleven generations in July 2013. The series has undergone several major redesigns.

The name "Corolla" is part of Toyota's naming tradition of using names derived from the Toyota Crown for sedans. The Corolla has always been exclusive in Japan to Toyota Corolla Store locations, and manufactured in Japan with a twin, called the Toyota Sprinter until 2000.

Early models were mostly rear-wheel drive, while later models have been front-wheel drive based. Its traditional competitors have been the Nissan Sunny, introduced the same year as the Corolla in Japan and the later Honda Civic. The Corolla's chassis designation code is "E", as described in Toyota's chassis and engine codes.

A new Corolla is shipping to dealerships from Toyota factories in Mississippi and Canada. We've finally driven the 11th-generation 2014 model, and, well, it's a Corolla. A quieter, bigger one with better seats, a smoother ride, crisper steering, a “seven-speed” CVT function that's actually preferable to a traditional automatic, and a special fuel-sipper model rated at 42 mpg. It’s all wrapped in styling that merits the use of the word, and it’s packed with the infotainment features modern marketing demands.

Parked alongside last year's model under San Diego's high August sun, the new Corolla glistens handsomely, looking less like that Nokia candy-bar phone your mother still uses. For all the standard LED headlamps and crisp folds, though, the creative metal bending stops well short of the inspiring Furia concept on which the production model is based. The 2014 Corolla comes only as a sedan—memories of Corolla hatchbacks, wagons, and coupes remain in history's dustbin alongside the hot-hatch FX16 and rear-drive AE86.

Quieter, Smoother

A 3.9-inch wheelbase extension smoothes out sharp ride motions and expands rear-seat legroom—by Toyota's measure, there are 5.1 additional inches of space for stems in the back. The front seats are a significant improvement; the S model's bigger bolsters feel awfully soft for a “sport seat,” but the entire range has added thigh, lumbar, and lateral support. That will make journeys longer than a typical commute less punishing, as will sound-insulating measures (seals, insulation, glass) and the longer overdrive ratios that quell highway hubbub.

The Corolla's traditional L, LE, and S models use a carry-over 1.8-liter twin-cam VVTi four-cylinder, rated at the same 132 hp as it was last year. Efforts were made to minimize mass, but curb weight rises with the added length. You might anticipate a commensurate loss of performance, but the car feels a tad livelier. Credit the pair of new transmissions: a CVT for the shiftless, which offers a “stepped seven-speed” function in S models, and a fresh six-speed manual. Clutch-pedal availability is limited strictly to frugal-minded buyers of the base L model or the indulgent experience seekers who opt for a nearly loaded S.

On the road, the electronically managed CVT—branded CVTi-S—banishes the usual drone of such a transmission, instead emulating the feel of a traditional automatic while being more efficient, quieter, and offering a better range of ratios. It’s certainly among the best CVTs ever but can't mask the 1.8-liter's lack of low-rpm punch. Engaged drivers will prefer the new six-speed manual. The shift throws are long but crisp, and the clutch feel is good. Predictably but sadly, the pedals are so far apart as to negate heel-and-toe downshifts; if you expected Toyota to let you find the brake and gas pedals with the same foot, you haven’t paid attention in a long time.