Thursday, July 30, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
The 2009 Toyota Venza is one of those vehicles that, a few years ago, would have drawn odd stares and had everyone asking "What in the world is that?"
But with the recent explosion of crossover vehicles and the melding of different vehicle types (SUVs, sedans, wagons, hatchbacks) nobody really much wonders anymore. As long as it has four wheels, people just see it as a vehicle.
The Venza, Toyota says, has the best attributes of the brand's beloved Camry and Avalon sedans, while also injecting a bit of SUV flair - maybe a bit like the Highlander.
I was surprised how luxurious it is, inside and out, and at its overall refinement.
With its extended grille, narrowing headlamps, thick wheelwells and slender midsection, the Venza has an appearance that suggests activity and strength.
On the interior, light colors give an open, airy feeling while a wavy texture on the dash plastic and seat leather adds a bit of artistry. Artificial, handsome Satin Mahogany woodgrain graces the dash and the top of the leather-wrapped shift knob, which angles out of the console, not the floor.
Small triangular windows add visibility to the forward leaning front pillars while hinting ever so slightly at a minivan appearance. Yet the Venza mostly feels carlike inside, and it drives like one, too. The SUV elements are the higher seating position and the rear carrying capacity - a generous 70.1 cubic feet with the second row seats dropped.
|Hence, the Venza is quite efficient at carrying things. You can drop the larger half of the 60/40 split rear seat to accommodate a large object, but still have room for a second-row passenger. The rear load-in height is lower than the Camry's and nearly as low as the Sienna van.|
The Venza comes as one model only, but you can choose between two engines and select front- or all-wheel drive, and add options or option packages as you wish.
Our tester had the uplevel 3.5-liter V6, which produces 268 horsepower and 246 pounds-feet of torque to move the two-ton vehicle along easily. The V6 Venza is rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway with all-wheel drive, or 19 and 26 with front-wheel drive, which our tester had. In mostly highway driving, we averaged about 23 mpg.
The standard 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine puts out 182 horsepower and 182 pounds-feet of torque. This engine improves fuel economy by 2-3 miles-per-gallon while reducing vehicle weight by 110 pounds.
Both engines use a six-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission. It's electronically controlled with intelligence for your driving pleasure.
By using a single-grade strategy with simplified packages and stand-alone options, every Venza is well equipped. On the outside, standard features include fog lamps, privacy glass, and a roof-mounted XM satellite radio antenna.
|The 3.5-liter models get large five-spoke 20-inch wheels, while 2.7-liter models flaunt bold 10-spoke 19s.|
Inside, you get dual-zone climate control with second-row vents. Besides the usual power features, there are integrated audio controls on the tilt/telescope steering wheel, as well as cruise control, an overhead console and three 12-volt power outlets.
As a family vehicle, safety is crucial, and the STAR safety system provides plenty of it. You get antilock brakes with Brake-force Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control systems. These systems work together to keep the car on the road and moving in the right direction regardless of weather conditions or driver input. The standard Hill Start Assist Control temporarily provides pressure to the brakes while the car's stopped on a hill to prevent rollback. The Venza has seven strategically located airbags, and front passengers get active headrests to help prevent whiplash.
Pricing starts at $25,975 for the two-wheel-drive model with the four-cylinder engine. The tester's MSRP was $29,250, but the sticker price jumped to more than $37,000 with Premium Package #2, a navigation system with upgraded JBL Synthesis 13-speaker sound system, and a couple of other little things.
That's a little steep, but you get a lot of luxury and versatility.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
We love Hogan's Heroes reruns. We also love great cars. Sometimes, you have to make hard choices. We've done it here. Why? We're gutsy like that.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Lexus today announced pricing for its new HS 250h hybrid, which has the best combined EPA mpg rating of any luxury
vehicle in the U.S.
The 2010 HS 250h, Lexus’ first dedicated hybrid and the fourth offering in its lineup, is available in
standard and Premium models. The standard version will have an MSRP of $34,200, while the Premium
model will carry an MSRP of $36,970. They will arrive at dealerships in late August. The MSRPs do not
include a delivery, processing and handling fee of $875.
Both models, which emit 70 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car,
received EPA-estimated ratings of 35 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway for a combined 35 mpg utilizing
regular 87-octane gasoline . The HS 250h has the best combined EPA mpg rating of any luxury vehicle in
the U.S. and its MSRP is nearly $10,000 less than one of its entry luxury sedan segment competitors.
Friday, July 17, 2009
The 2009 Nissan Cube is the most polarizing vehicle we've driven this year, and maybe ever.
On one hand, you had people who gave the thumbs up as we rolled past them, and said stuff like "Cool car," or "That's so neat."
These people were mostly younger folks, who, one might surprise, like a vehicle that could be described as funky.
But on the other hand, there were people who, upon seeing the Cube, looked like they had just tasted anchovy ice cream. "What is that?" they asked with disdain. "Ewww," a few even said.
Well, the Cube is the latest in a new breed of wagonish, small SUVish, tiny minivanish-type vehicles that have hit the market over the past few years, touting their good fuel economy, functionality, reasonable sticker prices and, yes, their unconventional designs.
Some of the others in this lot include the Scion xB, Kia Soul, Mini Cooper Clubman and Honda Element.
They're supposed to appeal to young, hip, urban people, and in many cases they do. But they also have found a fan base among older folks who appreciate the functionality that doesn't come in as large a package as a bona fide minivan or SUV.
The Cube lives up to its name, with its nearly cubical shape. But Nissan threw in a few far out design details to make it even more distinctive.
The rear door opens at the side and is hinged on the left; the rear window wraps around the right rear corner and right side of the Cube.
Some people loved that. Others hated it.
The windows have a frame, and the B pillar on each side draws inward.
In the front, there are wide-set headlights and plenty of horizontal lines.
There are numerous rounded corners that blend with, or clash with, depending on your perspective, the straight lines.
The interior has its own individuality, but it's also functional, and whether you like how this car looks or not, you have to give it some major practicality points.
It's a pretty tall interior, with abundant headroom up front.
On the dash, you get a pair of scooped shelves, and other rounded shapes.
But perhaps the most unusual touch was the circular piece of shag carpeting on top of the dash.
I think it was designed to let you put something there like a cell phone or iPod or whatever, but when I tried that out, the items still shifted around and I had to end up fetching them from the corner of the dash, where it meets the windshield.
Gas mileage was good; we got about 31 mpg in mostly highway driving.
The driving dynamic was actually a bit more spirited than we expected from this type of car.
Maneuverability was pretty good and acceleration was solid.
At no point did the engine feel inadequately powered.
Braking was firm, and you didn't feel like you were riding in a little economy box that jarred you on each bump in the road.
The engine is easygoing, and while not library quiet, didn't make you shout over it to be heard by your fellow riders.
As for comfort, the front seats are supportive and the back seat was quite roomy and had a center armrest.
It also can be moved forward or back and reclines slightly.
Cargo capacity is pretty good. The backseats fold down.
You also get little storage areas like door pockets, dash cubbies on both sides of the steering wheel and cup holder.
Visibility is great -- no surprise when you consider the ample greenhouse. The larger corner window helps when parking.
There is good forward visibility for the driver, too.
The Cube gives you each of the safety features that come on more expensive wagons, including six airbags - front side airbags and side-curtain bags for front and rear occupants - and front-seat active head restraints. Add in electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, all standard.
The Cube has four models: base 1.8, 1.8 S, 1.8 SL, and 1.8 Krōm.
The base is well-equipped - remote keyless entry, power windows, air conditioning, a trip computer, and a sound system with auxiliary input. The 1.8 S has cruise control, map lights, and a host of upgraded interior appointments, while the 1.8 SL is only offered with the CVT and includes alloy wheels, automatic climate control, and an upgraded sound system with iPod connectivity.
The Krōm has a roof spoiler, a chrome grille with horizontal bars, bright painted alloy wheels, interior accent lighting, aluminum pedals, and a different front and rear fascia, plus various extras, such as Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, and a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer.
The only factory option is the SL Preferred, which has push-button ignition, Intelligent Key, fog lamps, rear parking sensors, XM Satellite Radio, an upgrade to Clarion speakers, and the subwoofer.
This category of vehicles loves to tout its customization capability, and the Cube is no exception with more than 40 dealer-installed accessories to customize.
At $13,990 for the base model, the Cube offers a compelling value. Love it or hate it.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Today, Nissan announced pricing for the all-new 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster, which goes on sale in September at Nissan retailers nationwide.
The 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster is offered in four models. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices start at $36,970 for the 370Z Roadster 6MT and $38,270 for the 370Z Roadster 7AT. Also offered are two Touring models, which add a 6CD Bose audio system, XM Satellite Radio (XM subscription required, sold separately), Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, HomeLink Universal Transceiver, aluminum-trimmed pedals and power leather-appointed heated and cooled ventilated net seats. The 370Z Touring Roadster 6MT is priced at $40,520 and the $370Z Touring Roadster 7AT is $41,820.
Two option packages are offered (Touring model only): the Sport Package, with 19-inch RAYS forged wheels and Bridgestone Potenza tires, Nissan Sport Brakes, SynchroRev Match (6-speed manual transmission only) and Viscous Limited Slip Differential; and the Navigation Package, with Hard Drive-based Nissan Navigation System, 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive and USB connectivity.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
View the video here:
Thursday, July 9, 2009
The naysayers and critics of the U.S. auto industry have to stay silent when it comes to vehicles like the Dodge Charger. The Charger offers a roomy interior and smooth ride. And with big engine upgrades and an available ultra-high-performance SRT8 model, the Charger is a serious alternative to many luxury sports sedans that cost nearly twice as much.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Honda has built a vehicle that might accomplish this, yet the Insight's buyers will not have to sacrifice good looks - on the inside or out.
The Insight is rated at 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway.
The front-wheel-drive Insight is, relative to other hybrids, a joy to drive. There's plenty of torque to take off quickly from stoplights, along with good power for passing. The CVT automatic operates unobtrusively and doesn't hunt around at higher speeds as the Prius's transmission will sometimes do. For those who want to drive the Insight in more spirited fashion, there's a manual mode and steering wheel paddles on the uplevel Insight EX, simulating seven speeds.
Most will be pleased with the way the Insight handles. The Insight doesn't change directions as crisply as the Honda Fit subcompact, but it feels confident in all but the tightest corners, with unexpected poise in high-speed cruising. Brakes are front disc, rear drum but feel up to the task. Ride quality is good despite the short 100-inch wheelbase, and the interior is quiet and civilized except when mashing the throttle to the floor, which causes the engine to become quite raucous.
If optimal fuel economy is important—and it probably is if you're considering the Insight—you should be interested in the fancy display interfaces that come standard on the Insight. Eco Assist helps you reach the best mileage by changing the background color of the speedometer from blue to green as efficiency increases, while a bar indicator displays a thinner bar when you're conserving fuel. Meanwhile, Eco Guide keeps tabs on your daily driving, adding flower petals when you're doing well and accumulating a "lifetime score," if you care to play the game. Just to the left of the steering wheel is an Econ button, which engages fuel-conserving modes for a range of vehicle systems, including how the air conditioning and cruise control operate and how often the gasoline engine is shut off.
The Insight comes in two different trims, and there's a seemingly vast chasm between them in terms of equipment. The Insight LX weighs in at a remarkably low price, but features like cruise control, stability control, and a nav system aren't even optional. The EX model heaps on the extra equipment, including steering-wheel paddle shifters, VSA, cruise control, a 160-watt AM/FM/CD system with MP3 compatibility, a USB interface, aux inputs, and six speakers, plus a center console with armrest, more storage compartments, fog lamps, heated side mirrors, and alloy wheels—albeit at a higher price that's no longer quite a steal. It also adds a center console with an armrest and storage, map pockets, and interior lights. Major options on the EX include a navigation system with a nice, big screen and a Bluetooth hands-free interface.
Our tester, an EX, carried a sticker price of $23,770.
Friday, July 3, 2009
This case in metro Atlanta shows why.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
With gas prices expected to push over $3 per gallon during peak summer travel months, Hyundai Assurance Gas Lock guarantees a year’s worth of gas at $1.49 per gallon on most Hyundai models leased or purchased between July 1 and August 31, 2009. Hyundai Assurance Gas Lock complements Hyundai Assurance and Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and is available with special rebate and financing options on individual models.
“Hyundai Assurance is a unique platform because it enables us to partner with consumers in ways that address their immediate concerns,” said Joel Ewanick, vice president, Marketing, Hyundai Motor America. “We’ve extended Hyundai Assurance to cover gas prices just as peak summer demand traditionally strains budgets further, guaranteeing most new Hyundai owners a year’s worth of low gas prices. It’s another way we show consumers that, in this downturn, we’re in this together, and we’ll get through it together.”
The average U.S. price for regular-grade gasoline closed at $2.64 per gallon on June 29, 59 cents per gallon higher than its price at the end of April according to the Energy Information Administration. Regular-grade gasoline prices are expected to reach their summer seasonal peak in July, with a monthly average close to $2.70 per gallon, and many local markets over $3.00 per gallon. Hyundai Assurance Gas Lock enables consumers to save between $1 and $1.50 per gallon at the pump from current gas prices with the purchase of a new Hyundai.
For more information, visit www.hyundai.com