Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Technology, Luxury Blend Nicely in the Acura TL

The latest version of the Acura TL offers a selection of a pair of engines and an all-wheel-drive system that boosts performance on all kinds of roads.
This premium mid-size sedan also has a more dramatic exterior design, which for years was not found on Acura products.
Now the TL has a strong presence when it comes to looks, performance and technology.

The TL's design is similar to that of the Honda Accord. 

The base model has a 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 engine with front-wheel-drive and a starting price of around $35,000.

But optional is the all-wheel-drive model, which we tested. It's starting price is around $39,000 and it has a 3.7-liter V-6 that makes a hearty 305 horsepower.

The 3.5 liter's fuel economy numbers are 18 mpg city and 26 highway.

Both engines are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature that includes shift paddles on the steering column, which brings you a more spirited driving experience should you choose to use it. 

The all-wheel-drive system comes only with the larger engine, which gets 17 mpg city/25 highway.

The front-drive TL has an optional Technology Package that features a navigation system with voice recognition, AcuraLink real-time traffic and weather-radar mapping, an ELS 440-watt premium audio system with 10 speakers, a keyless access system with pushbutton ignition, a backup camera system that displays on the dash-mounted navigation screen, and premium Milano leather upholstery. The sound system includes DVD audio playback, a 12.7-gigabyte hard drive, and XM satellite radio. The backup camera is built into the rear deck-lid spoiler.

Our tester, with the all-wheel drive and Technology Package, was around $43,000.

The TL comes standard with a power moon roof, dual-zone adaptive climate control, 10-way adjustable power driver’s seat, and an eight-way adjustable power front passenger seat.

The base audio system has eight speakers, 276 watts, a six-disc CD changer, AM/FM radio, XM, Bluetooth audio, a USB port and an auxiliary jack for an iPod or other device.

The Super Handling-All Wheel Drive models come with 18-inch alloy wheels (unless the summer-tire package is added), along with quad exhaust tips and a special SH-AWD badge

The TL seats five fairly comfortably. 

Trunk space is 13.1 cubic feet, which is about adequate for a car this size. 

There are plenty of safety features on the TL, including Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering front body structure, designed to match the bumpers of other vehicles on the road; electronic stability control with traction control; four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist; a tire-pressure monitoring system; active front head restraints; front seat-mounted side air bags; roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows; child-seat anchors and tethers; front fog lights; break-away rearview mirror; emergency trunk interior release; and high-intensity-discharge automatic headlights.

With so many great features available, the Acura TL truly delivers technology and luxury, and it's not too hard on the eyes, either. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Honda Odyssey Still a Minivan Leader

Honda has long been known for making quality-filled, practical vehicles. One of the key models that helped it earn this reputation is the Odyssey minivan. 

And while it's true that the minivan market has shrunk significantly over the past few years thanks to SUVs, crossovers and lately even small station wagons, it's still an important market segment.

And seemingly, as long as moms and dads need to haul kids around, and as long as retirees (another key buyer of minivans) need an easy-to-enter-and-exit vehicle that lets them haul stuff, Honda will keep making the Odyssey, one of the best.

Women buyers are said to love the Odyssey because of its great reputation for safety and dependability. Honda's "Safety for Everyone" policy, found throughout its lineup, means that important safety features are standard, rather than optional.

Buyers of both genders like the Odyssey’s fuel economy, up to 17 mpg city/25 highway for the model we tested, numbers that are nearly as good as and sometimes better than those popular crossovers. 

Plus the Odyssey has bona fide eight-passenger capability, unlike some of those crossovers that throw in a third row of seating that sometimes is only good for someone the size of a horse-racing jockey. 

Honda's fuel-efficient 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which has a Variable Cylinder Management system, gets some credit for the good fuel economy.

Drivers and passengers like the premium features in this minivan, including a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, a four-way power passenger seat, a rearview camera with display in the rearview mirror for models without the optional navigation system, and side mirrors with memory and reverse tilt-down.

On the inside, spiffs include a new instrument panel, optional leather seats, or if you get cloth seats premium fabric.

Honda has a power-operated tailgate on its EX-L model as standard equipment.

If you don't need to haul eight people, you can get captain's chairs in the middle row.

Or if you only need to haul yourself and one other adult, fold the seats down and experience the cavernous cargo space that exists.

The only beef we had with our tester was that the automatic side sliding doors worked very inconsistently. Might have been just a flaw on this particular model, but I'd still prefer the manual sliding doors.

 Prices start at $27,015 for the base LX model, and run a little over $41,000 for the fully equipped Touring model, which comes with such extras as leather seats, rear-seat DVD entertainment, premium audio, and a navigation system.

So maybe you're not ready to join the minivan set yet, but when you are, it's sure hard to beat the Odyssey.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is the Phaeton Coming Back to the U.S.?

Were you one of the eight or so people in the U.S. who bought a Volkswagen Phaeton when it was sold in this country from 2004 - 2006?
Didn't think so.
But anyway, it was VW's attempt to enter the ultra-luxury market in this country.
With its 12-cylinder engine and price tag that was just south of $100k, it never caught on.
But now, there are reports that VW is going to give the Phaeton another go in the U.S. 
Why, you might ask?
Maybe they've figured out how to make it a viable seller this time.

Check it out:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hyundai Genesis: Nice Luxury, Excellent Value

If a few years ago, Hyundai had tried to launch a luxury sedan, it probably would have been scoffed at, perhaps even laughed at, by auto industry observers.

No one is laughing at Hyundai now.

It has proven itself to be quite capable of making a full range of excellent vehicles, and now the Genesis adds a tally in the luxury sedan column.

The Genesis is fully capable of competing with Lexus, Acura and BMW models in mid-size sedans, but Hyundai adds the element of being more competitive when it comes to pricing.

The Genesis was named 2009 North American Car of the Year – a first for Hyundai - and when you drive it you'll see it's a well-deserved honor. 

Also on the market now is the Genesis Coupe, which hit showrooms this year as a 2010 model. 

That sporty model starts at around $22,000, and while it doesn't offer the same level of luxury as its sedan sibling, has great power and driving characteristics. 

The Genesis sedan, meanwhile, really reminds you of mid-size sedans made by European brands, until, that is, you get a gander at the sticker price.

Starting at around $32,250, you get a base 3.8 model, which features the 290-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine.

Move to the high end and you get a 4.6-liter V-8 model that makes 375 horsepower.

Starting price for that is around $37,250.

We tested the 3.8, which Hyundai expects to be the choice of most buyers, and even though it was fairly loaded up with goodies, the sticker price was right around $39,250.

Options available include the Premium Plus package, containing 18-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped door and dash, power sunroof, power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, rain-sensing wipers, and more.

Opt for the Technology package and you'll have a 528-watt Lexicon audio system, integrated with a navigation system, with HD radio, XM satellite radio, and XM NavTraffic; a rear backup camera; adaptive headlights; front and rear parking assist; and cooled front seats.

The Genesis has a rear-wheel-drive platform with an advanced five-link suspension that provide the handling and ride that you would get from the aforementioned luxury brands.

Both engines are linked to six-speed automatic transmissions, although the gearboxes are different for each model.

With premium fuel, the V-8 makes 375 horsepower, but you can also use regular gas, which provides the owner even more value. Sure, the horsepower falls to 368, but that's OK with me to save a few dollars each time I fill up. 

But even the V-6 offers more power than you'll usually need, and certainly enough to have fun with.

The ride is quiet and silky smooth, even on the highway.

Also, on twisty roads, the Genesis offers precise steering and a stiff ride.

The Genesis has impressive EPA fuel economy numbers for a car with this much power -- 17 mpg city/25 highway for the V-8 and 18/27 for the V-6. That's better than many V-6 engines in smaller midsize cars.

Standard on the V-6 model are electronic stability control with traction control, antilock brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear seat-mounted side air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags, the electronic front head restraints, fog lights, automatic headlights, dual power/heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, heated leather seats with power adjustment up front, cruise control, white and blue interior lighting, keyless entry with pushbutton start, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, dual front fully automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with universal garage opener and compass, AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM audio system with iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks, Bluetooth and floor mats.

The V-8 models come with most of the features of the V-6, plus 18-inch silver alloy wheels, chrome lower body side moldings, upgraded leather seats, leather-wrapped dash and door trim inserts, power glass sunroof with tilt and slide, power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, integrated memory system, Lexicon 15-speaker surround -sound audio system, six-disc CD changer, illuminated scuff plates, wood-trimmed leather steering wheel, power rear sunshade and rain-sensing wipers with auto-defogger windshield.

The car seats five, and as a full-size sedan, it’s quite roomy for both front and rear passengers, with lots of rear legroom even when the front bucket seats are pushed all the way back on their tracks.

The car comes with Hyundai’s great warranty, which includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, along with 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain coverage, seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation protection, and 24-hour roadside assistance for five years with no mileage limit.

Towing, lockout service and trip-interruption expenses are included.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Buy Your Car Like a Pro

Need tips on how to handle the car-negotiating process? Check out what this former sales manager does now that he works as a representative for buyers. He offers valuable advice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Make Your Own Mustang

Have you ever wanted to build and customize your own Ford Mustang?

Now you can. Check it out.

Mazda 6 Remains a Spirited Mid-Size Sedan

For a few years now, the Mazda 6 has been one of the most spirited mid-size sedans on the market, thanks to its great driving characteristics and its handsome appearance.

For the 2010 model year, the Mazda 6 gets a little bit bigger and takes on some revisions to its design. 

The results, though, are still favorable; the Mazda 6 remains one of the best non-luxury brand mid-size sedans you can buy.

The Mazda 6 has styling cues that are similar to its Rx-8 coupe sibling, noticeable especially at the front fenders.  

The fast rear roofline and backlight suggest speed, and the sheet metal is wrapped tightly around the 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels. 

But beauty is present beyond just the exterior. 

The Mazda's all new interior design is clean and elegantly simple, enhanced by quality materials.

The major gauges, with their pulsing blue halos, have a really cool look. 

And we were pleasantly surprised that the bolstering on the front seats was slightly aggressive, nicely matching with the sporty message conveyed by the exterior.

On the other hand, the Mazda has a nifty touch we haven't seen anywhere else in this class: a three-position switch for adjusting headlight level ideal for occasions when you've filled the trunk with heavy stuff such as cement bags or your mother-in-law.

The Mazda's standard transmission is a six-speed manual, which is a satisfying piece of equipment with short throws and positive engagements. 

The Mazda's four-cylinder is 2.5 liters and 170 horsepower, up from 2.3 liters and 156 horsepower.

The Mazda 6 posts an impressive sprint time: 0 to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds.

Fuel-economy estimates stand at 20 mpg city/29 highway and 23 combined for four-cylinder models with the manual transmission, while the five-speed auto improves the four's numbers to 21 mpg city/30 highway and 24 combined. These are class-competitive numbers.

 However, if you opt for the V6, estimates drop to 17 mpg city/25 highway and 20 combined, which is about as bad as it gets in this segment.

We can honestly say that the all new 6 showed that the handling and aggressiveness hasn't been diminished by the increase in size over the previous model. There are subtle distinctions over its predecessor, and they are all good. Brake pedal feel was impressive in comparison to its competitors. The Mazda turned in readily, with responsive handling. 

The Mazda's freeway ride was good. Pavement imperfections barely ruffle the 6's composure, even when it's equipped with the optional 18-inch wheels.

 Its suspension tuning was more overtly sporty than the competition.

 A notable amount of road noise filters into the 6's cabin at speed. 

The five-speed automatic provides remarkably refined shifts. 

The big 3.7-liter V6 feels and sounds muscular, yet it's a smooth operator, even at higher engine speeds. 

Handling is impressive for a big family sedan, and it even tosses pretty well in corners.

Pricing remains quite reasonable, starting at around $20,320 for a base four-cylinder, ranging to around $28,390 for the highest end model.

There's probably enough zoom in this chassis to placate those who like to drive, while the average shopper will appreciate the 6's reasonably compliant ride.

 If styling is a high priority, the 2010 Mazda 6 looks like a winner. And we don't think there's much chance that it would disappoint its owners in matters of fun to drive.