Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hyundai Recalling 139,500 Sonatas

Hyundai is recalling 139,500 Sonata sedans in the U.S. because of a steering problem. 
The company's recall hits 2011 models built between Dec. 11, 2009 and Sept. 10, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. The problems is centered on steering column shafts that have  connections that were inadequately tightened or assembled incorrectly. That could cause the steering wheel to separate from the column or force the driver to not be able to steer. 
The federal government reportedly began investigating possible steering problems in the vehicle in August. Hyundai, based in South Korea, said there have been no injuries or crashes linked to the problem.
Owners of the 2011 Sonata can go to their dealers for inspection. Dealers also will update power steering software. Owners may also call NHTSA at 888-327-4236 for more information.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Infiniti Launching Special Performance Line

 Infiniti seeking to step up its game in the performance market, has announced that it is starting a limited lineup of performance-tuned versions of some of its current models. The group, Infiniti Performance Line, will offer some appearance and performance variations on Infiniti's existing line of cars. 
First up is the 2011 Infiniti IPL G Coupe.
That model will have 19-inch wheels, 348 horsepower and sport seats. Infiniti is strategically pricing it at $47,950 for the manual and $49,850 for the automatic - staying under $50,000 to fill a niche in the performance luxury market.

Infiniti says this idea came from some of its customers, who wanted something that would set them a little apart from other Infiniti drivers.

The company says it expects IPL to only account for about 5 percent of its sales volume, but watch out. If this idea of extra performance without a huge extra price bump takes off, Infiniti might have a big hit on its hands.

Nissan Altima is Fun, Power and Roominess, with an Affordable Price

Whether you choose the coupe or the sedan, the 2010 Nissan Altima will provide you with a roomy, powerful ride that has plenty of style.

The Altima contains a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-four cylinder engine or a 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. Both are linked to Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission.

For the most part, that transmission is pretty good, but occaisonally you might notice a bit of uncertainty -- as if the CVT can't quite decide which gear is best.

But that won't put much of a damper on the overall driving experience.

The coupe also offers a six-speed manual, should you choose.

The Altima attains EPA fuel-economy ratings of 18-23 mpg in the city and 27-32 mpg on the highway, which beats a key competitor, the Honda Accord.
There is also an Altima Hybrid, for the really fuel conscious, but those models can be tough to come by.

Most recently, Altima was upgraded on the interior, with revised fabrics and finishing trim pieces. Nissan says a new Bose upgrade audio system features a 4.3-inch color display screen, a USB port for portable media device connectivity, XM Satellite Radio and a CD player.

That package is linked with Bluetooth connectivity, and the display screen shows the picture from the rearview camera.
The optional Nissan Navigation System has a 6.5-inch display screen, and can mate with XM NavTraffic and XM NavWeather.

But the luxury doesn't stop there. There's a power sliding moonroof and dual zone climate control, available in the Altima 2.5 S sedan with the Convenience Plus Package and the Altima 3.5 SR sedan with the Sport Package.
That SR is a zippy little doozy, with its sport-tuned suspension package.
But most people just pick the base 2.5 model Altima sedan to save a few dollars.

For convenience, push-button starting is standard.

But Altima is not just fun and games. For safety, there is dual front, dual front-side and two-row curtain airbags, as well as active front head restrains. The Altima sedan gets a Five-Star score in NHTSA front impact tests, while the coupe gets Four-Star ratings up front and Five-Star ratings on the side. The Altima is equipped with antilock brakes and Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control and Traction Control System.

Pricing ranges from just a shade under $20,000 to a little over $31,000.

When you are talking about quality features and lots of fun, you are talking about the Nissan Altima.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Want to Test Drive Without the Hassle? New Service Makes it Possible

Test Drive Studio, a new service in Atlanta, says it offers car shoppers the opportunity to take free test drives without the pressure of a salesman giving you the big pitch.
The service offers a group of brands that includes Toyota, Ford, Honda, Subaru and Volkswagen, all in one location.
“The creation of Test Drive Studio has been in the works for the past two years with an aggregated group of industry-best senior executives from across the country,” Bob Ostholthoff, president of Test Drive Studio, said in a news release. “If you could summarize the experience we created in a single word, it would be ‘freedom’ - freedom from the negatives that make many dread the car buying process.”

Dates: September 25th and 26th, October 2nd and 3rd, October 9th and 10th
Times: Saturday: 9-5, Sunday 12-5:30
Location: 1835 Shackleford Ct., Norcross, GA 30093
Vehicle categories: Mid size sedan, compact crossover
Vehicle makes and models:
  • Toyota Camry
  • Honda Accord
  • Ford Fusion
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Ford Escape
  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Volkswagen Tiguan 

For more information and to sign up for your test drives, visit:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Infiniti M37 Improves on its Greatness

The 2011 Infiniti M37 is a dynamic package of performance and sleek styling, improving on what was already a very good car in previous years.

The M37 replaces the previous M35 model, and as such comes with a heartier 3.7-liter V-6 engine that makes 330 horsepower. There is a seven-speed automatic transmission, with paddle shifters.

But the added power does not hurt fuel economy; gas mileage for this model actually improves to 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

The M37 is a rear-wheel drive model, but another model, the M37x, comes with all-wheel drive.

Infiniti,Nissan's luxury brand, has taken a far more creative approach to styling the M37. There is now a chiseled hood, a fancier grille and rear fascia and swooping lines that run the length of the car.
Also, check out the dual exhaust pipes and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The M37 now looks like a performance car, in addition to driving like one.

Infiniti offers five option levels from which to pick: Premium, Deluxe Touring, Sport, Sport Touring and Technology.

The great styling extends to the interior, where you'll find top-notch materials and superb fit and finish.

Infiniti says that the M37 offers dual zone climate control, 10-way power driver’s and front-passenger’s seats, leather-appointed interior with Japanese Ash wood trim and backup camera as standard features.

Depending on the package you choose, you can also get heated seats, updated navigation system with 8-inch touch-screen display, Lane Guidance and 3-D building graphics and XM NavTraffic with real-time traffic information.

The Premium Package lets you really enjoy your music with a 10-speaker Bose premium audio system, 9.3GB Music Box hard drive and in-dash DVD player.

Infiniti takes safety seriously, packing the M37 with six airbags, an electronic stability system with traction control, antilock brakes and active front head restraints, all standard. Infiniti also includes its Lane Departure Prevention system, which beeps if you drift outside of your lane, and Blind Spot Intervention system, which warns you when a car is in your blind spot.

The test drive model, which came with the Sport Touring package, had a sticker price of $59,660.

The sensational driving performance and great new looks of the M37 make it a very worthy competitor in the midsize luxury sedan market.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Buick Regal Makes a Triumphant Return

Buick, which has been on a hugely successful comeback trail for the past few years, continues its journey toward being one of the top nameplates on the market with the relaunch of the Regal midsize sedan for the 2011 model year.

Buick, after many years of neglect, had been relegated to the "old-folks car" brand until the launch of cool models such as the Enclave crossover SUV and the LaCrosse sedan.

Now, after a six-year absence, the Regal returns.

The last generation of Regal we saw was certainly nothing noteworthy. It had a dull design and offered nothing particularly fun in the way of driving dynamics.

So what about this new one?

Wow, things sure have changed in six years.

This Regal has sporty, innovative looks inside and out.

And while hip older folks might well appreciate this car, it is definitely not aimed at the nursing-home crowd.
It's made on the platform of the Opel Insignia, a popular General Motors model in Europe.
The base engine is a 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower four-cylinder, and for now, that's the only power plant. But stay tuned, because a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 220-horsepower four-cylinder is coming shortly.
Both are linked to a six-speed automatic transmission, but the turbo will also come with a six-speed manual tranny, should the buyer choose.

The prospect of the Regal with a turbo is certainly intriguing, but please believe that the currently available naturally aspirated engine is quite spirited.
But the turbo will add some other benefits. Buick says it will have an Interactive Drive Control System that will let the driver pick among three driving settings: Sport, for dynamism and sportiness; Tour, for long trips and Standard, which is for normal driving situations.

The  new Regal gets pretty good gas mileage too, at 20 mpg city, 30 highway.

But it's the exterior appearance of the Regal that will first grab you. Its design has been referred to as sleek, and that's accurate.
The Regal comes with 18-inch rims standard, but 19-inchers are optional, and you may appreciate the rear spoiler and signature taillights.

For convenience, the keyless entry, power driver seat, Bluetooth connectivity and USB port are standard. Amenities that are optional include the sunroof and hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage.

Buick says its Regal has safety features that are as good as any of its competitors. Such features include the dual stage front airbags, front seat side impact airbags and head curtain side airbags, all standard. An electronic stability system with traction control and antilock brakes are also included.

The Regal ranges in price from around $26,300 to around $28,800.

A Buick official who visited Atlanta said recently that the company got positive feedback from the Regal name, and that's why it decided to bring it back for this model.

That may be so, but this model is miles ahead of the former Regal, much to the benefit of midsize sedan shoppers.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

VW Golf TDI is Fuel-Efficient Fun

First it was the Rabbit, then it was the Golf. Then it was the Rabbit again. Now it is the Golf again.
But what it has always been is a fun-to-drive small car that has great fuel economy.
The 2010 Volkswagen Golf has new designs on the interior and exterior and now is available with very fuel-efficient clean diesel engine.

The Golf, formerly known as the Rabbit, comes as a two- or four-door compact hatchback.
It has a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
But the test drive car had the new 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter diesel inline-four cylinder engine paired with a  six-speed manual transmission -- a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is also available.
VW says this TDI diesel emits 25 percent fewer greenhouse gas and achieves more than 30 percent better fuel economy than a similar gasoline engine. This engine, which is also available in VW's Jetta TDI, makes a whopping 236 pounds-feet of torque. 
The fuel economy ratings are impressive at 30 mpg in the city, 42 on the highway. In a week of combined driving, we got right around 36 mpg.
Getting that kind of fuel economy and having as much fun driving the Golf as it provides is a winning combination. The only complaint was that the clutch seemed a bit temperamental upon pullback - we had a few stalls as a result.

As for its looks, the Golf has always been kind of "cute," if you will. But now it has a more mature, sporty look. There are new headlights in the wider front grille and a rear spoiler with an integrated third brake light that sits atop the hatch.
 The TDI diesel model sits on 17-inch alloy wheels and has fog lights. A sunroof is optional.

The new look on the inside includes redesigned door interiors, center control panel, steering wheel and gauges. There is a good collection of standard features such as air conditioning, cruise control, eight-way-adjustable front seats and a 60/40-split folding rear seat that helps maximize interior cargo volume.

In the TDI, you can also enjoy the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, touch-screen eight-speaker sound system featuring Sirius satellite radio with in-dash six-disc CD changer and optional heated front seats.

Safety features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for the front and back rows, an electronic stability program (ESP) and optional side-impact airbags for the outer rear seats.

The Golf ranges in price from around $17,600 to just short of $25,500. 
With its new styling touches, great driving quality and terrific fuel economy, the Golf TDI is a strong entrant in the small hatchback market. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

With New Sienna, Toyota Makes the Minivan Kinda Cool

The 2011 Toyota Sienna is still a minivan, make no mistake about it.
But its remodeled styling, new four-cylinder engine and better gas mileage make the Sienna more attractive than ever, even to many folks who aren't big minivan fans.

The first thing you notice about the new Sienna is its updated appearance. 

No longer does it loudly scream "Soccer Mommobile." 

Instead, it just looks like a cool vehicle that you can tote your family and friends around in. 

Toyota says the look is inspired by the styling of its Camry sedan and Venza crossover. 

You might not necessarily think of those vehicles as being at the cutting edge of style, but by minivan standards, this is haute couture. 

Check out the dramatic side paneling and the tapered hood. There are three really neat grille designs, one with chrome blades, one with black blades and one with black mesh.
A rooftop spoiler is standard, and the middle trim level has sporty-looking clear taillights and 19-inch wheels.

The interior features captain's chairs in the second row, and you can opt for a middle seat that also can be tucked away in the rear cargo area when not in use. Those seats slide fore and aft.

The third row is a 60/40 bench that can fold into the floor if you need extra storage space. 

Toyota says the new model is a bit shorter than the previous version, but is wider.

All in all, you'll likely find that the space allocation is very efficient, offering roominess for passengers and cargo. 

It might seem a little strange to characterize the engine of a minivan as peppy, but that's exactly what it is in the Sienna.
There is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder that makes 187 horsepower and gets 19 mpg city, 24 highway. 
There is also a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 266 ponies and gets 16 mpg city, 22 highway. 

  The Sienna features five trim levels: base, LE, sport-tuned SE, XLE and Limited.

 For convenience, you can get a keyless access system with push-button start, power liftgate and power sliding doors.

You'll be transporting the family safely in the Sienna, also, since it has seat-mounted front and side curtain airbags. And Toyota says the Pre-Collision System can sense when a wreck is about to happen, alert the driver, tighten the seat belts and apply the brakes.

The Sienna ranges in price from around $25,000 to roughly $40,000.

Toyota has found a whole new realm for the minivan, and it's much hipper than before.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sneak a Peek at the Nissan Juke

The Beat recently got a sneak peek at the new Nissan Juke in beautiful Vancouver. 
This small, sporty crossover is based on the Versa platform, is relatively inexpensive, and does not have the look or feel of a little econobox. 
It's got a spirited four-cylinder engine that gets 27 mpg city and 32 highway. 
Nissan is rather tongue-in-cheek about its marketing for the Juke, saying that it is squarely aimed at young guys who like sports, girls and comedy. 
But we suspect that this car might do very well in attracting female buyers as well as some older folks.
The Juke starts at around $18,960 and goes up to $24,550. Look for it in showrooms later this year.
We can't wait to spend more time with it.

Even if we didn't like the car (which we did), we still would have loved seeing beautiful British Columbia again. In fact, we're thinking of opening a B.C. bureau. Vancouver Auto Beat has a nice ring to it.
(Photos by Jason Fogelson)