Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 Dodge Ram is Rugged and Comfortable

The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck is tough yet refined, allowing you to handle all of your blue-collar duties in executive comfort.  

This full-size truck offers three engines: a 215-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6, a 310-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8, or an unmatched 390-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi.  Three transmissions are also offered: a four-speed automatic with a manual mode, a  five-speed automatic with manual mode and a regular five-speed automatic.  

Dodge says the Ram can haul up to 1,900 pounds of payload and tows a hearty 10,450 pounds.

The Ram is available with four-wheel drive, and Dodge says it uses a standard coil-spring rear suspension to make for a smoother ride.  

The Ram's fuel economy is rated at 13-14 mpg in the city and 18-20 on the highway.

There are a number of nice standard features on the Ram, including cruise control, Sirius Satellite Radio and a CD player, for those who still use them. And the SLT trim level offers options such as a sunroof, heated and adjustable front seats, backup camera and navigation.
The top-line Laramie trim level offers dual-zone climate control and an optional satellite TV with DVD entertainment system.

But possibly the best feature is the optional RamBox, which is an integrated, lockable storage box on either side of the bed and around the wheels. You can store things inside or use them as coolers by putting some ice in there along with your favorite beverages and food. Dodge said it designed the boxes to fill the space around the wheel wells, giving the bed a rectangular appearance.  

Also offered is a new factory spray-in bedliner, available on all models.  

The Ram's technology offerings feature the Uconnect multimedia system, which gives real-time traffic and navigation, phone connectivity and multiple ways to connect and store music files.  New for this model year is the optional Garmin navigation system. 

For your comfort and convenience, you may select among three bed lengths (five-foot-seven, six-foot-four, and eight feet) and three cab sizes (two door, Quad Cab and crew cab).

A pair of new trim levels add to the packages previously offered. The Ram Outdoorsman (which the test drive model was) and Laramie Longhorn let you experience nature from a little more of an up-close perspective. The Outdoorsman replaces the TRX model and is good for hunters, fishermen and campers.  There is an optional fishing rod and rifle rack, trailer-towing upgrades, a giant fuel tank, an enhanced lighting package, all-terrain tires, underbody protection, and super comfortable seats.  Dodge says the Laramie Longhorn is its most luxurious Ram to date.  On the inside,  there is a classic western look with stitched leather saddle-bag upholstery, walnut trim and all-weather rubber mats with removable Berber inserts. 

With its many offerings and trim levels, the Ram ranges in price from around $21,000 to $46,000.

The Ram is rugged and versatile, while also being luxurious, making it a comfortable and capable work truck.

Monday, April 25, 2011

High Gas Prices Got You Down? Heed These Tips for Saving Fuel

  1. Go for the shadeThe hot summer sun that makes the inside of your car feel like a sauna also zaps fuel from your gas tank.
  2. Use your garage for your car. Got a garage? Clear it out and make room for your car. Parking in your garage will help your car stay warm in winter and cool in summer, and you won't have to depend as much on your gas-guzzling air-conditioning or defroster when you drive.
  3. Pump up your tires. Don't get caught driving on underinflated tires. Underinflated tires wear down more quickly and they also lower your car's gas mileage.
"Tires that have low pressure offer more resistance so the engine is going to work harder to keep the car at 60," says Brian Moody, road test editor at
Your car's gas mileage may plummet by as much as 15 percent. Driving on underinflated tires may also reduce the life of your tires by 15 percent or more.
  1. Check your tire pressure once a month. Buy a digital gauge and keep it in your glove box. Compare the pressure in your tires with the recommended pressure listed in your owner's manual and on the placard in your car door. Then inflate your tires as needed. Be sure to check tire pressure when your tires are cold. A good time is early in the morning after your car's been idle overnight.
  2. Keep your engine in tune. Fixing a car that is out of tune or has failed an emissions test can boost gas mileage by about 4 percent. So be sure to give your car regular tune-ups. You'll also want to watch out for worn spark plugs. A misfiring spark plug can reduce a car's fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent.
  3. Replace air filtersKeep a close eye on your engine's air filter. When the engine air filter clogs with dirt, dust and bugs, it causes your engine to work harder and your car becomes less fuel-efficient. Replacing a clogged air filter could improve your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent and save you 15 cents a gallon. It's a good idea to have your engine air filter checked at each oil change. The Car Care Council recommends changing your car's air and oil filters every three months or 3,000 miles or as specified in your owner's manual.
  4. Use the right oil. You can improve your car's gas mileage by 1 percent to 2 percent by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. Opt for motor oil with the words "energy conserving" on the API performance label. This oil contains friction-reducing additives.
  5. Don't skimp on maintenanceBe serious about auto care. Your car's performance depends on it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Smooth Stylishness in an SUV: Toyota 4Runner

Versatility, one of the key characteristics that made SUVs so popular, is found in abundance in the 2011 Toyota 4Runner. This SUV has long been one of the best on the market, and its latest version is no departure. 
It is comfortable, durable, powerful and nice looking. 

The 4Runner was redesigned in 2010, and we can honestly say that with this vehicle, each new design seems to be a little more appealing than the last. That's certainly not the case with all vehicles. 

The 4Runner's style is bolstered by its 17- or 20-inch cast-aluminum wheels, skid plates, heated outside mirrors with turn indicators, fog lights, black fender flares and sunroof. 

Toyota has dropped its experiment of equipping some 4Runners with four-cylinder engines. Now the only power plant is a  270-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 with 278 pounds-feet of torque.  The engine is linked to a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) and sequential shift mode.

The 4Runner shares its platform with Toyota's FJ Cruiser off-road vehicle. Its trim levels remain Limited, SR5 and Trail.  You can select rear-wheel or four-wheel drive with the Limited and SR5, and the Trail has part-time dual-range 4WD.  The Trail also has the Crawl Control feature that helps maintain control when ascending or descending hills. On the Limited, there is an X-REAS adaptive suspension damper feature designed to smooth out the ride. 

Toyota says the 4Runner can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Fuel economy is adequate for an SUV this size, at 17 mpg in the city and 22-23 mpg on the highway.  

Interior creature comforts are numerous and include XM Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, USB port, JBL six-disc CD changer with 15 speakers and subwoofer, voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system with integrated backup camera, water-resistant fabric- or leather-trimmed and heated eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a refreshed tachometer featuring an ECO driving indicator and average fuel consumption gauge.  

The 4Runner offers an optional third-row seat, allowing you to haul seven passengers.  For more cargo space, take advantage of the fold-flat second-row rear seats and an available pullout cargo deck that can support up to 440 pounds.

Toyota says its Star Safety System, found on the 4Runner, consists of vehicle stability control with traction control and an antilock brake system with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.  There is also hill start assist control and front, side-mounted and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, and side curtain airbags for the second and third row.

The 4Runner ranges in price from around $30,000 to about $40,000.

The 4Runner remains an outstanding SUV, thanks to its size, styling, smooth ride and versatility.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ford F-150 Recall Expands

Ford is expanding a recall of its F-150 pickup trucks to about 1.2 million vehicles. The Transportation Department says it has 269 reports of airbags suddenly deploying in the vehicles produced in the 2004-2006 model years. Ford's move came after mounting pressure from federal authorities, news reports said. 
Ford previously said it would repair airbags in about 150,000 affected trucks, news services said, but the company said there were no reports of crashes caused by the problem. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said there were 98 injuries, including some  serious cases. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All-electric Nissan Leaf Deserves Some Props

The 2011 Nissan Leaf was rolled out earlier this year as an affordable all-electric, no gasoline car designed to be green and useable. 

Another new electric vehicle that has made a splash, the Chevrolet Volt, has a supplemental gasoline power source. The Leaf is powered solely by grid electricity, which charges its 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
The Leaf is an attractive four-door hatchback, as opposed to some funky, far-out looking thing that screams "I'm green, but I'm also a geek."
The design language is, thankfully, not much of a departure from other Nissan models.  
 The Leaf has proprietary batteries developed by Nissan and NEC mounted between the wheels and under the floor. They generate more than 90 kilowatts of power, and the electric motor turns out 80 kilowatts— giving the Leaf a 0-60 mph time of less than 10 seconds. To conserve its battery, the Leaf has a top speed of 90 mph.
If you have an iPhone, Nissan is offering an app that will allow drivers to check on remaining mileage, set timers for charging or to set the timer to activate climate controls.
The big issue with the Leaf is its limited range. Nissan says you can go 60 to 120 miles on a full charge. That's not bad, but many drivers will not feel comfortable with that kind of limitation. 
Therefore at this point, it's probably best to view the Leaf as a niche vehicle, for those who live perhaps in urban areas and limit their driving to spots within their city. Or suburbanites who are only running errands nearby. If you are a commuter logging 20-30 miles or more one way, this vehicle would cut it a little too close for comfort for you. 
It's unlikely that you'll want a car that can't take you from Atlanta to Macon and back without recharging for a few hours.
That said, Nissan still deserves props for coming up with some technology that moves the needle when it comes to developing transportation that gets us off our gasoline dependency. Let's hope they continue to hone that technology so that it can hold broader market appeal.
Because by pretty much every other measure, this is a very good car. 
It seats five fairly comfortably, rides smoothly and has all other creature comforts that you would expect in a nice mid-market car. 
The Leaf is priced at $32,780 2011, but qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit and a Georgia tax break of $5,000.
The car takes electricity from either a 110-volt, a 240-volt or a 440-volt plug—but the 110 is the only one you probably have at your home or can find on the road conveniently.
But buy a Leaf and Nissan contractors will come to your home to set you up with a 240-volt charging station. Nissan also hopes that up to 10,000 240-volt charging points and up to 250 440-volt quick-charge points will be built across the country over the next year or two. Seems a bit unlikely. 
The Leaf gets excellent fuel economy, with EPA ratings of ... ha! just checking to see if you were still awake.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Buick Regal is Sleek and Luxurious

Buick seems to have made all the right moves over the past few years. 
First of all, it has focused on making quality products.
Its most recent lineup addition, the 2011 Regal, is no exception. This midsize sedan offers luxury and performance.
It follows the Enclave crossover and the LaCrosse sedan, vehicles that have banished the old notion of Buick being the brand of the old geezers.
That notion is now as outdated as typewriters.
Another good move was resisting the temptation to change the Regal's name. It had been on hiatus for six years, and while maybe not everyone loved the previous Regal, enough people knew it and liked it to justify sticking with that moniker.
Whatever your opinion of the last version of the Regal was, it's a safe bet that you'll like this one much better.
It's built on the platform of the Insignia sedan, which is made by Opel, a General Motors European brand.
Yet another good move by Buick: it offers Regal with one trim level, CXL. Keep it simple. 
There is a base 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine, but you can also get a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 220-horsepower four-cylinder, which the test drive model was.  Both are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, but you can choose a six-speed manual with the turbo if you prefer. 
The turbo also offers the Interactive Drive Control System, which lets you choose from three driving modes: Sport, for the most performance; Tour, for driving long trips; and Standard, the ordinary mode.
The Regal's fuel economy numbers are 18 mpg city, 28 highway for the automatic six-speed to 20 and 32 for the manual. 
The Regal offers a solid package of safety features, including dual stage front airbags, front seat side impact airbags and head curtain side airbags standard. Also standard are antilock brakes and electronic stability control. 
 For comfort and convenience, there are keyless entry, foglamps, seven-speaker stereo and leather interior among the standard features.     

The design is where the Regal scores a lot of its points. It's sleek and sculpted - a friend even commented that it looked something like a BMW. Perhaps that's owed to its roots in Germany, where some of the key work on the Regal was done. Features like the signature taillamps and integral rear lip spoiler just add to its good looks.  The 18-inch aluminum wheels are standard, but 19-inch rims are available.
The Regal ranges in price from around $27,000 to around $34,000.
Add the Regal to the recent Buick winning streak. 


Friday, April 1, 2011

VW Touareg has Improved Fuel Efficiency

The Volkswagen Touareg has been redesigned for 2011, and the result is better fuel efficiency and improved handling.
This luxury SUV has an eight-speed automatic transmission and, according to VW, is 450 pounds lighter than the first-generation model.

The Touareg offers  a 225-horsepower turbo-diesel V-6 and a 280-horsepower V-6, with each linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission.  All-wheel drive is standard.
Fuel economy now ranges from 16-19 mpg in the city and 23-28 mpg on the highway.  Give credit to VW for recognizing that this is an important factor in buyers' decisions these days, even those who are looking at SUV.
Additionally, VW now offers a Touareg Hybrid with 375 horsepower.

VW says one of the most noticeable changes to the exterior of the Touareg is the clear division between the grille and front air dam.  The Touareg now also has LED headlights and taillights, just like those found in its Audi luxury brand. 
Chrome accents highlight the length of the doors.  
On the interior, there is now more room in the backseat, about five inches more. It also reclines easier now.
Unfortunately, that ease of operation is not found throughout the Touareg, as you'll still see a few things where it looks like an engineer said "yes, someone could do this with the touch of one button, but instead, let's make them go through three steps."

The standard 6.5-inch touchscreen DVD navigation system shows 3-D images with major landmarks, and there's a seven-inch multifunction display that synchs with a 60 GB hard drive. 
 The interior is, as usual with VW, finely crafted, with its leather accents.  VW says the start-stop button, electronic tailgate, ambiance lighting, panorama sunroof, and bi-xenon headlights are available features.  VW also says the park distance control and Area View system, which employs four cameras to provide a 360-degree view around the vehicle, is also available and keeps the Touareg safe from scrapes and dents.  A rearview camera, 12-way power seats, and 18-inch wheels are standard.  Optional are 19- and 20-inch wheels, Vienna Leather, wood trim, and a 12-speaker, 620-watt Dynaudio system.

The Touareg's safety mix includes rollover sensors that trigger side curtain airbags when needed and antilock brakes as well as an electronic stability system with traction control.  The Intelligent Crash Response System unlocks all doors, disconnects the battery terminal, shuts off the fuel supply and turns on the warning hazards and interior lights when the airbags have been deployed.

The Touareg ranges in price from around $45,000 to about $58,000.

With its improved efficiency and good looks, the Touareg presents a fine choice among luxury SUVs.