Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 10 Vehicles of 2012

Atlanta Auto Beat is proud to present the 2012 edition of its annual list of top-ranked vehicles. Rankings are based on vehicles tested by The Beat, and measure traits such as affordability, fuel economy, functionality, looks and predicted reliability.

We hope you enjoy this list, and as always, feel free to add your comments.

No. 10 Acura RDX

The Acura RDX small crossover has been one of the sportiest little SUVs, when it comes to driving dynamics, since it first hit the market. It had a recent makeover, and while its looks have changed a bit, the snappiness of the ride is as present as ever.

No. 9 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Subaru seems to consistently fly beneath the radar screen in the U.S. auto market, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still producing great vehicles that are famously reliable. The new XV Crosstrek is a compact crossover that can ride smoothly over streets or take on some light off-roading.

No. 8 Ford F-150

The Ford F-150, the world's most popular truck, picks up an enhanced four-wheel drive system, better performance in the SVT Raptor off-road edition and a gas tank that has been expanded to 36 gallons on the EcoBoost models.

No. 7 Lexus ES

The Lexus ES sedan has been one of the luxury brand's standard bearers for the past few years. The 2013 version gets a fresh look and a few styling tweaks.

No. 6 Toyota Yaris

The latest version of the Toyota Yaris subcompact restores the luster of this small economy car, giving it sporty new looks and better driving quality.

No. 5 Buick Regal

Attractive styling, good fuel economy and a nice list of standard features make the Buick Regal a great midsize sedan.

No. 4 Nissan Maxima

Nissan has long referred to its Maxima sedan as the “four-door sports car,” and if you’ve ever driven this model, it’s quite possible you see why. In the recent model year, the Maxima has a few changes in appearance and a few added features, yet its sportiness endures.

No. 3 Lexus GS 450h

The style and fuel economy of the Lexus GS 450h make it a wonderful choice for those seeking a hybrid luxury sedan. Lexus put the GS 450h on the sidelines for the 2012 model year so that it could reinvent them, and the results were brilliant.

No. 2 Acura ILX Hybrid

Acura's ILX Hybrid is a four-door sedan with a sporty but not over-the-top design. It's very affordable and has a small appetite for gasoline.

No. 1 Kia Rio

No vehicle symbolizes the remarkable turnaround of Korean automaker Kia more than the 2013 Kia Rio. This subcompact offers tremendous value with great styling, outstanding fuel economy and an impressive list of features.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 450h: Great Style

 What would Gangnam Style look like if it were a car?

Who knows, but it might be something akin to the 2013 Lexus GS 450h.

 The style and fuel economy of this car will get you up and dancing.

All silliness aside though, this hybrid sedan is truly terrific, inside and out.

Lexus put the GS 450h and its non-hybrid sibling GS 350 on the sidelines for the 2012 model year so that it could reinvent them.

The results were brilliant.


Monday, December 24, 2012

2013 Audi A4: Lots of Thrills a Minute

One of the best performance-driving luxury sedans on the mainstream market, the Audi A4 takes on some design refreshes for the 2013 model year.
The changes are most prominently up front, with the A4 getting a newly styled front bumper, new grille, hood, headlamps and LED daytime running lights.
The rear bumper has also been redesigned.
The A4 shares design language with its larger A6 and A8 siblings, with a small spoiler subtly placed on the lid of the trunk.
Standard features on the outside are the 17-inch alloy wheels (18- and 19-inchers are optional) and a glass sunroof.
Swiveling headlights are optional.
On the interior, you'll find classy new chrome accents along with redesigned controls.
This five-seat sedan still offers a pretty generous amount of room for a slightly less-than-midsize sedan.
The Multi Media Interface system has a mouse-like controller on the center console that lets you click on different menus and choose settings on the dashboard screen.
The A4 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 211 horsepower. The base model has front-wheel drive with continuously variable automatic transmission. Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system is optional and can be linked to a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.
The test-drive model had the Quattro system and the six-speed manual transmission. As such, it really felt as if you were driving a rear-wheel drive sports car, thanks to a 40-60 front-rear power distribution in the Quattro and a buttery smooth shifting tranny.

Accelerating, whipping through curves and corners, downshifting and sharp braking were all among the thrills to be had driving the A4.
Audi adds nice safety options to the A4, including  Side Assist, which alerts the driver if a vehicle is in the blind spot areas on the sides of the car, along with a backup camera.

The A4 starts at around $34,000 and ranges close to $42,000.

As stated above, the A4 truly is one of the best driving affordable luxury sedans on the market. It's hard to beat the fun you'll have tossing this around twisty roads.
However, the thing that remains somewhat of a sticking point for recommending the purchase of an Audi continues to be its persistent difficulties in reliability ratings.
While you've got one of the four-ring marque's products and it's working well out on the road, it's a joy.
But far too often, you hear tales of woe from owners who have spent many dollars and hours at the mechanic's shop, getting the Audi healed.
Mind you, the German brand has taken steps toward improvement in the past few years.
But there's still a way to go.
If you're willing to take the risk, though, you might have many enjoyable miles ahead of you.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

First Look: 2013 Buick Encore

Buick continues its foray deeper into the premium vehicle marketplace by introducing the Encore, which it describes as the only luxury subcompact SUV.

The new offering was recently unveiled by Buick in Atlanta.

So, how does it stack up?

Well, it has a nice exterior design that is not much of a departure from Buick’s hugely popular Encore large crossover SUV. As such, the styling incorporates the traditional Buick design language including the waterfall grille and the portholes on the hood.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Toyota Draws Hefty Fine on Recall Laxness

Toyota will pay more than $17-million to settle allegations that it did not report a safety defect, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday.

The government said the fine is the largest civil penalty paid to NHTSA for recall violations and is related to unexpected acceleration blamed on floor mat entrapment of the accelerator pedal in some Lexus models.

Toyota earlier in the year had revised its recall of 2009 vehicles to include more than 150,000 2010 model year Lexus RX vehicles. NHTSA suggested the recall delay was improper, stating that automakers must inform the agency within five days of determining a safety defect exists.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ford Closing Out Year Strong, COO Says

Ford is posting solid sales in December so far, despite the looming "fiscal cliff" and continued slow pace in economic recovery, the company's chief operating officer said Tuesday.
Speaking to journalists in Detroit, Mark Fields said that he hopes congressional leaders and the White House can reach a deal that will avert problems that would come from the financial deadline passing with no agreement.
Despite that, though, he said Ford continues to benefit from a resurgence in popularity of its vehicle lineup and from pent-up demand for new vehicles that was created through the worst years of the recent economic recession.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ford Unveils New Fiesta

Ford has unveiled the redesigned 2014 Fiesta with the face of a Fusion and engine choices ranging from a fuel-sipping 1-liter engine to a high-performance Fiesta ST.

Ford recently unveiled the new version of its Fiesta hatchback, which wil be sold in the spring as a 2014 model.

Among the trim choices for the the Fiesta will be the ST, which features a performance package with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged engine. It can make 197 horsepower and 214 pounds-feet of torque and is rated at 34 mpg.

The ST comes with a six-speed manual transmission, sport-tuned suspension and enhanced brakes. The ST willl have a new grille and spoiler and a back end with a rear diffuser, dual-exhaust pipes and spoiler.

Ford will also offer a Fiesta with its newest 1-liter EcoBoost engine and first-ever three-cylinder. The engine makes 123 horsepower and mileage is expected to be anywhere from 40 - 50 mpg.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hyundai to Offer Larger Version of Santa Fe Crossover

Hyundai announced recently that it will introduce a longer version of the Santa Fe crossover utility vehicle that will include a third row of seating.

According to news reports, the new long-wheelbase Santa Fe for six or seven passengers will replace the loss of a large family vehicle after Hyundai discontinued the Veracruz crossover this year.
Hyundai will continue to sell a mid-size Santa Fe - the Sport model went on sale in August and seats five.

Hyundai posted sales of nearly 57,000 Santa Fe vehicles through October, but sales are down about 10% from a year earlier, according to news reports.

The stretch Santa Fe will hit showrooms early next year. Pricing has not been announced. 

The Santa Fe features a 3.3-liter direct-injection V6 engine that makes 290 horsepower and can tow up to 5,000 pounds. It is equipped with all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 7-passenger model has a folding second-row bench seat . The 6-passenger model has two captain’s chairs in the second row.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Honda Odyssey Remains a Great Family Hauler

The Honda Odyssey has been among the most popular models in a minivan segment that has dwindled over the years but remains a steady presence in the market. The Odyssey was redesigned last year, getting a sportier, sleeker look.

The Odyssey comes with one engine, a 3.5-liter V-6, and is front-wheel drive only. There are five trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite.

The EX model added Bluetooth connectivity, Honda's intelligent Multi-Information Display with an 8-inch screen and a USB port as standard for the 2012 model year.

Engineers at Honda have designed the Odyssey to have better sightlines than its predecessors and competitors. The sliding door rails sit far below the windows. The Odyssey also includes standard 17-inch wheels, with 18-inchers being optional. Other options include the power liftgate, power moonroof, xenon high-intensity headlights and power-sliding side doors.

On the inside, the Odyssey, which seats up to eight, has a long list of family friendly features that make this a wonderful vehicle for those seeking convenience. For instance, there’s a ring in the middle row of seats that can be pulled up and upon which can be mounted a trash bag. There’s also a center console that is cooled and can store beverages.

In the front row, Honda has updated the center console with easier-to-read controls, and the cabin area is roomier, as well. A power driver’s seat is standard, and Honda has added a feature to the second row of seats that allows it to move closer to the front row, which would come in handy if you’re a parent having to attend to a young child passenger.

The third row of seats can fold flat, a standard feature that enables easier use of cargo space.

The Odyssey is a little on the pricey side, starting at around $28,500 and ranging to around $44,000.

But for a nicely equipped, well-designed and dare we say somewhat sporty minivan, the Honda Odyssey presents a pretty good value.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nissan Shows Off New Pathfinder

Nissan provided a sneak peek at the 2013 Pathfinder to some local auto scribes this week, and what we saw is very different from the Pathfinder that we’ve come to know over the past 25 years or so. It has become a car-like, unibody crossover that seats seven. It’s much more focused on being a family vehicle than a rugged, off-roading truck. It has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. In fact, it’s now very similar to sister luxury brand Infiniti’s JX35.

It has a 114.2-inch wheelbase, just like the JX35, and an overall body length of 197.2 inches. The engine makes 260 horsepower and is mated to a continuously variable transmission.

Front- or four-wheel drive is available, and if you choose the latter, you can pick front-drive for maximum economy; automatic operation, which monitors conditions and gives torque to all four wheels when necessary; or four-wheel-drive lock for when the vehicle is facing some serious traction challenges.

Trim levels range from the S and SV to the higher end SL and the highest level Platinum. Inside, there are eight cup holders and six bottle pockets throughout, so families won’t go thirsty.

On lower trim models, 18-inch wheels are standard; the Platinum has 20-inchers.

The Pathfinder starts at around $29,000 and ranges to about $41,000.

We’ll have more to report on it after we get behind the wheel for a few days.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ford Fares Poorly, Japanese Brands Dominate in Consumer Reports Reliability Survey

A high-profile survey of automobile reliability has found that Japanese brands dominate this year's rankings.

The annual Consumer Reports survey had Japaneses brands occupying the top seven spots. Toyota's Scion brand, Toyota and Lexus, Toyota's luxury marque, were the top three. They were followed by Mazda, Subaru, Honda and Acura.

Of Toyota's 27 models, 16 earned the highest rating. The Toyota Prius C hybrid, a car Consumer Reports has criticized for a stiff ride, noisy cabin and cheap-looking interior trim, appears to be well built. It had the magazine's top reliability score overall.

Ford, which as recently as two years ago scored very highly in the survey, ranked next to last this year. The source of Ford's problems, according to Consumer Reports, was the MyFord/MyLincoln Touch electronic entertainment and information system. A Consumer Reports spokesman said the survey received a large number of complaints about the system, citing its difficulty of use and malfunctioning, according to news reports.

The worst brand was Jaguar, which traditionally fares poorly in the survey.
Consumer Reports bases its survey on the responses of vehicle owners who subscribe to the publication and uses the most recent three model years of data, except for models that have been redesigned for the most recent year.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Versatility, Safety Combine Nicely in Honda CR-V

 Honda's CR-V small crossover SUV has been a winner among consumers since hitting the market years ago, and with a redesign for 2012, those winning ways continue.

The exterior design doesn't get a radical makeover, just a freshening up of sorts. The front fascia has a larger grille and headlights, and the rear is more angular and less round, with the rear lights going higher up the tailgate.

The transmission and engine are virtually unchanged, but fuel efficiency is a bit better. The engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower and is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. Optional is an all-wheel drive system.

Honda has added an "Econ" button to the dash that can boost fuel efficiency when it is pressed by altering the acceleration response. The result is the CR-V getting 23 mpg city, 31 highway (or 22 and 30 with AWD), 2 mpg better than the previous model.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

2012 Honda Civic's Changes Give It A Sportier Flair

The venerable Honda Civic continues its run as one of the most popular small cars, and for the 2012, the Civic gets a redesign.

The Civic is still recognizable next to its predecessor, but is a bit sportier, thanks to the front fascia's mesh grille and changes to the headlights and taillights.

The Civic Coupe, which we have not yet tested, also picks up the changes that give it an especially sporty look compared with the past version.

If you drive the Si performance version, you'll notice the rear spoiler and front air dam, which enhance that model's sportiness.

No changes were made to the regular Civic's power plant, however, as the 1.8-liter four cylinder that makes 140 horsepower remains. There is a five-speed manual or automatic transmission.

But fuel economy grows because Honda installed fully electric power steering and better aerodynamics. So now, the Civic with the automatic tranny gets 28 mpg city, 39 highway, 3 mpg better than before. 

The Si, the performance model, does receive a larger engine - a 2.4-liter four-banger that makes 201 horsepower.
Honda says it also has introduced a trim called the HF, that aims for even better fuel economy through aerodynamics and specially designed wheels. It gets 29 and 41.

On the inside, the biggest change is how the center console skews more toward the driver now and is a bit larger.
It shows speed of the car and Honda's i-MID information system (on LX models and above), which gives you audio information, Bluetooth and turn-by-turn navigation directions. It can be controlled by steering-wheel mounted buttons.

If you want to further monitor fuel economy, look at the Eco Assist feature, which shows bars changing from blue to green on either side of the speedometer as you drive more fuel economically. And you can depress the "Econ" button to alter the acceleration response and aid fuel efficiency.
Honda's list of safety features for the Civic is solid, such as antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control.

The Civic is still priced affordably, starting at a little over $16,000 and ranging to around $27,000.

With its good fuel economy,sportier looks and nice technology touches, the venerable Civic remains a big fish in the small car pond.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When to Buy? A Few Tips

Looking to buy a new car, but wondering when the "right" time to do so is?
Here are a few tips that might give you a better shot at getting your best deal.

-- The second half of the year

Dealers are trying to unload the past year's models starting around July and running through October, so if you don't mind not getting the newest of the new, why not lend your dealer a hand and take some of his or her inventory?

-- The end of the month

There usually are a few stubbornly lingering bits of inventory on dealer lots at the end of the month, and the dealers need to move them so that they can meet their targets. This presents a sweet buying opportunity.

-- The beginning and middle of the week

Everybody goes car shopping on weekends, so if you swim upstream a bit by shopping, say, Monday - Thursday, you'll get much more attention from salespeople, who are also then more willing to make deals that are good to you.

-- The end of a model cycle

When automakers are about to unveil a newly redesigned version of one of their models, there is often excitement among buyers. There is also, in some cases, a bit of anxiety on the part of dealers, who must clear out the last units of the outgoing model style. You can relieve them of their worries and their inventory, if you're willing to not have the latest, greatest version of the model.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ford Escape's Makeover Should Be a Big Hit

The hugely popular Ford Escape small SUV has gotten a complete makeover for the 2013 model year. And the result will probably be that the Escape remains ... hugely popular.

Among the things to take note of from the makeover are the improved fuel economy, new technology features and increased cargo space. 

The more boxy, traditional-SUV appearance is gone from the Escape, replaced by a more rounded, crossover-type look that takes styling cues from Ford's subcompact hatchback models, the Focus and Fiesta. 

There are three new engines: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 168 horsepower, and a pair of Ecoboost engines - a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 173 horsepower and a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 237 ponies. There is no longer a V-6.

Six-speed automatic transmission is the only one offered and front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional. 

The base engine gets 22 mpg city, 31 highway, the 1.6-liter gets 23 and 33 with FWD (22 and 30 AWD) and the 2.0-liter gets 22 and 30 FWD (21 and 28 AWD). 

On the interior, the appearance of the Escape gets a serious upgrade, with higher quality materials and a more upscale style.

And Ford has brought its recent technology enhancements to the Escape, including its SYNC connectivity system, MyFord Touch and a park assist system that helps in parallel parking.

There's also an intelligent key that works even on the rear lift gate. If your hands are full and you've got the key somewhere on your person, just run your foot under the rear sensor on the bumper, and the lift gate will open for you. 

The Escape starts at around $23,000 and ranges to about $34,000.

With its new styling, better fuel economy and versatility, the Escape is a good option among the small SUVs that are on the market.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ford Mustang: A Classic Keeps Getting Better

The 2013 Ford Mustang is an example of how, usually, when you do something for a long time, you get pretty good at it.

Ford has been making the Mustang for a long time, and has gotten quite good at it.

In fact, Ford now offers 11 versions of the iconic muscle car, including the V-6, GT, Boss 302 and Shelby GT500, and the car comes in both coupe and convertible formats.

For this model year, the Mustang gets some revised front-end design and in the GT model, a more powerful V-8 engine.

Read more

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ford Edge has Lots of Features to Love

The Ford Edge crossover SUV garnered a lot of attention when it first hit the market a few years ago, thanks to its aggressive styling and versatility.

Now, the 2012 model remains popular and adds a few additional touches to keep it near the top of the heap in the crossover segment.

Ford has touted the high-tech entertainment and communication system, MyFord Touch, which is available in the Edge and other Ford models. It has received mixed reviews from those who use it. But the Edge has other qualities that driver and passengers can enjoy, such as a stylish interior, a choice of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine or two V-6s

Read more

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ford F-150 is a Workhorse that can Handle the Big Jobs

The Ford F-150 remains the king of the pickup truck world, with its great capability and convenient features.

It just so happened that when we got ahold of the 2012 Ford F-150, we had a lot of chores to do, so we got to put this work truck through its paces.

The F-150, the best-selling vehicle in the world, got three new engines in the last model year, but for this model year, the truck picks up an enhanced four-wheel drive system, better performance in the SVT Raptor off-road edition and a gas tank that has been expanded to 36 gallons on the EcoBoost models, increasing the range of the truck to a whopping 750 miles.

Read more

Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback: Unusual Shape, Pretty Good Ride

Mitsubishi has been largely marginalized in recent years as a mainstream car brand, but its specialty remains making sporty small cars that are popular among young males.

The five-seat Lancer Sportback hatchback fits that build, with its unusual styling and spirited driving dynamics.
The front-wheel-drive Lancer Sportback lets you choose from two engines: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and is found on the ES model, or a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 168 horsepower and is found on the GT model.

Both engines come with a standard five-speed manual or optional continuously variable automatic transmission.

The 2.0 gets 24 mpg city, 32 highway and the 2.4 gets 22 and 29.

On the outside, the Lancer Sportback has the overall design language of its Lancer sedan sibling in the front, but theres a marked difference in appearance in the rear. The Sportback hatchback door has a sharply slanting angle, making it look almost like a coupe in the rear.

As an added sporty touch, there's a rear spoiler near the roof.

You may recall that Chevrolet tried this a few years back with the Malibu, and the result was absolutely hideous.

Fortunately, the Lancer Sportback's look is much better than that, and really might have some appeal to many observers.

On the ES model, there are standard 16-inch wheels, with 18-inchers optional. Mitsubishi says it also offers optional bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, a power glass sunroof and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

On the inside, the Lancer Sportback seats five, and also has a large cargo area (52.7 cubic feet when the back seats are down). Mitsubishi says interior options include a USB port, Rockford Fosgate stereo with a subwoofer and heated leather seats.

The Lancer Sportback offers standard safety features that include side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows, knee airbag for the driver, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system.

The Lancer Sportback is priced modestly, starting at around $19,000 and ranging to about $22,000.

This model might not broaden Mitsubishi's appeal much beyond the young male demographic that it connects with now, but for those who might be inclined to consider such an unusual car, it might not be a bad choice.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mazda CX-5 is a Sporty Crossover

Crossovers have become quite popular in the past few years, but you might not think of "fun to drive" as among the top descriptors of these small SUVs.

But if you're talking Mazda, you're talking about a company with "fun to drive" in its DNA.

The company has released its CX-5 crossover for the 2013 model year.

This sporty model is highlighted by SkyActiv, the company’s all-encompassing technology to raise fuel economy and reduce emissions, while still producing vehicles that are fun to drive.

Mazda has said every vehicle will incorporate the SkyActiv technology, which involves powertrains, platforms, designs and engineering.

Mazda's biggest step so far with SkyActiv (it's also found in some Mazda3 models) is with the launch of the CX-5, which is replacing the CX-7 crossover in Mazda's North American lineup. The CX-7 will still be sold overseas.

In this category, Mazda is competing with the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue.

The base model CX-5, the GX with front-wheel-drive, starts at a shade under $23,000. The model expected to be the most popular, the GS, goes for right around $28,000 and the highest trim model GT starts at around $32,500.

Mazda has not skimped on any of the models, but the higher the trim level, the more goodies you get.

The GT model has all-wheel drive standard, for example, but you'll pay a $2,000 premium to get that on the lower two trims.

Mazda is touting the CX-5 as having the best highway fuel economy of any SUV. Its EPA numbers are 26 mpg city, 32 highway.

This vehicle definitely carries the Zoom-Zoom mantra of Mazda nicely, as it drives quite sportingly.

And it's pretty good looking too.

It could be a big seller, despite having a slightly higher starting price than some of its key competitors.

Notably, Mazda really seems to be taking aim at Hyundai with this vehicle, and perhaps going forward.

Heck, who isn't?

The Korean automaker has become a juggernaut over the past couple of years, introducing stylish vehicles that are well equipped and very reasonably priced.

Mazda seems to be trying to do likewise with the CX-5. It has made the vehicle only slightly smaller than the CX-7, yet it has excellent interior roominess.

The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine makes 155 horsepower and 150 pounds-feet of torque.

The automatic transmission is terrific, shifting smoothly upward and matching revs upon downshifts.

Cornering is great, also, and braking is very responsive.

The CX-5 acquitted itself quite nicely on the track and autocross at Laguna Seca.

Mazda paid attention to visibility, which drivers will appreciate, as well as functionality; the rear seat folds down to provide a very useful cargo area.

Overall, with the right amount of marketing muscle behind it, the CX-5 looks to be a real gamer in the small SUV market.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

2013 Chevy Malibu Sips Fuel in Style

If you're in the market for a very good midsize sedan, you shouldn't overlook one of the longstanding names in the segment: the Chevrolet Malibu.

With its styling and good fuel economy, the 2013 model presents an attractive and sensible choice.

Fuel economy is an especially prominent feature of the Malibu Eco model, which uses General Motors' eAssist technology to conserve fuel.

Basically, eAssist is hybrid technology that shuts down the gasoline engine when it's not needed, such as when you are at a stoplight. That not only saves you fuel, but also allows you to listen more closely to Spandau Ballet's "True," and other great hits from the '80s (you've seen the TV commercial, right?).

Chevy used its Camaro sports car as design inspiration for the Malibu, and while this sedan isn't quite that radically styled, it does have some sporty, aggressive lines.

Read more

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cadillac Offers a Peek at its XTS Sedan

Recently, General Motors' Cadillac luxury brand brought its all-new 2013 XTS luxury sedan to Atlanta to give the local automotive media a glance.
Cadillac is calling XTS the most technologically advanced production car in the brand’s history.
The company sure did roll out a high-tech presentation at a local eatery to reveal this model, featuring slick video production projected onto surrounding walls and a theater-like sound system.
The Beat didn't get an opportunity to sit in or drive the XTS (had to run off to catch a darn meeting), but it appears to be a spacious and luxurious model that, while certainly appealing to more mature buyers, will also grab a few younger eyeballs as well.

As  for the technology, Cadillac touted its CUE, or Cadillac User Experience, system as being a true breakthrough in driver empowerment. Cadillac took cues (pardon the pun) from the iPad and other popular tablets in developing the technology, which it says "merges intuitive design with auto industry-first controls for information and media control."

The XTS comes in a well-equipped standard model and three optional collections: Luxury, Premium and Platinum. Caddy calls the Platinum "the highest level of technology and luxury."

Here are a few points of note about the XTS:

■Direct-injected 3.6L V-6 with lightweight features, including integrated cylinder heads/exhaust manifolds

■Advanced all-wheel-drive system with electronically controlled limited-slip differential

■Magnetic Ride Control, rear air springs, HiPer Strut front suspension and Brembo front brakes – all standard

■Standard 19-inch wheels and available 20-inch wheels

We hope to get behind the wheel of an XTS soon and provide a full report.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 Infiniti G37 IPL Coupe: Who Knew You Could Have This Much Fun Legally?

When you get behind the wheel of the 2012 Infiniti G37 IPL Coupe, you're immediately impressed by its sporty, stylish design.

When you crank the engine and take it out on the road, that good impression turns into pure lust.

This car gives you sharp handling, a comfortable ride and great looks.

Yet it also comes with a reasonable (by luxury standards) price tag, which puts some of its competitors to shame (ya' hear me Porsche?!!).

So think of the G37 IPL like this: you take the Nissan 370Z sports car platform, add the Infiniti G elements of design and luxury and then add some kick-butt additional performance dynamics that rival those of the top European luxury marques, and then you've pretty much got the G37 IPL.

Infiniti created the IPL brand (Infiniti Performance Line) to showcase its ability to deliver world-class performance vehicles.

This talent cannot be more eloquently stated than from what's delivered in the G37 IPL Coupe.

Its great looks, strong performance and athletic handling will wow you. On the interior, your breath will be taken away by the fantastic materials, a stylish design and technology.

Want a roomy interior? Sorry, that's one thing you won't get here. But come on, now, if you want a true sports car, you shouldn't really expect to be able to stuff grandma, the kids and a few groceries in there with you.

What you are sure to get, though, is scintillating acceleration, great gear shifts and terrific handling.

The test drive model carried a sticker price of $52,345. Don't choke on that, Euro-lux brands!!

Infiniti decided to show off a little with the IPL G Coupe, and boy are we glad about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2012 Chevrolet Equinox Offers Pleasant Surprises

Sometimes, you hop in a vehicle and you're surprised, especially if the last time you drove it, you really weren't all that impressed.

When we got ahold of the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox, our expectations weren't all that high, frankly. To wit, when a colleague asked us what the test drive vehicle of the week was, and we replied Equinox, he said, "Oh, I'm sorry."
But lo and behold, this crossover SUV turned out to be pretty good.
You can get it in front- or all-wheel drive and it has three trim levels: LS, LT and LTZ.
It offers pretty good fuel economy and a reasonable price tag. 

The standard engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 182 horsepower. You can opt for a 3.0-liter, V-6 that makes 264 horsepower. The transmission is a six-speed automatic. Chevy says the four-cylinder engine produces 172 pounds-feet of torque and has a towing capacity of 1500 pounds and the V-6 produces 222 pounds-feet of torque and can tow up to 3500 pounds, when equipped with the dealer-installed trailer equipment package.

The front-wheel drive Equinox gets gas mileage of 22 mpg city, 32 highway with the four-cylinder and 15 and 22 with the V-6. If you get all-wheel-drive, you get 20 and 29 with the four-banger and 12 and 17 with the six.
The Equinox is surprisingly pleasant inside. The seating for five is comfortable and fairly roomy.

On the outside, the Equinox has a pretty cool style, not at all like a suburban soccer mom-mobile. Its angular lines make it look rather sporty.

The Equinox is priced from around $24,000 to about $32,000.

This vehicle is a very nice family hauler that gives versatility, functionality and a surprising amount of style.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

First Look: 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe

Austin, Texas -- For the 2013 model year, Hyundai is adding two new vehicles to its Elantra compact car family: the Elantra GT and the Elantra Coupe.

The latter model targets younger buyers who want something stylish and sporty. And with its affordable sticker price, the Korean automaker is likely to find success with this model.

We got a chance to test both models, as well as the third, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, on a recent trip to Austin, Texas.

We’ll focus now on the Coupe, with reports coming soon on the other two models.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mazda Recalling Tribute SUVs for Faulty Gas Pedal

Mazda announced that it is recalling 217,500 Tribute SUVs because of accelerators that can stick and cause unintended surging, news reports said.

The recall follows Ford's announcement that it is recalling 485,000 Escape SUVs that face the same defect.  The Tribute, which no longer is in production, was nearly identical to the Escape and both were buit at Ford's Kansas City plant.
Mazda said its new recall covers the 2001-2006 and 2008 Mazda Tributes equipped with the 3.0-liter V6 engine and cruise control. The Mazda Tribute was not produced in the 2007 model year.

The Ford recall covers 423,000 2001-04 Escape SUVs with 3.0-liter V-6 engines with cruise control sold in the U.S., and 60,000 outside the U.S. Around 10,000 of the vehicles were sold as the Maverick outside the U.S.

Information from the Detroit News was used in this report.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Volvo C70: This Hardtop Might Find a Soft Spot in Your Heart

It seems as if at some point in their lives, many drivers ponder the prospect of buying a convertible. Which inevitably leads to the question, “But which one should I get?”

If you’re at your “convertible might be for me” stage, take a look at the 2012 Volvo C70.

This hardtop convertible comes with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that makes 227 horsepower and 236 pounds-feet of torque. It has a five-speed automatic transmission that you can put into manual mode if you wish.

Read More

Friday, July 27, 2012

Step Up, Metro Atlanta, And Fix What's Broken

Rob Douthit

No, it’s not perfect. But the regional T-SPLOST transportation referendum is metro Atlanta’s best and only hope for the foreseeable future to address this region’s transit woes.

The mere fact that the area’s voters get to head to the polls to decide this issue is somewhat of a minor miracle.

It took a bipartisan effort to put the referendum on the ballot, and in Georgia, almost nothing is bipartisan anymore.

Whether at the federal or state level, bipartisan solutions are rarely lovable in their entirety, as they involve serious compromises.

But if we’re ever going to get anything done in this hyper-partisan political environment that we inhabit these days, we need to hold our noses and swallow the imperfect medicine that well-meaning elected officials (yes, there are a few left) craft when they work together.

The opposition to this referendum is led by those who say they are sick of paying taxes.


And you’re not sick of sitting in traffic?

And you think things that we depend upon to live in an organized society, like schools, police and fire departments and, yes, roads, are given to us by the tooth fairy?

Sorry, they come from tax revenue.

Those who say they love America, and sometimes say they love their state and their town, seem to sometimes forget that a lot of what stirs their passion came to them from, brace yourselves, the government.

Horrors, the government?

Yes, the government.

In America, the government is us, folks.

Don’t vilify the government unless you are willing to vilify yourself, your neighbor, your family members, your co-workers and so-on.

That’s who’s responsible for the government.

And in order for the government to function and provide the things that give us such wonderful lives, it has to collect, brace yourselves again, taxes.

Horrors, taxes?

Yep. We need ‘em to pay for schools we send our kids to, roads we drive on and police and fire departments and national defense.

And, when it comes to metro Atlanta, the region has grown tremendously over the past couple of decades, which means it has more needs.

More needs means we need to collect more money.

The T-SPLOST is an opportunity for the region to show that it has grown not only in size, but in its thinking.

It’s an opportunity to say that we’re going to do something that will cause some pain now, so that we can realize a substantial gain later.

Other opponents say that this plan leaves out too many areas, or leaves too many needs unmet.

Yep, that’s correct.

But again, we’re dealing with a compromise here, not the fulfillment of a fantasy.

Let this T-SPLOST complete the projects that are included in this package, then let’s take another look at what more we could do to make things better later.

Atlanta is one of the nation’s best metropolitan regions because of all of its positive attributes – low cost of living, vital business and social communities and a pleasant climate.

Let’s not let something like an inadequate transportation system be the region’s downfall.

It very well could be, if this referendum fails.

Please vote Yes on July 31.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nissan Makes It Easier Than Ever to Stay Properly Inflated

Nissan announced recently that it will include its Easy-Fill Tire Alert system in  all new and updated vehicles introduced to the market as of next year.

The system takes the guesswork or the trickier-than-it-should-be skill of using a tire gauge out of the process of inflating a tire. The car will tell you when a tire needs air, then, as you fill it, it will tell you when the tire has enough air. As you are filling a tire with air, the vehicle's lights will flash. When the tire has enough, the vehicle's horn will beep. It's that simple.

Yet, if you still manage to overfill, the lights will blink more quickly as air is let out of the tire, then the horn will once again beep when it hits the proper level of inflation.

Couldn't be much easier.

The system made its debut with the latest version of the Quest minivan, and next will be featured in the revamped Altima sedan, set to hit showrooms very soon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Audi TTS Packs Pounds of Driving Pleasure in a Small Package

The Audi TT has always been favored among many as a cute yet sporty offering from the German luxury brand. But if you turn the sportiness up a couple of notches and throw in some additional standard features, you get the 2012 Audi TTS.

This model, available as a coupe or a roadster, packs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that makes 265 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque. That horsepower number beats the regular TT by 54 ponies, and the impressive torque figure gives the TTS a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds, according to Audi.

There’s a six-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission that can be switched to manual mode with paddle shifters on the steering wheel or the gear lever on the center console. The TTS has Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system and offers a Sport mode button that can be pressed to really enhance the driving experience.
Read more

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Honda Recalling Pilot SUVs

Honda announced recently that it is recalling more than 300,000 Pilot SUVs purchased by U.S. consumers because of defective or nonexistent seatbelt stitching. The model years affected are 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Honda says that no injuries have been reported because of this flaw, but that it has the potential to render the seatbelts ineffective in a crash.
Honda says it will inspect vehicles and fix the defect at no charge if needed. Owners are being notified.
For more information, visit or call (800) 999-1009.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

You Think It's Hot? Your Car Does Too

This has been a really hot summer so far, with temperatures that can pose problems to the health of humans and their cars. Specifically, engines can overheat when vehicles are in traffic jams or when they're being taxed by having to climb steep upgrades.  To lessen the possibility of overheating, follow a few simple steps:

- Periodically check and replenish your engine coolant level, making sure it's at the full line.

- Watch the temperature gauge on your dashboard. If it goes beyond the midpoint or if notice steam arising from under the hood, pull over immediately. Driving an overheating vehicle can cause serious engine damage. 

- After pulling over, call your roadside assistance service to have the car towed to a service station.

- If you check the engine, wait until the vehicle has completely cooled before opening the hood.
- Add coolant if the vehicle's container indicates that it is not full. If you don't have coolant, you can use water in an emergency. 

- If the temperature gauge indicates the car has cooled, you may resume driving, but keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't overheat again.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Small and Cute Fiat 500

You might have seen TV ads for the 2012 Fiat 500, or maybe you’ve actually seen one rolling down the streets. The cars certainly capture attention for their unusual styling and hipness.

However, the question we had was whether there’s substance to go along with that style.

The answer?

Some, but not a lot.

There has been an explosion of popularity in the last few years, especially among young hipsters, of very small, European-looking cars. The wave was started by the Mini Cooper, continued (albeit tepidly) by the Smart cars and has now been sustained by the Fiat.

But among that group, we have found that only the Mini offers a truly sensible, solid, overall rendering that’s suitable to a range of drivers.

The Fiat has cool looks, to be sure.

It’s got retro styling, a high stance and good color schemes.


Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 Nissan Maxima: Get Comfy and Have Fun

Nissan has long referred to its Maxima sedan as the “four-door sports car,” and if you’ve ever driven this model, it’s quite possible you see why.

For the 2012 model year, the Maxima has a few changes in appearance and a few added features, yet its sportiness endures.

The Maxima is powered by a 3.5 liter V-6 engine that makes 290 horsepower and 261 pounds-feet of torque. The Maxima is linked to a continuously variable transmission, with optional paddle shifters, if you want to get a bit more involved in the driving.

Gas mileage is pretty good, given the large engine, with the Maxima getting EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 highway.

On the inside, Maxima offers comfort for driver and passengers and technology that is convenient and easy to use.

Read more

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gas Prices at their Lowest Point in 2012

Gasoline prices in the nation have hit their lowest average this year, according to AAA.

The motorist group says that among more than 100,000 gas stations surveyed, the average price came to $3.41.

Prices have fallen below $3 a gallon in South Carolina, according to the Associated Press.

A random check of prices on Atlanta's south side found prices generally ranging from $3.15 - $3.20.

But AP also reported that demand is down by about 5 percent compared with a year ago, in spite of prices that are about 18 cents a gallon lower.

Experts say the continued sluggishness in the economy is tied to the lower demand and lower pricing of gasoline. The Conference Board's consumer confidence measure dropped in June for the fourth consecutive month amid concerns about high unemployment, low housing values, a volatile stock market and an uncertain economy in Europe. Those concerns drive down consumer spending, experts say, which drives 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Volvo C30 is Surprisingly Sporty

So when did BMW take over Volvo?

Ok, BMW did not take over Volvo, but if you drive the 2012 Volvo C30, you sure might think the two European automakers share the same DNA.

The C30 is a very sporty little hatchback that blows doors off other vehicles on the road and blows doors off the notion that Volvos are merely staid, safe cars.

Read more

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Taking a Summer Road Trip? Take These 3 Quick Steps to Prepare

Now that it's officially summer, you might be getting ready for a nice road trip to see relatives, the beach, the mountains or wherever.
But before you hit the highway, be sure to adopt the old Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.
Don't get out there and let car troubles ruin your vacation.
Here are three quick tips for making sure you're road-ready.

Check All Five of Your Tires
AAA projects that about 1.2 million drivers will call the motorists' organization for assistance dealing with a flat tire in the summer travel season. Don't be one of them. Check the four tires that are on the ground, as well as your spare. Consult your vehicle's owner's manual to see how much air pressure your tires need, then fill or deflate accordingly.
This is good not only for safety, but also fuel economy. Well inflated tires can cut your fuel bill by up to 12 cents a gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Check for wear and tear too. Insert a quarter into the tread with the top of Washington's head pointing toward the center of the tire. If you see space between the top of Washington's head and the tread, you might need to replace the tire.

Inspect and Clean the Battery

AAA says it is likely to replace more than 700,000 batteries this summer. Don't let your car's be one of them. Make sure the cables are attached properly and that the terminals and cable parts that attach are free of corrosion or other gunk.
A battery typically lasts three to five years, and you can get yours tested at most auto repair chain stores for free.
Change Wiper Blades and Add Washer Fluid

You need to maintain good windshield visibility for safety. Replace your wiper blades when they leave streaks or don't give a clean sweep of water from the windshield. Check your fluid levels and make sure you've got enough and that it reaches your windshield properly.

Take the proper precautions, and your road trip should be a fun experience, as long as your family members don't endlessly sing annoying songs in the car.

Happy motoring!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan is a Fun SUV with a Funny Name

You might be attracted by its style, or just intrigued by its unusual name, but for whatever reason you’re drawn to the Volkswagen Tiguan, you’ll be pleased when you experience it.

This small SUV offers good driving dynamics, a strong engine and nice styling inside and out.

For the 2012 model year, VW gave the Tiguan improved fuel economy and a slightly restyled front end and rear end.

The Tiguan is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes a hearty 200 horsepower and 207 pounds-feet of torque and tows up to 2,200 pounds, according to VW.

The VW Tiguan has been slightly restyled for 2012 and has improved fuel economy.Photo credit: Volkswagen .

Read more:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Underrated Cars Get Some Love

Some cars get way more hype than they deserve. Then there are those that don't get enough credit.
That's why decided to compile a list of most underrated vehicles.
We took a look at the list and found that by and large, we agree with TCS.
The vehicles on this list are quite good, and might be a bit underappreciated.

The list included the Chevrolet Cruze
as well as the Kia Soul, Cadillac CTS, Buick LaCrosse

and the Infiniti M.

Others on the list were the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Sportage, Cadillac SRX, Chevy Traverse and Ford Taurus SHO.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Want a Value Vehicle? Check This List

USAA, one of the most respected auto insurance companies in the world, has released its 2012 list of best value vehicles.
The ratings are based on cost, safety and reliabilty.
Hmmm, those are three of The Beat's favorite categories also.
Anyhow, here's the USAA list. We raised a few eyebrows at some of the picks, but overall, seems like a pretty solid list.
Check it out.
Large Sedan: Dodge Charger
Midsize Sedan: Toyota Camry Hybrid
Small Sedan: Hyundai Elantra
Large Luxury Sedan: Hyundai Genesis
Midsize Luxury Sedan: Volvo S60
Large SUV: Chevrolet Traverse
Midsize SUV: Dodge Journey
Small SUV: Kia Sportage
Large Luxury SUV: Audi Q7
Midsize Luxury SUV: Lexus RX 450h
Large Pickup: Toyota Tundra 2WD
Small Pickup: Nissan Frontier
Sports: Ford Mustang
Coupe: Honda CR-Z (hybrid)
Wagon: Nissan Juke
Minivan: Dodge Caravan

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Grab the Family and Head for the 2012 Subaru Outback

If it's a family vehicle you want, but a minivan or big SUV isn't your cup of tea, check out the 2012 Subaru Outback.
This vehicle has been on the market for a number of years, and it seems to get better with time. This model year adds a winter convenience package for those in cold climes and new wheel and audio options.

You can choose from a pair of options under the hood: a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower or a 3.6-liter six cylinder that makes 256 horsepower.
Transmission choices are the six-speed manual or the continuously variable tranny.

Of course since it's a Subaru, you get standard all-wheel drive, which, along with it's extended ground clearance, makes it a great pick for those who live in areas that get hit with nasty weather, or those who like to do light off roading.

But that doesn't mean it's not great for folks who live in warmer areas, and in fact it's rather curious that with Subaru's record of building great, reliable vehicles, it hasn't caught on quite as well in some of those other regions.

Might be a function of marketing, or who knows what else.

The Outback has three trim levels - base, Premium and Limited.
There are a ton of handy standard features, but when you upgrade, you get some nice options, including leather seating, voice-controlled navigation and dual-zone climate control.

And as mentioned above, the Outback is a great family vehicle that is versatile, serving up 71 cubic feet of cargo space when you plop down the back seat.

Passengers in both rows of seats enjoy ample leg and head room.

The Outback starts at around $24,000 and ranges to about $33,000.

Managing a family is tough, so make it easier by getting something comfortable, versatile and reliable to ferry them around - head for the Outback.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Infiniti M37 is a Nice Package of Luxury and Performance

Luxury and performance coexist delightfully in the 2012 Infiniti M37 sedan.

This car's 3.7-liter V-6 engine makes 330 horsepower and 270 pounds-feet of torque and provides more than enough power to accelerate smoothly and with good pace. The rear-wheel drive and seven-speed automatic transmission ensure a steady yet assertive ride quality.

Read more: