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.