Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Vehicles of 2013

Atlanta Auto Beat is proud to present the 2013 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 comment.

No. 10 - Chevrolet Malibu

Chevrolet made improvements to the Malibu, which can now compete ably in the challenging midsize sedan market.

No. 9 - Toyota 4Runner

The Toyota 4Runner has been around for about five generations, and continues to deliver on many fronts to drivers who like traditional SUVs.

No. 8 - Lexus ES 300h

Getting a great luxury sedan is one thing, but when you add superb fuel economy, you get the Lexus ES 300h, a hybrid that will let you skip a lot of visits to the gas pump.

No. 7 - Audi A5

It's hard to imagine a sportier or more attractive coupe than the Audi A5, with its sleekly shaped exterior and superb driving performance.

No. 6 - Infiniti JX 35

The Infiniti JX 35 has three rows of seats, rides smoothly and offers a number of convenient features.

No. 5 - Honda Fit

When you drive the Honda Fit, you just feel like you're a little smarter, because you're spending only pennies on gasoline, getting a very reliable vehicle and enjoying a big dose of practicality, despite its small size.

No. 4 - Honda Crosstour

The Honda Crosstour is a versatile large sedan that offers innovation and sporty styling.

No. 3 - Toyota Prius c

One of the newer Toyota Prius models, the Prius c is a smaller version of the original that gets super gas mileage and has a lower sticker price.

No. 2 - Nissan Altima

With its cool styling, convenient features and fantastic fuel economy, the 2014 Nissan Altima has quietly crept up to become an outstanding midsize sedan.

No. 1 - Mazda6

The Mazda6 midsize sedan has won acclaim as a sporty, athletic and good-looking car, even if it has flown under the radar of some consumers and auto enthusiasts.
Well, if you're among those who haven't paid much attention to this model, the 2014 Mazda6 is serving notice that it is one of the best midsize sedans in the business.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lexus IS sedan: It is Bolder and Better

Lexus continues to evolve its approach to building vehicles, taking a renewed interest in more expressive designs and better performance, with one of the latest examples being the IS sedan.
The IS 250 and IS 350 sedans have gently sloping, fluid designs that suggest sportiness in a refined package. The IS comes with rear- or all-wheel drive and either a 2.5-liter V-6 engine or a 3.5-liter V-6.
The rear-wheel IS 350 has an eight-speed automatic transmission with its F Sport package, while the other models have six-speed transmissions.
Drivers can choose from setting that include normal, Eco, Sport and Sport+ (on the IS 350) based on what type of driving dynamic they wish for, with Eco saving fuel and Sport designed for a more spirited ride.
Lexus has enhanced the suspension of the IS as well, with a new multilink rear suspension combining with a more rigid front suspension. 
The F Sport model's suspension and steering add extra enhancements to bolster cornering and road command.
The results are a jauntier ride that what the IS offered before, bringing the sedan more in line with other small to midsize luxury competitors. 
On the outside, the wheelbase has been extended by three inches, but the IS has held its sweeping form nicely.
The interior features a new stacked dashboard that presents a clean, easily manageable layout for the driver.
The backseat also has improved leg room, which is a nice plus for taller passengers.
The IS starts at just under $40,000 and ranges to around $49,000.
For a quality sedan that offers good looks, improved driving performance and handy technology features, the IS is an appealing option.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 Lexus LS 460: Changes Make it World Class

The Lexus LS 460 is probably the luxury automaker's boldest step yet toward making a true competitor to the big, performance-oriented sedans produced by its German rivals.
Previously, the LS was always a pleasant car, but it really didn't turn any heads with its exterior design and getting behind the wheel was an exercise in ho-humness.
Then, thanks to a notable redesign for the 2013 model year, some re-engineering and the introduction of an F Sport trim level, this former large sedan wallflower suddenly stood up at the party ready to boogie.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Acura Getting Rid of TSX and TL, Unveiling New TL sedan

Acura recently announced that it will halt production of the TSX sedan and wagon as well as the TL sedan, and will introduce a new model, the TLX sedan.
The TLX sedan will be revealed at next month's Detroit auto show, and will go on sale in the second half of 2014 as a 2015 model.
Acura has said that the TLX will be a midsize sedan that will have interior space comparable to that found in the TL. It is expected to have a couple of engine choices and two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
It will be curious to see what kind of exterior design Acura has given the TLX. Its recent design changes have not been widely well received.

Monday, December 16, 2013

2014 Scion tC: For Affordable Fun, it's a Terrific Choice

Sports cars are typically fun to look at and drive, but it's not fun to try to afford one if your wallet isn't flush with cash.
But the newest version of the Scion tC addresses that issue, bringing fun driving dynamics, cool styling and a reasonable price tag.
The 2014 tC has gotten a refresh that includes new designs at the front and rear, an enhanced suspension and some added technology.
The new front features a large grille, sleek headlights and a prominent air intake. The rear gets new LED taillights and seems to have more of an upswept look that completes its exterior appearance a bit more dramatically.
Scion says it revised the suspension to promote better handling and improve its ability to take on corners.
The trick seems to have worked, as the tC played along happily when we tossed it about for a bit.
The tC is powered by a peppy 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 179 horsepower and 173 pounds-feet of torque. It is linked to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy is solid at 23 mpg city, 31 highway.
We can't honestly say that the tC can compete, performance-wise, with cars that are priced $15,000 (or more) higher, but in its price range, it would be tough to find a sportier driving ride.
But don't forget, even if the tC doesn't satisfy your race car desires, you can check out Scion's other sporty model, the FR-S .
As for new technology, the tC now features a Pioneer display audio system that can be linked to Bluetooth and HD radio. You can opt for Scion's Aha infotainment system, as well as a navigation system.
One pleasant standard feature is the panoramic roof window with power moonroof. It adds a nice bit of light to what otherwise could be a rather dark and compact cabin.
The tC is small, but its safety ratings are good. It received a five star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and was a top safety pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Scion is marking its 10th year as a brand, and it deserves credit for continuing the mission it began at inception: making fun cars that are affordable.
The tC is both, with a sticker price ranging from around $20,000 to nearly $24,000.
For an energetic, sporty ride, you might say the tC stands for terrific choice. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: Lots to Love, at a Price

The Toyota Highlander seems to have gone through many phases through the years of its existence, from being very car/station wagon-like to being more midsize SUV-like in its current state.
After having driven Highlanders throughout the years, we can opine that the current version is the best yet.
Recently, we spent some time with the Highlander Hybrid.
We were impressed with its looks; it now seems comfortable in its skin as an SUV, rather than a few years ago, when it really just seemed to want to be a station wagon.
We also were impressed with its fuel economy, which is rated at 28 mpg city and highway in the hybrid model, about 28 percent better than the regular model.


Friday, December 6, 2013

2014 Nissan Altima is Hard to Beat

With its cool styling, convenient features and fantastic fuel economy, the 2014 Nissan Altima has quietly crept up to become one of the best midsize sedans on the market.
The Altima, which was redesigned last year, is powered by a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower. You can also opt for a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes makes 270 horsepower, but frankly, why bother?
The four-banger is plenty powerful, and its gas mileage is superb, rated at 27 mpg city, 38 highway.
In our week of combined driving, we registered about 35 mpg - quite impressive.
The V-6 is rated at 22 and 31.
Both engines are linked to a continuously variable transmission.
On the outside, the Altima has standard 16-inch wheels, with 17- or 18- inchers available.
The Altima also has Nissan's cool tire inflation feature, in which the horn beeps when you are adding air and have reached the correct pressure.
On the inside, you'll find a comfortable interior that makes efficient use of space and a dashboard that has conveniently placed controls.
Driving dynamics are solid, but not flashy; certainly adequate for everyday needs. There is good acceleration, crisp handling and steady braking.
For safety, there is an optional blind spot warning system and a moving object detection system when the car is in reverse.
The Altima starts at around $23,000 and ranges to nearly $33,000.
With everything it has to offer, the Altima is one of the best midsize sedans on the market.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Automakers Post Strong U.S. Sales in November

U.S. new car sales jumped 7.2 percent in November compared with the same month a year ago, to 16.4 million units, according to recently released figures.
General Motors led the Detroit Three automakers with a 19 percent gain, followed by Chrysler with a 16 percent bump and Ford's 7 percent climb.
Among overseas automakers, Hyundai posted its November sales record, Honda had its second best November ever and Toyota rose nearly 6 percent in the U.S.
Heavy discounting and continued strong sales of pickup trucks led the way for automakers. Pickup truck sales have climbed over the past couple of years as the economy has improved and the housing industry has regained momentum.

Monday, December 2, 2013

2014 Audi A6 TDI: It Goes a Long Way

In recent years, Audi and other automakers have changed the game when it comes to diesel-fueled vehicles. No longer smelly, loud and sluggish, the diesel engines of today offer cleanliness, efficiency and power.
This is evident in the 2014 Audi A6 TDI. This sedan is powered by a 3.0 liter V-6 engine that makes 240 horsepower and 428 pounds-feet of torque.
Those who argue against diesel say that it's considerably more expensive per gallon than gasoline, which is true. The price differential these days is roughly 50 cents a gallon.
However, with the A6 and many other diesel-powered vehicles, you sure do get a lot of bang for your buck from those gallons.
In our weeklong test drive of the A6, we got nearly 800 miles out of one tank of fuel.
If you commute a lot, that's sensational.
However, if you still can't be talked into buying a diesel, the A6 comes with a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that runs on gas and makes 220 horsepower, or a 3.0 liter supercharged V-6 that makes 240 ponies.
The latter model, and the diesel, have Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The four-cylinder carries either front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission, or all-wheel and an eight-speed automatic.
The diesel model gets fuel economy numbers of 24 mpg city, 38 highway, which is quite impressive for a sedan of this size.
The exterior styling is attractive, but not really head-turning or distinctive. In fact, we probably got more looks because of the large TDI Clean Diesel decals on both sides of the car rather than just for its styling.
The A6 has standard 17-inch alloy wheels, with 18-, 19- or 20-inchers optional.
The interior is typically Audi, meaning roomy and comfortable, with pretty good fit and finish.
Leather seating is standard, and a raft of options is available, such as heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, four-zone climate control and the MMI multimedia system.
Driving the A6 is also typically Audi, meaning responsive, exhilirating and power packed.
We didn't get the opportunity to tackle too many twisty roads, but the few times we did, we smiled at how it gripped corners, accelerated and braked smoothly and seemed to revel in being pushed a little harder.
The A6 starts at around $46,000 and ranges to around $67,000, which was the approximate price of the test model.
If you want a large luxury sedan, the A6 TDI is a terrific choice, and even if you don't want diesel, its gasoline version deserves a good look, too.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Toyota 4Runner: Remaining True to its SUV Roots

The rise in popularity of crossover SUVs in the past few years has been strong and steady. But that doesn't mean there aren't some folks out there who still enjoy an old-fashioned, body-on-frame SUV that's a little more rugged than your typical family vehicle.
That's how the Toyota 4Runner continues its successful run, five generations after it was introduced.
Among SUVs, the 4Runner seems to have always been able to fill the role of being a lot of things to a lot of people.
Need to carry a bunch of stuff and passengers?
Want something that can reliably go off road?
Got it.
Are you looking for a little bit of style to accompany that size?
Here you go.
And fortunately, the 4Runner continues to deliver in each of those areas, all these years later.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Korean Automotive Supplier to Build Georgia Plant

KOPLA, a South Korean automotive manufacturer, will open its first U.S. plant in West Point, creating 150 jobs and investing $15 million into the project by 2018, according to a news release from the office of Gov. Nathan Deal.

“We are proud that Korea’s presence in our state continues to grow,” Deal said in a statement. “Our booming automotive industry and key business resources create a perfect location for KOPLA and we have no doubt that this state-of-the-art automotive manufacturer will continue to succeed.”

The 100,000-square-foot facility will be constructed on 20 acres of the Northwest Harris Business Park, the release said. The plant will supply engineering plastics resin to leading automobile manufacturers nationally.

Georgia's automotive manufacturing industry has been spurred by the opening a few years ago of Kia's North American manufacturing facility in West Point.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Porsche Unveils New Hybrid

Porsche, with its North American headquarters in Atlanta, showed local journalists its new Panamera S E hybrid at a luncheon today. This model is a plug-in that expands the German performance brand's hybrid offerings.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2013 Toyota Prius c: It Deserves an A+

The Toyota Prius, the granddaddy of hybrids, has expanded its lineup of models in recent years to draw more buyers.
One of the newer Prius models is the Prius c, a smaller version of the original that gets super gas mileage and comes with a lower sticker price.
The result is a hatchback that looks cool, puts up crazy-go-nuts fuel economy numbers and, despite its small size, is pretty practical.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

GM to Offer Benefits to All Gay Married Employees


General Motors made a groundbreaking policy change this week and announced that the company would extend marriage benefits to the spouses of same-sex employees -- even if the pair lives in a state where gay marriage isn't legal.
The only catch? The couple must have been legally married in one of the 14 (soon to be 15!) states in which gay marriage is legal.
“This decision is in line with GM’s efforts to find, keep and grow the world’s best talent and to offer our employees policies and benefits that are competitive with many of the largest and best-managed industrial companies in the U.S.,” said GM’s Chief Diversity Officer Ken Barrett in a statement sent to The Huffington Post.
The changes will include pension plans, savings plans and health care plans for legally married same-sex couples.


Monday, November 4, 2013

2014 Lincoln MKZ: A Sedan with Style

If a stylish, fuel-effient and comfortable midsize sedan is what you're after, you need to take a look at the 2014 Lincoln MKZ.
The MKZ got a redesign last year that gave it a serious style upgrade, with sleek lines and a sporty front grille.
The MKZ, built on the same chassis as the popular Ford Fusion, has standard 18-inch alloy wheels, with 19-inchers optional.
Also optional are rain-sensing windshield wipers and a panoramic sunroof.
The MKZ is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 240 horsepower and is rated at 22 mpg city, 33 highway. There is also an available 3.7-liter V-6 that makes 300 horsepower and is rated at 22 and 31. Both engines are linked to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
A hybrid version of the MKZ is also available.
The inside is fairly roomy and comfortable.
However, we continue to be disappointed by the touch-pad controls on the center dash, which take a lot of getting used to and are prone to having the user make errant touches.
If the MKZ just went back to knobs and buttons, it would offer a much better driver experience.
The otherwise pleasant cabin includes leather seats that are heated up front (the rear seats can be heated as an option), and a quality audio system.
For safety, options include a lane departure warning system, backup camera, rear parking sensors and a very helpful blind spot warning system.
The MKZ starts at around $37,000 and ranges to around $45,000.
With luxury and good looks, the MKZ is a sedan worthy of consideration.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013 Ford Focus: A Pairing of Style and Great Fuel Economy

Ford is on a roll, and one of the vehicles that is moving it in the right direction is the Focus.
This compact gets high marks for fuel economy and styling, and last week, Ford announced that it is the best-selling car in the world.
For the 2013 model year, the Focus added an ST high performance model, and put an available five-speed manual transmission on its highest trim model.
The sporty-looking Focus has large grille openings and flowing crease lines along the side to give it a motion-like appearance. The rear also has an aggressive and flowing look, and when you add the spoiler, you've got a humdinger of an economy car in sports-car clothing.
The Focus is powered by a  2.0-liter four cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 146 pounds-feet of torque. The engine is mated to a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Focus is rated at 27 mpg city, 38 highway. And if those numbers aren't impressive enough, get the Super Fuel Economy package and you get 28 and 40.
The Focus might not gain a lot of acclaim for its interior space, though. Head- and leg- room up front are adequate, but the back seat is pretty tight. It comes standard as a bench, optional as a 60/40 split seat.
Ford says there is 13 cubic feet of cargo space available in the sedan, with hatchbacks having almost  24 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 44 cubic feet with it folded down.
As for technology, the Focus is no slouch, offering optional park assist, which can measure up parallel parking spaces and guide the car into place pretty much on its own. The Focus also can be had with Ford's SYNC and MyFord Touch technological controls. 
The Focus starts at around $17,000 and ranges as high as about $27,000.
For a stylish small car that gets great fuel economy, the Focus is a terrific choice.

Friday, October 18, 2013

2014 Mazda6: One of the Best Got a Little Better

For a few years, the Mazda6 midsize sedan has won acclaim as a sporty, athletic and good-looking car, even if it has flown under the radar of some consumers and auto enthusiasts.
Well, if you're among those who hasn't paid much attention to this model, the 2014 Mazda6 is serving notice that it is one of the best midsize sedans in the business.
This Mazda6 gets a makeover that gives it a slightly more upscale look, while retaining the sportiness that characterized the prior version.
The styling now emphasizes aerodynamics and has touches such as an elongated hood and revised headlight presentation, which optionally can include LED lights.
And though you wouldn't know it at first glance, the new model is a tad smaller than the previous one, but retains the rear leg room, thankfully.
The most exciting development, and the thing that makes the Mazda6 one of the best cars on the market, is its commitment to great fuel economy.


Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander: Affordable and Versatile

Small SUVs, which offer some of the functionality of their larger counterparts but are cheaper to fuel and easier to drive, remain popular among consumers.
One entrant in this market is Mitsubishi's Outlander Sport, the top seller for this brand, which has been mostly an also-ran for the past few years.
The Outlander Sport seats five and is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque. The engine is linked to either a five-speed manual transmission or continuously variable transmission. All-wheel drive is also available.
The test model had the stick shift.
Driving the Outlander Sport is not unpleasant, but don't expect any thrills.
The gear stops in the manual transmission seemed rather vague, and in fifth gear, it really felt like it needed a sixth to reduce strain on the engine.
Noise from the engine is fairly intrusive also, despite the fact that Mitsubishi says it has improved sound insulation.
The manual version gets 24 mpg city, 30 highway, while the CVT with front-wheel drive gets 24 and 31 and the CVT with all-wheel gets 24 and 29.
This year's model has a few exterior design tweaks, and overall, the Outlander Sport is not a bad looking vehicle.
There's a new front and rear bumper with matching side sills, standard 18-inch alloy wheels and a revised grille.
 A rear spoiler and heated, power side view mirrors are standard as well.
Two trim levels are offered, ES and SE.
The ES has voice-activated mobile phone and iPod control and audio control buttons on the steering wheel, among other features. The SE includes heated front seats, automatic climate control and smart key with push-button start.
The Outlander Sport starts at around $19,000 and ranges to around $25,000.
If you're looking for a small SUV with a reasonable price tag, the Outlander Sport might be worth a glance.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Luxury Vehicles, Vintage Planes on Display

Lexus teamed up with organizers of the Great Georgia Air Show to display a nice collection of planes and luxury cars and SUVs at Atlanta Regional Airport Falcon Field in Peachtree City this week.
 The vintage airplanes had been used in World War II and celebrate the heritage of American military aviation.
The Lexus vehicles included the IS 350, IS 350C and IS-F sedans and the GX 460 SUV.
Visitors got to fly in some of the aircraft and take the cars and SUVs out for test drives.
Safe to say that it was a fun day for transportation nuts.
The Great Georgia Air Show takes place at Atlanta Regional Airport this Friday through Sunday.
Click here for more information.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

First Glance: 2014 Kia Soul

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kia Soul is perhaps best known to many people as the vehicle endorsed by a bunch of hipster hamsters in TV commercials.
But if you're an automaker, you can only ride rodents so far. You must have a vehicle that delivers the goods to consumers.
Since its debut in 2009, the Soul has done that.
And the new version, the 2014 model, even gets a bit better.
Kia bared its new Soul to the media in beautiful Minneapolis, giving auto reviewers a chance to drive in both urban and rural settings.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

South Korean Parts Maker to Build Georgia Facility

Georgia officials announced that South Korean autoparts maker Hyundai Dymos will open a $35 million manufacturing plant in West Point, Ga., that will supply automaker Kia, which operates its North American plant in the town. The new facility is projected to create 350 manufacturing jobs.
The plant will make seats for the Kia Sorento crossover SUV.
Hiring for the facility will begin in January, with construction expected to be finished by July, and normal production slated to start in November 2014.
Hyundai Dymos was founded in 1994 and manufactures manual transmissions and axles in addition to seats.

Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: It's Worth a Look

If you're looking to save fuel, but still want a midsize sedan, you may wish to check out the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
The Korean automaker retooled the hybrid's drivetrain a bit, which has improved its fuel economy. The Sonata Hybrid is now rated at an impressive 36 mpg city, 40 highway.
The car is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a 35-kilowatt electric motor, with the pairing creating 206 horsepower. That's more output than the gas-only Sonata.
Hyundai says it added a higher-capacity generator, a hybrid battery pack with more power and that it adjusted the tuning on the hybrid system. Hyundai's engineers also were able to make the battery pack smaller and lighter, which gives back a little space in the trunk. However, that trunk is still a bit cramped.
As for interior room, it's not bad. Front seat passsengers have good head- and leg- room, and back seat riders don't fare too poorly either.
The interior features are good; fit and finish and material quality are fine.
 On the outside, there are a few design elements that are different from the gas-only Sonata, such as headlights and taillights, side sills and a large front air dam.
The Sonata Hybrid has standard features that include the BlueLink communications system, satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity.
Options include push-button start, heated leather seats in front and rear and simulated wood trim.
The Sonata Hybrid starts at around $26,000 and ranges to around $31,000.
For a good, fuel-fficient midsize sedan, the Sonata Hybrid is worth a look.

Infiniti G37 Coupe: An energetic and fun way to hit the road

There’s nothing quite like driving a fun, energetic coupe, and the Infiniti G37 offers clear proof of that.

The G37, also available as a sedan or hardtop convertible, is pleasantly stylish without being too flashy.

Infiniti did away with the base trim level for the G37 coupe, offering trim levels of Journey (which the tester was), G37x, Sport and IPL.

The Journey’s spirited engine is a 3.7-liter V-6 that makes 330 horsepower and is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Friday, September 20, 2013

3 Great Tailgating Vehicles

It's that time of year when a number of sports are kicking into high gear, so for fans, that means it's tailgating season.
It can be a lot of fun to pack up the vehicle with coolers, a grill and plenty of food and beverages to enjoy before and after you root for your favorite teams.
With that spirit in mind, The Beat has come up with a short list of three great tailgating vehicles.
Check them out and feel free to share your best tailgating ideas and stories.


This minivan is versatile, roomy and can carry plenty of sports fans and their gear. And the newest model has gotten some styling updates to make it a bit, well, sportier. How fitting.


The pickup truck is the original tailgate vehicle, and it still functions wonderfully in that role today. And here's another vehicle that's newest model has gotten a redesign. New look, same great capabilities.


This crossover SUV offers decent fuel economy and a fairly reasonable sticker price at the lower trim levels, leaving you with more to spend on good eats for your tailgate party. It also has some updates for its most recent model year.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2014 Honda CR-V: It Covers All the Bases

Take the practicality and reliability Honda has long been known for, and add some utility a bit of sportiness, and you've characterized the CR-V, a compact SUV that is one of the Japanese brand's most popular vehicles.
The 2014 CR-V is virtually unchanged from the previous model year, and that's fine because no changes were needed.
It's still a terrific five-passenger vehicle that offers a surprising amount of room for passengers, gets great fuel economy and is priced modestly.



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Honda Crosstour: A Standout among Sedans

The 2013 Honda Crosstour is a versatile large sedan that offers innovation and sporty styling.

Honda first rolled out the Crosstour as a 2012 model, originally dubbing it the Accord Crosstour.

For this model year, the Accord name has been dropped, but the similarity to Honda’s popular midsize sedan remains.

In fact, we really liken the Crosstour to a bulked up but sportier version of the Accord, and we mean that as a compliment.


Friday, September 13, 2013

2014 Acura MDX: Changes for the Better

The 2014 Acura MDX takes a number of steps in the right direction when it comes to meeting the needs of people who want to haul families and cargo, but don’t want to have their wallets drained at the gas pump.

Acura redesigned the MDX, but it doesn’t look drastically different from last year’s model.

The most notable changes are a larger third row of seating that is easier to access – just touch a button – and an improved center console that is much simpler, with far fewer buttons.

Under the hood, the MDX has a slightly smaller engine, a 3.5-liter direct injection V-6 that makes 290 horsepower and 267 pounds-feet of torque. The power plant is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional, with front-wheel drive standard. The previous version had standard all-wheel drive.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

3 Reasons Your Auto Might be a Break-in Target

You might worry about having your car stolen, but a more likely scenario is that your car is broken into and valuable items inside are pilfered.
What might make your car vulnerable?
Here are three factors. 

1. You aren't taking proper precautions

If you leave your vehicle unlocked, you are greatly enhancing the chances that it will be broken in to. Don't be careless. Park in well-lit, populated areas, make sure windows are closed and every door is locked. Avoid leaving your car in unsecured lots overnight.

2. You leave valuables in a visible area in your vehicle
Theft from vehicles is much more common than theft of vehicles. Electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets are popular targets of thieves. Also popular are costly car parts, such as air bags and catalytic converters.
Do not leave valuables in a visible position in your vehicle. Lock them in the trunk or glove compartment. Use an alarm system or other anti-theft device. Such devices might get you a discount on your insurance.

3. You are using an inadequate security system

Thieves often do their research on the Internet to learn techniques for breaking into vehicles, such as using small pieces of ceramic to shatter car windows without much noise. Thieves also sometimes unlock vehicles without setting off the alarm by jamming a screwdriver into the key hole and twisting it forcibly.
It's a good idea to not display labels that identify your security system on your vehicle because thieves can learn how to bypass that system.
Consider installing a second battery for your alarm system or using a hood lock to combat theft of mechanical parts under the hood. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

2014 Acura RLX: An Exciting New Approach

Acura has a new large sedan to carry the luxury brand forward, and competitors should beware - this one is pretty formidable.
The 2014 Acura RLX replaces the RL, and offers a completely new approach for the automaker.
It is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that makes 310 horsepower and is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. The RLX is front-wheel drive, but offers four-wheel steering, meaning the rear wheels can be turned in both directions, providing improved handling and agility. The RLX also features Agile Handling Assist, which creates smoother steering and can apply brakes to individual wheels. 
The ride was sportier than what we've become accustomed to in Acuras, while remaining quite refined.
Engine noise was virtually nil, and acceleration and braking were handled simply and comfortably.
On the outside, the RLX offers a sweeping front-to-back design that addresses some of the criticism that Acura has received in the past for boring designs that were basically glorified takes on its sister brand Honda's styles.
The LED headlights offer new styling, with bulbs clustered in each lamp.
The RLX comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, but 19-inchers are available.
We got a few head turns from bypassers when driving the car, from folks who might not have realized at first glance that they were seeing an Acura.
On the interior, leather seating is standard, with fancy perforated leather seats optional. Metal and imitation wood trim combine nicely throughout to present a classy, but not overstated look.
There are two display screens on the center console, with the larger one on top showing navigation or audio information and the smaller one below showing controls for climate and audio systems.
All the luxury technology you would expect is present, including three-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and USB/iPod docking.
Safety technology is also abundant, including blind spot monitoring and automatic braking if the sensors detect a crash that is about to occur.
This terrific package of luxury, technology and performance comes with a steep price tag - starting at around $50,000 and ranging into the $60,000 neighborhood.
But get a look at this ride up close, then get behind the wheel, and you'll see that it is a worthy offering indeed.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Quick Glance: 2014 Toyota Corolla

Toyota brought its newly redesigned Corolla compact car to Atlanta for a sneak peek recently, touting the all-new styling and roominess among other features on the 2014 model.
Corolla was the nation's 10th-best-selling vehicle in July (and that's the outgoing 2013 model), according to news reports.
It has remained exceptionally popular over the course of more than 40 years on the market.
However, it's never been known as the most exciting or dramatic vehicle.
You want good, basic transportation?
Get a Corolla, the thinking goes.
But Toyota hopes to change that with this model, adding what it calls more of an "emotional" connection with the vehicle and car buyers.
Almost four of 10 Toyotas sold in the U.S. since 1968 have been Corollas, nearly 10 million total. So brand recognition is not a problem.
And reliability hasn't been much of a problem either. About 4.5 million Corollas are still being driven.
The new Corolla is half an inch lower and was lengthened by 3 inches on a wheelbase that's 4 inches longer, Toyota says. At the front, there's a large lower grille and more of an aggressive appearance for the headlights, which are standard energy-efficient LEDs.
The Corolla offers more interior room - the longer wheelbase and extra length of the car went mostly into the back seat, where there now are 3 inches more legroom, Toyota says.
 Toyota also said driving dynamics have improved on the Corolla.
We didn't get a chance to take one out for a spin, but hope to do so soon.
But suffice it to say that sporty driving has never been the Corolla's strongsuit, and it's possible that most Corolla buyers haven't cared about that and won't care about it.
As long as it remains good transportation, with a more modern styling, it should continue to sell well.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

2013 Honda Fit: A Most Intelligent Choice

You know that hotel chain with the TV commercials that say you become smart just by staying in their rooms?
You could call the 2013 Honda Fit the automotive equivalent of that.
When you drive the Fit, you just feel like you're a little smarter, because you're spending only pennies on gasoline, getting a very reliable vehicle and enjoying a big dose of practicality, despite its small size.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

3 Great Choices for Back to School Vehicles

Looking for great choices for back-to-school vehicles for a college student?
Check out these selections, which can be had relatively inexpensively as used models.


The Mazda3 comes as a sporty sedan or a five-door hatch, with the latter version offering 43.8 cubic feet of cargo space for stuff that students haul. Along with its sporty driving characteristics, it offers terrific fuel economy from the late 2000s models, garnering about 28 mpg highway from the four-cylinder engine.


The Toyota Corolla is one of the standard bearers among small cars, and with good reason. It has an outstanding reliability record (with only a few exceptions) and gets great gas mileage.


Continuing the theme of reliable vehicles with good gas mileage, the Focus makes sense on many levels, and can be had for a reasonable price for late 2000s model year versions.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013 Toyota Prius v: A Victory for Green, Family Transportation

You've always wanted to go green when it comes to your ride. But you've got a family, featuring a spouse or partner, a kid or two and maybe even a pet.
A compact hybrid won't work, nor will a big hybrid SUV - it's too large and costly.
So how about a Toyota Prius v?
The Prius v is the larger, more practical sibling to the Prius, the most famous hybrid.
A couple of years ago, Toyota realized that as much as people loved the Prius, it was a little too cramped for some folks.
Enter the Prius v, with more room for people and cargo, but still with great fuel economy.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nissan Touts Success of All-Electric Leaf

Representatives from Nissan recently visited Atlanta to share updates on the automaker’s Leaf all-electric vehicle, including the fact that the company has sold its 100,000th Leaf to a metro Atlanta woman.
The Leaf has been on the market since late 2010, and has posted steadily rising sales since, Nissan officials said.
"We expect demand to keep growing as the charging infrastructure develops – and we remain 100 percent committed to zero-emission technology for the long term," Renault-Nissan Alliance Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn said in a news release. Renault-Nissan has sold more zero-emission vehicles than all other major automakers combined.
The buyer of the 100,000th Leaf was identified by Nissan as Allison Howard, a graduate student at Kennesaw State University. "It just drives perfectly," Howard said in a news release. "It's so cool. I love it. The fact that it's all electric and I don't have to spend money on gas as a college student, that's great."
Nissan officials said that Atlanta is one of the Leaf’s top U.S. markets, along with cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu. Buyers in Georgia receive tax credits that substantially lower the cost of the vehicle, as well as the ability to use High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in the metro area’s crowded roads, even when the driver is alone.
The Leaf is a plug-in car that gets its charge from charging stations or wall outlets. It stores energy in a lithium-ion battery, and can be "topped off" at any charge point. They can also be fully recharged overnight at the Leaf owner’s home, garage or in a parking deck.
Nissan officials said the automaker is working with government authorities, utility companies and others to expand charging stations that would let drivers recharge their cars from zero to 80 percent capacity in less than 30 minutes.
Nissan offers a smart phone app that allows users to see where the nearest charging stations are.
The company says Leaf has 75-80 miles of range from a four-hour charge at 240 volts.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

2014 BMW M6 Makes a Powerful Statement

When you first get a glance at the BMW M6, it's natural for your mind to start, well, racing with anticipation.
And even though the actual behind the wheel experience might not be an exact match with what you first envisioned, this car is still quite a handful.
The M6 comes as a coupe, which the tester was, a four-door Gran Coupe or a soft-top convertible.
Under the hood is a turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 engine that makes an astounding 560 horsepower and 500 pounds-feet of torque. It is linked to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, but a six-speed manual is offered as an option.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Ford Sued over MyFordTouch Problems

The Center for Defensive Driving has filed a lawsuit against Ford alleging that the automaker's MyFordTouch infotainment system is faulty and that the company willfully hid flaws and touted the system as being fully operational. The nonprofit organization is asking for more than $5 million in damages.

The class-action suit says that Ford persisted in selling vehicles equipped with MyFordTouch, despite Ford CEO Alan Mulally publicly saying that the system was flawed.

The group said it leased a Ford F-150 Lariat pickup featuring MyFord Touch in February. By July 1, the suit says, the system had failed 27 times. The group then said it sought for Ford to take back the vehicle, and Ford allegedly declined and referred the group to a Sync website for troubleshooting.

"The system has been an unmitigated disaster for Ford," news reports say the lawsuit alleges. "The Internet is replete with complaints from Ford owners who have experienced significant problems with the system."

Ford has seen its quality ratings plunge as a result of problems with MyFordTouch, with Consumer Reports rating it No. 26 among 27 brands in reliability late last year.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ford to Offer F-150 with Natural Gas Capability

Ford announced that it will offer a version of its 2014 model year F-150 pickup truck with the ability to run on compressed natural gas, which the manufacturer says will be the only half-ton pickup on the market with that capability.

The 2014 Ford F-150 with a 3.7-liter V6 engine will be available this fall with separate fuel systems that allow it to operate on either natural gas or gasoline.

Ford says F-150s equipped with the natural gas package can achieve more than 750 miles on one tank of gas, depending on the tank size selected. The Ford F-150 averages 23 mpg on the highway.

“Businesses and fleet customers have been asking Ford to make F-150 available with CNG capability to take advantage of the fuel’s low price and clean emissions,” Jon Coleman, Ford fleet sustainability and technology manager, said in a news release. “With the money saved using CNG, customers could start to see payback on their investment in as little as 24 to 36 months.”

Ford says natural gas engine preparation from the factory costs approximately $315. Customers then must choose a Ford "qualified vehicle modifier" to supply fuel tanks, fuel lines and unique fuel injectors, which costs an additional $7,500 - $9,500, depending on fuel tank capacity.

Ford says converting a truck to natural gas capability can provide stability against fluctuating fuel prices and cut vehicle operating costs for fleet administrators. CNG sells for an average of $2.11 per gallon of gasoline equivalent, and is as low as $1 in some parts of the country, representing a significant savings over unleaded regular fuel, Ford said. The national average for unleaded regular fuel is $3.66 per gallon.

The company said that in the next year, it will offer eight commercial vehicles with the natural gas option.

Ford says it is on pace to sell more than 15,000 CNG-prepped vehicles this year, an increase of more than 25 percent from 2012.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

VW Sales Goals in Doubt

Volkswagen has seen U.S. sales drop this year, raising questions among automotive analysts as to whether it remains on track to meet its stated goal of leading global automakers in sales, production and earnings by 2018.
The German automaker took aim at that mark in 2010, amid a fledgling economic recovery in the United States and continued uncertainty in Europe.
Since then, Europe's economy has been buffeted by crises in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland, and the recovery in the United States has proceeded tepidly.
As such, while the auto industry has largely recovered from the depths of a severe slump that came amid the Great Recession, it's been hard for any automaker to post dramatic enough gains to enable huge leaps up the sales and production charts.
For VW, problems also persist with its perceived quality and reliability.
Recent rankings by J.D. Power and Associates once again placed VW in the below average category in quality.
And though it has seen impressive sales gains from its Jetta small sedan, competition from other brands in that segment, and a reinvigorated truck and crossover SUV segment have meant only limited impact from Jetta's uptick.