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.