Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT is a Hatchback Redefined

Take a look across the landscape of small hatchback cars today, and you'll be hard-pressed not to say "Wow, these little machines sure have come a long way."
Among those that are likely to catch your eye is the new Hyundai Elantra GT.
For the 2013 model year, this car has been redesigned and given a new moniker, as it was formerly called the Elantra Touring.
The previous version of that car came out in 2011, and while it wasn't bad looking, it certainly didn't reflect the advanced styling that Hyundai has adopted throughout its vehicle lineup in the past few years.
The Elantra GT is spot on.
This model has the "fluidic design" that Hyundai has hung its hat on, and gets a few special touches such as a sultry grille, projector headlights and a sculpted back end.
Sounds sexy, right?
It is, and this and other recent models in the hatchback category have come a long way from the stubby little boxes with abrupt front ends and flat backs that used to characterize the genre.
The Elantra GT is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower, just like its sedan and coupe siblings.
The transmission is a six-speed, available in manual or automatic.
Gas mileage is rated at 27 mpg city, 39 highway for the manual and 28 and 39 for the automatic.
But in a week of test driving in combined city and highway, our automatic model averaged a disappointing 25 mpg. 
The GT offers three driving modes, normal, comfort and sport, with the latter being designed to take advantage of the more rigid suspension and sharper steering included in the model.
Hyundai says the GT's standard features include power windows and locks, iPod/USB connectivity, heated front seats and steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls. Also standard are Bluetooth connectivity and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, which gives drivers navigational assistance and roadside help, among other features.
Options include a panoramic sunroof, push button start, backup camera and navigation system with a 7-inch screen. 
The Elantra GT starts at around $19,000 and ranges to around $25,500.
At that price point, it places itself at the high end of many of its competitor vehicles.
But with Hyundai's popularity (and resale value) rising, there will probably be a fair number of buyers willing to fork over the dough for this ride.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Lexus RX 350 Getting Better with Age

Lexus has sometimes referred to its RX 350 the original luxury crossover.
A quick check of the highways, streets and parking lots near you would probably bear this claim to be true, as you're likely to see quite a few models from years present and past.
For 2013, the five-seat RX has been given some improvements to its interior and exterior.

There’s also been a new version added, the RX 350 F Sport, for those who want a bit of a sportier ride.

On the inside, there’s a refreshed center console, maple wood trim, a new steering wheel and new accents near the glove compartment.

Lexus says 10-way power front seats with cloth upholstery are standard, with leather trim and soft, semi-aniline leather optional. A leather- and wood-trimmed steering wheel is also an option.

On the outside, the RX now has what Lexus calls its "spindle" grille design and its companion bumper, as well as new headlights and LED daytime running lights. The taillights also are modified.

The RX has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that makes 270 horsepower and is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional.

Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg in combined city/highway driving, or 20 with all-wheel drive.

The F Sport has exclusively all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. It was tuned by Lexus engineers to provide sportier handling and a tighter ride.

If you choose the F Sport model, you'll get a mesh grille, custom bumper and graphite-colored split-five-spoke 19-inch wheels. The standard wheel is an 18" alloy.

The F Sport also contains standard black-leather seats with white perforations and contrast stitching, a perforated-leather-wrapped steering wheel and aluminum pedals.

The RX has an array of entertainment devices such as USB and analog-audio inputs, Bluetooth wireless audio streaming and SiriusXM Satellite Radio with a three-month trial subscription.
If you have children, you might want to select the optional backseat video system with dual 7-inch screens that can show different videos. That can be a peace-keeper if you have youngsters who are prone to conflict.

Lexus says the 10 standard airbags include knee airbags and seat-mounted side-impact torso airbags for the front and outboard rear occupants. There is also a sensor that can open side curtain airbags if the vehicle rolls over.

Optional safety equipment includes a blind spot warning system, lane departure warning, precollision warning and a head-up display that helps keep driver's eyes on the road.

Friday, February 22, 2013

First Look: 2014 Kia Sorento

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When is a full makeover not such a full makeover? Maybe when you’re talking about the 2014 Kia Sorento. This crossover SUV is said to be totally redone, if you listen to the Korean automaker. But it sure looks similar to the previous version.

Well, at least to the naked eye it looks the same.

The Sorento gets a new chassis – the same one used by sister automaker Hyundai on its Santa Fe crossover.

Kia says the handling, ride and noise reduction have been improved. On a recent reveal event in Scottsdale for journalists, we got to take the Sorento out on highways traversing the desert.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

2013 GMC Acadia has Great Safety Features and New Styling

GMC hangs its hat on what it calls professional grade vehicles.

But that doesn't mean it has nothing to offer those in search of family transportation.

The 2013 Acadia, a large crossover, has gotten a facelift in its most recent iteration.

This vehicle, with seating for up to eight, has new safety technology and styling, making it a tough competitor among models in the family-sized SUV category.
The Acadia has a new design at its front and in the interior, and comes with a front center airbag, which isn't offered in other vehicles. It's designed to prevent driver and passenger from colliding in the event of a crash, as well as stabilizing both occupants so that they are not thrown about upon impact.

If you want to spend a bit more, you can get the Denali luxury trim, which the test-drive model was.

On the inside, the dashboard and console have been redesigned to include softer surfacing, which General Motors seems to be using more frequently.
There is also wood-patterned and satin-styled trim, and aluminum trim on the dash, console and doors of the SLT and Denali models.

The IntelliLink multimedia system, also found in GM's Buick brand, is featured, giving smartphone users the opportunity to connect their phone and stream Pandora and Stitcher audio.
On the outside, the new design presents a more sculpted hood and a grille with three bars and a squared-off shape.

Accompanying this large grille are squared headlights underlined by decorative air vents.
At the rear, there are corner posts (D-pillars, if you prefer) that are part of the wrap-around rear window, as well as a rear spoiler.

LED running lights are standard, and you may choose from 18-, 19- or 20-inch wheels.

The latter choice is found on the Denail trim, which also includes a chrome grille and panoramic sunroof.
The Acadia comes with front- or all-wheel drive and has a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that makes 288 horsepower and is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Gas mileage is not too bad for a vehicle of this size, with EPA rating of 17 mpg city, 24 highway for the front-wheel drive model and 16 and 23 with all-wheel.

The Acadia is a bit pricey, ranging from around $35,000 to about $49,000.

But if you want to haul the family around in style, and still enjoy practicality, convenience and good safety features, it's a good choice.

Friday, February 8, 2013

First Look: 2014 Kia Forte

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If you’re Kia, you’re undoubtedly proud of the continued momentum you’ve shown over the past few years that was built on much-improved vehicles with great designs.

The Optima midsize sedan has been a huge hit, the Rio subcompact has been well-received since its makeover and the redesigned Sportage has had success in the small crossover category.

But the Forte small sedan was, shall we say, lagging a bit.

Kia is addressing that now by introducing an all-new version of the Forte.