Thursday, April 25, 2013

Audi A5: One Super Coupe

It’s hard to imagine a sportier or more attractive coupe (unless you’re talking exotics) than the 2013 Audi A5.

The A5 is the two-door sibling of the A4 sedan, and offers everything you’d expect in an Audi: a well-appointed interior, a sleekly shaped exterior and superb driving performance.

The A5, also available as a Cabriolet (convertible), has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 211 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque. The coupe has a six-speed transmission, available in manual or automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, with the Quattro all-wheel-drive system being optional.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

2013 Ford Fusion: Style and Fuel Economy in a Midsize Sedan

Over the past few years, Ford has managed to avoid having to take the government bailouts that its two U.S. counterparts accepted and overhauled its vehicle lineup to create a more fuel-efficient and stylish stable of cars.

As evidence of success in the latter task, witness the 2013 Ford Fusion.

This midsize sedan has always been fairly popular among consumers, with its reasonable price tag and solid reliability ratings.

But its design could never really be described as head-turning.

The ’13 model, though, takes aim at that challenge.

The recent success of the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata has raised the stakes in the midsize game. Now, it’s not enough to merely have good fuel economy and enough room to seat a handful of folks.

You’ve got to bring a little flavor to the table.

So Ford is serving a Fusion with a sleek hexagonal grille that tapers seamlessly to its headlights, a forward slashing side body line and a stylish rear that melds the trunk area nicely with its back window.

The Fusion’s base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower. But Ford has also dropped its EcoBoost turbo technology into a pair of Fusion engines, including a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 179 horsepower and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 237 ponies and can be had with all-wheel drive.

Both a six-speed automatic transmission and a six-speed manual (in the 1.6-liter) are available.

Each engine choice garners admirable fuel economy numbers, with the base model getting 22 mpg city, 34 highway, the 1.6 getting 25 and 37 (manual) and 23 and 36 (automatic) and the 2.0 getting 22 and 33. If you want even bettter fuel economy, check out the Fusion Hybrid, which makes 47 mpg combined city and highway.

The interior design is neat and certainly not gaudy. And Ford likes to boast of the technology it offers with the SYNC and MyFord Touch systems. The former is pretty good, and collaborates nicely with your smart phone to deliver information and calling services. But the latter can be a bit frustrating, as it is a touch-pad matrix of controls that isn’t easy at first to understand, then even afterward, can be difficult if you prefer the ease of using buttons.

Ford’s recent resurgence has, unfortunately for buyers, also resulted in a steady uptick in vehicle prices for the Blue Oval brand.

The Fusion starts at around $23,000 and ranges to nearly $35,000.

Compared with its competitors, the Fusion might not present the most solid value play.

But for a stylish sedan that gets good fuel economy, the Fusion is definitely worth a look.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hyundai Recall Latest Problem for Company

Hyundai said recently it is recalling nearly 1.9 million cars in the United States in response to a defective brake light switch and also suggested that it would globally address the problem, which could lead to an even higher number of vehicles for the recall.

The recall follows the company's recent admission that it overinflated the fuel economy numbers of some of its vehicles, possibly suggesting that the company is cutting corners in its quest to boost worldwide sales, experts said.
"Hyundai has built factories very fast around the globe until recent years, but its quality improvement has failed to keep up with its rapid volume growth," Kim Phill-soo, a professor at Daelim University College in Seoul, told Reuters.

"The latest recall highlighted loopholes in Hyundai's quality system."

John Tavius, a sales analyst with DriveTime in Atlanta, said the back-to-back damaging issues could leave Hyundai with a black eye.

"When people start turning away from a brand, sales can drop rapidly," he said, while adding that Hyundai had worked hard to overcome its previous reputation for substandard quality and that those efforts could be damaged.
An executive with a rival Asian automotive company said this his organization now views Hyundai as being vulnerable, not only because of the fuel economy fraud and recall, but also because of higher prices on its vehicles.
"We're looking at some real potential for sales gains at their expense," said the executive, who requested anonymity.
Hyundai dropped to 18th in a key quality survey by J.D. Power and Associates last year, from 11th in 2011.

Some of the company's newer vehicles have not performed as well as some models from past years, Dave Sargent, a vice president at J.D. Power, told Reuters.

Hyundai said it will conduct a recall, service campaign or other remedial actions in all countries where vehicles equipped with the faulty stop lamp switch have been sold.

Friday, April 5, 2013

2013 Lexus ES 350: Remade Sedan Remains a Winner

The Lexus ES 350 sedan has long been one of the more popular choices in the luxury sedan market. For the 2013 model year, it gets its first restyling since 2007, and the result should please longtime fans and perhaps win over a few new ones.

There is also now a hybrid version, the ES 300h. Our tester was the regular ES model.

The ES features a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The ES is rated at 21 mpg city, 31 highway.

The driver can choose a fuel-efficient or sport driving mode by pressing a button, depending on preference.

On the outside, the ES’s body is an inch longer and wheelbase is 1.8 inches longer. That added length brings about a half inch more space of legroom for rear seat passengers.

Up front, the control panel is easy to use, with knobs, rather than the annoying touch screen panels favored by a growing number of automakers today. There is also the Lexus Remote Touch control, that functions similar to a mouse and lets you control some settings.

For options, you can choose from premium stereo, backup camera and voice-activated navigation, among other items.

And safety options include lane-departure warning and precollision and blind-spot warnings.

The ES starts at around $39,000 and ranges into the low $40s.

For comfort, safety and an attractive design, the ES 350 is a great choice among luxury sedans.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chevrolet Sonic is Large Value in a Small Package

If you were a musical act and you had to follow on stage, say, Milli Vanilli, you probably wouldn’t feel too much pressure.

The Chevrolet Sonic shouldn’t feel too much pressure, either, as it has come onto the Chevy lineup as the replacement for the Aveo.

This subcompact comes as a sedan, hatchback or the new RS version, which offers an extra dose of sportiness in a five-door package.

You’ll notice styling in the Sonic that is similar to that of the Cruze, Chevy’s popular, slightly larger sedan.