Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sneak Peek at the 2014 Acura MDX

Acura has come out with a new version of its MDX for the 2014 model year, and the SUV offers revised styling, better fuel economy and other convenience upgrades.
Atlanta media members got to check out the vehicle recently, as Acura officials visited to sing its praises.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2013 Toyota Avalon: Call It a Comeback

With a major redesign, the 2013 Toyota Avalon seems to have found the fountain of youth.

Now Toyota hopes younger buyers will find its large sedan much more appealing.

The Avalon has been seen over the years as a pleasant car, but one that was rather boring, stodgy and designed for older folks who cared little for styling or driving performance.

If this sounds familiar, you make recall that Buick had the same perception problem with most of its vehicle lineup until just a few years ago.

So taking a page from the Buick playbook, Toyota gives the Avalon a much more dramatic exterior appearance that features athletic body enhancements and sweeping lines.


Friday, June 21, 2013

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid: It Zips and it Sips

If you're in the market for a powerful car that gets great fuel economy, it would be hard for you to beat the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid.
With impressive horsepower and torque, and eye-popping fuel efficiency numbers, the Jetta Hybrid is a total package.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

If You're in the Market for a Truck, Now's a Great Time to Buy

Thanks to an economy that is coming back to life, vehicle sales have been on the rise in recent months. And one category that has really seen some nice gains is pickup trucks. A higher level of construction activity and a rebound in the housing market have sparked more demand for trucks.

But despite that higher demand, you can still get great deals.

A number of truckmakers are offering manufacturer’s rebates and cash incentives, as well as special leasing offers. And with the end of the month approaching, dealers are often eager to slash their inventory.

Check out the following examples, which assume an interest rate of 3 percent on 60-month loans.

Nissan has been cutting prices throughout its fleet recently, and trucks are included. The 2013 Nissan Titan King Cab can be had for a discount of 15.6 percent, from the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $32,695, down to around $27,554. With that, you could put 20 percent down ($5,511) and you'd have monthly payments of less than $400 on a 60 month loan.

You can get up to 12.8 percent off the Ram 1500 Express Crew Cab, or nearly $4,325, down to $29,405 from $33,730. The Ram's power, storage capabilities and amenities make it an appealing choice.

If you're more into the worldwide leader, the Ford F-150, get an 11.6 percent trim off the $40,340 MSRP on a SuperCrew Lariat. That amounts to a discount of $4,692, meaning you pay $35,648 for this very nicely equipped workhorse. Put down $7,130 and you'll have a monthly payment of $512 over 60 months.

Toyota's Tundra CrewMax can be had for $28,080 after you get the 11.2 percent discount from its $31,630 MSRP. Put down $5,616 and you'll have a monthly payment right around $404.

Finally, fans of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Extended Cab can knock 10.6 percent off the $28,610 MSRP, sliding the price down to a very reasonable $25,573. Put $5,115 down and you can have monthly payments of  $368.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

2013 Volkswagen Jetta: Fun, Fuel Efficient, But Will it Hold Up?

The Volkswagen Jetta has a long and uneven history as a small sedan. It has been known as fun to drive and pretty frugal when it comes to fuel consumption. It’s also been known to have numerous quality and reliability issues.

In recent years, VW has tried to address those problems, while still creating a stylish and energetic car for those who want to drive something sporty, but want practicality and a reasonable price tag.

The latest model, the 2013 Jetta, seems to hit those marks, and while it’s way too soon to speak to its reliability, it is fair to say that VW has done slightly better in most quality surveys over the past few years. It still has some work to do, though.

The Jetta comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 115 horsepower, or a 2.5-liter five-cylinder that makes 170 ponies. But our tester had the third option, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 140 horsepower and 236 pounds-feet of torque. The gas engines are mated to a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, while the diesel has a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013 Subaru Impreza WRX: A Toy for the Road

Do you want a tuner car, without having to do the tuning yourself? You’re in luck, as Subaru offers its Impreza WRX, a sedan or hatchback that’s built almost strictly for performance.

A tuner is a car, most frequently imported, that has performance and design modifications that make it pretty much a race car.

It’s hard to see the WRX as anything but a performance ride, with its design, which features a scoop hood, rear spoiler and lines that hunch downward aggressively.

The WRX also has an extra-sport tuned version, the WRX STi.


Friday, June 14, 2013

2013 Chevrolet Malibu: It's Better, and They Really Mean It

For the 2013 model year, Chevrolet has rolled out a new version of its Malibu midsize sedan, which it says improves on the last version of the car. Stay tuned, though, as Chevy has also given a heads up that another version is on the way for the 2014 model year, coming in the fall.

You may have noticed that automakers never say “We’ve got a new version coming out for this model year, but it’s actually a couple of notches below the last model. We made the styling a little uglier, downgraded the engine and made fuel economy much worse.”

So how do you know when a new version really is improved?

You can check out all the cars yourself, or just continue reading our reviews (which is probably a little easier).

Short answer is yes, this Malibu really is better.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

2014 Audi A8: Luxury and Size Define this Sedan

If you like your sedans large and luxurious, you’ll probably love the 2014 Audi A8.

This ride features a full slate of technology items, plenty of style amenities inside and a powerful lineup of engines.

Satellite navigation and Bose premium sound system are standard, and available are items such as parking assist, adaptive cruise control and lane-change assist. The interior is elegant, with wood and leather trim and subtle lighting throughout the cabin that is functional and decorative. A panoramic sunroof is optional.

The engine choices begin with a 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 333 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque. It is rated at 18 mpg city, 28 highway. There is also a 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8 that makes 420 horsepower and 444 pounds-feet of torque. It is rated at 17 and 28 mpg. There is a behemoth 6.3-liter 12-cylinder engine that makes 500 ponies and 463 pounds-feet and gets 13 mpg city, 21 highway. Finally, the tester came with a six-cylinder 3.0-liter TDI clean diesel engine that makes 240 horsepower and 406 pounds-feet of torque, with impressive fuel economy ratings of 24 and 36. 

Each power plant is linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the A8 features Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system standard.

There is also a button that enables you to choose from normal, economy and sport driving modes.

Both front and rear seat passengers will find plenty of leg and head room, but if you want to beef that up even more, you can select the extended wheel-base version.

Driving dynamics are typically Audi-like, meaning despite the fact that this is a large sedan, it is unafraid to aggressively take on corners. Acceleration and braking are also top notch.

One thing you won’t find on this Audi is a small price tag. The A8 starts at around $75,000 and ranges to about $140,000.

Yes, we know, you can buy a home for that much, but that home is unlikely to drive as nicely as an A8.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First Look: 2014 Lexus IS Sedan

For Atlanta Auto Beat

PINEHURST, N.C. -- The entry level sport sedan segment is one of the most hotly contested arenas in the auto industry, and with good reason. Modern sport sedans must do it all: haul adults, haul kids, haul ... well, let's say go fast, and return respectable fuel economy and impress with their looks inside and out.

Lexus has had its IS model in the United States for just over a decade and for model year 2014 is bringing out the big guns with the third generation of the car.

Lexus was so eager to show off the 2014 IS that I was invited to the historic Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina for a launch that was one part luxury lifestyle suarez and one part performance driving event. We would see what sort of performance chops the new IS250 and IS350 have by flinging them around Rockingham Speedway - a former NASCAR oval track.

Prior to jumping behind the wheel, the contrast of new versus old was more than striking. Side by side, the 2014 IS feels more distinctive and carries a more purposeful stance as opposed to the somewhat generic and, frankly, bland outgoing IS, which was on display. The distinction of the new IS comes by way of the new trademark Lexus “spindle” grille up front flanked by optional LED-laden swishes which double as both accents to the headlamps as well as function as running lights. The front of the car is a bit of a nod to the front of the current generation GS (and styling of other Lexus models) with a similarly aggressive, angular front air dam on the F Sport-equipped cars.

Slipping behind the wheel, the interior feels as refreshingly different as the exterior. The most notable elements are heavy design cues in the center stack and dashboard lifted straight from the LFA, Lexus’ mind-bending hyper car, and that’s a great thing. The central gauge is also lifted from the LFA and while a bit silly, had everyone ogling it as it would illuminate based upon the “mode” dialed into the car.

In the 2014 IS interior, the front seats feel very much like those in a cockpit versus the slab-like seats of the old car. All controls are visible and never more than a short reach away. The cockpit feeling is amplified as Lexus has dropped the seating position by 20mm for the driver’s hips, simultaneously improving access to controls as well as improving the overall seating position. At 6’4”, I found the new IS to provide far more headroom, as I was nearly touching the headliner in the old model. I welcomed the fact that the fighter jet-style interior shrank around me compared to most cars in this class that have open expanses of unused interior space. The IS’s interior feels well-aimed at a younger demographic, which could potentially be off-putting to fans of the outgoing IS.

Taking to the track in the IS350 F Sport, the steering was numb and fairly vague though it carried a nice weight to it at speed. Unexpectedly, while the steering wasn’t as tactile as I would like, I found the chassis to be quite communicative. The dynamics of the car were aided by the fact that Lexus took the rear suspension of the latest GS F Sport and tucked it under the rear haunches of the 2014 IS. Jumping from new to old was terrifying, though. The outgoing IS350, by comparison, was a sloppy, understeering mess around the track, though it was an all-wheel-drive model.

For dynamics, the IS feels up there with the best of the cars in this segment and doesn’t put a wheel wrong when scooting around a track or twisty back road.

On back roads, at low speeds the car was quiet and comfortable, not to mention more spacious, as 1.6 inches of legroom were added to the rear seats. But accelerate and you could easily summon a metallic bark from the exhaust as the 3.5-liter V6 engine hustled us along an open expanse of asphalt.

My only disappointment with the interior came in playing with the optional navigation system and its dreadful mouse-like navigator used to input commands. Compared with the more simplistic dial used on Audi’s MMI system or BMW’s iDrive, the Lexus controller felt like a cheapish joystick that made adding a location more difficult and frustrating than it should have been. That, coupled with the lackluster interface of the system, was disappointing.

But Lexus offers a free permanent subscription to HD radio and real-time traffic and weather updates. Lexus also threw in cool, if not a little gimmicky, features like a gauge that tells you how near you are to the next turn or, when gas is running low, helps identify nearby gas stations. Overall, the system works well but could greatly benefit from a second look at how the user interacts with it.

In trying out the variety of cars present – the IS350, with or without the F Sport package, makes the most sense from a cost vs. reward perspective. While the IS250 is a great car, in the entry level model segment it will find very stiff competition from BMW’s split 320i/328i in pricing and performance. Therefore the IS350 is worth the nearly $5,000 premium, while still being a few grand less than the 335i. Beyond the options, the 8-speed automatic found only in the IS350 (rear-wheel-drive models only) proves a far better alternative to the not-so-intelligent legacy 6-speed automatic. In most cases the 8-speed gearbox, sourced from the outgoing IS-F, proved more than capable of actuating spot-on gear changes than those of the 6-speed. It’s a shame that the IS250 and all-wheel-drive models are excluded from using this wonderful box.

Lexus has made incredible leaps forward to keep the new IS competitive within the entry level sport sedan segment. It has aggressive, younger styling while on the inside offering a chic overhaul of the previously dull interior. The overhauled styling is matched by revitalized chassis dynamics thanks in part to the rear suspension of the GS F Sport and the trick VDIM system tying in all stability and control systems. Lexus missed the mark on some things, like the middle-of-the-pack fuel economy (combined MPG of 24 for the IS250 and 22MPG for the IS350) and the lackluster onboard system. Overall, though, the car will prove an excellent counterpoint to the German rivals. The 2014 IS has a bit of something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a tech-laden car to wow you or just something that can spice up the daily commute.