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  • 2018 Nissan 370Z Coupe Heritage Edition

    Posted on January 17th, 2018 ninarussin

    Affordable sports car stays true to its roots

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition

    2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition

    The Z two-seat sports coupe is Nissan’s most iconic model, with roots dating back to the Fairlady and 240Z. The 2018 370Z sees some exterior styling refinements, a heritage edition (tested), and a new high-performance clutch on the six-speed manual gearbox.

    The Z has always been, and remains a niche car. But with pricing starting below $30,000, it’s possibly the best bargain on the market for buyers wanting a true, affordable sports car.

    Power for the test car comes from a 3.7-liter 332-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed manual transmission. Standard convenience features include 18-inch alloy wheels, tilt steering column, keyless entry and start, automatic temperature control, bi-xenon headlamps, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth interface, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and tilt steering column.

    The heritage edition package adds $790 to the $29,900 base price. Final MSRP including carpeted floor mats and $885 destination is $31,795. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro

    Posted on January 10th, 2018 ninarussin

    Two-plus-two built for fun in the sun

    By Nina Russin

    Audi A5 Cabriolet

    Audi A5 Cabriolet

    Recently Audi introduced a cabriolet variant as the final member of the current-generation A5 family. As with its siblings, the A5 Coupe and Sportback, the cabriolet comes with standard quattro all-wheel drive, making it a great choice for buyers in four-season climates who need to navigate winter snowstorms but want a drop-top for the summer.

    Power comes from a two-liter, 273-horsepower engine and seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. A single button deploys the soft top and works at speeds up to about 30 miles-per-hour.

    The new model is slightly longer and wider than the car it replaces, but also lighter thanks to more use of lightweight body construction materials. Base price is $49,600 excluding the $975 destination charge.

    Options on the test car include a prestige package adding heated folding outside mirrors, satellite radio, heated power front seats with driver’s seat memory, LED headlamps, Bang & Olufsen audio system, top-view camera, LED interior lighting and navigation; ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist with traffic sign recognition, 19-inch alloy rims, adaptive suspension, walnut interior trim and a front air filter panel. Final MSRP is $65,050. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus RC F

    Posted on January 5th, 2018 ninarussin

    Sport coupe melds style and performance

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus RC F

    2017 Lexus RC F

    The Lexus RC F might be the car that convinces German car enthusiasts to consider changing camps. Like the RC coupe on which it’s based, the F-Sport is a driver’s car through and through: fast, nimble and unabashed, with its low, menacing stance and wide spindle grille. It looks like all business and in fact, it is.

    Power comes from a 467-horsepower V-8 engine that delivers 389 pound-feet of peak torque, mated to an eight-speed direct shift transmission. While its curb weight is higher than some of its competitors, the Lexus RC F has enough power to get in plenty of trouble, both on and off the track.

    Base price is $64,165 excluding delivery. Options on the test car include 19-inch alloy rims, LED headlamps, Mark Levinson audio system, heated and ventilated front seats with memory, blind spot monitoring and a trunk mat. Final MSRP is $80,445. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T S

    Posted on January 5th, 2018 ninarussin

    Compact crossover with three rows of seating

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    The Tiguan is the smallest member of Volkswagen’s crossover family, and one of the few crossovers in the compact segment to offer both three rows of seating and all-wheel drive. Like the larger Atlas, the Tiguan is built on the automaker’s new global modular transverse architecture. The second-generation Tiguan is ten inches longer than the original model creating room for the optional third row of seating with a small cargo area in back. Both second and third rows fold flat to extend the cargo floor. Buyers in four-season climates can also opt to add all-wheel drive for better traction on wet roads.

    The test car is the base S front-wheel drive model with the optional third row of seating, priced from $25,195 excluding destination. Power comes from a two-liter turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine rated at 184-horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

    Standard convenience features include 17-inch alloy rims, halogen headlamps with daytime running lamps, roof rails, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, manual climate control, rearview camera, Bluetooth interface, six-speaker audio system, cruise control and electronic parking brake. Final MSRP is $26,095. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Honda Civic Type R Touring

    Posted on December 22nd, 2017 ninarussin

    High-Performance Compact Sedan Lands Stateside

    By Nina Russin

    Honda Civic Type R

    Honda Civic Type R

    When Honda introduced the 10th-generation Civic to the US last year, it opened-up an opportunity to bring with it the Type R: a high-performance variant first introduced in Japan two decades back.

    The Type R is far more than a Civic Si on steroids. It’s a completely different animal, powered by a 306-horsepower iVTEC turbocharged engine with a six-speed manual gearbox. The Type R’s magic goes beyond its powerful engine and crisp, short-throw shifter. With improvements to torsional rigidity and suspension design, the Civic Type R is a high-performance sport sedan that needs to be taken seriously by European car aficionados.

    Pricing for the upscale Touring grade starts at $33,900 excluding the $875 destination charge. That might seem expensive for a model with pricing that starts below $20,000, but then again, this isn’t just an ordinary Civic, which is why dealerships are charging over MSRP for the few they can get their hands on.

    Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, 20-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, LED headlamps and tail lamps, an extremely large rear spoiler, special racing seats, premium audio system with navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth interface, USB ports, satellite radio, Pandora, 60/40 fold down rear seats, triple outlet exhaust and ground effects. Final MSRP is $34,775. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC

    Posted on December 14th, 2017 ninarussin

    Value-focused subcompact crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    It’s no secret that Mitsubishi has struggled to maintain its foothold in recent years, and as-a-result has shifted its focus from high-performance vehicles such as the Evo to bread-and-butter models including the Outlander and Outlander Sport crossovers. In-an-effort to lure customers back into the fold, the automaker adopted a value strategy that goes beyond pricing to include one of the best warranties in the industry that, unlike many competitors, is fully transferable.

    Still potential customers want to know if the cars Mitsubishi is producing are worth the investment. While the Outlander Sport’s $20,000 starting price is a bargain by anyone’s standards, it’s still a big chunk of money in a post 2008 economy where customers are still spending carefully.

    Mitsubishi has always had a reputation for producing sturdy engines and cars that can go the distance. Decades back, the now-discontinued Montero was a popular choice among off-road racers, including the grueling Paris-Dakar rally. The automaker continues in that tradition today. The 2.4-liter engine and continuously-variable automatic transmission that power the five-passenger Outlander Sport are well-engineered and well matched for years of good service.

    2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    The test car is the all-wheel drive SEL, priced from $25,895 excluding destination. Being the upscale grade, the SEL comes loaded with comfort and convenience features including keyless entry and start, high intensity discharge headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and tail lamps, roof rails, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, 60/40 split folding rear seat, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB ports, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seating and automatic climate control.

    A touring package on the test car adds lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation, automatic headlamps, Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system and a panoramic sunroof. Final MSRP including destination is $29,110. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2018 Jeep Wrangler

    Posted on December 13th, 2017 ninarussin

    Jeep’s familiar face becomes a radically different animal

    By Nina Russin

    All-new 2018 JeepĀ® Wrangler Rubicon, 1944 Jeep Willys-Overland MB and all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

    All-new 2018 JeepĀ® Wrangler Rubicon, 1944 Jeep Willys-Overland MB and all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

    To call the Jeep Wrangler the most iconic American car currently in production is no exaggeration. With roots dating back to the 1941 Willys-Overland MA/MB, the Jeep, with its toothy grille and round headlamps, is the face that launched a thousand ships to points once unreachable on four wheels. Every off-road vehicle produced since, from the Toyota FJ to the Land Rover, has somehow been influenced by the Jeep.

    For 2018 Jeep introduces an all-new model. While it retains its familiar face, there are some dramatic changes under the new Wrangler’s skin, as to the skin itself. In place of steel body panels one now finds aluminum and composite, making the car lighter and more fuel efficient. Glass areas are larger, the windshield more raked, and the rear-mounted spare moved lower to improve visibility out the back.

    The new Wrangler that rolls out in January comes with the second-generation Pentastar V-6 engine, with a two-liter turbo option coming several months later. Look for a diesel option in 2019. Buyers can choose between an eight-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual gearbox.

    There are three models- Sport, Sahara Unlimited and Rubicon- with pricing for the two-door V-6 Sport starting at $26,995 excluding the $1,195 destination charge. The four-door Sahara starts at $37,345, while the Rubicon that offers extended off-road capability is priced from $36,995. Top-of-the-line four-door Rubicon starts at $40,495. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus GS 350 F Sport

    Posted on November 20th, 2017 ninarussin

    Midsize sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus GS 350

    2017 Lexus GS 350

    It’s rare to find a car in the fifth year of its lifecycle that doesn’t feel dated. The Lexus GS is one of those rarities. When the fourth-generation car debuted for the 2012 model year, those of us familiar with the outgoing model were stunned by its performance, not because the outgoing version of the car was bad, but because the newest GS elevated Lexus to a new level. This as a car that could compete on a global stage with the best of what Germany had to offer.

    What makes the GS special is not just its power: that part is relatively easy. In the case of the 350, a 3.5-liter V-6 engine delivering 310 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift option. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 5.7-seconds according-to the manufacturer.

    The magic behind the GS is its balance. Whether the buyer opts for the rear-wheel drive model tested or the all-wheel drive version offering enhanced traction on wet roads, the sedan’s front-to-rear weight balance is close to perfect.

    2017 Lexus GS 350

    2017 Lexus GS 350

    Power into a decreasing radius turn at speed and its balance makes the Lexus GS ride on rails. The sedan becomes an extension of the driver: all he has-to do is point the car where he wants it to go.

    That kind of precision handling doesn’t come along every day; it’s what gives the GS sedan its staying power.

    The F Sport package adds special wheels, adaptive suspension, variable gear ratio steering with a sport plus mode, bigger brakes, special badging and interior trim. Base price is $54,810. Other options on the test car include a limited slip differential, Mark Levinson audio system, intuitive park assist, black brake calipers, four-wheel steering, leather steering wheel, floor and cargo mats. Final MSRP including the $975 destination charge is $60,305. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD Advance

    Posted on November 16th, 2017 ninarussin

    NSX technology gives three-row crossover a green footprint

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

    2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

    If you’re looking for a seven-passenger crossover with supercar technology and better-than-average fuel economy, the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid should be on the short list. Utilizing the same three-motor super-handling all-wheel drive system introduced on the new NSX sports car and RLX performance sedan, the MDX hybrid mates Acura’s three-liter V-6 gasoline engine to three electric motors- one up front and two in the back- to provide power to all four-wheels. Net system horsepower is 321, with 289 pound-feet of peak torque. Since electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, the MDX Sport Hybrid launches off the line like a rocket ship.

    A dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission employs friction couplings for the feel of a manual transmission, minus the extra foot pedal. Drivers can operate the gearbox in automatic mode or manually select gears using Formula One-style shift paddles on the steering wheel. While there are quite a few cars on the market with this type of transmission, very few are hybrids. The transmission’s quick, sharp shifts are a welcome relief from continuously variable automatic transmissions that leave the driver feeling disconnected from the wheels.

    2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

    2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

    The test car is the upscale Advance grade, priced from $58,000. Acura loads the premium grade with active safety and convenience features, saving shoppers from wading through lists of option packages. Standard features include a surround-view camera system, keyless entry and start, second-row captain’s chairs, ventilated and heated front seats, satellite radio, ten-way power driver’s seat with memory, LED fog lamps, roof rails and AcuraWatch: an active safety system adding adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning.

    Final MSRP including destination is $58,975 Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota C-HR

    Posted on November 14th, 2017 ninarussin

    Crossover combines versatility and affordability for young buyers

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    The all-new C-HR that debuts for the 2018 model year targets millennials with a combination of stylish exterior, versatile interior and affordable pricing. In a sense, the C-HR is to the current generation of young buyers what the Matrix was for their parents: a car that can take them through those quantum changes of life that happen right after college: new job, new home and perhaps a new family.

    The term, C-HR stands for ‘Coupe-High Rider’. The subcompact concept for the production vehicle originally debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show as Scion’s competitor to the Nissan Juke. Post-Scion, the production model carries the Toyota nameplate, but its edgy styling with an elongated front end, huge wheels and sharply angled roof reflects Scion’s youthful spirit.

    A contrasting white roof adds pizzazz to the test car’s aqua-colored exterior. Base price is $22,500 excluding the $960 destination charge. Options on the test car include the white roof, removable crossbars, tablet holder, carpeted floor mats and cargo mat, mudguards, emergency assistance kit, rear bumper protector and wheel locks. Final MSRP is $24,969. Read the rest of this entry »