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  • 2015 Lincoln Navigator

    Posted on March 26th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Lincoln’s full-size SUV is more than a pretty face

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Lincoln Navigator

    2015 Lincoln Navigator

    This year Lincoln introduces an all-new Navigator full-size sport-utility vehicle, building on the original formula with significant improvements to fuel economy, ride, handling and infotainment technology. First and foremost is a new twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that delivers 380 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of peak torque. By comparison, the considerably larger 5.4-liter V-8 in the original 1998 model delivered 230-horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque.

    In addition to producing thirty percent more power, the new EcoBoost block is significantly thriftier at the fuel pump, averaging 18 miles-per-gallon for the rear-wheel drive model and 17 for the four-by-four test car. By comparison, the ’98 model puttered along at 12 miles-per-gallon.

    Designers refreshed the exterior with a new hood and LED lighting. Standard daytime running lamps make the SUV easier to see on winding canyon roads while adaptive front headlamps light the corners of dark rural roads at night.

    Pricing for the four-wheel drive standard wheelbase car tested begins at $66,055 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include a reserve option package that adds Lincoln drive control, 22-inch alloy rims and power running boards and special paint. Final MSRP is $73,395. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

    Posted on March 18th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Compact sedan is big on fuel economy

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

    2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

    Twenty years ago, if somebody told me I could average 40 miles-per-gallon in a passenger car I’d have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Thanks to new clean diesel technology, engineers are able to imbue today’s cars and trucks with fuel economy unimaginable in decades past.

    The newest member of Chevrolet’s compact Cruze sedan family is a perfect example, averaging 46 miles-per-gallon on the highway according to the EPA. During my 140-mile test drive that included surface streets as well as highways, I averaged 41.

    The Cruze was Chevrolet’s replacement for the Cobalt when it debuted in 2010. This year the automaker does a styling refresh on all models except the base LS and adds 4G LTE. Twenty-fifteen models are also pre-wired for Siri.

    Base price for the turbo-diesel car is $25,660 excluding the $825 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include remote vehicle start, leather seating, heated front seats, 60/40 split folding second-row seat, air conditioning, a driver information display in the gauge cluster, tilt-and-telescoping steering column, air conditioning, OnStar, satellite radio and Chevrolet MyLink.

    The test car is equipped with several option packages adding a power sunroof, premium audio system, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rearview camera and heated outside mirrors, bringing the final MSRP to $29,430. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Chrysler/Toyota Win Top Spots at TAWA Roundup

    Posted on March 17th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    OEMs bring over 50 vehicle entries to March ride-and-drive event

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Major League Photography

    Photo courtesy of Major League Photography

    Everything is bigger in Texas. From bighorn steers to ten-gallon hats, the Lone Star state is the land of supersizing.

    This includes the weather. Because north Texas lies in the path of the Jetstream, the area gets a lot of wintery weather other sections of the southwest miss. People who live in north Texas are used to this, so Plan A always includes a Plan B.

    When pouring rain, wind and forty-degree temperatures on the day of the Spring Roundup put the kibosh on hot laps at Texas Motor Speedway, members of the Texas Auto Writers Association donned their thinking caps and executed Plan B.

    And although journalists missed the opportunity to drive supercars such as the Dodge Viper, Nissan GT-R and Chevrolet Corvette on the track, neither the cars nor program attendees spent much time in the garages. Everyone had a good day of driving. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chevrolet Trax-LS FWD

    Posted on March 16th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Compact crossover with new connectivity features

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chevrolet Trax

    2015 Chevrolet Trax

    Life is plan B. I thought about this sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the interstate outside Fort Worth, Texas, as I scanned the horizon for signs of clearing. It had been a plan B week and from what I could see, things were not getting better. Fortunately the car I was driving, the new Chevrolet Trax compact crossover is engineered to embrace the unexpected.

    The adventure began two days prior, descending into Dallas Love Field through a blanket of clouds. As is typical for business travel, I had come half prepared, armed with enough clothes and an itinerary including two events: the first, the Texas Auto Writers Spring Roundup, and the second, a Volkswagen ride-and-drive 200 miles to the southeast in Austin. Entering the Trax curbside, I realized I had no idea beyond the airport exit sign of how to get to my first destination.

    Nor did I have an abundance of time, having chosen the last direct flight out. If things went swimmingly, the window upon arriving at the hotel would be just enough to dump my suitcase in the room before dinner.

    I pressed the blue OnStar button below the rearview mirror and within a minute a cheerful voice came over the speakerphone. The OnStar rep downloaded directions into the car and I was on my way. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TSI

    Posted on March 13th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    New activity vehicle joins the Golf family

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

    2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

    For athletes, a car is more than transportation: it is also, in a sense, a giant gym bag- its cargo capability every bit as important as performance. The fact that the former Jetta SportWagen could deliver on both fronts made it a perennial favorite at our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year competition. The new Golf model, based on the same MQB architecture as its hatchback siblings, promises to do the same.

    The SportWagen comes with a choice of two engines: a 1.8-liter 170-horsepower gasoline block and 150-horsepower turbo-diesel. Buyers can choose between a five-speed manual gearbox and six-speed automatic for the TSI model. The turbo-diesel comes with either a six-speed manual gearbox or the six-speed automatic transmission.

    Pricing for the base S grade gasoline car begins at $21,395, excluding the $820 destination charge. Standard equipment includes fifteen-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lamps, heated side mirrors, a cooled locking glovebox, leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, satellite radio, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and cruise control.

    The upscale SEL priced from $29,345 adds automatic dual-zone climate control, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, formula-style shift paddles for automatic transmission cars, rearview camera, navigation, Fender premium audio, Bluetooth interface, keyless entry with pushbutton start and cruise control.

    A split-folding second-row seat across the model lineup lengthens the cargo floor. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Acura TLX 3.5L SH-AWD Advance

    Posted on March 12th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Sport sedan debuts new engine/transmission technology

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Acura TLX

    2015 Acura TLX

    Both Honda and Acura have accrued loyal followings by their conservative approach to product, with understated styling and a focus on safety. But where competitors have fallen into the appliance-on-wheels trap, Acura’s driver-focused technology has earned the automaker high marks among car enthusiasts. While the TLX’s elegant styling functions well in a suit-and-tie world, the sedan is a bit of racecar in its heart.

    The all-new 2015 model features two brand new engines and two new transmissions. The front-wheel drive car is available with a choice of the 206-horsepower 2.4-liter direct injection block mated to a dual-clutch eight speed automatic transmission or the 390-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, paired with a nine-speed automatic. The super-handling all-wheel drive car comes exclusively with the V-6.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive test car, equipped with technology and advance option packages, is $44,700. The technology option adds navigation with voice recognition and rearview camera, AcuraLink telematics with real-time traffic and weather updates, HD radio, leather upholstery, blind spot detection, forward collision warning, lane keep assist and rear cross traffic monitoring.

    The advance package includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, remote engine start, LED fog lamps, road departure mitigation, and ventilated front seats. Final MSRP including the $895 destination charge is $45,595. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

    Posted on March 6th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Compact luxury crossover is styled to stand out

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Lexus NX 200t

    2015 Lexus NX 200t

    Although the addition of a compact crossover to the Lexus lineup came as no surprise, the car itself is a radical departure from the brand’s other models. When Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company founder, took the reigns as CEO, he promised to revolutionize the brand with his own passion for driving.

    To his credit, he has delivered in every sense of the word, with a new generation of Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles that are youthful, stylish and fun to drive. The new Lexus NX comes straight from the heart, with a bold, sensuous exterior, driver-focused cockpit, and new turbocharged engine combining exceptional power and fuel economy.

    Buyers can choose from two available powertrains, front or all-wheel drive, giving the NX broad-based appeal. The two-liter turbocharged engine delivers 235 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid model combines a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle gasoline engine with electric motors to mimic the power of a conventional V-6 engine.

    The all-wheel drive version uses a separate electric motor to drive the rear axle when needed. The continuously variable automatic transmission has a new kick-down feature to better mimic the performance of a traditional step unit.

    The test car is the front-wheel drive NX 200t F Sport priced from $36,550. Options include Qi wireless charging, F Sport comfort package that adds a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and ten-way power driver’s seat, 18-inch F Sport wheels with summer performance tires, navigation with Lexus Enform and premium audio, blind spot monitoring, intuitive park assist, power liftgate, power moonroof and cargo mats, bringing the final MSRP to $43,398. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

    Posted on March 2nd, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Premium midsize sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Hyundai Sonata

    2015 Hyundai Sonata

    Over the past two decades, Hyundai has evolved from loss leader to value leader, replacing its initial lineup of inexpensive cars with premium products that offer value content. The all-new 2015 Sonata midsize sedan is a case in point, rivaling luxury models in terms of performance, build quality, safety and convenience features but priced firmly within the premium segment.

    Product planners divided the market for the Sonata into a more conservative, amenity-focused group and a second segment more concerned with driving dynamics. The premium SE grade appeals to the former group while the Sonata Sport, with features such as a flat-bottom steering wheel inspired by Formula One racing, targets the second. There is also a Limited model for those wanting more luxury.

    The test car is the Sport model with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine: one of two available blocks. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The two-liter four-cylinder engine is the smaller of the two blocks but turbocharging gives it the best power: 245-horsepower as compared to 185 for the naturally aspirated 2.4-cylinder. The difference in torque is even more significant, with the turbocharged block topping off at 260 foot-pounds, available from 1350 rpm.

    Base price for the test car is $28,575 excluding the $810 destination charge. Standard safety and convenience features include daytime running lamps, blind spot detection, a rearview camera, hands-free smart trunk opener, leather seating, power driver’s seat with lower lumbar support, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, Blue Link telematics and connected care.

    A premium option package adds a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, rear park assist, driver’s seat position memory, navigation, LED interior lighting and premium audio system. Final MSRP is $34,460. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Lincoln MKC

    Posted on February 27th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Compact luxury crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Lincoln MKC

    2015 Lincoln MKC

    Crossovers run the risk of being jacks-of-all-trades and experts at none. They are to the car world what cross trainers are to the shoe world: carrying people and their stuff through rain, sleet, snow and occasionally mud, as work-a-day commuters and weekend warriors.

    Creating a car to meet all these needs isn’t particularly difficult, but giving it passion is the supreme challenge. It’s not the technology behind the MKC that makes the car so special, although features such as the 285-horsepower EcoBoost engine and push-button transmission don’t hurt. What makes the MKC magical is its ability to connect with the driver: something multi-passenger vehicles very rarely do.

    Getting behind the wheel of the new MKC, I instantly sensed kinesthesia between my hands and the steering wheel, my spine with the seatbacks, and my feet with the pedals. The car engaged my mind and body in a manner that was nothing short of exhilarating.

    This is not to say that the Lincoln MKC is a sports car in a crossover body. But it manages to make features that seem intrusive on competitive products completely intuitive. For example, the lane departure warning and assist system gently guides the driver back to the center of the lane when he starts to stray, with gentle haptic feedback. The 2.3-liter turbocharged engine achieves its fuel economy targets regardless of how hard the driver pushes the car, and the transmission saves space without forcing its user through a new learning curve.

    All-wheel drive makes the MKC a four-season vehicle. In the winter, an app enables the driver to start the car remotely and pre-heat it. Active park assist with available park-out assist will automatically pull the vehicle into a parallel parking spot on the street. Drivers who park in public garages and lots can use the rearview camera to monitor cross traffic, making it easier and safer to back out.

    Base price for the test car with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine is $40,860. Options include the ruby red exterior paint, active park assist, premium audio system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, forward collision warning, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control. Final MSRP is $49,265. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport AWC

    Posted on February 23rd, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Five-passenger crossover goes off the grid

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    The original Mitsubishi Outlander was based on a Japan-market car called the Airtrek that debuted in 2001. The version that came to the US featured a restyled front end, but was, at heart, more Asian than American. The car’s significance was its orientation, as one of the first vehicles to blur the lines between off-road oriented sport-utility vehicles and passenger cars: the segment now known as crossovers.

    The current Outlander is the third iteration of the car, available in both front and all-wheel drive configurations. For 2015, Mitsubishi has added a more powerful 2.4-liter block as an optional upgrade from the base two-liter four-cylinder block.

    Twenty-fifteen models also feature a new continuously variable automatic transmission engineered to mimic a traditional seven-speed step transmission. The Outlander Sport is one of the most affordable compact crossovers on the market with a base MSRP below $20,000 when equipped with the five-speed manual transmission.

    The upscale SE grade with all-wheel control tested starts at $24,195 excluding the $850 destination charge. A $4,900 touring package adds leather seating, navigation with real-time weather and traffic updates, Rockford Fosgate premium audio system, power driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof and roof rails, bringing the final MSRP to $29,945 Read the rest of this entry »