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  • 2018 Lexus RX 450h

    Posted on September 7th, 2018 ninarussin

    Hybrid luxury for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus RX 450h

    The RX 450h is the gasoline/electric version of Lexus’ best-selling midsize crossover. Changes for the 2018 model year include a new premium option package adding power folding outside mirrors, premium leather upholstery and a rear armrest with storage box. Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect are now included for the first ten years of ownership.

    Power for the RX 450h comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and two electric motors. On the all-wheel drive version, separate motor generators drive each axle. That, combined with the fact that electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, gives the hybrid exceptional zero-to-sixty acceleration: 8.1 seconds according-to the manufacturer.

    Base price is $45,695 excluding destination. Options on the test car include the new premium package, Mark Levinson audio system, heads-up display and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, bringing the final MSRP to $54,515. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid Advance

    Posted on August 31st, 2018 ninarussin

    All-wheel drive eco-transport for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

    For those who can afford it, the question isn’t why would you buy the Acura MDX, but rather, why wouldn’t you? With an all-new powertrain based on the same technology as Acura’s NSX supercar, the green version of Acura’s three-row midsize crossover is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    A three-liter V-6 gasoline engine and three electric motors develop 321 net horsepower. Since electric motors develop peak power at very low speeds, the MDX also has a monstrous amount of torque. All-wheel drive gives the crossover four-season versatility and the ability to traverse unimproved roads. All this in a package that’s equally adept at holding people and gear of all sizes.

    Average fuel economy is 27 miles-per-gallon according-to EPA estimates. While fuel economy on the highway is similar-to the gasoline model, around town the hybrid powertrain is about eight miles-per-gallon better.

    Base price is $58,150 for the upscale, fully-loaded Advance model. Standard features include perforated leather upholstery with power heated front seats, driver’s seat memory, second-row captain’s chairs, tri-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, surround-view camera, power moonroof and tailgate, 20-inch alloy rims, ELS premium audio system with navigation and more. Final MSRP including the $995 destination charge is $59,145. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Lexus LS 500h

    Posted on August 24th, 2018 ninarussin

    Flagship hybrid sedan reinvented

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    When the first Lexus LS debuted at the North American International Auto Show in 1989, the automaker’s flagship sedan was really-more of a car to be driven in than a driver’s car. The sedan’s capacious rear seating area with features such as massaging rear seats was clearly intended for owners being chauffeured.

    That formula worked better in Japan than it did in the US, where drivers were looking for full-size luxury but with performance that could compete against the likes of the Audi A8 and BMW 7-Series. The newest LS 500 series that debuts for the 2018 model year is exactly that, with a distinctive road presence evident in both its styling and performance.

    What began life as one of the brand’s most conservatively styled sedans has become one of its boldest, with a large spindle grille up front, coupe-like aerodynamic profile, large wheels and low-profile tires. Buyers can opt between gasoline or gasoline-electric hybrid models.

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    Pricing for the gasoline-electric Lexus 500h starts at $82,730 excluding the $995 destination charge. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and two electric motor-generators, with zero-to-60 acceleration of 5.1 seconds. That’s slightly slower than the gas model with twin turbo V-6, but buyers benefit from a fuel economy advantage of about two miles-per-gallon.

    Options on the test car include an active safety system package adding pre-collision braking, active steering assist, front cross-traffic alert and road sign assist, adaptive air suspension, 20-inch alloy rims, LED adaptive front headlamps, Aniline leather upholstery, reclining rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control, Mark Levinson premium audio system, panoramic view monitor, premium wood interior trim and heated wood and leather steering wheel. Final MSRP is $107,720. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2019 Honda Insight Touring

    Posted on August 17th, 2018 ninarussin

    New hybrid sedan joins Honda’s green car lineup

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Honda Insight

    The first-generation Insight liftback was Honda’s first green car, coming to the states a year before the Toyota Prius it competes against. Over the years, the Insight maintained the five-door body style but grew-in-size and added more safety and convenience features.

    After twenty years on the market, the guys at Honda decided it was time for a change, introducing a sedan version for 2019. The newest Insight maintains the core values of its predecessors: affordable pricing and excellent fuel economy, but with styling that should appeal to a larger chunk of the American market.

    Pricing for the upscale Touring grade starts at $28,090. Honda loads the premium model with the convenience and safety features buyers want so they don’t have to add on expensive options. Keyless entry and start, leather upholstery, satellite radio, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth interface, 17-inch alloy rims and more all come standard. Final MSRP including destination is $28,985. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Kia Stinger

    Posted on August 10th, 2018 ninarussin

    Sport sedan appeals to the car enthusiast in all of us

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Kia Stinger RWD

    Kia has a talent for making the unobtainable obtainable. That’s the idea behind the new Stinger sport sedan that competes against German marques such as the Audi A5 and BMW 5-Series. With pricing starting at $31,900 (excluding destination) for the rear-wheel drive four-cylinder model, it’s an appealing proposition.

    Power comes from a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 255-horsepower and eight-speed automatic transmission. Zero-to-sixty acceleration, according-to the manufacturer, is 5.9 seconds. Buyers wanting more horses under the hood can opt for a 365-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6.

    Average fuel economy, according-to EPA estimates is 25 miles-per-gallon. The manufacturer recommends but does not require premium unleaded gasoline.

    Kia’s design genius, Peter Schreyer, penned the exterior based on the Kia GT concept that drew crowds at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2011. When journalists asked if Kia would actually-build something like that, the answer was: “Why not?”

    2018 Kia Stinger RWD

    In typical Kia fashion, the Stinger comes loaded with comfort and convenience features including leather upholstery, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, UVO infotainment, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, 18-inch rims, heated outside mirrors and LED tail lighting.

    An active safety option package on the test car adds forward collision warning with autonomous braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, automatic high beams, drowsy driver warning and rear cross traffic alert. Final MSRP including the $900 destination charge is $34,800. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota Sienna SE 3.5L

    Posted on August 3rd, 2018 ninarussin

    Versatile interior is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota Sienna

    The same thing that makes minivans great family cars- large configurable interiors- translates to athletes as well. Buyers who need to haul large gear as well as those who might want an interior large enough to sleep in the night before a stage race can’t do better than a minivan.

    The 2018 Toyota Sienna is basically a carryover from the refreshed 2017 car that featured a new, more powerful V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission to boost fuel efficiency. The upscale SE priced from $38,990 (excluding destination) comes loaded with convenience features including leather seating, second row captain’s chairs, three-zone climate control, power liftgate, Entune infotainment with Scout GPS-link for navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth and Easy Speak: a feature that broadcasts the driver’s voice through the rear speakers.

    Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, push button start, moonroof, premium audio system, iPod compatibility, HD radio, satellite radio, Entune app suite and carpeted floor mats. Final MSRP is $41,150. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Kia Sportage SX AWD

    Posted on July 27th, 2018 ninarussin

    Compact crossover delivers the goods

    By Nina Russin

    Kia Sportage

    Kia Sportage

    Although the Sportage is one of Kia’s oldest nameplates with heritage going back to the early 1990s, the current compact crossover represents a complete departure from the original SUV that completed the Paris-Dakar rally in 1993 and the Baja 1000 two years later. While the early Sportage was ideal for off-road competition, its performance on paved roads was less than perfect, hence the evolution towards the current unibody (passenger car) platform.

    What links the two models more than the name is their focus on value. While it would be difficult to determine whether-or-not the current Sportage is the best compact crossover in the ever-widening sea of options, it’s a solid performer that comes well equipped with convenience and active safety features.

    Pricing for the base front-wheel drive LX starts at $23,750: over $500 below the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V it competes against. The upscale SX all-wheel drive model tested is priced from $34,400 excluding the $990 destination charge. Adding a few options- cargo mat, cross bars, carpeted floor mats, cargo net, cover and cargo tray- final MSRP is $36,125. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door

    Posted on July 20th, 2018 ninarussin

    Subcompact hatchback offers value and versatility for athletes

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Kia Rio

    2018 Kia Rio

    Oh, Kia Rio, how far you have come since we first met at a media introduction eighteen years ago. Back then you were a diminutive little sedan whose main selling point was price: about the same as a used car at that time.

    From those inauspicious beginnings, you have evolved into a real package, combining value with safety and content. While your engine isn’t much bigger than the 1.5-liter block in the 2001 model, you’ve added 36-horsepower and significantly more torque: no more struggling up mountain grades in northern Arizona.

    Average fuel economy has increased by close to ten miles-per-gallon, despite-the-fact that you are bigger, with a six-inch longer wheelbase, and you’ve gained a bit of weight.

    While your rear seats aren’t quite as spacious as the larger Forte, four adults can fit inside without feeling as if they were squeezed into a cracker box. And you are still a great value, costing less than $20,000 out the door. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

    Posted on July 13th, 2018 ninarussin

    Next-generation sedan raises the bar for eco-transport

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    It was kismet that I received the keys to the new Camry Hybrid at the start of what turned out to be Phoenix, Arizona’s hottest spell this year. While most people associate the efficiencies in Toyota’s gasoline-electric powertrains with enhanced fuel economy, they provide additional advantages including better temperature control in the car’s interior.

    The same battery pack that extends fuel economy by powering two electric motors also provides power for the car’s air conditioning compressor, that operates whether-or-not the gasoline engine is running. In temperatures approaching 115-degrees Fahrenheit, the HVAC system cooled the interior down to a comfortable temperature in about five minutes. While the ignition auto-stop feature on many new cars turns the air conditioning compressor off at idle, the Camry system continues to work, keeping occupants comfortable in stop-and-go traffic.

    The newest Camry Hybrid utilizes an updated version of the automaker’s gasoline-electric technology, including a new power control unit that has reduced parasitic power loss by about 20 percent. Fuel economy isn’t quite as high as the more aerodynamic Prius, but its 46 MPG average is nothing to sneeze at.

    Engineers made some important changes to packaging: notably relocating the nickel-metal hydride battery pack beneath the second-row seats, so trunk space is the same as for the gasoline-powered sedan. This also lowered the sedan’s center of gravity for enhanced high-speed driving dynamics.

    Base price for the test car is $32,250 excluding the $895 destination charge. Options include a birds-eye view camera that enables the driver to see obstacles around the vehicle’s entire perimeter when moving at low speeds, adaptive headlamps, power moonroof and premium JBL audio system with the newest version of Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Final MSRP is $37,255. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Mazda6 Signature

    Posted on July 6th, 2018 ninarussin

    Flagship sedan is redesigned from the inside out

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Mazda6

    2018 Mazda6

    Mazda’s signature is the sporty character the automaker infuses into all-of its products, from the two-seat MX-5 Miata to the family friendly CX-9 crossover and all-new Mazda6 flagship sedan. Although Mazda is the only major Japanese car company in the US market without a luxury brand, the Mazda6 stands out as a world-class sport sedan that holds its own against considerably more expensive products, in terms of both design and engineering.

    The new Signature trim level includes Sen wood trim, Nappa leather seats, redesigned seat structure that is firmer and more comfortable, automatic dual-zone climate control, a full color heads-up display, reconfigurable thin-film-transistor touchscreen display in the gauge cluster, and ventilated front seats.

    Outside, all 2018 models get a redesigned grille, available 19-inch wheels and available “Soul Red” crystal exterior paint finish. It’s a luscious package.

    Base price for the Signature is $34,750 excluding destination. The upscale trim model comes fully loaded with safety and convenience features, including premium Bose sound system, power driver’s and front passenger seats, LED headlamps, tail lamps and daytime running lamps, full-speed adaptive radar cruise control, rearview camera, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, hill start assist, Bluetooth interface and more.

    Power comes from a new 2.5-liter turbo Skyactiv four-cylinder engine rated at 250-horsepower with 310 pound-feet of torque and six-speed automatic transmission. Final MSRP on the test car including the special exterior finish is $36,465. Read the rest of this entry »