RSS icon Home icon
  • Change of Seasons

    Posted on October 27th, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    Now is the time to winterize your car

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Bridgestone Winter Driving School

    Photo courtesy of Bridgestone Winter Driving School

    Although autumn officially begins in late September, October is the time when most of us see the weather start to change dramatically. While we enjoy watching the leaves turn fiery red and gold, it’s also time to start thinking about how winter will affect our cars and our driving.

    In a series of #eBay buying guides, I’ve gathered some information about the best way to winterize a vehicle as well as tips for driving safely on ice and snow.

    “Five Ways To Winterize Your Car” focuses on mechanical issues that can lead to cold-weather breakdowns such as dead batteries, old coolant, bad belts and hoses. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Cars, Art and Architecture

    Posted on October 23rd, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    Why car design is part of a much bigger picture

    By Nina Russin

    XPEL Runner by Cosmin Mandita. Photo courtesy of Local Motors

    XPEL Runner by Cosmin Mandita. Photo courtesy of Local Motors

    Before I became an automotive journalist I went to art school and received a graduate degree in sculpture. Because of that I’ve always taken a keen interest in car design and the places where designers find inspiration.

    We live in a connected world. While the Internet facilitates such interaction, artists have looked outside the box for centuries. Car design has been influenced by painting, photography, sculpture, industrial design and architecture since the internal combustion engine was invented over 150 years ago.

    As part of our eleventh annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program, our host and sponsor Local Motors hosted its second ALV design competition. Members of the Local Motors community were challenged to design active lifestyle vehicles incorporating athletic gear and the competition sponsor’s protective film. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Nissan Quest 3.5 LE

    Posted on October 23rd, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    Seven-seat minivan hauls soup to nuts

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Nissan Quest

    2014 Nissan Quest

    It might not be as fast as the GT-R or as sexy as the 370Z, but at times, the Nissan Quest minivan can seem like a gift from God. Our annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year event in mid-October is one of those times, when I find myself doing multiple airport transfers, ferrying bagels and coffee for 130 of my closest friends, schlepping signage, chairs, display stands and PA systems from one spot to the next. Some people call me the program director but I prefer to think of myself as a well-trained Sherpa.

    And the Quest is, so to speak, a yak on steroids, with seating for up to seven passengers, a cavernous cargo bay, power liftgate, 260-horsepower V-6 engine, continuously variable automatic transmission and speed-sensitive power steering that makes the 16-1/2 foot-long vehicle capable of U-turns on two-lane roads.

    The test car is the upscale LE model priced from $42,870. Standard comfort and convenience features include leather upholstery, second-row captain’s chairs, tri-zone climate control, fold-flat second and third-row seats, DVD rear entertainment system, navigation, rearview monitor, around-view monitor, blind spot monitoring, Bluetooth interface, 13-speaker Bose audio system, conversation mirror and six-way power driver’s seat with memory. Adding the optional dual-pane sunroof and destination charges, final MSRP is $45,315. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Active Lifestyle Vehicle Winners

    Posted on October 21st, 2014 ninarussin 2 comments

    Athletes and journalists reveal top picks from thirty vehicle entries

    By Nina Russin

    Photo by Chris Dodson

    Photo by Chris Dodson

    The Carspondent.com Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year’, the only car-of-the-year competition that combines the input of automotive journalists with elite and area athletes, announces winners for the 2015 model year competition.

    This year’s event that took place at the Local Motors’ micro-factory in Chandler, Arizona was the most competitive in program history, including thirty vehicles from over a dozen auto manufacturers, automotive journalists and close to 100 athletes. Winners were often decided by hundredths of a point.

    Athletes on hand for the October 18 finals included members of Arizona Legends, retired NFL players of Arizona, representatives from Sole Sports Running Zone, Fit Mom Diet and Fit Fathers, elite runners, triathletes, paddlers, cyclists, swimmers and more. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Buying and Selling

    Posted on October 20th, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    Smoothing the transition into new wheels

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Tempe Dodge

    Photo courtesy of Tempe Dodge

    Back in the day September was the official start of the new car model year and with it, the beginning of car-buying season. Late in the summer the automakers would host full model previews that every journalist with a press card in his or her fedora attended. Dealerships covered their windows with paper to block the public’s view until voila! The new models debuted.

    Today the automakers introduce new car models year-round, and a shopper is as likely to sign on the dotted line in June as in January. The beginning of auto show season at the end of September is the last remnant of the good old days described above.

    What has not changed is the anxiety many car shoppers experience as they begin the journey into a new set of wheels. This doesn’t necessarily start at the dealership. Car owners are as nervous about selling their existing car as they are about shopping for a new one. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Acura MDX SH-AWD

    Posted on October 16th, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    Seven-passenger crossover makes a sport of driving

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Acura MDX

    2015 Acura MDX

    Growing families who need the versatility of a seven-passenger vehicle don’t have to settle for plain vanilla options. Acura’s MDX with super-handling all-wheel drive offers an appealing alternative, combining the sporty performance of sedans such as the TL, TSX and TLX with a larger, more versatile interior. The 2015 model is basically a carryover of the 2014 car that athletes voted as ALV of the Year in the family luxury category.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive model is $44,565. The test car adds technology, advance and entertainment option packages. An $895 handling charge brings the final MSRP to $57,675.

    Power comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 290 horsepower with 267 foot-pounds of torque. Acura’s variable cylinder management system automatically cuts power to half the cylinders when power demands are low to extend gas mileage. EPA fuel economy estimates for the all-wheel drive MDX are 18/27 mpg city/highway.

    A six-speed automatic transmission includes a sport setting for more aggressive performance. The driver can manually select gears utilizing formula-style paddles on the steering wheel. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400W4 Sedan

    Posted on October 14th, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    Sport sedan rises to the next level

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    Although the C-Class sedan has always been a bread-and-butter model for Mercedes-Benz, there is nothing bread-and-butter about the new C-Class. Competing against the BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS, the smaller sibling to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has brought its A-game with a lighter more rigid body, two powerful engine choices, all-new suspension and eye-catching aerodynamic body.

    With the new CLA filling the brand’s entry luxury slot, the C-Class moves upscale. The C400 tested comes with the larger of the two engines: a bi-turbo 3-liter, 329-horsepower V-6. It’s not the horsepower but the torque that tells the real story: 354 foot-pounds available at engine speeds as low as 1600 rpm. Direct injection makes the engine more efficient and enhances throttle response, while the seven-speed automatic transmission stretches fuel economy on the highway to 29 miles-per-gallon.

    Unlike its predecessor, almost half the body parts on the 2015 model are aluminum, shaving close to 200 pounds off the car. That, combined with aerodynamic improvements has made the C-Class slipperier in the wind tunnel and quieter on the open road.

    An all-new four-wheel independent suspension incorporates a four-link configuration up front and five link design in back. Buyers can upgrade to the optional air suspension.

    Base price on the test car is $48,590, putting the new C-Class at the heart of the luxury market. Options include active park assist, a panoramic sunroof, heads-up display, 18-inch alloy AMG wheels, air suspension, an infotainment upgrade, hands-free trunk access and a safety package that includes steering assist, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection with auto-brake and rear collision protection. Adding the $925 destination charge, final MSRP is $62,905. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Kia K900

    Posted on October 13th, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    High-luxury sedan focuses on value

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Kia K900

    2015 Kia K900

    I have driven the K900, Kia’s first vehicle entry into the high-luxury segment, to the coffee shop where I meet friends for breakfast. As I usher the sedan into its parking spot, I can see their noses pasted up against the front window of the restaurant.

    “What’s that”? is the first question I hear as I walk through the door.

    “The Kia K900,? I reply. “It’s Kia’s answer to the S-Class.”

    “That’s a Kia?” my buddy Jeff remarks. “That’s a sharp looking car.”

    “It’s huge,” adds Big Ed, who likes everything in his life to be, well, big. “That thing’s bigger than my Mercedes.” And with that they’re out the door.

    “Check this out,” chimes Jeff as he opens the back door and slides into the back seat. “Man, there’s tons of room back here.”

    “Enough for you and your bicycle,” I reply.

    Ed is still comparing the K900 to his Mercedes-Benz CLS.

    “A Kia,” he says. “Huh.”

    The jury’s still out as to whether Kia will be able to lure current German luxury car owners away from their current vehicles. But there is no doubt that Kia’s full-sized luxury sedan can compete on every level: style, comfort and most important, performance.

    Despite being a luxury car, the K900 still speaks to the brand’s core philosophy of great value. Although its $59,500 base price is by no means inexpensive, it is significantly lower than the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series the K900 competes against.

    A VIP option package on the test car adds adaptive cruise control, thin-film-transistor instrument cluster, heads-up display, surround-view monitor, power headrests, power reclining rear seats, ventilated rear seats and rear seat lumbar support. Final MSRP, including the $900 delivery charge is $66,400. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Ford Mustang GT Coupe

    Posted on October 6th, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    Iconic pony car maintains its youthful stride

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Ford Mustang GT

    2015 Ford Mustang GT

    Fifty years ago a man named Robert McNamara came up with idea of a new performance car based on the compact Ford Falcon. It took some time to twist Henry Ford II’s arm, but eventually that car, equipped with a 289-cube V-8 engine emerged as the Mustang.

    Both the car and its creator became legendary: the Mustang as the original pony car, and McNamara as President John F. Kennedy’s secretary of defense. And both had checkered careers. During his tenure with Kennedy, McNamara became known as the man who escaladed the US presence in Vietnam. He spent the rest of his life coming to terms with the moral consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid SE

    Posted on October 3rd, 2014 ninarussin No comments

    Five-passenger hybrid focuses on versatility and value

    By Nina Russin

    Ford C-Max

    Ford C-Max

    There was a time when the premium cost of hybrid cars outweighed any cost benefits owners might get at the fuel pump. Then Ford introduced the C-Max and everything changed. Priced from $24,170, the C-Max offers buyers more space than the competing Prius liftback, with some compelling features for buyers with active lifestyles.

    Because the lithium-ion battery is packaged under the floor, second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. A hands-free liftgate makes it much easier to load up large cargo such as bicycles and kayaks. The door opens when the driver makes a gentle kicking motion under the back bumper with the key fob in his pocket.

    A 110-volt outlet comes in handy for weekends off the grid, to plug in a computer or exterior lighting. Ground clearance is about 5-1/2 inches: not enough for serious off-road trails but adequate for the occasional graded dirt road.

    Fuel economy lags behind the smaller Prius at 43 mpg, but it’s still a very good number: enough to produce a 550-mile driving range between fill-ups.

    But the best reason to take a look at the C-Max is its performance. On that one, Ford hit the ball out of the park. Read the rest of this entry »