Posted on June 21st, 2016
Go-to family car reinvented
By Nina Russin
It’s no surprise the automaker that invented the minivan has introduced the most compelling new product in the segment. With the Dodge Grand Caravan discontinued, the all-new Pacifica becomes Chrysler’s only minivan offering. But it is more diverse, with a gasoline-powered version on sale now followed by a gasoline electric hybrid that rolls out later this summer.
Exterior styling is more like a crossover, appealing to buyers turned off by the one-box minivan stigma. This idea isn’t unique to Chrysler: Kia took a similar approach with the current Sedona.
Chrysler’s ace-in-the-hole is family-friendly features including chicklets on sliding side doors making them easier for kids to open, and built-in vacuum cleaner. Proprietary Stow ‘n Go seating folds second-row seats into the floor to create a capacious cargo area. Second-row seats can also tilt forward without removing child safety seats for better third-row access.
The Touring grade tested appeals to value-focused buyers with a base price of $30,495 excluding the $995 destination charge. An optional power liftgate brings the final MSRP to $31,985. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on June 15th, 2016
Refreshed midsize sedan gains in style, safety and fuel economy
By Nina Russin
Since first coming on the scene in the early 1990s, the Nissan Altima has been a sporty alternative to the ever popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Although the midsize sedan has changed significantly over the past quarter century, it maintains the original strategy of affordability, style and appealing performance.
For 2016 Nissan significantly refreshed the current model with new exterior styling, a stand-alone sport grade and enhanced active safety features. Fuel economy has also improved to 39 miles-per-gallon on the 2.5-liter model tested.
With the average transaction price for automobiles reaching $32,000, it’s refreshing to see a fully-loaded premium sedan costing significantly less: $28,570 for the test car equipped with leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, heated zero gravity front seats, Bose premium audio system with satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming audio, heated mirrors and 17-inch alloy rims.
A technology package on the test car adds forward collision warning with emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, NissanConnect with navigation, stolen vehicle location and remote start via smartphone. Final MSRP including destination is $32,510. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on June 10th, 2016
Classic drop-top reinvented for millennial buyers
By Nina Russin
Fiat has a talent for making what was once old new again, and just as important, relevant. Inspiration for the new 2017 Fiat Spider is the brand’s classic roadster that debuted at the 1966 Turin Auto show. Designed by Pininfarina and powered by a 1438 cc engine, the Spider was a more affordable alternative to the legendary Ferrari GTS. It became Fiat’s most successful effort in the United States, produced through the 1985 model year.
The new 124 Spider shares chassis components with the current Mazda MX-5 Miata, but features a slightly larger body, different engine, styling and exhaust system than its Japanese counterpart.
Power for all three grades comes from Fiat’s 160-horsepower 1.4-liter MultiAir intercooled and turbocharged engine. A quad exhaust on the upscale Abarth grade adds four horsepower. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection.
At the beginning of production Fiat is issuing a Prima Edizione version of the midgrade Lusso, limited to 124 vehicles.
Pricing for the base Classica model with manual gearbox starts at $24,995 ($26,345 with the automatic), the Lusso at $27,495 and performance-oriented Abarth at $28,195. Pricing does not include a $995 destination charge. Standard convenience features on the Classica include 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, halogen headlamps, a rollbar and dual exhaust.
The Lusso adds 17-inch wheels and leather seating, while the Abarth comes with Bilstein shocks, Brembo brakes, front strut tower brace, 17-inch alloy wheels, limited slip differential and quad exhaust. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on June 6th, 2016
Midsize pickup combines value and versatility
By Nina Russin
Buyers looking for versatility but not needing the towing capabilities of a full-size pickup truck should seriously consider the midsize GMC Canyon. The Canyon’s dimensions aren’t significantly different than that of the full-size Sierra. The Canyon’s wheelbase is about 13-inches shorter for the crew cab, and the truck is six-inches narrower.
But there’s a significant difference in cost and fuel economy. Pricing for the Canyon starts at $21,880 as compared to $27,815 for the Sierra. The available Duramax turbo-diesel engine on the Canyon test truck averages 29 miles-per-gallon on the highway: seven MPG higher than the EcoTec V-6 available on the Sierra.
The biggest reason for sizing up to the Sierra is its 12,000-pound towing capacity versus 7600 for the Canyon. Bottom line: if you’re planning to tow a travel trailer buy the Sierra, but if the most you’re planning to tow is a couple of jet skis, save some money and get the Canyon.
Base price for the four-wheel drive test truck is $37,450 excluding the $925 destination charge. Options include the diesel engine that comes with a tow/haul trailer brake controller package, Bose premium audio system, eight-inch color touchscreen with navigation and Intellilink infotainment, spray-on bed liner and an active safety package including forward collision and lane departure warning. Final MSRP is $44,365. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on June 3rd, 2016
Compact crossover with Italian roots
By Nina Russin
These days it’s not unusual for automakers to share platforms, for example, the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. Economy of numbers means automakers can offer car buyers more value. In the case of Jeep and Fiat, the marriage also combines the Italian automaker’s talent for sporty performance with Jeep’s all-terrain capability.
Of two available powertrains, the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine and six-speed manual gearbox is the one to buy. Unfortunately, it’s not available in the off-road specific Trailhawk model, but provides value-conscious buyers with a great option.
Base price is $19,995 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include a Uconnect package with rear backup camera, power and air conditioning group, roof rails and removable My Sky roof panels. Final MSRP is $24,470. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on May 24th, 2016
Compact sedan reinvented from the ground up
By Nina Russin
A lot has changed since the Honda Civics of the mid-1970s: the sedan is bigger and more luxurious that the small hatchback that rolled across America with its sturdy CVCC engine. Core values-reliability, comfort and safety- remain the same. At the same time, the Civic is very much a driver’s car, with precise handling reflective of Honda’s open-wheel racing experience.
In terms of size, the newest Civic is similar to former Accord models, with plenty of room for a small family. Engineers added 3.2-cubic feet of passenger space compared to the outgoing model, giving the sedan the biggest interior of anything in the compact class.
On the outside the sedan is almost three-inches longer, two-inches wider and an inch taller. Not only does the second-row offer more legroom, but better access and egress for parents buckling small kids into child seats and boosters.
Under the hood, Honda debuts its first-ever turbocharged engine for the Civic: a 1.5-liter block delivering 174-horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, available from 1700 rpm. A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard on all but the base model.
A new suspension design features a multi-link setup in back with large stabilizer bars on both axles.
Base price for the upscale Touring model tested is $26,500 excluding the $835 destination charge. The sedan comes fully-loaded with convenience features including keyless entry, push buttons start, HD and satellite radio, leather upholstery, SMS text messaging, dual-zone automatic climate controls, heated power front seats, Bluetooth interface, 10-speaker premium audio system and a seven-inch electronic touchscreen.
A standard active safety package adds adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and forward collision warning.
Final MSRP is $27,335 Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on May 19th, 2016
Full-size pickup raises the bar for engineering and performance
By Nina Russin
Let’s face it: any vehicle costing upwards of $50,000 needs to fill a lot of squares. For most truck owners, it means multi-tasking as a work and family vehicle, with the capability to tow and haul, accommodate at least four passengers and provide respectable fuel economy.
From and engineering stance, these are lofty goals, since high profile, two-box vehicles aren’t aerodynamic. Ever. Despite that, the performance gurus at GMC have created a full-size pickup with astonishingly good fuel economy and ride comfort rivaling passenger cars.
The 5.3-liter Ecotec engine and eight-speed automatic transmission beneath the Sierra’s chiseled hood give the 1500-series crew cab the heart of an athlete. The truck idles smoothly at 600 rpm and cruises at speeds up to 65 miles-per-hour below 2,000 rpm. In endurance athlete terms, it’s the equivalent of a marathoner with a resting heart rate in the high 30s.
Base price for the SLT test truck is $46,970 excluding the $1,195 destination charge. Options include twenty-inch rims, Z71 off-road suspension, spray-on bedliner, special seats and center console, front and rear park assist, LED headlamps, power sunroof, navigation, premium audio system and a trailer brake controller. Final MSRP is $53,845. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on May 11th, 2016
Redesigned midsize design gains in style, comfort and safety
By Nina Russin
The automaker that built its reputation as a value leader has come of age, as evidenced in the all-new Hyundai Elantra midsize sedan. While the sedan offers buyers a lot of content for the money, the newest Elantra is equally competitive on other fronts: its distinctive exterior, extensive roster of available safety features and vastly improved fit and finish throughout the interior.
Competing in the largest passenger car segment, the Elantra covers a lot of ground with the base SE priced from $17,150 and upscale Limited priced from $22,350 that includes features such as leather upholstery, Bluetooth, satellite radio, keyless start, blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera as standard equipment.
Options on the test car include a tech package that adds navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, premium audio system with digital file decompression and heated seats, as well as a premium package adding HID headlamps, pedestrian detection with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and driver’s seat memory. Final MSRP including destination is $27,710. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on April 28th, 2016
Compact crossover has a green footprint
By Nina Russin
This year Toyota adds a hybrid model to its RAV4 lineup, utilizing the same gasoline/electric technology found in the newest Prius liftback. The RAV4 Hybrid comes in XLE and Limited grades: both with standard all-wheel drive.
Base price for the XLE tested is $28,370 excluding the $900 destination charge. A convenience option package on the test car adds an Entune premium audio system with navigation, larger center stack screen, Bluetooth streaming audio, iPod compatibility, HD and satellite radio. Final MSRP is $29,795. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on April 25th, 2016
Value-packed compact crossover
By Nina Russin
There are worse things in this world than being known for outstanding value. As Mitsubishi continues its aggressive campaign to regain market share, the automaker has wisely focused on a few core models, including the compact Outlander Sport Crossover. While its underpinnings are older than some of its competitors, Mitsubishi’s five-passenger car continues to deliver satisfying performance, with good acceleration from its 2.4-liter engine.
Add in an extensive roster of standard safety and convenience features together with a fully-transferable factory warranty and it’s hard not to give the Outlander Sport a second look.
Recently, Mitsubishi updated the crossover’s exterior in keeping with its three-row Outlander sibling and added higher quality materials throughout the interior, correcting fit and finish issues that had drawn criticism in the past.
Base price for the front-wheel drive model tested excluding the $895 destination charge is $25,995. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, panoramic sunroof, rearview camera, heated front seats, 60/40 fold flat second-row seats, Rockford Fosgate audio system, Bluetooth, USB ports, satellite radio and automatic climate control. Final MSRP is $26,890. Read the rest of this entry »