Posted on December 3rd, 2013 No comments
Compact crossover gains in style and performance
By Nina Russin
This year, Kia introduces the second-generation Soul compact crossover: the first major redesign since the car was introduced in 2009. The original Soul was one of several box-shaped vehicles aimed towards young urbanites needing interior versatility.
The new Soul builds on the original theme, with a slightly larger interior, more nuanced styling and upgraded powertrains. Kia expects the midlevel Plus trim to be the volume leader, priced from $18,200.
The Soul’s spacious interior and fold-flat second-row seats make it a good option for buyers with active lifestyles. The 2014 model won our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year award in the urban category.
An audio package on the test car adds navigation, automatic climate control, and an Infinity sound system with speaker lights ($1400). Other options include a premium package with a panoramic sunroof, push button start, leather seating, power driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats ($3000), UVO infotainment system with rearview camera display ($500) and carpeted floor mats ($115). Together with the $795 destination charge, final MSRP is $24,010. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 25th, 2013 No comments
Green and red hot
By Nina Russin
I can’t think of a city in the United States where cars have a bigger impact on lifestyle and culture than they do in Los Angeles. Although the LA freeway system is the second largest in the nation behind New York, the city is dead last in terms of freeway lanes per resident.
As a result, Angeleans live in their cars; much of the time sitting in traffic. So it’s a no brainer that the City of Angels is obsessed with green technology. Aside from air quality concerns, the cost of constant refueling can drain a person’s bank account.
The first of the four major auto shows held in the US between September and April, the 2013 LA show featured Hyundai’s fuel cell version of the Tucson, Honda’s FCEV concept, the 2014 Lexus CT 200h, Audi A3 TDI and plug-in hybrid and BMW i3 coupe concept.
On the opposite end of the spectrum were the sports cars. Jaguar delighted with the coupe version of its sexy F-Type, Mercedes pulled the blankets off the Vision Gran Turismo, Nissan debuted the 2015 GT-R NISMO, and Maserati unveiled the new Ghibli. Olympic hundred meter gold medalist, Usain Bolt was on hand with Nissan, adding his own personal brand of sizzle.
Personally, I like the yin/yang mix. The auto industry is not without a conscience, but that it also has passion. Auto shows have traditionally been places to dream, going back to the idea cars of the 1930s and dream cars of the 1950s and 60s. Without concept cars, auto shows would be, frankly, sexless. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 19th, 2013 No comments
Sports-coupe favorite gets a price cut
By Bob Golfen
The Nissan 370Z is one of the best sports-car deals out there, quick and agile and with just enough warts to remind you that it is a Nissan after all and not some fancier, pricier brand.
The big news for 2014: the 370Z coupe has become an even better deal with a price drop of $3,130 for the Base coupe, which now starts at a reasonable $29,990 for the stickshift car, plus $790 shipping. The luxurious Touring coupe drops $2,550 to $36,270, plus shipping.
The roadster versions of the 370Z Base and Touring remain in the low $40,000s, same as for 2013. The NISMO Z tuner performance version, which has added new body and interior features for 2014, retains its starting price of $43,000. The NISMO Z comes only as a coupe.This latest generation of the Z raised the bar for the popular Japanese sports car, with more performance and a much-improved interior for the sporty two seater. The styling remains controversial, some seeing it as bulky and unattractive. To my eye, the look is properly muscular with a modern twist, its angular forms melded into the traditional style of a long-hood sportster.
The Touring coupe tested here includes a suite of luxury and convenience add-ons. The price of the test car jumped with the addition of the desirable Sports and Navigation System packages, hitting a bottom line of $41,460, which is not cheap but still a lot of sophisticated sports car for the money. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 18th, 2013 No comments
Redesigned compact sedan with Skyactiv technology
By Nina Russin
Every time I drive a new version of the Mazda3, I think that the car can’t get any better, but it does, and in every respect. The 2014 model exceeds the 2012 car’s 40 mile-per-gallon fuel economy, with evolved styling, safety and infotainment features to boot.
Best of all, it’s a hoot to drive, with ride and handling so good that it’s hard to believe base MSRP is less than $17,000. Buyers can opt for either four or five-door configurations. There is also a choice of engines, including the base two-liter four-cylinder block rated at 155 horsepower and a 2.5-liter 184-horsepower powerplant. Both are available with six-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmissions.
The test car is the upscale Grand Touring model with the two-liter engine and automatic transmission, priced from $23,795. With the exception of a $70 cargo mat, the car is fully loaded, including 16-inch alloy rims, power driver’s seat, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, satellite radio, touch screen display with navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio, Bose sound system and high-definition radio. Final MSRP including the $795 destination charge is $24,785. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 14th, 2013 No comments
The legacy of classic cars
By Nina Russin
Although most of my writing these days is about new cars, I still have a passion for the classics. To me, there is nothing like stepping behind the wheel of a Packard Light Eight or Duesenberg Model J. The ingenuity and elegance of those cars makes my imagination soar, wondering what it must have been like to live in the time they were created.
Recently, I’ve drawn on my love of the classics to create some collections that celebrate special models such as the Willys-Overland Jeeps and FJ40 Land Cruisers. In addition, a collection celebrating Route 66, also called the Mother Road, brings together a variety of popular post-War models that drivers crossing the US in the 1950s and 60s might have seen along the way.
To quote Bob Troup’s famous song: “Travel my way, take the highway that’s the best.” Drive a classic, and become part of its legacy.
Note: The #ebaycollections described above appear on eBay.com.
Posted on November 12th, 2013 No comments
Full-sized pickup truck with seating for five passengers
By Nina Russin
Toyota’s history of truck models in North America dates back to the compact Hilux in the late 1960s. The Hilux, and the Tacoma that followed, quickly accrued a loyal fan base of owners who loved the brand’s value and reliability.
Product planners expected the Tundra that replaced the midsized T100 for the 2000 model year, to meet with equal success. But the full-sized segment, dominated by Detroit’s Big Three automakers wasn’t particularly receptive to an Asian brand, despite Toyota’s long history of compact trucks.
Twenty-thirteen is the final year for the second-generation Tundra, to be followed by an all-new truck in 2014. Although Toyota has yet to obtain a dominant share in the segment, the Tundra is a solidly built and extremely well engineered vehicle. Whether buyers prefer Toyota’s overhead valve 5.7-liter V-8 engine over the pushrod blocks of its competitors is a matter of personal taste.
The 381-horsepower engine is built of an aluminum block and heads to shave weight under the hood. Its 401 foot-pounds of peak torque, available from 3,600 rpm, gives the Tundra 10,000 pound towing capability. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models, although the available tow prep package changes the differential ratio.
Base price on the Limited grade tested is $43,895, excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the CrewMax test truck include a voice-activated touch screen DVD system, TRD off-road package, memory package, power moonroof and carpeted floor mats.
The TRD off-road package is a bargain at $70. It includes off-road specific rims and tires, skid plates, Bilstein shocks and a retuned suspension. The reason for the low cost is that it’s a factory package, so the customer receives credit for product substitutions rather than being double dipped. Final MSRP for the test truck is $47,770. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 11th, 2013 No comments
Sport coupe with the versatility for active lifestyles
By Nina Russin
I love surprises, or at least good ones. When I discovered that the cargo area in the original Scion tC was big enough to hold a bicycle, the sport coupe gained a whole new meaning. What I initially perceived as a youth-oriented tuner car became pure genius.
The bicycle part was no accident. Jim Farley, who was Vice President of Scion when the 2004 car launched, is a triathlete. He wanted to make sure that the tC would hold his Pinarello, so he shipped the bike to Japan and had the engineers design the cargo area around it.
The second-generation continues in the tradition of the original car, appealing to young driving enthusiasts with edgy styling, a more powerful engine and connectivity enhancements. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder has ten percent more power than the outgoing block, yet remains thrifty at the fuel pump. The tC averages 31 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.
Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission. As with all Scion products, the tC is monospec, eliminating haggling over trim and option packages at the dealership.
Standard convenience features include a Pioneer sound system with high-definition radio and touchscreen display, leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming audio, power windows and door locks, cruise control, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and 60/40 split reclining rear seats.
Base price with the six-speed manual transmission is $19,210. Adding the $755 destination charge brings the price as tested to $19,965. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 4th, 2013 No comments
Compact sedan excels in safety and reliability
By Nina Russin
Since it first arrived stateside in the late 1960s, the Toyota Corolla has been a go-to car in the compact segment. I think it’s because it personifies shibui, a Japanese adjective implying subtle, quiet elegance, more than any other vehicle on the market.
The Corolla is stylish, yet timeless, small, nimble and dependable. It’s the car people who want to keep their vehicle for many years buy for those very reasons.
A 1.8-liter engine on the 2013 model produces plenty of power for American highways. A four-speed automatic transmission is a bit outdated in these days of six, seven and eight-speed boxes. As a result, fuel economy lags behind competitors such as the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus, but 34 mpg on the highway is still quite good.
The S model is the sportiest and most upscale of three available grades. Base price, excluding the $795 delivery charge, is $19,060. A premium option package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, automatic climate control, navigation, Entune infotainment, Bluetooth interface, real-time weather and traffic updates and redundant steering wheel controls ($1900). Other options include a trim package ($209), floor and trunk mats ($225), bringing the final MSRP to $22,548. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 2nd, 2013 No comments
High-luxury coupe melds style and power
By Nina Russin
My father always said that given the means, he would buy a Rolls Royce, simply because it was the best car in the world. A Rolls Royce would last him a lifetime, giving him more pleasure than any other automobile he might purchase, and sparing him from ever having to enter a new car dealership again.
Although my father never had the opportunity to ride in or drive a Rolls, I have been lucky enough to do both because of my job. The first Rolls I rode in was a 1939 sedan out of the Queen’s court, notable not only for its exceptional elegance but its surprising lack of engine noise.
The engine was as quiet as an electric motor. The owner informed me that he was still working on eliminating a bit of lifter tick. His ears must have been better than mine.
The 624-horsepower Rolls Royce Wraith does not follow in the ghostly quiet tradition the company is famous for, simply because a car with an engine powerful enough to launch a small building into space needs to make some noise. The growl the Wraith’s dual exhaust pipes emit when its driver dips into the throttle is both exhilarating and humbling. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 1st, 2013 No comments
New compact crossover adds seating for 7 and cargo flexibility
By Nina Russin
The phrase, ‘go rogue,’ means to cease to follow instructions and act in an unexpected way. At first glance, the Nissan Rogue doesn’t seem very roguish. After all, compact crossovers are one of the fastest growing segments of the automotive market.
Where the Rogue departs from the pack is in its combination of value and function. Nissan launched the first-generation car as a joint venture with Renault. This relationship continues with the all-new 2014 model, built on the common module family architecture.
What this means to the consumer is better value. Pricing for the 2014 models starts at $22,490 excluding the $860 destination charge. Nissan will also continue producing a stripped down version of the 2013 car, priced under $20,000.
Production moves from Japan to Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant: part of a strategy to produce 85 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States in North America. In addition to being able to react more quickly to changes in the target market, the move enables Nissan to utilize more US suppliers. Read the rest of this entry »