Posted on February 24th, 2017
New compact crossover is a serious off-road machine
By Nina Russin
The 2017 Jeep Compass replaces the former Compass and Jeep Patriot no longer in production: positioned between the smaller Jeep Renegade and larger Cherokee.
The newest member of the Jeep family is built on the automaker’s small wide 4X4 architecture, providing the unibody vehicle with a rigid platform for good steering response on-road and a minimal flex for off-road trails.
There are four grades- Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited, with pricing starting at $20,995 for the two-wheel drive Sport. The off-road capable Trailhawk starts at $28,595, just below the upscale Limited priced from $28,995.
The Compass shares a 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with the Jeep Renegade, and comes with three available transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic and nine-speed automatic. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 18th, 2017
Four-door wagon raises the bar for active lifestyles
By Nina Russin
If you’re an endurance athlete looking for an affordable vehicle with good fuel economy that can haul your gear, clear snow and travel the trails, you owe it to yourself to consider Subaru’s newest Impreza four-door wagon. Priced from $18,395, the all-wheel drive Impreza builds on the outgoing model’s off-road capabilities, adding a more powerful engine, more spacious and quiet interior.
Our test car is the mid-grade Premium equipped with a naturally-aspirated two-liter engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. Standard features include heated front seats, exterior mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer, 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, Bluetooth interface, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Aha, Pandora, Starlink connected services and roof rails.
An EyeSight active safety package adds adaptive cruise control, autonomous pre-collision braking, lane departure alert, blind spot detection and cross traffic alert. Other options include a power moonroof and steering responsive fog lamps that swivel in the direction of steering input. Final MSRP is $24,910. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 15th, 2017
One-day event to include on and off-road driving
By Nina Russin
ALV of the Year announces plans for its 2017 program, taking place on Friday October 20. This year, the active lifestyle vehicle program combines media and athlete ride-and-drive events into a single day, with guests arriving on Thursday October 19 and departing the morning of Saturday the 21st. The host hotel is the Phoenix/Chandler Hilton, located off the Chandler exit of the 101 Freeway.
The ride-and-drive program is open to credentialed media, ALV jury panel members and twenty elite athletes including representatives from Arizona Legends, retired NFL players living in the Phoenix area. The day-long event features on-road routes as well as an expanded off-road driving program in the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix. The awards ceremony will take place during dinner at the Hilton on Friday evening.
“By compressing the program and focusing on elite versus regional athletes, we believe ALV is both raising the bar and giving all participants who vote on vehicle entries equal access to driving opportunities,” said ALV of the Year LLC president, Nina Russin. “Our goal continues to be evaluating these vehicles with metrics important to buyers with active lifestyles, including performance on and off-road, safety, ergonomics and cargo capability.”
ALV is expanding its administrative team to better address the needs of OEM participants and create a larger media footprint through traditional channels and social media.
The 2017 ALV team includes:
Tyson Hugie: OEM liaison and marketing
Sam Haymart: Public relations, drive route coordinator
Eric Noble and the Carlab: off-road course, ballots
Becky Antioco: Event management, participant registration.
Nicole James: Social media
Jim Woodman: Elite athlete coordinator
Cathy Droz: NFL liaison
Robert Russin, CPA: Finance
Charlotte Stacy: Accounting
Carrie Owens, Jeff Jordan, Page One Automotive: vehicle preparation
Raul Vargas, Eric Goetz, DriveShop: vehicle preparation:
Nina Russin: Event oversight
Upcoming press releases include the 2017 jury panel, call for entries, hotel information and an expanded schedule.
For program updates, visit the ALV website.
Posted on February 14th, 2017
Nation’s largest consumer show expands family-friendly activities
By Nina Russin
Those of us inside the car industry tend to forget the role consumers play in an auto show. In addition to new product introductions, these events are a rare opportunity for those outside the bubble to get up close and personal with cars they are thinking of buying. The driving public is the meat and potatoes of the Chicago Show, held each February at the McCormick Place convention center. In terms of attendance, it is the largest auto show in the United States.
This year’s show features fun for all members of the family, including those too young to drive: a Lego Batmobile at the Chevrolet booth plus scale replicas of the Y-Wing Starfighter, X-Wing Starfighter, TIE Striker and AT-ACT, all displayed under the Death Star in Nissan’s special Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition Display appeal to the kid in all of us.
Those of driving age can get behind the wheel and have some fun at the show’s five indoor test tracks.
Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz include test tracks as part of their displays: an appeal to millennials who value experience over the written word. Mercedes-Benz’s Iron Schockl is a 45-degree grade, demonstrating the outstanding climbing ability of the G-Class, while Camp Jeep brings off-roading indoors with rock crawls, steep inclines and sandy surfaces. A Ram proving ground includes six stations that demonstrate the trucks’ work capabilities while Toyota enthusiasts can test drive the new RAV4 and Highlander midsize crossover. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 2nd, 2017
Seating for seven and a HEMI to go
By Nina Russin
Who says family cars are boring? The 2017 Dodge Durango seven-passenger SUV is anything but, especially when equipped with the optional 5.7-liter hemi engine. The engine comes standard on the sporty R/T, priced from $42,095 excluding destination. Other standard features include 20-inch rims, heavy-duty brakes, trailer sway dampening and a 3.09 rear axle.
An eight-speed automatic transmission extends fuel economy with large overdrive gears for the highway. Average fuel economy according to the EPA is 17 miles-per-gallon. The rear-wheel drive truck tested tows up to 7400 pounds.
On the inside, the Durango gets heated and ventilated front seats, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, Uconnect infotainment, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, satellite radio, remote start and real-time traffic updates.
Options on the test car include a technology group that adds blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, front collision warning and adaptive cruise control that works to a full stop. Other options include a rear DVD entertainment system, second-row fold-and-tumble captain’s chairs, a power sunroof and third-row mini floor console. Final MSRP is $49,670. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on January 25th, 2017
Five-door hatchback is the perfect ten
By Nina Russin
I don’t know how Mazda manages to consistently get everything right, but they do, with a line of vehicles that resonate a distinct personality. Mazda’s compact five-door hatchback proves that in a time of escalating new car prices, it’s possible to get something quite attractive for less than $25,000.
Not only is the Mazda3 stylish, it’s fuel efficient, offers excellent performance and a quiet, versatile cabin. All in all, the Mazda3 is the perfect ten.
The test car is the upscale Grand Touring model priced from $24,945 excluding destination. Options include a pearlescent paint, cargo mat, rear bumper guard, a lighting package that includes adaptive LED headlamps, LED tail lamps and daytime running lamps, navigation, paddle shifters, heated steering wheel and active safety features including lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, radar cruise control, traffic sign recognition, high beam control and smart brake support. Final MSRP is $28,980. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on January 19th, 2017
Subcompact sedan focuses on value
By Nina Russin
Mitsubishi’s subcompact sedan competes against the Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Spark, Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio: all products targeting first-time buyers who are value conscious, but need the versatility to meet their busy lifestyles. The Mirage G4 comes standard with keyless entry and start, halogen headlamps and a rearview camera- features unusual in this segment. The interior is spacious enough to hold four adult passengers despite the car’s small dimensions.
Power comes from a 1.2-liter naturally-aspirated three-cylinder engine and five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. The pint-size Mirage is thrifty on fuel, averaging 37 miles-per-gallon for the automatic transmission version.
Base price is $16,995 excluding the $835 destination charge. Final MSRP is $17,830. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on January 11th, 2017
Tops the list for urban athletes
By Nina Russin
In 2016 the Kia Soul won ALV’s Urban category award for an unprecedented fourth year in a row: further proof that the compact crossover might be the perfect choice for city dwellers with active lifestyles. The Soul’s cool styling, compact dimensions and versatile interior resonate with athletes of all ages. The Soul is also affordable, with pricing for the base model starting at $15,990 excluding delivery.
The test car is the upscale Soul! (exclaim), priced from $22,650. Among standard convenience features are automatic headlamps, power windows, door locks and side mirrors, keyless start, automatic climate control and Bluetooth interface.
Options on the test car include a panoramic sunroof and a technology package that adds navigation, Harman Kardon premium audio system, LED exterior lighting, power folding outside mirrors, power driver’s and front passenger seats, heated front and rear outboard seats, blind spot monitoring and USB charging ports. Final MSRP is $27,620. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on January 5th, 2017
Compact crossover maintains value focus
By Nina Russin
With the average transaction price for new cars approaching $35,000, it’s easy to lose focus on value. But in a post-2008 economy, buyers are approaching big purchases, including automobiles, more conservatively.
Mitsubishi has made a value focus the lynchpin of its comeback strategy and it’s working. Athletes picked the restyled 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander to win the ALV of the Year award for Best Value, responding to its all-wheel drive capabilities, good fuel economy, five-star NHTSA crash test rating and extensive roster of convenience features.
The 2017 model is essentially carryover from last year. The Outlander is one of the few compact crossovers on the market to hold up to seven passengers. Third-row seats are rather small, but give growing families the ability to carry a couple of neighbor kids to weekly soccer practice. Fold the seats flat and a spacious cargo bay can carry a couple of road bikes, protecting them from inclement weather or theft.
The test car is the upscale SEL grade priced from $27,495 excluding the $895 destination charge. Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. All-wheel drive gives the Outlander four-season capability.
A touring option package adds a multi-view camera that displays both a rear and overhead view when the driver shifts into reverse, forward collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system. Final MSRP is $32,390. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on December 21st, 2016
Upgraded drivetrain boosts power and efficiency
By Nina Russin
Longevity has its benefits. Years before Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Chevrolet and Volkswagen entered the hybrid market, there was only one: the original Honda Insight. The Insight arrived in the US in 1999, a year ahead of the Toyota Prius. Since then Honda enhanced technology, in exclusive hybrid models such as the Insight as well as gasoline/electric versions of its popular sedans.
For Honda, hybrids aren’t a marketing gimmick or a way to comply with increasingly strict fuel economy standards. The company’s green focus is authentic, as evidenced by its leadership in the development of other alternative fuel technologies including fuel cells.
For 2017, Honda introduces a new hybrid version of the current Accord that is, in a sense, the automaker’s green car flagship. The powertrain couples a two-liter Atkinson cycle iVTEC engine with two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack. One electric motor drives the wheels while the second generator motor produces electricity. The system produces 212 net horsepower and 232 pound-feet of peak torque available at very low speeds.
Buyers can choose from three grades, of which the Touring model is the most upscale. Base price is $35,955 excluding the $835 destination charge. Rather than packaging options, Honda sells the Touring model fully loaded, with convenience features including keyless entry and start, power leather seats with seat heaters, a seven-inch touchscreen with multi-view rearview camera, Bluetooth, Pandora, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SMS text messaging, USB interface, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering column, premium audio system and Honda Sensing active safety features. Final MSRP is $36,790. Read the rest of this entry »