Posted on March 5th, 2014 No comments
Phoenix Children’s Hospital joins Toyota’s child safety initiative
Car crashes are the number one killer of children between the ages of one and twelve according to US government statistics, and most child fatalities are preventable by the proper use of child safety seats. In 2004, Toyota launched Buckle Up For Life with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in order to encourage parents to use child safety seats and install them properly.
This week, Phoenix Children’s Hospital announced that it would be joining the effort. As part of the kick-off, Toyota is providing 64 free child safety seats on a first come, first serve basis. The seats represent sixty-four Arizona children who lost their lives over the past year in auto-related accidents.
Among the groups at highest risk for automotive pediatric fatalities are African Americans and Hispanics. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, almost half the children killed in car crashes from both groups were not buckled up.
Prior to this year, the Buckle Up for Life program included partnerships with hospitals in Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Orange Country, CA, and San Antonio. Toyota has provided 40,000 free child safety seats to families in need.
In September 2013, Toyota announced an additional six million dollar investment in the program over the next three years, expanding the program to 17 cities including Phoenix.
Among the presenters at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital announcement was Dr. Dennis Lund, the hospital’s executive vice president and surgeon-in-chief. According to Dr. Lund, increased use of child safety seats has resulted in a 43 percent decrease in pediatric mortalities from car accidents over the past decade.
But child safety advocates still face a formidable challenge. Each year, doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital see 624 pediatric trauma activations due to car accidents.
“At Toyota, we are strongly committed to the belief that driver and passenger safety is a universal need and something everyone should have access to,’ said Latondra Newton, Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer of Toyota Motor North America Inc. ‘That is why we partnered with Cincinnati Children’s to create Buckle Up for Life and have increased our support. We consider today to be both a celebration of all we have achieved and a call to action for the tremendous amount of work still to be done.”
For additional information on Buckle Up for Life, visit the program web site.
Posted on February 27th, 2014 No comments
Clean diesel model rounds out sport sedan lineup
By Nina Russin
This year, Audi adds a turbo-diesel injected model to its midsized A6 sedan lineup, combining the fuel economy of a much smaller engine with V-6 power and performance. The three-liter six-cylinder engine accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 5.5 seconds, yet averages up to 38 miles-per-gallon on the highway. By comparison, the gasoline-powered three-liter A6 averages 27 mpg.
Extensive use of aluminum throughout the sedan’s body structure contains curb weight to 4,178 pounds. While the A6 is by no means a featherweight, it is light enough to perform nimbly on challenging two-lane roads.
Base price for the TDI model is $57,500, excluding the $895 delivery charge. Options on the test car include special exterior paint and S line trim, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, four-zone climate control, Bose surround sound, adaptive front headlamps, 20-inch wheels, sport suspension, Ash wood trim and a black headliner. Final MSRP is $66,795. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 24th, 2014 No comments
Clean diesel five-passenger midsize sedan
By Nina Russin
It appears that Americans are finally realizing clean diesel is a win/win proposition. It’s about time.
Cars that run on low sulfur diesel have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline-powered equivalents. Diesel has the advantage over other forms of alternative fuel in that it utilizes the existing infrastructure. The technology adds little to no additional expense to the MSRP, and extends fuel economy by about 25 percent over gasoline.
The midsize Passat produced at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant is a perfect example. Base price for the upscale SE model with a sunroof is $28,295, excluding the $820 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include leatherette seating, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, a rearview camera, sunroof, automatic headlamps and a 60/40 split folding rear seat. Final MSRP is $29,115.
The turbo-diesel version averages 34 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA, but the sedan did much better on my 130-mile test-drive: 37.7 miles-per-gallon. The two-liter engine delivers 140 horsepower and 236 foot-pounds of torque for excellent power off the line. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 21st, 2014 No comments
Full-sized pickup gets new styling, suspension and infotainment
By Nina Russin
The Tundra is Toyota’s full-sized half-ton pickup truck that goes head-to-head against Ram, Ford, Chevrolet, GMC and Nissan offerings in an increasingly competitive market. As the segment grows, so do the demands of buyers, who range from construction workers and farmers to entrepreneurs and small business owners that also use their trucks as family vehicles.
Although Toyota maintains a stronghold on the midsize truck segment with the Tacoma, competing in the full-sized market has been more of a challenge.
Full-sized pickups are the only segment that favors Detroit’s Big Three automakers. Although brand loyalty has diminished industry-wide, truck owners remain loyal to OEMs for decades: even a lifetime. It would be safe to say that Toyota has had to work harder to conquest customers for its full-sized trucks than for any other type of vehicle it manufactures.
Although the automaker’s market share remains relatively small, the Tundra is a strong competitor. Engineers for the all-new 2014 model have stayed the course, relying on the brand’s core attributes of safety, durability and reliability. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 18th, 2014 No comments
Full-sized high luxury sedan
By Nina Russin
Kia’s success story has been built on big risks. The brand that came to the US twenty years ago with two niche vehicles and a loss leader pricing strategy has evolved into one of the fastest growing OEMs in North America.
The Cadenza sedan that rolled out last spring moved Kia into the premium segment. The all-new K900 takes the upwardly mobile product strategy a step further, competing head to head with the BMW 7-Series, Audi A8 and Mercedes-Benz S Class.
While naysayers might question the automaker’s wisdom introducing a $60,000 sedan in what remains a shaky economy, one needs to look at the global picture. The K900 is also sold in Korea as the K9 as well as China, where the demand for luxury goods continues to grow at a healthy rate.
From a marketing standpoint, the K900 builds on the image makeover that began with the current Optima. Kia is no longer a value brand, although its products continue to offer buyers more content than most of their competitors.
With the addition of its new Orange County, California design studio, Kia has emerged as a leader in the area of automotive styling. Continued collaboration with Microsoft has made the brand’s UVO infotainment system one of the best connectivity technologies in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 14th, 2014 No comments
Urban-oriented hybrid hatchback
By Nina Russin
The Prius c, based on the Yaris platform, is the smallest member of Toyota’s pure-hybrid family. The idea is to offer young urbanites an affordable alternative to the original liftback that’s versatile, yet easy to park on the street. Pricing starts under $20,000 for the base model. The subcompact Prius c has a 100.4-inch wheelbase: about six inches shorter than the midsized liftback.
Its 2500-pound curb weight makes the ‘city’ Prius over 500 pounds lighter than the liftback, contributing to its 50 mile-per-gallon fuel economy rating. Power comes from an Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and electric motor yielding 99 net horsepower, mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
There are four available trim levels. The test car is the upscale Four, priced from $23,360. Options include fifteen-inch alloy wheels with a sunroof, a security system and carpeted floor mats. Final MSRP, including the $795 destination charge is $25,589. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 11th, 2014 No comments
Nation’s largest consumer show heats up McCormick Place
By Nina Russin
Chicago is the third of four major US auto shows, and has the distinction of being the most heavily attended. With over 1,000 new cars and trucks on display, special indoor tracks and interactive activities, the show held at the McCormick Place convention center attracts over a million visitors each year.
While Chicago lags behind Detroit in the number of new vehicle reveals, it has historically been a show to watch for big surprises. The first Mazda Miata, Ford Taurus SHO and Toyota Tundra crew cab were all revealed in Chicago. This year Nissan pulled the wraps off its Frontier Diesel Runner technical study, Kia unveiled an all-electric Soul, Subaru debuted the 2015 Legacy and Volvo unleashed Polestar versions of the 2015 S60 sedan and V60 wagon.
The theme of connected cars ran throughout the show, with a special display by Continental, which has partnered with Nokia to do research and development. The concept that first emerged in the early 1990s has grown wings thanks to smartphone technology that is allowing OEMs to connect drivers with navigation and traffic data, repair services and the cloud. Within the decade, autonomous cars are a realistic possibility. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 5th, 2014 No comments
Family-friendly five-passenger hybrid
By Nina Russin
The v is Toyota’s answer to fans of the best selling Prius who need more passenger and cargo space than the original liftback offers. It’s a great option for buyers with active lifestyles, with enough room to stash multiple road bikes and other large cargo inside the car. Fuel economy isn’t quite as good as the liftback, but 42 miles-per-gallon is nothing to sneeze at.
Model grades are structured in similar fashion to other members of the Prius family. The test car is the Three: a mid-grade volume leader priced from $27,415 excluding delivery.
Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display with navigation and Entune apps, backup camera, 60/40 split folding and reclining second-row seat, power driver’s seat and a rear tonneau cover.
The test car adds carpeted floor mats and a cargo mat, bringing the final MSRP to $29,189. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 3rd, 2014 No comments
New engine family enhances performance on XC60, S60 and V60
By Nina Russin
The media’s initial reaction to Volvo’s announcement two years ago, that the automaker planned to abandon its current engine lineup for an all four-cylinder family was skeptical. Volvo produces some fairly large, heavy cars: the XC60, XC90 and V70 among them. How could small displacement engines provide adequate power’
Volvo’s answer was to boost engine efficiency with blowers, adding electrification down the road. This week, I had the opportunity to drive the first generation of cars in the Swedish automaker’s new four-cylinder lineup: the 2015 S60 sport sedan, V60 sport wagon and XC60 crossover.
There are two new engines: the T5 that produces 240 horsepower and the T6 that delivers 302. That might seem like a lot for four-bangers, but it pales in comparison to the automaker’s Formula 1.5-litre turbocharged block that packed 900 horses under the hood.
Both gas engines are turbocharged, but the T6 adds a supercharger for additional power on the low end. Volvo has also developed a common rail diesel engine, but there are no plans at this point to bring that powerplant to the states.
A new eight-speed automatic transmission extends fuel economy on the new gasoline engines. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on January 27th, 2014 No comments
Mid-sized crossover now seats up to eight passengers
By Nina Russin
The Highlander is the volume leader in Toyota’s crossover lineup, with sales in 2014 expected to approach 140,000 units. The vehicle that began as a variant of the 4Runner in 2001 has passed the SUV in popularity, reflecting a shift in purchase preferences among families with active lifestyles.
The 2014 Highlander is the third all-new iteration of the crossover. Although it rides on the same size wheelbase as the outgoing model, the newest Highlander is three inches longer and half an inch wider. This, in combination with a more compact rear suspension has increased room in the third row of seating, so the midsized crossover can now hold up to eight passengers.
There are four grades of naturally aspirated models, powered by a choice of 2.7-liter four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V-6 engines and a six-speed automatic transmission. The Highlander hybrid comes only as the upscale Limited grade with an available platinum option package.
Pricing for the base front-wheel drive Highlander LE four-cylinder model starts at $29,215, excluding delivery charges. A fully loaded Highlander Hybrid with the platinum option package costs just under $50,000. Read the rest of this entry »