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  • 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

    Posted on March 2nd, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Premium midsize sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Hyundai Sonata

    2015 Hyundai Sonata

    Over the past two decades, Hyundai has evolved from loss leader to value leader, replacing its initial lineup of inexpensive cars with premium products that offer value content. The all-new 2015 Sonata midsize sedan is a case in point, rivaling luxury models in terms of performance, build quality, safety and convenience features but priced firmly within the premium segment.

    Product planners divided the market for the Sonata into a more conservative, amenity-focused group and a second segment more concerned with driving dynamics. The premium SE grade appeals to the former group while the Sonata Sport, with features such as a flat-bottom steering wheel inspired by Formula One racing, targets the second. There is also a Limited model for those wanting more luxury.

    The test car is the Sport model with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine: one of two available blocks. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The two-liter four-cylinder engine is the smaller of the two blocks but turbocharging gives it the best power: 245-horsepower as compared to 185 for the naturally aspirated 2.4-cylinder. The difference in torque is even more significant, with the turbocharged block topping off at 260 foot-pounds, available from 1350 rpm.

    Base price for the test car is $28,575 excluding the $810 destination charge. Standard safety and convenience features include daytime running lamps, blind spot detection, a rearview camera, hands-free smart trunk opener, leather seating, power driver’s seat with lower lumbar support, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, Blue Link telematics and connected care.

    A premium option package adds a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, rear park assist, driver’s seat position memory, navigation, LED interior lighting and premium audio system. Final MSRP is $34,460. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Lincoln MKC

    Posted on February 27th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Compact luxury crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Lincoln MKC

    2015 Lincoln MKC

    Crossovers run the risk of being jacks-of-all-trades and experts at none. They are to the car world what cross trainers are to the shoe world: carrying people and their stuff through rain, sleet, snow and occasionally mud, as work-a-day commuters and weekend warriors.

    Creating a car to meet all these needs isn’t particularly difficult, but giving it passion is the supreme challenge. It’s not the technology behind the MKC that makes the car so special, although features such as the 285-horsepower EcoBoost engine and push-button transmission don’t hurt. What makes the MKC magical is its ability to connect with the driver: something multi-passenger vehicles very rarely do.

    Getting behind the wheel of the new MKC, I instantly sensed kinesthesia between my hands and the steering wheel, my spine with the seatbacks, and my feet with the pedals. The car engaged my mind and body in a manner that was nothing short of exhilarating.

    This is not to say that the Lincoln MKC is a sports car in a crossover body. But it manages to make features that seem intrusive on competitive products completely intuitive. For example, the lane departure warning and assist system gently guides the driver back to the center of the lane when he starts to stray, with gentle haptic feedback. The 2.3-liter turbocharged engine achieves its fuel economy targets regardless of how hard the driver pushes the car, and the transmission saves space without forcing its user through a new learning curve.

    All-wheel drive makes the MKC a four-season vehicle. In the winter, an app enables the driver to start the car remotely and pre-heat it. Active park assist with available park-out assist will automatically pull the vehicle into a parallel parking spot on the street. Drivers who park in public garages and lots can use the rearview camera to monitor cross traffic, making it easier and safer to back out.

    Base price for the test car with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine is $40,860. Options include the ruby red exterior paint, active park assist, premium audio system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, forward collision warning, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control. Final MSRP is $49,265. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport AWC

    Posted on February 23rd, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Five-passenger crossover goes off the grid

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

    The original Mitsubishi Outlander was based on a Japan-market car called the Airtrek that debuted in 2001. The version that came to the US featured a restyled front end, but was, at heart, more Asian than American. The car’s significance was its orientation, as one of the first vehicles to blur the lines between off-road oriented sport-utility vehicles and passenger cars: the segment now known as crossovers.

    The current Outlander is the third iteration of the car, available in both front and all-wheel drive configurations. For 2015, Mitsubishi has added a more powerful 2.4-liter block as an optional upgrade from the base two-liter four-cylinder block.

    Twenty-fifteen models also feature a new continuously variable automatic transmission engineered to mimic a traditional seven-speed step transmission. The Outlander Sport is one of the most affordable compact crossovers on the market with a base MSRP below $20,000 when equipped with the five-speed manual transmission.

    The upscale SE grade with all-wheel control tested starts at $24,195 excluding the $850 destination charge. A $4,900 touring package adds leather seating, navigation with real-time weather and traffic updates, Rockford Fosgate premium audio system, power driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof and roof rails, bringing the final MSRP to $29,945 Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

    Posted on February 19th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Compact sedan is fuel-thrifty and fun to drive

    By Nina Russin

    Volkswagen Jetta TDI

    Volkswagen Jetta TDI

    A smile crosses my face when I spot the Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan parked in my driveway upon returning from the Chicago Auto Show. The Jetta stands out in a sea of plain vanilla competitors as the car that didn’t jump the shark. It doesn’t compromise: not in fuel economy, nor styling, nor performance. It is the total package.

    Average fuel economy for the turbo-diesel test car with the six-speed manual transmission is 36 mpg according to the EPA. If anything, that’s a conservative estimate. On my 100-mile test drive, I averaged closer to 40.

    Equally important is performance, which is true to the sedan’s German heritage of driver-focused automobiles. The Volkswagen Jetta lures drivers behind the wheel with promises of peppy acceleration, crisp shifting and a suspension equally at home on urban thoroughfares and winding two-lane roads, delivering on all fronts with aplomb.

    Base price for the SEL model tested is $26,410 excluding the $820 delivery charge. The driver assistance and lighting package on the test car adds blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, rear traffic alert and park distance control, bringing the final MSRP to $28,920. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chicago Auto Show

    Posted on February 17th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Nation’s largest consumer show fills McCormick Place

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan Press Conference

    Nissan Press Conference

    The history of the Chicago Auto Show dates back to 1901: the same year Walt Disney was born on a cold December day, Winston Churchill made his maiden speech in the British House of Commons and baseball’s American League launched its maiden season.

    During its 107-year history, Chicago has become one of the four biggest auto shows in the country and the most heavily attended by consumers. The Chicago Auto Trade Association reported sales of 250,000 tickets for the 2015 show prior to the box office opening.

    Sandwiched between the holiday season and the onset of spring, the Chicago Auto Show entices parents and their kids to break free of the confines of their homes at a time when the weather is frigid and daylight scarce. The McCormick Place convention center is large enough to hold something for everyone, from indoor test tracks to a special edition SpongeBob Toyota Sienna minivan for the kids.

    Media days for the 2015 show took place on February 11-13. The show opened to the public on February 14 and runs through the 22nd. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E

    Posted on February 12th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Game changing sport sedan
    By Nina Russin

    Volvo S60

    Volvo S60

    Volvo has thrown the old playbook out the window and rewritten the rules for the new S60 sport sedan, with engine technology that is truly revolutionary. Traditional wisdom dictated that four-cylinder engines stretched fuel economy but sacrificed power. A supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Volvo S60 T6 develops 302 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque while averaging 35 miles-per-gallon on the highway according to the EPA.

    A new eight-speed automatic transmission provides large overdrive gears to further improve gas mileage during low-load situations. The engine automatically shuts off at idle to save gas in stop-and-go traffic. The ignition turns back on as soon as the driver takes his foot off the brake pedal.

    Volvo is known for its leadership position in active safety technology, with features such as City Safety with pedestrian detection standard equipment on the mid-sized sedan. Optional blind spot detection adds cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and front and rear parking aids.

    A new Sensus Connect infotainment feature works via a smartphone app downloadable to either Android or iPhones. It includes emergency notification of police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a collision, enables car owners to schedule service visits using the app, adds apps such as Pandora, Stitcher and Yelp via cloud-based technology, creates a WiFi hotspot and adds an on-screen owner’s manual. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Kia Sedona

    Posted on February 10th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Minivan breaks out of the box

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Kia Sedona

    2015 Kia Sedona

    Sometimes the best way to increase sales in a shrinking market segment is by redefining it. Kia’s strategy with its all-new Sedona minivan is just that: combining crossover-like styling with new connectivity features to give its family-friendly car twenty-first century appeal.

    Kia is one of a handful of players who continue to produce minivans, competing against Toyota, Honda and Chrysler. While its competitors continue to play it safe with tried-and-true features such as foldaway seating and giant center console bins, the Korean automaker is sacrificing a bit of practicality for some much needed sex appeal.

    Design guru Peter Schreyer penned the exterior, with a more pronounced front end and grille that bears striking resemblance to the mid-sized Sorento crossover. A taller beltline results in a narrower greenhouse, but gives the Sedona some shoulders and a more interesting profile. A roof-mounted spoiler and aggressive rear fascia frame the wrap-around tail lamps, preventing the slab sided appearance that plagues many members of the genre.

    Inside, the Sedona seats up to eight passengers. Optional lounge seats in the second row rival living room furniture for comfort, while an available dual-pane sunroof adds a welcome dose of ambient light. The newest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system developed in conjunction with Microsoft adds new services such as geo-fencing and curfew alerts for younger drivers as well as a host of new apps under the Kia App Store umbrella. Read the rest of this entry »

  • In-Car Weather Forecasting Moves Forward

    Posted on February 9th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    New technologies connect the driver with the road

    By Nina Russin

    Real-time weather updates warn drivers about unsafe road conditions.

    Real-time weather updates warn drivers about unsafe road conditions.

    It won’t be long before your car can warn you about an ice patch on the road ahead. Whereas today’s real-time weather alerts give drivers general information about climate conditions, emerging technologies will provide real-time road and atmospheric conditions in the driver’s exact location.

    The new advances are made possible by connected car technology that includes a GPS indicator for the vehicle. Baron Services currently provides weather data for news broadcasts. The company that has been in business for a quarter of a century also builds radar systems for defense contractors and the U.S. National Weather Service.

    Chris Carr, a meteorologist and director of business development for Baron Services, explains that the company acquires raw data that it applies to a global map divided into one-kilometer squares. Combining this with ground surface information about urbanization, geography and the type of road surface, scientists can predict how weather will impact the road surface in real time. They can also predict how fog, for example, can settle into a valley and cause visibility problems or how a wind tunnel through the mountains can make high-profile vehicles such as semi trucks unstable. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chevrolet Colorado

    Posted on February 6th, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    Midsized truck yields maximum fun

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chevrolet Colorado

    2015 Chevrolet Colorado

    The new midsized Chevrolet Colorado light-duty pickup truck might be the perfect fit for buyers with active lifestyles. While it doesn’t have the payload and towing capacity of the full-sized Silverado, it is capable of serious work. Towing capacity for the 4×4 model tested with the trailering package is 7,000 pounds. Without the option, the Colorado tows up to 3,500: plenty for a smaller trailer.

    Comparing wheelbases, the Colorado crew cab with the larger of two available cargo boxes is about three inches shorter than the Silverado with the smaller of two available boxes. Equipped with the smaller cargo box, the crew cab on the Silverado holds 53.4 cubic feet of cargo as opposed to 49.9 cubic feet for the Colorado with the bigger box.

    Buyers on a budget can opt for the base rear-wheel drive Colorado with a 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual gearbox priced from just under $21,000. At a time when pickup truck prices climb well into the $40,000 range, that’s a bargain.

    2015 Chevrolet Colorado

    2015 Chevrolet Colorado

    The test truck is the four-wheel drive Z71 model with the short cargo box, priced from $34,115 excluding the $875 destination charge. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated at 305-horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include four-way power driver and front passenger seats, a folding bench rear seat, heated front seats, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system, OnStar, XM satellite radio.

    The Colorado also comes with a standard rearview camera to eliminate blind spots in the back corners and make it easier to monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots.

    Options include a Bose audio upgrade with 8-inch color touchscreen and navigation, spray-on bedliner and trailering package, bringing the final MSRP to $36,710. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

    Posted on February 2nd, 2015 ninarussin No comments

    German performance to the power of R

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Volkswagen Golf R

    2015 Volkswagen Golf R

    Wet roads, chatter bumps and chicanes are all in a day’s work for the 2015 Golf R: the race-prepared version of Volkswagen’s popular hatchback utilizing all-wheel drive technology derived from the OEM’s World Rally Championship experience.

    Volkswagen has been a WRC regular since the early 1980s, with six podium finishes between 1983 and 1988 in the Golf GTI. In 2013, the OEM put on a new game face with the Golf R Polo, jumping on the podium for six of its initial eight competitions. The first street-legal R to come to the United States was the 2004 R32. Volkswagen sold all 5,000 units allotted to the market with ease.

    The 2015 Golf R shares the same MQB platform as the current Golf and GTI. Powered by a turbocharged 2-liter engine rated at 292-horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque the newest Golf R accelerates from zero-to-sixty in under five seconds.

    Buyers can choose between the DSG automatic transmission available at rollout and a six-speed manual transmission that follows shortly thereafter. Pricing begins at $36,595 for the base DSG model, excluding the $820 destination charge. Read the rest of this entry »