2013 Nissan Rogue SV AWD
Compact crossover gains around-view safety technology
By Nina Russin
The Rogue is Nissan’s compact crossover, competing against the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Hyundai Tucson. This year, the Rogue gains the same around-view safety technology as the upscale Infiniti JX. The technology uses four side-angle cameras around the vehicle perimeter to provide a 360-degree view, making it much easier to squeeze into a tight parking spot.
Pricing starts at $20,310, excluding the $845 destination charge for the base front-wheel drive model. The all-wheel drive car starts at $21,610. All models come with a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously-variable automatic transmission.
There are three trim levels: S, SV and SV with the SL package. The test car is the all-wheel drive SV that starts at $26,050. The $3,900 SL package adds leather trim, heated front seats and outside mirrors, navigation, satellite radio with real-time weather and traffic updates, a Bose premium audio system, , power moonroof, , xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloy rims and automatic climate control. Final MSRP is $30,965. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 Honda Crosstour 4WD EX
Midsized crossover gets styling and power enhancements
By Nina Russin
The idea behind the original Honda Crosstour was to make the best-selling Accord it’s based upon a more versatile ride. The Crosstour’s hatchback design, additional length and height create a larger cargo space for buyers whose active lifestyles might require loading bicycles, skis or snowboards inside.
Lackluster response to the original model had Honda designers return to the drawing boards, restyling the car for 2013 and adding a more powerful V-6 engine. Honda also lowered the price of the base four-cylinder model by $525: MSRP starts at $27,230 excluding the delivery charge.
The upscale EX model tested starts at $37,090. It is all-wheel drive as opposed to front-wheel drive and is fully loaded with Honda’s newest safety technology, including the LaneWatch display that uses a camera in the passenger side mirror to record activity to the right of the car. As a runner and occasional cyclist, I think it’s one of the best technologies currently on the market.
Convenience features on the test car include push button start, satellite radio, Pandora radio, SMS text messaging, Bluetooth interface, navigation, dual-zone climate control, ten-way power driver’s seat, power moonroof, and a ten-way power driver’s seat with two-position memory. Final MSRP, including the $830 destination charge, is $37,920. Read the rest of this entry »
Heels and Wheels 2013
Annual conference puts women in the driver’s seat
By Nina Russin
I feel like the Queen: not the one with the Queen wave and frumpy clothes, but rather a Pussy Galore queen with Sean Connery by my side, oozing sex appeal and confidence. I don’t typically have Pussy Galore hallucinations, but I don’t usually get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB9 either. The experience was the highlight of my trip to the third annual Heels and Wheels women’s automotive conference in Bend, Oregon
Of course, there was a more serious aspect to the event, its primary focus being the buying power of women, which currently accounts for at least 50 percent of all new car purchases and up to 80 percent of car buying decisions.
According to Kelley Blue Book research Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Mazda and Volkswagen are the most popular brands among female buyers. Women tend to favor crossover vehicles and SUVs over sports cars and pickup trucks, with models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 topping the popularity charts.
The internet has become the most popular source of information among women shopping for a new car, due partly to the unease with which many women approach dealerships. KBB visitors typically research a vehicle for two months, take about three more months for the purchasing process and keep their cars between 8 and 10 years.
Connectivity features are playing a larger role in purchase decisions, with Bluetooth and GPS both included among must-haves. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 Buick Verano 1ST
Compact sedan for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
I’ll admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for Buicks. I took my first cross-country trip in my father’s ’66 triple black LeSabre, and learned to drive on my mother’s ’69 Skylark. I drove the Skylark until the ball joints gave way some time in the mid-1980s. Even though the wheels were falling off the car I was still able to sell it to a friend. The engine was still good.
So I welcome Buick’s current renaissance with open arms, delighted to see its return to a rightful place among the world’s premium brands.
The new Verano compact sedan reminds me in many ways of the Skylark I grew up with. Granted it’s a much smaller car, and the chassis is front-wheel drive as opposed to rear-wheel drive for the Skylark. What the two cars share is a similar product strategy: offering discriminating buyers the performance and luxury they desire at a remarkably affordable price.
Pricing for the base model starts under $25,000. Base price on the test car is $29,105 excluding the $885 destination charge. The upscale grade comes loaded with convenience and safety features, including keyless entry and start, IntelliLink voice-activated infotainment system, satellite radio, leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming audio, a heated steering wheel with redundant controls and a premium audio system. Options including a power sunroof, navigation and special exterior paint bring the final MSRP to $32,180. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 RAM 1500 Crew Cab
Refined pickup claims gas-mileage bragging rights
By Bob Golfen
Ram upped the ante this year in the full-size pickup-truck competition, adding best-in-class fuel economy to traditional worksite boasts about payload, towing capacity and durability.
For 2013, Ram 1500 was fitted with Chrysler’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that generates 305 horsepower, and which helps the two-wheel-drive versions of the half-ton pickup hit an EPA-estimated 17 city and 25 highway.
That’s quite a feat for a vehicle that weighs two-and-a-half tons and must punch a huge hole through the air at highway speeds. Towing capacity is also impressive at 6,500 pounds.
The V6 engine doesn’t accomplish the mileage numbers completely on its own. Ram’s fuel efficiency is also boosted by a sophisticated eight-speed transmission, sleeker aerodynamics and a reduction in weight. The V6 is more efficient with improved fuel injection and a stop/start system, which turns off the engine when the truck is standing still instead of wastefully idling.
Ram boasts that the new 3.6 liter has 42 percent more horsepower, 13 percent more torque and 20 percent better fuel economy than the old 3.7-liter V6 that it replaced.
Ram still offers the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with its booming 395 horsepower and 407 foot-pounds, which the truck maker says offers top fuel economy for V8-powered pickups, though significantly lower than its own V6 models. Naturally, four-wheel-drive versions with either engine get slightly lower fuel mileage.
The base, regular-cab Ram 1500 starts off at $23,585, while the well-equipped SLT Crew Cab that I drove had a starting price of $33,820. With a premium interior, Uconnect audio/navigation/accessibility package and a few other safety and convenience options, the bottom line came out to $38,990. Read the rest of this entry »
Ford Expands Electrification Efforts
C-Max, Fusion and Focus lineups include hybrids/ pure electric powertrains
By Nina Russin
Ford’s green car offerings for the 2013 model year include hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the C-Max crossover, compact Focus and midsized Fusion sedans. At a recent event in Tempe, Arizona, I had the opportunity to jump behind the wheel of Ford’s newest green cars and learn a little more about the automaker’s hybrid and electric vehicle technology.
In order to contain manufacturing costs, Ford is utilizes flexible assembly lines at its Wayne, Michigan plant. The plant produces the C-Max and Focus gasoline, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric models. Since the cars share chassis components, it’s easier to modify production plans according to buyer demand.
Ford positions the C-Max between two members of the Toyota Prius family: the liftback and the larger Prius V. The C-Max hybrid utilizes a lithium-ion battery pack positioned between the second-row seats and cargo area together with a two-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine to average 47 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4X2
Seven-passenger SUV enters its fourth generation
By Nina Russin
The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is a solid, well-built seven-passenger SUV with good fuel economy, excellent towing capability and good road manners. It is not, however a pathfinder.
The original model was, as the name suggests, an off-the-grid vehicle: designed to scramble across rocks, plough through mud and snow and even ford the occasional small stream.
While the fourth-generation has an available all-wheel drive system, nobody would mistake it for an off-road vehicle. The wheelbase is 114 inches long and ground clearance is 6.5 inches. The all-wheel drive system has a locking differential, but no two-speed transfer case.
The standard powertrain consists of a 260-horsepower V-6 engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. The two-wheel drive version tested has a 5000-pound towing capacity: well in excess of our minimum ALV standard.
Base price is $34,470 excluding the $825 destination charge. Options on the test car include splash guards, roof rail cross bars, carpeted floor mats, illuminated kick plates and a premium package that adds a Bose 13-speaker sound system, 120-volt power outlet, dual panorama moonroof, tow hitch and trailer harness. Final MSRP is $38,870. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 BMW X1
A compact SUV with sporty driving flair
By Bob Golfen
If your heart is set on a hot little sports sedan but you need more space to stow your gear, BMW’s new compact SUV could be just the ticket.
The X1 enjoyed a wildly successful run in Europe, where it’s been on sale since 2009, before coming to the U.S. as a 2013 model just after a mid-cycle update, and it carries over essentially unchanged for 2014. With X1, BMW builds on its reputation for creating SUVs that perform with a sporting edge similar to that of its coupes and sedans.
BMW doesn’t even call them SUVs for sports utility vehicles, but SAVs for sports activity vehicles.
X1 proved to be a hot little package of compact versatility and performance, especially enhanced with M Sport suspension, wheels and tires, as the test car was. The steering was crisp and precise, and the handling was more nimble than you’d expect considering its tall roofline.
There are three versions of X1 and two engine options: the rear-wheel-drive sDrive 28i, the all-wheel-drive xDrive 28i- each of them powered by a 2-liter twin-turbocharged four with 240 horsepower- and the all-wheel-drive xDrive 35i, with its power bumped up to 300 horsepower by its twin-turbo 3-liter inline-6. The six-cylinder option in the X1 is exclusive to the U.S.
Speaking of world affairs, X1 has proven so popular in China that BMW has begun building them in a new plant in Tiexi, Shenyang Province. All of the X1s coming to the U.S. are built at BMW’s Leipzig, Germany factory, instead of at the Spartanburg, S.C., facility where the X3 and X6 are created.
I drove the sDrive 28i and found its combination of 240 horsepower and eight-speed automatic to be plenty effective. This is the least-expensive version of X1, with a starting price of $31,550, including shipping, which seems like a fairly reasonable entry point for a premium BMW vehicle with all that ‘driving-machine’ goodness. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 Lexus GS 450h
Hybrid five-passenger sport sedan
By Nina Russin
The 2013 GS 450h is the second version of Lexus’ hybrid rear-wheel drive sport sedan: the first rolled out in 2007. While it utilizes similar technology to the Toyota Prius, the purpose of the electric motors in the GS is primarily to boost power rather than extend fuel economy.
Both Toyota and Lexus have used hybrid technology to create halo cars throughout their model lineups. It is a reflection of the automakers’ leadership in the field, as well as their commitment to a sustainable future.
The motors give the 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the GS the power of a V-8, combined with 31 mpg fuel economy according to the EPA. The synergy hybrid drive system is capable of operating in pure electric mode at low speeds. The driver can use a rotary dial on the center console to choose between eco mode, which favors fuel economy, or power for better performance.
Base price is $58,950 excluding the $875 destination charge. A luxury package on the test car adds 18-inch alloy wheels, heated rear seats, LED headlamps with adaptive front lighting, a bamboo and leather steering wheel, semi-aniline leather seating, three-zone climate control, 18-way power front seats and rear sunshades ($5645). Other options include blind spot monitoring ($500); a Mark Levinson premium sound system ($1380); navigation with Lexus Enform, real-time weather and traffic updates ($1735); intuitive park assist ($500); a trunk mat, cargo net and wheel locks ($242). Final MSRP is $68,952. Read the rest of this entry »
2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport AWD
Five-passenger crossover tuned for performance
By Nina Russin
As a car enthusiast and athlete, I’m always on the lookout for vehicles that fill both squares. This year, Lexus adds an F-Sport variant to the best-selling RX 350 crossover, upping the car’s performance ante.
While the F-Sport model shares the same 3.5-liter V-6 engine as a base model, an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters enables the driver to better optimize its power.
The F-Sport model also adds a sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch wheels to improve handling on challenging roads. A unique grille and badging differentiate the F-Sport from other RX 350 exteriors, while the interior gets black trimmed leather seats, aluminum pedals and a black headliner.
The test car is all-wheel drive for better traction on wet and snow-covered roads. Base price is $47,000. Options include blind spot monitoring, a premium 12-speaker sound system, navigation with Lexus Enform, intuitive park assist and a cargo net. An $895 delivery charge brings the final MSRP to $51,729. Read the rest of this entry »