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  • 2013 Toyota Prius c

    Urban-oriented hybrid hatchback

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Toyota Prius c

    2013 Toyota Prius c

    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 »

  • 2013 Toyota Prius v

    Family-friendly five-passenger hybrid

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Toyota Prius v

    2013 Toyota Prius v

    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 »

  • 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

    Midsized sedan with a green footprint

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid

    The Toyota Camry Hybrid gives fans of the midsized sedan a greener option. Using technology similar to the Prius, the Camry Hybrid extends fuel economy about 25 percent over gas-powered models.

    Toyota introduced the newest version of the Camry Hybrid in 2012, improving fuel economy by 30 percent over the first-generation car thanks to a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, aerodynamic enhancements and weight reduction.

    For 2013, the Camry’s blind spot monitoring system gains cross-traffic alert. There are two available trim levels for the hybrid, of which the XLE, priced from $27,670 is the more upscale. Standard equipment includes heated folding outside mirrors, chrome tipped exhaust, dual-zone climate control, an 8.1-inch display audio system with Bluetooth and MP3, keyless entry and start, and an eight-way power driver’s seat.

    The test car includes a blind spot monitoring ($500), rearview backup camera ($695), Safety Connect ($515), leather upholstery ($1,185), navigation with Entune and a premium JBL audio system ($2,670), power moonroof ($915) and carpeted trunk mat ($225). With the $795 destination charge, final MSRP is $35,170. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show

    Green and red hot

    By Nina Russin

    Jaguar F-Type Coupe Reveal

    Jaguar F-Type Coupe Reveal

    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 »

  • Living History

    The legacy of classic cars

    By Nina Russin

    Willys-Overland Jeep Photo Courtesy of Chrysler Corp.

    Willys-Overland Jeep Photo Courtesy of Chrysler Corp.

    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┬áLand 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.

  • 2013 Toyota Tundra Limited CrewMax

    Full-sized pickup truck with seating for five passengers

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Toyota Tundra

    2013 Toyota Tundra

    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 »

  • 2013 Toyota Corolla S

    Compact sedan excels in safety and reliability

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Toyota Corolla

    2013 Toyota Corolla

    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 »

  • 2014 Rolls Royce Wraith

    High-luxury coupe melds style and power

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Rolls Royce Wraith

    2014 Rolls Royce Wraith

    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 »

  • 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6 4WD

    Midsized crossover gets enhanced infotainment features

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Toyota Highlander

    To say that the original Toyota Highlander was the right car at the right time is sort of like posturing that the Pope is Catholic. Originally intended as the on-road counterpart to the 4Runner, the Highlander resonated with buyers looking for a seven-passenger vehicle that combined cargo versatility with a car-like ride.

    The Highlander quickly became one of Toyota’s best selling models, and has continued in that leadership position to this day. The 2013 car is basically a carry-over from 2012, with some infotainment enhancements prior to a new generation that emerges in 2014.

    Buyers can choose between a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and 3.5-liter V-6 with front or all-wheel drive. A new Plus trim level replaces the former Technology package and includes a rear backup camera as standard equipment.

    The test is the upscale Limited V-6 with all-wheel drive, priced from $39,400. Standard convenience features include leather upholstery with a heated power eight-way driver’s seat, four-way power passenger seat, folding and sliding second-row seats, folding third-row seats, navigation, Entune, Bluetooth, rear backup camera, push-button start and tri-zone climate control.

    Optional cross bars, carpeted cargo mats and door edge guards, plus the $845 delivery charge bring the final MSRP to $40,863. Read the rest of this entry »

  • The Best of ALV

    Ten years of active lifestyle vehicles

    By Nina Russin

    Ten years ago I started a conversation with my colleagues, Bob Babbitt and Jim Woodman, about the auto industry’s growing interest in active lifestyle vehicles. As endurance athletes, we all felt many OEM’s were missing the mark: that product planners didn’t understand the audience they were developing these cars for.

    We decided to start a car-of-the-year program that would recognize the best active lifestyle vehicles on the market, but more important, provide a forum for automakers to get feedback from the active community.

    The first Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program in 2004 awarded two sport-utility vehicles, the Nissan Xterra and Land Rover LR3, awards in Best Value and Luxury categories. Ten years later, ALV has grown to a two-day event involving nationally recognized journalists as well as 100 elite and area athletes judging cars in eight categories. This year’s program included professional football players, elite runners, triathletes, paddlers, kayakers, cyclists and more.

    On this tenth anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to curate a collection featuring some of my favorite active lifestyle vehicles. Although ALVs come in many shapes and sizes, priced from under $20,000 to over $90,000, all share certain characteristics:

    • Thoughtful ergonomics
    • Versatile interior
    • Room for large cargo such as bicycles and snowboards
    • All-terrain capability
    • Towing capability
    • Easy-to-clean upholstery
    • A focus on safety

    This collection is part of eBay’s evolution from a traditional buying and selling platform to a community of enthusiasts united by sharing what they are passionate about. Check it out at #FOLLOWITFINDIT.