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  • Kia to Unveil KV7 Concept in Detroit

    New crossover has an active lifestyle focus

    Kia KV7 Concept

    It’s no surprise that Kia’s California-based design team understands the needs of buyers with active lifestyles. The Orange County studio is located at the end of a bike path which leads to the ocean. Among the Kia execs who participate regularly in endurance sports is KMA’s manager of car product planning, Ralph Tjoa, who is an avid cyclist.

    In January, Kia takes the wraps off its newest active lifestyle concept car: the KV7. Kia will unveil the car at the North American Auto Show in Detroit, which opens to the public at the Cobo convention center on January 15.

    Kia has a tradition of staying close to its concept cars as vehicles evolve into production. The KV7’s two-box architecture and versatile, roomy interior shows lots of promise for buyers who carry bicycles and other large cargo. Stay tuned to this web site for further details.

  • 2010 Acura RDX Tech

    Five-passenger crossover with sport sedan performance

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Acura RDX

    Acura has a talent for filling a car buyer’s practical needs without compromising the visceral aspect of driving. The RDX crossover vehicle is a case in point. By combining the sporty performance of the TSX sedan with a larger, more versatile interior, Acura gives buyers with active lifestyles a means to enjoy the road as much as the destination.

    Power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission. For 2010, Acura adds a two-wheel drive model, giving buyers who don’t need all-wheel drive a less expensive option.

    Base price for the two-wheel drive RDX is $35,620, not including the $860 delivery charge. The crossover comes standard with most of the comfort and convenience features buyers want, including Bluetooth connectivity, a power moonroof, 18-inch wheels, a ten-way power driver’s seat, XM satellite radio and a USB port.

    An available technology package adds navigation with real-time travel updates, a premium surround-sound audio system and dual-zone climate control. Acura simplifies the buying process by including the cost of the upgrade in the RDX Tech model. Price as tested is $36,480. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Driving to Excel

    Bondurant program gives disabled drivers the performance edge

    By Nina Russin

    Todd Crutcher doesn’t remember much about December 24, 2009, when a seizure caused by a cavernous malformation in his brain caused him to collapse at work. The director of business development at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving was unconscious during the Medevac flight to the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Crutcher’s slow path to recovery following surgery required twelve days in an induced coma due to an ICU psychosis.

    But he will never forget how Jo Crawford and her team at the Barrow Connection helped him to rehab and get back to work. In addition to occupational therapy, Barrow and her team plan recreational events outside the hospital to help patients “get back into the world.”

    When he finally got the green light to leave the hospital, Crutcher came up with the idea of a day at the track for Barrow patients. The program would include exercises on the skid pad and hot laps on the track with the school’s team of professional driving instructors. Owner Bob Bondurant agreed to the idea, donating his facility free of charge. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show

    Electrification and a slightly sunnier industry forecast

    By Nina Russin

    Jaguar C-X75 Reveal

    The LA Auto show is gaining traction. After years of struggling to emerge from Detroit’s shadow, the largest North American auto show on the west coast has become the venue of choice for anything green. This year, alternative fuel unveilings ranged from Jaguar’s stunning C-X75 supercar to the compact Honda Fit EV.

    As the first major North American auto show of the season, Los Angeles is also the place where automakers report on the state of the market. While the industry has yet to return to 2008 sales levels, traffic into the showrooms appears to be on the upswing. Land Rover reported that its US sales were up 23 percent year-over-year, thanks to the success of the new LR4.

    Mercedes-Benz also enjoyed a spike in sales, up twenty percent for the first three quarters of 2010 compared to last year.

    Sales for the all-new Honda Odyssey are up 52 percent compared to the outgoing model, while overall sales for October are up 20 percent year-over year.

    Korean automaker Kia set sales records seven out of ten month in 2010, thanks to the popularity of its US built Sorento. Sorento sales have exceeded 100,000 units since the roll-out: a first for the brand. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Dodge and Chrysler Roll-Out

    Reinvigorated brands introduce all-new Charger, Durango and Chrysler 200

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Dodge Charger

    Almost twelve months to the day after its merger with Fiat, Chrysler emerges as a leaner, meaner and more profitable machine. For 2011, Dodge rolls out an all-new Charger mid-sized sedan and Durango sport-utility vehicle, while the 2011 Chrysler 200 replaces the outgoing Sebring.

    In addition, the Dodge Journey, Grand Caravan and Challenger get mid-cycle facelifts, as does the Chrysler Town & Country minivan. At a recent northern California media event, execs stressed the far-reaching effects of the new corporate environment, which impacts everything from the way designers and engineers develop new product to the brand umbrellas. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Winter Tires Enhance Cold Weather Safety

    New Blizzak and X-Ice Xi2 models boost performance on ice and snow

    By Nina Russin

    Photo Courtesy of Volvo

    All-season radials are a good news/bad news story for the motoring public. On the plus side, drivers living in mild climates can go through the year on a single set of treads. The flip side is that car owners take the term literally, not realizing the safety risks until it’s too late.

    “A car’s safety systems are only as good as the traction the tires provide,” explained vice president, Matt Edmonds., the world’s largest independent tire retailer, tests tires internally using a specially-designed track at its South Bend, Indiana headquarters. For its winter tire tests, Edmonds and his team go as far north as the Arctic Circle to assess performance under extreme weather conditions. Read the rest of this entry »

  • SEMA 2010

    World’s largest aftermarket expo fills the Las Vegas Convention Center

    By Nina Russin

    Mopar Ram Runner at the 2010 SEMA Show

    Here’s an idea for a marathon: Start in the north hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Walk every aisle of the SEMA show, which fills all three buildings as well as the space out front. The indoor exhibits alone stretch 26 miles end-to-end. Anything even remotely car-related is there, be it racks, tow hitches, camping equipment, wheels, tires, electronics, custom paint and custom cars.

    Although SEMA is technically an aftermarket show, the manufacturers use the event as an opportunity to display concept cars they might not bring on the auto show circuit. While many of the cars are street rods, some are eco friendly, such as Honda’s CR-Z Hybrid customs. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 ALV of the Year Winners

    By Larry Edsall

    2011 ALV Ride-and-Drive

    Whether transporting bicycles, kayaks, skis, or other athletic gear over varying terrain, athletes need vehicles that accommodate their lifestyle. To help those people identify the cars, trucks, utility vehicles and crossovers that are as fit as themselves, the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year Awards provide a unique perspective.

    Judging is equally weighted between two groups – a panel of automotive journalists who drive the vehicles as part of their work and a group of athletes, who earlier this year gathered at The Tire Rack campus in South Bend, Indiana, to evaluate all of the entries.

    The results of the 2011 Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year Awards, presented by, with additional sponsorship from Michelin, are being announced during the 2010 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show. Those winners are:

    Urban ALV of the YearVolkswagen Golf
    Best Value ALV of the Year, On-RoadGMC Terrain
    Best Value ALV of the Year, Off-RoadNissan Xterra
    Luxury ALV of the Year, On-Road – Porsche Cayenne Turbo
    Luxury ALV of the Year, Off-RoadLand Rover LR4
    Green ALV of the Year – Audi A3 TDI
    Family ALV of the YearToyota Sienna
    Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD Sport

    Mid-sized pickup truck combines luxury and utility

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab

    When I was going through mechanic’s school in the mid-1980s, almost all of my classmates drove compact Toyota pickup trucks. The truck that evolved into the Tacoma was known for reliability in all kinds of weather. Owners would retire their trucks when they got sick of looking at them: the 22R four-cylinder engines never seemed to wear out.

    While the Tacoma is the smallest pickup truck in the current Toyota lineup, it’s considerably bigger than the old compact models. An available V-6 engine makes it more powerful, while the TRD sport package adds tech-savvy features such as Bluetooth interface and satellite radio.

    The double cab seats up to five passengers, making it a logical choice for active families. Base price on the four-wheel drive V-6 model is $26,250, not including an $800 delivery charge.

    The TRD option adds a host of comfort and performance features, including an audio upgrade, remote keyless entry, sport seats with lumbar support, sport suspension, a hood scoop, and 17-inch alloy wheels ($3385). The cat-back system opens up the exhaust behind the catalytic converter to improve airflow through the engine, while keeping the Tacoma emissions-legal ($535).

    A V-6 tow package includes a class 4 hitch, transmission and supplemental oil cooler, heavy duty battery and seven-pin connector ($650). With it, the Tacoma can tow up to 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV minimum standard. A front skid plate protects the engine against rock damage on off-road trails ($205).

    Other options on the test truck include daytime running lamps ($40), floor mats  and door sill protectors ($199), making the MSRP $33,183. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4X4

    Fifth-generation sport-utility vehicle seats up to seven passengers

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5

    Sixteen years ago, Toyota introduced a sport-utility vehicle designed to take active families through mud, sleet and snow. The 4Runner is a more affordable alternative to the upscale Toyota Land Cruiser with comparable off-road capability.

    The fifth-generation model is slightly larger in each dimension than the outgoing version. A new V-6 engine has more horsepower than the former six-cylinder or optional V-8. Buyers concerned about gas mileage can opt for a 157-horsepower four-cylinder engine that averages 23 miles-per-gallon on the highway for the rear-wheel drive version.

    Since the mid-sized Highlander appeals to buyers wanting the passenger car ride of a crossover vehicle, the 4Runner has remained true to its roots. The newest version rides on the same platform as the FJ Cruiser. Unlike the FJ, the 4Runner is available with three rows of seating.

    Engineers added features formerly limited to the Land Cruiser, enhancing the 4Runner’s off-road capability. For example, the Trail grade is available with kinetic dynamic suspension, which automatically decouples the stabilizer bars to maximize wheel travel. Toyota’s crawl control, standard on the Trail model, matches vehicle speed to the terrain, so the driver doesn’t have to modulate the throttle and brakes.

    The SR5 is the volume leader among three available grades, with pricing for the four-wheel drive model starting at $30,915. A two-speed transfer case on the test truck gives the 4Runner the extreme low gears necessary for off-road trails.

    An audio upgrade adds XM satellite radio and a USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth interface and redundant steering wheel controls ($585). A backup camera in the rearview mirror projects a wide-angle view to the back of the vehicle ($525). Leather trim and the third-row seats with third-row side curtain airbags cost $3570.

    A convenience package adds the moonroof, sunshade and two 120-volt power outlets ($1050). Carpeted floor mats cost $204. These options plus the $800 delivery fee bring the price of the test truck to $37,649. Read the rest of this entry »