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  • 2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec

    Driver-focused compact crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Acura RDX A-Spec

    For 2019, Acura introduces an all-new version of its compact crossover, the RDX. As the larger MDX has become more family-focused. The RDX, now in its third iteration, has evolved into a more personal car. The newest model is the first to be designed in North America at the automaker’s Los Angeles design studio, and is built at its East Liberty, Ohio assembly plant.

    The basis for the new design is the 2016 Acura Precision concept: a futuristic-looking sedan that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. While styling for the new RDX is less severe, one can clearly see the Precision’s influence: aero profile, sharp edges and large wheels.

    As part of the new car’s design focus, Acura has included an A-Spec model among its offerings. The appearance package includes 20-inch alloy wheels, unique fascia, grille, exhaust tips and special badging on the outside, and a custom interior with special seating, black headliner and an ELS premium 3-D audio system.

    2019 Acura RDX A-Spec

    Base price is $45,500 excluding the $995 destination charge. The RDX A-Spec comes fully loaded with convenience features including keyless entry and start, 12-way power driver’s and front passenger seats with driver’s seat memory, touchpad center stack display, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear-seat ventilation, AcuraLink communication, panoramic moonroof, power tailgate, LED headlamps and tail lamps, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, HD radio, USB interface and Apple CarPlay. Final MSRP is $46,495. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2019 Honda Insight Touring

    New hybrid sedan joins Honda’s green car lineup

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Honda Insight

    The first-generation Insight liftback was Honda’s first green car, coming to the states a year before the Toyota Prius it competes against. Over the years, the Insight maintained the five-door body style but grew-in-size and added more safety and convenience features.

    After twenty years on the market, the guys at Honda decided it was time for a change, introducing a sedan version for 2019. The newest Insight maintains the core values of its predecessors: affordable pricing and excellent fuel economy, but with styling that should appeal to a larger chunk of the American market.

    Pricing for the upscale Touring grade starts at $28,090. Honda loads the premium model with the convenience and safety features buyers want so they don’t have to add on expensive options. Keyless entry and start, leather upholstery, satellite radio, navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth interface, 17-inch alloy rims and more all come standard. Final MSRP including destination is $28,985. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    Subcompact aimed towards driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    This summer an all-new hatchback replaces the Corolla iM: a car developed for Europe and initially sold in the US under the Scion nameplate. The new hatchback reflects a serious commitment stateside to a segment currently dominated by Honda and Mazda, delivering a product that goes head-to-head against the Civic and Mazda3.

    “Our competition, especially the Civic, has a unique family story. We’re doing the same thing,” explained Jordan Pauly, vehicle marketing for Toyota.

    “In this diverse segment, we are looking at buyers aged 18-35, multicultural, half male and half female. Not one vehicle fits all. The group is interested in utility but does not want the size or higher price of a SUV,” he continued.

    Toyota hopes buyers will see the new hatch as an affordable, fun-to-drive alternative, and is developing aftermarket parts under the TRD brand to encourage customizing. The automaker is campaigning a Formula Drift car based on the production car built by Stephan Papadakis and driven by Fredric Aasbo, to whet the appetite of driving enthusiasts. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2019 Toyota Avalon

    Flagship sedan is new from the ground up

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    When Toyota introduced the first Avalon for the 1994 model year, it was generally regarded as a stretched-out version of the midsize Camry. Over the past 25 years, the Avalon has acquired its own personality as a premium sedan aimed at older buyers looking for more space, but also more amenities.

    The newest Avalon that debuts for the 2019 model year carries this concept to the next level. It is the first to feature the automaker’s aggressive new styling along with a completely new powertrain, enhanced active safety and infotainment. All models, both gasoline and hybrid, are front-wheel drive.

    As in past years, the Avalon is bigger than the Camry although it is still considered a midsize sedan. The new car has a longer wheelbase and wider track than the outgoing model with shorter overhangs. It is also lower, lowering the center of gravity for better high-speed performance. The profile is, similar-to its competitors, coupe-like.

    Toyota hopes that the fifth-generation Avalon will turn heads, especially those of younger buyers wanting a luxurious vehicle but not necessarily ready to make the jump to Lexus.

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    Competing against the Nissan Maxima and Buick LaCrosse, the gasoline model comes with a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 301-horsepower with 267 pound-feet of torque and eight-speed automatic transmission. An available adaptive variable suspension adjusts within 20 milliseconds to road conditions and the driver’s style, capable of varying between 650 settings.

    Buyers who opt for the gasoline/electric hybrid get a 2.5-liter engine that pairs with two electric motors to deliver 215 net horsepower, with city and highway fuel economy at 43 and 44 mpg respectively.

    There are four grades of gasoline sedans, three for the hybrid. Pricing for the gasoline-powered XLE starts at $35,500 excluding the $895 delivery charge; the hybrid version starts at $36,500. The upscale Touring grade available only as a gasoline powered car is priced from $42,200. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2019 Ram 1500

    Light-duty pickups focus on style and functionality

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

    2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

    Since Ram split off from Dodge in 2009, the brand has experienced a major growth spurt, with annual sales jumping from 260,000 to 700,000 units last year. Product planners hope that the newest generation of light-duty pickups tagged for the 2019 model year will maintain the momentum, with increased towing and hauling capacity, new styling and upgraded interiors.

    Pricing for the base Tradesman work model starts at $31,695 excluding delivery, while the upscale Limited grade is priced from $53,890. Base MSRP for the off-road oriented Rebel is $43,995.

    Buyers can choose between the newest-generation Pentastar V-6 and Hemi V-8 engines. Mild hybrid technology improves fuel economy as well as the performance of the auto-stop feature. Read the rest of this entry »