2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD
A different kind of pickup for a different kind of truck owner
By Nina Russin
The second-generation Honda Ridgeline doesn’t look or handle like any other pickup truck on the market. It’s the only vehicle in its segment available with front-wheel drive and unlike most pickup trucks, utilizes unit-body as opposed to body on frame construction
An all-wheel drive version sends engine power to the rear wheels to maximize traction on dirt and in adverse weather. A variable torque management system can vary power between the rear wheels for better control on uneven trails.
The idea is to give buyers who like Honda’s passenger cars similar ride and handling a vehicle that can tow, haul, and get dirty. A spacious cabin has enough room for five passengers, with rear seats that flip up to create a large interior cargo space. The cargo bed is short, but can easily hold bicycles, kayaks and the like with the proper racks.
Power comes from a 3.5-liter iVTEC engine and six-speed automatic transmission that gives the all-wheel drive model 21 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy according to the EPA. Gas mileage during our 150-mile test drive was about two miles-per-gallon better.
The test car is fully loaded with convenience features, including keyless entry and start, power moonroof, LED headlamps, Honda’s in-bed trunk that provides secure storage outside the cabin, leather seating, tri-zone climate control, satellite radio and Bluetooth interface. Base price is $41,370. Adding in the $900 destination charge, final MSRP is $42,270. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Kia Cadenza Limited
Premium full-size sport sedan
By Nina Russin
The 2017 Kia Cadenza raised eyebrows when it beat out several luxury competitors to win this year’s Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year Luxury On-Road award. Although Kia continues its value-based marketing strategy, new models such as the Cadenza are giving competitors a run for the money, with award-winning styling and performance.
The first-generation Cadenza looked and felt very much like a stretch version of the smaller Optima sedan. The newest model is very much its own animal, with unique styling and performance.
Base price for the Limited is $44,390 excluding the $900 destination charge. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, Nappa leather interior with memory driver’s seat settings, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, UVO infotainment, satellite radio, navigation and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Acura MDX Advance
Refreshed crossover with seating for seven
By Nina Russin
The MDX is Acura’s answer to fans of the brand’s performance who need the interior capacity and versatility for growing families. For 2017, the current generation gets a major refresh, with new exterior styling and an expanded roster of standard active safety features including blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and road departure mitigation.
Rather than asking buyers to wade through expensive option packages, Acura rolls oft-asked for convenience features into its model grades. The Advance grade tested adds heated and ventilated front sport seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, roof rails, LED fog lamps, wood interior trim, parking sensors and a ten-way front passenger seat over the base model. Pricing starts at $56,400. Final MSRP including the $940 destination charge is $57,340. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Kia Sorento SXL AWD
Midsize crossover simplifies busy lifestyles
By Nina Russin
For eleven months out of the year my life is pretty simple: writing about cars, spending time with my husband, friends, family, a very spoiled cat named Goober and riding my bicycle.
For the month of October leading up to the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program, simplicity goes out the window. As the event organizer, I become a professional schlepper, carting around everything from luggage to traffic barriers and extremely large tureens of coffee. It takes a special vehicle to carry this sort of stuff and offer the versatility to drive on paved and dirt roads, through a variety of weather conditions, night and day. That vehicle is the Kia Sorento.
As any schlepper knows, bigger isn’t always better. It’s hard to park a Bluebird bus next to an airport terminal. As out-of-town journalists arrive having endured hours in too-small airplane seats, they expect a modicum of comfort. The Sorento delivers that, with eight-way adjustable front seats and plenty of hip and legroom in the second row.
A premium Infinity sound system kicks out the tunes in a pleasantly quiet interior. Keyless entry and start and hands-free power liftgate make it easier to get people and their luggage in and out of the car when time is of the essence.
The test car is the upscale SX Limited priced from $45,700. To simplify the buying process, Kia includes the convenience and safety features the car’s buying audience is looking for: from Nappa leather upholstery to dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, a panoramic sunroof, blind spot monitoring, around-view camera, navigation and autonomous emergency braking.
Options on the test car include white pearl exterior paint and special interior trim. Final MSRP including the $895 destination charge is $48,990. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Genesis G80 5.0
New luxury brand launches with full-size sedan
By Nina Russin
Recently Hyundai launched a new luxury brand called Genesis. The automaker follows a tradition of upscale marques evolving from the mainstream that began three decades back with Acura, Lexus and Infiniti.
The G80 is one of two new Genesis vehicles, this one aimed at the heart of the luxury market. Competing against the Lexus GS, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series, the G80 offers buyers a powerful, more affordably priced alternative with high levels of standard safety and convenience features.
Genesis sells the G80, priced from $54,550 (excluding destination) fully loaded, so customers don’t have to wade through a laundry list of expensive option packages. The only options on the test car include a first aid kit, cargo tray and wheel locks, all of which add less than $200 to the final $55,700 MSRP. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Audi Q7
Full-size SUV ready for adventure
By Nina Russin
For those who have the means, there is no partner better suited for adventure on and off-road than Audi’s all-new full-size sport-utility vehicle, the Q7. Building on momentum created by the original model, the second-generation vehicle adds a seven-mode drive select system that enables drivers to adjust the car’s throttle, braking and suspension for on and off-road surfaces. Cars with the optional air suspension can also change ride height, up to about 2-1/2 inches for clearing obstacles on off-road trails.
Power comes from a 333-horsepower V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine develops peak torque, 325 pound-feet, as low as 2900 rpm for exceptional acceleration off the line. Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction for sure-footedness on wet or snow-covered roads.
Base price is $54,800 excluding the $950 destination charge. Options on the test car include white metallic exterior finish, 20-inch rims with run-flat tires, Bose premium audio system, heads-up display, Audi Connect infotainment, navigation, smartphone interface, heated power side mirrors, LED interior lighting, adaptive cruise control with lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, rear seat entertainment system and black headliner. Final MSRP is $72,875. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Ford Fusion Platinum AWD
Midsize passenger sedan raises the bar
By Nina Russin
It’s almost impossible for a midsize sedan to stand apart from the crowd, simply because the segment includes so many outstanding vehicles. But the Ford Fusion does, outperforming Asian competitors that have long dominated the group.
Priced from $38,620, the Platinum all-wheel drive grade should be considered an entry luxury car, and as such, comes equipped with premium amenities including leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, automatic dual-zone climate controls, Sony audio system with satellite radio, heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel. Final MSRP on the test car, including metallic white exterior, 19-inch rims and inflatable rear seatbelts is $40,280. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Infiniti QX60 AWD
Midsize crossover appeals to the driver in all of us
By Nina Russin
We all hate that point in life when we have to jump the shark, and be more pragmatic in our choice of vehicle.
The guys at Infiniti get this, and they’ve come up with a remarkably good solution: the midsize QX60 all-wheel drive crossover. For active families or couples who have a lot of gear to haul around, the QX fills all the squares. Seating for seven: check. Large configurable cargo area: check. All-wheel drive for off-road and four-season performance: check and check.
But here’s the best part: get behind the wheel and the QX60 is a hoot to drive, with a powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a really good continuously variable automatic transmission (seriously, really good), and traction to all four wheels.
The QX60 isn’t cheap, with pricing for the all-wheel drive test car starting at $44,400. There are three option packages on the test car, a technology package including active safety features such as blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, backup collision intervention and forward emergency braking; upgraded Bose audio system and a theater package that adds an around-view monitor, Bluetooth streaming audio, navigation, eight-inch touchscreen and automatic wipers.
Final MSRP is $58,845, putting the QX60 right in the middle of the luxury segment. In this writer’s opinion, it’s worth the money. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Mazda CX-9 AWD
Three-row crossover for active families
By Nina Russin
The newest CX-9 is the second iteration of Mazda’s three-row crossover vehicle, available with either front or all-wheel drive: both powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine. Mazda’s goal was to create an interior spacious enough for a growing family in a vehicle that’s also fun to drive.
This presented quite a challenge, since driver-focused cars are typically small, light vehicles that focus more on front-to-rear weight balance and power-to-weight ratios than how many soccer team members can fit in back.
Pricing for the all-wheel drive Signature grade tested begins at $44,015 excluding the $800 destination charge. Being the top of the line model, the Signature comes fully loaded with convenience features buyers in this segment demand including keyless entry and start, three-zone climate control, leather trim, power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, satellite radio and more.
It’s also heavy on active safety technology including blind spot monitoring, rearview camera with cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and trailer stability assist. While Mazda, unlike its Japanese competitors, doesn’t have a luxury brand, the upscale CX-9 is for all intents and purposes a luxury car.
Final MSRP for the test car is $45,215. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus
Compact sport sedan for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
The ILX is Acura’s entry level sport sedan, appealing to young driving buyers who want luxury accouterments in an affordable package. Base price is $27,900: something of a bargain at a time when average transaction prices for new cars are close to $30,000.
The 2017 models are essentially carry-over from 2016 when the ILX received a major refresh that included new exterior styling and a more powerful engine, paired with an eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
The current powerplant delivers 201 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, a fifty horsepower boost over the engine it replaces. The new transmission offers the precision of a manual gearbox thanks to friction couplings, plus excellent fuel economy: 29 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA.
Buyers can choose between three trim levels: Standard, Premium and the Tech Plus tested. Acura wisely includes the convenience features buyers are looking for in each trim level rather than expensive option packages. Base price for the Tech Plus is $32,990 excluding the $940 destination charge. Standard convenience features include navigation with a multi-view rear camera, premium audio system, leather upholstery, satellite radio, keyless entry and start, alloy wheels, power moonroof, Bluetooth interface and an eight-way power driver’s seat. Read the rest of this entry »