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  • 2017 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0T Quattro

    Redesigned small luxury sedan raises the bar

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Audi A4

    2017 Audi A4

    The Audi A4 is a bread-and-butter car that’s anything but bread and butter. Completely redesigned for the 2017 model year, the automaker has raised the bar in every respect, from exterior styling to power, torsional rigidity and steering response.

    Both front and all-wheel drive variants share a turbocharged two-liter direct injection engine rated at 252-horsepower, mated to a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The dual-clutch gearbox replaces a continuously variable automatic transmission on the outgoing model, giving the driver crisper, more linear shifting. The turbocharged block develops peak torque- 273 pound-feet- as low as 1600 rpm for robust acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is about six seconds.

    The newest version of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system features a self-locking center differential to keep the wheels tracking straight on wet roads as well as torque vectoring for more confident cornering. Engineers reduced unsprung weight in the four-wheel independent suspension with aluminum control arms. Since aluminum is rigid in addition to being light, the new suspension has also improved steering response.

    2017 Audi A4

    2017 Audi A4

    Revisions to the car’s exterior are subtle but effective: a new hood, more aggressive wheel arches and redesigned grille. The design is timeless and elegant, yet as contemporary as anything else on the market.

    Base price for the Quattro model tested is $39,400 excluding the $950 destination charge. Options include dark blue metallic exterior paint, a premium package adding 18-inch rims, aluminum exterior trim, Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system, heated eight-way power front seats, LED headlamps and interior lighting, navigation and Audi Connect, a safety package including adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and traffic sign recognition and adaptive suspension. Final MSRP is $52,325. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen CC Sport

    Entry luxury sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen CC

    2017 Volkswagen CC

    While most people don’t think of Volkswagen as a luxury brand, the automaker does produce some luxury vehicles: the sporty CC coupe-sedan among them. The CC is an older platform as Volkswagen vehicles go, but still worth a careful look for its timeless styling and appealing road manners.

    With its long nose and bullet-shaped passenger cabin, the CC is a sport sedan in the true European tradition, priced below products from many of its competitors. Pricing for the Sport model tested starts at $34,475 excluding the $865 destination charge.

    Power comes from a turbocharged two-liter engine rated at 200-horsepower and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. All grades including the base Sport come loaded with comfort and convenience features including keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated power front seats, leatherette seating, six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, navigation, Bluetooth interface and bi-xenon headlamps. Final MSRP is $35,340. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport

    Right-size crossover for active urbanites

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus NX

    2017 Lexus NX

    The compact NX is the smallest of Lexus’ crossover vehicles, positioned below the midsize RX. Buyers can choose between the 200t, powered by a two-liter turbocharged engine or 300h gasoline/electric hybrid. A F-Sport package available on the 200t adds a unique grille and exterior badging, 18-inch wheels and unique interior trim. Base price is $37,185.

    Options on the test car include the F-Sport package, heated front seats, LED headlamps, navigation, 10-speaker premium sound system, power liftgate, power sunroof, mudguards and cargo mat, bringing the final MSRP to $45,718. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Audi S3 Sedan

    Compact sport sedan with four-season capability

    By Nina Russin

    Audi S3 Sedan

    Audi S3 Sedan

    The S3 is the performance variant of Audi’s compact sedan family that also includes the A3 and A3 cabriolet. While A3 and S3 share the same basic platform, the S gets a more powerful two-liter engine along with available magnetic sport suspension that instantaneously adjusts to driver inputs and road surface; bigger wheels with summer performance tires and different exterior styling.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive sedan is $42,900 excluding the $950 destination charge. Options on the test car include metallic white exterior ($575); 19-inch five-spoke wheels with summer tires and magnetic sport suspension ($1500); navigation with Audi connect infotainment, blind spot monitoring and Audi virtual cockpit ($3000); Nappa leather seating with manual front sport seats ($1450), Bang & Olafsen premium sound system ($950) and sport red brake calipers ($400). Final MSRP is $51,725. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volvo S90

    Luxury sedan is the future of automotive performance

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volvo S90

    2017 Volvo S90

    Although the Volvo S90 luxury sedan is not an inexpensive car, its performance and leading-edge safety technology make it a tremendous value. Imagine an all-wheel drive sedan that averages 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway, thanks to its supercharged and turbocharged two-liter direct injection engine: a block that also puts out 316-horsepower and 295 pound-feet of peak torque. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is under six seconds: a lot of wow for an engine block the size of two milk jugs.

    An eight-speed automatic transmission provides large overdrive gears to extend fuel economy on the highway, with low gears tuned for optimum power off the line.

    The sedan comes standard with City Safety, the original autonomous braking technology since copied by many competitors. Unlike those competitors, the Volvo system recognizes cyclists and small animals in addition to other vehicles and pedestrians. That’s important, since each requires separate software.

    Base MSRP is $52,950 excluding delivery. Options include a vision package adding a 360-degree view camera and blind spot monitoring, climate package including heated washer nozzles, heads-up display, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel, and a convenience package with power trunk lid, front park assist and pilot park assist. Final MSRP is $66,105. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Dodge Durango R/T

    Seating for seven and a HEMI to go

    By Nina Russin

    Dodge Durango R/T Blacktop

    Dodge Durango R/T Blacktop

    Who says family cars are boring? The 2017 Dodge Durango seven-passenger SUV is anything but, especially when equipped with the optional 5.7-liter hemi engine. The engine comes standard on the sporty R/T, priced from $42,095 excluding destination. Other standard features include 20-inch rims, heavy-duty brakes, trailer sway dampening and a 3.09 rear axle.

    An eight-speed automatic transmission extends fuel economy with large overdrive gears for the highway. Average fuel economy according to the EPA is 17 miles-per-gallon. The rear-wheel drive truck tested tows up to 7400 pounds.

    On the inside, the Durango gets heated and ventilated front seats, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, Uconnect infotainment, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, satellite radio, remote start and real-time traffic updates.

    Options on the test car include a technology group that adds blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, front collision warning and adaptive cruise control that works to a full stop. Other options include a rear DVD entertainment system, second-row fold-and-tumble captain’s chairs, a power sunroof and third-row mini floor console. Final MSRP is $49,670. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD

    A different kind of pickup for a different kind of truck owner

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Honda Ridgeline

    2017 Honda Ridgeline

    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.

    2017 Honda Ridgeline

    2017 Honda Ridgeline

    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

    2017 Kia Cadenza

    2017 Kia Cadenza

    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

    2017 Acura MDX

    2017 Acura MDX

    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

    2017 Kia Sorento

    2017 Kia Sorento

    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.

    2017 Sorento

    2017 Sorento

    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 »