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  • 2015 Acura MDX SH-AWD

    Seven-passenger crossover makes a sport of driving

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Acura MDX

    2015 Acura MDX

    Growing families who need the versatility of a seven-passenger vehicle don’t have to settle for plain vanilla options. Acura’s MDX with super-handling all-wheel drive offers an appealing alternative, combining the sporty performance of sedans such as the TL, TSX and TLX with a larger, more versatile interior. The 2015 model is basically a carryover of the 2014 car that athletes voted as ALV of the Year in the family luxury category.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive model is $44,565. The test car adds technology, advance and entertainment option packages. An $895 handling charge brings the final MSRP to $57,675.

    Power comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 290 horsepower with 267 foot-pounds of torque. Acura’s variable cylinder management system automatically cuts power to half the cylinders when power demands are low to extend gas mileage. EPA fuel economy estimates for the all-wheel drive MDX are 18/27 mpg city/highway.

    A six-speed automatic transmission includes a sport setting for more aggressive performance. The driver can manually select gears utilizing formula-style paddles on the steering wheel. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Volvo C30 R-Design

    Polestar gives three-door hatchback extra boost

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Volvo C30 R-Design

    The Volvo C30 is a Swedish hotrod. It might not look like a hotrod to American eyes: no bulging hood scoop, toothy grille or rims the size of sewer pipes. Nevertheless, it goes like spit and is a hoot to drive. When I first drove Volvo’s three-door hatchback five years ago, I was so impressed with the car that my husband and I bought one. To this day, we have no regrets.

    Last spring, Volvo unveiled a performance update, courtesy of its racing affiliate, Polestar. The Polestar ECU download increases horsepower to 250, while maintaining the factory warranty and emissions compliance.

    Volvo’s R-Design package includes special rims, a body kit, grille, upholstery, instrument cluster, steering wheel, aluminum pedals and polished exhaust pipes.

    The options definitely give the C30 more road presence, and the chops to back it up. The Polestar-enhanced C30 is a limited edition model. Volvo only produced 250 for global distribution.

    Base price for the C30 is $27,850, excluding the $895 destination charge. The test car has two additional options: a platinum package that adds navigation, premium sound system, keyless start, satellite radio, power moonroof, power driver’s seat with memory, daytime running lamps, Xenon headlamps and a digital compass ($5000); and a climate package that includes heated front seats, automatic climate control and interior air filtration ($800). Final MSRP is $35,545. Read the rest of this entry »

  • ALV of the Year Announces 2013 Winners

    Phoenix-area athletes put 28 vehicle entries to the test

    2013 Ram 1500 4X4 Laramie won the Luxury Off-Road Category

    The Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year ninth annual program concluded with its annual ride-and-drive at Local Motors in Chandler, Arizona on Saturday October 20. Over a hundred attendees including seventy athletes who participate in sports including cycling, triathlon, kayaking, softball, running and more evaluated 28 cars in seven categories.

    Members of the media and ALV jury panel members joined the teams of athletes, who heard product presentations by the OEMs before driving vehicles on both on and off-road courses.

    Brad Stertz from Audi accepts the Luxury On-Road award for the 2013 Allroad from Speed Channel’s Bob Golfin

    With each successive year, it seems that the quality bar rises for each of the seven competitive categories. The most recent program was no exception, with differences in scoring being as small in some cases as hundredths of a point.Voting by the athletes counted 50 percent in the final tally, with jury panel members’ votes accounting for the remaining 50 percent.

    “Authenticity is a very important aspect of this program,” said ALV co-founder, Nina Russin. “We vet the athletes to make sure their involvement in sports is significant enough to impact their car buying decisions. Team leaders are considered opinion leaders in the active community. This year, we invited parents judging the family category to bring their kids, so that they would test drive the cars in the same way that they might use their personal vehicles.”

    Winners for the ninth annual program are:

    Urban (MSRP at or below $20,000): 2013 Kia Soul
    Best Value On-road (MSRP at or below $35,000): 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
    Best Value Off-Road (MSRP at or below $35,000 with off-road capability): 2012 Jeep Wrangler
    Luxury On-Road (MSRP over $35,000): 2013 Audi Allroad
    Luxury Off-Road (MSRP over $35,000 with off-road capability): 2013 Ram 1500 4X4 Laramie
    Green ALV (Alternative fuel and hybrid powertrains): 2012 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI
    Family (Three rows of seating): 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL BlueTec

    ALV is the only car-of-the-year program in the United States which combines the input of automotive journalists with elite and area athletes to determine which cars and trucks best meet the needs of buyers with active lifestyles.

    Program organizers would like to thank this year’s sponsors, Mindfold Inc. and Local Motors for their continued support.

    Photos of this year’s program are available on our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year Facebook page.