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  • Lexus RX 350L is on a Mission to do Good

    Automaker supports Benevilla’s outreach to Surprise, Arizona residents

    By Nina Russin

    Members of the media help Lexus provide toys and baby supplies to Benevilla

    Members of the media help Lexus provide toys and baby supplies to Benevilla

    At a recent media event in Scottsdale, Arizona, Lexus invited journalists to join in its philanthropic efforts by stuffing the new long-wheelbase RX 350L and RX 450hL sport-utility vehicles full of toys. The toys and baby supplies go to Benevilla: a not-for-profit organization in Surprise, Arizona with free home services, meals on wheels, a family resource center, and life enrichment programs for elderly citizens with dementia. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Chevrolet Traverse AWD High Country

    Eight-passenger crossover with new infotainment technology

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Chevrolet Traverse

    2018 Chevrolet Traverse

    The Chevrolet Traverse is an appealing alternative to minivans for families needing eight-passenger seating and a versatile interior. For 2018, buyers can choose between front and all-wheel drive models that add more tractive capability. A new High Country edition gives the Traverse luxury accouterments including heated and ventilated seats, a Bose 10-speaker premium audio system, LED lighting, 20-inch alloy rims, tri-zone climate control and the latest version of Chevrolet MyLink infotainment including a Wi Fi hotspot.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive High Country model is $52,050 excluding the $925 destination charge. Special red exterior paint on the test car adds $395, bringing the final MSRP to $53,390. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI

    Compact hatchback is big from the inside out

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Golf

    2018 Volkswagen Golf

    The Volkswagen Golf isn’t a very big car, with a wheelbase measuring 104-inches: about 8-1/2 feet. Don’t let its compact dimensions fool you; the front-wheel drive Golf has an amazing amount of space inside.

    Fold the second-row seats flat and it can hold skis, snowboards, and camping gear. With pricing for the base S automatic model starting at $22,010 sans destination, it might leave something in the bank for that new eTAP bicycle you’ve been thinking about, or at least some component upgrades.

    Mechanically 2018 models are carryover, but with a refreshed exterior that includes LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lamps and some chrome accents. Standard convenience features on the base S tested include alloy wheels, keyless entry, eight-speaker sound system, rearview camera, cruise control, automatic windshield wipers and Bluetooth interface. The S grade comes with cloth upholstery and manual seat adjustments that include lumbar support. Destination is $850. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 2.0T S

    Affordable open-air fun

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

    2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

    Convertibles have come a long way since the time when they were fair weather friends, since the tops lacked the insulation to keep interiors warm in the winter. The Volkswagen Beetle convertible combines iconic styling inspired by the Karmann Cabriolets of the late 1940s and 1950s, with four-season versatility and new for 2018, a more powerful four-cylinder engine.

    The turbocharged, TSI engine develops 174 peak horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque at engine speeds as low as 1500 rpm: a tip of the throttle. A Tiptronic six-speed automatic transmission is standard. There are four grades- S, Coast, SE and Dune. Pricing for the base S model tested starts at $25,440 excluding the $850 destination charge.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry, single-zone manual climate control, leatherette seating surfaces, 16-inch alloy rims, heated and foldable side mirrors, intermittent wipers, power soft top, 50/50 split folding rear seat and adjustable ambient lighting. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Nissan 370Z Coupe Heritage Edition

    Affordable sports car stays true to its roots

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition

    2018 Nissan 370Z Heritage Edition

    The Z two-seat sports coupe is Nissan’s most iconic model, with roots dating back to the Fairlady and 240Z. The 2018 370Z sees some exterior styling refinements, a heritage edition (tested), and a new high-performance clutch on the six-speed manual gearbox.

    The Z has always been, and remains a niche car. But with pricing starting below $30,000, it’s possibly the best bargain on the market for buyers wanting a true, affordable sports car.

    Power for the test car comes from a 3.7-liter 332-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed manual transmission. Standard convenience features include 18-inch alloy wheels, tilt steering column, keyless entry and start, automatic temperature control, bi-xenon headlamps, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth interface, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and tilt steering column.

    The heritage edition package adds $790 to the $29,900 base price. Final MSRP including carpeted floor mats and $885 destination is $31,795. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro

    Two-plus-two built for fun in the sun

    By Nina Russin

    Audi A5 Cabriolet

    Audi A5 Cabriolet

    Recently Audi introduced a cabriolet variant as the final member of the current-generation A5 family. As with its siblings, the A5 Coupe and Sportback, the cabriolet comes with standard quattro all-wheel drive, making it a great choice for buyers in four-season climates who need to navigate winter snowstorms but want a drop-top for the summer.

    Power comes from a two-liter, 273-horsepower engine and seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. A single button deploys the soft top and works at speeds up to about 30 miles-per-hour.

    The new model is slightly longer and wider than the car it replaces, but also lighter thanks to more use of lightweight body construction materials. Base price is $49,600 excluding the $975 destination charge.

    Options on the test car include a prestige package adding heated folding outside mirrors, satellite radio, heated power front seats with driver’s seat memory, LED headlamps, Bang & Olufsen audio system, top-view camera, LED interior lighting and navigation; ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist with traffic sign recognition, 19-inch alloy rims, adaptive suspension, walnut interior trim and a front air filter panel. Final MSRP is $65,050. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T S

    Compact crossover with three rows of seating

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    The Tiguan is the smallest member of Volkswagen’s crossover family, and one of the few crossovers in the compact segment to offer both three rows of seating and all-wheel drive. Like the larger Atlas, the Tiguan is built on the automaker’s new global modular transverse architecture. The second-generation Tiguan is ten inches longer than the original model creating room for the optional third row of seating with a small cargo area in back. Both second and third rows fold flat to extend the cargo floor. Buyers in four-season climates can also opt to add all-wheel drive for better traction on wet roads.

    The test car is the base S front-wheel drive model with the optional third row of seating, priced from $25,195 excluding destination. Power comes from a two-liter turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine rated at 184-horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

    Standard convenience features include 17-inch alloy rims, halogen headlamps with daytime running lamps, roof rails, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, manual climate control, rearview camera, Bluetooth interface, six-speaker audio system, cruise control and electronic parking brake. Final MSRP is $26,095. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2018 Jeep Wrangler

    Jeep’s familiar face becomes a radically different animal

    By Nina Russin

    All-new 2018 JeepĀ® Wrangler Rubicon, 1944 Jeep Willys-Overland MB and all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

    All-new 2018 JeepĀ® Wrangler Rubicon, 1944 Jeep Willys-Overland MB and all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

    To call the Jeep Wrangler the most iconic American car currently in production is no exaggeration. With roots dating back to the 1941 Willys-Overland MA/MB, the Jeep, with its toothy grille and round headlamps, is the face that launched a thousand ships to points once unreachable on four wheels. Every off-road vehicle produced since, from the Toyota FJ to the Land Rover, has somehow been influenced by the Jeep.

    For 2018 Jeep introduces an all-new model. While it retains its familiar face, there are some dramatic changes under the new Wrangler’s skin, as to the skin itself. In place of steel body panels one now finds aluminum and composite, making the car lighter and more fuel efficient. Glass areas are larger, the windshield more raked, and the rear-mounted spare moved lower to improve visibility out the back.

    The new Wrangler that rolls out in January comes with the second-generation Pentastar V-6 engine, with a two-liter turbo option coming several months later. Look for a diesel option in 2019. Buyers can choose between an eight-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual gearbox.

    There are three models- Sport, Sahara Unlimited and Rubicon- with pricing for the two-door V-6 Sport starting at $26,995 excluding the $1,195 destination charge. The four-door Sahara starts at $37,345, while the Rubicon that offers extended off-road capability is priced from $36,995. Top-of-the-line four-door Rubicon starts at $40,495. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Toyota C-HR

    Crossover combines versatility and affordability for young buyers

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    The all-new C-HR that debuts for the 2018 model year targets millennials with a combination of stylish exterior, versatile interior and affordable pricing. In a sense, the C-HR is to the current generation of young buyers what the Matrix was for their parents: a car that can take them through those quantum changes of life that happen right after college: new job, new home and perhaps a new family.

    The term, C-HR stands for ‘Coupe-High Rider’. The subcompact concept for the production vehicle originally debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show as Scion’s competitor to the Nissan Juke. Post-Scion, the production model carries the Toyota nameplate, but its edgy styling with an elongated front end, huge wheels and sharply angled roof reflects Scion’s youthful spirit.

    A contrasting white roof adds pizzazz to the test car’s aqua-colored exterior. Base price is $22,500 excluding the $960 destination charge. Options on the test car include the white roof, removable crossbars, tablet holder, carpeted floor mats and cargo mat, mudguards, emergency assistance kit, rear bumper protector and wheel locks. Final MSRP is $24,969. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Lexus LC 500h

    GT coupe with a conscience

    By Nina Russin

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    The LC 500h and its sibling LC 500 are Lexus’ answer to European GT coupes such as the Mercedes-Benz SL 500 and Jaguar F-Type, but with a twist: only the Lexus comes with an available hybrid powertrain, giving the coupe 30 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy. As part of his promise to infuse passion into the brand, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda (grandson of the company founder) charged Lexus with developing a new flagship that would not only deliver on his stated mission, but do so in a distinctly Lexus manner.

    Seeds for the LC date back to 2012, when Lexus introduced the LF-LC concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. After capturing the EyesOn Design Design Award for Concept Car, Lexus designers and engineers began work on a production model based on a new architecture called GA-L, Global Architecture-Luxury, that is also the basis for the all-new LS 500 luxury sedan and its hybrid counterpart.

    Lexus LC 500h

    Lexus LC 500h

    While the LC 500h’s gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain is based on Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive that powers all-of the automaker’s hybrid offerings, Lexus engineers made some significant changes to enhance the new coupe’s performance. As with other Toyota and Lexus hybrids, a gasoline engine is mated to two electric motor generators. However, the system in the LC adds a four-speed automatic transmission to the standard continuously variable automatic, to multiply power and create the effect of a traditional ten-speed step unit that the driver can control using shifter paddles on the steering wheel.

    The new hybrid system uses more electric motor assist at low speeds so the LC can operate in electric vehicle mode up to 87 miles-per-hour. It is also the first Lexus hybrid that can spin its rear wheels, eliminating understeer at high speeds.

    Base price for the LC 500h is $98,510 excluding the $995 destination charge. That’s a bundle, but at least buyers don’t have to shell out an additional thousand or so for gas guzzler tax. Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring, intuitive park assist, 21-inch wheels, heads-up display, limited slip differential, Mark Levinson premium audio system, Alcantara sport seats, floor and cargo mats, bringing the final MSRP to $108,805. Read the rest of this entry »