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  • 2018 Toyota Corolla XSE

    Compact sedan combines value with style

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota Corolla

    2018 Toyota Corolla

    The Corolla is Toyota’s most enduring nameplate, with over fifty years on American roads. While many things have changed over the past five decades, the compact sedan’s mission- combining style, value and reliability- remains the same. At a time when commodities trend towards overcomplicated and overpriced, it’s a refreshing formula.

    The 2018 model is essentially carryover from the previous year, with the addition of Toyota Safety Sense with pedestrian detection and a rearview camera as standard equipment on all models. Pricing for the upscale XSE starts at $22,730 excluding the $895 destination charge.

    Standard equipment includes LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth interface, keyless entry and start, USB and iPod connectivity, automatic climate control, six-way power driver’s seat, thin-film transistor information display, Entune audio with Scout GPS link, 60/40 split folding rear seats and heated front seats. A standard power moonroof brings more ambient light into the interior.

    Options on the test car add a TRD performance exhaust, air filter and rear sway bar, premium audio system with navigation, seven-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, a first aid kit, mudguards and tablet holder. Final MSRP is $25,881. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Lexus GS F

    Midsize sport sedan gets safety enhancements for 2018

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus GS F

    2018 Lexus GS F

    The midsize GS sedan is one of the best cars Lexus produces: the F Sport version takes that performance to the next level. Although the 2018 model is essentially carry-over from last year, Lexus has added two key active safety features. All-speed cruise control replaces adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist replaces lane departure alert. Other standard active safety features include pre-collision with pedestrian detection and autonomous braking and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert.

    Power comes from a direct injection 467-horsepower V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Standard torque vectoring gives drivers better control in the corners, while adaptive variable suspension makes real-time adjustments according-to the road surface and driver’s style.

    Base price is $84,350 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include 19-inch alloy wheels, heads-up display, Mark Levinson audio system, special brake calipers and cargo mat and net, bringing the final MSRP to $88,855. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 GMC Terrain SLT

    Compact crossover has the versatility for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2018 GMC Terrain

    2018 GMC Terrain

    GMC is one of two automakers that focuses exclusively on building trucks and understanding what its buyers want in terms of functionality: hence the term, ‘professional grade.’

    In the ever-increasing pool of compact crossovers, the new second-generation Terrain stands out as a very good package at an affordable price. Features such as a fold-flat front passenger seat and available hands-free liftgate make it a lot easier to load large items such as bikes and kayaks inside.

    At the same time, GMC includes important active safety technology such as forward collision warning with autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, intelligent headlamps and blind spot monitoring, as well as infotainment features such as a 4G LTE Wi Fi hotspot.

    Base price for the upscale SLT grade is $31,320 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include panoramic sunroof, power hands-free liftgate, driver’s seat memory and power front passenger seat, an infotainment system including an 8-inch color touchscreen, OnStar and navigation, Bose audio system, red exterior paint and the active safety features listed above. Final MSRP is $38,070. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Ford Mustang GT Premium

    Ford ups the ante on its legendary pony car

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Ford Mustang GT

    2018 Ford Mustang GT

    One of the reasons Ford has consistently enjoyed success with the Mustang is that the automaker has never rested on its laurels. There were plenty of opportunities when it could have in the car’s 54-year history: the original fastback, the Boss, Shelby GT, the ’68 GT and the first generation of five-liter cars. Through all of that, Ford moved forward, combining heritage with new technology to create new pony cars every bit as exciting as their predecessors.

    The 2018 Ford Mustang GT coupe follows in that tradition, with a potent five-liter engine, meticulously engineered 10-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual gearbox that sets this car ahead of the 2016 model in some very important ways.

    The new engine revs higher than the 350, has higher compression, more horsepower and more torque. When equipped with the ten-speed automatic transmission and optional performance package, zero-to-sixty acceleration is under four seconds.

    2018 Ford Mustang GT

    2018 Ford Mustang GT

    Pricing begins at $35,095, $39,095 for the Premium model tested. Standard convenience features include LED headlamps and fog lamps, keyless entry and start, quad tip dual exhaust, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, smart charging USB ports, split folding rear seats, rearview camera with rear sensing, MyKey, track apps and tilt-and telescoping steering wheel.

    Options on the test car include the automatic transmission, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, GT performance package, 19-inch rims with performance summer tires, Shaker audio system, active valve performance exhaust and the Magne-Ride damping system that makes real-time suspension adjustments according-to the road surface and driving style. Final MSRP including the $900 destination charge is $53,160. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

    Best-selling crossover gets new active safety features

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Nissan Rogue

    2018 Nissan Rogue

    The Rogue is currently Nissan’s best-selling vehicle, outpacing the Altima that held that position for years. For 2018, the upscale SL is available with a new technology called ProPilot Assist, that takes adaptive cruise control a step further by using lane lines to guide the car through curves in the road as well as maintaining a preset following distance behind the vehicle in front.

    Pricing for the all-wheel drive SL starts at $32,410, excluding the $975 destination charge. Power comes from a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission.

    Standard convenience features include eight-way power driver’s seat with memory, split folding second-row seat, intelligent cruise control, navigation, Bluetooth interface, Bose audio system, Divide-N-Hide cargo organizer, dual-zone climate control, remote engine start, heated steering wheel, leather upholstery and motion-activated liftgate.

    Options include a panoramic moonroof, LED headlamps, 19-inch wheels, electronic parking brake, ProPilot Assist, quilted leather seats, floor mats and a first aid kit. Final MSRP is $36,520. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring

    Flagship sedan reimagined

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

    2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

    As one of the oldest nameplates in Honda’s lineup, the Accord is, along with the smaller Civic, largely responsible for the automaker’s success in the US. When Honda launched the original hatchback for the 1976 model year, Americans discovered a friendly, affordably priced vehicle with the mechanical integrity to go the distance.

    Although it originally competed against the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord has evolved into a premium vehicle with a larger interior, similar-to the Toyota Avalon, while the Camry has maintained a slightly smaller stature and in recent times has become sportier and more youthful.

    The all-new tenth-generation Accord debuts this year, with revised styling, an available two-liter turbocharged engine, active damping, standard Honda Sensing active safety technology and available 4G LTE Wi Fi.

    Base price for the upscale Touring model with the two-liter engine is $35,800. The fact that Honda has managed to pack so much content into a vehicle while maintaining a price that is right at the average transaction for new cars is impressive. Final MSRP including delivery is $36,690. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Fuel-thrifty sedan is an appealing package

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    The Clarity family began with the Honda’s fuel cell sedan two years ago. The name now refers to a group of electrified vehicles that continues to include the fuel cell model as well as a pure electric vehicle.

    As the first manufacturer to offer a gasoline/electric hybrid for sale in the US, Honda now has two decades of experience under its belt. Although Toyota’s Prius remains the best-selling hybrid, Honda knows what American drivers want in terms of fuel economy, but also understands their needs for passenger comfort, cargo space, safety and infotainment features.

    The Clarity is longer than Toyota’s Prius Prime or the Ford Fusion Plug-In hybrids. While the Clarity can’t match the Prius’ fuel economy, there’s a lot to be said for its roomier interior and additional cargo space.

    Fuel economy for the Clarity Plug-In hybrid is 42 miles-per-gallon from the 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, on top of which owners enjoy up to 47 miles-per-gallon in pure electric mode. The battery pack recharges in 2-1/2 hours using a 220-volt plug-in.

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Engineers located the lithium-ion battery pack under the floor so as not to impinge on trunk space. Rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. The Clarity’s cargo bay is too small to be bicycle friendly, but is easily capable of carrying golf bags, luggage, groceries and the like.

    Pricing for the upscale Touring model starts at $36,600. Honda loads the Clarity up with standard convenience features including leather seats and steering wheel, 8-speaker audio system, HD and satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and USB interface, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats and more.

    Among the standard active safety features are adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and Honda LaneWatch: a technology unique to Honda that projects an image to the right of the car in the center screen when the driver signals. As a cyclist who shares the roads with drivers, I think it’s one of the most important active safety systems on the market. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 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 »