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  • First Drive: 2018 Toyota C-HR

    Stylish crossover for active urbanites

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    Toyota’s newest compact crossover called the C-HR (Coupe-High Rider) reflects CEO, Akio Toyoda’s focus on re-infusing the brand with passionate styling and performance. Closely resembling the Scion concept that debuted at the LA Auto Show, the C-HR focuses on young drivers buying their first new car, with a combination of aggressive styling, sporty performance and value pricing.

    There are two models, the XLE and XLE Premium priced from $22,500 and $24,350 respectively. Although the C-HR is a Toyota model, pricing strategy is monospec in the Scion tradition. Prices do not include a $960 destination charge.

    The car’s profile loosely resembles a diamond formed by the roofline and beltline. Standard 18-inch wheels contribute to the C-HR’s sporty appearance. A R-Code version features a white roof with four available exterior colors.

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    2018 Toyota C-HR

    Built on Toyota’s new global TNGA C platform, the C-HR comes with one powertrain: a two-liter dual overhead cam engine rated at 144-horsepower and continuously variable automatic transmission. An available manual gear select mode enables the driver to engage seven shift points.

    To satisfy the needs of tech-savvy millennials, product planners equipped the C-HR with streaming Bluetooth audio, Aha, HD radio USB 2.0 port, iPod connectivity, phone book access and hands-free phone capability. A seven-inch touch-screen display and thin-film transistor information display in the gauge cluster are on par with significantly more expensive competitors. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Jeep Compass

    New compact crossover is a serious off-road machine

    By Nina Russin

    2017 JeepĀ® Compass Limited

    2017 JeepĀ® Compass Limited

    The 2017 Jeep Compass replaces the former Compass and Jeep Patriot no longer in production: positioned between the smaller Jeep Renegade and larger Cherokee.

    The newest member of the Jeep family is built on the automaker’s small wide 4X4 architecture, providing the unibody vehicle with a rigid platform for good steering response on-road and a minimal flex for off-road trails.

    There are four grades- Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited, with pricing starting at $20,995 for the two-wheel drive Sport. The off-road capable Trailhawk starts at $28,595, just below the upscale Limited priced from $28,995.

    The Compass shares a 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with the Jeep Renegade, and comes with three available transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic and nine-speed automatic. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium

    Four-door wagon raises the bar for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Subaru Wagon

    2017 Subaru Wagon

    If you’re an endurance athlete looking for an affordable vehicle with good fuel economy that can haul your gear, clear snow and travel the trails, you owe it to yourself to consider Subaru’s newest Impreza four-door wagon. Priced from $18,395, the all-wheel drive Impreza builds on the outgoing model’s off-road capabilities, adding a more powerful engine, more spacious and quiet interior.

    Our test car is the mid-grade Premium equipped with a naturally-aspirated two-liter engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. Standard features include heated front seats, exterior mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer, 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, Bluetooth interface, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Aha, Pandora, Starlink connected services and roof rails.

    An EyeSight active safety package adds adaptive cruise control, autonomous pre-collision braking, lane departure alert, blind spot detection and cross traffic alert. Other options include a power moonroof and steering responsive fog lamps that swivel in the direction of steering input. Final MSRP is $24,910. Read the rest of this entry »

  • ALV of the Year Announces 2017 Program Details

    One-day event to include on and off-road driving

    By Nina Russin

    ALV 2016 winner Nissan Titan tackles the off-road route

    ALV 2016 winner Nissan Titan tackles the off-road route

    ALV of the Year announces plans for its 2017 program, taking place on Friday October 20. This year, the active lifestyle vehicle program combines media and athlete ride-and-drive events into a single day, with guests arriving on Thursday October 19 and departing the morning of Saturday the 21st. The host hotel is the Phoenix/Chandler Hilton, located off the Chandler exit of the 101 Freeway.

    The ride-and-drive program is open to credentialed media, ALV jury panel members and twenty elite athletes including representatives from Arizona Legends, retired NFL players living in the Phoenix area. The day-long event features on-road routes as well as an expanded off-road driving program in the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix. The awards ceremony will take place during dinner at the Hilton on Friday evening.

    The Butcher Jones recreation area in the Tonto National Forest combines spectacular scenery with challenging trails for off-roading.

    The Butcher Jones recreation area in the Tonto National Forest combines spectacular scenery with challenging trails for off-roading.

    “By compressing the program and focusing on elite versus regional athletes, we believe ALV is both raising the bar and giving all participants who vote on vehicle entries equal access to driving opportunities,” said ALV of the Year LLC president, Nina Russin. “Our goal continues to be evaluating these vehicles with metrics important to buyers with active lifestyles, including performance on and off-road, safety, ergonomics and cargo capability.”

    ALV is expanding its administrative team to better address the needs of OEM participants and create a larger media footprint through traditional channels and social media.

    The 2017 ALV team includes:
    Tyson Hugie: OEM liaison and marketing
    Sam Haymart: Public relations, drive route coordinator
    Eric Noble and the Carlab: off-road course, ballots
    Becky Antioco: Event management, participant registration.
    Nicole James: Social media
    Jim Woodman: Elite athlete coordinator
    Cathy Droz: NFL liaison
    Robert Russin, CPA: Finance
    Charlotte Stacy: Accounting
    Carrie Owens, Jeff Jordan, Page One Automotive: vehicle preparation
    Raul Vargas, Eric Goetz, DriveShop: vehicle preparation:
    Nina Russin: Event oversight

    Upcoming press releases include the 2017 jury panel, call for entries, hotel information and an expanded schedule.

    For program updates, visit the ALV website.

  • 2017 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s largest consumer show expands family-friendly activities

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Those of us inside the car industry tend to forget the role consumers play in an auto show. In addition to new product introductions, these events are a rare opportunity for those outside the bubble to get up close and personal with cars they are thinking of buying. The driving public is the meat and potatoes of the Chicago Show, held each February at the McCormick Place convention center. In terms of attendance, it is the largest auto show in the United States.

    This year’s show features fun for all members of the family, including those too young to drive: a Lego Batmobile at the Chevrolet booth plus scale replicas of the Y-Wing Starfighter, X-Wing Starfighter, TIE Striker and AT-ACT, all displayed under the Death Star in Nissan’s special Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition Display appeal to the kid in all of us.

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Those of driving age can get behind the wheel and have some fun at the show’s five indoor test tracks.

    Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz include test tracks as part of their displays: an appeal to millennials who value experience over the written word. Mercedes-Benz’s Iron Schockl is a 45-degree grade, demonstrating the outstanding climbing ability of the G-Class, while Camp Jeep brings off-roading indoors with rock crawls, steep inclines and sandy surfaces. A Ram proving ground includes six stations that demonstrate the trucks’ work capabilities while Toyota enthusiasts can test drive the new RAV4 and Highlander midsize crossover. 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 Mazda3 Grand Touring

    Five-door hatchback is the perfect ten

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mazda3

    2017 Mazda3

    I don’t know how Mazda manages to consistently get everything right, but they do, with a line of vehicles that resonate a distinct personality. Mazda’s compact five-door hatchback proves that in a time of escalating new car prices, it’s possible to get something quite attractive for less than $25,000.

    Not only is the Mazda3 stylish, it’s fuel efficient, offers excellent performance and a quiet, versatile cabin. All in all, the Mazda3 is the perfect ten.

    The test car is the upscale Grand Touring model priced from $24,945 excluding destination. Options include a pearlescent paint, cargo mat, rear bumper guard, a lighting package that includes adaptive LED headlamps, LED tail lamps and daytime running lamps, navigation, paddle shifters, heated steering wheel and active safety features including lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, radar cruise control, traffic sign recognition, high beam control and smart brake support. Final MSRP is $28,980. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Kia Soul

    Tops the list for urban athletes

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Soul Turbo

    2017 Kia Soul Turbo

    In 2016 the Kia Soul won ALV’s Urban category award for an unprecedented fourth year in a row: further proof that the compact crossover might be the perfect choice for city dwellers with active lifestyles. The Soul’s cool styling, compact dimensions and versatile interior resonate with athletes of all ages. The Soul is also affordable, with pricing for the base model starting at $15,990 excluding delivery.

    The test car is the upscale Soul! (exclaim), priced from $22,650. Among standard convenience features are automatic headlamps, power windows, door locks and side mirrors, keyless start, automatic climate control and Bluetooth interface.

    Options on the test car include a panoramic sunroof and a technology package that adds navigation, Harman Kardon premium audio system, LED exterior lighting, power folding outside mirrors, power driver’s and front passenger seats, heated front and rear outboard seats, blind spot monitoring and USB charging ports. Final MSRP is $27,620. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL AWC

    Compact crossover maintains value focus

    By Nina Russin

    Mitsubishi Outlander

    Mitsubishi Outlander

    With the average transaction price for new cars approaching $35,000, it’s easy to lose focus on value. But in a post-2008 economy, buyers are approaching big purchases, including automobiles, more conservatively.

    Mitsubishi has made a value focus the lynchpin of its comeback strategy and it’s working. Athletes picked the restyled 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander to win the ALV of the Year award for Best Value, responding to its all-wheel drive capabilities, good fuel economy, five-star NHTSA crash test rating and extensive roster of convenience features.

    The 2017 model is essentially carryover from last year. The Outlander is one of the few compact crossovers on the market to hold up to seven passengers. Third-row seats are rather small, but give growing families the ability to carry a couple of neighbor kids to weekly soccer practice. Fold the seats flat and a spacious cargo bay can carry a couple of road bikes, protecting them from inclement weather or theft.

    Mitsubishi Outlander

    Mitsubishi Outlander

    The test car is the upscale SEL grade priced from $27,495 excluding the $895 destination charge. Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. All-wheel drive gives the Outlander four-season capability.

    A touring option package adds a multi-view camera that displays both a rear and overhead view when the driver shifts into reverse, forward collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system. Final MSRP is $32,390. 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 »