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  • 2017 Subaru BRZ Limited

    Sports car gains in power and performance

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Subaru BRZ

    2017 Subaru BRZ

    In many ways, the two-seat BRZ is very much a Subaru; in others, a bit different. The platform, developed jointly with Toyota (the Toyota version is the 86), is the only rear-wheel drive car in Subaru’s model line-up. That said, Subaru’s inherently-balanced boxer four-cylinder engine, updated for more horsepower and torque in 2017, is the car’s heart and soul. When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the engine develops 205-horsepower and 156 pound-feet of peak torque, for better low-end acceleration.

    The BRZ is very much a Subaru with its focus on safety and versatility. It is comfortable enough for the daily commute, with important safety features such as LED headlamps and a rearview camera. Standard satellite radio and Bluetooth interface make the minutes sitting in rush-hour traffic go by faster. Fuel economy is also quite good. Although the EPA estimates average gas mileage at 24, we got over 28 on our test drive of about 150 miles. That included time in rush-hours at the height of Phoenix, Arizona’s Spring Training baseball season.

    Best of all, the BRZ is affordable, with pricing for the base Premium model starting at $25,495. The upscale Limited tested starts at $27,645. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, Subaru Smartlink that adds smartphone integration with Pandora, Aha, Stitcher and iHeart Radio and Bluetooth streaming audio. A LCD information screen next to the tachometer enables the driver to access performance information including lateral Gs, accelerator pedal position, steering angle, oil and water temperature and battery voltage. Final MSRP is $28,465. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Honda CR-V AWD Touring

    New turbocharged engine raises the bar among compact crossovers

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Honda CR-V

    2017 Honda CR-V

    Honda was one of the first automakers to enter the compact crossover segment with the CR-V: a car that continues to be one of the most popular choices thanks to the automaker’s reputation for reliability, safety and solid performance. For 2017, Honda has raised the bar with an all-new model including available 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, re-engineered all-wheel drive system, new exterior styling and a roomier interior. As with previous iterations, the new CR-V is a winner- hands down- combining excellent ride and handling, good engine power and excellent fuel economy.

    The test car is the upscale Touring model with all-wheel drive and the new turbocharged engine, priced from $33,695 excluding the $900 destination charge. Honda simplifies the buying process by including safety, comfort and convenience features as standard equipment.

    The Touring grade features keyless entry and start, leather seating, premium audio system with satellite radio and Bluetooth interface, seven-inch color touchscreen display, rearview camera with cross traffic alert, Pandora radio, USB port, dual-zone automatic climate control, 12-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, 60/40 split folding rear seats, power moon-roof, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting, rain sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring, hands-free power tailgate, capless fuel filler and roof rails. Final MSRP is $34,595 Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Sport

    Four-door hatchback delivers the goods

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI

    If you’re looking for a car that’s cool, yet affordable, with peppy performance plus good fuel economy, take-a-look at the newest Volkswagen Golf. The current version that debuted for 2015 is the first constructed on the automaker’s new modular global architecture, giving the chassis more torsional rigidity for better steering feedback.

    The sporty GTI comes with a two-liter turbocharged block that delivers 210-horsepower while averaging 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway. The Sport grade comes standard with a performance package including brakes from the Golf R, a limited-slip differential, 10-horsepower boost (when using 91-octane fuel) and 18-inch wheels. Base price is $26,695 excluding the $820 delivery charge.

    Options on the test car add red exterior paint, plaid cloth interior, six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and summer performance tires, all at no cost. Final MSRP is $27,515. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 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 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 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 »

  • 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 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE

    Subcompact sedan focuses on value

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE

    2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE

    Mitsubishi’s subcompact sedan competes against the Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Spark, Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio: all products targeting first-time buyers who are value conscious, but need the versatility to meet their busy lifestyles. The Mirage G4 comes standard with keyless entry and start, halogen headlamps and a rearview camera- features unusual in this segment. The interior is spacious enough to hold four adult passengers despite the car’s small dimensions.

    Power comes from a 1.2-liter naturally-aspirated three-cylinder engine and five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. The pint-size Mirage is thrifty on fuel, averaging 37 miles-per-gallon for the automatic transmission version.

    Base price is $16,995 excluding the $835 destination charge. Final MSRP is $17,830. Read the rest of this entry »