RSS icon Home icon
  • 2018 Lexus NX 300

    Compact crossover is big on luxury

    By Nina Russin

    Lexus NX

    Lexus NX

    The smallest member of Lexus’ crossover family takes the magic that has made the midsize RX 350 a best-seller and condenses it into a more compact, but equally appealing package. The 2018 model is carry-over from 2017, with power coming from either a turbocharged two-liter four-cylinder engine or gasoline-electric hybrid. The two-liter engine in the test car, rated at 235-horsepower, accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 7.2-seconds for the front-wheel drive model; seven-seconds for the all-wheel drive car.

    A six-speed automatic transmission includes large overdrive gears to maximize fuel economy on the highway: averaging 28 miles-per-gallon according-to the EPA. My average fuel economy for the week-long test drive was 25.1 miles-per-gallon, over a mile-per-gallon higher than the EPA estimate of 24.

    Base price is $37,385 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include a panoramic view backup camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power folding second-row seats, a luxury package that includes 18-inch wheels, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, power liftgate, tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and blind spot monitoring, 10-speaker premium audio system, intuitive parking assist with auto brake, cargo mat, net and wheel locks. Final MSRP is $49,068. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 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 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE S-AWC

    New compact crossover focused on value

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

    2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

    Mitsubishi is leveraging the name of one of its most popular passenger cars to create a buzz about its newest compact crossover, the Eclipse Cross. As the pool of CUVs widens, competition among well-known players including Honda and Toyota makes gaining market share more challenging.

    Mitsubishi has struggled as of late to regain consumer confidence. Disregarding the issue of resale value, the automaker is offering buyers some very solid vehicles with improved fit and finish. While the Eclipse Cross isn’t a perfect car, it’s hard to find anything offering as much standard content with a starting price of $23,295.

    The all-wheel drive model tested starts at $26,395 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options include special white pearl exterior paint, carpeted floor mats, and tonneau cover. Final MSRP is $27,915. 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 »

  • First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    Subcompact aimed towards driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

    This summer an all-new hatchback replaces the Corolla iM: a car developed for Europe and initially sold in the US under the Scion nameplate. The new hatchback reflects a serious commitment stateside to a segment currently dominated by Honda and Mazda, delivering a product that goes head-to-head against the Civic and Mazda3.

    “Our competition, especially the Civic, has a unique family story. We’re doing the same thing,” explained Jordan Pauly, vehicle marketing for Toyota.

    “In this diverse segment, we are looking at buyers aged 18-35, multicultural, half male and half female. Not one vehicle fits all. The group is interested in utility but does not want the size or higher price of a SUV,” he continued.

    Toyota hopes buyers will see the new hatch as an affordable, fun-to-drive alternative, and is developing aftermarket parts under the TRD brand to encourage customizing. The automaker is campaigning a Formula Drift car based on the production car built by Stephan Papadakis and driven by Fredric Aasbo, to whet the appetite of driving enthusiasts. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2019 Toyota Avalon

    Flagship sedan is new from the ground up

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    When Toyota introduced the first Avalon for the 1994 model year, it was generally regarded as a stretched-out version of the midsize Camry. Over the past 25 years, the Avalon has acquired its own personality as a premium sedan aimed at older buyers looking for more space, but also more amenities.

    The newest Avalon that debuts for the 2019 model year carries this concept to the next level. It is the first to feature the automaker’s aggressive new styling along with a completely new powertrain, enhanced active safety and infotainment. All models, both gasoline and hybrid, are front-wheel drive.

    As in past years, the Avalon is bigger than the Camry although it is still considered a midsize sedan. The new car has a longer wheelbase and wider track than the outgoing model with shorter overhangs. It is also lower, lowering the center of gravity for better high-speed performance. The profile is, similar-to its competitors, coupe-like.

    Toyota hopes that the fifth-generation Avalon will turn heads, especially those of younger buyers wanting a luxurious vehicle but not necessarily ready to make the jump to Lexus.

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    Competing against the Nissan Maxima and Buick LaCrosse, the gasoline model comes with a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 301-horsepower with 267 pound-feet of torque and eight-speed automatic transmission. An available adaptive variable suspension adjusts within 20 milliseconds to road conditions and the driver’s style, capable of varying between 650 settings.

    Buyers who opt for the gasoline/electric hybrid get a 2.5-liter engine that pairs with two electric motors to deliver 215 net horsepower, with city and highway fuel economy at 43 and 44 mpg respectively.

    There are four grades of gasoline sedans, three for the hybrid. Pricing for the gasoline-powered XLE starts at $35,500 excluding the $895 delivery charge; the hybrid version starts at $36,500. The upscale Touring grade available only as a gasoline powered car is priced from $42,200. 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 »