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  • 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 Chevrolet Volt Premier Hatchback

    Second-generation model adds style and versatility

    By Nina Russin

    Chevrolet Volt

    Chevrolet Volt

    The Chevrolet Volt is an electric car that doesn’t suffer from range anxiety, thanks to a gasoline engine that kicks in when the charge runs out. The second-generation model that debuted last year has more driving range than the original: up to 53 miles according to the manufacturer. Combined with its thrifty gasoline engine, owners can travel up to 1,000 miles without stopping to refuel.

    Engineers shaved weight off both the electric motor and battery pack to make the car more efficient. New exterior styling gives the Volt more presence on the road, while a redesigned interior is more luxurious and offers seating for up to five passengers.

    Base price for the upscale Premier model tested is $37,570 excluding the $875 delivery charge. Options on the test car add blind spot monitoring, lane departure alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist with automatic braking, intelligent headlamps, Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system with navigation. Final MSRP is $39,950. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Chevrolet Malibu

    Redesigned midsize sedan has sex appeal and a whole lot more

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Chevrolet Malibu

    2016 Chevrolet Malibu

    Chevrolet has completely redesigned its midsize sedan for 2016 with some very important changes, beginning with the exterior. Gone is the plain vanilla wrapper, replaced by a sleek aerodynamic design with undeniable road presence.

    The new Malibu’s beauty is more than skin deep. An available two-liter engine on the upscale 2LT test car provides a surprising punch off the line thanks to 258 pound-feet of peak torque available from 1700 rpm. An eight-speed automatic transmission- a first for General Motors on a front-wheel drive platform- extends the sedan’s highway fuel economy to 33 miles-per-gallon.

    2016 Chevrolet Malibu

    2016 Chevrolet Malibu

    Pricing for the test car begins at $28,620 excluding the $875 delivery charge. The 2LT comes fully loaded with active safety and convenience features including remote start, Chevrolet MyLink infotainment, OnStar with navigation, Bluetooth streaming audio, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, blind spot monitoring, low-speed mitigation braking, rearview camera and cross traffic alert. Special white pearl coat exterior finish adds $995, bringing the final MSRP to $30,490. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Chicago Auto Show

    Year of the truck

    By Nina Russin

    Toyota TRD Pro Tacoma

    Toyota TRD Pro Tacoma

    The Chicago Auto Show held each February at the McCormick Place convention center on the shores of Lake Michigan is epic in every way: it has the biggest show floor and the best consumer attendance of any such show in the US. There’s something for everyone at Chicago, but this year it was the trucks that stole the show. From the world premier of the 2017 Nissan Armada that kicked off the media preview to Ram’s newest Power Wagon, Kia’s new hybrid utility vehicle and Toyota’s TRD Pro Tacoma, automakers unveiled their newest designs for adventurous travel. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 Crew Cab

    Light-duty pickup truck ready for off-road adventure

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ

    2016 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ

    If you need a pickup truck with towing, hauling and off-road capability capability but don’t want to be stuck with poor fuel economy, the Chevrolet Silverado with available Ecotec 5.3-liter engine should be on the short list. The 355-horsepower V-8 block delivers up to 383 pound-feet of peak torque: enough to tow up to 10,800 pounds when equipped with the optional trailering package.

    Average fuel economy is 17 miles-per-gallon thanks to a cylinder cutoff feature when engine loads are low. An eight-speed automatic transmission provides large overdrive gears, extending gas mileage to 21 mpg on the highway.

    Base price for the four-wheel drive test truck is $47,700, excluding the $1,195 destination charge. Options include 20-inch alloy rims, chrome running boards, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a center console with wireless phone charging and USB ports, trailer brakes, all-terrain tires and a set of moveable upper tie-down cleats, bringing the final MSRP to $52,585. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Chevrolet Volt Hatchback

    No range anxiety here

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Chevrolet Volt

    2016 Chevrolet Volt

    The Chevrolet Volt offers buyers who want an electric car but don’t want to be limited by driving range a more practical option. The second-generation car enables drivers to travel up to 54 miles between plug-ins: enough for the average commute. A complete recharge takes about 4-1/2 hours on 220 volt current: 13 hours using 120 volt.

    If the owner fails to recharge or needs to take an extended road trip, a traditional gasoline engine that takes over when the battery runs low extends that range to about 420 miles.

    Does the Volt have any advantages over gasoline-electric hybrids that today boast 50 mile-per-gallon fuel economy’ The answer is ‘Yes’ for the average driver who uses his or her car to drive to-and-from work during the week, with longer trips on the weekend.

    2016 Chevrolet Volt

    2016 Chevrolet Volt

    While plug-in hybrids enable drivers to go limited distances without using the gasoline engines, the Volt goes further. For example, the Ford C-Max Energi’s pure electric range of 20 miles came close to the original Volt, but can’t compete with the second-generation car.

    In addition to adding about thirty percent more range in pure electric mode over the original model, the 2016 Volt offers better acceleration off the line, improved interior quiet, a new braking system with more linear performance and a smaller, simpler charging port.

    Pricing for the upscale Premier model tested begins at $37,520 excluding the $825 destination charge. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, automatic climate control, ambient interior lighting, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, Bose premium audio system, satellite radio, OnStar with navigation and a 4G LTE hotspot.

    Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring with lane departure alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, intelligent high beams, forward collision warning with low-speed auto stop and Chevrolet MyLink radio with navigation. Final MSRP is $39,830. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

    Compact sedan is big on fuel economy

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

    2015 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

    Twenty years ago, if somebody told me I could average 40 miles-per-gallon in a passenger car I’d have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Thanks to new clean diesel technology, engineers are able to imbue today’s cars and trucks with fuel economy unimaginable in decades past.

    The newest member of Chevrolet’s compact Cruze sedan family is a perfect example, averaging 46 miles-per-gallon on the highway according to the EPA. During my 140-mile test drive that included surface streets as well as highways, I averaged 41.

    The Cruze was Chevrolet’s replacement for the Cobalt when it debuted in 2010. This year the automaker does a styling refresh on all models except the base LS and adds 4G LTE. Twenty-fifteen models are also pre-wired for Siri.

    Base price for the turbo-diesel car is $25,660 excluding the $825 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include remote vehicle start, leather seating, heated front seats, 60/40 split folding second-row seat, air conditioning, a driver information display in the gauge cluster, tilt-and-telescoping steering column, air conditioning, OnStar, satellite radio and Chevrolet MyLink.

    The test car is equipped with several option packages adding a power sunroof, premium audio system, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rearview camera and heated outside mirrors, bringing the final MSRP to $29,430. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chevrolet Trax-LS FWD

    Compact crossover with new connectivity features

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chevrolet Trax

    2015 Chevrolet Trax

    Life is plan B. I thought about this sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the interstate outside Fort Worth, Texas, as I scanned the horizon for signs of clearing. It had been a plan B week and from what I could see, things were not getting better. Fortunately the car I was driving, the new Chevrolet Trax compact crossover is engineered to embrace the unexpected.

    The adventure began two days prior, descending into Dallas Love Field through a blanket of clouds. As is typical for business travel, I had come half prepared, armed with enough clothes and an itinerary including two events: the first, the Texas Auto Writers Spring Roundup, and the second, a Volkswagen ride-and-drive 200 miles to the southeast in Austin. Entering the Trax curbside, I realized I had no idea beyond the airport exit sign of how to get to my first destination.

    Nor did I have an abundance of time, having chosen the last direct flight out. If things went swimmingly, the window upon arriving at the hotel would be just enough to dump my suitcase in the room before dinner.

    I pressed the blue OnStar button below the rearview mirror and within a minute a cheerful voice came over the speakerphone. The OnStar rep downloaded directions into the car and I was on my way. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chevrolet Trax

    Compact crossover combines value with versatility

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chevrolet Trax

    2015 Chevrolet Trax

    Twenty-fifteen may be remembered as the year of the compact crossover. Just as buyers downsized from large sport-utility vehicles to midsized crossovers a decade back, the market continues to trend smaller, with buyers wanting better gas mileage, but not wanting to sacrifice cargo space.

    So many new compact crossovers are entering the market this year that the choices seem overwhelming. Nissan, Scion, Fiat, Mazda, Porsche, Jeep and now Chevrolet are all throwing their hats into the pond.

    Chevrolet’s entry called the Trax is based loosely on the Buick Encore and also shares chassis parts with the Chevrolet Sonic. The Trax debuted in China last April, and Mexico and Canada in 2012. The United States is the 67th market for the vehicle. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country 4WD Crew Cab

    Engineered to overachieve and styled to stand out

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

    2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

    There’s a reason that the Silverado has been a consistent best seller for Chevrolet since the model launched fifteen years back. It’s a really good truck, with the ability to haul, tow and crawl through muck. The 2014 model also handles very much like a passenger car: a difficult challenge to fulfill with a single product.

    The High Country is a premium version of the base model, with unique exterior and interior trim. With a base MSRP of $47,380, the Silverado High Country targets the heart of the luxury market. Although its four-wheel drive system makes it capable of serious off-road terrain, I doubt many owners will want to tackle the Rubicon trail with twenty-inch chrome rims.

    Entrepreneurs needing a prestigious yet versatile vehicle for their businesses should find a lot to love in the new premium model. Payload capacity is 1957 pounds, and the Silverado can tow up to 9800 pounds. The optional 6.2-liter V-8 engine has 460 foot-pounds of peak torque: an important component for off-the-line performance. Basically, it’s a Corvette engine in a light-duty truck.

    To enhance fuel economy, engineers added a cylinder deactivation feature when engine loads are light. Direct injection delivers gasoline directly into the engine cylinders to improve throttle response and reduce parasitic fuel loss. Despite having a relatively high compression ratio (11:1), the engine does not require premium gasoline.

    Options on the test truck include the 6.2-liter engine, special exterior paint, a premium package that includes forward collision alert and lane departure warning, a heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, trailer brake controller, running boards and cargo box LED lighting. Final MSRP, including the $995 destination charge, is $53,075. Read the rest of this entry »