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  • 2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

    Seven-passenger SUV appeals to the driver in all of us

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Honda Pilot Elite

    2016 Honda Pilot Elite

    Honda has the uncanny ability to make small cars feel big and big cars as much fun to drive as small ones. The third generation Honda Pilot that debuted last year holds up to eight passengers, while surprisingly agile ride and handling.

    A 3.5-liter direct injection engine averages 22 miles-per-gallon for the all-wheel drive version, thanks to big overdrive gears on the nine-speed automatic transmission, variable cylinder management and idle/stop technology. A driving range of over 400 miles means that the family will need to stop to stretch before the car needs gas.

    2016 Honda Pilot Elite

    2016 Honda Pilot Elite

    The interior is user friendly, with a third row that doesn’t feel like a compromise, seats that fold easily into the floor to expand the cargo area, plenty of bin space for the first two rows of seating, USB ports and power points for every occupant. In other words, the Pilot is a car that busy people with complicated lives can live in.

    Base price for the upscale Elite version tested is $46,420 excluding the $880 destination charge. Honda includes all of the convenience and safety features its buyers want so they don’t have to wade through confusing option packages at the dealership.

    Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, leather seating, rear seat Blu-Ray DVD system, navigation, satellite radio, tri-zone climate control, Pandora interface, 115-volt power outlet, panoramic moonroof, LED headlamps, power liftgate, heated side mirrors, premium audio system and real-time traffic alerts.

    The upscale Pilot comes with a complete array of active safety features as well, including blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning with auto-brake and a rearview camera with cross traffic alert. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Honda Civic Si Sedan

    Affordable performance for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    Honda Civic Si

    Honda Civic Si

    The Civic Si test car parked in my driveway reminds me of Christmas in July. The high-performance version of Honda’s best-selling compact sedan has long been a favorite among driving enthusiasts: an affordable well-balanced package that’s equally at home doing the daily commute or laps at the track.

    Power comes from a 205-horsepower four-cylinder engine and six-speed close ratio manual gearbox. Those who can’t drive a stick need not apply. Those of us who like to push a clutch pedal see that as a win for the Gipper.

    Pricing for the Si sedan with navigation begins at $24,490, a bargain considering its chassis components and convenience features including keyless entry, seven-inch touchscreen display with navigation, real-time weather and traffic, satellite radio, rearview camera, Honda LaneWatch, Bluetooth, power moonroof, 18-inch alloy wheels, a 60/40 split folding rear seat and USB interface. Final MSRP on the test car is $25,310. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Honda Fit EX-L

    Subcompact hatchback targets active urbanites

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Honda Fit

    2015 Honda Fit

    On paper the Honda Fit should be the perfect car for buyers with active lifestyles: small and fuel efficient, with a surprisingly spacious and versatile cargo area thanks to its folding magic seats and center-mounted fuel tank. The first-generation Fit seemed to hit the nail on the head, with its appealing aero exterior and peppy engine. This year, Honda introduces its successor, a slightly larger car that builds on the original formula with powertrain and connectivity enhancements.

    The test car is the upscale EX-L with navigation, priced from $20,800. Standard convenience features include leather heated front seats, leather steering wheel, HondaLink with smart phone applications, navigation, Bluetooth, satellite radio, SMS text messaging, Pandora radio, LaneWatch, air conditioning and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Final MSRP including the $790 destination charge is $21,590. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

    Gasoline/electric powertrain stretches driving range

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

    2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

    Americans who consider the Toyota Prius to be the gold standard of gasoline electric hybrids should take a second look at Honda, whose history is actually longer and in some ways deeper. The original Honda Insight arrived stateside in 1999, a year ahead of the Prius. Since then Honda has continued to refine its technology with a new version of the Insight, as well as hybrid versions of the Civic and Accord.

    The 2014 Accord Hybrid sedan is remarkably fuel-efficient for a car of its size and mass. Its power, fuel efficiency and quiet, spacious interior make it well suited for American highways.

    An eco-assist system helps the driver achieve maximum fuel efficiency with instructive graphics inside the gauge cluster. There is also a real-time and average fuel economy graph available in the center stack screen. Average fuel economy according to the EPA is 47 mpg.

    Standard safety features include both rearview and LaneWatch side view cameras. The side view camera projects a wide-angle image to the right of sedan when the driver signals to turn in that direction. As a runner and cyclist sharing the roads with cars, I can’t say enough good things about this feature that protects pedestrians in bicycle lanes.

    The Touring model tested comes fully loaded with convenience features as well, including keyless entry and start, leather seating, navigation with real-time traffic updates, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a power moonroof, LED headlamps and tail lamps. Base price is $34,905. Adding in the $790 destination charge, final MSRP is $35,695. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Honda Crosstour 4WD EX

    Midsized crossover gets styling and power enhancements

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Honda Crosstour Concept

    The idea behind the original Honda Crosstour was to make the best-selling Accord it’s based upon a more versatile ride. The Crosstour’s hatchback design, additional length and height create a larger cargo space for buyers whose active lifestyles might require loading bicycles, skis or snowboards inside.

    Lackluster response to the original model had Honda designers return to the drawing boards, restyling the car for 2013 and adding a more powerful V-6 engine. Honda also lowered the price of the base four-cylinder model by $525: MSRP starts at $27,230 excluding the delivery charge.

    The upscale EX model tested starts at $37,090. It is all-wheel drive as opposed to front-wheel drive and is fully loaded with Honda’s newest safety technology, including the LaneWatch display that uses a camera in the passenger side mirror to record activity to the right of the car. As a runner and occasional cyclist, I think it’s one of the best technologies currently on the market.

    Convenience features on the test car include push button start, satellite radio, Pandora radio, SMS text messaging, Bluetooth interface, navigation, dual-zone climate control, ten-way power driver’s seat, power moonroof, and a ten-way power driver’s seat with two-position memory. Final MSRP, including the $830 destination charge, is $37,920. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Honda Accord

    Ninth-generation sedan is safer and smarter

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Honda Accord

    As a runner and cyclist, I’m always on the lookout for technology that helps drivers and pedestrians share the road safely. One of the most common scenarios for car/pedestrian accidents occurs when a driver fails to see a pedestrian to the right of the vehicle before turning. While a runner might be able to jump back onto the sidewalk, faster-moving cyclists have a more difficult time avoiding a collision.

    A LaneWatch feature on the 2013 Accord enables the driver to see pedestrians to the right of the vehicle, using a camera mounted on the side view mirror. When the driver signals to turn, the camera projects a wide-angle view to the right of the sedan. Lines superimposed over the image help the driver to gauge the distance between the vehicle and pedestrians to his right.

    I would consider the 2013 Accord a brilliant design, if only for this feature. But the ninth-generation of Honda’s midsized sedan offers quite a bit more. A powerful V-6 engine delivers up to 34 miles-per-gallon on the highway, thanks to technology that shuts off half the cylinders when engine loads are low.

    Driving enthusiasts can purchase both four and six-cylinder models with a six-speed manual transmission. Honda is also producing both conventional and plug-in hybrids for buyers with an environmental focus. There are two automatic transmissions: a continuously-variable transmission on the four-cylinder car, and a six-speed step transmission that replaces the five-speed box on the outgoing model. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport

    Half-ton pickup appeals to buyers with active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport

    Honda was the first automaker to conceive of vehicles as rolling toolboxes. The funky Element quickly won favor among triathletes because of its versatile interior which could be configured to hold multiple bicycles.

    When Honda introduced the Ridgeline half-ton pickup truck in 2005 for the 2006 model year, designers used a similar strategy. Since chief engineer, Gary Flint, was a recreational mountain biker, it made sense that the Ridgeline’s interior should be roomy enough to provide secure storage for his gear.

    By making the second-row of the crew cab more spacious than its competitors and designing the seats to flip up and out of the way, the cab could hold a mountain bike with the front wheel removed.

    Its versatile interior is just one of the features which buyers with active lifestyles will love about the Ridgeline. A dual-action tailgate is hinged to both the bottom and side for better cargo bed access. Four cargo lights illuminate the bed at night, making the Ridgeline the ideal choice for a weekend camping trip. A hidden storage area under the cargo bed floor keeps gear which can’t fit in the passenger compartment safe and dry.

    The Ridgeline tows up to 5000 pounds and has an 1100-pound payload rating. Honda accessories configure the cargo bed to hold motorcycles and ATVs.

    A new Sport grade gives the Ridgeline a more stylish exterior, with a blacked-out grille, black headlamp and brake light housings and black 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside the Sport features a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, rubber floor mats, auxiliary jack and tinted rear glass.

    Base price is $29,995. An $810 destination charge brings the MSRP to $30,805. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L Nav

    Honda remakes its best-selling crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD

    Honda was one of the first automakers to break into the compact crossover segment in the 1990s with the CR-V. Buyers who wanted to stick with a brand they had come to know for reliability and good gas mileage could do so, and still meet the needs of their active lifestyles.

    Over time, Honda’s compact recreational vehicle has grown in size, responding to a general market trend as well as buyers who wanted more space for growing families. This continues with the newest CR-V, which Honda unveiled at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show.

    Product planners sought to give buyers access to new infotainment features and updated engine technology without seriously impacting the car’s sticker price. The top-of-the-line EX with leather upholstery, all-wheel drive and navigation costs less than $30,000.

    The most obvious compromise was using a five-speed automatic transmission in lieu of a six speed box with larger overdrive gears. I was able to get 29 miles-per-gallon on my 300-mile test drive, which included a road trip between Phoenix and Tucson. That number is significantly better than the EPA estimated average of 25 miles-per-gallon for combined city and highway driving.

    Part of the difference was due to the fact that most miles during the test drive were on the highway. I also used the “econ” setting, and a monitor in the gauge cluster which turns green when the driver is optimizing gas mileage. In these days of rising fuel costs, the energy monitor is a useful tool for containing cost of ownership. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Honda Civic Si

    High-performance coupe stays true to its roots

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

    It’s curious that Honda, a fundamentally conservative automaker, has become the marque of choice among millennial car enthusiasts. The compact Civic’s performance variant, the Si, is not a radical car by most measures. However, the OEM package, with its high-revving iVTEC engine, close ratio gearbox and compact sport-tuned suspension is the perfect palette for customization. It also offers superb ride and handling out of the box.

    Honda introduced the ninth-generation of Civics for the 2012 model year, including an all-new Si. An aluminum 2.4-liter block replaces the 2-liter engine on the former model. Engineers made both peak horsepower and torque available at lower engine speeds to enhance the everyday driving experience.

    As with its predecessors, the newest Si coupe is extremely light, and remarkably well balanced for a front-wheel drive car. Its performance adds a new dimension to everyday driving, without sacrificing versatility or fuel economy.

    Average highway fuel economy is 31 miles-per-gallon, according to the EPA. Because of the engine’s high compression ratio, the Civic Si requires 91 octane premium unleaded fuel.

    Base price for the Si coupe is $22,205, excluding the $770 delivery charge. The Si coupe comes standard with the 2.4-liter engine, six-speed close ratio gearbox, limited slip differential and 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season V-rated tires. A standard stainless steel exhaust will appeal to buyers in areas which experience severe winters.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include remote keyless entry, air conditioning, Bluetooth interface, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant controls, aluminum pedals, adjustable sport seats, a 360-watt audio system with MP3 and USB interface and speed-sensitive volume. Buyers can add a navigation system with XM satellite radio. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

    Minivan offers 8-passenger seating and great fuel economy

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

    Sitting behind the wheel of the all-new Honda Odyssey, I’m reminded of the movie, “Get Shorty.”  John Travolta’s character, Chili Palmer, proves that minivans can be cool, assuming the driver has the right attitude.

    Unfortunately, buyers tend to write off minivans as being stodgy and unsexy. In fact, minivans are among the best active lifestyle vehicles on the market.

    To paraphrase a line from the movie, the Odyssey is the Honda of minivans: it epitomizes the automaker’s talent for thoughtful design and clever engineering. The 2011 models improve on features such as variable cylinder management and the third row magic seat, and add some appealing new technologies.

    The 3.5-liter iVTEC engine is more powerful than the block it replaces, while a six-speed automatic transmission on the Touring grade extends gas mileage. The Touring grade rides on 18-inch alloy wheels, with four-wheel disc brakes.

    A three-mode design for the second row enables parents to move the center seat forward for better access to a small child, expand the distance between the three seats, or convert the center seat into an armrest with a work surface and cupholders.

    Although the new Odyssey is wider and longer than the vehicle it replaces, it’s also lighter. The Touring model weighs about 100 pounds less than the equivalent 2010 model.

    The Touring Elite is the most upscale of five available models. Base price is $43,250, not including a $780 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include leather upholstery, navigation with real-time traffic updates, a DVD rear entertainment system, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, tri-zone climate control, a ten-way power driver’s seat with two-position memory, heated front seats, a 115-volt power outlet, power tailgate, and auto-leveling high-intensity discharge headlamps. Read the rest of this entry »