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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 Hyundai Elantra

    Redesigned midsize design gains in style, comfort and safety

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Hyundai Elantra

    2017 Hyundai Elantra

    The automaker that built its reputation as a value leader has come of age, as evidenced in the all-new Hyundai Elantra midsize sedan. While the sedan offers buyers a lot of content for the money, the newest Elantra is equally competitive on other fronts: its distinctive exterior, extensive roster of available safety features and vastly improved fit and finish throughout the interior.

    Competing in the largest passenger car segment, the Elantra covers a lot of ground with the base SE priced from $17,150 and upscale Limited priced from $22,350 that includes features such as leather upholstery, Bluetooth, satellite radio, keyless start, blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera as standard equipment.

    Options on the test car include a tech package that adds navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, premium audio system with digital file decompression and heated seats, as well as a premium package adding HID headlamps, pedestrian detection with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and driver’s seat memory. Final MSRP including destination is $27,710. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

    Compact crossover is the complete package

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Hyundai Tucson

    2016 Hyundai Tucson

    The citizens of Tucson, Arizona should be proud that Hyundai has named its compact crossover after their fine burg. The new Hyundai Tucson embodies the spirit of its namesake, with focus on performance and versatility for buyers with active lifestyles.

    A new 1.6-liter engine available on Eco, Sport and Limited grades is an impressive piece of machinery. The turbocharger takes very little effort to start spinning, enabling the block to quickly build power. Peak torque, 195 pound-feet, is available from 1500 rpm: a tip of the throttle.

    2016 Hyundai Tucson

    2016 Hyundai Tucson

    Whereas competitors have gone to continuously variable automatic transmissions to boost gas mileage, Hyundai developed a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Performance is almost as crisp as a manual gearbox.

    Average fuel economy for the all-wheel drive car is 26 miles-per-gallon: pretty impressive since all-wheel drive typically reduces gas mileage by at least a mile-per-gallon.

    The Limited model tested comes fully loaded, with convenience features including 19-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust pipes, LED headlamps, tail lamps and daytime running lamps, power liftgate, leather upholstery with power front seats, dual-zone climate control, 60/40 split folding rear seats, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, eight-inch touchscreen center stack display, satellite radio and panoramic moonroof.

    Pricing for the Limited AWD starts at $31,300 excluding the $895 destination charge. Two stand-alone options- carpeted floor mats and a cargo area cover- bring the final MSRP to $32,510. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

    Green car meets sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

    2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

    It’s rare for environmentalists and car enthusiasts to see eye-to-eye on anything. But both with find a lot to love in Hyundai’s newest Sonata Hybrid sedan: a stylish package that delivers on all fronts without compromise.

    While hybrid sedans are nothing new, the Sonata is in a league of its own. Power comes from a fuel-efficient two-liter gasoline engine and electric motor with 195 combined horsepower. The sedan can run at speeds up to 75 miles-per-hour on pure electric power. Average fuel economy for our test drive was 42 miles-per-gallon: slightly higher than the EPA 41 mpg estimate.

    A compact lithium polymer battery is positioned under the trunk, so unlike most hybrid sedans, cargo space is the same as for gasoline-powered models. Buyers can also opt for 60/40 split folding rear seats to extend the cargo floor for larger items.

    Base price for the upscale Limited model is $30,100, excluding the $825 destination charge. Options on the test car include a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic high beam assist, , adaptive cruise control, navigation, satellite radio, high-definition radio, LED interior lamps and floor mats, bringing the final MSRP to $35,765. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Hyundai Genesis RWD 3.8

    Luxury sport sedan hits the sweet spot

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan

    2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan

    My favorite episode of “The Simpsons” is the one in which Homer attempts to build the Homermobile. Creating a new car is not an easy task: just ask anyone who’s tried it.

    As a journalist who has witnessed Hyundai’s evolution during its twenty-years in the North America, I continue to be impressed by far the company has raised the bar and continues to do so. The second-generation Genesis sedan that debuts for the 2015 model year is a case in point.

    As nice as the original 2009 model was, the new sedan is doubly good, improving on every aspect of design, engineering and user interface. It’s a home run.

    Hyundai describes the Genesis as a premium sedan simply because Hyundai is not a luxury brand. But the new Genesis is as much a luxury car as the Lexus, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW models it competes against.

    The sedan is available with two engine choices: a 3.8-liter V-6 or 5-liter V-8, with rear or all-wheel drive. The 3.8-liter rear-wheel drive test car starts at $38,000, excluding the $950 destination charge. Two convenience option packages and a technology group that includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and parking assist bring the final MSRP to $49,950. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

    Premium midsize sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Hyundai Sonata

    2015 Hyundai Sonata

    Over the past two decades, Hyundai has evolved from loss leader to value leader, replacing its initial lineup of inexpensive cars with premium products that offer value content. The all-new 2015 Sonata midsize sedan is a case in point, rivaling luxury models in terms of performance, build quality, safety and convenience features but priced firmly within the premium segment.

    Product planners divided the market for the Sonata into a more conservative, amenity-focused group and a second segment more concerned with driving dynamics. The premium SE grade appeals to the former group while the Sonata Sport, with features such as a flat-bottom steering wheel inspired by Formula One racing, targets the second. There is also a Limited model for those wanting more luxury.

    The test car is the Sport model with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine: one of two available blocks. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The two-liter four-cylinder engine is the smaller of the two blocks but turbocharging gives it the best power: 245-horsepower as compared to 185 for the naturally aspirated 2.4-cylinder. The difference in torque is even more significant, with the turbocharged block topping off at 260 foot-pounds, available from 1350 rpm.

    Base price for the test car is $28,575 excluding the $810 destination charge. Standard safety and convenience features include daytime running lamps, blind spot detection, a rearview camera, hands-free smart trunk opener, leather seating, power driver’s seat with lower lumbar support, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, Blue Link telematics and connected care.

    A premium option package adds a panoramic sunroof, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, rear park assist, driver’s seat position memory, navigation, LED interior lighting and premium audio system. Final MSRP is $34,460. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited

    Premium sedan travels to the front of the pack

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Hyundai Azera

    2014 Hyundai Azera

    Since the economic downtick of 2008, car buyers have been veering on the side of caution, with those who formerly shopped luxury considering premium cars instead. The full-sized Hyundai Azera addresses this audience with a stylish exterior, powerful engine and segment-leading connectivity features.

    Buyers can choose between the base car priced from $31,000 and upscale Limited with a $34,750 MSRP. The Limited adds navigation, electroluminescent gauge cluster and power folding side mirrors to the list of standard convenience features.

    Power comes from a 3.3-liter direct injection V-6 engine rated at 293-horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy isn’t quite as good as the Toyota Avalon the Azera competes against, but the Azera engine develops 25 more horsepower and seven more foot-pounds of peak torque.

    Options on the test car include a premium package that adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, power rear sunshade, side sunshades and rear park assist as well as carpeted floor mats. Final MSRP including the $895 destination charge is $37,905. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT

    Five-door hatchback for active urbanites

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Hyundai Elantra GT

    2014 Hyundai Elantra GT

    When Hyundai introduced the newest version of its compact Elantra for the 2013 model year, product planners discontinued the former Touring wagon and introduced a five-door hatchback called the GT. This year, the GT gains a more powerful two-liter engine in place of the former 1.8-liter block, giving it 25 more horsepower and 23 additional foot-pounds of torque.

    The result is a stylish, fun-to-drive car with a small footprint that is ideal for active urbanites. Since the car weighs less than 3,000 pounds, it has a positive power-to-weight ratio, resulting in 28 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy and surprisingly peppy performance.

    Hyundai has built its reputation by offering buyers exceptional value. Base price for the Elantra GT is $18,750 excluding the $810 destination charge. Standard convenience features include air conditioning, power heated outside mirrors, satellite radio with Bluetooth interface, iPod and MP3 compatibility, remote keyless entry, cruise control, heated front seats and 60/40 split-folding rear seats that extend the cargo floor.

    A convenience package on the test car adds 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, power driver’s seat, aluminum pedals, a sport-tuned suspension, LED headlamps, under-floor storage in the cargo area and Hyundai Blue Link telematics. A tech package adds navigation, automatic headlamps, dual-zone climate control and a panoramic sunroof, bringing the final MSRP to $25,485. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T

    Five-passenger crossover gains new safety features

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

    2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

    There’s a reason Hyundai’s midsized crossover has been a fixture on American highways since it first rolled out for the 2001 model year: it offers more value than most competitors and has the versatility to fill a lot of squares.

    The 2014 car is basically a continuation of the five-passenger crossover first introduced for the 2012 model year, but with some appealing new safety features. Blind spot detection is now available on all trim levels and technology packages come with rear park assist. The same option package now includes high intensity discharge headlamps, LED tail lamps, front seat memory and ventilated front seats. Eighteen-inch rims are now standard on turbocharged models.

    The Santa Fe lineup is divided into two models: the five-passenger Sport and seven-passenger Santa Fe. The Sport is powered by either a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine or two-liter turbo. Of the two, the turbocharged block is the one to buy, with 264 horsepower and 269 foot-pounds of torque. Because turbocharged engines develop maximum torque at much slower engine speeds than naturally aspirated blocks, drivers will notice a considerable difference off the line.

    All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of front or all-wheel drive.

    The all-wheel drive test car is priced from $32,400. There are two options: navigation that also adds premium audio and 19-inch wheels. Final MSRP including the $875 destination charge is $35,135. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Hyundai Equus

    Five-passenger luxury sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Hyundai Equus

    2014 Hyundai Equus

    It was a gutsy move for Hyundai to enter the luxury market, since the company’s marketing impetus had traditionally been value-focused. Even gutsier was not creating a separate brand, as both Honda and Toyota did in launching the Acura and Lexus lines respectively.

    I respect Hyundai for departing from its comfort zone, and even more for introducing a product that maintains the brand’s core mission of offering buyers value for the money. Although a $61,000 sport sedan might not seem like a bargain, it is when compared to competitors with six-figure price tags.

    Power for the rear-wheel drive Equus comes from a 429-horsepower aluminum V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can choose between snow, normal and sport modes to vary throttle response according to road conditions.

    There are two trim levels: Signature (tested) and Ultimate. The Signature is more of a driver’s car while the Ultimate one to be driven in with fancier second-row seats.

    Pricing is monospec, saving buyers from haggling at the dealership over confusing option packages. Standard convenience features on the test car include keyless entry and start, tri-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, a 7.1 surround sound audio system, 19-inch alloy wheels, high intensity discharge headlamps, adaptive cruise control, navigation, Blue Link telematics and more. Final MSRP, including the $920 delivery charge, is $61,920. Read the rest of this entry »