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  • 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 »

  • 2013 Hyundai Azera

    Premium five-passenger sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Hyundai Azera

    The second-generation Azera raises Hyundai’s bar to new heights, rivaling high-end sedans such as the Lexus ES 350 and Lincoln MKS in style and performance. Since it lacks the luxury nameplate, the Azera is more often compared to with premium products including the Toyota Avalon and Buick LaCrosse.

    One thing is for sure: the Azera is a lot of car for the money, with a powerful direct injection V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, a host of comfort and safety features, priced just over $32,000. Hyundai’s new assurance program that adds three years of Connected Care on top of the ten-year/100,000 mile warranty makes the sedan’s value hard to match.

    The test car comes with a technology package that adds 19-inch wheels, xenon headlamps, an Infinity premium sound system, driver’s seat cushion extender, driver’s seat memory, power rear sunshade, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and ambient interior lighting. Carpeted floor mats and the $875 delivery charge bring the final MSRP to $37,225. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Heels and Wheels 2013

    Annual conference puts women in the driver’s seat

    By Nina Russin

    Aston Martin DB9

    I feel like the Queen: not the one with the Queen wave and frumpy clothes, but rather a Pussy Galore queen with Sean Connery by my side, oozing sex appeal and confidence. I don’t typically have Pussy Galore hallucinations, but I don’t usually get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB9 either. The experience was the highlight of my trip to the third annual Heels and Wheels women’s automotive conference in Bend, Oregon

    Of course, there was a more serious aspect to the event, its primary focus being the buying power of women, which currently accounts for at least 50 percent of all new car purchases and up to 80 percent of car buying decisions.

    According to Kelley Blue Book research Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, Mazda and Volkswagen are the most popular brands among female buyers. Women tend to favor crossover vehicles and SUVs over sports cars and pickup trucks, with models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 topping the popularity charts.

    The internet has become the most popular source of information among women shopping for a new car, due partly to the unease with which many women approach dealerships. KBB visitors typically research a vehicle for two months, take about three more months for the purchasing process and keep their cars between 8 and 10 years.

    Connectivity features are playing a larger role in purchase decisions, with Bluetooth and GPS both included among must-haves. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD

    Value-packed five-passenger crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

    It came as no surprise that the all-new Santa Fe Sport captured the 2013 Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year award in the Best Value On-Road category. Over the past two decades, Hyundai has evolved from a bit player to a major force in the North American car market by offering customers quality and style at an unbelievable value.

    How many five-passenger crossovers combine all-wheel drive, traction and stability control, keyless entry and start, satellite radio, telematics, 19-inch wheels and a 100,000-mile warranty for a base price of $29,450′ Frankly, it’s hard to find anything not to love about the new Santa Fe, with its peppy two-liter turbocharged engine rated at 264 horsepower, six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel independent suspension.

    The test car comes with a premium package that adds leather upholstery, side mirror turn markers, heated front seats, reclining and folding second-row seats, dual-zone climate control and a rearview camera ($2450); carpeted floor mats ($100); a cargo net ($50) and cargo cover ($150). The $825 delivery charge brings the final MSRP to $33,025. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show

    OEMs predict a brighter 2013

    By Nina Russin

    The fourth-generation Range Rover made its North American debut in LA

    Los Angeles is the first of four major auto shows in the United States, and therefore sets the tenor for the remainder of the season. While sales statistics can be misleading, catering spreads which accompany the various press conferences are much more telling.

    Before the crash of 2008, the show floor was rife with the spoils of success. It was rare to find any press conference without an espresso machine and plates of scones. Full-fledged buffets with open bars were not unusual. I remember one automaker inviting journalists to take home folding chairs set out for the event. The chairs were nice enough to furnish a summer cabin.

    When things went black four years ago, it was hard to find a bottle of water on the show floor, much less a cappuccino. While I don’t condone swag wagons at editorial functions, the lack thereof was certainly telling.

    Gradually, the amenities came back, beginning with some ice buckets with refreshments and the occasional Danish pastry. But it was not until the 2012 show which opened to the media this week that “real food” made its reappearance on the show floor. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT and Veloster Turbo

    Active lifestyle vehicles with pumped-up style

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

    While the current economic climate has many automotive manufacturers struggling to tread water, Hyundai continues to stride forward with leaps and bounds. The reason is that product planners listen to their customers, and deliver on three key attributes: value, performance and functionality.

    Hyundai’s two newest entries, the Veloster Turbo and Elantra GT, offer buyers with active lifestyles exceptional fuel economy and versatile interiors, priced under $25,000. Cargo areas are big enough to hold a bicycle or some camping equipment.

    Comfort and convenience features including air conditioning, Bluetooth interface, iPod compatibility, remote keyless entry, and split folding rear seats are standard equipment. So are important safety features such as electronic stability control, side curtain airbags and four-channel antilock brakes.
     
    Add in Hyundai’s ten year/100,000 mile warranty and the customer’s choice is simple: a four-door compact two-plus-two or slightly larger five-door hatch. The Veloster has edgier styling and a little more power, while the Elantra GT has more room in back for gear. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Grand Touring

    Sport coupe gains finesse under the hood and a head-turning exterior

    By Nina Russin

     

    2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

    The 2013 Hyundai Genesis coupe isn’t a car for everyone. Nor is it simply a two-door version of the sedan. When engineers updated the platform for the 2013 model year, they targeted driving enthusiasts looking for sports car performance in a more practical package.

    The steering is heavy, the suspension is stiff, and the exhaust note is loud. A strut tower brace  minimizes body flex for better steering response, while gas-charged monotube shocks provide quick rebound during aggressive driving.

    The car rides on 18-inch wheels with low-profile tires. Large four-wheel disc brakes stop the coupe on a dime.

    The 3.8-liter V-6 direct injection engine is the larger of two available blocks. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox, and a dual-clutch eight-speed automatic. Its powertrain technology alone makes the Genesis coupe a bargain at $32,000.

    But in typical Hyundai fashion, product planners didn’t stop with engineering updates. Standard equipment includes keyless entry and start, leather seating, automatic climate control, navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system. An $875 delivery charge brings the price out-the-door to $32,875. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Hyundai Veloster

    Three-door sport coupe designed for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Hyundai Veloster

    The Veloster compact coupe is Hyundai’s answer to urbanites with active lifestyles. Designers modified a three-door liftback, adding a fourth door on the right-hand side. The rear door eases access and egress to the second-row seats.

    Under the hood, a direct injection 1.6-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission offer peppy performance with excellent fuel efficiency: 40 mpg on the highway, according to EPA estimates.

    The car’s small footprint gives it maneuverability for weaving through dense traffic and parking in small slots on the street. A versatile interior is bicycle-friendly, and the driver’s seat has enough room for an extremely tall driver. A friend who’s six-foot-five got behind the wheel and had room to spare.

    As with every Hyundai, the Veloster offers a high level of standard safety and convenience features at a remarkably low price. MSRP on the test car is $17,300, including delivery. The base car comes with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, a ten-year/100,000 mile factory warranty, alloy wheels, air conditioning, satellite radio, Hyundai’s proprietary telematics system, remote keyless entry, MP3 and IPod compatibility and Bluetooth interface.

    A style package upgrades the wheels to 18-inch rims, adds a panoramic sunroof, chrome grille, leather interior accents alloy pedals and audio upgrade ($2000). A technology package includes a navigation system with rearview camera, keyless start and a 115-volt power outlet ($2000), bringing the price as tested to $21,300. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec

    Performance-tuned coupe feels at home on road or track

    By Nina Russin

    Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-SpecFor 2011, Hyundai added two performance variants to the Genesis coupe family: one powered by a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and a second based on the 3.8-liter V-6. Both cars transform the coupe’s personality from a premium road car into something much edgier and more youthful.

    The R-Spec coupes aren’t for everyone. The suspensions have stiffer spring rates, which can make for a bumpy ride on certain types of roads. Both models come exclusively with manual gearboxes. A limited slip differential is standard. In other words, the R-Spec coupes are Hyundai’s answer to Infiniti’s G coupes and Ford’s pony cars. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 5.5 seconds: a pretty good number in any stable.

    For buyers who want to buy a track-ready car, the R-Spec packages are hard to resist. If one were to purchase standard components on the Genesis R-Spec coupes, including Brembo brakes, strut tower brace, track-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels with performance tires and the close ratio ZF gearbox in the aftermarket, it would cost a lot more than the OEM package.

    On top of that, the buyer gets a sexy looking car loaded with comfort and convenience features such as Bluetooth and USB interface, satellite radio, bolstered sport seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, special badging and fog lamps.

    Hyundai’s ten-year/100,000 mile warranty covers any repair due to defects from the factory, and includes five years of roadside assistance.

    The only accessories not included in the test car’s $26,750 MSRP are a cargo net, iPod cable and carpeted floor mats. Together they add $180 dollars to the price of the car. The MSRP includes delivery charges as well. In other words: no ups, no extras. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited

    Compact sedan is a super value

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Hyundai Elantra

    It’s rare for a baseball player to hit consecutive home runs, and perhaps less common for a car company. But that’s exactly what Hyundai has done with its new compact Elantra sedan, following on the heels of the midsized Sonata.

     The new Elantra is a super-value, not only because of its sub- $20,000 price tag, but what the car offers: a fuel-efficient engine, extensive roster of standard convenience and safety features, and an industry-leading ten-year/100,000 mile warranty.

    Power comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 148 horsepower, and a proprietary six-speed automatic transmission. The Elantra averages 33 miles-per-gallon for combined city and highway driving according to the EPA. Mileage for my 100-mile test drive was slightly better: 34.5 miles-per-gallon.

    Base price for the upscale Limited grade is $19,980 including destination charges and a full tank of gas. Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, 17-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, XM satellite radio, USB and auxiliary ports, Bluetooth interface, leather trim, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls.

    A premium package on the test car adds navigation with a rearview backup camera, automatic headlamps and an upgraded audio system ($2000). Carpeted floor mats and an iPod cable bring the price as tested to $22,110. Read the rest of this entry »