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  • 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 »

  • 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Fuel-thrifty sedan is an appealing package

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    The Clarity family began with the Honda’s fuel cell sedan two years ago. The name now refers to a group of electrified vehicles that continues to include the fuel cell model as well as a pure electric vehicle.

    As the first manufacturer to offer a gasoline/electric hybrid for sale in the US, Honda now has two decades of experience under its belt. Although Toyota’s Prius remains the best-selling hybrid, Honda knows what American drivers want in terms of fuel economy, but also understands their needs for passenger comfort, cargo space, safety and infotainment features.

    The Clarity is longer than Toyota’s Prius Prime or the Ford Fusion Plug-In hybrids. While the Clarity can’t match the Prius’ fuel economy, there’s a lot to be said for its roomier interior and additional cargo space.

    Fuel economy for the Clarity Plug-In hybrid is 42 miles-per-gallon from the 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, on top of which owners enjoy up to 47 miles-per-gallon in pure electric mode. The battery pack recharges in 2-1/2 hours using a 220-volt plug-in.

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

    Engineers located the lithium-ion battery pack under the floor so as not to impinge on trunk space. Rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. The Clarity’s cargo bay is too small to be bicycle friendly, but is easily capable of carrying golf bags, luggage, groceries and the like.

    Pricing for the upscale Touring model starts at $36,600. Honda loads the Clarity up with standard convenience features including leather seats and steering wheel, 8-speaker audio system, HD and satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and USB interface, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats and more.

    Among the standard active safety features are adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and Honda LaneWatch: a technology unique to Honda that projects an image to the right of the car in the center screen when the driver signals. As a cyclist who shares the roads with drivers, I think it’s one of the most important active safety systems on the market. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2019 Ram 1500

    Light-duty pickups focus on style and functionality

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

    2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

    Since Ram split off from Dodge in 2009, the brand has experienced a major growth spurt, with annual sales jumping from 260,000 to 700,000 units last year. Product planners hope that the newest generation of light-duty pickups tagged for the 2019 model year will maintain the momentum, with increased towing and hauling capacity, new styling and upgraded interiors.

    Pricing for the base Tradesman work model starts at $31,695 excluding delivery, while the upscale Limited grade is priced from $53,890. Base MSRP for the off-road oriented Rebel is $43,995.

    Buyers can choose between the newest-generation Pentastar V-6 and Hemi V-8 engines. Mild hybrid technology improves fuel economy as well as the performance of the auto-stop feature. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Infiniti QX80 4WD

    Luxury SUV for growing families

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Infiniti QX80

    2018 Infiniti QX80

    The full-size QX80 has been redesigned and re-engineered for 2018, with new infotainment, active and passive safety features. As the brand’s sport-utility flagship, the three-row QX80 leads the way with features such as hydraulic body motion control for flatter cornering, programmable four-wheel drive, and rear auto-leveling suspension. Towing capacity is 8500 pounds.

    In automatic mode, the four-wheel drive system remains in rear-wheel drive on dry roads, switching to four-wheel drive high mode to deliver traction to all four wheels in rain, ice or snow. The two-speed transfer case includes a low range for off-road trails.

    Base price is $67,850 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include a technology package upgrading the standard audio system to Bose surround-sound and adding ventilated front seats, semi-aniline leather upholstery and adaptive front lighting; theater package including eight-inch seatback monitors, wireless headsets, heated and tip-up second-row seats, 22-inch tires and wheels; driver assistance package including a backup collision intervention, blind spot monitoring, lane departure assist, intelligent cruise control and forward emergency braking, carpeted cargo mats, first aid kit, roof rails with cross bars, Wi Fi, illuminated kick plates and welcome lighting. Final MSRP is $84,660. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology

    Three-row crossover geared towards active families

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    The midsize Atlas three-row crossover that debuted last year shares the same basic underpinnings as the Golf hatchback. Both are built on the automaker’s MQB modular platform, enabling engineers to share technology such as laser clamp welding that contributes to a more rigid body structure between various models.

    Buyers can choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder block or V-6 engine and front or all-wheel drive. The test car is the front-wheel drive V-6 SE with Technology starting from $35,940 excluding the $925 destination charge.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, leatherette seating, three-zone climate controls, heated side mirrors, roof rails, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, power liftgate, an eight-speaker sound system with high definition and Sirius XM radio and eight-inch touchscreen display. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Chevrolet Traverse AWD High Country

    Eight-passenger crossover with new infotainment technology

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Chevrolet Traverse

    2018 Chevrolet Traverse

    The Chevrolet Traverse is an appealing alternative to minivans for families needing eight-passenger seating and a versatile interior. For 2018, buyers can choose between front and all-wheel drive models that add more tractive capability. A new High Country edition gives the Traverse luxury accouterments including heated and ventilated seats, a Bose 10-speaker premium audio system, LED lighting, 20-inch alloy rims, tri-zone climate control and the latest version of Chevrolet MyLink infotainment including a Wi Fi hotspot.

    Base price for the all-wheel drive High Country model is $52,050 excluding the $925 destination charge. Special red exterior paint on the test car adds $395, bringing the final MSRP to $53,390. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI

    Compact hatchback is big from the inside out

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Golf

    2018 Volkswagen Golf

    The Volkswagen Golf isn’t a very big car, with a wheelbase measuring 104-inches: about 8-1/2 feet. Don’t let its compact dimensions fool you; the front-wheel drive Golf has an amazing amount of space inside.

    Fold the second-row seats flat and it can hold skis, snowboards, and camping gear. With pricing for the base S automatic model starting at $22,010 sans destination, it might leave something in the bank for that new eTAP bicycle you’ve been thinking about, or at least some component upgrades.

    Mechanically 2018 models are carryover, but with a refreshed exterior that includes LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lamps and some chrome accents. Standard convenience features on the base S tested include alloy wheels, keyless entry, eight-speaker sound system, rearview camera, cruise control, automatic windshield wipers and Bluetooth interface. The S grade comes with cloth upholstery and manual seat adjustments that include lumbar support. Destination is $850. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 2.0T S

    Affordable open-air fun

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

    2018 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

    Convertibles have come a long way since the time when they were fair weather friends, since the tops lacked the insulation to keep interiors warm in the winter. The Volkswagen Beetle convertible combines iconic styling inspired by the Karmann Cabriolets of the late 1940s and 1950s, with four-season versatility and new for 2018, a more powerful four-cylinder engine.

    The turbocharged, TSI engine develops 174 peak horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque at engine speeds as low as 1500 rpm: a tip of the throttle. A Tiptronic six-speed automatic transmission is standard. There are four grades- S, Coast, SE and Dune. Pricing for the base S model tested starts at $25,440 excluding the $850 destination charge.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry, single-zone manual climate control, leatherette seating surfaces, 16-inch alloy rims, heated and foldable side mirrors, intermittent wipers, power soft top, 50/50 split folding rear seat and adjustable ambient lighting. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

    Four-season drop top

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

    2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

    It wasn’t that long ago that convertibles were considered summer cars because cloth tops weren’t well enough insulated to keep the interiors warm in cold weather. The new Mercedes-Benz E400 changes that with an acoustic top that is not only weather-resistant but renders the interior as quiet as a sedan. When the top is deployed, an electronic windscreen manages airflow through the cabin for a more pleasant open-air experience.

    Available 4Matic all-wheel drive gives the E400 Cabriolet sure-footed performance in rain, ice and snow.

    Power comes from a three-liter V-6 bi-turbo engine and nine-speed automatic transmission, delivering 329-horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The newest E-Class cabriolet is longer, wider and has a longer wheelbase than the outgoing model, increasing passenger space, especially in the back seats. Second-row seats also fold flat for some additional cargo space.

    2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

    2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

    Base price is $68,800 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include AMG alloy rims with high-performance tires, multi-contoured heated and ventilated front seats, air suspension and a premium package including park assist, wireless charging, satellite radio, premium surround-sound audio, intelligent lighting, adaptive high beams, steering assist, autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring and a heads-up display. Final MSRP is $89,735. Read the rest of this entry »