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Review: 2013 Infiniti JX35 AWD

Saturday October 5th, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Up-market Interior, Command Seating Position, Go Anywhere Traction
Gripes: Lumbering Demeanor

Infiniti’s JX35 AWD is the kind of travel partner that grows on you. It isn’t particularly fast or surpassingly handsome. It doesn’t boast sports SUV handling agility. But just let it start raining hard, and you’ll quickly make best friends with this exceptionally competent people mover. When the weather turned vile due to a spate of late winter storms, the JX35 AWD proved to be the hot ticket for slaloming around fallen branches, zipping through ankle deep puddles, and enabling me to reach distant destinations without fuss or anxiety.

The JX35 comes by its all weather prowess honestly, since it’s based on Nissan’s new Pathfinder unibody chassis and transverse mounted 3.5 liter V-6. Infiniti tuning bumps the engine output from the Pathfinder’s 260hp to 265hp. In both applications, the V-6 powers a CVT transmission. Although I’ve never been a fan of continuously variable gearboxes, the JX35 installation works really well. The engine’s ample torque output of 248lb.-ft. eliminates gear hunting. This in turn reduces gear whine, which is a primary CVT annoyance. In addition, Infiniti has perfected a manual shift mode that allows you to mimic the stepped ratios of a normal automatic. Steering wheel proximate paddles, however, are missing, so you’ll need to bump the floor stick for shifts.

Another reason the JX proves to be a tidy package in a storm is its marvelous “Intelligent” all wheel drive system, which allows you to select exactly what manner of traction you need (Standard, Sport, Snow, Eco). The “Standard” default setting worked exceptionally well in even monsoon conditions, and when the skies cleared we flipped the selector to “Sport” for stiffer shock damping and more resistance to pitch. Infiniti fits the base level JX35 with 18 inch, 5-spoke alloy wheels shod with 235/65R18 rubber. But thanks to a $2,550 “Deluxe Touring Package,” our test JX stood tall on honkin’ Bridgestone Dueler 235/55R20 Mud & Snow rubber gracing pewter 10-spoke alloys. Although you’d pay close to $2,550 just for those wheels and tires at your local shop, Infiniti also throws in a few other deluxe package goodies: upgraded Bose “Cabin Surround” sound, Advanced Climate Control, Climate-controlled front seats, Heated second row seats, 2nd and 3rd row power moonroof, Rain-sensing wipers, and Maple interior accents. The rain-sensing wipers were perfectly suited to the intermittent nature of our recent storms and removed one more annoyance from the chore of wet weather driving. The standard rear wiper kept aft vision reassuringly clear.

At first, you will be hesitant about backing this lengthy (196.4 inch) bus out of parking spaces. But a Rear View Monitor is standard equipment on the JX, and the image it displays on the 7 inch color dash screen provides more than adequate rear vision aid. If you feel less than secure about the positioning of your Infiniti, you can always opt for the $3,100 “Technology Package” which offers Back-Up Collision Intervention (BCI). This device will brake your JX to a stop if it detects an obstacle in your path while reversing. The package also includes brake assist with forward collision warning, lane departure warning and prevention, intelligent cruise control with distance assist, and a heated steering wheel. The beauty of this package is that you can manually decommission any or all of these assistants, and once you’ve deselected them, they stay deselected the next time you start your JX. So if you want to retain Back-Up Collision Intervention while deleting Lane Departure Prevention, you can do so on a permanent basis.

The JX35 AWD carries a base MSRP of $41,550, compared to the front-wheel-drive version’s base price of $40,650. The extra $900 you spend for AWD will reward you many times over on the next rainy day.

2013 Infiniti JX35 AWD

  • Engine: 3.5 liter DOHC, 24 Valve V-6
  • Horsepower: 265hp
  • Torque: 248 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 18 City MPG/23 Highway MPG
  • Price as Tested: $55,170
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Infiniti |Tags:, , || No Comments »


Review: 2013 Porsche Carrera 911S

Friday October 4th, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Superb Dynamic Chassis, PDLS Headlights, Mega Pirellis
Gripes: Don’t Have One in My Garage Yet

Back in the sexist 1930s, Packard used the adage “Ask The Man Who Owns One” to seal the deal on the superiority of its brand. Since I currently own three Porsches 911s, you might want to ask me that same question about the company’s latest offspring, the 2013 911 Carrera S. In a nutshell, this newest addition to the model line is better in every way than any previous 911 Porsche has built. When I first learned about the specifications for this new model, internally designated “991,” my reaction to it was tepid. Logic seemed to dictate that the 991’s 4 inch longer wheelbase would make it more comfortable to ride in, but slower to react to steering input and directional change. And to a tutored eye accustomed to the svelte and chiseled 911 profile, the 991 looked bulbous and overweight. I couldn’t have been more wrong on all counts.

The extended wheelbase does indeed help eliminate the harsh ride quality of its immediate predecessor, the 997 version of the 911 that Porsche produced from 2005 to 2011. Although the ride quality of the 2013 Carrera S is more relaxed and luxuriant than that of the 997, it is even better snubbed and more informative than its choppy predecessor. And when it comes to ultimate handling, the 991’s wider front and rear track elevates this new model to a new echelon of stability never before achieved by any previous 911. Helping in this regard are several features exclusive to the “S” model Carrera, such as 20 inch diameter alloy wheels measuring 8.5 inches wide up front and 11 inches wide in the rear. Porsche has generously shod these standard S rims with Pirelli’s best rubber, P Zero Nero tires measuring 245/35R20 front and 295/30R20 rear. In addition, the S enjoys standard “torque vectoring” technology which subtly brakes the inside rear wheel on a turn to promote better traction for the outside rear wheel

The cumulative effect of these measures yields a 911 so confident in handling, so adept at directional change, that you could enter this stock coupe, as delivered, in any 24 Hour race and expect to finish well up in the overall standings. That’s because the new Carrera S has been sired by a long line of stellar race cars including the infamous 935, and more recently, the GT3 RSR version of the 997, which is still winning at the international level. The breeding line shows in every facet of the 991. Its informative 5 gauge cluster looks avionics correct when ordered in optional (no extra charge) “dials in black.” Its phenomenally effective Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) headlights not only blaze the night, but swivel to illuminate corners as you turn into them.

And speaking of corners, there must have been at least a thousand of them on the 43.2 mile drive through wine country I enjoyed, along with 23 other Porsches from the Porsche Club of America. With a starting point in Sonoma’s picturesque town square, this backroad adventure proved the mettle of this latest generation 911, not only to me, but to everyone else in the Porsche Club who witnessed its incredible agility. The 991, in S trim, guarantees you will rule the road.

To enjoy the new 911 Carrera S, you don’t need to extend its engine beyond 5,000 rpm. Because my test car had only 551 miles on the odometer when delivered to me (and appropriately, 991, when my week ended), I decided to do the right thing and break in the motor properly by observing a 5,000 rpm redline and not using full throttle. Amazingly, these self-imposed restrictions never materially impinged on the 911’s performance, because the new S engine has so much torque available so low in the rpm range that you never really need to boot it to redline to maximize forward progress. Even though this engine, when broken in, will comfortably scream to its 400 hp redline of 7, 400 rpm, it makes peak torque of 325 lb.-ft. at just 5,600 rpm. Keeping the revs down also helps achieve reasonable fuel consumption of 22 MPG overall.

If there’s a better sports car available than the new 911 Carrera S, than I’ve yet to drive it.

2013 Porsche Carrera 911S

  • Engine: 3.8 liter opposed 6, Direct Fuel Injection, Variocam
  • Horsepower: 400hp @ 7,400rpm
  • Torque: 325 lb.-ft. @ 5,600rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 19 MPG City/ 27 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $107,830
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Acura RLX

Thursday October 3rd, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Every Save-You-From-Yourself Option Imaginable
Gripes: Pillow-Soft Ride, Acronym Insanity, Confusing Rear View Mirror

Welcome to the brave new world of Acura acronyms. Although Acura has yet to introduce a George Orwell signature version of the RLX, one should be in the offing to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of 1984. When you push the red metallic start button on the dash of the plush new RLX luxury sedan, you’ll be confronted with such a bewildering array of acronyms illuminating the instrument binnacle that you’ll need Acura’s 52 page “Advanced Technology Guide” before venturing forth. This well illustrated booklet will explain the mysteries of RLX life to the uninitiated. What, you might legitimately ask, does “CMBS” mean? The Collision Mitigation Braking System alerts you to an impending frontal crash and operates 4 stages of audible warning/brake application to lessen impact. You can even chose from 4 distances to initiate the progression. Like CMBS, FCW, or Forward Collision Warning uses a camera mounted between the windshield and the rear view mirror to warn you of impending frontal crashes. Unlike CMBS, FCW does not actually apply your brakes.

ACC references Adaptive Cruise Control, which uses the same technology as FCW to maintain space behind the vehicle in front of you when you’ve engaged cruise control. In theory, ACC sounds good, but in practice it leads to a lot more braking and accelerating than you would manage with your own foot on the throttle. LDW and LKAS complete the befuddling compliment of acronym assists. Lane Departure Warning (LDW) sounds a beep if you stray from your lane without first using your turn signal. The Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) uses that same overhead camera to warn you of errant lane changes, while going one step further by intervening physically. LKAS actually applies correctional torque to the steering mechanism. While LKAS works to keep you in your lane, the confusing dual-image rear view mirror confuses you enough to cause lane wander.
Aside from all the whiz-bang gadgetry, how does the redesigned RLX function as a driver? Pretty well, actually, especially after you first take time to turn off all the nanny nagging beeps and buzzers. The interior is sumptuous and elegant in the manner pioneered long ago by Acura’s first offering in the luxury field, the Legend, a breakthrough sedan which pre-dated Infiniti’s Q45 and Lexus’ LS 400. The RLX is exceptionally spacious, with its wheelbase of 112 inches offering massive legroom for both front and rear seat occupants. At 75 inches, it’s also an inch wider than a Lexus LS 400, so there’s plenty of sprawl room for everyone on long trips. Because the cavernous trunk swallows 15 cubic feet of luggage, a family of 4 can comfortably vacation with all their belongings under cover.

The downside of the space equation is weight, and the RLX has plenty of that at 3,970 pounds. Even though its stout 3.5 liter V-6 makes a respectable 310hp, the car’s power-to-weight ratio of 12.8 pounds per horsepower will not incite sporty driving. The RLX is so softly sprung that it will pitch you off your seat when the suspension rebounds over mild pavement dips and rises. Through sweeping turns, the RLX tracks nicely on its low profile, all-season Michelin Primacy MXM4 tires (245/40R19). On tighter turns, the front-wheel-drive RLX develops pronounced understeer due to its 61/39 front end weight bias. Fortunately, you can dial up a better snubbed ride and quicker throttle response by engaging Sport mode. Unfortunately. the RLX inexplicably defaults to its soft ride setting whenever the engine is switched off.

If you’re looking for a sporty upgrade for your RLX, Acura offers a 370hp V-6 Hybrid combo that should wake up the sleeping giant while returning 30 MPG. The base model V-6 of our test car is good for 20 MPG around town, and 31 MPG on the freeway. One of the most rewarding aspects of Acura ownership is Acura Total Luxury Care (ATLC), which provides you and your RLX with a personalized home page that covers accessories, model specifications, current Acura Financial Services billing, and email reminder notices for service. ATLC also offers 24-hour roadside assistance, and trip planning services that include computerized routing and map information, message relay and airline ticketing. These all inclusive freebies are just part of the housewarming party you’ll get every time you climb into the well tailored cabin of your RLX. If future speak is your native language, RLX is your car.

2014 Acura RLX

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V-6
  • Horsepower: 310 hp
  • Torque: 271 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 20 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $48,450
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T

Wednesday October 2nd, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Spacious Cabin, Great Motor, Real Geared Transmission
Gripes: No Roof Rack With Panorama Sunroof

2013 marks the birth of the third generation Santa Fe. Hyundai has divided the model line into 2 versions, Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe. The Sport seats 5, while the larger Santa Fe seats 7. Although the Sport may be smaller, it manages to cram a stunning assortment of delicious ingredients into its 106 inch wheelbase while keeping costs affordable. The base model all-wheel-drive (AWD) Sport retails for just $26,200 but still provides 190hp. from a 2.4 liter inline four borrowed from the Hyundai Sonata. Our test Sport, however, improves performance dramatically thanks to its turbocharged 2.0 liter inline four, which makes 264hp and 269 lb.-ft. of torque. This combo sells for a reasonable $29,450, and even returns 21 MPG overall. When you add ancillary packages like the Leather and Premium Equipment Package ($2,450) and the Technology Package ($2,900), as delivered price rises to $35,925. This still represents a stunning value for an SUV that competes on even terms with a BMW X3 which costs close to $50,000 when optioned like the AWD Santa Fe 2.0T.

In keeping with the patina of its namesake New Mexico town, our test Santa Fe Sport was resplendently painted “Canyon Copper,” a brilliant shade you’re not likely to forget. Stomp the accelerator, and the Sport leaps forward with a vengeance you won’t soon forget either. The turbo motor drives a 6-speed automatic gearbox with SHIFTRONIC manual override control. All-wheel-drive chimes in when needed, but can also be manually selected through a default lock. Because peak torque is available at just 1,750rpm, the Sport lunges ahead from a standstill with such vigor you hardly ever need to resort to manual shift control for thrust enhancement.

The AWD Sport tackles twisting roads with the kind of aplomb reserved for low flying sports cars. Helping in this regard are “Hyper Silver Alloy” 19 inch wheels supporting beefy 235/55R19 Continental CrossContact tires that provide excellent cornering bite. We ran this Hyundai over 38 miles of twisty California Route 128 from St Helena to Winters and were pleasantly surprised by its comfortable ride, poised handling, and passing power. An especially nice feature is “Driver Selectable Steering Modes” which allows you to choose from 3 settings via a spoke mounted button: Normal, Comfort and Sport. On Rte. 128, we settled on the Sport choice, and found just enough resistance to enhance accurate positioning of the Santa Fe. A less slippery leather grip on the steering wheel would be a welcome change, however.

The cabin of the Sport is so spacious and airy that long trips are enjoyable rather than tiring. The “Panoramic Sunroof” which is part of the Technology Package opens up the interior like the twist lid on a sardine can. Even back seat passengers get a dose of fresh air and natural light because this vast roof both slides and tilts. The back seats accommodates 3, and the outside 2 positions get heated seats, which are part of the Premium Package. The spaciousness of the Santa Fe cabin becomes abundantly clear when you drop the rear seats flat to create a vast storage area that will easily accept a mountain bike.

The only shortcoming inside the cabin is Hyundai’s use of multiple vinyl facings for dash, door and console surfaces. The various pebble grains don’t quite match, and the matte black console looks cheap. But mismatched plastic is the only clue that you’re not driving something far more expensive here. From a cost efficiency standpoint, the Santa Fe Sport is one of the best buys in the SUV market today. For $35,000, you simply cannot do better.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T

  • Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC inline 4, turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 264hp @ 6,000rpm
  • Torque: 269 lb.-ft. @ 1,750-3,000rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 19 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $35,925
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Honda Crosstour EX FWD

Tuesday October 1st, 2013 at 1:1010 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Stands Out In A Crowd, Utilitarian
Gripes: Inelegant Back Road Handling

Honda revamped its Crosstour for 2013 by supplying it with mock skid plates front and rear. These fluted aluminum shelves convert this crossover’s appearance from benign to purposeful. Suddenly, the Accord-based product looks more like an SUV than a station wagon on stilts. The new fascias hide the fact that the Crosstour is based on the previous generation Accord chassis, so if you seek the latest underpinnings, you’ll have to opt for the 2013 Accord sedan. But bear in mind that the sedan stores 16 cubic feet of baggage compared to the Crosstour’s 22 cubic foot capacity.

New for 2013 is an uprated 3.5 liter V-6 engine producing 278hp and 254 lb.-ft. of torque. Though the FWD chassis will only tow 1,500 lbs., it’s got more than enough grunt to run like the wind on the freeway. Despite its substantial 4,030 lb. weight., the quiet and efficient Crosstour requires careful minding because it always wants to run at 80MPH. The interior is eerily silent at freeway speed, and because Honda has equipped its new 6-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifts, you can easily kick down a gear or two for lane change spurts. Rear vision is surprisingly good given the bifurcated rear window, and long slabs of heavily tinted side glass. Helping in this regard are 3 perfectly placed and sized rear view mirrors, and the ingenious rear view camera which displays continuous images on the dashboard screen. You can activate this camera by depressing the end of the light control stalk, or turning on your right turn blinker.

The flowing roof lines of the Crosstour diminish rear seat headroom, and inhibit carriage of tall cargo. But the trim lines distinguish this Honda from any other shape on the road. Think of it as a bargain priced Audi A7. If interstate cruising is high on your requirement list, the V-6 Crosstour is a perfect match. But if you spend significant drive time on twisty back roads, this tall, softly sprung Accord adaptation will force you to take turns at a glacial pace. The new-for-2013 18 inch alloys look aggressive, with five split and machined spokes, but the tires Honda has chosen – Michelin 225/60R18 Latitudes – break traction early and squeal disconcertingly. The Crosstour’s traction control complex also kicks in at disarmingly low speeds to usher you cautiously through turns. If you live in the snow belt, you can order your Crosstour with all-wheel-drive, but you’ll pay $1,450 for the upgrade.

The interior of this Honda features the company’s typical multi-level, horizontal dashboard arrangement which requires you to scan various strata of gauges and displays to find the information you seek. On occasion, this effort requires averting your eyes too long from the road. The individual climate settings, for example, occupy a niche of their own separate from any other read-out on the panel. However, the large central display screen, which is new this year, does a terrific job of keeping track of music supplied via SIRIUS XM or MP3 sources. The screen alternately serves as a navigational map when needed. The front seats are reasonably comfortable, but the backrest angle adjustment is via a crude manual ratchet lever. What you will appreciate most of all about the Crosstour’s accommodations is the width and spaciousness of the cabin. The 75 inch wide Crosstour enjoys a 2 inch advantage over the 73 inch wide Accord. and a 6 inch advantage in length. This extended stance, coupled to the elevated ride height produced by the 60 series tires, imbues the Crosstour with an airy, commanding driving position that makes it perfect for long interstate commutes.

2013 Honda Crosstour EX FWD

  • Engine: 3.5 liter SOHC, 24 Valve V-6
  • Horsepower: 278hp
  • Torque: 254 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $36,470
  • Star Rating: 7.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Mazda 6

Monday September 30th, 2013 at 9:99 PM
Posted by: Francois

Introduction

Carreview received the Mazda 6 test car with little fanfare and anticipation.  We just didn’t know what to expect and the outgoing Mazda 6 model was a fairly uneventful passenger sedan. When the Mazda 6 replaced the 626 in 2003, it drew praise for its smooth styling and sporty handling. Shoppers looking for an exciting take on the dull midsize sedans of that era turned to the Mazda 6 for 4-door practicality and Miata-inspired steering. It was a winning formula and sales were strong — especially as a newcomer up against established rivals like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

But when it came time to redesign the Mazda 6 for 2009, Mazda changed things up. While trying to keep the sporty feel of the first model, the brand also aimed for the mainstream. The result was a larger car with less steering feedback. Buyers looking for performance were no longer impressed. And it didn’t help that the second-generation Mazda 6 came in the fall of 2008 — at the height of the Great Recession.

For 2014, the Mazda 6 returns to its roots. The new Mazda 6 is shorter in length than the outgoing model. It’s also lighter, weighing in between 220 and 375 pounds less than the 2013 model. Most importantly, it’s more exciting. While some may lament the lack of a V6, the latest Mazda 6 will move those who enjoy driving the way the original model once did.

But while the new Mazda 6 brings back its old drivability, it moves forward in several key areas. One is technology: The latest Mazda 6 offers many high-tech safety and convenience items. Another is styling, as the 2014 Mazda 6 uses bold, aggressive lines to convey its return to performance. With the right mix of old and new, the Mazda 6 is a strong entry in the competitive world of the midsize sedan.

Pros:

  • Excellent handling prowess
  • Impressive  fuel economy for a car this size
  • Long list of integrated technology features
  • Excellent  rear seat room

Cons:

  • Choppy ride quality in bad pavement
  • Difficult to learn navigation system
  • Trunk in the small end for this size car

Comfort & Utility

The Mazda 6 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All are front-wheel-drive 4-door sedans.

The Mazda 6 Sport starts at $20,880 before shipping. That figure buys a 6-speed manual; drivers who want an automatic pay an extra $1,615. Like last year, air-conditioning, cruise control and remote keyless entry are standard. New features include push-button start, USB audio input and — on automatic models — a rearview camera. And 17-inch alloys replace last year’s 16-in wheels with hubcaps.

More features can be found in the Mazda 6 Touring. Starting at $23,445, the Touring also includes a standard 6-speed stick — though upgrading to an automatic is only $1,050. Standard equipment includes dual-zone air-conditioning, a blind spot monitor and a power driver’s seat. The Mazda 6 Touring also boasts leather seats, handsome 19-in alloys and Mazda’s Rear Cross Traffic Alert safety tech.

Topping the Mazda 6 range is the Grand Touring, which starts at $29,495. Only offered with an automatic, the Grand Touring is the lineup’s luxury trim. Standard features include a power sunroof, paddle shifters, Bi-Xenon headlights and heated front seats. Styling upgrades include painted 19-in alloys, fog lights and a rear trunk spoiler.

Inside, the Mazda 6 offers a totally revamped cabin. Like the exterior, the interior boasts more style than before. Flowing lines connect the door panels to the dashboard and the wide center stack. Even the base-level Sport uses upscale materials and a thick steering wheel puts drivers in control.

Functionally, the interior also works well. Steering wheels are chock full of switches and knobs — 17 total in our test car, not including the paddles — but once drivers memorize them, they’re very convenient. Climate controls are easy to use, though their display screen — which also houses the clock — washes out on sunny days. And while the touchscreen navigation system is located above the air vents and far from the driver’s hand, a center-mounted control is well-placed and easy to use.

For drivers interested in comfort, the front seats are the place to be. They’re well-bolstered and cushy, making easy work of long drives. That’s especially true of the leather in Touring and Grand Touring models, though we found the Sport’s cloth upholstery to be similarly supportive and comfortable. Compared to class leaders, the Mazda 6 is certainly on par.

The backseats are also a strong point. Despite its low-slung, coupe-like styling, the Mazda 6 somehow incorporates enough headroom for tall passengers to ride comfortably. It’s a lesson that could be learned by some other brands with similar styling and a cramped rear seat. Compared to rivals, legroom is merely average. A tall driver with a tall passenger in back may be cramped, for example — just like in most midsize sedans.

Behind the passengers, trunk space is merely adequate. At 14.8 cu ft, the Mazda 6 brings up the rear among midsize sedans, as it offers less cargo room than the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry.

Technology

For a car that’s so focused on driving pleasure, technology is a strong point. The most important advancements relate to safety, as the new Mazda 6 debuts six new high-tech safety features. Such items include radar cruise control, a blind spot monitor, a lane departure warning system and rear cross traffic alert to help drivers leaving parking spots. There’s also a high beam control feature that dims the brights when they detect an approaching vehicle. And Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support can stop the car if it detects an impending crash.

Of course, nearly all of this technology is optional. High beam control, for instance, can only be ordered as part of the Advanced Package — a $2,080 option that’s only offered on the high-level Grand Touring trim. And while Touring models offer Smart City Brake Support and a navigation system in the $2,000 Touring Technology package, you have to step up to the Grand Touring trim for radar cruise control.

But the technology will impress those who opt for it. One reason is because it’s so easy to use. The radar cruise control, for instance, works with a simple steering wheel stalk. In our tests, it was always easy to program and kept a predictable following distance. The same is true for Mazda’s blind spot monitor, which warns drivers if a vehicle is in a blind spot. A chime sounds if drivers try to signal towards that vehicle.

An exception to the impressive tech is the TomTom-based navigation system, which we found clunky and difficult to use. In addition to several counterintuitive menus, its biggest flaw was a lag between touch and feedback.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The redesigned Mazda 6 offers only one powertrain: a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. To keep up with hybrid rivals and the Volkswagen Passat TDI, a diesel is due out later in the year. But unlike those rivals, the Mazda 6 won’t have a more powerful engine for speed junkies.

To us, that’s not a problem. The 2.5-liter four is powerful enough for nearly all typical situations. That’s especially true with the brand’s SkyActiv-Drive automatic, which boasts crisp shifts that Mazda says are quicker than dual-clutch transmissions in competitors. Of course, in true Mazda fashion, the 6-speed stick is also a joy thanks to short throws and a predictable clutch. But don’t get your hopes up, 3-pedal purists: The stick shift is only available on Sport and Touring models and Mazda says it will only find its way into 10 percent of all production.

Efficiency-minded shoppers also won’t be clamoring for a V6. That’s because the 4-cylinder returns impressive fuel economy thanks to SkyActiv technology, which saves weight and boosts efficiency. Once again, the automatic is the best bet, returning 26 miles per gallon city and 38 mpg highway for a combined 30 mpg. That just edges out the manual’s 25 mpg city/37 mpg hwy and 29 mpg combined.

Safety

The new Mazda 6 comes standard with stability control, traction control and eight airbags. All models except the manual-equipped Sport include a rearview camera and Bluetooth. The Mazda 6′s Bluetooth technology displays text messages on the sedan’s center screen and even reads them aloud so drivers won’t be distracted by their cell phones.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has put the new Mazda 6 through crash tests. Last year’s model received an overall 4-star NHTSA rating that included a perfect five stars in the rollover test, four in the side crash test and three in a frontal impact. But with the new design, those ratings are likely to change.

Driving Impressions

This is where Mazda usually trumps the competition and Mazda has brought the Mazda 6 in line with the brand’s core values.  It is fun to drive as it feels agile and light. There’s no doubt that the Mazda 6 is aimed at shoppers eager to occasionally test their car’s limits on a curvy road. That’s not to say that traditional midsize sedan buyers won’t like the Mazda 6. But they may find its exterior and interior a little daring and the ride a little harsh. Those who enjoy the driving experience won’t mind sacrificing ride quality — but for the comfort-minded, there’s no shame in choosing a more pliant rival.

2014 Mazda 6 Grand Touring

BASE PRICE: $20,990 for Sport with manual transmission; $22,695 for Sport with automatic; $23,645 for Touring with manual; $24,695 for Touring with automatic; $29,695 for Grand Touring.

PRICE AS TESTED: $31,690.

  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive
  • MPG: 26 City / 38 Hwy
  • Engine: Regular Unleaded I-4 2.5 L/152
  • Horsepower: 184 @ 5700
  • Torque: 185 @ 3250 2.5 L/152

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Tested: 2013 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

Wednesday September 4th, 2013 at 12:99 PM
Posted by: Francois

Description

The Honda Odyssey is a the latest in a series of minivans from Honda. The Odyssey has changed with the times as it has grown bigger and bigger and then it toned down to be lower and sleeker. It grew in abilities but then it toned down and became easier to drive and live with. The electronics have aged quite a bit as it is not up to par with the latest integrated navigation screens from Europe and Korea. But the driving experience still remains as one of the most comfortable, responsive and easy to drive in its class.

YouTube Preview Image Video: Review by Kelley Blue Book

Pros:

  • Massive, highly usable interior
  • Seating for up to eight
  • Quick acceleration
  • Exceptional driving comfort

Cons:

  • Lower than expected fuel economy
  • Polarizing body design

Price

Odyssey Touring Elite ($43,675) is a Touring model with blind-spot warning system, HID headlamps, and a dual-input 16.2-inch widescreen rear entertainment system linked to a 650-watt, 12-speaker 5.1 surround sound system.

What’s New

Backup camera, Bluetooth handsfree, 8-inch information display and USB input now standard on base LX model.

Although the 2013 Honda Odyssey arrives mostly unchanged from the previous model year, the popular minivan has come a long way from the 5-door hatchback that first hit the market in 1995. Instead of sliding doors like a regular minivan, that first Odyssey had front-hinged doors that opened like the doors on a sedan. It wasn’t until the 1999 introduction of the second generation model that the Odyssey got the traditional minivan sliding doors.

Honda launched the current, fourth-generation Odyssey in 2010 with updated body lines and a new overall design. What was once a banal body with a flat window line was transformed into a more bulbous and modern-looking family hauler. Although some have applauded Honda for taking a design risk with the new Odyssey, others have derided the current model’s looks.

The 2013 Odyssey is available in LX, EX, EX-L (which has available rear entertainment system or navigation options), Touring and Touring Elite versions. The LX includes new standard features like Bluetooth handsfree, a backup camera, an 8-inch information display and a USB input. The rest of the lineup is unchanged. The 2013 Odyssey starts at $28,575 and tops out at $43,925.

Comfort & Utility

The Odyssey’s interior and features are much like those of nearly every other minivan on the market. The most notable difference between the Odyssey and its competitors is its interior build quality. The seats, dash, storage compartments and trim in the Odyssey are all surprisingly well constructed. Every surface in the Odyssey looks and feels sturdy.

The interior of the 2013 Odyssey is cavernous, with 172.6 cu-ft of total passenger volume and 148.5 cu-ft of cargo volume behind the front seats. With comfortable and flexible seating configurations, numerous storage bins and pockets and up to 15 beverage holders, the Odyssey is ready for whatever a family can ask of it.

The third row, which Honda calls a Magic Seat, is 60/40 split folding and enables the Odyssey to quickly and easily adapt between passenger and cargo hauling. It can accommodate three passengers and still provide 38.4 cu-ft of cargo volume behind the seats, or it can fold completely flat into the floor, creating 93.1 cu-ft of cargo volume behind the second row. Maximizing the Odyssey’s cargo space requires removing the second-row seats. Total interior volume, with passenger and cargo volume combined, measures 210.0 cu-ft.

Technology

The 2013 Odyssey is available with most every modern technological treat a customer could desire from a minivan. The Odyssey can be optioned with satellite navigation, a rear-seat DVD screen that folds down from the headliner and a “cool box” for chilling drinks.

All models now include an improved multi-information display with on-screen custom programming of functions like interior lighting and door locking, Bluetooth handsfree, USB inputs and a backup camera.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The Odyssey is powered by a a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 248 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, and there are two transmission choices. On the LX, EX and EX-L, Honda offers a 5-speed automatic transmission. On the Touring and Touring Elite models, the Odyssey is fitted with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA estimates the Odyssey LX’s fuel economy at 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. The Odyssey Touring, thanks to its 6-speed automatic transmission, does slightly better at 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

Safety

The 2013 Odyssey features dual-stage, multiple-threshold front, side curtain and dual-chamber front and side airbags with Honda’s passenger-side occupant position detection system. A vehicle stability assist system, active front-seat head restraints and pedestrian injury mitigation are all standard. So is Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure. It helps the Odyssey better absorb collision energy, especially in a front-end crash. That structure is now in its second generation in the Odyssey.

Driving Impressions

Many people promise themselves they’ll never own a minivan. But for millions of Americans, family life necessitates owning one. Should they climb behind the wheel of the Odyssey, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by its excellent driving characteristics. Most impressive is the power output from the 3.5-liter V6.

When a driver puts his or her foot to the floor in the Odyssey, it doesn’t rocket forward in a jerk of power. Instead, it builds like a force of nature beneath the driver, sending the vehicle smoothly forward across the landscape. Power delivery is linear, intense and quite satisfying.

During hard off-the-line acceleration, the Odyssey does suffer from some front-wheel slippage. But that is to be expected from a 248-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine wedged into the front end of a big family vehicle.

Unfortunately, the fuel mileage we observed wasn’t as good as advertised. We suspect it will take a soft-footed, Zen-like driver to get close to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s fuel economy estimates.

Other Cars to Consider

Toyota Sienna: Starting at $26,435, the base Sienna L is one of the cheapest minivans on the market. But it doesn’t beat the Odyssey by much. For 2013, the base 4-cylinder engine is discontinued, replaced by a standard V6. The Sienna can be equipped with all-wheel drive for those who need extra traction for winter weather or slippery roads.

Chrysler Town & Country: Starting at $29,995, the Town & Country is an old favorite among minivan buyers–with an emphasis on old; the Town & Country hasn’t been updated since 2007.

Nissan Quest: Starting at $25,990, the Quest comes standard with a 260-hp 3.5-liter V6 mated to a continuously variable transmission. We think the Quest is far and away the best competitor for the Odyssey, with comparable power, efficiency, utility and technology.

Bottom Line

We think even the base 2013 Honda Odyssey is fantastic at $28,575. But budget allowing, we’d definitely upgrade to the Odyssey Touring for $41,180. The Touring includes satellite navigation, rear entertainment and the 6-speed transmission. The 6-speed automatic makes the Odyssey not only more fuel-efficient but also more enjoyable to drive.

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Honda |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

Sunday September 1st, 2013 at 9:99 PM
Posted by: Francois

Introduction

The outgoing Santa Fe was not much to look at.  This new Santa Fe however is in the 90th percentile of good looks when compared to its SUV Crossover peers.  It looks good from every angle and it fits in with the Hyundai brand’s styling direction

But now it’s the Santa Fe Sport’s turn, and we think this is one of the best-looking Hyundais yet, a sleekly sophisticated vehicle in a segment better known for boxiness. It has all the sculpted lines of the new Hyundai’s but none of the overly sharp edges.  It’s easy on the eyes inside and out.

The revolution continues inside, where a curvaceous dashboard and quality materials give the Santa Fe Sport a surprisingly premium feel, especially relative to its generic predecessor. As expected from Hyundai, standard features are plentiful, including iPod/Bluetooth connectivity and the Blue Link telematics suite with features like voice text-messaging, local business search and turn-by-turn navigation.

Hyundai’s lineup is top-to-bottom impressive these days, but the 2013 Santa Fe Sport stands out even among its distinguished relatives. If rival crossover SUVs could express emotion, they’d be none too pleased about Hyundai’s latest.

Pros:

  • Upscale styling inside and out
  • spacious interior
  • tons of features
  • good power and fuel economy.

Cons:

  • Can get pricey

 

Engine Options

The new Santa Fe Sport offers a pair of Hyundai’s Theta II GDI inline-4 engines that also are found in the Sonata sedan. Both direct-injected fours feature continuously variable valve timing to further enhance operating efficiency. The base engine is a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter while the Sport 2.0T carries a 264-horsepower version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter. The sole transmission is a smooth, responsive 6-speed automatic with a Shiftronic manual-style gate. The impressive weight-reduction program imparts a new measure of quickness across the board, along with improved fuel economy.

2.4-liter inline-4
190 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
181lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 mpg (FWD ), 20/26 mpg (AWD)

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
264 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
269 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg (FWD ), 19/24 mpg (AWD)

 

Comfort & Utility

The 2-row Santa Fe Sport is offered in base or 2.0T trim.

Feature highlights for the base Sport include a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine; 17-inch alloy wheels; LED headlight and taillight accents; a rear spoiler; air conditioning; electronically adjustable steering effort; power accessories; a tilt/telescopic steering wheel; cruise control; a trip computer; Bluetooth; and a 6-speaker audio system with satellite radio and iPod/USB connectivity.

The Sport 2.0T adds a high-powered 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine; dual exhaust outlets; 19-in alloy wheels; heated exterior mirrors; automatic headlights; fog lights; keyless entry with push-button ignition; an electroluminescent gauge cluster with a color LCD information screen; a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; and heated front seats with 8-way driver power adjustments.

Some notable Santa Fe Sport options are a panoramic sunroof, a 4.3-in touchscreen audio display, a navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power front passenger seat, a sliding back seat and a 2.0T-exclusive Infinity audio system with 12 speakers.

In our interior evaluation, we found the Santa Fe Sport’s front seats to be notably more supportive than last year’s forgettably flat offerings. As ever, the seats are mounted high, so you get that SUV-style commanding view of the road that many shoppers want. Thankfully, the Santa Fe Sport comes standard with a tilting/telescoping steering wheel (not all Hyundais do), so you can adjust the wheel for reach as well as angle. There’s even some woodgrain trim sprinkled around the cabin that adds a touch of class. Overall materials quality has improved as well.

Whereas the old Santa Fe Sport’s gauges and controls were rental-car generic, the new one’s are a quantum leap forward. The dashboard is full of appealing angles and curves, while the deeply hooded gauges with available electroluminescent backlighting further attest to the Santa Fe Sport’s suaveness. Fortunately, the controls remain straightforward and easy to use despite the dramatically different look.

The Santa Fe Sport’s back seat has a pleasantly elevated bottom cushion and ample room for adult passengers. Hyundai emphasizes that even the 2-row Sport is considerably larger than rivals like the Ford Escape, and that’s evident in the airy feel inside. We’re pleased that a sliding back seat is available for 2013; the old model’s back seat was fixed.

On the hauling front, the Sport offers 35.4 cu-ft of cargo space behind the back seat and 71.5 cu-ft with the rear seatbacks folded. That’s a lot of cubes at this price point.

A properly equipped Santa Fe Sport can tow up to 3,500 lb.

 

Technology

The outgoing Santa Fe actually had a respectable roster of standard equipment, but it seemed like a band-aid given how dated everything looked. That’s obviously not an issue with the 2013 Santa Fe Sport. Like we said, there’s a thoroughly modern dashboard this time around, and it’s bursting with desirable standard and optional technology features, including iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, Blue Link telematics, a color LCD driver information screen and a crisp 8-in touchscreen navigation system.

Blue Link is standard in one form or another on every Santa Fe Sport, and it deserves a paragraph of its own. Using the built-in voice-recognition software, you can search for local points of interest, send text messages or have them read to you, follow turn-by-turn directions to your destination and get help in an emergency. Blue Link also allows you to check the weather, receive traffic alerts and keep track of your driving habits to improve fuel economy. Hyundai’s even got operators standing by to provide assistance. It’s pretty neat.

Performance & Fuel Economy

All Santa Fe models come with a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission and are available with either front- or all-wheel drive.

Standard on the base Santa Fe Sport is a 2.4-liter inline-4 rated at 190 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Blessed with a broad powerband and good manners, this is largely the same engine that we’ve lauded in the Sonata midsize sedan. The Santa Fe has a little more weight to lug around, of course, but it’s a lot lighter than it used to be, and this engine is more powerful than the old 2.4-liter four. Fuel economy is a praiseworthy 22 mpg city/33 mpg highway with FWD and 21/28 mpg with AWD.

If “satisfactory” isn’t going to cut it, the Sport 2.0T solves that problem with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 good for 264 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to twin-scroll technology, the 2.0T delivers every bit of that torque starting at just 1,750 rpm, so there’s not really any turbo lag in the traditional sense. It just pulls hard on demand, and it’s smooth enough that one well-respected colleague of ours initially mistook it for a V6. Fuel economy is also a strong suit, checking in at 21 mpg city/31 highway with FWD and 20/27 mpg with AWD.

Safety

The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints and seven airbags (front, front side, driver knee, and full-length side curtain).

The Santa Fe Sport had not been crash tested as of this writing.

Driving Impressions

On the road, the Santa Fe Sport is about as good as it gets for a crossover at this price. The highway ride is quiet and smooth, while bumps are dispatched with impressive poise. The handling isn’t bad either, as the new suspension adds a welcome carlike athleticism. AWD models even get what Hyundai calls Torque Vectoring Cornering Control, a system that can send either extra torque or braking power to individual wheels, limiting understeer and generally making the Santa Fe Sport feel more responsive.

Conclusion

Unless we needed a third-row seat, our pick would be the Sport 2.0T. The little turbo is a great motor, and Santa Fe models so equipped are reasonably priced alternatives to a wide range of costlier crossovers.

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Tested: 2013 Mitsubishi i-MIEV

Tuesday August 27th, 2013 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: Francois

What is it

The Miev is an electric car suitable for short trips in the city. It is small and tall and is zippy around town with its high torque electric motor. It is roomy enough with 5 doors and a high roof line.

But get it on the open road and it is not happy. It’s small wheels and high wind profile make it jittery on the freeway. And the range is no joke as 60 miles is really just a best case guideline. Get on throttle or tackle some hills and this can easily drop below 50 miles. So charging stations are your friend and like the Nissan Leaf, you will get to know them and your fellow electric car drivers well.

YouTube Preview Image Video: The Charging Point Test Drive

The Japanese domestic market (JDM) version of the i has been on sale in Japan as the i-MiEV since July 2009. Mitsubishi put the popular i on a bodybuilder program to beef it up for the U.S. market and to meet North American crash regulations and make it more suitable for freeway driving. Adding 4.3 inches through the longitudinal center of the i pushes the width to 62.4 inches. It’s still about two inches narrower than a Fiat 500, but the gains in width translate into much more elbow room than the Japanese version has. Additional front and rear crash structure adds about nine inches of overall length but no additional interior room. The North American i weighs in at a feathery 2500 pounds despite carrying 88 steel-encased lithium-ion batteries under the floor.

Strengths

The North American Miev enjoys a larger beam that makes the already-tall interior genuinely comfortable for four. Stretching an interior is tough and expensive, but Mitsubishi engineers devised a clever cost-saving move that frames the dash from the skinnier left-hand drive version sold in Europe with another layer of dashboard that makes the extra width appear like it was planned from the car’s outset, which it wasn’t. Look for the telltale gap filler at the base of the A-pillars.

Weaknesses

Understeer and squealing front tires greet drivers who push the i hard into corners. The car’s staggered tires (145/65R15 front, 175/65R15 rear) and softly sprung chassis exacerbate the plowing, a trait that sucks the driving fun from the i’s otherwise cheery countenance.
And the 60 mile range really makes it difficult on US roads. Cities may be ok, but the sprawling peninsulas often require more range and buffer than 60 miles.

YouTube Preview Image Video: Making of i-MIEV

Tech Details

If you’ve ever driven an electric golf car, you probably remember the jumpy throttle response, a characteristic of electric motors producing maximum torque at zero rpm. The Miev’s Smooth Start Control electronically regulates torque from a stop to eliminate jolting starts, making the car feel more polished than some EVs.

YouTube Preview Image Video: Kelley Blue Book Review

Driving Character

While the Miev’s electric propulsion may seem advanced, driving it is simple as a golf cart. Turning the conventional column-mounted key activates the circuitry. Putting the car in drive engages the motor. Flooring the amp pedal moves the car out smoothly with linear thrust. The lack of gear changes or a traditional powertrain noise adds refinement. The electrically assisted power steering feels light, as do the vacuum-assisted front disc and rear drum brakes. (Since there is no intake manifold vacuum to power the brakes as on the JDM gasoline-powered i, Mitsubishi uses an electric vacuum pump for boosting duties on the EVs.) The seamless transition between regenerative and mechanical braking also deserves kudos. Unfortunately, the lack of excitement is palpable, with 0-60 mph clocking in at about 15 seconds. We saw 81 mph as the governed top speed.

Other Cars to Consider

Nissan Leaf

The Bottom Line

With a price that undercuts the Nissan Leaf by more than $5000 and superior efficiency, Mitsubishi’s North American version of the Miev electric vehicle may attract a broader audience than simply urban-dwelling environmentalists who view personal transportation as a necessary evil. The EPA estimates that drivers will spend just $495 dollars to drive the i 15,000 miles—though putting 15,000 miles on this car is a formidable task, as the i’s practical range is just 62 miles. And that distance must vary quite a bit depending how you use the i: Just 15 minutes of hard driving at Mitsubishi’s Nagoya proving grounds erased four of the 16 energy bars in the i’s “fuel” gauge. Still, Mitsubishi’s management is fixated on helping the world become a greener place, and the practical changes they’ve made to the i will make the $27,990 car more palatable for American drivers and driving environs.

But in the end, this car can use a few hundred pounds more of battery weight and range. The car is a bit fidgety on the freeway and the 80 mph top speed can barely get you out of some tricky merging situations.

The range is the most difficult pill to swallow of all. 60 mile round trip commutes are out of the question without a lunch time charge. And on weekend jaunts, the 60 mile range can drop to 40 miles when going through some hills and mountains. Just like a petrol car, mileage drops significantly when climbing a hill. But if you don’t make it back to the descent because of the range, then you won’t get that lost mileage back to descend the hill.

Specifications

  • Price: $27,990 – $33,230
  • Powertrain: 49 kw (66 hp) AC synchronous electric motor; 16 kwh lithium-ion battery pack; RWD
  • EPA Fuel Economy/Range: 112 mpge; 62 miles

Posted in Electric, Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Mitsubishi |Tags:, , || No Comments »


Tested: 2014 Kia Sorento V6

Monday August 26th, 2013 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: Francois

What’s New

Wow, color us surprised. The exterior did not wow us but we got in the car, and fell in love within our first day with the Sorento. It’s a kind of car that just keeps surpassing expectations from the moment you mash the throttle, throw it into a corner or open the sunroof. Every aspect of the car overdelivers except the sticker price. And one thing we love is the option list is empty and does not come with a $6000 price tage. Most everything is included in our trim level package.

The Sorento gains standard leather seating in EX trim, while the LX V6 now comes standard with a third-row seat.

From the outside, the Sorento lacks the visual pop of Kia’s other products, such as the stylish Soul and Optima. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it may widen the Sorento’s appeal to more mainstream buyers. Step inside the Sorento and it’s a different story. The interior simply outshines the competition with an elegant design, rich materials and fabric choices–such as white-on-ebony leather–features usually reserved for more expensive luxury models.

In addition to its ability to carry seven passengers, the Sorento’s fuel economy and horsepower are near the top of its class. And its pricing undercuts just about everything comparable. The Sorento also comes with a 5-year/60,000-mile vehicle warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty that is virtually unmatched. And for those who feel strongly about buying American, it will come as welcome news that the Sorento is built at Kia’s plant in West Point, Georgia.

Pros

  • Powerful 4-cylinder engine
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Low price
  • Impressive standard equipment list
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick

Cons

  • Side curtain airbags don’t cover the third row
  • No blind spot warning system
  • Somewhat sedated and boxy exterior styling

YouTube Preview Image Video: Edmunds.com Review

Comfort & Utility

Kia packs a lot of utility into the Sorento, giving it an available third-row seat and 60/40 split folding, second-row seats. Although the third-row seat expands passenger occupancy to seven, it’s really only suitable for young children. With the third-row seat in the up position, the Sorento’s generous 37 cu ft of cargo space dwindles to around 9.1 cu ft.

On the comfort side of the equation, the Sorento exceeds expectations. Base LX models are nicely equipped with such standard features as a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, USB interface and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. The EX trim adds dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-way power driver’s seat, fog lamps and a backup camera. Move to the top-of-the line SX and you’ll get full leather seating, Kia’s navigation radio and a 10-speaker 550-watt Infinity audio system. Options for the Sorento include all-wheel drive, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, an air-cooled driver’s seat, power folding side mirrors and a panoramic glass moonroof.

Technology

Powered by Microsoft, the UVO information and entertainment system allows voice control of Bluetooth-enabled cell phones as well as a portable music devices like an iPod or iPhone. Add the available navigation system and you’ll enjoy SiriusXM Traffic free for three months (after that, you’ll need to pay for a subscription). SiriusXM Traffic uses the navigation system to alert you of approaching traffic problems. If there’s a delay, the navigation can be used to calculate a new route around the jam.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The Sorento’s standard engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder good for 175 horsepower and 169 lb-ft of torque. Available only on the LX, this engine may help the Sorento achieve a low starting price, but it won’t do much to help move it along when fully loaded. A better choice is the 2.4-liter GDI gasoline direct injection 4-cylinder (optional on the Sorento LX, standard on the EX), which bumps horsepower to 191 and torque to 181 lb-ft. GDI technology boosts horsepower while also offering better fuel efficiency. Fuel economy for the 2.4-liter is rated at 21-mpg city/29-mpg highway (front-wheel drive) and 21/27 mpg (all-wheel drive). The GDI changes those figures to 21/30 mpg and 20/26 mpg, respectively.

The Sorento’s 3.5-liter V6 is available on the LX, EX and SX models. With 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, this engine has the muscle to move a loaded Sorento with ease. Yet its fuel economy figures of 20-mpg city/26-mpg highway are not far below the 4-cylinder’s figures. The all-wheel drive (AWD) model attains slightly lower marks of 18/24 mpg.

No matter which engine you choose, it will be connected to Kia’s electronically controlled Sportmatic 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. Those who opt for the AWD option will get a full-time on-demand system with a lockable center differential that’s useful when driving slowly through heavy snow or light off-road duty.

Safety

The 2013 Kia Sorento offers a full complement of standard safety equipment, including electronic traction and stability control, 4-wheel ABS, front seat side-impact airbags, first- and second-row side curtain airbags (the third-row seat is not protected) and Hill Start Assist to keep the vehicle from rolling backward when pulling away on a steep grade. The Kia Sorento is also an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick, getting top marks in the frontal offset, side impact and roof strength crash tests.

Driving Impressions

Despite its size, the Sorento rides and drives like a midsize sedan. With its wide track and independent front and rear suspension, the Sorento delivers a smooth, controlled ride. Excessive body lean was observed only during extreme hard cornering maneuvers. The Sorento’s unobtrusive stability control allows for somewhat sporty driving. But when the road gets rougher, we did notice more noise and impact harshness than in comparable SUVs. We also found that the Sorento’s steering wheel feels a bit heavy to turn, and its suspension favors the softer side of the spectrum. If you’re looking for an SUV with a firmer suspension and a sportier attitude, we suggest the Ford Edge or the Mazda CX-5 (though neither offers third-row seating).

We’re not big fans of the standard 2.4-liter’s performance, but we do like the GDI version, which offers better off-the-line acceleration and passing power. The Sorento’s 3.5-liter V6 not only ups performance but also increases the maximum tow rating from 1,650 to 3,500 pounds.

Other Cars to Consider

Dodge Journey: The Journey offers more room for its third-row occupants and can match the Sorento’s feature and content offerings. But the Sorento gets better fuel economy and has a more powerful 4-cylinder engine.
Ford Edge: The Ford Edge has a more buttoned-down feel to it, with a sportier ride and an available turbocharged engine; however, the Edge doesn’t offer a third-row seat option, and its pricing starts well above the Sorento.
Toyota Highlander:  The Highlander holds its value better than the Sorento, but a comparably equipped model costs a bit more and doesn’t offer as good a warranty.

The Bottom Line

Step up to the SX or Limited models from $35,850 and $38,850 respectively, and AWD can be added as an option to all trim levels for an extra $1,700.
All in, the 2014 Sorento is a decent SUV. Though undeniably improved, it doesn’t look it, and that could be its biggest drawback. Continuing to be a strong value package with checkmarks in both the plus and minus columns, in a sea of attractive new offerings the Sorento fails to deliver any wows.

Specifications

  • Engine: 3.3L V6
  • Power: 290 HP / 252 LB-FT
  • Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
  • MSRP: $31,700 (base)

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Kia |Tags:, || No Comments »


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