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Review: 2014 Ford Escape SE FWD

Thursday March 20th, 2014 at 2:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Spacious Cargo Hold, Remote Keyless Entry, Precise Handling
Gripes: Tiny Info Screen, Poor Seat Bolstering, Finger Twisting Rear Hatch Handhold

For such a small SUV (106 in. wheelbase, 178 in. length), the Escape scores reassuringly high on safety institute (IIHS) crash tests, with “Good” ratings in the all four categories (frontal offset, side and rear impact and roof strength). From the US government, the Escape rates 5 stars in front and rear seat side crashes, and four stars in all the rest (frontal crash- both sides, and rollover). These ratings are due in large measure to Ford’s inclusion of a driver’s knee airbag, front seat-side mounted airbags, and a “safety canopy” overhead bag. Adding to the security blanket for 2014 is a rear view camera, now standard on all models. This proves especially helpful when backing up the Escape, because visibility to the rear is not great. All these passive safety measures work in consort with such active safety strengths as responsive handling, respectable acceleration, and pinpoint steering control.

The Escape model line includes 3 engine choices this year: a 2.5 liter 4 (168hp), 1.6 liter turbo 4 (173hp) or 2.0 liter turbo 4 (231hp). Ford’s press pool vehicle paired the 1.6 liter turbo 4 with a 6-speed “Selectshift” automatic transmission. The Selectshift moniker is something of a misnomer, as the system depends on a shift lever mounted button to swap gears that is both hard to locate and inefficient in use. Better to supply paddles on the steering wheel, or a tip-stick method for gear choice. The 1.6 liter 4 returns admirable gas mileage figures (23 MPG City, 32 MPG Highway, 26 MPG overall), while still providing enough torque (184 lb.-ft.) to tow 3,500 pounds. In normal part throttle use, this drive train provides quiet, ample power. However, when prodded hard, the little turbo tends to shriek louder than tennis vampire Maria Sharapova.

The Escape handles better than its seats handle you. There’s no lack of cornering bite from the Continental Pro Contact tires, which are quite sizeable (235/55R17) for an SUV of such modest proportions (curb weight: 3,675 lbs.). In fact, the abundant cornering power generated by the Escape tends to chuck you off your cushions in the SE’s front seats because they have no side bolsters and they are upholstered in grip less charcoal black cloth. The optional leather seats available in the Titanium Escape, are better contoured to counteract this SUV’s ability to dislodge you. The interior of the Escape is impressively large. If you flop the split (60/40) rear bench seatbacks forward, you can even slip a full size bike through the rear hatch and lay it flat in the cargo hold. You can equip your Escape with an optional self-opening rear door for 2014 triggered automatically when you kick your foot under the back bumper. Our test SE, unfortunately, was not supplied with this latest automotive parlor trick.

The steering wheel of the Escape is festooned with so many knobs and buttons that it will make your head spin. Not a great idea when you’re tasked with concentration on driving. A couple of times, we inadvertently triggered a voice that impatiently awaited commands we were unprepared to issue. The over abundance of minute controls and menu-driven operations is emblematic of Ford’s continued reliance on its Microsoft-derived operating system called MyFordTouch. MFT is as baffling as Windows, and much more dangerous to operate in a driving environment than Windows is at your desk. By diverting your attention from driving, MFT’s opaque methodology tends to undercut the passive safety measures Ford has incorporated into the Escape’s basic architecture.

Notwithstanding ergonomic gripes, the front-wheel-drive Escape is a solid, practical mini-SUV offering handling, tow capacity and storage space that belie its humble size and mechanical specification. At a base price of just $25,550, the SE presents the potential buyer with enough virtue to make it a contender in the final round of consideration.

2014 Ford Escape SE FWD

  • Engine: 1.6 Liter Inline 4, Turbocharged (Ecoboost) with Direct Injection
  • Horsepower: 173hp
  • Torque: 184 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 23 MPG City/32 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,840
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Infiniti FX37 AWD Review

Tuesday January 15th, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Precision Responsiveness, Fiery Acceleration
Against: Choppy ride, Awkward Reach to Rearview Mirror Button

The FX37 is the latest evolution of the FX35, gaining a bit of punch, more fuel economy with little additional cost. It is an enigma however as it is a a very sporty car that is fast and firm like a Z car. Look for the comfort mode and you’ll find none. So read on and see if this is the right vehicle for you.

Having just spent the prior week driving a storied sports sedan, I was prepared to be under whelmed by the performance of this tall, rather ungainly looking sports utility.

But beauty is as beauty does, and what the FX37 does best is cover ground fast. Faster, in most instances than that storied sports sedan I thought I’d be missing so much. To the everlasting credit of Infiniti engineers, they have produced a lithe and agile package that belies its looks, its weight and its perceived station in life. If there’s a sporting award for SUVs, the FX37 is a clear first place winner.

Its efficient 3.7 liter V6 proves you don’t need a V8 to wring top drawer performance from such a sizeable vehicle. Despite the Infiniti’s curb weight of 4,156 lb., the 325hp motor is adequate to any acceleration need, and will also tow 3,500 lb. Just floor the throttle, or select the appropriate gear of the 7 available, and the FX flies into action like a Special Forces commando truck. Although you can also order a 390hp V8 version of the FX designated FX50, you’ll sacrifice the decent (17/24 MPG) gas mileage of the V6 for the voracious appetite (14/20 MPG) of the 5.0 liter V8. Thanks to the responsiveness of the V6, the V8 is more motor than you need.

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2012 Lexus LX570 Review

Tuesday January 1st, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

 

By David Colman

For: All-Terrain Dominance, Lexus Finish, Chilled Center Console Cubby
Against: Paucity of Cockpit Storage, XXXL Proportions

Greenies avert your eyes. Not only will this review not interest you, but it may actually antagonize you. Because the LX570 is like the 300 pound guy who plops down right next to you in the middle seat of a packed Airbus. Just like him, the LX takes up all of its own space, and a good bit of everyone else’s. When you park it in one of those “Compact Only” slots at the mall (aren’t they all marked that way?), you’ll find your running boards obscure the painted pavement stripes on both sides. Though the LX may just fit, getting in and out without dinging your neighbor’s door is a contortionist’s challenge. The ungainly slop-over continues at the gas station, which the LX visits more frequently than an alky hits Happy Hour. The bottom line here is 12 MPG City, 17 MPG Highway, with a combined average of 14 MPG. That equates to a cruising range of just over 320 miles to a tank. On a long trip, your 24.5 gallon gas supply will give out before your bladder will.

So what, then are the virtues of this $88,670 Lexus sports utility? Quite simply, it installs almost all the ultra luxe furnishings of the LS460 sedan into the classic architecture of the go-anywhere Toyota Land Cruiser. If you plan to trek through Nepal in a wheeled royal palace, the LX570 is just the ticket. It’s also about the plushest ride to Squaw Valley you can buy at any price.

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2012 Ford Edge 2.0L Review

Friday December 7th, 2012 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Aero Crafted Looks, Commendable Interior Space
Gripes: 1960 Shift Pattern, Chiclets Dashboard Feel

At $38,910, Ford’s EcoBoost Edge pushes the price envelope for a 4 cylinder SUV with front-wheel-drive. Base price on the Edge is $34,915. But by the time you’ve added the $995 optional 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine, new for 2012 and featuring direct injection, the $485 Vision Package (with blind spot monitoring), the numerical keypad Driver Entry Package ($895) and a Voice Activated Navigation System ($795), you’ll find yourself spending more than you would for a comparable VW Tiguan, and squarely into Audi Q5 all-wheel-drive territory.

Although you can fit your Edge with either a 3.5 or 3.7 liter V-6, (good for 285hp or 305hp respectively), the turbocharged and intercooled inline 4 cylinder EcoBoost motor produces 240hp, and more torque (270lb.-ft.) than even the 3.5 liter V-6. In the long run, you’ll spend less money operating the EcoBoost Edge thanks to its superior 21MPG/30MPG fuel economy, which trumps any of the V-6 models (which average 17MPG/23MPG). Best of all, you will never notice a power deficit with the EcoBoost engine due to its immediate response to depression of the throttle pedal, and excellent reserve of passing power.

The lively turbo motor deserves a better gearbox than Ford has provided. This one, a 6-speed automatic, has a floor-shift with provisions for Park/Reverse/Neutral/Drive/Low. That’s it. No steering wheel paddles, no way to access intermediate gears for quick downshifts. Just PRNDL, like it was 1960 all over again. Plus, it’s all too easy to slip the lever into “L” when you really mean to select “D” because the detents between steps are weak.

 

Inside the cabin, the Edge compares favorably with the Tiguan and Q5. On newer model lines like Edge, Ford has refined fit and finish to match the best of the imports. The cockpit here has an expensive look, with flush panel meets, and leather-trimmed 10-way adjustable power front seats that are new for 2012. Even rear seat passenger comfort is well developed, with the 60/40 folding back seats affording plenty of headroom, a pair of overhead grab assists, lots of side glass area, a drop down center beverage holder console, and best of all, sliding and reclining rear seat adjustments.

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2013 Ford Explorer Review

Saturday September 22nd, 2012 at 11:99 AM
Posted by: AKramer


By Alex Kramer

Pros:

  • Excellent highway cruiser
  • Spacious, well-appointed interior
  • Decent handling for a large SUV
  • Loads of available technology and safety features

Cons:

  • 3.5 L V6 needs another helping of torque
  • More soft-roader than off-roader
  • My Touch system still needs work
  • Slurps gas

It’s been a while since the Ford Explorer captivated the minds of American car buyers. Once the SUV sales king, the truck-based Explorer has been passed over in recent years for more modern looking, better performing car-based crossovers. Even Ford seems to have recognized this shift in consumer behavior, offering its own competition to the Explorer in the form of the Edge and Flex crossovers.

Rather than let the Explorer die out, Ford decided to transform the vehicle into a more road friendly, yet still off-road capable SUV. With a unibody chassis borrowed from the Taurus and Flex, and an all wheel drive system that features terrain management and hill-descent control, the 2011 Explorer promises to be the best of all worlds. We took the new Explorer on a trip high into the Sierras to find out if this really is the rebirth of a champion, or just a rehash of what the rest of the industry has already been doing for years.

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2013 Audi allroad Review

Wednesday August 1st, 2012 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: jacolman

By Judy Colman

The hills around Denver, Colorado were alive with music, but not with the voices of the von Trapp family. This music emanates from the humming engines of Audi’s eighth version of their ‘B’ Segment lineup – the Audi A4, S4, A5, S5 and, again, the Audi allroad.

For 2013, Audi reintroduces the allroad, last available in the US in 2005. This new version replaces the A4 Avant in Audi’s model line. Now based on the A4 platform rather than the A6, the new allroad is faster and more energy efficient than its predecessor. A 211 horsepower, 2.0-liter, direct-injection I4, turbocharged engine provides plenty of oomph to tackle the Rockies while still delivering 23 (combined) mpg. 258 lb.-ft. of torque are generated at 1500 rpm. Audi links the 2.0T motor with an eight –speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. A manual transmission is not currently available. We tested quattro, Audi’s permanent all-wheel drive system, when afternoon thunderstorms all but obliterated the roadway. Grip on the slick, mountain curves never wavered on the standard 18-inch wheels shod with 245/45 all season tires.

The 2013 allroad receives the distinctive Audi “Singleframe” grille with vertical chrome struts and angled upper corners. That feature appears also on all ‘B’ Segment cars for a homogeneous look. Newly designed headlamps, fog lamps, side mirrors, taillights, and exhaust add to the fresh appearance. The new allroad’s longer wheelbase adds ride comfort and an additional 1.5 inches of ground clearance. That and a widened track makes off road trekking a little easier. Body cladding, traditionally a matte finished gray/black is also available in full paint finish.

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2012 Ford Edge SEL FWD Review

Thursday May 3rd, 2012 at 3:55 PM
Posted by: AKramer

 

Likes:

  • High-output V6 engine
  • Well-balanced suspension
  • Solid build quality
  • User-friendly SYNC system

Dislikes:

  • Hefty 4,300 pound curb weight hampers handling, acceleration, and fuel efficiency
  • Huge wheels = lots of unsprung weight and road noise
  • Transmission lacks manual shift option
  • Edgy exterior styling

YouTube Preview Image2012 Ford Edge EcoBoost Limited. This video is brought to you by CNET

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2011 Jeep Compass Latitude 4×4 Review

Wednesday September 28th, 2011 at 11:99 AM
Posted by: mtan

2011 Jeep Compass
By Ming Tan

Pros

  • Exterior styling – share some visual cues with the big brother Cherokee Series
  • Roomy – the passengers get a decent amount of leg and shoulder room for long distance comfort, although some cargo room is sacrificed
  • Heritage – shares the same Jeep off road bloodlines that began with the original Wrangler
  • Relevance – the 2.4-liter I4 motor is efficient – 21 mpg city and 26mpg highway

Cons

  • Small storage area for its class – 60.7 cubic feet vs. 73 cubic feet in the popular Toyota RAV4
  • Sparse interior – hard plastics and a simple dash – some consider this a good thing, but on the Compass, it doesn’t look like an interior belonging to a $27k SUV
  • Blind spot visibility – the rear c pillar design adds to the exterior aesthetic appeal, but hinders blind spot visibility

“Evolution of a Legendary Bloodline”

I’ve always liked trucks and SUV’s; to be more clear, rugged trucks and SUV’s. I’ve even had my eyes open for a rugged Jeep Wrangler sometime down the road. To me, that model is synonymous with Jeep and it embodies what is pure about the brand: its rugged and well-rounded capabilities.

I’ve owned a few SUV’s over the years, and have test driven a number; most recently, the new Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. The new Jeep Compass is similar in price, size, and value, so the timing was good to get some miles on this small SUV. I recognize that not everyone takes their SUV off road, so I evaluated the Compass from an image, value, and capability standpoint, given the compact SUV class that it belongs to. It seems to be a growing segment with worthy competitors, and the Jeep performed well overall, but not without a few issues.

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2012 Lincoln MKT Review – Big on the outside, big on the inside

Monday August 22nd, 2011 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2012 Lincoln MKT
By contributing editor David Colman

Hits:

  • Impressive power from EcoBoost V6 engine
  • Heavy hauler will tow 4,500 lbs.
  • Twin sunroof adds to spaciousness

Misses:

  • Poor rear vision
  • Annoying center console lid design
  • Shortage of storage compartments

The Lincoln MKT makes optimal use of Ford’s sweet EcoBoost motor which is twin-turbocharged to produce 355 hp from just 3.5 liter of V6 displacement. This relatively small and efficient engine, also used in Ford’s Flex, returns good gas mileage figures (16 city/21 highway) considering its bus-like application in this spacious (6 or 7 passenger), heavy (4,680 pound) people mover. If you opt for the standard seating package of two front buckets and two rows of benches, you’ll be able to squeeze seven aboard, with just a footlocker at the back for belongings. The MKT provides a convenient power assist for opening the rear hatchback either via the key fob remote or a switch located under the dash. Unfortunately, there is no source of power provided to slam the hatch closed other than your own wrist.

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2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser Review – Be all you can be, with the FJ Team Trails Special Edition

Monday August 15th, 2011 at 2:88 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser Team Trails Edition
By David Colman

Likes:

  • Go anywhere rig
  • Startling appearance
  • Huge HVAC dash knobs

Dislikes:

  • Droning exhaust note
  • Cheesy emergency jack
  • Impeded rear vision

Ten-hut you army wannabes! Fall in you Hummer chums! Toyota has a new dog tag for camouflaged ammo fans.  It’s called the Trail Teams Special Edition Package (Upgrade Package 3 @ $3,650) on the $26,880 FJ Cruiser. Check the box for “Army Green Exterior Color” and Toyota will send you packing with an FJ that looks like a 5 gallon Jerry can.  Instead of the usual white roof, yours will be olive drab, just like the rest of the body, the interior door trim, the seat fabric inserts, and the face of the dashboard. Items that would normally be silver or chrome, like bumpers, exterior mirrors, grill, door handles and even the TRD 6-spoke Special Edition alloy wheels, are all matte black on this special FJ. Only the six lug nuts holding each steel wheel in place are chrome. The subdued colorless combo transforms the FJ from a pastel Lego brick into an MP bulldog.

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