Review: 2015 Lexus RX450h

Tuesday June 9th, 2015 at 1:66 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Lexus RX450h

By David Colman

Hypes: Most Solid Build Quality in the Industry, Great Hybrid Grunt
Gripes: Dash Controls Starting to Look Dated

Why is the Lexus RX the best selling luxury SUV in the US? According to the Institute for Highway Safety, only nine vehicles sold here had zero deaths per million registered vehicles. The RX350 was one of those nine. It also sells itself because it does everything you’d expect from such a premium vehicle, and does it all well. This universal approbation applies even more emphatically to the hybrid version we drove. This RX450h is both faster and more economical than the standard RX350, albeit at higher initial cost. The front wheel drive (FWD) RX350 depends on a 270hp V6 for motivation, and retails for a base price close to $41,000. Its fuel economy hovers around 21 MPG in all types of driving. the FWD RX450h of our test produces 295hp thanks to the boost of twin electric motors added to the standard V6. This combo yield an impressive 29 MPG in overall driving, and carries a base price of $48,845.

What’s most impressive about the hybrid drive train is its instant supply of torque. When you lean hard on the accelerator, this beefy, 4,870 lb. hauler jumps forward with cat like agility. You can abet the thrust by judicious use of the continuously variable transmission, which yields simulated gear ranges that boost acceleration dramatically, especially when you select 2nd or 3rd gear simulacrums from the CVT’s floor mounted bump stick. Paddles are not offered for shifts from the steering wheel

2015 Lexus RX450h

Like all Lexus products, the RX is handsomely crafted and pleasurable to operate. In particular, the $3,060 Premium Package which graced our test vehicle included bamboo interior trim and steering wheel. This matte finished wood not only brightens otherwise dark interior surfaces, but also provides the perfect gripping surface for the steering wheel’s upper and lower quadrants. It’s so delightful it’s almost worth the Premium Package price all by itself, but the package also includes leather interior trim, blind spot monitoring, one-touch open/close moon roof, auto folding, heated and self dimming exterior mirrors, 3 memory settings for both driver and front passenger seats, and finally a pair of anodized aluminum roof rails. Any way you cut it, the Premium Package makes financial sense, and adds immeasurably to your comfort and the RX’ ease of operation. In particular, the blind spot monitors are effective tools, with their subliminal suggestive orange lights that blink in the outside rear view mirrors when side traffic impinges.

2015 Lexus RX450h

Due to its weight and tall stance, handling is not the forte of the hybrid RX. Although our sample was fitted with new for 2015 triple-split, five spoke alloy wheels finished in light gray, the all season tires these wheels support (Michelin X 235/55R19) are configured more for comfort than adhesion. Notably, the front end of the RX washes out early in turns due to lots of under steer built into the design of the suspension and chassis platform. While losing traction in the front wheels is always preferable and more controllable than losing grip in the rear wheels, the FWD RX’ tendency to continue on a straight course even after you have cranked the steering wheel for the next turn feels a bit disconcerting.

The RX, with its strong sales lead in the luxury SUV segment, remains mostly unchanged for 2015, In addition to the new 19 inch rims, other minor improvements this year include standard auto-display backup camera, new LED fog lamps, new three flash turn signals, new Lexus Enform Apps, and finally, a revised and improved control knob on the center console for manipulation of the infotainment system. After having spent the previous week aboard the all new Lexus RC350 coupe, the control apparatus in the RX seemed somewhat dated and inferior by comparison. For example, the mouse on the RX’ central tunnel is not nearly as slick as the iPad-like finger slide interface on the RC coupe. Also the RX’ screen seems too small when compared to the Vista Vision unit of the new coupe. You can look for improvements in these areas when Lexus introduces a revamped version of the RX expected to debut in the 2016 model year.

2015 Lexus RX450h

2015 Lexus RX450h

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V6 with VVT plus twin front electric drive motors
  • Horsepower: 295hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 30 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $58,315
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

Friday April 3rd, 2015 at 1:44 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

By David Colman

Hypes: The safest SUV You Can Buy
Gripes: Useless Owner’s Manual, Sea of Dog Cage Bars

The XC60 is a mid-size sports utility crossover based on the S60 sedan. For 2015, it presents a cleaner face to the wind thanks to a more streamlined front fascia. In conjunction with this newly lowered snout, Volvo stylists have visually elevated the XC60′s tail. Decisive side creases underline the aggressive stance, making this Volvo look like it’s about to pounce on prey. The illusion is not unsupported, because a powerful and willing twin-scroll turbo straight 6 lies under the hood, ready to devour pavement with alacrity. The 3.0 liter engine produces 300hp and 325lb.-ft. of torque, with full torque infusion coming on line at just 2100rpm. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic with standard paddle shifts, the XC6 T6 jumps when prodded, despite its substantial 4,275lb. curb weight.

2015 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

While Volvo’s all-wheel-drive system is not designed for serious off-road work (there’s no transfer case), it will insure splendid traction on all forms of pavement. Our test XC sported $1,000 optional 20 inch diameter “Titania” alloys which mounted premium Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires measuring 255/45R20 at each corner. Despite their enormous diameter, these rims, which replace standard 18 inch wheels, look surprisingly delicate thanks to their almost invisible rim bead connected to 10 wafer-thin double spokes. The overall visual effect is similar to that of a Mattel Hot Wheels dream toy.

The interior shares the exterior’s exciting visuals, with a two-tone seat leather treatment adding Swedish modern sophistication to the $900 optional Sport Seating surfaces. In fact, if you are a fan of Mid Century Modern design, you will love the simplistic integration of materials and surface treatments in the cabin. For example, the center stack, a design nightmare in so many other SUVs, is here cleanly arrayed, devoid of frills, and operationally sound, with all key HVAC and Entertainment system functions accessible through separate buttons rather than menu driven nonsense. Particularly nice is the standard issue “Laminated Power Roof with Power Sunshade. This oversize opening can be configured in any number of useful ways, ranging from tilting the front panel, to sliding the shade wide open over all interior seats.

2015 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

Volvo equipped the cargo area of our sports utility with a dog kennel apparatus that made the interior seem more like a Swedish police cruiser than a family wagon. Vertical and horizontal metal bars (called a “Safety Grill”) not only segregated the rear compartment from the passenger area, but also created a structure (called a “Load Organizer and Dog Gate”) large enough to house a medium size pet. With its hydraulic lift door, the Load Organizer proved very handy for safe transport of fragile items. The downside to the array of black metal bars is poor rear vision, and a sepulchral feel to the interior.

2015 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

The expensive “Platinum” option, which boosts sticker price by $4,400, brings several important safety measures into play. Perhaps the most significant is the Technology Package, which includes radar controlled cruise control, collision warning with full auto-brake, pedestrian/cyclist detection with full auto-brake, and Driver Alert Control, which prevents your Volvo from straying out of its lane. In addition, our XC60 also featured a $900 optional “Blind Spot Information System Package” (BLIS) which consisted of small warning lights on the A pillars next to the rear view mirrors that illuminated orange when traffic impinged in adjacent lanes. This proved useful without becoming intrusive. The BLIS package also includes front and rear park assist beepers.

Although the XC60 has plenty of straight line punch, its handling is a notch below comparable sports utilities like BMW’s X3 and new X4, or Porsche’s Macan. The Volvo’s main weakness is its lack of precise steering feedback. In fact, even the range of vertical adjustment for the wheel itself is too limited to allow a sporty driving position. The XC’s suspension is also complicit, with too much pitch on corners, combined with too harsh shock damping over potholes. This makes for a ride that is simultaneously pitchy yet jarring. A final irritation comes courtesy of the purported Owner’s Manual, which inexplicably contains no index references to such basics as instrument location and function, or even cruise control operation. Consequently, I could never figure out how to adjust my cruise control default speed without changing it in 5mph increments.

2015 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

The incredible array of safety measure Volvo brings to bear on its XC60, however, more than compensate for these trivial glitches. In fact, I can’t think of a better vehicle in which to avoid or survive an accident than this Volvo, given its standard Auto-Stopping Technology and optional and reasonably priced BLIS Package.

2015 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

  • Engine: 3.0 liter alloy, in-line 6 with CVVT and twin-scroll Turbo
  • Horsepower: 300hp @ 5600rpm
  • Torque: 325lb.-ft. @ 2100rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 17 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $51,675
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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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


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


  • 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: Judy Colman

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



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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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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