Category Archives: Car Reviews

2013 Toyota Avalon

Avalon XLE Premium aims for younger drivers

avalon-parked
Styling is dramatically improved on the 2013 Toyota Avalon.

An old automotive axiom goes that you can sell a young man’s car to an old man, but you can’t sell an old man’s car to a young man.Apparently Toyota didn’t know that, until now.

Toyota’s Avalon, long a senior citizen favorite, has been restyled and its suspension and steering firmed up to move it decidedly out of the old fuddy-duddy market in looks and performance. Its crisp new body with thin chrome-trimmed grille above a larger lower opening and its thinned taillights with chrome across the rear deck turn styling yawner into a sharply tailored machine.

At least now mature adults who are not yet AARP worthy may look at the Avalon. Continue reading 2013 Toyota Avalon

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2013 Toyota Corolla S

 New Corolla  S a family sedan, with sporty look

corollaMy family owned a Toyota Corolla back in the early 1980s. That’s family as in me, my wife and two small kids. So, take note young families, you CAN survive without a minivan, crossover or sport-utility truck.

That’s even easier now as the current Corolla, the 10th generation, is nearly as large as a Camry was a decade ago. Call it dimensional creep.

The 2013 Corolla rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase and is 179.3 inches long. But it still weighs a seemingly svelte 2,767 lbs. and is rated at 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. I got 28.3 mpg in a fairly even mix of city and highway driving. That’s good for a young family’s budget.

My tested magnetic gray metallic (dark metallic gray) test car was the top-level S model that offers sportier looks, but not much in the way of sporty performance. This one came with an automatic transmission and even with that it remains a solid choice for youngsters needing just a step up from basic wheels. But don’t confuse this with a sports sedan. Continue reading 2013 Toyota Corolla S

2013 Lexus LS 600h L

Hybrid Lexus LS delivers high-end luxury with a price to match

Where to begin?

Let’s just put the price tag out there to clear the air. My silver Lexus LS 600h L listed for $119,910 and settled at $135,029 after adding copious high-end options.lexus1

As way of background, the LS is THE Lexus flagship, its full-size sedan and an absolute dreamboat of a car to drive and ride in. Its ride is air-suspension smooth, its interior a mansion library’s leathery quiet, its V8 powerful yet quiet, its adaptive 8-speed automatic transmission as creamery smooth through the gears as any car I’ve ever driven.

Oh, and this handsome sedan is a big boy too. That L means it has a longer wheelbase than the standard LS. That translates into a roomy interior, but just for four adults as the back seat’s middle section houses a Starship Enterprise sized console of buttons and knobs that could confuse even Captain Kirk. Where’s Spock when you need him?

But beyond the car’s exquisite drive and ride abilities the star here is the price tag. That’s all ANYONE wants to talk about once they get their sticker shock. Or maybe we should call it sticker Envy!

Their question was always the same, or similar – What do you get for $135 grand, AND is it worth that much? Continue reading 2013 Lexus LS 600h L

2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring

New Mazda6 boasts power, looks and efficiency

            Confession, my first new car was a Mazda, a puny little GLC with barely enough power to get me up a fair sized hill. I’ve had a soft spot for Mazda ever since.2014 Mazda 6

Now comes the 2014 (that’s right, 2014) Mazda6, a car that doesn’t have to apologize for its lack of horsepower, boasting 184 horses from a 2.5-liter direct-injected I4, a couple more than the generously powered Nissan Altima. The Mazda’s power also is superior to that of the top-selling Toyota Camry’s four-cylinder model.

Plus, Mazda is using what it calls Skyactiv technology, a blend of direct-injection, variable valve timing, lower weight and higher compression to gain gas mileage while delivering strong low- and mid-range power, the power we all use most in normal daily driving. Skyactiv also includes a smooth-shifting 6-speed sport automatic that improves gas mileage up to 7%.

So right out of the blocks, the brilliant metallic red ($300 extra, and worth it) Grand Touring test model had technology working to deliver sporty and upbeat performance. But Mazda also scrapped its cartoonish big-mouthed grille along with its cookie cutter exterior to deliver the freshest, most interesting mid-size sedan design in ages. The grille is still big, but is no longer a gaping maw. Plus it’s indented under the hood, like a Mustang (old and new) and some of the sportier cars from the 1970s.

Mazda-6-Ride-a-longThe nose’s curb appeal is further enhanced by well chiseled creases atop the front wheel wells and blending into the front doors under the A pillar along with a strong shoulder line back by the C pillar and trunk. Add a slim taillight treatment with a thin touch of chrome at the top and there’s no mistaking this for any other sedan on the highway. Yes, I know the new Fusion has an Aston Martin nose, but this is fresher looking than even that fine-looking family sedan.

So here’s the deal. The Mazda6 not only delivers looks and power, but it continues to handle well. Is this a sport sedan? No, but it’s a sporty sedan with good turn-in at corners, and above average feedback via the steering wheel. There’s a nice balance here that many mid-size family cars are still searching for. Continue reading 2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring

2013 Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible

Despite low cost, Chrysler 200 droptop leaves us cold

200 exterior
Ah, to have a convertible during summer or fall. Sadly, I tested the 200 in snowy winter. Too bad!

First impressions can be skewed by many factors, and it probably did not help that the Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible arrived on a near zero degree day in a week where snow was forecast, and fell, over several days.No, I didn’t drop the top!

The test car was a bright metallic red with tan canvas roof. A hardtop convertible also is available and the 200 comes in three trim levels, the base Touring model, starting at $27,100, the tested Limited at $32,095 and the S model with blacked out grille at $32,595.

Mopar lovers may recall the former Sebring sedan, which also was available as a convertible. And this, like the Sebring, offers a rare under $30 grand convertible that will seat four adults. It’s only real competitors are Ford’s Mustang and Chevrolet’s Camaro. Both look much sportier and in mid-trim levels with V6 power, the Mustang is actually a tad less expensive. I’d opt for the Mustang on looks alone, but for folks who want a pleasant, less racy, comfortable convertible, the 200 is fine. Continue reading 2013 Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible

2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T

Looks, handling, turbo give small Cadillac a boost

Those of us who have been around for a few decades may be forgiven for our skepticism when we hear Cadillac is creating an entry-level sport sedan. Visions of Cimarron dance in our brains.cady ats

Ah, but those who observe the car market closely know that Cadillac has been swinging for the fences of late while also having gotten its groove on in the styling department. The result for 2013 is a sweet compact sports sedan, the ATS.

First, it looks great with vertical lights front and rear. The front lenses fold over the front fender pointing up toward the cockpit, while the rear ones remind of many a Cadillac of years past. These look elegant, AND sporty, while the body is taunt and well chiseled with a lean athletic stance.

Folks who didn’t care for some of the overwrought designs and fluffery of the past should appreciate ATS’s understated good looks.

This is a true entry-level luxury sports sedan, the base 2.5L with rear-wheel drive lists at $33,095 and packs a 2.5-liter 202-horse four-cylinder rated at 22 mpg city and 33 highway. Continue reading 2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T

2013 Honda Accord Sedan EX MT

Fine Accord masters the fine art of blending in …

Honda’s Accord has become the generic family sedan in America, the car everyone’s neighbor owns. It’s a good value, an excellent performer, but it blends in.

So you’ll likely never notice the 2013 model, but you may want to own one.

honda1While Toyota has added a touch of styling flair to its formerly vanilla Camry and Ford has leaped forward with its new Fusion design, Honda stays with its safe, bland look, coupled with mechanical excellence. This deep rooted philosophy at Honda caused the company to deliver a less than stellar Civic for 2012, necessitating that it immediately be remade for 2013.

Luckily Accord isn’t broken, so Honda doesn’t need to fix it. A little sheet metal creativity would be welcomed though. For 2013 the revamped Accord sedan is 3 inches shorter, taking away some of its size and bulkiness that made the last version a full-size car.

It still rides on a pleasant 109.3-inch wheelbase though, and that, coupled with its independent four-wheel suspension that now uses struts up front instead of a control-arm system, delivers a smooth, controlled ride. Traction and stability control also are standard. Continue reading 2013 Honda Accord Sedan EX MT