Category Archives: Car Reviews

2013 Volkswagen CC Sport

Streamlined CC Sport shows what VW can do

When Volkswagen launched its sporty CC in 2009 it went head-to-head with its own Passat, at the time a dowdy midsize sedan that was in need of a restyling.1VW

Now, Passat is coming off a facelift last year to thin it’s body to blend more with the other mid-size sedans that sell well, Toyota’s Camry, Honda’s Accord, Ford’s Fusion and Chevrolet’s Malibu. So the CC, which VW calls a coupe, but is indeed a midsize sport sedan, stands out as a distinct step up from Passat, if performance and looks tickle your lederhosen.

CC is sleek with a swept-back rear window and trunk lid giving the car a coupe-like appearance, despite its four doors. Its profile is low and lean, so low in fact that I could stand with my arm resting on its roof and not even strain a tendon. Not many cars are this streamlined looking and the CC actually is more exciting looking in person than in even VW’s press photos. Continue reading 2013 Volkswagen CC Sport

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2013 Chevrolet Malibu 1LZ

New Malibu impressive as high-value family car

Chevrolet continues to impress with nearly every new model, or revamped model it launches, save the Spark.

Chevy1Its new Malibu is another winner with tweaked styling to make it look more like a Camry, especially from the rear. But to me, that’s a good thing as the current Camry is the most stylish it has been in years. I tested a sharp looking metallic crystal red ($325 extra) Malibu in 1LZ trim, which is near the top end of the line.

The 1LZ starts at $27,830, right in the midst of the mid-size family sedan market. But this one added loads of options to push it to $32,360. That’s pressing it, but in the Malibu’s defense, it was well equipped, including a back-up camera.

Families on a more moderate budget can get into a base Malibu LS for $22,390 and there are seven trim levels in all, the $30,162 2LZ being the top. Most come with the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder semi-direct injected engine that creates 197 horses. That’s plenty.

There’s an ECO version too with hybrid electric power coupled with a 2.4-liter 182-horse I4 engine. That model is available starting at $25,335 and boasts 25 mpg city and 37 highway. As it was, the test car delivered 25.1 mpg in my test and is EPA rated at 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Continue reading 2013 Chevrolet Malibu 1LZ

2013 Lexus GS450h

Luxurious GS450h gives hybrids a good name

Lexus is synonymous with luxury, which is currently being driven home via the smooth quiet operation of its GS450h, a midsize luxury hybrid.Lexus GS450h

There isn’t much more anyone would need in a luxury car than what the GS450h delivers.

Ride is smooth and controlled, the engine gives it plenty of power when needed and handling is responsive too, if not sports car precise. The interior is swathed in leather and luxury and styled to impress any of your non-luxury-car owning friends. The exterior is upscale, without being showy.

Then there’s the hybrid feature with an electric motor that generates 180 horsepower from the batteries that get much of their oomph from regenerative braking. This naturally aids the car’s quiet running, almost stealth-like as it powers down at stoplights and then kicks into electric mode as you accelerate away from a stop. If you need more power, there’s a plenty from the gas-powered 3.5-liter V6 that pumps a generous 338 horses.

Smoothing that acceleration, even when you want to blast away from the riff-raff, is an electronic variable speed automatic transmission, which like most CVTs aids gas mileage and eliminates the feel of gears shifting. This is a fine one. Continue reading 2013 Lexus GS450h

2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT

Chevy’s Korean micro car comes up short

Chevrolet’s Spark is a confusing car.

Why? Chevy has a perfectly fine entry-level car, the Sonic. Why it felt a need to go bargain basement with its Spark, a Daewoo (remember that name?) designed four-door micro or city car seems like a decision from the pre-bankruptcy General Motors.2013 Chevrolet Spark

Let’s get out our microscope and examine Spark, which some folks insisted should be called the Speck. It’s small, riding on a 93.5-inch wheelbase and weighing just 2,269 pounds in 2LT trim, as I drove it, with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Consider that most cars now have 5- or 6-speed transmissions and you can see what road we’re headed down.

Spark is made in South Korea and comes in three trims, base, 1LT and 2LT and is aimed directly at the youngsters who simply can’t afford anything larger. Its base price is $12,245, close to its main competitor, the Nissan Versa, but you’d also compare it with Scion’s (Toyota’s entry-level youth brand) iQ or Hyundai’s Accent. Some might argue it would have competed with the Smart car a few years back too, but even the Spark offers more and is a smarter choice than the Smart. Continue reading 2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT

2013 Dodge Dart Limited

New Dart hits the mark

As a kid in the 1960s we had a Plymouth Valiant convertible, a kissin’ cousin to the Dodge Dart, both pleasant, sturdy, reliable compact cars.Dodge Dart

But by the 1970s, the Dart and Valiant had grown into ugly boxy things with parts that readily fell off. They, and other Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth cars helped turn a lot of buyers off to Chrysler products. So much so that Chrysler has been climbing a steep hill much of the past 35-40 years toward respectability. That is, until now.

Now comes the new Dodge Dart, the first car jointly designed and produced by Chrysler and its financial rescuer, Fiat, the large Italian carmaker. That somewhat forced marriage of a few years back seems to have spurred a renaissance for Detroit’s former No. 3 carmaker. Respectability is growing.

Here’s why Dart, is a winner. Continue reading 2013 Dodge Dart Limited

2013 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

A Volvo wagon (crossover) with style, luxury? YES!

Volvo has been a master of wagons for decades, its sturdy boxy 240s setting the standard for boring (yet safe) upscale suburban transport.Volvo XC60 exterior

So it’s no surprise when its tall wagons, the XC crossover vehicles push that bar higher and give the Lexus RX 350 a run for its money. It may surprise you though, that the XC models do so with a good deal of style and luxury. Adios boxy!

The tested XC60’s shoulders are broad and well sculpted and the taillights tall and balanced above sensuously curved rear haunches. This is more Venus in ivory than corrugated box, and a welcome styling change. Continue reading 2013 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD

2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Platinum

Luxury, your initials are XTS

Luxury always has its price and for Cadillac, that price is $60,385 for its new XTS sedan.2013 Cadillac XTS

Don’t gasp, that’s nowhere near where the price for luxury starts, nor where many other midsize luxury sedans end up. This one added but a $920 delivery charge to end up at $61,305, yet it’s still loaded with enough electronic goodies to give Bill Gates a headache.

First, the XTS is Cadillac’s new top-level sedan, replacing, in a way, the bigger DTS and more similarly sized STS. This one rides on a 111.7-inch wheelbase, is 202 inches long and weighs in at 4,215 lbs. By comparison a Lexus GS350 sedan tested earlier this year is roughly the same size, weighs about 250 lbs. less and costs just $1,500 less. So XTS is right in the gated neighborhood it wants to occupy.

This graphite gray metallic test car was the uppermost AWD Platinum model, so it has the advantage of all-wheel drive. A “base” front-drive XTS starts at $44,075 and a Luxury version that adds AWD begins at $50,915. So less expensive models are available. Continue reading 2013 Cadillac XTS AWD Platinum