Tag Archives: Atkinson-cycle

2018 Hyundai Kona SEL

Hyundai’s new Kona a cute value-minded crossover … 2018 Hyundai Kona

Kona’s cute, it’s inexpensive, it drives great, and like all vehicles that folks want to buy these days, it’s a crossover.

Frankly, it had me at cute, but the rest is like frosting on a gluten-free homemade cupcake. Continue reading 2018 Hyundai Kona SEL

2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium

Hybrid Avalon comfy big sedan, easy on the gas …2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Sadly big comfortable sedans are about as popular these days as a new Nickelback album or The Dixie Chicks at a Texas veterans fundraiser.

Too bad because as passé as big sedans are, they can move a family of five in smooth, quiet comfort and also beat the exhaust pipes off a big SUV or Crossover for gas mileage. This week’s test car, a beautiful Parisian Night Pearl (dark metallic blue) Toyota Avalon Hybrid is a sparkling example.

The Avalon does basically everything well. Its ride is near perfect, comfortable and well controlled. This is no floaty boat as in olden days when sedans seemed to ooze down the highway. Avalon’s four-wheel independent suspension handles rough roads with ease. Yet the car is responsive enough to feel well connected to the road.

Steering is on the light side in the car’s normal setting, but switch it to Sport and steering effort is firmed enough to feel more like a luxury sport sedan without requiring six-pack abs.2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

That Sport setting, engaged via a button on the console, also brings to life the silky smooth 2.0-liter I4 that’s coupled with a hybrid system that powers an electric motor at low speeds when gas engines are at their least efficient. Like other hybrids that electric power comes from batteries that are juiced up by a regenerative braking system. Continue reading 2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 Double Cab

Dominant Toyota Tacoma a stylish, muscular pickup tacoma2

Trucks are macho, always have been. But as our society becomes more confrontational and in-your-face attitudes more commonplace it’s only natural truck styling sheet metal follows suit.

Today’s Toyota Tacoma will go toe-to-toe with any pickup in the attitudinal Olympics. Its fenders bulge like a body builder’s abs and its hood bulges like pecs gone wild. Muscular doesn’t begin to describe it.

That’s to be expected from the new, restyled 2016 Tacoma, the leading mid-size pickup in the U.S. market, the pickup that has been kicking sand in the faces of its competition for years. Market reports say Tacoma owns more than half of the truck sales in its segment.

And now, as if it weren’t already dominant enough, Tacoma is marking its territory with increased horsepower, better gas mileage and a quieter interior. Take that Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Never mind that a few of those will tow more or still get better gas mileage, Tacoma is ready to rumble.

Let’s start with power, as that’s what most pickup owners are looking for, whether to tow, haul or simply impress their buddies and significant others.

tacoma1Tacoma features a 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that uses the Atkinson cycle, technology that burns fuel more efficiently than a standard V6. Several Mazda engines use the Atkinson design. Tacoma’s torque is 265 foot-pounds and tow capacity is 6,400 lbs. Continue reading 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 Double Cab

2015 Lexus NX 300h FWD

Lexus NX 300h (hybrid) long on edgy styling, short on power

Credit Lexus with designing a sporty, exciting looking hybrid SUV/crossover.lexus NX4

With swept-back styling the NX looks fast and agile from its sporty LED headlights to its sculpted angular sides. It stands out from most of the luxury SUV crowd, and its hybrid-ness, only adds to the appeal, if you’re looking for high-tech efficiency to match the looks.

The tested pre-production “silver lining metallic” model was the top-end NX 300h, the h signifying it’s a hybrid. Sadly, it was only the front-drive model, not all-wheel-drive, which would have helped give it grip on a couple slippery, snowy mornings.

I love the angular looks, but I couldn’t warm to the overall hybrid experience.

lexus NX2Oh, it’s easy to love the economy. I put on 255 miles and just used 8.5 gallons to average 29.9 mpg in a week that was heavier on highway miles than usual, about 70%. Hybrids perform most impressively in city driving, the NX being rated at 35 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway by the EPA.

But here’s the deal. I get tired of hearing the high-pitched whine of the hybrid recharging its batteries every time I let off the gas pedal or got on the regenerative brakes. Partially you notice that whine much more here because the NX is a luxury ute with good sound deadening for road noise, but that clears the way to hear the whirr of the electric motor and braking. Continue reading 2015 Lexus NX 300h FWD