Tag Archives: car reviews

2013 Infiniti FX37 AWD

FX37, a love-hate relationship

Infiniti’s racy FX37 sport-ute is a classic case for a love-hate relationship.Infin Fx

If you enjoy performance, and don’t really expect such from a sport-ute, you’ve got to love how the FX37 responds. It feels like a tall Porsche, with oodles of power from its new 3.7-liter V6. In fact, Infiniti rates it a 325 horses and even that seems as if it might be a tad low.

The 3.7 replaces the former 3.5-liter V6, which wasn’t too shabby itself. And the bright metallic blue test ute was the all-wheel-drive model, so right out of the blocks it had power and road grip on its side. Toss in a healthy helping of fine handling and the FX37 delivers premium performance at a modestly premium price.

The base FX37 with rear-wheel drive starts at $44,950, while the tested AWD model lists at $45,750. And at that you get a silky 7-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control that allows you to shift manually.

Where the hate comes in, and hate may be a bit harsh, is subject to one’s design leanings primarily. That, and depending on whether you expect a cushy ride, or one reflecting the sporty nature of this beast, you may feel luxury dictates the former. Continue reading 2013 Infiniti FX37 AWD

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

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 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD

Good-looking crossover/SUV loaded with tech goodies

There are a lot of mid-size SUVs (crossovers) to choose from and now Hyundai has gone and redesigned its Santa Fe, to help complicate your choices.santa1

First, it’s a good-looking reskin with an edgier look and Hyundai continues to refine its vehicles to make them more upscale to fill the demands of the U.S. marketplace. So this white test ute was awash in technical doodads and electronic wizardry, sadly pushing it toward the upper end of what many folks would expect to pay for a useful mid-size ute. The Santa Fe Sport with all-wheel-drive and Hyundai’s 2.0-liter I4 with a turbo lists at $29,450. That’s still in the ballpark. But this one ladled on two pricy premium and technology packages to push the tester up to $35,925. That’s $36 grand in my book.

We can argue price and value and all that, but first, let’s tell you what you get. Continue reading 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD

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 Scion FR-S

Spiffy sportster rekindles Toyota’s sport coupe tradition

Finally, a new sports coupe from Toyota, albeit offered through its entry-level youngster brand, Scion.

2013 Scion FR-SI’ve missed the Toyota Celica for years now, and I’m not alone, so with the 2013 Scion FR-S, Toyota again has a low-cost sports coupe that looks great and will provide much entertainment for those of us who prefer cars to look sporty and handle likewise. Plus this is a near identical cousin (if that were possible) to Subaru’s new BRZ. They both even have three letters as their name.

Toyota and Subaru worked together on this sports coupe, with really only the sheet metal reflecting their differing visions of what a cool coupe should look like. Both look pretty sexy and I can assure you even some Audi owners were gawking at the Scion, trying to guess its heritage. Continue reading 2013 Scion FR-S