Tag Archives: LED

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE

Corolla Hatch a practical sharp looker … 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Back in the day I owned a Toyota Corolla, but then again, nearly everyone did at the time. The Corolla was to the 1980s what the Chevy Nova was to the 1970s, namely an inexpensive reliable car.

While much has changed in the ensuing 35 or so years, the Corolla remains its steady self, still offering high value to another generation of first-time car buyers. However, while a modest sedan still leads the Corolla lineup, a new hatchback has just been launched as a 2019 model, replacing the Corolla iM, a former Scion hatchback. Continue reading 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE

2018 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription

Volvo XC60 a sweet ride – fun, luxurious, nimble …2018 Volvo XC60

Sometimes the hardest reviews to write are those for vehicles I’ve really enjoyed, the ones that stand out among the 50+ vehicles I test in a year.

This week’s tester, the Volvo XC60 with the Inscription package shouldn’t be hard to ladle syrupy praise on. It’s just that great, comfortable and sporty just don’t seem thick enough.

I’ve driven plenty of Volvos through the years and many were fine, just often overpriced and not as comfortable or fun to drive as other makes. Well, the XC60 is fun, luxurious, nimble, exceedingly quiet and comfortable, and as stylish as any SUV or crossover today.

Price, well, that still is an issue to me, but more on that in a bit.

This Swedish-made crossover starts with a powerplant that boggles the mind, an engine, if you will, that seems outlandish in its design. First, it’s a 2.0-liter I4 much like you’d find in many small to mid-size utes and crossovers. Yes, it’s turbocharged to give it more power and keep its gas consumption at reasonable levels too.2018 Volvo XC60

Ah, but here’s the funky part, Volvo also supercharges its tiny 2.0-liter. What? Yes, it turbocharges and supercharges the four-banger to give this more kick than most crossovers, even the pricey luxury ones. The engine packs 316 horsepower and 295 ft.-lbs. of torque. If you consider this, because it has all-wheel-drive, a sport-utility vehicle, then by golly it delivers on the sport side. Continue reading 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription

2016 Audi TT 2.0T Quattro

Audi’s latest TT is slick, squatty, luxurious, sporty2016 Audi TT coupe

Sports cars seem an endangered species and nearly as hard to find as polite political discourse. So my recent landing of a new Audi TT coupe seemed quite a coup.

I hadn’t driven a TT for nine years. That’s how rare they are in the automotive test fleets. But this new third generation coupe was worth the near epochal wait.

The TT still features a slick rounded roofline and low-slung squatty appearance that made it so darned appealing when it first launched in 1998. Yet this one looks more modern, what with its LED headlights and more aggressive nose.

Looks make any sports car and the TT remains a head-turner.

2016 Audi TT coupeBut luxury performance at a reasonable price has been its hallmark and Audi doesn’t stray from that formula. A sports car, for the uninformed, isn’t a supercar. Sports cars are light and lively, the sort of car you can toss around corners and zip away from stoplights without squealing your tires and without a growling V8 sucking down another gallon of gas.

TT, for instance, features a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 that gets 220 horsepower and delivers 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Turbos are always heavy on torque, that’s the fun part, zipping away from a stop while the “sport” utes lumber along behind you. Continue reading 2016 Audi TT 2.0T Quattro

2016 Honda Civic EX

New Honda Civic adds style, remains no-nonsense sedan …civic2

Need good basic wheels? Make that better than basic, but at a no-nonsense price, a practical car that’s fun to drive with good ride and that will fit a family of four comfortably.

Honda’s new 2016 Civic sedan has you covered, and then some.

Civics, when first introduced in the States, were little boxes that brought to mind clown cars, or maybe the original Mini Cooper from the 1960s? Civics were cheap cars that ran forever and got good gas mileage. That fit a big niche in the early 1970s. Continue reading 2016 Honda Civic EX

2016 Scion iM

Sporty Scion iM epitomizes simple driving funscion iM

Maybe because I test drive so many trucks and crossovers these days, but a week behind the wheel of a sporty hatchback is refreshing. It reminds you that driving, at its simplest levels, can be fun.

Scion, the low-cost arm of Toyota, has figured this out. Let’s hope others follow suit.

This week’s automotive refreshment was Scion’s iM, a four-door hatch built on the European Auris platform, similar to a Corolla. Old timers, like me, may think of this as a new Celica, but it’s actually more sound and entertaining to drive.

First, the iM, which is a step up and completely different from the recently tested iA sedan, only comes in one trim, base. It starts at $18,460 with a $795 delivery fee. That gives you front-drive, a fairly peppy 137-horse 1.8-liter I4 with CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing), and a slick shifting manual 6-speed. Torque is 126 ft.-lbs. and gas mileage is EPA rated at 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. I got 30.9 mpg in about 60% city driving.

I know you’re thinking all that sounds less than supercar exciting, and you’re right. But for less than $20 grand this is sporty and practical, not your dad’s Corolla! Get it?

First, I like the lines, especially the iM’s nose. Another car critic said the look is 1990s sporty, but consider that some magazine car critics still think the current Volkswagen Golf looks modern and trendy. Sporty is in the eye of the beholder to be sure, but the sharp nose here and LED running lights give iM pizazz. Continue reading 2016 Scion iM

Die-cast: Autoart Lamborghini Aventador J

Small roofless Aventador looks greatlambo1

Proving that good things come in small packages I present the Lamborghini Aventador J in 1/43 scale by Autoart. This is one beautiful model, and comes at well less than you might expect to pay for a fine diecast car in this scale.

The History

The edgy Aventador coupe was unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show and just a year later Lamborghini revealed the J, a roofless model with no windshield, just tiny windscreens as you’d expect on a racer.lambo3

Reportedly Lambo’s CEO Stephan Winkelmann asked his design crew to create “something special” for the Geneva show, but just 6 weeks before the prestigious car show. Talk about deadlines!

The racer wanna-be uses Aventador’s 6.5-liter V12 engine that creates 700 horsepower and links that to a 7-speed tranny. The car, which rides on a carbon fiber monocoque, shuns goodies like a radio and air conditioning to save weight and is said to tip the scales at just 3,472 lbs.

Its only carryovers from the Aventador are the hood, front and rear fenders and headlights. Reportedly this one-off concept car was sold for $2.8 million before it even hit the Geneva show floor. For reference, the standard (as if) goes for roughly $400 grand. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart Lamborghini Aventador J

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription

Volvo XC90 not mainstream, not good with detailsvolvo3

Volvo has never been mainstream and it’s not about to start now.

Its new XC90 crossover that replaces a quite dated crossover of the same name is a high-end luxury vehicle that offers typical Volvo safety and substance, but drops the ball on a variety of details.

First, know that Volvos are still made in Sweden, but the company now is owned by Geely, a Chinese carmaker. That hasn’t seemed to hurt, or help, Volvo, which continues to do things its own unique way. For instance, the keyless start system is a switch you rotate on the console, sort of like you would turn a key. Most folks now offer a push button.

Different can be better, and the giant (12.3-inch) iPad-like navigation/radio/information screen mid-dash would be one of those ways. It’s large and you slide the screen to other settings with your finger. That’s where you can adjust many of the crossover’s individualized functions, plus the radio and navigation screen.

Good also is the high-powered Drive-E engine, which is the first engine I’ve ever encountered that is both supercharged AND turbocharged. The result is a hefty 316 horsepower and equally peppy torque rating. Continue reading 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription

2016 Acura ILX WatchPlus

Acura ILXILX refreshed, steering and chassis upgraded

Acura rolls out its 2016 ILX a bit early to update its look and shore up its underpinnings a mite too.

The entry-level Acura that runs on a Civic platform was nice before its remake, but a bit sloppy in turns. Still, for the price, it was a fine step up toward luxury compared with other compact sedans. Think Chevy Cruze for a size comparison.

The 2016 features a restyled grille and LED rear lights, but you’ll mainly notice its fancier headlights, what Acura calls Jewel Eye LED lights. These group five square LEDs that look a bit like my mom’s old engagement ring into each lens. That spiffs up the nose so you can tell the new model from its predecessors.

But more important in the long run is a stiffened chassis, better shocks and springs, thicker anti-roll bar in back and firmer suspension bushings all aimed at firming the car’s feel and ride. Mission accomplished. Continue reading 2016 Acura ILX WatchPlus

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

Optima Hybrid a looker with spunk, yes a hybrid with spunk!

Let’s put this right out there, I like Kia’s Optima.IMG_0981

Optima is one of the best looking mid-size cars on the market, looks like a luxury sedan and rides and feels like an entry-level luxury sedan. It also is well equipped for its price, making it a high value front drive car that will carry five comfortably.

What pushed me well toward the “love it” end of my rating spectrum is the tested blue-gray’s hybrid system. Many hybrids are still lackluster when it comes to acceleration and refinement. Kia’s Optima Hybrid EX not only looks great it performs well.

I tested this for a week that included about a 500-mile round trip to Miami County, Ind., and several days of the usual area city driving. I could have gotten by with just one gas fill-up in that period as I averaged 39.5 mpg, basically confirming the EPA estimates. On the highway the trip computer boasted 41 mpg and range was listed at more than 600 miles.

That alone makes Optima a fine highway cruiser, but riding on a 110-inch wheelbase (2 inches shorter than last week’s Ford Fusion) Optima offers a pleasant ride with just a bit of rump bumping on severe bumps. You feel well insulated in the Kia, which features a luxury-quality quiet interior.

IMG_0983But performance is equally smooth and comfortable. Acceleration is decent in full Eco mode where the electric motor portion of the hybrid powerplant does most of the work. However, you can flick off the Eco mode with a touch of your right thumb and the gas engine does more work to give you better than average acceleration. This may be preferred when you’re in serious city traffic where acceleration may be needed to avoid a jam.

While a gas-powered Optima features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a stout 192 horsepower, the hybrid system with the same sized gas engine plus electric assist ups that to 206 horses and 154 lb.-ft. of torque, a bit less than the gas-driven version, but still reasonable. Continue reading 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

2014 Dodge Dart GT

Sporty, high-value Dart GT has power, but ride is too sportydart

My previous test of the compact Dodge Dart was near perfect. That was the Limited model, this metallic red beauty was the sportier GT.

Blame it on age or our increasingly decrepit roads, but this one was harder on the derriere.

Oh, I still like the Dart and would recommend the Limited or any model without the sport suspension that the GT features. This one is just too stiff with the ride bordering on harsh. Racy R18-rated tires didn’t help either. The GT intends to be a boy-racer toy at a modest price and it comes close to that goal.

There’s strong power here with a 2.4-liter I4 Tigershark engine with MultiAir to increase fuel efficiency. It generates 184 horses and a torque rating of 171. So pound the gas pedal and the Dart GT responds.

In normal city driving there’s good power too, although some hesitation as you accelerate. Linked to a 6-speed manual, which is standard, you could likely have some fun with the GT. But the test car added an optional $1,250 6-speed Powertech automatic that tames the oomph factor, mostly. You’ll still hit highway speeds easily, but the car feels a bit heavy and the shifts are not as crisp or timely as they would be if the driver was handling those duties.

Cool rear taillight bar!
Cool rear LED taillight bar!

Still, the car looks sporty with trim lines and an attractive profile. I like the car’s nose and the full body-width LED taillight that reflects other Dodge model styling. Dart looks sharp. Continue reading 2014 Dodge Dart GT