Tag Archives: Limited

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 hybrid = good mpg, sporty handling2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Funny, but I enjoyed driving the new Toyota RAV4 hybrid more than its gas-powered model that I had earlier this year.

This one seemed sportier, and that’s a contradiction to all things hybrid. Power seems a bit better, and is with a combined 194 horsepower for the hybrid vs. 176 for the gas-powered model. But handling seemed much more precise and sporty too.

RAV4 is a small ute/crossover and easy to park and steer. The wheel feels moderately light and the hybrid turns into corners well and is responsive. Wheel play is minor.

And while compared to the standard model it has more ponies to power it with the electric hybrid system working well via an electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT), it’s not exactly quick. There’s still the electric whine when you let off the brake and a slow chug up to 15-20 mph. The harder you press the accelerator the crossover will respond though and get up to highway speeds fairly effortlessly. The down side is an engine that feels and sounds as if it’s working pretty hard.

2016 Toyota RAV4 HybridLike so many vehicles, there are drive mode selection buttons, here on the bottom of the center stack somewhat hidden behind the console-mounted gear shift knob. You can go Eco to save fuel or Sport for a bit more juice to the wheels. The bump up in power is minor, but every little bit helps sometimes. Continue reading 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Hybrid

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

New Santa Fe seats 7, looks better, roomier2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai developed its Santa Fe into two vehicles a couple of years ago, the Sport which has a midsize 106-inch wheelbase and the straight-up Santa Fe that’ll seat seven with its longer 110.2-inch wheelbase and more interior room.

The 2017 Santa Fe looks even better than its predecessor and now adds more features to make it even more attractive and a strong competitor with the likes of Honda’s popular Pilot. But it has the misfortune of also going up against the brand new Mazda CX-9 reviewed last week and the new segment leader.

That’s not to say the tested big Santa Fe is a slouch in any way.

2017 Hyundai Santa FeIts power is first-rate with a 3.3-liter V6 that creates 290 horsepower with 252 lb.-ft. of torque. The Hyundai also offers drive select mode to emphasize power or economy. In Normal mode the Santa Fe has good power that is well used by its six-speed automatic. There is some lag to the acceleration, but the crossover gets up to highway speeds easily.

Naturally Eco saves gas, but Sport delivers the most oomph when it comes to acceleration. In Sport mode the Santa Fe feels much livelier than most large crossovers. Continue reading 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

2015 Hyundai Tucson Ltd. AWD

Stylish Hyundai Tucson looks great, drives greattucson2

            I’ve found my new favorite small crossover vehicle, the Hyundai Tucson.

I’ll admit to being surprised, but I’m not sure why. Hyundai and sister company Kia have become the styling leaders among Asian car makes and their performance is on par, or better than most of their competitors too. Hyundai designers in particular seems to have mastered the simple, elegant interior with logical controls and a high-quality look and feel.

This new Tucson has that, plus a smooth pleasantly rounded exterior that is simply eye pleasing.

I drove a “winter white” top-of-the-line Limited AWD model, so granted, I had the best Tucson that Hyundai has to offer. Even at that the Tucson started at $31,300 and only added the bare minimum of options, a cargo cover and carpeted floor mats. Total, including delivery fee, was $32,510. That’s just below the average price of a new vehicle sale these days.

tucson3 But the Tucson feels and looks much more upscale, starting with this one’s brown over tan leather interior with gloss black trim on the center stack’s face and pewter-look trim around the video screen and air vents. Doors featured flat black trim on the armrest surfaces that house power window and other buttons. It felt and looked ritzy, but not ostentatious. Continue reading 2015 Hyundai Tucson Ltd. AWD

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Avalon Hybrid excels at comfort, quiet, fuel efficiencyavalon front

A couple years ago Toyota wised up and restyled its full-size Avalon sedan to avoid it turning into the Grand Marquis of Japanese makes.

The more stylish lines, thinned taillights and overall slimed down look moved it from senior-citizen-mobile to family friendly sedan. Now comes the hybrid version that not only provides the same ride and comfort, but boosts gas mileage with its efficient hybrid system backing up a 2.5-liter I4 with variable valve timing.

The result is a smooth running family sedan that at one point during my weeklong drive said it was getting 42 mpg. Try to find that in an SUV that seats five comfortably, or a sedan driven solely by a gasoline-powered engine.

For the week I clocked 36.8 mpg in about a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving. The EPA rates the Avalon at 40 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. That’s excellent! Only the Kia Optima hybrid I drove last summer topped that with 39.5 mpg in mostly highway driving. For the record, I managed 24.2 mpg in the gas-powered Avalon I reviewed in 2013.

My metallic silver test car was the XLE Premium model, one up from the base model, but also with the hybrid system that stores energy in batteries and uses regenerative braking to repower those batteries. The hybrid system also powers an electric motor at low speeds when gas engines are at their least efficient. Continue reading 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

2014 Chrysler Town & Country Limited

Town & Country minivan carries family, friends and stuff easily and efficiently

Minivans are much maligned by the image conscious, or should we say, self-conscious car buyers. These folks let image stand in their way of buying the most family friendly vehicles on the market.chry1

This week’s Chrysler Town & Country Limited is at the top of the minivan food chain, meaning it’s loaded with extras and luxury items that most families would be proud to wallow in, if they weren’t in a minivan. But heck, a minivan is easy to climb aboard, and this one has a luxurious ride along with good power and tons of storage room. Ah yes, and it will carry a family of seven. Not much else can boast that, and be this comfortable.

First, consider that the tested cashmere (metallic tan) test van had power sliding side doors. This makes it incredibly easy to load up the family for all those kid events, and if you have young children, it’s equally easy to strap them into their child seats. In a sport-utility vehicle, for instance, you have the doors in your way along with a bigger step up, making it tougher for the kid to crawl aboard, and a bigger lift for the parent loading one aboard.

The Town & Country, or T&C, also boasts a power hatch to make loading groceries, luggage or athletic equipment easier too. This one goes a step further with power third-row seats that you control just inside the hatch, part of a $1,995 luxury package. Within seconds you can lower the third row for a hefty hauling area. Cargo space starts at 33.0 cubic feet behind that third seat (about double that of even the largest luxury sedans) and expands to 83.3 cubic feet with the third row down. Continue reading 2014 Chrysler Town & Country Limited

2014 Toyota Venza XLE V6 AWD

Venza XLE delivers power, good looks and AWD
Five years have passed since I last drove Toyota’s Venza, a crossover based on its popular Camry sedan.venza1

Not much has changed though, it’s still an attractive, competent crossover. In fact, Venza may be one of the best looking crossovers, simply because it blends the Camry’s sophisticated styling with a smooth execution of the rear hatch that looks more a modern wagon than square SUV. Some folks will take notice of this vehicle in your driveway. I certainly got more questions about its origins than I have for other crossovers.

It probably helped that my Venza was a bright metallic red and the XLE, or mid-level model with a gutsy 268-horse V6 and all-wheel-drive. Mine also was a bit pricey, starting at $35,080 and when you add an $860 delivery charge and $1,850 option package it hit $37,790. But don’t let that scare you off.

You can get into a Venza for $28,760. However, that’s the LE model with front-wheel drive and a more modest 181-horse, 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine. If you require all the bells, whistles and techno goodies you’ll need to move up to the Limited AWD for $40,380. Like the XLE, it packs V6 power.venza-grapevine

While based on the Camry, having the same 109.3-inch wheelbase and 189-inch length, the Venza feels more substantial. It weighs in at just more than 4,000 lbs. and is taller than the Camry too. Plus it rides on 20-inch tires, so it has a more aggressive stance and the steering is moderately heavy compared to the lighter feeling Camry.

Continue reading 2014 Toyota Venza XLE V6 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