Tag Archives: MacPherson

2016 Ford Escape SE 4WD

escape1
Dirty week of snow and slop added some grit and grim to the pretty red Escape, but it handled like a dream all week.

Ford’s Escape a looker and a handler …

Ford’s Escape is popular because it looks good, comes in a range of prices that meet a wide array of consumers’ needs, and is an extremely sporty handling crossover.

None of that changes for 2016. Continue reading 2016 Ford Escape SE 4WD

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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

2014 Scion tC

Scion’s tC edges out some competitors with style, quickness … a fun drive

I know the street racers out there, and many of my media colleagues, will disagree, but I like the Scion tC sports coupe better than Scion’s base FR-S, for a couple reasons.scion

I think its styling is edgier and more fun, and despite it being a front-drive coupe compared with the rear-drive FR-S, it handles extremely well. Plus, with its easy shifting 6-speed manual and more than sufficient 2.5-liter VVT-I 4-cylinder engine, it’s quick and fun to drive.

Then there’s the base tC’s starting price of just $19,200, with a $795 delivery fee. That’s affordable, and my bright “absolutely red” test car managed 27 mpg in about 60% highway driving. Quite respectable! The EPA rates this t 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

The tC is bare bones fun without a totally bare bones feel. It’s great for first-time buyers needing value and valuing style and fun behind the wheel. The coupe doesn’t feel cheap and looks spectacular. For 2014 the nose is restyled with a wide-mouth grille, more attractive lightning-bolt-shaped headlights with LED running lights and I like its flat roofline that gives it a distinctive profile compared with the plethora of round roof sports coupes.
You already know some of what I like, but the heart of my appreciation for the coupe starts with its performance.

Slip into the well-shaped sports seats and the car delivers a straightforward no nonsense dash, albeit a blah gray plastic trim that looks a little too value minded. But turn the key, yes it still has a key, and the test car fired up with a throaty roar that would make most drift car pilots envious. This is a big can that really stirs up the 4-cylinder’s exhaust tone. All that is due to a TRD (Toyota Racing Development) performance exhaust that costs $699 extra. You’ll love the sound, so if you can spare the cash, go for it. Continue reading 2014 Scion tC

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Outlander Sport SE AWC = smooth looks, ride

mitsu1Maybe I’m becoming more tolerant as I age, but I liked the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport better than I had the first time I drove it three years ago.

What I liked was its looks, a smooth sophisticated body, and its smooth well controlled ride, something one comes to appreciate in Spring-thaw Wisconsin when the frost heaves rise like moguls, and the washed out potholes resemble fox holes.

The Outlander Sport’s MacPherson struts up front and fine multi-link rear suspension give it a comfortable ride, never jolting, as I maneuvered around the road enragers that pretended to be pavement.

Sport is a compact sport-ute or crossover, a full 14.6 inches shorter than the Outlander, while riding on the same chassis and sharing Outlander’s 105.1-inch wheelbase. Sport’s shortcoming though remains its weak 2.0-liter 148-horse 4-cylinder engine that’s linked up with a lackluster CVT (continuously variable transmission). Acceleration remains less than exhilarating, actually slow and pokey. Torque is disappointing when you get on the gas pedal say, getting onto the freeway. There is no low-end oomph and the vehicle’s acceleration fades and fumbles between 25 and 35 mph.

Sadly, when you do demand some power, the CVT and engine moan and groan louder than a teenager being asked to clean his bedroom. I’d prefer the larger Outlander’s 168-horse 2.4-liter I4 engine.

Continue reading 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2014 Mazda3i 4-door Grand Touring

Mazda3 delivers good looks, modest price, driving flairmazda1
The new Mazda3 is better looking than its predecessor, gets better gas mileage and still delivers driving flair, a fair accomplishment for a modestly priced family sports sedan.

First, Mazda reshaped its former gaping smiling nose with this more Audi-like big grille and swept its profile lines back enough to make the tested 4-door sedan look almost as good as the hatchback version. This is a low, lean, lithe sedan at just shy of 2,800 lbs. in this brilliant “soul red” test car.

Like other automakers, Mazda also has grown its formerly subcompact to compact dimensions, with a 106.3-inch wheelbase and 180.3-inch long body. The result, a car that handles four adults easily and offers a fair sized, 12.4-cubic foot trunk.

That’s the practical side, then there’s the fun stuff, like how the car performs (although still highly efficient) and all the tech features that you get.

Mazda uses what it calls Skyactiv technology to provide a high-revving, high-performing four-cylinder engine that also remains surprisingly fuel stingy. The base car, and the tested Grand Touring, top trim level for the base i models, features a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G I4 that creates 155 horsepower. That’s tops, says Kelly Blue Book, for base models in this segment. Next in line are the Mitsubishi Lancer and Kia Forte at 148 horses. Continue reading 2014 Mazda3i 4-door Grand Touring