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2016 Ford Explorer Platinum 4×4

Ford Explorer less trucky, more luxuryexplorer2

            Long gone is the truck-based Ford Explorer that fueled the SUV craze that begot today’s crossover craze. The 2016 Explorer while tall and muscular is car-based and luxurious, which explains both its popularity and in the tested unit’s Platinum trim, its price.

A base Explorer starts at $31,595 in two-wheel-drive mode, or $33,595 for a four-wheeler, but the Platinum comes equipped like a rock star tour bus and lists at $52,600. Add in a $945 delivery fee, second row bucket seats and the test ute’s spiffy bronze fire metallic paint scheme and this one hit $54,635. Continue reading 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum 4×4

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