Tag Archives: Sport

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

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2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo

Kia Optima, a better mid-size sedan …  kia2

When I last tested a Kia Optima I thought it among the best mid-size sedans I’d driven, plus it got 39.5 miles per gallon. Wow! But that was a hybrid model.

Well, the refreshed 2016 Optima is even more impressive. My one major hesitation with the previous model, a passenger’s seat that sat low in the car and was not adjustable, has been fixed. And the tested LX Turbo model got 37 mpg with its 1.6-liter I4 turbo. Sweet! Continue reading 2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo

2016 Mazda CX-3 Touring AWD

New CX-3 a spirited, fun, small crossovermazda CX-3a

            Mazda isn’t the first car maker with a small personal-sized SUV, but it certainly has one of the most stylish and fun to drive with its new CX-3.

The CX-3 continues the tone set by Mazda’s slightly larger CX-5 that competes with the likes of Toyota’s RAV4, Subaru’s Forester and Ford’s Escape. But the CX-3, with its slight 101.2-inch wheelbase and 148-horse 2.0-liter I4 engine takes aim at the Chevy Trax and Honda’s new HR-V, among others. These are entry-level sport-utes with all-wheel-drive, minimal interior room and generally not loaded with the multitude of electronic whiz-bangs that push most vehicles to prices well beyond $30 grand.

CX-3 is targeted at entry-level buyers, the young couples or singles that want to sit a little higher like they’re in an SUV and also have the advantage of AWD, but don’t have big bank accounts. But Mazda’s little ute goes a step, or two, further. It offers style, such as a longer, more shapely nose, which gives this a more appealing look than the econobox on steroids that most such little utes offer. The interior also is stylish.

mazda CX-3 Continue reading 2016 Mazda CX-3 Touring AWD

2015 BMW M235i xDrive

BMW1Ultimately, BMW’s M235i a great drive

BMW made its mark in the U.S. market years ago with the likes of the BMW 2002, a compact sporty handling car that could run circles, or ovals, or whatever shape you wanted, around most other cars. It was quick and lithe and fun to drive.

But as all cars, BMWs included, have grown in dimensions, especially weight and length, many Bimmer fans have bemoaned the Bavarian firm’s stray from the small coupe market. Some of us also wish there were still an “Ultimate Driving Machine” that a few more of us could afford.

Well, BMW nails, or should we say re-nails, the lithe fun sports coupe with its 2 Series. A base 228i with 240-horsepower and a manual transmission now comes in at $33,050 including delivery, so in line with an average car’s cost. I’d love to drive one in that trim. Yet this week I was granted an audience with the M235i xDrive, which takes the 2 Series to its raciest extreme. The M with xDrive drops a 320-horse twin-turbo I6 into the smallest BMW coupe with terrific results.

That twin-turbo pumps out a delicious 330 ft.lbs. of torque and turns the 2 Series into a street legal racer. Slap down the throttle and the M235i pushes you back in the seat and you hold on to the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel praying there are lot of winding roads just over the horizon. The car’s steering is moderately heavy, but extremely precise, exactly what you’d expect from a BMW. Yet the coupe doesn’t feel heavy, tipping the scales at just 3,695 lbs.

Ride is good, not as comfortable as the marvelous 428i that I drove last year, but then it rides on a 110.6-inch wheelbase compared with 105.9 inches in the 2 Series. Five inches goes a long way to smoothing rough roads. Still, as in the 4 Series, the M235i mates the superbly designed suspension with BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control system that adjusts the chassis and modulates the engine’s power curve too. Continue reading 2015 BMW M235i xDrive

2015 BMW X4 xDrive 35i

BMW X4 blends car, SUV and gets it about half right X4-3

When is a car not a car, or an SUV an SUV?

When it is an X4, BMW’s new blended vehicle. From the front it looks like a BMW sedan, it even has four doors, but a decidedly taller profile that unfortunately looks bloated and bulbous, especially from the rear. Think Honda Crosstour, but with a better nose.

Plainly this is a vehicle meant to appeal across several market segments and it succeeds in several ways, but mainly as a car.

Continue reading 2015 BMW X4 xDrive 35i

2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Miata still sets a high bar for sports car marketmiata

When it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Mazda’s designers and brain trust have shown great wisdom to follow that axiom with the Miata sports car.

For 25 years now the MX-5 Miata has made its mark by NOT changing much. There have been tiny body styling tweaks and interior tucks and thankfully the horsepower grew from 116 originally to 167 today. But Miata has remained true to its original design and purpose, being a lightweight, superb handling sports car with enough pep to put a perpetual smile on a driver’s face.

Soon Mazda will unveil a new Miata, and we’ll hope the designers still don’t break what isn’t broken. But for now we can relish in the fun and modest price tag the current model embodies.

Two years have passed since I last drove a Miata and reading back over that review I couldn’t find anything I’d disagree with from the most current drive. Here’s my latest synopsis.

miata1The “true red” test car was the mid-level Club model with a black power hardtop. That means it’s a convertible, but the hardtop keeps it quieter inside than the standard cloth top. Naturally you pay more, but Miata is still a value-minded roadster. The base Sport model with soft top lists at $24,515 with delivery and the tested Club with hardtop was $29,460, with delivery. Moving up to the Grand Touring hardtop pushes the sticker to $31,345. Continue reading 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

2013 Nissan Sentra SL

Sharp new Nissan Sentra has its mojo back

A few years back Nissan’s Sentra lost its way. For years it had been right up there with Toyota’s Corolla and Honda’s Civic as a premier entry level sedan, great for young families.

sentra1But then it started to look like a cheap little car, inside and out. Worse yet, it drove like one, maybe a step or two up from a Suzuki. Then Hyundai and Kia came into the market and leapfrogged right over Sentra with their entry-level cars.

Nissan’s restyled 2013 Sentra aims to put a stop to that, and it certainly should make a dent in the segment, likely gaining Nissan a chunk of market share. The reason is way more than skin deep, although the skin looks decidedly more attractive and upscale than its preceding models. There’s chrome around windows and along the sides and on the trunk. The taillights look sporty like other Nissan models.

No, with this one you won’t be singled out in your elementary school kid’s parking lot as the parent who couldn’t afford a nice car. This looks sharp, and its interior is equally impressive. Continue reading 2013 Nissan Sentra SL