Tag Archives: VVT

2016 Toyota Avalon Touring

Stylish Toyota Avalon long on comfort at good priceavalon1

Toyota’s Avalon is a breath of fresh air, a full-size sedan with stylish lines and oodles of comfort and features at a reasonable price.

In days of yore, that would be enough to make it one of the top sellers in the marketplace, but alas, modern times belong to trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

Still, if you enjoy a smooth well-controlled ride and a roomy quiet interior that will coddle five adults on a road trip, Avalon should be atop your shopping list.

Toyota restyled Avalon a couple years ago, all to the good. It looks modern, youthful and sporty for a big sedan. Its 111-inch wheelbase gives it one of the most pleasant rides of any car, truck or ute, no matter the price.

Avalon’s strong 268-horse V6 engine delivers excellent power so the sedan will hoof it up to highway speeds like a race horse, not a plow horse like most SUVs. Amazingly its gas mileage is excellent too, rated at 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway by the EPA. I got 26.7 mpg in about 75% highway driving, including a roundtrip to Chicago with two folks aboard and light luggage.

avalon5This has three driving modes too, Normal, Eco and Sport, but I felt little difference between Normal and Sport. Eco allows the transmission to shift earlier to save fuel, so cuts power a bit. Yet the gas mileage, as stated earlier, is fine without using Eco. Continue reading 2016 Toyota Avalon Touring

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2016 Lexus RX350 F Sport

Snazzy Lexus RX350 leaves me wanting more …lexus rx350

The Lexus RX350 has set the tone for mid-size luxury SUVs, now mostly crossovers, for about 20 years and with the 2016 model being totally restyled inside and out, I was expecting more of the same.

That is, I expected to be wowed by the segment leader’s new duds, spangles and spurs. Its sleek lines, low roofline and distinctive wide monster grille give a look that sets it apart in this station-wagony-ute segment. I liked it and colleagues commented on its spiffy looks.

But, at $56 grand and change, I expected more from the metallic black (Obsidian) test model, an F Sport model, which means you get real leather seats, AWD, paddle shifters, variable suspension settings and big ol’ 20-inch wheels.

lexus rx350 b lexus rx350 c All RX350s come with the same silky 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing and are linked to an 8-speed automatic. Only the hybrid models, RX450h, feature a different power plant. That’s a V6 combined with hybrid electric power to create 308 horses and boost fuel mileage from a moderate 19 mpg city and 26 highway in the test model to 28 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Continue reading 2016 Lexus RX350 F Sport

2016 Cadillac CTS AWD

Cadillac CTS remains edgy, fast CTS1sport sedan

Cadillac’s CTS remains one of GM’s biggest success stories and for good reason. The mid-size sport sedan features edgy styling and handles like a fine European sport sedan, but with better ride characteristics and now, all-wheel-drive.

The dark metallic gray test car was the CTS AWD 3.6L Premium Collection, which is a long way of saying its the upscale version with AWD. Same well chiseled profile, long and wide hood, mouthy grille and slender retro vertical taillights. The car looks, and feel, upscale.

What I like, and I’ve said it before, is that Cadillac delivers performance and luxury in equal doses.

Standard in this model is the strong 3.6-liter VVT V6 with auto start/stop. No turbo, and it still gets 335 horsepower and creates 285 lb.-ft. of torque. Others may crank up more ponies and the turbo versions rock like race cars, but this has good power to get the car up to highway speeds in a flash, but with a smoothness befitting its luxury nameplate.

CTS3Helping that effort is Caddy’s silky 8-speed automatic, which first debuted a couple years back. The tranny seems perfectly suited to the V6 and there are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel if the driver wishes to take shifting into his, or her, own hands. Continue reading 2016 Cadillac CTS AWD

2015 Buick Encore AWD Premium

Buick Encore surprisingly nimble encore1

The Buick Encore and Chevy Trax are kissin’ cousins riding on the same platform with the same engine and transmission, but aimed at different markets.

Not surprisingly the Chevy aims at value-minded and younger buyers, while the Buick aims more upscale, at empty-nesters who demand luxury and feel they’ve hit a stage of life where they’ve moved beyond the Chevy brand. I like both the Trax and Encore. They’re fun to drive with nimble handling and good ride for a small sport-ute. Both deliver excellent fuel economy.

There’s no denying the Buick feels more upscale. It has a leather interior and is quieter inside. As an aging Boomer I like the quiet. Additional sound deadening, which Buick calls QuietTuning, helps ensure the quiet, along with a Bose Active Noise Cancellation system.

encore2That and the leather interior and more standard features helps explain the added cost compared with the Trax, which is a real bargain. The Trax LT AWD I tested previously started at $23,945 and with minor options was just $25,315. While the tested bright white Encore AWD Premium listed at $30,935 and after options and delivery charges hit $34,390. That’s pretty high considering how many fine mid-size utes and crossovers you can get for that, or less. Most offer AWD and are more spacious inside.

Naturally, if you want the Buick, but find yourself closer to a Chevy budget, a base Encore starts at $24,990, but that’s with two-wheel drive. I don’t want to dwell on price because the Encore is such fun to drive, and few utes or crossovers can say that. Continue reading 2015 Buick Encore AWD Premium

2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T

Looks, handling, turbo give small Cadillac a boost

Those of us who have been around for a few decades may be forgiven for our skepticism when we hear Cadillac is creating an entry-level sport sedan. Visions of Cimarron dance in our brains.cady ats

Ah, but those who observe the car market closely know that Cadillac has been swinging for the fences of late while also having gotten its groove on in the styling department. The result for 2013 is a sweet compact sports sedan, the ATS.

First, it looks great with vertical lights front and rear. The front lenses fold over the front fender pointing up toward the cockpit, while the rear ones remind of many a Cadillac of years past. These look elegant, AND sporty, while the body is taunt and well chiseled with a lean athletic stance.

Folks who didn’t care for some of the overwrought designs and fluffery of the past should appreciate ATS’s understated good looks.

This is a true entry-level luxury sports sedan, the base 2.5L with rear-wheel drive lists at $33,095 and packs a 2.5-liter 202-horse four-cylinder rated at 22 mpg city and 33 highway. Continue reading 2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T

2013 Lexus GS450h

Luxurious GS450h gives hybrids a good name

Lexus is synonymous with luxury, which is currently being driven home via the smooth quiet operation of its GS450h, a midsize luxury hybrid.Lexus GS450h

There isn’t much more anyone would need in a luxury car than what the GS450h delivers.

Ride is smooth and controlled, the engine gives it plenty of power when needed and handling is responsive too, if not sports car precise. The interior is swathed in leather and luxury and styled to impress any of your non-luxury-car owning friends. The exterior is upscale, without being showy.

Then there’s the hybrid feature with an electric motor that generates 180 horsepower from the batteries that get much of their oomph from regenerative braking. This naturally aids the car’s quiet running, almost stealth-like as it powers down at stoplights and then kicks into electric mode as you accelerate away from a stop. If you need more power, there’s a plenty from the gas-powered 3.5-liter V6 that pumps a generous 338 horses.

Smoothing that acceleration, even when you want to blast away from the riff-raff, is an electronic variable speed automatic transmission, which like most CVTs aids gas mileage and eliminates the feel of gears shifting. This is a fine one. Continue reading 2013 Lexus GS450h