2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4ST 2WD Review

Wednesday November 9th, 2016 at 11:1111 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4ST 2WD

By David Colman

Hypes: Loaded with Standard Features
Gripes: Front Center Armrest Feels Cheap

Good genes and an even disposition mean just as much in the car world as they do in the human realm. In the genes department, Mitsubishi long ago mastered the art of building large displacement, vibration-free, 4 cylinder motors. Back in 1983, Mitsubishi marketed a 2.4 liter straight four that utilized a counter-rotating balance shaft to cancel vibration. So successful was the design that Porsche paid Mitsubishi royalties to borrow the layout for its 944 series engines. Today, Mitsubishi still depends on this basic architecture to offer a 2.4 liter in-line 4 making excellent power (168hp) and torque (167lb.-ft.) with no harshness at any rpm range.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4ST 2WD

In the happy disposition department, the Outlander Sport is a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) so eager to serve you that it even bids you farewell at drive’s end. When you turn it off, the LCD multi-information display flashes the chummy message “See Ya.” For $25,995 (base price), the Sport is surprisingly full of such unexpected bonuses. All models come standard with 18 inch, two-tone aluminum alloy wheels. Ours were shod with Nexen Npriz RH7 tires (225/55R18) that provided competent dry weather traction without imposing a harsh ride.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4ST 2WD

One of the first niceties you notice when climbing aboard are the ribbed aluminum pedals for brake and accelerator. These look sharp and respond well to even the slipperiest soles. Another standard convenience provided is a knockout Rockford-Fosgate sound system putting out 710 watts through 9 speakers. A subwoofer the size of a ten gallon Stetson mounts on the right wall of the hatchback, and commands a base note that will have your ears throbbing in very short order. Again, unexpected stuff from a vehicle in the price range. Perhaps the most engaging freebie on the standard inclusion list is the enormous panoramic glass roof which stretches all the way from the windshield header to the back edge of the roof. This nifty contraption which comes with mood lighting to boot, makes you feel like you’re driving a convertible, even though the top doesn’t actually lift off or open.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4ST 2WD

For 2016, Mitsubishi freshened the mini-CUV’s exterior surfaces with a frontal look they term the “Dynamic Shield.” A pair of stout looking frontal chrome rails define the edges of the grill and trail artfully into batwing light clusters. A redesigned suspension system for 2016 features new “dynamic” dampers front and rear plus new electronic power steering. These revisions endow the Sport with a raked stance which makes it look ready to spring on prey. There’s a freshness to the styling that is absent in many of the Outlander’s competitors. And it looks especially good in Octane Blue.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4ST 2WD

Mitsubishi has come to terms with the CVT drivetrain better than most other manufacturers. Part of the secret sauce here is provision of two enormous shift paddles located just behind the steering wheel. These easily accessed controls actually put you in charge of altering the engine’s rpm range. This latitude to chose power output almost makes the Outlander Sport feel like it has a real gearbox rather than a series of infinitely variable drive belts. Coupled to the big displacement 4′s solid power, the Sport motors through freeway merges with unexpected ease. However, the elevated suspension ride height contributes to a tipsy feeling when pushing this CUV hard through tight turns.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4ST 2WD

Thanks to 7 airbags, the Sport earns an overall 4 star Safety Rating from the government, with 5 stars for front and rear seat side crash protection. The model range starts out at $19,995 for the most basic ES trim level, then progresses through SE and SEL levels to the top GT version we drove. Given its many amenities, solid engineering and eager-to-please disposition, the Outlander Sport merits your close attention as an affordable do-it-all family mover.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4ST 2WD

  • Engine: 2.4 Liter MIVEC DOHC 16 Valve inline 4
  • Horsepower: 168hp
  • Torque: 167lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 23 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,845
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Mitsubishi |Tags:, , || No Comments »


2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Review

Friday October 21st, 2016 at 12:1010 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

By David Colman

Hypes: STakes Work to Drain the Tank
Gripes: Needs Pneumatic Hood Struts

Call this one the ‘Hybridlander.’ At $50,385, it’s right at the top of the model’s price range. Sure, you can buy a stripper ‘Lowlander’ with a 2.7 liter 4 cylinder 185hp engine for an entry level price of $29,665. But for sheer practicality, performance, comfort and travel range, you can’t beat the line-topping Hybrid. Almost unheard of in today’s option-sodden market, our test Toyota did not boast a single extra price package. Why? Because it comes delivered only one way: Fully Equipped.

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

The standard issue abundance starts under the hood, where you’ll discover Toyota’s time tested 3.5 liter V6, featuring double overhead cams and variable intake valve timing. This cornerstone gas engine is augmented by a pair of electric motors, one front, one rear, which supply instant torque when you stomp the accelerator. Combined, all this technology bumps total powertrain output to 280hp, 10 more hp than the V6 alone can generate. So good is the 248 lb.-ft. torque pull of this Hybrid that the CVT transmission never hunts aimlessly for optimal performance. The Hybrid Highlander is one of the few power trains that compliment the CVT’s seamless behavior rather than exposing its sometimes annoying inadequacies.

The only problem you’re likely to encounter in the engine department is gaining access to that department. Despite the fact that the hood is incredibly heavy and awkward to hoist, Toyota neglected to equip it with hydraulic lifts. You are thus forced to struggle with one hand to hold it high while you fiddle to insert the spindly prop rod in the correct receptacle. This charade is not at all befitting a vehicle in this price range.

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

It is, however, the only such oversight we noted in our week long test drive. The interior is fitted with seating for seven, with a third row bench seat fit for Munchkins, two captain’s chairs in the second row, and fairly palatial Lazy Boy buckets up front. All the seats look inviting thanks to the use of perforated leather. The third row bench folds flat in a 60/40 split, and the second row chairs do likewise. Although the Highlander back row seats lack the nifty electric flip feature available in comparable GM SUVs, there’s really little reason to carp here. Transformation from 7 passenger configuration to a flat floor 40.5 cubic foot cargo hold can be achieved in a matter of minutes, without the help of electric motors. The rear cargo hatch of the Highlander does enjoy such a powered lift, and you can set its altitude to any height you choose.

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

As you might expect, this pricey Toyota provides a raft of standard infotainment options, including just about any alphabet acronym you care to name. You’ll discover the following standard inclusions: AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/AUX/HD and XMS. If all that doesn’t provide enough diversion for you and your family, may I suggest you suffer from entertainment impairment. And should you doubt the direction of your travel, standard navigation displays itself on a whopping 8 inch touchscreen. About the only complaint we could muster regarding the infotainment nexus is the small size and unsatisfying grip afforded by the radio tuning knobs. But at least Toyota has the foresight to continue supplying such archaic analog features, since most companies have discarded them in favor of digital slides that are impossible to control while driving.

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

Before you pop for a minivan, you’ll want to examine the benefits afforded by the crisply styled Highlander. It handles better than any minivan thanks to a firm suspension stance aided by Bridgestone Dueler H/L tires (245/55R19). It affords all the space you would normally covet in a van, yet does so without the visual stigma of a pack mule. True, you’ll wait in vain for Toyota to offer a built-in vacuum system in the Highlander, but really, wouldn’t a Dustbuster work just as well? And the deal sealer in this case should be the efficient Hybrid system which offers unexpected power, range and cost dividends thanks to an overall EPA rating of 28 MPG. Such parsimonious performance is most unexpected in an SUV weighing 4,490 pounds.

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

  • Engine: 3.5 liter DOHC V6 with VVT-i plus twin electric motors
  • Horsepower: 280hp
  • Torque: 248lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $51,385
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Toyota |Tags:, , || No Comments »


2016 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LT Review

Thursday October 20th, 2016 at 11:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LT

By David Colman

Hypes: Svelte New Sheetmetal, Commodious Interior, Standard Running Boards
Gripes: Occluded Rear Vision, Console Cupholders Need Covers

After a week-long test drive, some vehicles are harder to part with than others. Case in point, this Slate Grey Metallic Chevy Tahoe, which will definitely be missed. GM has comprehensively redesigned its Chevrolet SUV twins, the Tahoe and Suburban for 2016. The exterior styling redo is graceful and sleek rather than menacing and busy. Inside, you will find restful, handsome seating, intelligent dashboard controls, and complete instrumentation worthy of a light aircraft.

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LT

On the merit of its Monroney sticker, our $58,460 Tahoe didn’t seem to promise all that much on paper. Augmenting its $52,030 base price was a $3,110 Luxury Package which provided a slew of unrelated embellishments: Heated Remote Keyless Entry, Power Folding Third Row bench seats, Folding Second Row Captain’s Chairs, Heated Steering Wheel with Power Tilt and Telescope, Park Assist Front and Rear, Cross Traffic Alert, Front Foglamps, Wireless Phone Charging, Handsfree Rear Liftgate, and 9 Months of XM Satellite Radio service.

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LT

But here’s a list of what our LT did not have in terms of GM equipment offered on other model lines: no 6.2 liter V8, no 8-speed automatic transmission, no 4-wheel-drive, no 22 inch alloy wheels. All of these items are available only on GMC Denali and Cadillac Escalade class vehicles. However, my initial sense of deprivation with the Tahoe – due to the fact that I had tested a GMC Denali XL the week before – quickly evaporated. The Chevy’s 5.3 liter V8 proved more than adequate to propel this short (116 inch) wheelbase Tahoe. Not only that, but the 5.3 liter gets better overall fuel mileage than the 6.2 liter V8 (18 MPG in combined city/highway driving). With standard 26 gallon tank, the Tahoe’s extended range works out to a very satisfactory 484 miles of freeway driving. In fact, we were amazed to drive from the Bay Area to Rocklin (East of Sacramento) and back, and still find the tank needle showing just under half a tank of gas remaining. The standard rear end axle ratio of 3.08:1 is largely responsible for the Tahoe’s good mileage and quiet cabin at cruise speed.

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LT

Lack of 4WD also lightens the Tahoe’s curb weight and makes it handle more responsively than the Denali. The Tahoe’s optional ($1,400) 20 inch polished alloy 5-spoke wheels, mounting 275/55R20 Continental Cross Contact tires, provide good steering feedback and dependable lateral grip. If, however, you actually plan to drive your Tahoe in Tahoe during winter months, you’ll want to opt for 4WD, which is available. No matter where you live, the ehated seats and steering wheel are nice comfort additions.

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LT

The Tahoe’s redone interior maximizes both storage space and seating configuration. Our LT could transport 7 in the cabin when using all available seats, or offer 47.5 cubic feet of space with second and thirds row seats folded flat. Making the conversion from passenger bus to freight platform is amazingly easy, since GM provides ingenious shortcuts to ease the transition. For example, when I wanted to load my mountain bike into the Tahoe, I pressed the remote keyfob button twice to lift the tailgate, pressed a couple of buttons inside the back hatch to drop the 3rd row seats, then flattened the second row chairs by pulling levers on the outside edge of those seats to drop them. This same lever also flips the second row seats up and out of the way against the back of the front seats. Total elapsed preparation time from idea to reality: less than one minute, sweat-free.

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LT

Chevy has done a masterful job of bringing the Tahoe squarely into the heart of the SUV market with brilliantly executed features at a price that is reasonable. Given the level of attributes baked into this tasty new American pie, you’ll definitely want to examine one before making a final decision about which full-size SUV to buy. The Tahoe LT offers more real estate for the road than most of the competition. Its chiseled new face will keep it fresh looking for years to come, and its many interior amenities will unburden the chores of your life in unexpectedly pleasant ways.

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD LT

  • Engine: 5.3 liter Ecotec V8
  • Horsepower: 355hp
  • Torque: 383 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 16 MPG City/23 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $58.460
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Chevrolet, Expert Reviews, Feature Articles |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD Review

Wednesday October 19th, 2016 at 11:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

By David Colman

Hypes: Luxo Cab, Killer Rockford Fosgate 12 Speaker Audio
Gripes: Annoying “Tow” Mirrors, No EZ Bed Access

Due to some scheduled maintenance of our own vehicles, this Titan pulled extra duty as a sag wagon, accompanying us to various dealerships. This afforded me the chance to inspect the all new Titan not only from the driver’s seat, but also from the front and rear as it transited the Interstate. Bottom Line: the Titan is imposing to drive, and looks even more imposing to adjacent motorists. In particular, the enormous chrome grill, flanked by Batman style light clusters and underlined by a sweeping chrome bumper, elevates the Titan to King Kong status when it looms in your rear view mirror. In the remote event that model ID becomes necessary, 4 inch tall “TITAN” lettering is incised across the top of the chrome grill. L-shaped LED running lights embedded into the front light housings instantly identify the smiley face of this monster Nissan. The rear view is somewhat more restrained, with a pair of bulbous vertical tail lights flanking a massive tailgate adorned with “SL 4WD” lettering.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

Inside the Titan’s spacious cab, you’re sitting on top of the traffic whirl, with excellent sight lines in all directions thanks to extra tall side windows on all four doors. The gracefully contoured front doors droop at the forward beltline to permit welcome 3/4 front vision. The only hang-up in this carefully orchestrated penthouse platform is the design of the optional “Extendable Folding Tow Mirrors” which are part of a $360 Towing Convenience Package that also includes a trailer brake controller and a trailer light check system. The tow mirrors are so tall and narrow that they do not reveal the presence of immediately adjacent traffic. They are, however, fitted with parabolic lower quadrant mirrors that do reveal nearby vehicles. The problem with this double mirror setup is that it forces you to scan four separate panels simultaneously before reaching an informed conclusion about what’s next to you. In view of this shortcoming, the Titan’s standard blind spot warning system is a welcome addition.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

Nissan doesn’t mess around with inadequately sized wheels or tires. The 4WD SL comes standard with 20 inch alloy rims shod with 275/60R20 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A tires that lift the cab structure far enough into the sky to require the optional fixed running boards fitted to our truck. Despite clambering repeatedly in and out of the elevated cab, we never once lacked for a stable foothold or handhold because Nissan provided 3 solid grabs on either side up front, plus 2 more in back. Once ensconced in the front seating positions, you will marvel at the luxury level furnishings. The dual Captain’s Chairs proved quite comfortable for short and long haul runs. Both are heated and upholstered in perforated vinyl set off by handsome contrasting stitching. The driver’s side features 8-way power adjustment and lumbar fine tuning, while the passenger makes do with 4 positioning alternatives. In back, the rear seats offer vast legroom and headroom, but their bolt upright position mitigates against long distance comfort. This rear bench folds flat against the rear wall of the cab, providing 15 cubic feet of lockable interior cargo space.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

The bed of our test Titan was a real work of art with a bevy of LED lights installed just below the aluminum tie-down rail. These lights activate automatically when you drop the impact-cushioned tailgate or can be individually controlled via a push button on the lower dashboard. A particularly bright overhead light embedded in the cab roof contributes extra illumination to the bed, which features standard “Factory-Applied Spray-On Bedliner” as well as the “Utili-trak Channel System with 4 Adjustable Tie-Down Cleats.” About the only item missing here is a ladder or foot step to help you climb into the bed. Nissan could take a clue here from the fold-out step ladder Ford provides for its F Series pickups.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

Although the Titan’s “Endurance” V8 supplied to our test truck matched the 5.6 liter displacement of last year’s engine, output is significantly improved for 2017: horsepower jumps from 317hp to 390hp and torque grows from 385lb.-ft. to 394lb.-ft. This V8 is now coupled to a smooth shifting 7-speed automatic transmission instead of the 5 speed that predated it. All in all, the power management team performs with dispatch and precision. The 4WD unit features a shift-on-the-fly apparatus that allows you to select not only 2 and 4 wheel drive, but also low and hi 4WD thanks to a 2-speed transfer case. At one point, we were spinning the rear wheels while attempting to make a hill start on grass clippings, A simple shift from 2WD to 4WD provided instant thrust through all 4 Goodyears. The Titan then rocketed away like a top fuel dragster.

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

2017 Nissan Titan V8 SL 4WD

  • Engine: 5.6-liter V8
  • Horsepower: 390hp
  • Torque: 394lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 15 MPG City/21 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $51,015
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Nissan |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


2016 Toyota Corolla Special Edition Review

Wednesday October 12th, 2016 at 1:1010 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Toyota Corolla Special Edition

By David Colman

Hypes: Best Looking Corolla Yet, Well Equipped Technologically
Gripes: Underpowered, Cranky CVT

The Corolla doesn’t get a lot of love from car enthusiasts. Just recently, Toyota introduced a “Special Edition” of the model to commemorate the fact that 2016 marks the 50th year of production. The resultant product features 4 wheel disc brakes, shiny ebony alloy wheels, color-keyed, heated rearview mirrors, and red and aluminum trimmed interior bits that complement the car’s “Absolutely Red” exterior color. Even the black and silver seats receive special red seam welts and double rows of red stitching. But Automobile magazine was not impressed, observing, “The Special Edition model is meant to look more aggressive, which means it should be mildly more intimidating than a three-legged toothless dachshund.” Now there’s a conclusion that would make even Rodney Dangerfield cringe with anxiety.

2016 Toyota Corolla Special Edition

Honestly, the Special Edition Corolla we drove for a week hardly merits that kind of demerit. With a base price of $22,320 and an out-the door ticket of $23,520, the SE Corolla represents affordable housing for the road. Since Toyota has vowed to build just 8,000 SE models for 2016, there’s even a faint whiff of collectability to the package. Name me another limited edition econobox – for under 25 grand – offering a chance to retain significant value in the (very) long term. On top of those four wheel disc brakes, you even get paddle shifts next to the steering wheel, plus a “Sport Drive Mode” setting for “powerful acceleration and driving in mountainous regions” as the Owner’s Manual points out.

However, the Corolla’s 1.8 liter engine, bereft of turbo or supercharging, doles out a measly 140hp and 126lb.-ft. of torque. So you can play those paddles for all your worth, but they won’t provoke the Corolla into anything approximating the “powerful acceleration” promised by Sport Drive Mode. In fact we couldn’t detect any difference in performance with Sport Drive Mode engaged or disengaged. The issue here is not so much the output of the 2ZR-FAE engine, but the handicap imposed on its performance by the Continuously Variable Transmission. In addition to its propensity to drone loudly when called upon for acceleration, the CVT drive mechanism provides absolutely glacial pick-up from a dead stop.

2016 Toyota Corolla Special Edition

If you’re not frothing at the bit for a sports sedan, the Corolla SE does a respectable job of providing reliable transportation without drama. The interior is well thought out, especially if you add the $1,200 optional “EE” package. Music lovers will welcome this addition which provides an AM/FM CD player, 6 speakers, and a USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity. Your investment also supplies a navigation system and Entune app suite, all of which will help to take your mind off the fact that a 35 year old VW Beetle just smoked you off the line at the last stop light. In a bright daytime cockpit, the instrument panel cover reflects the interior, making it impossible to read the instrument faces. Conversely, at night, the blue backlighting of the instrument dials is not only soothing but graphically clear.

2016 Toyota Corolla Special Edition

Handling of the SE Corolla is effective. Tenacious Firestone F740 all-season tires measuring 215/45R17 provide more cornering grip than you’re likely to need in daily driving. As Consumer Reports puts it, “handling is lackluster but very secure.” Translated into vehicle dynamics, security means the Corolla is designed to understeer when pushed through a turn. This front wheel drive sub-compact follows your steering wheel commands obediently until the front Firestones begin to lose grip. The rear end never threatens to slew sideways. This is the kind of predictable handling behavior Toyota counts on to save you from losing control in the middle of a turn.

2016 Toyota Corolla Special Edition

In 2013, the Corolla became the best-selling car of all time, and 2016 will see more than 43 million sold since inception in 1966. There’s no arguing with that kind of success. If you want a Special Edition Corolla to commemorate the model’s popularity, then order your 2016 SE in Black Cherry, an exterior color available only on the 2016 Corolla SE.

2016 Toyota Corolla Special Edition

  • Engine: 6.2 Liter V8 ECOTEC3
  • Horsepower: 140hp
  • Torque: 126lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 29 MPG City/37 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $23,520
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Toyota |Tags:, , || No Comments »


2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD Review

Tuesday September 20th, 2016 at 1:99 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD

By David Colman

Hypes: Brutal but Elegant Highway King
Gripes: Challenging to Park

This thing is positively presidential. When it arrived in my driveway for its week-long stay, I checked right away to make sure the Secret Service hadn’t left President Obama in the back seat. In Onyx Black, this $80,000 SUV really fills the bill for POTUS transport. With a length of 224 inches, a height of 74 inches, a width of 81 inches, and a weight of three tons, this is the most imposing passenger vehicle you can buy from GMC. It will barely fit in your regulation 20 foot long garage. And be sure to keep your credit card handy. Even with its 31.5 gallon gas tank, this rig will exhaust fuel faster than you can track the rapid descent of the gas level needle. For the record, the 6.2 liter V8 records city mileage of 14 MPG, highway mileage of 20 MPG, and overall consumption of 16 MPG.

2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD

In trade, you get to ride herd on a thumping big V8 that puts out 420hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. That output makes towing an 8,000 lb. trailer easy. GMC even provides Trailer Sway Control (TSC) and Integrated Trailer Brake Control (ITBC) as standard features, so the Denali XL is perfectly configured to handle any hitch load you can throw at it. TSC limits the amount of trailer pitch, ITBC adjusts the power output, or gain, to the trailer brakes as needed, and a Tow/Haul Mode button on the shift lever prevents the transmission from hunting for gears on steep grades.

2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD

That gearbox is a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic that metes out power smoothly and judiciously. You control its selection of gears with a shift wand that is bigger than that of the Fairy Princess. The entire dashboard is festooned with so many controls and buttons that it will take you a week just to notice them all. For example, no fewer than 19 graphic symbols can appear on the Driver Information Center. To the left of the steering wheel, you will find the 4WD control knob next to the headlight light control knob and below the ITBC switch. Above the ITBC control is another nest of buttons overseeing Traction Control, StabiliTrak, front and rear Park Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Pedal Adjustment (they slide) and Power Assist Step Control for the optional ($1,745) power retractable running boards.

If all this isn’t enough to confuse you, the steering wheel itself is a nexus of functions, including Adaptive Cruise Control ($995 option), voice recognition control, and driver information center display control. Behind the steering wheel you will find additional switches on the left spoke for accessing entertainment system tuning (Next/Previous favorite stations) and the right spoke (volume). If all this is starting to look like you need a Boeing 747 manual for pre-flight familiarization, you haven’t seen anything yet. The GMC IntelliLink Infotainment System offers a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot on a limited free trial basis. It also provides hands-free calling with voice recognition, audio playback with voice recognition, and access to Apple Carplay (including hands-free text messaging and Siri) when you download the free “MyGMC Owner App.”

2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD

You could almost forget you’re commanding a 3 ton limousine. But GMC has you partially covered there too. The optional Adaptive Cruise Control automatically adjusts speed and will slow your vehicle to a stop, if necessary. Unless you first signal a lane change, Lane Keep Assist, which is a standard feature, will keep you from changing lanes by gently guiding the steering wheel straight while jiggling the seat bottom to inform you of your errant behavior. This could be a lifesaver if you fall asleep at the wheel, but it can also prove annoying, so GMC allows you to turn off LKA with yet another button on the dash. Park Assist also uses beeping and the seat jiggle to keep you from bumping into things you can’t see, and in this application, especially when backing up, the system is a golden safety parachute.

2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD

Our Denali featured optional ($2,495) alloy wheels, 22 inches in diameter and mounting Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza rubber (285/45R22). These expensive monster tires mandate use of optional retractable running boards, since they elevate cabin entry height into the stratosphere. However, once you’ve climbed aboard, the only vehicle taller than your Denali is an 18-wheeler. Without question, this dominant posture confers a sense of vision and security on you that is simply unmatched by anything else on the road.

2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD

2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD

  • Engine: 6.2 Liter V8 ECOTEC3
  • Horsepower: 420hp
  • Torque: 460lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 14 MPG City/20 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $80,650
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, GMC |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited Review

Monday September 19th, 2016 at 1:99 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

By David Colman

Hypes: EyeSight Safety, AWD
Gripes: Hard Seats, CVT transmission

Here’s another 2016 model you can probably wangle a good deal on at your Subaru dealer. The current Crosstrek, which is a customized derivative of the Imprezza line, is about to be supplanted with an all new model for 2017. That invariably means that dealers will be more than willing to negotiate on the $25,095 base price of the outgoing 2016 model. While the 2017 model, based on the new Subaru Global Platform, promises to be longer, wider and slightly more powerful (by just 4hp) than the Crosstrek we drove, there’s really little reason to justify spending more for it. That’s because the 2016 Crosstrek did pretty much everything we asked of it. Even with Option Package 23 ($2,895) – a catch-all grouping that includes a 7″ multimedia Navigation unit, Keyless Access and EyeSight Driver Assist – the bottom line totaled just $28,840. Even that’s a number you can probably beat in light of the new replacement Crosstrek that’s on the way.

2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

The Crosstrek provides a grouping of features that distinguishes its performance and appearance from run-of-the-mill Imprezzas. Subaru raises the ride height of the Crosstrek, to provide added ground clearance for off-road jaunts, or driving in snow. Because the Crosstrek, like all Imprezzas, features fully independent front and rear suspension, the extra elevation has virtually no ill effect on the dry pavement handling of this mini-SUV. All-season Yokohama Geolander tires (225/55R17) are responsible for good adhesion at all four corners, and never issue a peep in protest when you lean on them hard. The telltale identifier for the Crosstrek range is its iconic 17 inch aluminum alloy wheel. Imagine a five point silver cookie cutter superimposed on a black circle and you get the visual. There’s no mistaking the solid stance of the Crosstrek.

2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

Under the hood, you’ll find a horizontally opposed four cylinder engine displacing 2 liters. This rather unique configuration – soon to be shared by Porsche’s coming 718 – produces 148hp and 145lb.-ft. of torque in Subaru tune. That’s barely enough to instill confidence for passing maneuvers or freeway merges because the CVT transmission takes an extra second or so to spool the engine up to meet the demands of your right foot. It’s not a particularly rewarding drivetrain combo, but it eventually gets the job while achieving an overall fuel rating of 29 MPG. At least Subaru provides tiny shift paddles next to the steering wheel so you can provoke the engine to make more noise if not more speed.

2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

Inside the cabin, Subaru provides some surprising amenities given the car’s bargain price range. For example, the front seats are heated, the steering wheel manually tilts and telescopes, Sirius XM radio (with 4 free months) is built into the base entertainment system, and the seats and steering wheel are leather trimmed. On the negative side, the front seats are unyielding and lack lumbar adjustment. Even at maximum vertical position, the steering wheel remains canted at a bus-like angle. Finally, the backrest adjuster for the driver’s seat is manually controlled and difficult to position accurately.

2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

Subaru does, however, compensate for minor comfort deficiencies by providing a bevy of pluses you will be hard pressed to match in this price range. Topping the list is “Symmetrical” all-wheel-drive, which by itself makes this Imprezza worth its sticker price and then some. If you do any winter mountain driving, you’ll appreciate the traction afforded by the Crosstrek’s full time AWD. Another reward is EyeSight Driver Assist – included in Option Package 23. In addition to adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision braking, EyeSight affords pre-collision throttle management to lessen or avoid crash damage. According to Motor Trend, the Eyesight systems enabled the Imprezza to “ace the IIHS (International Institute for Highway Safety) front crash prevention test and avoid a collision altogether in the low and high speed tests.” So it’s hard to find a safer ride cheaper than the EyeSight equipped Imprezza Crosstrek.

2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

  • Engine: Horizontally Opposed 2.0 liter 4, DOHC
  • Horsepower: 148hp
  • Torque: 145lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 26 MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $28,840
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Subaru |Tags:, , || No Comments »


2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon Review

Friday August 26th, 2016 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

By David Colman

Hypes: Bauhaus Stark and Efficient
Gripes: Dump the Turbo for a V6

This VW comes with a longer name than any vehicle in recent memory. Let’s try to break down the mystery of a title that requires 5 separate descriptors. The first and most important is “CC” which refers to a sedan that originally derived from the Passat line but now stands on its own as a spacious mid-size product that will seat 4 adults luxuriously, 5 in a pinch. The “R-Line” descriptor refers to a stealthy looking trim package that differentiates the CC in the following ways: special front bumper, model-specific exterior and interior trim, including chrome plated threshold strips emblazoned with discreet “R-Line” logos. The “Executive with Carbon” finery consists of extensive carbon fiber inserts on the dash face, and all four door panels. VW has integrated the subtle look of the carbon weave into the upholstery design as well. The bolsters of both front and rear seats are stamped with a matte black cross hatching (called “Carbon Seat Cover Inserts”) that replicates the look of carbon weave. All in all, this multi-titled, baronial German aristocrat looks much more expensive than its sticker price of $38,685. In the long history of VW, few products – with the possible exception of the short-lived Phaeton – have come close to matching the current CC for unadulterated beauty of line, or elegance of design.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

Unfortunately, the 2.0 inline turbo straight four which powers our test version of the CC fails to provide the kind of acceleration you would expect from such a sleek package. Even if you manually select first gear for a traffic light getaway, the CC is hesitant to cover the initial 30 yards of pavement with dispatch. While the DSG gearbox does better at managing acceleration as the rpm and boost level of the turbo increase, the CC is slow to gather speed. That’s because VW has tasked this 200hp motor with the job of moving 3,370 pounds. The resultant power-to-weight ratio stands at 16.85lb/hp. Better you should opt for the available 3.6 liter V6, which makes 280hp and gives you a power-to-weight ratio of 12.0lb/hp.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

Certainly, the chassis and suspension of the CC is up to the task of sports sedan performance. The Executive package includes a very handsome set of 5 made-in-Germany ATS alloy rims (including a full size spare) that mount 235/40R18 Continental (Conti Pro Contact) tires. The rims measure 8J x 18, so you know the footprint of this car is solid. Considering the minimal sidewall height of the 40 series Conti tires, the ride of the CC is surprisingly tame. VW has selected shock absorber settings that damp out unwonted road incursion while still maintaining good control when you’re zipping through the bends.

Although VW markets the CC as a sports sedan, it’s really more of a mini-limousine than a 3 Series BMW. Standard comfort niceties include a 3 position memory system for the driver’s seat, spacious map pockets behind each front seat, an ingenious rear armrest that contains two beverage holders, a hidden storage compartment, and a flush fold feature that permits carriage of long objects like skis or boards. The headrests on the front seats slide fore and aft for optimal positioning, and the interior features two separate key locks to secure the spacious 13.1 cubic foot trunk from interior access. One is located on the driver’s door, the other inside the rear armrest.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

New for 2016 is a 6.3-inch touchscreen for navigation which also doubles as a rearview camera monitor. The DSG twin clutch shift system utilizes small paddles located next to the steering wheel to accomplish up shifts and down shifts. The central info display on the instrument panel records the gear you have currently selected, but it’s virtually inconspicuous due to the small 15-point size of the number displayed. A handy trip computer is standard fitment and displays the following information – elapsed travel time, instant fuel consumption, average fuel economy, range, distance covered, average speed, current speed. You can access all these bits by wiggling your thumb on a steering wheel mounted recall button.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

Despite the fact that VW has been lambasted of late with endless bad press about the diesel fuel imbroglio, the company still manages to churn out lovable, handsome, efficient products like the long-lived CC, which gets better looking and more accommodating with every passing year.

2016 Volkswagen CC 2.0T R-Line Executive with Carbon

  • Engine: 2.0 Liter TSI DOHC Turbo 4-Cylinder with Direct Injection
  • Horsepower: 200hp
  • Torque: 207lb./ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $38,685
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, Volkswagen |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S tronic Review

Thursday August 25th, 2016 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S tronic

By David Colman

Hypes: Small, Agile, Beautifully Constructed
Gripes: Top Up Vision Nil

As the 2016 model year draws to a close, you may find some enticing deals on this hard to beat compact convertible from Audi. Our test example carried a window sticker of $50,425. This is a lot of German fun for the money, especially if you can finagle a year end discount. Be aware, however, that the 2017 A3 has already been announced. Its frontal styling is a little crisper than our outgoing 2016 model, and it features more dramatically outlined LED lighting front and rear. The 2017 A3 will also offer Audi’s sensational Virtual Cockpit, which premiered this year on the TT sports roadster. This bit of digital fantasy superimposes Google Earth and Google Street View on the instrument panel directly in front of you.

2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S tronic

Our 2016 A3 made do with a more conventional instrument cluster, featuring a pop-up mid-dash top mounted screen that brings all the prompts together for you to select: Car, Telephone, Audi Connect, Navigation, Media, Radio, Tone. We kept trying to find the Sport Mode under the “Car” umbrella, but failed to do so. After perusing the Owner’s Manual, it became apparent that our particular A3, despite being a “Prestige” equipped model for an added $8,850, lacked the “Audi Drive Select” feature which would have provided a choice of “Comfort, Auto or Sport” settings via a dash button that was blanked off on our test vehicle.

2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S tronic

What you do get for that extra investment in the Prestige model, however, makes the expense well worthwhile. Front seats come heated, exterior mirrors fold away when parked, driver’s side mirror dims automatically, “Mistral” aluminum interior trim decorates dash and doors, S Line trim emboldens exterior surfaces, LED interior lighting shines brightly, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system provides harmonic ecstasy. Although 18 inch alloys are included as part of the Prestige kit, our test Audi sported upgraded 19 inch “5-arm-Wing-design” wheels finished in titanium with edges beveled to shine. These dynamic looking rollers were fitted with 235/35R19 Continental Sport Contact tires with sidewalls so minute that the A3 looked like it was riding on its rims.

To make up for the lack of Audi Drive Select, our A3 was equipped with $250 worth of “Sport Suspension” so you could rightfully consider yourself to be driving in Sport Mode all the time. Also, the A3 permits deletion of Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) by hitting the designated button on the dash. Punching it for one second partially disables ESC and ASR, hitting it for 3 seconds fully disables both traction aids. With Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive powering all four wheels, however, you’re safe to experiment with the handling of this compact sports sedan, even with ESC and ASR temporarily disabled. It’s almost impossible to get the A3 to lose its grip, with or without traction aid engaged. This stubby platform, which measures just 175 inches in length, seems tied to the ground by invisible umbilical cords.

2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S tronic

With its high sides and short windows, the A3 makes for a fairly sepulchral cockpit experience when the roof is up. Especially troubling is the view to the back. The rear window pane, while heated glass, is fairly small. The twin rear seat headrests obscure nearly half your view out the back. Large rear sail panels further reduce three-quarters vision to the point where you will find yourself wholly reliant on the new-for-2016 backup camera and screen display. It’s almost worth dropping the top whenever you need to reverse out of a parking place. The top is a marvel of engineering which takes but 15 seconds to lift or drop. It can also be run at speeds up to 20mph. Just be sure to have the appropriate trunk divider partition in the proper position, or the system won’t work at all. Audi has thoughtfully provided a couple of latches inside the trunk to drop the rear seatbacks. You can then pass bulky objects through from the trunk into the interior. Audi also provides a windblocker for the cockpit which stores flat in the trunk.

2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S tronic

We were never bothered by excessive wind, so the blocker stayed folded in the trunk. You can carry a couple of adults in the tight back seat, but if they stretch more than 5’8”, they won’t have head room with the top erect. They will, however, discover a pair of heater/AC vents facing them on the central tunnel.

2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S tronic

For $50,000 plus, you would expect this Audi to include electric seat and steering wheel adjusters, but the A3 Prestige has neither. Although 170hp and 292hp engines are available for the A3, the 2.0-liter turbo in our test car was more than adequate for cutting through traffic or scorching up back roads. It uses fuel in a miserly fashion, with its 14.2-gallon tank good for a range of nearly 370 miles in combined mode driving. On a sunny day, with the top dropped and the tunes maxed, there isn’t a better car in the universe that this A3 Cabriolet.

2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S tronic

  • Engine: 2.0 liter TFSI turbo in-line four
  • Horsepower: 220hp@4500-6200rpm
  • Torque: 258lb.-ft.@1600-4400rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 23MPG City/32MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $50,425
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Audi, Expert Reviews, Feature Articles |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid LTD Review

Wednesday August 24th, 2016 at 12:88 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid LTD

By David Colman

Hypes: Phenomenal Range, Cosseting Cockpit
Gripes: Insufficient Thrust

If you’re interested in saving 10 percent off the top, consider a Toyota Avalon instead of a Lexus ES300. Both four door luxury sedans derive from the same platform. Select the Hybrid model Avalon, and you’ll pay a base price of $41,950. The same Hybrid in the Lexus line will set you back an extra $4,000. Aside from name plate differentiation, the 2 sedans are virtually identical. Our test Avalon, with $500 extra for a “Safety Sense Package” (Pre-Collision Warning, Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control) still posted a bottom line of just $43,285 (including $835 for Delivery). According to the EPA, the Hybrid Avalon will save you $3,500 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle. This savings accrues from the Hybrid’s exceptional fuel consumption, which posts a combined driving mileage figure of 40 MPG. That is quite an accomplishment for a sedan weighing 3,555 pounds and capable of transporting four adults in well-furnished luxury.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid LTD

However, if I were about to purchase an Avalon, I would not opt for the Hybrid, but rather select the available 3.5 liter V6, which makes 268hp compared to the Hybrid’s 200hp. Even though the electric motor of the Hybrid contributes a side order of torque, the 200hp inline four-cylinder gas engine feels anemic when you crush the throttle. Eventually, the electric boost kicks in, but even so the added thrust is late to the game and never all that strong. The Hybrid requires careful planning for passing maneuvers. To its credit, though, our test Avalon still showed a Range to Empty of 340 miles after a complete week of road testing. With a full 17-gallon fuel tank, you can expect a cruising range close to 680 miles if you run right into the reserve. When we first climbed aboard the Hybrid, the Range to Empty prediction showed 580 miles. Either way, this Avalon will cover a lot of road without much gas.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid LTD

There’s little to carp about concerning the cockpit amenities of the Avalon. Both front and rear seats are fitted with perforated leather which breathes well and looks great. The front seats feature heat and ventilation devices, while the rears offer heat only. There’s a nice console for rear seat occupants that contains heating and AC controls, plus a utility socket for plugging in portable devices. There’s even a retractable rear window sun screen that confers instant dignitary status on rear seat occupants when erect.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid LTD

Up front, vision is excellent in all directions thanks to tall side windows. A small sunroof is standard fitment, and thankfully, Toyota has provided large, easily grasped knobs for radio volume and station choice. The included 11 speaker JBL system provides Toyota’s “Entune” app suite as well as a navigation program. There are plenty of oddment storage compartments, which help keep the cockpit neat. At the front end of the center console lies a stealthy looking retractable door covering a “utility box” containing an SD card slot, another plug in receptacle, and a wireless charging pad for your phone. The pad is monitored by green and amber lights which keep you informed of usability status. The dash above this utility box contains a smallish 7-inch touch screen which proved difficult to read when flooded with daylight. The finger touch slide for the fan is easy to use, but like the digital right and left controls for temperature, each change of position generates an irritating beep of confirmation.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid LTD

Over the years, Toyota has run the gamut on the suspension calibration of the Avalon. The original sedan handled like a tuna boat in heavy seas. When they reissued the model as a pukka sporting sedan last year, the general consensus was that the platform was too stiff and unyielding. The 2016 version covers all the handling and performance bases, with 3 settings available from buttons on the center console reading “EV Mode, Eco Mode and Sport.” According to the Owner’s Manual, the Sport setting “assists acceleration response” and is to be used “when precise handling is desirable.” We left the setting in Sport for our week with the Avalon, although we never felt particularly sporty driving this large sedan. That’s partially attributable to the meager grip afforded by the undersized (215/55R17) Michelin MXV4 Primacy tires. But if you’re in the market for a Hybrid Avalon, you’re probably not comparing it to a BMW. Rather you’re looking for an economic and comfortable family car. This one gives you the attributes of a Lexus at the price of a Toyota.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid LTD

  • Engine: 2.5-liter inline 4 plus electric motor
  • Horsepower: 200hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 40 MPG CITY/39 MPG HIGHWAY
  • Price as Tested: $43,285
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

Posted in Expert Reviews, Feature Articles, hybrid, Toyota |Tags:, , , || No Comments »


« Previous Entries



Latest Reviews



Select a Category