Posts Tagged ‘2013’

Video Review: 2013 Audi S4

March 16th, 2013 No comments

      Roll the calendar back a handful of years and the Audi S4 used to be a bonafide sport sedan with a boisterous 4.2-liter V8 making 340 hp that put it well above its contemporaries in power and performance.  We’re a bit disappointed to report that in 2010 Audi retired the V8 in favor of a mildly tuned 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that achieves only 333 hp. During the same period progress has brought the class average up significantly with today’s competition like the Cadillac ATS offering 321 hp and the Infiniti G37 offering 328 hp from their naturally aspirated V6s. So does the S4 still feel like a special sport sedan? We’d argue that by today’s standards it’d probably take more like 400 hp to achieve that distinction. What it does feel like is a great top trim in the A4 lineup for customers who want a bit more juice than the 2.0-liter turbo four offers. Regardless, we like the S4 because it still offers a pleasing 6-speed manual, supportive sport seats, Audi’s customizable Drive Select system and, of course, all-wheel drive traction for year round fun that makes the S4 a great partner for those of us in the Motor City. And we like the price range of $48k-$54k that keeps the S4 feeling like a bit of a value. What Audi needs to work on is the lifeless steering, bland interior design and getting that supercharger to pay a few more dividends in the power ratings. If they can do that and maintain price the S4 would be back to sport sedan status faster than you can say, “What V8?!”. Read more…

First Drive: 2013 Toyota RAV4

March 5th, 2013 No comments

The Crossover that Created the Segment Enters 2013 Better than Ever

If you’re not a fan of the crossovers that today fill every soccer field parking lot and school unloading zone, you can direct your displeasure squarely at Toyota. The company created the segment back in the mid-90’s when the car-based RAV4 burst onto the scene with a spare tire hanging off the back and a promise to ride and drive more civilized than any other SUV of the time. Since then, the little people mover has expanded to dealerships in more than 150 countries and found more than 171,000 buyers in the US last year. But competition in the segment is relentless with major players releasing all-new or significantly improved offerings in the last year, including the Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V. While developing its all-new 2013 model Toyota is also taking the opportunity to bring this 4th Generation RAV4 back to its roots after watching the model expand away from its core to offer a third row of seats and a V6 engine option that clearly trespassed on the Highlander’s turf. We recently flew to Arizona to drive the new RAV4 and came away impressed with the value Toyota is offering in the crossover that started it all.

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Video Review: 2013 Scion FR-S

March 4th, 2013 No comments

      It isn’t everyday that we use the latest out of Toyota to provide a benchmark for a vehicle class, but we’re going to go ahead and say it’s safe to declare that is exactly what we’re doing with the Scion FR-S. The Subaru and Toyota tie-up has yielded a car that far exceeds all expectations. Greater than the sum of its parts you might say, the Scion FR-S (and its sister cars: the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86 [not sold in the US]) has stolen the torch away from Mazda and its Miata as the bar to which affordable driving fun is measured. Read more…

First Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon

December 10th, 2012 No comments


Going Places

      I think we can all agree that the last iteration of the Toyota Avalon was in need of a double dose of espresso. So when I was invited recently to drive the all-new 2013 Avalon, my first thought was to caffeine up before I settled behind the wheel. What I expected to be little more than weak coffee turned out to be more like a caffe vanilla Frappuccino. Let me explain. Read more…

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2013 Toyota Avalon Design Critique

November 19th, 2012 No comments


      The Toyota Avalon has been with us for much longer than seems possible. When it debuted as a 1995 model, it was credited with being ‘Toyota’s Buick.’ Whether that was intended as an insult or a compliment depends on how you felt about Buicks at the time, but we’ll speculate those making the assessment weren’t referring to the LT1 V8-powered Roadmaster, but rather the somewhat smaller LeSabre or even the 13-year old Century. In any case, the Avalon has continued to be a plusher, larger, softer variation of the Camry. Like the Camry, the Avalon has remained fairly anonymous. Indeed, its styling was likely created with the intent of being used as a template for the ‘anycars’ used in various automotive supply advertisements.  Read more…

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First Drive: 2013 Lexus LS

October 22nd, 2012 No comments

Comfort is King in the Redesigned Lexus Flagship

     Since its debut in 1989 the Lexus LS has emphasized comfort over everything else. Through the relentless pursuit of perfection engineers have been on a never ending quest to eradicate every hint of noise, vibration and harshness no matter how seemingly insignificant. If you want to truly understand the phrase “detail obsessed” lock yourself in a room with the LS’s chief engineer for an afternoon. The flagship’s reputation has been built upon its unmatched ability to isolate passengers from the harsh and hectic world and the thoroughly refreshed 2013 model intends to move that reputation to the next level. And having already established a lead in the luxury hybrid market with the range-topping LS 600h L Lexus engineers are taking this opportunity to get in the sport-minded market by adding a new F Sport trim to the LS lineup. Lexus recently invited us to sample the LS family and when we weren’t reclined in the massaging back seat pretending to be a business titan we made some observations you might be interested in. Read more…

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2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco

September 8th, 2012 No comments

2013 Chevrolet Malibu ECO

 Rental Car No More

     Several years ago, 2004 to be precise, GM began to unload the original front wheel drive Chevrolet Malibu as a rental car by stripping it of its Malibu nameplates and slapping the vague Classic lettering on the deck lid. Having worked as a rental car lot attendant, I can attest that this car was the backbone of the rental car world. Unfortunately, its reliability and non-descript styling were its best points. It seemed Chevrolet had decided to join the Japanese in offering a forgettable midsize sedan except every facet was executed with mediocrity resulting in unsupportive seats, carpet that separated from its rocker sills and a completely lifeless driving experience. The revised 2004 Malibu that went to retail customers rather than fleets was hardly an improvement with its numb electrically assisted steering. If the outgoing Malibu/Classic’s styling could be described as vanilla, its replacement was nothing more than French Vanilla. GM finally stepped up to the plate with the well-received all-new Malibu for 2007. Five model years have passed, and though it was hardly looking old, GM realized that a timely replacement would be necessary to maintain the Malibu’s newfound competitiveness.  Read more…

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First Drives: Hyundai Veloster Turbo, Elantra GT and Elantra Coupe

July 17th, 2012 No comments

We Sample Two New Elantras and the Turbocharged Veloster 

     We can use a lot of words to describe Hyundai but lazy isn’t one of them. Their showrooms are filled with one of the freshest lineups in the industry and that’s a big reason they are on track for another record sales year. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter which metric you choose—fleet fuel efficiency, incentive levels, transaction prices, day supply—Hyundai is in stellar operational shape.  Without a doubt their biggest challenge is meeting demand with the serious production constraints they face. But that hasn’t stopped Hyundai from developing new product and continuing to flesh out their lineup. We recently spent a day with President and CEO John Krafcik as he showed off three new additions to existing model ranges at Michigan International Speedway. Read more…

First Drive: 2013 Scion FR-S

May 15th, 2012 No comments

Enthusiasts Rejoice!

     We’d like to thank Akio Toyoda. Without him we wouldn’t be writing this review because the Scion FR-S, and for that matter the Subaru BRZ, wouldn’t exist. And having just returned from flogging the budget minded Scion-badged sports car around the track and across the desert we know better than most that enthusiasts will be lining up to shake Mr. Toyoda’s hand once the FR-S goes on sale this summer. As the story goes, about five years ago Mr. Toyoda—a driving enthusiast himself—noticed that his company no longer offered an affordable sports car in the image of the AE86 Corolla GT-S. About that time Toyota found itself with an increased equity stake in Subaru and decided to give a passionate team from both companies the goal of righting that wrong. The target was a small, affordable, lightweight sports car with rewarding handling as its defining characteristic. In the summer of 2009 the joint effort was approved and now three years later driving enthusiasts have a very compelling new reason to part with $25,000. Read more…

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First Drive: 2013 Acura ILX and RDX

April 23rd, 2012 No comments

Reinvigorating Acura From the Bottom Up

     It’s no secret the last few years haven’t been the highlights of Acura’s 25 year history. Some of the trouble was self-inflicted—we’re looking at you 2009 TL—and some of it was economic meltdown and Mother Nature’s wrath, but Acura is planning to meet aggressive sales targets during the next few years by reinvigorating their lineup from the bottom up. The plan starts with winning in two of the highest anticipated growth segments during the next five years with the all-new ILX entering the Near Premium sedan segment and the redesigned RDX contesting the Entry Premium crossover segment. We were recently invited to sample the new entry points to the Acura brand and we’re now far more confident that Acura’s projected 45% sales increase this year is within reach. Read more…

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