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Posts Tagged ‘AWD’

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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2013 NAIAS: 2014 Lexus IS

January 17th, 2013 No comments

     The Lexus IS has been languishing for a while and has recently found itself a tad smaller than the class average set by cars like the BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS and Mercedes C-Class. Of course the simple fix is to increase the dimensions while improving the packaging, and that’s exactly what Lexus has done with the 2014 IS. A very significant 3 inches of additional rear seat legroom will improve the sedan’s usability while the great 8-speed automatic from the IS F now trickles down to improve the IS’s performance. Both 2.5-liter and 3.5-liter V6 engines will power the IS and the styling will be sure to turn a few heads. We can handle just about everything including the most extreme variation of the new corporate grille we’ve yet seen, but the two piece headlamps are going to take a while to adjust to. At least they look way cool when illuminated. We’ll be lamenting the lack of a manual transmission, but an IS F Sport is now available and places a big emphasis on rewarding handling so we’d be willing to bet a drive of that will help ease the pain. Lexus is prepping the 2014 IS for a summer on-sale date. Read more…

2013 NAIAS: 2014 Acura MDX Prototype

January 15th, 2013 No comments

     Because the NSX remains two years away, Acura used the rest of its NAIAS time to show the assembled press the 2014 MDX Prototype that strongly hints at the production version which will get its own debut soon. Like springtime soon. Which means basically everything you see here will be available in showrooms later this year. This prototype did not have an interior so we can’t comment on that but the MDX remains powered by the 3.5-liter V6 but should get a bump in the power ratings. Super Handling All Wheel Drive will be offered but a front wheel drive MDX will now be available for those in warm climates. A longer wheelbase will allow for more second row legroom and improve ride quality. We like the handsome, refined lines of the new look and we’ll be sure to bring you the full report when we drive the production MDX later this year. Read more…

2013 NAIAS: Acura NSX Concept

January 15th, 2013 No comments

      Acura more or less stole the show last year with the debut of the NSX Concept and the news that it would be developed and built right here in America. To keep that excitement alive they used this year’s show to roll out an updated NSX Concept to curious journalists wondering how the road to production is treating the original Japanese supercar. From what we saw, it’s off to a great start. The exterior changes are mild and mostly for aero management and cooling purposes, but the biggest news was the proposed interior in this concept that previews one possible configuration for the production NSX. However, Acura was clear that this is only a proposal and not an approved design, since the production NSX still has two years of development left. Hopefully the wheels don’t reach production since they play some strange optical tricks on the eye. We like our wheels to look round, thank you very much. 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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Video: 2012 BMW X3 xDrive 28i Preview

March 13th, 2012 No comments

      Spring has sprung and just as the last traces of snow disappeared from the landscape BMW handed us the keys to a 2012 Alpine White BMW X3 xDrive 28i. No matter, because even without snow there is still plenty of fun to be had testing the X3’s new 8-speed automatic transmission mated to that wonderful 3.0-liter inline-six engine.

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First Drive: 2012 Honda CR-V

November 16th, 2011 No comments

The “Perfect Size” Crossover Wants Its Sales Crown Back

     Of all the vehicles in need of a redesign Honda’s CR-V isn’t one of them. The current generation of the entry-level crossover went on sale as a 2007 model and won the sales crown for its class every year through 2010, averaging about 200,000 sales per year. The streak would most likely be in place this year had Mother Nature not put on a shocking show of force first with the earthquake in Japan and then devastating floods in Thailand. Honda says it has lost more than 200,000 units of production for the U.S., including significant shortages of the ever-popular CR-V, which spelled an end to the little crossover’s sales reign. But despite the vehicle’s continued popularity anyone who knows Honda knows they plan five year lifecycles for their vehicles, which means we should see an all-new CR-V for 2012. And despite the aforementioned significant supplier and R&D interruptions, come December 15th, we will. After a day spent with the Honda team learning everything there is to know about the new CR-V one thing is clear: they want their sales crown back. Read more…

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Video Review: 2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT

June 21st, 2011 No comments

      Watch as Gernand takes a rally car out on the track for a couple of hot laps. Well, sort of. When we say “hot” we mean the mercury in the thermometer was pegged, and when we say “rally”, well, he drove a Subaru Legacy 2.5GT. So really, he took a family sedan out for a rather sedate spin. We’re blaming the boost gauge for our delusions of rally grandeur! Read more…

2011 Nissan Murano SL AWD

May 27th, 2011 No comments

Nissan Manages to Offer up an Unconventionally Styled Conventional Crossover

      A few years back I found myself earning a living after answering a job posting at a local car rental agency with the unglamorous description of ‘Lot Attendant’.  As the lowly lot attendant I found myself vacuuming and washing battered and abused rental cars, completing vehicle inspections of those poor cars, towing them to and from remote locations using a tired F-150 of indeterminate vintage with an auto dolly and shuttling customers to and from dealerships while their cars were in service. It was the dealership customers that seemed to be the most interesting, as they often shared a story of their once-loved purchase. The most amazing stories reliably came from our Nissan Murano customers. It seemed that this early entry in the crossover craze was also one of the first larger vehicles to offer a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the US. So problematic was the transmission that one customer posted a “for sale” sign of his Murano in our office hoping to offload the vehicle onto one of our customers dulled by a sense of mediocrity after turning in their rental Chevy Classic. On more than one occasion I witnessed a problematic Murano in the service department with entire engine and transmission removed as the mechanics searched for a solution. It should come as no surprise, then, that I wasn’t expecting much when an all-wheel-drive 2011 Murano SL showed up in the Automotive Trends garage. Would this vehicle’s unloved CVT and bizarre styling draw further criticism, or, like the Mazda CX-7 we drove last year, surprise by exceeding expectations? Read more…

2011 Audi Q5

April 4th, 2011 No comments

Value and Style In a Right Size Package

     There is no shortage of luxury crossovers. From Lincoln to Lexus any self-respecting automaker with their head in the game is trying their darnedest to combine luxury sedan dynamics with “I’m not a wagon” styling. Audi got into the midsize crossover game in 2009 with the Q5 and we liked what we saw. Apparently consumers did too since the Q5 is now Audi’s second bestselling vehicle behind the ubiquitous A4. Lately we’ve driven our fair share of these oh so vogue vehicles including the Lexus RX and the Cadillac SRX and decided to take a closer look at Audi’s offering. We were secretly hoping we’d get to plant our curious keisters in the newly available for 2011 2.0-liter turbo and 8-speed automatic model, but because beggars can’t be choosers we didn’t complain when Audi delivered a V6-powered Q5 for our evaluation. Read more…