Valerie Menard

Valerie Menard is a freelance writer and published author with 16 years of reporting about the auto industry for Latino publications.

May 232017
 

 

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (Volkswagen) is recalling certain 2017 Audi Q5 vehicles. Due to a manufacturing defect within the gearbox, despite selecting the Park position, the vehicle may still unexpectedly roll, if the parking brake is not applied, increasing the risk of a crash.

Audi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the gearbox in the affected vehicles, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in May 2017. Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen’s number for this recall is 37K6.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

May 202017
 

More than 25,000 Chevrolet owners route directly to Spanish-speaking advisors when they push the blue button.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Chevrolet owners are expected to use OnStar’s Spanish-speaking advisor team more in 2017 than any previous year. OnStar has provided Chevrolet owners with a dedicated Spanish language team for more than 10 years to help with everything from directions to emergency services. Last year, more than 1,000 Spanish-speaking Chevrolet drivers pushed the blue OnStar button in the United States every single day, an increase of 30 percent from 2013. Chevrolet already has seen nearly 100,000 blue button presses in the first quarter of 2017 and expects these numbers will continue to climb in 2017.

Spanish-speaking OnStar advisors speak to drivers in all 50 states, with the highest volume of calls from Texas, California, Florida, Illinois and Arizona.

“We understand that not all Chevrolet owners speak English fluently or at all, but we didn’t want that to be an obstacle in providing them with the same service we offer all OnStar customers,” said Terry Inch, executive director of GM’s Global Connected Customer Experience. “As a result, OnStar has a dedicated team of advisors who can help Spanish-speaking customers keep safe, connected and ready for the road ahead.”

Chevrolet owners can have their OnStar requests routed to a Spanish-speaking advisor if they prefer. More than 25,000 Chevrolet owners are currently routed directly to OnStar’s Spanish-speaking advisors when they push the blue button. There are two ways to sign up for Spanish-language assistance. Chevrolet owners can ask a dealer to enroll them at the time of purchase by pressing the blue OnStar button, prompting a welcome call. During that call, the new owner can request that all future blue button presses route straight to the Spanish team. Existing Chevrolet owners with an active OnStar account can also press the blue button and make the request to transfer to a Spanish-speaking advisor on a case-by-case basis or automatically for every call.

“Across the board, our data tells us that Spanish-speaking customers are well-informed when it comes to in-vehicle technology,” Inch said. “In addition to using OnStar core services, we’ve seen that Spanish-speaking customers are likely to use the myChevrolet mobile app to remote start their vehicles, lock their cars and even check their vehicle’s diagnostics.”

The OnStar Basic Plan is available for five years at no charge on all new Chevrolet vehicles. Any Chevrolet owner with a 2011 or newer equipped vehicle can also receive three free years of the Basic Plan by hitting the blue OnStar button and asking for “Three Years on Us.” The Basic Plan includes access to select features in the myChevrolet mobile app, Dealer Maintenance Notification and Advanced Diagnostics.

May 152017
 

Acura recently unveiled a 2018 redesign of the Acura TLX at the New York International Auto Show, but the 2017 version still has life in it and Latino Traffic Report recently took the TLX 3.5L Advance for a ride.

The five-passenger TLX offers a sports-sedan blend delivering athleticism and premium refinement. Looking better than it has for a while, its signature Jewel Eye LED headlights, standard on all models, set it apart, while offering excellent illumination. LED lighting can also be found on the taillights, above the license plate and as accents on the side mirrors.

Powered by two high-output direct-injected i-VTEC engines, the test model came with the 3.5-liter V6 with Variable Cylinder Management. It was matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission, one of two available transmissions. It was also equipped with one the latest iterations of Acura precision-handling technologies—Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS)—and paddle shifters for added sportiness. A 2.4-liter four cylinder engine, an eight-speed Dual Clutch transmission, and Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive are also available.

While the four-cylinder offers the best fuel economy, the TLX with the 3.5-liter V6 with P-AWS has an EPA fuel-economy rating of 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. I averaged 34.2 mpg overall, but on the highway, the average mpg reached 36. Like it’s siblings,

Electronic Gear Selector

the TLX lacks a shift knob and utilizes push buttons, or an electronic gear selector, in the center console instead, which can be a little unnerving, i.e. you don’t want to push the wrong button at the wrong time. The test model also included the Integrated Dynamic System with Econ, Normal, Sport, and Sport S drive modes. The Sport S mode really revved its performance with added power and tightened handling.

When you step up from a Honda to an Acura, you might expect a little more bells and whistles. You can get ’em, but at a price. TLX models with the 2.4-liter engine can be upgraded to the Technology package and models with the 3.5-liter engine can add Technology or the line-topping Advance Package. Both were included on the test model. The Technology package brought essential features like blind spot information, forward collision warning, and a rear cross traffic monitor, as well as convenience features like perforated leather seating, navigation with voice recognition, the AcuraLink communication system, and Acura ELS Studio premium audio.

The Advance package added Collision Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, ventilated front seats, and front and rear parking sensors, among other features.

All TLX models come equipped with Siri Eyes Free technology that allows the driver to use the features of Siri using familiar voice commands, when paired with a compatible iPhone. Other standard features include the multi-view rear camera, cruise control, Multi-information Display, USB Audio Interface with iPod Integration, Bluetooth streaming audio, keyless access, heated leatherette front seats, and a 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback. Oddly, Bluetooth Hands-Free Wireless telephone is not standard.

Pricing for the 2017 TLX starts at $32,950. The as-tested price came to $43, 540.

: The 2017 TLX Advance offered a sporty ride with a big list of features.

No: Some of the available features should be standard, e.g. blind spot monitor, Bluetooth telephone.

May 102017
 

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, but the way in which states and parents regulate teen behavior can have a huge impact. Latino Traffic Report has learned that a new analysis by CarInsurance.com found safe driving environments for teens vary greatly by state, with Maryland and New York ranking among the safest.

In contrast, Montana and North Dakota have the most dangerous driving environments for teens.

The safest states for teen drivers are:

  1. Maryland
  2. New York
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. Connecticut
  5. Massachusetts

The most dangerous states for teen drivers are:

  1. Montana
  2. North Dakota
  3. Kansas
  4. Wyoming
  5. Alabama

This is the second year that CarInsurance.com performed this analysis. Maryland and Massachusetts are the only states from last year’s top three to again make the top three this year (Massachusetts and Alaska were first and third respectively last year).

Montana and North Dakota are again the bottom two states this year. Last year, Louisiana joined them as third from the bottom.

To identify the best and worst states for teen drivers, CarInsurance.com analyzed five teen-driving metrics:

  • Number of teen driver fatalities per 100,000 population
  • Effectiveness of Graduated Driving License (GDL) components
  • Teen drinking and driving rates
  • Teen emailing/texting and driving rates
  • Average annual insurance costs for teen drivers

Results this year compared to last year

New winner this year:

  • Maryland topped our list this year as the safest state for teen drivers, after finishing second last year.
  • The state had a low number of teen-related fatal accidents in 2015 (.3 per 100,000 residents) and has some of the strongest GDL laws in the country.
  • The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System results on driving and drinking or texting were the major differences this year

Why last’s years No. 1 fell in rankings:

  • Last year’s safest state, Massachusetts, dropped to fifth place this year. The Bay State continued having one of the lowest teen-related fatal accident rate and strong GDL laws, which helped it to edge out California and Virginia for the No. 5 rank.
  • Massachusetts survey numbers were worse than Maryland’s, which contributed to Massachusetts dropping from the top spot.

The losers stay the same:

  • On the other side, Montana and North Dakota remained in the bottom two spots.
  • Both states had a high per capita number of fatal accidents involving teens, lacked strong GDL provisions, and experienced poor teen survey results for drinking while driving and texting while driving.

To get complete rankings, see how states fared on individual metrics and to read our methodology, view the full story “Teen driving safety: Least and most dangerous states.”

Apr 292017
 

Over the decades, the convertible has stood the test of time, sustained by an over-the-top fun factor. Volkswagen continues to grow its convertible offerings with more topless versions of the Beetle. Latino Traffic Report recently embarked on a windy adventure in the 2017 Beetle 1.8T Dune Convertible.

The Dune’s peppy 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TSI engine hails from Silao, Mexico. It produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb.–ft. of torque, and should earn an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 35.6 mpg on the test drive. It’s matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Sadly, no manual transmission is available.

The test model came in the most striking of three available shades, Sandstorm Yellow, but subtle design cues also differentiate the Dune from its siblings. It has new front and rear fascias and black wheel arches, plus it rides a little higher and sits a little wider. The bumper adds s a large central air intake and on either side, two black honeycomb vents contain the foglights. It sits on 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and has “Dune” graphics displayed on both doors. At the back, the Dune sports a large rear spoiler, standard LED taillights, and a new bumper design. In other words, it’s a head turner.

It’s most distinctive feature, however, is the black canvas top that drops with the push of a button and while at a speed of up to 31 miles per hour. According to VW, it should take 9.5 seconds but on my count, it took seven.

Inside, the attention to detail continues with contrasting “Curry” yellow stitching on the sport seats and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, unique to the Sandstorm Yellow exterior color. Additionally, the test model featured body color upper door trims and dashpads, The Pure White and Deep Black Pearl vehicles will have piano black door and dashpad trim.

Standard entertainment features include the Composition Media infotainment system with a 6.3-inch screen and a capacitive touch sensor and a proximity sensor that detects when a hand is nearby and automatically switches its display. Volkswagen Car-Net App-Connect, USB and Bluetooth connectivity for compatible devices and an AM/FM/HD radio with SiriusXM Satellite radio, and a CD player are included

Safety features take on a unique focus due to the convertible’s body style. On the Dune, its reinforced front roof crossmember, strengthened A-pillar, and the Automatic Rollover Support System should add confidence. In the event of a crash, two rollover bars, concealed behind the rear bench seat back, will deploy. Additional standard safety features on the test model included a rearview camera and the Park Distance Control (ParkPilot) system, Automatic Post-Collision Braking system, and Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System. A blind spot monitor was not available.

Pricing for the 2017 VW Dune starts at $30,215. With no added packages on the test model, the as-tested pricing matched the starting price.

Sí: The Dune stands out in a crowd and fulfills the thrills of topless driving.

No: At this price point, a blind-spot monitor or navigation should be included, much less available.

Apr 162017
 

2012 Kia Optima

2014 Kia Sorento

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Kia Motor Company (Kia) is recalling certain 2011-2014 Optima, 2012-2014 Sorento and 2011-2013 Sportage vehicles. Machining errors during the engine manufacturing process may cause premature bearing wear within the engine.

Bearing wear may result in the engine seizing, increasing the risk of a crash.

Kia will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the engine assembly, and replace the engine if necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin May 25, 2017. Owners may contact Kia customer service at 1-800-333-4542. Kia’s number for this recall is SC147.

2013 Kia Sportage

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Apr 032017
 

 

Torrance, Calif. (March 31, 2017) – Los Angeles is known for a combination of tried-and-true Mexican restaurants, as well some novel, haute cuisine drawing its inspiration from South of the Border.

For one night only this week, Angelenos had the opportunity to buy elevated Mexican food at its finest—a $17,051 enchilada. Well, maybe not really. Instead, Toyota partnered with Trejo’s Tacos, the restaurant hot spot by Actor Danny Trejo, to sell the “enchilada con YarisiA” for $17,051, featuring an enchilada that comes with a 2017 Yaris iA.

Actor and restaurateur Danny Trejo.

The event, which offered $1 enchiladas, helped spread the word about the YarisiA, a vehicle that comes with pretty much everything standard, including a seven-inch touch screen, push button start, steering wheel controls, 16-in alloy wheels and remote keyless entry.

There are no packages needed—it really is the whole enchilada.

“When Toyota asked me to host the event at Trejo’s Tacos, I thought it would be a great way to have fun with all our fans, customers, and the people of LA,” said Trejo.

The event supported a digital campaign that will be in flight through May 31—‘The Full Package’ highlights the Yaris iA, which comes fully loaded with standard features, eschewing the traditional upsell mentality of additional packages.

As an alternative for those who really crave a package with their new Yaris iA, Toyota has created a cheeky range of fun, delicious, and somewhat impractical add-ons to choose from.

To view packages, which can only be purchased by new YarisiA owners, click on the below links:

The Full Trim Package
The Thank You Package
The Whole Enchilada Package
The Self Driving Package 
The Min-iA-ture Package 
The Nature Package
The Deluxe Package
The Convertible Package
The +1 Follower Package
The Great Outdoors Package 
The Collector’s Edition Package
The Memes Package

Mar 282017
 

Honda had a brilliant start to the 2017 Moto3 Word Championship, taking the top five places at the end of a typically thrilling multi-rider battle. The top eight finishers passed the checkered flag separated by less than nine tenths of a second! Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V, #93) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) finished tonight’s season-opening Qatar Grand Prix in fourth and fifth positions, just four tenths of a second apart at the finish line.

The race started 45 minutes later after the freakish desert weather that has dominated much of this weekend threatened to soak the track once again. A brief shower as riders lined up on the grid caused the nerve-wracking delay, but in the end none of that mattered as the world’s greatest riders laid on a battle royal under the floodlights. Then, as riders returned to their pits after the race, the heavens properly opened.

Marc Marquez

Reigning World Champion Marquez started the race from the front row of the grid but he never expected an easy race, because this is not one of his favorite racetracks. The night’s tricky conditions complicated matters further, with the track surface cooling rapidly and dew forming in some areas.

“I think we worked well over the weekend, and we had everything clear for today,” Marquez shared.  “Our plan was to use the harder front compound, but the chaotic situation with the rain and the continuous delays created many doubts. In the end we decided to go with the medium front, aiming to reduce the risk of crashing, but this turned out to be our biggest mistake of the weekend.”

The 24-year-old Spaniard was in the lead group from the very beginning, chasing early leader and rookie Johann Zarco (Yamaha), who crashed out after-one third distance, highlighting the delicate grip situation. In the later stages Marquez slipped back a few seconds to finish fourth, six seconds behind winner Maverick Vinales (Yamaha).

His issue was the cooling conditions that prompted him to change his front tire on the grid, from the usual hard compound to the medium compound, in the hope that this tire would retain its temperature more efficiently in the cool conditions. In fact Marquez used up

Dani Pedrosa

much of the tire’s performance in the first few laps, which meant he could not maintain his usual hard-charging style in the later laps.

“We were aware that we struggle a bit at this track, but as always we kept a positive attitude, as we also knew that if everything was in place, we could have fought for the podium or even the victory,” said Marquez.

Pedrosa had a great race, fighting his way through from the third row of the grid to move forward as the shortened 20-lap race went on. The 31-year-old former 125cc and 250cc World Champion also used the medium front and was happy with his performance at a track that has never been really kind to him. Like all the other riders, the Spaniard did superbly to maintain his focus in the run-up to the race, despite the delays.

In the final laps the main interest focused on Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) who showed a fine turn of speed. After getting the better of Morbidelli’s team-mate Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) the Portuguese closed the gap on Nakagami, but wasn’t quite close enough to attack on the final lap. Marquez finished a strong fifth, well clear of Luca Marini (Forward Team Kalex), who got to the checkered flag just two tenths ahead of impressive Moto2 rookie Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40 Kalex).

The MotoGP circus leaves Qatar tomorrow, making its way to Argentina for the second round of the 2017 MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 World Championships on April 9.

Mar 202017
 

Riding the wave of growing sport utility vehicle (SUV) sales, the premium SUV segment reported an increase in sales year to date by five percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. The segment is not the largest, but when you drop an average of $60K on a premium SUV, be prepared for lots of bells and whistles.

Latino Traffic Report recently drove the all-new 2017 Audi Q7 for a weeklong test drive. Its premium appointments inside stood out, but not all were standard and the extras did cost a pretty penny.

What sets an Audi apart in the segment is its performance heritage. The Q7 gets its power from a 3.0-liter V6 with 333 horses and 325 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission—hence the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. It’s also equipped with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system.

The EPA expected fuel economy is 19 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. I averaged 21.1 mpg.

Like most premium SUVs, the Q7 adheres to expectations, with plush leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a singular infotainment system, MMI—Audi’s is less intuitive than others, but I did like that it allowed for 48 different radio presets.

The test model also included red, white, and blue, interior lighting accent strips, a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled seats in the front, and a power liftgate. What really distinguished Audi’s interior, besides the fit and finish, were features like a pop-up display above the center stack that displays navigation maps and other functions. With seating for seven, it has a convenient button to release the third-row bench to fold flat. The second row, was not automatic and therefore, a little less easy to deploy.

Unique safety features like  Audi pre-sense basic and pre-sense plus that help detect and mitigate a potential collision, were also included.As mentioned earlier, additional creature comforts came at a price.

The Prestige Package ($9,500) added 20-inch ten spoke wheels, the Bose 3D surround sound stereo system, navigation, and a heads up display on the windshield, Audi Connect Prime and Plus, Audi Connect Care, and my favorite safety features, a blind spot monitor and rear parking sensor. For $4,000, the Q7 amped up its ride and handling with an Adaptive Chassis Package that included air suspension and four-wheel steering. The Driver Assistance Package ($2,400) added adaptive cruise control, another of my favorite features, active lane assist, and traffic sign recognition. Finally, the Cold Weather Package ($500) included a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.

Redesigned for 2017, the second-generation Q7 has a starting price of $55,750.The as-tested price came to $72,875.

 

Sí: The Audi Q7 lives up to its premium brand with sophisticated design, inside and out.

No: Upgrades to the Q7 can add up quickly.

Mar 172017
 

2017 Fiat 500X Trekking

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling certain 2017 Fiat 500X vehicles. When the vehicle has a tire with low tire pressure, the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warning light may not illuminate. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 138, “Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems.”

Driving a vehicle with an underinflated tire may result in tire failure and increase the risk of a crash.

2017 Fiat 500X

Fiat will notify owners and dealers will update the instrument panel software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 21, 2017. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall is T16.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.