Valerie Menard

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

Jan 192018
 

With the majestic Colorado Rockies as a backdrop, Volkswagen launched the second generation of its popular compact sport utility vehicle (SUV), the 2018 Tiguan. Latino Traffic Report attended the event in Denver, Colorado, where the Tiguan tackled the terrain and the altitude.

On the outside, the all-new Tiguan shares several design cues with its larger sibling, the 2018 Atlas, namely, the grille, headlamps, and taillights.

Powered by an updated 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged TSI engine, with 184 horsepower and 221 lb.–ft. of torque, and matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the compact SUV should gain an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Tiguans equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD) will earn just one mpg less in the city. At the launch, I averaged 26.1 mpg in the SEL Premium AWD. The 2.0-liter turbo did struggle on inclines and there was some turbo lag. Of course, the elevation certainly didn’t help.

Active Control, a unique feature with 4Motion, also allows more intrepid drivers to chose among four driving modes—On-road, Snow, Off-road, and Custom Off-road. To fine tune the On-road experience further, four additional modes—Normal, Sport, Eco, and Custom—can be engaged with the push of a button. Along curvy mountain climbs and descents, I tested the Sport mode. It improved handling via tighter steering but didn’t offer a noticeable increase in power.

The new Tiguan tackles the versatility challenge by adding 10.6 inches in length, giving it up to 58 percent more cargo space than the current model. It also includes a 50/50 split third row third-row seat, suitable for children, on entry-level trims with front-wheel drive (FWD) and makes it available on models with VW 4Motion AWD technology. The 40/20/40 split second-row bench can recline and slide seven inches fore and aft. Both rows fold down to create a maximum of 65.7 cubic feet of cargo room.

With four available trim levels, S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium, there’s quite a gap between standard features from the base to the top-of-the-line model, amounting to a difference in value of more than $10,000.

On the outside, the base has halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, foglights with a cornering function, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn-signal indicators, and 17-inch wheels. By comparison, the SEL Premium comes with 19-inch wheels, LED headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System, rain-sensing wipers, and power-folding exterior mirrors with puddle lights. For added convenience, the SEL Premium also includes the foot-activated, hands-free Easy Open power liftgate.

Standard cloth seats in the all-new Tiguan

Standard safety features on all models include a rearview camera and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, unique to VW. The Premium SEL adds an overhead view camera, Active Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Park Distance Control among other features.

Standard creature comforts include a multi-function steering wheel, cloth seats with a nice quilted pattern, cruise control, a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen with AM/FM radio and one USB port, Bluetooth, VW Car-Net App-Connect, and the MIB II infotainment system.

The SEL Premium adds a panoramic sunroof, an eight-inch touchscreen, heated leather seats and steering wheel, two more USB ports, a power driver’s seat with memory, keyless start, and the Fender premium audio system.

With a bolder design on the outside, the 2018 Tiguan bears the new face of VW, but it also improves on essentials with more room and technology.

Pricing for the 2018 Tiguan starts at $25,495 and $37,150 for the SEL Premium.

 

Jan 152018
 

Henio Arcangeli, senior vice president of the Automobile Division of American Honda Motor Co., accepts the award for 2018 North American Car of the Year for the Honda Accord at the 2018 North American International Auto Show on 1/15/18.

DETROIT (January 15, 2018) – Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has learned that the Honda Accord, Volvo XC60, and Lincoln Navigator were crowned as the winners of the 2018 North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards today at the North American International Auto Show.

The awards are among the most prestigious in the industry because they are chosen by a panel of more than 60 jurors from print, online and broadcast media across the United States and Canada. Votes were tallied confidentially by Deloitte LLP and remained sealed until they were announced today by NACTOY officers, president Mark Phelan, vice president Matt DeLorenzo and secretary-treasurer Lauren Fix at Cobo Center in Detroit.

The three winners each stood out in their segments for different reasons.

“Honda seems to have executed some sort of magic trick—not only is this tenth generation Accord far sleeker and more decisively styled than its predecessor, it’s somehow roomier inside, too,” said Chris Paukert, a NACTOY juror and managing editor of Road Show by CNET. “Even in low-end trims, it drives well and offers a strong amount of standard equipment.”

According to Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of the Automobile Division and general manager of Honda Sales, American Honda Motor Co., Inc, “Honda took a clean-sheet approach to reinventing America’s most popular car, and we couldn’t be prouder to receive this honor for Accord as the North American Car of the Year,” he said. “We’re especially proud for the production associates in Ohio where Accord has been built to the highest quality standards for over 35 years.”

Standing next to the all-new Volvo XC60, Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA holds the award for 2018 North American Utility of the Year won by the 2018 XC60.

The XC60 is the second Volvo in three years to win the coveted award after the XC90 won in 2016. “Like the XC90, the XC60 offers Volvo’s distinct brand of luxury and it may even be more appealing than its bigger brother. The ride is exemplary, and when smartly equipped, it is a fine value,” said NACTOY juror and freelance auto writer Kirk Bell.

“We are so proud the XC60 has won this prestigious award,” said Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA. “It is a very tough competition and we thank all the judges for recognizing the great style, technology, and engineering in the XC60.

Kumar Galhotra, president, The Lincoln Motor Company holds the 2018 Truck of the Year award for the all-new Lincoln Navigator.

NACTOY Juror Ron Sessions of the New York Daily News said, “The 2018 Navigator received a more dramatic update than its Ford Expedition sibling and its impact for the brand will be stronger as a result. With its design now aligned with the Continental, the Navigator becomes an even more important image—and the profit-maker for Lincoln.”

Accepting the award for Lincoln was Kumar Galhotra, president, The Lincoln Motor Company. “Lincoln is honored to be named the best among such a strong field of competitors,” he said. “The entire Lincoln team is very proud of the work that was done to create a truly differentiated, luxury Lincoln experience in our all-new Navigator.”

Chosen from dozens of new vehicles, jurors evaluated the finalists based on segment leadership, innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar. The process started in June 2017 by determining vehicle eligibility and includes three rounds of voting. LTR attended the launches of the XC60 and Accord last year and can attest that these vehicles are class leaders.

Now in their twenty-fourth year, the awards are selected by a group of respected automotive journals with lifetime appointments to the jury, distinguishing them from other industry awards distributed by a single publication, website, radio,  or television station. For a list of all the nominees go to For more about NACTOY and its history: http://northamericancaroftheyear.org/.

Jan 032018
 

Kidde plastic handle fire extinguishers

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling certain Kidde Plastic-Handle or Push Button ‘Pindicator’ Fire Extinguishers sold through Mopar service parts to equip various Chrysler, Dodge, and RAM vehicles. These extinguishers may become clogged, preventing the extinguisher from discharging as expected or requiring excessive force to activate the extinguisher. Additionally, in certain models, the nozzle may detach from the valve assembly with enough force that it could cause injury and also render the product inoperable. For a full list of the affected fire extinguisher models visit: https://static.nhtsa.gov/odi/rcl/2017/RMISC-17E062-5427.pdf

Kidde push-button Pindicator fire extinguishers

If the fire extinguisher does not function properly, it can increase the risk of injury in the event of a fire.

Chrysler will notify owners, instructing them to contact Kidde for a replacement fire extinguisher, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin February 9, 2018. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403, or Kidde customer service toll-free at 1-855-271-0773, or online at www.kidde.com and click on “Product Safety Recall” for more information. Chrysler’s number for this recall is T83.

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.

Dec 312017
 

Sales figures affirm Subaru’s appeal to car buyers—December marked the seventy-third consecutive month of yearly month-over-month growth for the company. So what does Subaru offer that others don’t? Perhaps it’s the standard symmetrical all-wheel-drive (AWD)? Or the consistent high marks in consumer publications? Or could it be those Subaru ads about love? On a recent test drive for Latino Traffic Report, the Impreza 2.0i Sport sedan offered clues by living up to its name with impressive new technology and performance.

According to the automaker, 2017 was the ninth consecutive year of record sales for Subaru of America and the tenth consecutive year of sales increases, assisted in part by the Impreza’s popularity. For 2017, the manufacturer redesigned its stalwart compact sedan and hatchback, and to mark the occasion moved Impreza production to the United States, specifically, its Lafayette, IN plant.

On the outside, the Impreza sports Subaru’s new design DNA, namely, the hexagonal grille and hawk-eye headlights. Black cloth seats with red accent stitching, simulated carbon fiber trim, aluminum pedals, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift handle, and a CVT shift boot, accentuated the interior on the this trim.

The compact segment excels at economy and fuel efficiency, but the Impreza did have fun-to-drive moments as well, assisted in part by 70-percent increased rigidity and a lower center of gravity.

The new and improved 2.0-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine with direct fuel injection that now produces 152 horses and 145 lb.–ft. of torque, also helped. It’s matched to a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a seven-speed manual mode function with steering wheel paddle shifters. While I didn’t test it, I was happy to find that a five-speed manual is standard on the Base and Sport trim levels. The Impreza should achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. The Sport model I tested should achieve a little less. I averaged 29.8 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

Subaru ramps up its competitiveness with standard entertainment features like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Aha and Pandora, a multi-function display with fuel economy information, the Starlink multimedia system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth wireless capability, iPod control, and smartphone integration. Standard convenience features include a 60/40-split rear seat, cruise control, keyless access as well as an AM/FM stereo and single disc CD player. The test model added, heated front seats, push-button start and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for the Starlink multimedia system.

Standard safety features include, Vehicle Dynamics Control, symmetrical AWD, 24-hour roadside assistance, and a rear vision camera.
The test model also included the available four-way tire pressure monitoring system, a one-year subscription to STARLINK Safety Plus package, EyeSight driver assist technology ($2,945) with adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert as well as a moonroof and the Harman/Kardon audio system,

Available in four trim levels—Base, Premium, Sport and Limited—pricing for the 2018 Impreza starts at $19,355. The as-tested pricing came to $26,550.

Sí the Impreza offers a great value in the segment, starting with the standard symmetrical AWD.

No: Acceleration is a little sluggish and I would like more than eighteen presets for the radio.

Dec 212017
 

Southwest Airlines is proud to announce a line of upcycled fashion accessories as a result of a multi-year collaboration with Mexican fashion label Carla Fern‡ández that will upcycle hundreds of pounds of leather from seat covers into goods in the coming months. Check out the products at http://carlafernandez.com/en.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Southwest Airlines will partner with Mexican fashion label Carla Fernández to upcycle hundreds of pounds of leather from airplane seat covers into fashion accessories in the coming month. Part of a multi-year collaboration, the line of products from LUV Seat: Mexico,  are created from used leather seat covers and handcrafted by indigenous artisans in seven Mexican communities, range from shoes and bags to ponchos and key chains.

LUV Seat: Mexico is an expansion of Southwest’s Repurpose with Purpose global sustainability initiative, which began in 2013 following the Evolve retrofit program that replaced the aircraft leather seat covers. By providing leather to Carla Fernández, Southwest® reduces the amount of waste the airline sends to landfills while also generating social and economic opportunities for communities.

“Southwest Airlines is proud to partner with Carla Fernández on LUV Seat: Mexico as a part of our Repurpose with Purpose program,” said Bill Tiffany, Southwest Airlines vice president Supply Chain Management.  “Through this impactful program, indigenous artisans have been able to incorporate their trades into the designs to create some incredible pieces while learning essential economic development skills through entrepreneurial training programs.”

Fernández worked with artisans in seven different communities throughout Mexico who specialize in creating textile and embroidery designs and handcrafts that preserve the country’s rich cultural heritage. The Carla Fernández brand’s work combines centuries-old techniques and long-standing traditions in the creation of their designs. The artisans are compensated as they learn how to develop new products and skills.

“Working with the Southwest team on this project, which seeks to create social and economic impact, has been a great experience for us,” says Fernández, who founded her eponymous label in 2000. “We feel we have found friends and partners after a couple of years of constant communication and hard work in delivering these great products.”

A change agent and an innovator, bringing new meaning to luxury fashion, the Carla Fernández team travels throughout Mexico visiting communities of artisans that specialize in handmade textiles, utilizing centuries-old indigenous techniques. The Mexico-City based fashion label is inspired by the geometrics and textile richness of Mexico. The brand has gained international acclaim for its approach to preserving the rich cultural heritage of Mexico’s indigenous communities.

“We are confident that LUV Seat: Mexico will be a success and we know it will be a benchmark for other similar endeavors,” she added.

 

Dec 112017
 

If you produced America’s best-selling car for over 41 years, you might tread lightly with a redesign. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Happily, Honda didn’t play it safe with the all-new 2018 Honda Accord and Latino Traffic Report was at the launch in Vermont for a chance to drive it.

Introduced to the United States in 1976, the Accord is the second-longest-running automotive nameplate in Honda’s history, after the Civic. Popular from the get-go, the Accord remains a top-seller in its segment. According to Honda: “Since its introduction, American car buyers have purchased more Accords than any other passenger car, with total U.S. sales exceeding 13 million vehicles.”

The classic midsize sedan’s groundbreaking redesign begins with an all-new body with a lower, wider stance, a lighter and more rigid unibody structure, new LED headlamps that sharply resemble those of Honda’s higher-end brand, Acura, a sweeping greenhouse, a bold front fascia, and a longer and lower hood. These features combine to create a more upscale appearance than the previous model.

The new body adds 1.9 inches of added rear legroom while overall passenger volume increases by 2.5 cubic feet and trunk space, grows to 16.7 cubic feet on all models.

Under the hood, the V6 is no longer an option, but the tenth generation Accord can be powered by three four-cylinder engines, including Accord’s two new turbos—a 1.5-liter direct-injected turbo with dual Variable Timing Control (VTC) 192 horses and 192 lb.–ft. of torque, and a 2.0-liter direct-injected turbo with dual VTC and 252 hp and 273 lb.–ft. of torque. Both can be matched to a six-speed manual transmission on the Sport trim. A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) can be mated to the 1.5- liter and a new ten-speed automatic transmission is available to pair with the 2.0-liter. Both engines and configurations were available to drive at the launch as well as the third-generation 2018 Honda Accord hybrid. All models at the launch performed handily, including both engines, as did the hybrid.

As a staunch fan of manual transmissions, it’s a treat to have this option, especially in this segment much less on two trim levels. Most manual transmission remain available as a method of bringing the price point down but by offering the manual on two trims, enthusiasts like me can also get features like a blind spot monitor, standard on the 2.0-liter.

At the launch, only fuel economy figures for the 1.5-liter were available. Matched to the six-speed manual transmission, the Accord Sport should achieve 26 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. We achieved an average of 32 mpg at the launch. The CVT will achieve one mpg better than the manual in the city on the Sport trim but on other trims it earns four mpgs more in the city and three mpgs better on the highway.

Standard safety features, like Collision Mitigation and Adaptive Cruse Control, are included with Honda Sensing as well as the new Traffic Sign Recognition system that scans speed limit signs and updates the map display immediately.

Standard creature comforts on the Accord include dual zone climate control, push button start, a capless fuel filler, a customizable seven-inch TFT digital display in the gauge cluster, seven-inch audio display (with knobs), and USB audio interface. Higher-end features include an eight-inch audio display, heated leather seats (front and back), a power moonroof, Head-Up Display, wireless phone charging (Android only), and Honda satellite-linked navigation.

With manual transmissions available on two trims and a new sporty upscale exterior, the 2018 Accord should continue to dominate a crowded segment.

Built at Honda’s Marysville, Ohio auto plant since 1982, pricing for the 2018 Honda Accord starts at $24,445 with destination fees.

Dec 052017
 

 

As 2017 comes to a close, so does the fifty-first anniversary year of the Toyota Corolla. The revolutionary compact sedan continues to evolve from basic transportation to a sporty competitor in its segment, like the 2017 Corolla XSE, recently tested by Latino Traffic Report.

Production on the first Corolla began in November of 1966, eventually crossing the Pacific for its debut in the United States in 1968. It would become the “best selling nameplate of all time,” according to the manufacturer. It has also been one of the top sellers to Latinos car buyers as well.

Initially, it’s fuel efficiency and affordability set it apart. According to Toyota: “When the first Corolla arrived in the U.S., gasoline cost about 25 cents per gallon (the equivalent of about $1.75 in 2016). Many American drivers saw the long-term value in higher fuel economy and chose Corolla for that reason.”

Growing competition has forced Toyota to improve the Corolla’s other attributes, like performance and looks. For its fiftieth anniversary, the Corolla got refreshed styling with a sportier bent, from the new front grille and LED headlamps, as well as a special edition in 2017, the Corolla SE, with a special paint color, Black Cherry Pearl. The test model came in Blue Crush Metallic, and with blue accent stitching on the Softex seating and blue ambient lighting on the door sills.

It’s powered by a 1.5-cylinder four-cylinder engine that produces 132 horsepower and matched to a Continuously Variable Transmission with intelligence and a sport mode to enhance its performance. Despite its size, the engine had a louder than average rumble. The test model had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. I averaged 29.5 mpg on the weeklong test drive.

All Corollas now come with a backup camera, plus the advanced Toyota Safety Sense-P technology, that bundles the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control, and automatic high beams. A blind spot monitor, however, is not available.

Like the Corolla’s performance and exterior, its feature package has also evolved beyond a simple AM radio. Standard fun features on all Corollas in 2017 include Bluetooth, the Entune infotainment system, air conditioning, cruise control, 60/40-split rear seat, and a manual tilting telescopic steering wheel. Each trim level adds more features culminating in the top of top-of-the-line XSE, like the test model that brought driver and front passenger heated seats, a Smart Key with push button start, Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation and a seven-inch touchscreen, AM/FM CD player, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

The test model added stand-alone options like Entune Premium Audio ($525), mudguards ($129), and TRD Performance Exhaust ($649) and air filter ($80).

Pricing for the 2017 Corolla starts at $19,445. The As-tested pricing came to $26,288.

SI: Sporty and stylish, the Corolla offers good value and fuel economy plus you can still get a CD player.

No: The new exterior design does add sportiness but I’m not a fan of the gaping grille, plus a blind spot monitor should at least be available.

 

Nov 242017
 

At Latino Traffic Report (LTR), the chance for a back-to-back comparison of automotive competitors is rare, but sometimes, lightning strikes. Such was the case with the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and the 2017 Nissan Rogue. Sharing a similar shade of exterior paint (Cajun Red and Palatial Ruby, respectively), they looked like brothers from another mother, but they were not. They were rivals that distinguished themselves in several ways.

Testaments to the increasing popularity of the small SUV segment, both models are top sellers for their brands. Equinox sales have reached nearly two million units since its launch and it is Chevrolet’s second-best selling vehicle overall, after the Silverado. Similarly, new sales records designate the Rogue as Nissan’s top-selling vehicle in the United States.

The two were nimble for city driving but the redesigned Equinox, also lighter by 400 pounds, felt much smaller compared to the outgoing model. It arrived in the mid-range LT trim as opposed to the Rogue, which came in the top-of-the-line SL AWD trim.

Under the hood, the Equinox offers three engine choices, all turbos—a 1.5-liter, 2.0-liter, and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel (a segment exclusive). I drove the 2.0-liter with 252 horsepower and 260 lb.–ft. of torque.

Rogue SL seats

The Rogue can be equipped with a choice of two four-cylinder engines, a 2.0-liter on the hybrid or a 2.5-liter matched to the Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission with Sport and Eco mode switches. I drove the latter that produced 170 horses and 175 lb.–ft. of torque, giving the Equinox the power advantage. The Rogue, however, should have been more fuel efficient, with an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy rating of 25/32 mpg compared to the Equinox’s 22/29 mpg rating. But I averaged 25.4 mpg with the Rogue and 26.7 mpg with the Equinox.

Equinox LT seats.

An SUV earns its stripes with utility, beginning with seating and cargo capacity. Both offer seating for five but the Rogue can also seat seven on lower trim levels with an optional third row. On the test model, the heated, two-tone leather seats elevated the Rogue’s interior, while the Equinox had quilted cloth seats. Both have 60/40 split second-row seats that fold flat. Inside, the Equinox there’s up to 63.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo space with the second row folded but the advantage goes to the Rogue with 70 cu. ft. of cargo room.

These family vehicles are not without safety innovations. Both SUVs equip all trim levels with rearview cameras but the Rogue tops that with its optional and innovative around view monitor on the SL trim. For the 2018 model year, a blind spot monitor will be standard on the Rogue but not on current models.

Rogue dash.

Chevy, however, offers its own signature safety technology, starting with Teen Driver (standard) that allows parents to set controls in order to encourage safe driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle. The optional and improved Safety Alert seat on the test Equinox buzzed the left or right upper thigh as a warning and the available Rear Seat Reminder, also on the test model, pinged when the ignition was turned off to remind me to check the back seat before locking the SUV.

Equinox dash.

The standard MyLink infotainment system on the Equinox that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, can be matched to a standard seven- or an available eight-inch-diagonal color touchscreen, included on the test model via the Sun and Infotainment Package ($1,995). Other convenience features included cruise control, air conditioning, and keyless start. The Confidence and Convenience Package ($1,945) added a power liftgate, heated front seats, and side blind zone alert.

Nissan Connect with Navigation was included on the Rogue SL along with a seven-inch display, Nissan Voice Recognition for navigation and audio, and a motion activated tailgate. The SL Premium Package ($2,020) added a panoramic sunroof, and the Platinum Package ($770) added intelligent cruise control, among other features.

Available in four trim levels, and FWD or all wheel drive (AWD) combinations, pricing for the next-generation 2018 Equinox starts at $24,525. The as-tested price came to $34,375. The Rogue comes with three trims as well as a hybrid and the all-new Rogue Sport and a choice of FWD or AWD. Pricing starts at $24,795. The as-tested pricing came to $31,365.

Sí The Equinox included innovative safety technology like Teen Safety, OnStar, and Rear Seat Reminder.

The Rogue offered better value, with seating versatility, five or seven, as well as convenience technology like a power liftgate, plus a blind spot monitor that will soon be standard.

No: Important safety technology, like a blind spot monitor, was unavailable on the base trim levels of the Equinox.

The Rogue was less fuel-efficient than expected.

 

 

Nov 232017
 

From features to specs, the first in class sets a new benchmark in the auto industry and that’s usually a good thing for consumers. Introduced in 2016, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid goes where no minivan has gone before. On a recent test drive of the Pacifica Platinum for Latino Traffic Report, it did indeed go much farther while using less gas.

The Pacifica stirred controversy when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) opted to resurrect its name for the Chrysler minivan, replacing the Town and Country. Once introduced, however, it quickly made amends, named the 2017 North American Sport Utility Vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. A trailblazer in the minivan segment, FCA US added 37 minivan firsts to its portfolio for a total of 115 innovations in the segment.

With plug-ins, however, there’s a trade-off—the longer the electric range, the longer it takes to recharge, especially using a 120-volt outlet in the garage. On paper the Pacifica’s all-electric range of 30–33 miles on electric energy seemed limited, but the minivan recharged overnight and on the test drive, the range didn’t dissipate as soon as I pressed the gas, as others have. It held true and on some occasions recharged to extend the range so that the Pacifica rarely needed to switch to gasoline power.

The plug-in should earn an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 32 miles per gallon (mpg) and 84 mpge using electric power. I averaged 37.2 mpg and during the test-drive.

Its powertrain consists of a dual-motor eFlite electrically variable transmission (EVT) with two electric motors matched to a modified version of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gasoline engine. Rather than take up cargo space, the 16-kWh battery pack is stored under the second-row floor. Setting itself apart from other hybrids, the Pacifica uses a one-way clutch that allows the motor, typically used only as a generator, to deliver torque to the wheels, depending on driving conditions.

Standard safety features add value on family vehicles. On the Pacifica plug-in hybrid they include three of my favorites­—a blind-spot monitor, rear park assist with stop, and a rear backup camera. The Platinum that I drove added forward collision warning-plus, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree Surround View camera, among other features.

Standard created comforts begin with a beautifully appointed interior inspired by Juneau, Alaska with ivory leather seats, blue accent stitching and black piping, heated front seats, remote start, three-zone climate control, a seven-inch full color customizable driver information display, and the Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen.

The test model was the Platinum top-of-the-line trim (trims change for 2018 to Touring Plus, Touring L, and Limited) and included a rear entertainment system, ventilated front seats, the available tri-pane panoramic sunroof ($1,795), and a handsfree power tailgate and power sliding doors, On the down side, the captains chairs did not fold flat into the floor like the innovative Stow N’Go third-row seat, limiting cargo carrying ability.

Pricing for the 2017 Pacifica plug-in hybrid starts at $43,090 but it also qualifies for a full $7,500 federal tax credit. The as-tested pricing came to $47,885.

Sí: The Pacifica plug-In hybrid is a great step forward in the minivan segment plus the battery holds the electric charge better than others.

No: Seating is heavy and clunky to maneuver, and even if the second row seats are removed, that solution is super outdated.

 

Nov 222017
 

2018 Mitsubishi Mirage

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) is recalling certain 2014-2018 Mirage vehicles. The internal acceleration sensor in the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) Electronic Control Unit (ECU) can misinterpret vibrations such as those from poor road conditions or a flat tire to be a sensor error thereby disabling the air bags from deploying in a crash.

Air bags that do not deploy as designed in a crash increase the risk of injury.

MMNA will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the SRS-ECU software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in November 2017. Owners may contact MMNA customer service at 1-888-648-7820. MMNA’s number for this recall is SR-17-006.

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.