Feb 132017

The reasons why the CR-V and Civic have been top sellers for Honda are many. Offering families the versatility they need as well as value they seek explains how the CR-V became the best-selling SUV in America for the past 20 years, selling nearly four million models in the United States since it was introduced in 1997. For its part, the Civic offers an affordable and fuel-efficient option for a daily driver. Honda chose to introduce the all-new 2017 version of the CR-V in Monterey, California, a fitting backdrop for its popular compact sport utility vehicle (SUV). For the Civic, also a favorite among Latinos, Honda marked the return of a body style that has been anticipated for years, the hatchback. Latino Traffic Report attended the launch of both, beginning with the 2017 Civic Hatchback in San Francisco.

Honda Civic Hatchback

It’s been more than 25 years since the Civic offered a hatchback version, some would say its return has been long overdue. Available in five trims: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L Navi, and Sport Touring, the body style will be added to the tenth generation of the Civic, joining the sedan and coupe.

As a five-door hatch it offers more versatility than a coupe or sedan, including a best-in-class cargo capacity of 25.7 cubic feet of room and an innovative cargo cover that retracts to the side rather than from the top for added convenience.

Happily, it comes with a six-speed manual transmission, as well as a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Both are both matched to the same 1.5-liter in-line four cylinder turbo with 174 horses (horsepower jumps to 180 on the Sport and Sport Touring trims) that also powers certain CR-V trim levels.

The best fuel economy comes from the CVT matched to the turbo with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 31 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. The base model manual should achieve one mpg less. The Sport and Sport Touring versions will achieve a little less than that. The model I drove, however, achieved an average fuel efficiency of 39.3 mpg.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

The six-speed manual, however, really ramps up the fun-to-drive experience of the hatchback, but what’s even better is that it’s available on two trim levels, the base (LX) and the Sport. That means that while one version may be fairly basic, the second can be upgraded with more technology and options, like Honda Sensing on the LX, a suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies that includes the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning integrated with the CMBS, and Adaptive Cruise Control  with Low-Speed Follow or steering wheel paddle shifters and 18-inch alloy wheels on the Sport. Honda’s version of a blind spot monitor, LaneWatch, is standard on the EX trim and above, which excludes the LX and Sport.

Still, standard features on all hatchbacks include the Eco Assist system to improve fuel economy, a multi-angle rearview camera, cruise control, and a 60/40 split rear seat that folds down, among other features.

Pricing for the 2017 Civic Hatchback starts at $20,575.

Honda CR-V

For 2017, Honda designers opted to sharpen design cues on the CR-V’s extrerior rather than take a radical approach, starting with the headlamps. The hood is also longer while the rear receives a shorter overhang, elongated LED taillights, and new dual exhaust outlets. Its wheelbase also grows by 1.6-inches.

No family vehicle is complete without a discussion of safety features and the CR-V has a story to tell. For the first time it will offer (except on the base model) both Road Departure Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow. Additional new available driver-assistive features that could be considered must-haves include a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Blind Spot Information System, Auto High-Beam and the all-new Driver Attention Monitor.

Adding convenience, the available Hands Free Access Power Tailgate that automatically opens and closes the tailgate by simply swiping your foot to activate a sensor under the rear of the vehicle is a Honda-first. Hauling is made easier with the new one-motion dive-down 60/40-split rear seat that falls softly when deployed rather than slamming down like so many others.

Honda offers two available engines on the 2017 CR-V beginning with its first ever turbocharged, 1.5-liter in-line four-cylinder engine with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway when equipped with front wheel drive (FWD). The second engine option, a 2.4-liter direct-injected i-VTEC with Variable Timing Control powers the base model and should earn an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 26/32 mpg when equipped with FWD. Both engines are mated to a CVT with Honda G-Shift control logic. The Active Shutter Grille system that lowers aerodynamic drag and helps improve fuel economy is another Honda-first. We averaged 31.3 mpg on the test drive.

Like the Civic hatchback, every 2017 CR-V is equipped with a green ECON button located on the center console near the shift lever. Activating the ECON mode helps improve fuel efficiency by modifying throttle mapping and HVAC operation.

All-wheel-drive (AWD) models feature an upgraded Real Time AWD system with a significant increase in maximum rear-wheel torque delivery.

Pricing for the 2017 CR-V starts at $24,985.

The redesigned CR-V and all-new Civic hatchback will please their enthusiastic and loyal customers as well as appeal to new fans.

Jan 152017

It’s a happy coincidence when the name of your product matches that of a blockbuster movie. So it is with Nissan Rogue and Rogue One, the latest tale from the Star Wars franchise. Nissan recently launched the refreshed 2017 Rogue, all-new Rogue Hybrid, and Sentra SR Turbo in Greensboro, Georgia and Latino Traffic Report was there.

Impressive fuel economy from an all-new hybrid version—the first ever for Rogue— and enhanced technology and versatility should help the crossover utility vehicle (CUV) remain the top-selling Nissan model, while the new SR Turbo trim for the Sentra adds sportiness to the lineup.

Efforts to refresh the Rogue include a new front fascia with integrated fog lamps, and bumper. It now features the Nissan signature “V-Motion” grille and revised headlights with LED signature Daytime Running Lights and LED boomerang signature taillights in the rear. A new rear bumper and chrome-trim side door moldings complete the freshened appearance.

Versatility improves on the CUV with wide opening (77 degrees) rear doors for easier entry and exit to the rear passenger space. Available technology, like a new Motion-Activated Liftgate, uses a kick sensor system to open and close the tailgate. It’s standard on Rogue SL and available on Rogue SR as part of the SR Premium Package.

Refreshing changes continue on the inside with a new D-shaped steering wheel and leather-booted sport-mode shifter. Premium options like a heated steering wheel, memory for driver’s seats and mirror, and remote engine start are also now available, giving the Rogue a more premium look and feel.

It comes with two rows of seating for five but a third row can be added (except on the hybrid version) to expand seating to seven. Nissan’s innovative EZ Flex Seating System allows every seat except the driver’s to fold down—the front passenger seat folds rearwards—expanding versatility as well as cargo room to 70 cubic feet. But the Rogue’s configurability doesn’t end there. It also offers the Divide-N-Hide Cargo System that provides eighteen adjustable variations (two-row models only, not available with Rogue Hybrid) between the cargo and occupant areas.

Standard safety features include a RearView monitor, remote keyless entry, traction control, and Vehicle Dynamic Control. The available Rogue Safety Shield expands that list, adding a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, Intelligent Cruise Control, and Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection.

As mentioned, the new gasoline-electric hybrid version offers an additional powertrain option to the standard 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. Fuel economy on the all-new hybrid should reach 33 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, dropping slightly on all-wheel-drive (AWD) models. On the test drive, we achieved an average of 34.6 mpg.

This compares to the expected city/highway fuel economy for the non-hybrid of 26/33 mpg, and 25/32 mpg on AWD models.

Pricing for the 2017 Rogue starts at $24,760.

Nissan introduced a limited edition of the Rogue with a Star Wars theme and branding at the LA Auto Show in November and partnered with Lucasfilm Ltd for a fully integrated marketing campaign. The additions and improvements on the 2017 version, including the all-new hybrid, should continue to grab attention, even after the blockbuster comes out on DVD.

2017 Sentra SR Turbo

For an added treat, Nissan also revealed a new, sporty trim level for the 2017 Sentra, the SR Turbo. The best news is that it comes with a responsive six-speed manual transmission that put a smile on my face as I drove it on a quick route in Greensboro. For those who can’t drive a manual, an Xtronic transmission is also available.

The SR’s four-cylinder, 1.6-liter Direct Injection Gasoline turbo engine with 188 horses also improves performance. Enhancements to the suspension, front brakes, and electric power steering complete the driving experience.

Like the base model Sentra S, the SR base model lacks options. The next level, SV trim, can be upgraded, but only the highest trims, SR and SL, can be upgraded with premium packages that bring features like leather-appointed seating, a Bose Premium audio system with eight speakers, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Pricing for the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo starts at $17,855.


Jan 132017

It’s one thing for a manufacturer to launch a new vehicle, it’s quite another to launch several at a time.  Nissan recently invited Latino Traffic Report to Northern California where it presented four new vehicles for 2017, the Titan (half-ton) and Titan XD Single Cab, Armada, and Pathfinder. Of the four, the Armada represents a complete redesign. The other three add a new model, transmission, configuration, and engine.

2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab


The Titan XD made quite an impression when it was launched in 2015 with a 5.0-liter V8 Cummins Turbo Diesel that produced 310 horsepower and 555 lb.–ft. of torque and a capability that placed it in a class by itself between a half-ton and heavy duty. It was so impressive that the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) named it the Truck of Texas in 2015, a rare feat for an import.

2017 Titan XD Single Cab

Nissan adds the Titan, a half-ton model for 2017, plus a Single Cab configuration to both the Titan and Titan XD models, a first for any generation of the truck, giving the lineup more appeal to business owners as a basic work truck. Once again TAWA members appreciated the latest Nissan products, naming the Titan XD Single Cab the Commercial Vehicle of Texas and the half-ton the Full-Size Pickup of Texas at the 2016 Truck Rodeo.

On the first day of the three-day launch, I drove the gasoline-powered Titan Crew Cab with the 5.6-liter V8 and new seven-speed automatic transmission. Producing 390 horses and 394 lb.–ft. of torque, the V8 will have a maximum towing rate of 9,390 pounds when properly equipped. Maximum towing capacities for the XD gasoline and diesel are

Under seat storage in the 2017 Titan Platinum Reserve

11,590 lbs. and 12,640 lbs., respectively. All Single Cabs come with an eight-foot bed for maximum payloads of 1,930 pounds (half-ton), 2,910 (XD gas), and 2,420 (XD diesel).

Available in five trim levels, from the base S to the Platinum Reserve, and two-wheel or four-wheel drive (2WD or 4WD), the Titan continues to give truck owners utility for work and comfort for families.

Pricing for the 2017 Titan starts at $35,975 and $30,775 for the Single Cab. Pricing for 2017 XD Single cab starts at and $32,285.



The next day we drove the all-new 2017 Armada, Nissan’s biggest sport utility vehicle (SUV). It shares the same powertrain as the gasoline-powered Titan, the 5.6-liter V8 and the seven-speed transmission, but not the same platform. Still, based on a truck-like body-on-frame construction, it embodies its segment, with a standard towing capacity of 8,500 lbs. for both 4WD and 2WD models (when properly equipped).

Like the Titan and Pathfinder, we tested the Armada on-road and off-road at the launch (see videos below), but we also enjoyed its comfort and convenience. This is after all, a premium SUV, in accoutrements as well as pricing. Like the Titan, it was also recognized at the 2016 TAWA Truck Rodeo, winning the title of SUV of Texas.

The all-new body design offers a 20 percent increase in twisted body stiffness for better handling and ride comfort. With seating for eight, it can be configured for seven with the optional Captain’s Chairs in the second row. Both second- and third -row benches are split 60/40 and fold flat to expose 95.4 cubic feet of cargo room. New technology includes a power folding feature for the third row that is optional on the base model SV and standard on the SL and Platinum grades.

Standard Armada creature comforts include, a push button ignition, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch color display, and Bose audio system. The Armada SV offers premium cloth seating surfaces, while leather-appointed seating is standard on SL and Platinum grades. The Platinum adds a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and heated second-row sets.

A suite of available safety and security features includes the class-exclusive Predictive Forward Collision Warning that warns the driver of risks that lie beyond the driver’s forward field of vision, Backup Collision Intervention, and Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection. Lane Departure Prevention, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, and class-exclusive Blind Spot Intervention are available, though not on the base model. It would be nice if at least one of these were standard.

Available in three trims and 2WD and 4WD, pricing for the second-generation Armada should start at $45,995.


Before heading to the airport, we spent the last morning in the Pathfinder. Redesigned in 2013, it turned heads when it traded its body-on-frame construction for a unibody (car-like) construction. For 2017, it gets a refreshed exterior, increased performance, and new technology.

One of the oldest Nissan nameplates, the 2017 Pathfinder has a new hood, front bumper, and fog lights for a more aggressive style plus a new “V-Motion” grille and boomerang-shaped headlights with LED daytime running lights. It also receives a new, more powerful V6 for an increased tow rating of 6,000 lbs.

For added convenience, the new Motion-Activated liftgate can now be engaged with a sweeping motion below the rear bumper and takes technology from Infiniti to bring intuitive touch for the eight–inch entertainment display. The Pathfinder’s instrument cluster now includes the standard Advanced Drive-Assist Display (ADAD) with additional infotainment and driver assistance displays.

New available safety technology includes Forward Emergency Braking, Intelligent Cruise Control, and  Moving Object Detection that has been added to the available Around View Monitor. The Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems remain optional.

Pricing for the 2017 Pathfinder will start at $31,240.

Part of Nissan’s “Year of the Truck” campaign, these three models capture its efforts to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and families.

Nov 102016


Car manufacturers take great pains to select a backdrop for new vehicle launches that help their products stand out. Volvo chose Spain’s Costa del Sol to launch its all-new 2017 Volvo S90 premium four-door coupé. Lucky me and Latino Traffic Report.

According to Anders Robertson, Volvo 90 Series product manager, 150,000 premium sedan leases will mature this year. Volvo hopes the well-timed launch of the S90, plus its styling, technology, and pricing, will encourage lessees to cross-shop and ultimately choose the S90.

Volvo begins by giving its flagship sedan curb appeal with distinctive design cues, specifically, all new tail lights and the T-shaped Thor’s Hammer headlamp design that first premiered on the 2016 XC90 sport utility vehicle.2016-06-09-16-16-26

Competing against brands like Audi, BMW, and Lexus, Volvo offers what no other manufacturer can, a Scandinavian interior that combines luxury with function. For starters, the tablet-shaped nine-inch touchscreen that interfaces with the Sensus infotainment and navigation systems, first introduced on the XC90, reappears on the S90. It’s more than just handsome to look at, it’s one of the easiest systems to operate as it functions similarly to a conventional tablet by sliding your finger to the left, right, up, and down. A cleaning cloth to remove fingerprints is included.

2016-06-09-16-14-51Standard leather seating combined with a power sunroof and unique air vents take the S90 interior up a notch. Instead of thin wood veneers that don’t appear convincingly real on some vehicles, the S90 T6 Inscription that we drove on the launch included chunky Walnut wood accents with a matte finish. I predict that this design cue will get copied, like so many of Volvo’s safety innovations.2016-06-09-16-15-04

In this segment, roominess has its advantages, particularly in the back. Rear legroom on the S90 comes to 35.9 inches.

Another XC90 feature that returns on the new S90 T6 is the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo and supercharged powertrain, for which Volvo has received numerous accolades. The power (316 horses and 295 lb.–ft. of torque) and responsive throttle belie the engine’s size, and it doesn’t sound like a four-cylinder either.

Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the S90 T6 should earn an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. On the test-drive en españa, I averaged 22.6 mpg. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will power the T5 Momentum entry-level model.

2016-06-09-16-14-55No discussion of the S90 would be complete without considering safety. Volvo has committed to zero fatalities or serious injuries in one of its vehicles by 2020. To do this requires setting new benchmarks in safety technology. With the S90, Volvo has focused on avoiding large animal collisions. According to Jim Nichols, Volvo product and technology manager, 1.23 million deer strikes occurred last year in the United States. alone, resulting in 200 deaths. Volvo will include its latest technology, the Large Animal Detection system that uses radar to spot deer, moose, etc., and engage automatic braking.

The S90 equip all S90s with an improved version of Pilot Assist that allows the vehicle to accelerate, decelerate, and come to a complete stop to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, up to speeds of 80 miles per hour (mph). This makes it the first car in the U.S. with standard semi-autonomous technology.

The S90 means to compete, con ganas, in 2016-06-09-15-57-34the premium sedan segment. Its design, technology, and value give it a definite advantage.

Pricing for the 2017 Volvo S90 T5 Momentum and T6 Inscription starts at $47,945 and $57,245, respectively. A wagon version, the V90, will be available in 2017.

Driving an S90 along Spain’s Costa del Sol wasn’t exactly on my bucket list, well, almost. Visiting Spain was, driving the S90 was just the delicious cereza on top!

Oct 062016


More trucks are sold in Texas than in any other state in the country so it’s no wonder that Honda chose San Antonio, TX for the launch of its all-new 2017 Ridgeline. This redesign is not in name only; it’s a true reconstruction of the midsize pickup from the top down. As a result, the Ridgeline looks more truck-like and offers greater versatility and capability.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline In-Bed Trunk

The class-exclusive In-Bed Trunk on the 2017 Honda Ridgeline

For starters, Honda designers gave the Ridgeline a truck profile, replacing the previous side panel with one that has an integrated truss, while retaining its unibody construction and smooth ride. There’s actually a seam down the side between the cabin and the bed that gives the appearance that the two are separate, but they’re not.

The new Ridgeline also retains certain innovations from the inaugural model that launched in 2006, namely a dual-action tailgate that opens to the side, as well as drops down, and a locking in-bed trunk that can hold wet or dry cargo. New for 2017 is the available in-bed audio system, perfect for Latinos who love to picnic or tailgate. Another first is the availability of two-wheel or four-wheel drive (2WD or 4WD) configurations.

Powered by a more powerful and efficient direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 engine (280 horses and 262 lb.-ft. of torque) matched to a new six-speed automatic transmission with a wider ratio spread, the Ridgeline 2WD has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

2016-05-05-14-59-50Those equipped with AWD add the new Intelligent Variable Torque Management torque-vectoring system to achieve a class-leading city/highway EPA fuel economy rating of 18/25 mpg, plus improved all-weather traction and handling capability. I averaged 23.4 mpg on the test drive.

We also tested the Ridgeline’s Intelligent Traction Management System that enhances off-road capability with drive modes for different conditions— Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand on the AWD and Normal and Snow for the 2WD. Towing maxes out at 5,000 lbs.

With a bed that has been stretched to 64 inches in length and 60 inches in width, it’s longer than its main competitors, and with the afore mentioned in-bed trunk that can double as an 82 qt. cooler, the Ridgeline offers a best-in-class payload of 1,584 lbs. It’s the only bed in the midsize class that can flat haul four-foot-wide items, like drywall. It also has best-in-class cargo volume inside, under the rear seat and with the rear seats flipped up.2016-05-05-14-44-27

New available technology includes an eight-inch Display Audio touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a new generation of the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System, Smart Entry, and Remote Engine Start.

While the multi-angle rearview camera is standard, advanced safety features like a blind spot monitor or rear cross traffic alert only come with the top trim levels.

Standard convenience features include push button start, a Class III towing hitch, fold-up rear seats, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, illuminated steering wheel-mounted controls, and AM/FM stereo with an MP3 auxiliary jack and Windows Playback capability, USB audio interface, Bluetooth phone, and streaming audio.

2016-05-04-20-32-06In the ten years since it was introduced, I never got to meet the original Honda Ridgeline. I have met the next generation, however, and the pleasure was all mine. It’s pricey but competitive with comparably equipped versions in the segment.

Built at the Honda manufacturing plant in Alabama and available in seven trim levels, the 2017 Ridgeline has a base price of $30,375 with destination fees. You’ll have to spend $42,270 on the RTL-E trim to get cool features like the in-bed audio system.



Aug 092016

2016-03-03 14.02.28

Introduced in the early nineties, the Sportage is Kia’s longest-running nameplate. Redesigned for 2017, Kia recently introduced the all-new Sportage in San Diego and Latino Traffic Report was there. With striking new looks, the Sportage adds more standard equipment for 2017 as well as new safety technology.

2016-03-03 11.34.40The compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) handled curves deftly at the launch, but its new exterior really grabbed attention, particularly at the first stop—the Julian Pie Company in Julian, California. The original apple pie with cheddar cheese was delicious!

Designed in Germany, it’s no surprise that the new Sportage inspires a comparison to other German brands—I found myself referring to it as the “baby (Porsche) Cayenne.” Still, Kia’s design cues remain front and center starting with the “tiger-nose” grille in the front fascia. The headlights sit higher than on the previous Shortage, but the fog lamp array on each side really stands out.

Improved ride and handling comes from a stiffer structure, new suspension, and advanced driver assistance systems. The available intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD) can be added to every trim ($1500) and features a 50/50 locking center differential and torque vectoring. The Driver Mode Select (DMS) that gives the driver three choices—Normal, Sport, or Eco—improves performance on all models.2016-03-03 rear.06

Offered in three trim levels (LX, EX, and SX Turbo), the Sportage can be powered by a choice of two four-cylinder engines—a 2.0-liter inline-four turbo with 240 horsepower (237 on AWD models) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The base model LX and the EX come with a normally aspirated 2.4-liter engine that produces 181 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines have been retuned for better fuel efficiency and are matched to an updated six-speed automatic transmission.

At the launch we drove AWD and front wheel drive (FWD) versions of the SX Turbo equipped with a sport-tuned suspension and paddle shifters.

2017 Sportage SX TurboLonger by 1.2 inches, the new Sportage has a roomier interior with seating for five. It’s also available with additional appointments for a more luxurious cabin and a range of technologies including UVO eServies and telematics, AppleCar Play, and Android Auto.

The SX Turbo included leather seating with ventilated and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Harmon Kardon audio with Clari-Fi, an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a panoramic sunroof with an opening that is 4.1 inches longer than the outgoing model’s.2017 Sportage SX Turbo

The top-of-the-line SX also included the latest safety technology, like a rearview camera, blind spot detection, front and rear parking assist, and rear cross traffic alert. While these features are not available on the base model, they can be added to the mid-range EX. The rearview camera, however, is standard on all three trim levels.2017 Sportage SX Turbo

Thanks to an innovative dual-level cargo floor and a widened luggage area, cargo capacity behind the second row has grown from 26.1 cu.-ft. to 30.7 cu.-ft. The 60/40-split second row also folds flat and reclines for added convenience.

The base model includes air conditioning, a five-inch color touchscreen AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM audio system with Bluetooth, hands-free phone operation and streaming audio, USB auxiliary input jacks, and SiriusXM, satellite radio for three months.

Convenience features like cargo net hooks, remote keyless entry, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, are also standard. The SX adds a smart power tailgate that opens automatically when it senses the key fob.2016-03-03 11.01.48

Good looking, fun, and versatile, the all-new Sportage should be a fierce competitor in its segment.

Pricing for the 2017 Kia Sportage starts at $23,885. The as-tested pricing for the SX FWD and AWD was $33,395 and $34,895 respectively.

Jun 242016

2016-02-23 10.42.52

Launched in 1990, the award-winning Elantra is one of Hyundai’s all time best-selling models. For 2017, Hyundai manages to add new features and technology to the all-new Elantra, while dropping the starting price by $100. At the regional launch in New Orleans, the Elantra impressed Latino Traffic Report with its bar-raising segment firsts.

The redesign starts with a new look on the outside, defined by Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille and smoother contoured lines that enhance its aerodynamics. The redesign also includes equipment firsts like the available HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Lights, unique vertical LED daytime running lights, the LED door handle approach lights, and LED taillights.

Apple CarPlay

Apple CarPlay

The base model Elantra SE matches the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a standard six-speed manual transmission. Great news for fans of the stick shift, except that it’s sold as-is. Stepping up to the Eco trim level makes the 1.4-liter turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission standard. The Eco trim should offer the best gas savings of all with an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon (mpg).

At the launch, we drove the Limited trim level that’s powered by the 2.0 liter matched to a six-speed automatic Shiftronic transmission with the Active ECO System. We averaged 35.9 mpg while driving at a good clip and crossing state lines between Louisiana and Mississippi. Standard on all Elantras, the Drive Mode Select further enhanced its performance.

2017 ELANTRA SEDANStepping up to the Limited trim level brings many more advantages, including standard advanced safety features like a rearview camera, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert, and Lane Change Assist. While not offered on the SE manual, they are available on the SE with the automatic transmission.

Premium soft-touch materials, new creature comforts like dual climate control, and available advanced technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, give the  Elantra a more upscale interior. It’s also larger than its competitors, so much so that it’s classified as a midsize sedan by the EPA. Segment firsts include premium features like s a hands-free Smart Trunk—there’s no need to swipe a foot under the bumper, just approach with keys in your pocket and in a few seconds the trunk will open.

60/40-split folding rear seat

60/40-split folding rear seat

More segment firsts on the inside include the integrated memory system for the power driver seat and side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and advanced ergonomic front seats. The Limited trim adds heated front seats and offers heated rear seats (not found among its competitors).

For added convenience, the rear seat is split 60/40, folding forward for additional cargo volume. The Elantra already offers class-above total interior volume with 110.2 cu. ft. Cargo volume in the trunk reaches 14.4 cu. ft.

Standard entertainment features include Smartphone/USB and auxiliary input jacks, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 Audio System, and complimentary SiriusXM activation with a three-month trial subscription.2016-02-23 11.38.23 HDR

In a competitive segment like compact cars, the Elantra excels at offering a generous list of standard and available features, including some not normally found among its competitors.

Pricing for the 2017 Elantra SE starts at $17,985, while pricing for the Limited starts at $23,185.


Mar 172016

photo by Valerie Menard

If you ask me, there really aren’t enough convertibles on the road today. Thankfully, Buick will add to this niche of a segment with the 2016 Cascada. Hoping to compete with higher-end models like the Audi A3 Cabriolet, the Cascada combines good looks with a competitive price.

Fun by nature, convertibles elevate the driving experience with a unique sense of freedom, but there’s usually a premium placed on feeling the wind in your hair. Considered a halo car for Buick, the Cascada is the brand’s first convertible in 25 years.

photo by Valerie MenardLatino Traffic Report recently attended  the launch in Miami where the two-door ragtop embraced what little sunshine peaked through the clouds on the way to Key West. Offered only in black, the automatic roof should take 17 seconds to recline fully beneath a hard tonneau. You can start the process with the car moving up to 31 mph.

Built as a convertible not a topless version of an already existing model, the Cascada looks good with the top up or down. Its global profile reflects the Opel version upon which it’s based. However, it also means that the Cascada lacks technologies like a blind spot monitor, active cruise control, and push button start because they’re not currently on the Opel version, according to engineers at the launch.

Current standard safety features include a rearview camera, Rear Park Assist, rollover bars behind the rear seat, articulating headlamps and front LED daytime running lamps, and StabiliTrak stability and traction control. Stepping up to the Premium trim level adds Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Front and Rear Park Assist.2016-01-21 14.06.30

Powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, direct injection and variable valve timing complement the turbo engine’s performance. Matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and using electric power steering, it should achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

The innovative HiPer Strut front suspension introduced on the LaCrosse and Regal, and the Watts Z-link suspension in the rear improve ride and handling. There weren’t many curves on the way to Key West but the Cascada felt firm and confident on the road.

On the inside, the posh theme continues with soft-touch material and authentic stitching on an instrument panel. Standard creature comforts include dual-zone air conditioning, heated front seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, Buick IntelliLink with a seven-inch-diagonal color touch screen featuring Text Message Alerts, Siri Eyes Free for Apple phones with an iOS 6 or newer operating system, AM/FM/SiriusXM stereo,  CD/DVD player and MP3 player with navigation, remote vehicle starter, and OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot.

2016-01-21 14.04.25While some tech features are missing on the Cascada (hopefully they will be added in future versions), a new entry in the convertible segment is cause for applause.

With only two trim choices on for Buick’s new convertible, the Cascada and Cascada Premium, pricing starts at $33,990 and $36,990 respectively.



Feb 042016
2015-10-15 optimalaunch

2016 Kia Optima SXL

With so many advances in the industry, it’s hard to find a dud on a new car lot these days. The launch of the all-new Kia Optima midsize sedan improves the selection even further.

The brand’s bestseller for the last three years, Kia ramps up the 2016 version with a more refined exterior design, new technology, and creature comforts offered at the same starting price as the outgoing model.2015-10-15 optima.rocks.2

At the launch in Aspen, Colorado, the longer, wider and stiffer Optima hugged the road nicely. Its increased dimensions also translate into a roomier and more comfortable cabin with more head, shoulder, and rear seat legroom.  Plus the trunk expands to 15.9 cu. ft. and the 60/40 split rear seat also folds flat for even more room.

There will be three available four-cylinder engines to power the Optima distributed among five trim levels. We drove the top-of-the-line SX and SXL trims powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with 2015-10-15 opt.launchSportmatic simulated manual shifting. This is not the most fuel efficient of the three engines but it is the most powerful with 245 horses and 260 lb.–ft. of torque. The sport-tuned suspension and paddle shifters improved performance on the launch models, though the throttle response on the turbo was a little hesitant.

The lower level trims will come with a 2.4-liter or an all-new 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, matched to a six-speed automatic or seven-speed Dual Clutch Transmission, respectively. While all three engines include the Active Eco System and Driver Mode Select with an Eco option to conserve gas, the most fuel-efficient will be the 1.6-liter earning an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 32 miles per gallon. Plug-in and hybrid models will also be introduced this year.

2015-10-15 optimaseatsThe sleeker and contoured European-inspired exterior is matched to a super plush interior on the SX and SXL that included diamond-quilted and heated leather seats plus metallic accents. The base model will come with cloth seats.

Standard features include chrome accent door handles, air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/MP3 audio unit with satellite radio, a five-inch LCD rear-camera display, three USB jacks, Bluetooth, and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel. Push button start, a rear spoiler, heated steering wheel, dual-zone air conditioning, and Bi-Function Xenon HID headlamps with a self-leveling feature are standard on the SX. The SXL adds a panoramic sunroof with power shade, advanced smart cruise control, Harman/Kardon Quantum Logic Surround

2016 OptimaPremium Audio System, and ventilated front driver and passenger seats, among other features. The major advantage of the SXL, however, is a suite of standard safety features that includes a rear parking sensor, blind spot and rear cross traffic detectors, and front collision warning system.

For the digitally astute, Kia’s UVO connectivity system comes standard with four additional eServices not previously available on the Optima, it’s also Kia’s pilot vehicle for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (late availability) that connects drivers to functions on their smartphones.

Packing more content at a lower price has helped establish the Korean carmaker in the United States. Competing in one of the most competitive and crowded segments, the 2016 Optima should remain a top-seller.

Built at Kia’s plant in West Point, Georgia, the Optima’s pricing starts at $22,840 while the SX and SXL start at $30,640 and $36,740, respectively.

2016 Kia Optima SX

2016 Kia Optima SX

Jan 092016

2015-10-21 passat2

It’s not easy being a midsize sedan, what with all the competition. Designed specifically for the U.S. market, the Volkswagen Passat adds a European option to the segment at a surprisingly affordable price. For 2016, the German sedan bears a new look and even more bang for the buck.

Volkswagen’s design DNA could be called understated, so one shouldn’t expect the new Passat to be remarkably different from the outgoing model. Designers made subtle changes on the outside to make it appear more streamlined.

2016 Passat S

2016 Passat S

At the launch in Vermont, premium touches like a new dashboard and center console, along with integrated two-tone decor panels, and a new frameless rearview mirror elevated my first impression of the interior. Volkswagen also gave journalists a rare opportunity to drive the base or S model, offering a well-rounded view of the lineup.

Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the 2016 Passat can be powered by either of two engines—the 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter VR6. Volkswagen has suspended the sale of diesels for now.

Made in Silao, Mexico, the turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb.–ft. of torque using regular gasoline. Matched to the six-speed automatic, the Passat should achieve an estimated fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. I achieved 36.8 average mpg at the launch.

2015-10-22 09.02.44The 3.6-liter VR6 produces 280 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque with premium fuel. It should earn an EPA-estimated highway mileage of 28 mpg with the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters add to its sporty performance and handling.

New technology, like the available Easy Open trunk also, adds value and keeps the Passat on trend. Easy Open Truck allows the driver, within three feet of the trunk, to use his feet to activate a sensor near the rear of the vehicle, opening the trunk hands-free.2015-10-22 09.54.24

Volkswagen’s signature infotainment system, MIB II, comes standard with a five- or 6.3-inch touchscreens and most models include a display capacitive touch sensor that enables gesture controls like swiping and pinch zooming. Internet connections are available via Car-Net features that include App-Connect technology that can be integrated with three major Smartphone platforms— Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.

While advanced safety technology, like a blind spot monitor, is unavailable on the base model, it is standard on the SE w/Technology models and up. All Passat’s do come equipped with a rearview camera and Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, first launched on the 2015 Golf. As the name implies, it applies the brakes after a primary collision helping to reduce residual kinetic energy and, in turn, reduce the chance of additional damage.

2016 Passat SE

2016 Passat SE

Standard creature comforts include dual- zone climate control, a steering wheel with audio and phone control, a CD player, and a 60/40-split rear seat for added cargo space. The large trunk can accommodate 15.9 cubic feet of luggage.

Available in multiple trim levels, starting prices range from $23,260 (with destination fees) for the S, to $35,090 for the SEL Premium. New features on the base model, however, account for a value of $1,315. The best buy, however, may be the SE w/Technology, starting at $29,230, because of standard features like the afore mentioned blind spot monitor, Rear Traffic Alert with braking, and keyless entry with push-button start.