SUV Review: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT

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Dec 042018
 

Most Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) accentuate the U in SUV to appeal to consumers. For the first time, Dodge accentuates the S with the Durango full-size SUV Street and Racing Technology (SRT) trim. Latino Traffic Report recently drove the 2018 Durango SRT during a weeklong test drive. While the appeal for this model is fairly specific, Dodge apparently believes that sport car enthusiasts with cargo and towing needs will give the Durango SRT a look-see. As an added incentive, all new customers will get to push the sporty SUV to its limits with a free full-day session at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.

The three-row SUV still offers the versatility of other SUVs with seating for six, 84.5 cu. ft. of cargo room with both rows folded flat, and has a best-in-class towing capability of 8,700 pounds. But what distinguishes this SUV is what’s under the hood, namely a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with 475 horsepower and 470 lb.–ft. of torque that can accelerate from zero–60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds

This kind of power, however, does have one downside, namely fuel economy. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the V8 has an EPA city/highway fuel economy of 13/19 miles per gallon (mpg). On the test drive it averaged 12.9 mpg. Still, the buyer for this vehicle probably won’t be surprised by this news.

On the outside, the Durango SRT stands out among its siblings with a newly designed hood with a functional cold-air duct and heat extractors to cool the engine.

Adding to that is the new SRT seven-mode drive system that includes Auto, Sport, Track, Snow, Tow, Valet, and ECO, giving the driver the ability to customize drive settings. ON the test drive along FM 2222 in west Austin, one of the curviest local roads, standard paddle shifters improved handling.

The Durango’s all-wheel drive system has been performance tuned and a new exhaust system offers the deep, high-performance exhaust note modeled after the Dodge Charger SRT.

On the plush side, the SRT is a top-of-the-line trim, which means it offers a bigger list of creature comforts to complement the power under the hood, including a hand-wrapped instrument panel with silver accent stitching, an SRT flat-bottom performance steering wheel, and heated and ventilated front and heated second-row captain’s chairs with embossed SRT logos.

The standard seven-inch thin-film-transistor screen in the instrument cluster has been redesigned and can be customized, the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen returns with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD radio, downloadable apps, and a five-year trial of SiriusXM Travel Link and Traffic with a one-year trial subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Rounding out this list is the standard BeatsAudio premium sound system featuring nine speakers, subwoofer and 506-watt amplifier.

The test model also included the Technology Group ($2,495) that added forward collision warning with crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control with stop, and a blind-spot monitor and rear cross path detection.

Built in Detroit, pricing for the 2018 Dodge Durango starts at $61,900. The as-tested price came to $73,360.

Si: The Durango adds excitement to a fairly staid segment.

No: Low fuel economy is pretty unacceptable in this day and age, plus safety features at this price point should be more available if not standard.

Favorite Family Vehicles, SUVs and CUVs Offer Versatility and Value

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Oct 242016
 
2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

Sport and Crossover Utility Vehicles (SUVs and CUVs) claimed family vehicle status long ago, and sales reflect that. According to statistics published by The Wall Street Journal, while car sales dropped significantly in September, year-to-date (YTD), sales of CUVs and SUVs rose more than seven percent totaling nearly five million units. Compact or full size, these vehicles help families transport themselves and their cargo with varying ease. I test-drove several models for Latino Traffic Report this year. Here are snapshot reviews of seven of them.

Crossovers

Audi Q3 2.0T quattro Tiptronic

2015-10-20-audiq3Compact CUVs comprise one of the fastest growing segments. The smaller size may mean a sacrifice in cargo and people carrying but it’s replaced with better fuel economy and maneuverability in an urban landscape. Audi’s entry in this segment adds premium appeal, from seating to technology.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine and six-speed Tiptronic transmission should achieve 2015-10-20-audi-q3-dashan EPA estimated fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. I averaged 21.1 mpg.

The Audi Quattro signature all-wheel-drive (AWD) system was included on the test model, providing better grip on the road and improved handling.

All Q3s include standard heated leather front seating—on the test model, it was a delicious Chestnut Brown shade—a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, and a rearview camera. The test model added the Prestige package ($4,900) with navigation, Audi connect in-vehicle Wi-Fi, a power tailgate, and ventilated front seats.

2015-10-20-audi-q3The five-seater comes with a 60/40-split second row that folds flat automatically with the push of a button, no need to negotiate clunky levers. With the seats folded, cargo volume reaches 48.2 cubic feet (cu.ft.). Another striking touch was the interior lighting strips that changed color, from red to white to blue.

The digital instrument cluster can be configured to display different information and a seven-inch touch screen pops up from the center of the dashboard to reveal several functions, from audio to navigation. Audi’s combination of a dial and push buttons on the center stack for programming entertainment functions is a little labor intensive.

Pricing for the 2016 Q3 starts at $32,750. The as-tested pricing came to $41,975.

Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD

2016-03-29-santafefrontCrossovers are by far the most popular segment, selling more than three million YTD. Like Baby Bear’s porridge, the segment is just right for families.

The Hyundai Santa Fe offers various configurations so that it can meet its owner’s particular needs. It can be configured to seat five, seven, or six passengers like the test model that had the captains chairs rather than a second row bench. It also included Hyundai’s active on-demand AWD system.

Powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic Shiftronic transmission, it had an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 17/22 mpg. It also had an Eco button to enhance fuel economy further. I took full advantage of it and averaged 19.2 mpg during the week-long test drive.

2016-03-29-santafe-rearAdvanced safety features, like a blind spot monitor, tend to be included in a package or more expensive trims and the Santa Fe is no exception. It was standard on the up-level Limited that I drove. All Santa Fes include remote keyless entry, a rearview camera, a roof rack with side rails, the Driver Selectable Steering Mode, and SiriusXM activation with a three-month trial subscription.

The test model added the Ultimate Package ($4,650) with a panoramic sunroof, ventilated/cooled front seats and heated rear seats, a rear parking sensor, and a heated steering wheel.

Pricing for the 2016 Santa Fe starts at $31,295. The as-tested pricing came to $42,385.

 

Highlander Limited Platinum AWD

2016-03-14-h-lander-fr-licIf the Highlander had sliding doors, it could be a minivan. But it’s not. It’s a crossover SUV and that only increases its appeal. Regarding capability, it doesn’t pretend to have an SUV’s off-road bravado but it does offer families the versatility and convenience they’re after.

Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Highlander has a city/highway EPA estimated fuel economy of 18/24 mpg. I averaged 19 mpg on the test drive. A 2.7-liter four-cylinder is the base engine.2016-03-10-highl-camera

Offered in five trim levels, the Limited Platinum is the top-of-the-line model and as such, it includes a few striking features, like a panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade, heated and cooled leather front seats, heated second-row seats, the Driver Technology Package that includes a pre-collision system with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Entune cover art displays on the eight-inch entertainment touchscreen.2016-03-14-high-rear

Safety features carry particular clout on a family vehicle. The Highlander includes its signature Star Safety System with traction control, anti-lock braking, etc, plus a backup camera and Hill-start Assist Control. The Platinum test model also included a blind spot monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and rear parking sonar. It’s unfortunate that these features remain so exclusive.

The versatile SUV can seat up to eight or seven like the test vehicle, and the rear seats are split to fold flat for expanded cargo carrying space of 83.7 cu.ft.

Pricing for the 2016 Highlander starts at $31,390. The as-tested pricing came to $45,390.

Lexus RX 350 F Sport

2016-03-08-lex-rxsideWhen Lexus first introduced its RX premium CUV, some say the luxury CUV segment was born. Four generations later, Lexus redesigned the RX, now the RX 350, for 2016, in a big way. The new exterior adds style to what had been a fairly vanilla design.

Like its siblings, it bears the spindle grille, but the floating roof design is unique. On the inside, the attention to detail, enhanced further with the F Sport exclusive Rioja Red leather seats on the test model, an available 12.3”-display screen, a mouse control for selecting onboard functions like audio, navigation and others, set it apart.2016-03-08-lexusrxfrseats

It’s a five-seater but the seats are split 40/20/40 to fold flat for extra cargo room of 56.3 cu.ft.

Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the test model had an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 19/26 mpg. I averaged 21.8 mpg on the test drive. Drive select modes also improve performance, allowing drivers to select among Sport, Eco, and Normal settings. The F Sport added the Sport+ mode and Adaptive Variable Suspension for better handling.

2016-03-08-lex-rxrear-licStandard safety features include a Smart Access Remote key, and Lexus Enform Safety Connect, the onboard emergency alert system. As we’ve seen, more advanced safety features tend to be grouped as a package but for a mere $500 extra, a blind spot monitor was included on the test model as a stand-alone option. Nice but at this price point, it should be standard.

Pricing for the 2016 RX 350 starts at $43,995. Equipped with AWD, the as-tested pricing came to $56,775.

 

SUVs

Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2016-04-05-4runner-licMidsize SUVs are far and away the most popular SUV segment, more than 700,000 had sold in September YTD according to The Wall Street Journal. The 4Runner emphasizes the sporting side of an SUV and the TRD Pro is the sportiest model of all. It easily takes to off-road challenges as well as cruising on city streets.

The test model came in a unique TRD shade for 2016, Quicksand, that many seemed to find attractive, based on the comments I received.

2016-04-05-4-runner-dash3Powered by a 4.0-liter V6 matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, the TRD has a maximum tow rating of 5,000 pounds. Happily, a tow hitch is included as a standard feature. Don’t expect fuel efficiency, however. I earned 17 mpg on the test drive.

Built for off-roading, the TRD offers plenty of ground clearance, assisted by its 17-inch wheels—it did make climbing in and out of it a bid challenging for the short statured like me. Off-roading equipment on the TRD included a part-time four-wheel–drive (4WD) system with Active Trac, a locking rear differential, Multi-Terrain Select, Crawl Control, and Hill-Start Assist. Besides the TRD badging,, the package included special shocks and stamped aluminum front skid plates.2016-04-05-4-runnerrear-lic

The 4Runner offers seating for five or seven and split second and third-row seats that fold flat for a maximum cargo capacity of 89.7 cubic feet.

Pricing for the 4Runner starts at $34,750. The as-tested price came to $42,800.

 

Dodge Durango R/T

2016-09-20-durango-fr2The Dodge Durango brings a sporty option to the large SUV segment and the R/T trim level takes that sportiness to the next level. Add to that its rear-wheel-drive configuration and the Radar Red Nappa leather seating on the test model that I drove, and the Durango R/T carries unique appeal.

Improved for 2016, the Durango achieves better fuel economy with engine stop-start technology on models with a 3.6-liter V6. Powered by the available 5.7-liter HEMI V8 that delivers 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, the R/T zoomed through traffic and on the highway. 2016-09-20-duranago-seatsMated to an eight-speed automatic transmission it had a maximum towing capacity of 7,400 lbs. With an EPA city/highway estimated economy of 14/22 mpg for the R/T, fuel economy does suffer a bit. I averaged better than expected, however, earning 20 mpg in the city and 24.9 on the highway.

The R/T does come with a parking sensor and backup camera but more advanced safety features like a blind spot monitor and Cross Path Detection are grouped in the Customer Preferred Package ($1,995).

2016-09-20-durangorear-lic Standard creature comforts on the top-of-the-line R/T included heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone air conditioning, and the Beats premium audio system. Additional options on the test model included a rear DVD entertainment system ($1995), second-row captains chairs and a third row of seating ($995), and a power sunroof ($1,195).

Pricing for the Durango starts at $31,490. The as-tested pricing was $49,170.

 

GMC Yukon Denali XL

2016-07-19-yukonThe Denali name stands for luxury throughout the GMC lineup. The brand’s largest offering, the Yukon XL, also stands at the top of the lineup when it comes to capability, including seating, cargo room, and maximum towing.

The trade-off will be fuel economy. Powered by a choice of two V8 engines, I drove the 6.2-liter version with 420 hp and 460 lb.–ft. of torque and matched to an eight-speed transmission. Available with 4WD and two-wheel-drive configurations, I drove the former with a maximum towing capability of 8,100 pounds when properly equipped. It has an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 14/20 mpg. I averaged 19.2 mpg.

2016-07-19-yukon-seats2As the top-of-the-line model, the Denali includes a healthy list of standard features, including advanced safety technology like a blind-spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, and my favorite GM innovation, the safety alert seat. It buzzes on the right or left of the seat to warn of potential danger, from lane drifting to a potential collision. The test model added more than $9,000 in additional packages and options, including GM’s signature Head-Up display ($425).

2016-07-19-yukon-rear2-licOne of the roomiest SUVs on the market, the XL stretches the wheelbase even further. It has seating for nine and both the second and third row fold flat to create 121.1 cubic inches of cargo room.

Pricing for the Yukon starts at $49,510. The as-tested pricing came to $81,045.

Family vehicles need to be tough and versatile to make the grade. This list meets that criteria, and in some cases, surpasses them.

Reviews: 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus

 Dodge, Reviews  Comments Off on Reviews: 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus
Jun 012016
 

Most recognized for its muscle cars like the Charger and Challenger, Dodge also includes more utilitarian models in its lineup. The Dart is one. The Dodge Journey is another. On a recent test drive of the 2016 Journey Crossroad Plus for Latino Traffic Report, I was pleasantly surprised by this Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).

Appropriately named, the Journey can transport five to seven passengers depending on how it’s configured. Classified as a small SUV by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation, the Journey’s 50/50-split third-row, available on all trim levels, sets it apart from the competition.

Dodge has reduced the number of trim levels in 2016, from seven to five, but added the Crossroad Plus that sits near the top of the lineup. Standard features like leather seats, the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system, sport mesh seat inserts, and creatively designed storage space elevate the SUV. My favorite was the Flip ‘n Stow in-seat storage under the passenger front seat cushion. It flips up easily and can fit a purse. That plus the fold-flat front passenger seat, second- and third-row seating, and second-row in-floor storage, give the Journey best-in-class storage.

On the outside, distinctive front and rear fascias with Platinum Chrome accents, Platinum Chrome side sills, Platinum Chrome roof rails and unique 19-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels, further distinguish this trim level.

Powered by a choice of two engines, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter V6, the test model came with the latter that produces 283 horsepower and 260 lb.–ft. of torque. Matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, it has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway for the two-wheel-drive version. I averaged 28.9 mpg.

All Journeys include Keyless Enter ‘n Go with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, Uconnect 4.3 with a 4.3-inch touchscreen, an AM/FM radio, CD player, MP3/WMA audio jack input, remote USB port, and black side roof rails.

The Journey also offers surprising options for this segment, like a heated steering wheel, a fold-flat front seat, and all-wheel-drive (AWD), featuring an on-demand system that provides added traction when needed and enhanced fuel economy when not.

The Crossroad Plus includes a black leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Liquid Graphite accents, a power driver’s seat, three-zone climate control and the afore mentioned front passenger fold-flat seat with storage.

Where the Journey falls short, however, is safety. While traditional features like anti-lock brakes and traction control are included, the rearview camera comes in a package reserved for the higher-end models, and a blind-spot warning system isn’t even offered.

Pricing for the Journey starts at $21,890, $2,600 less than the 2015 model. The test model included several packages like the Popular Equipment Group ($1250) that added the heated steering wheel, and the Navigation and Back-Up Camera Group ($1,195) bringing the as-tested price to $32,560.

Sí: Seating configurations and extra storage space give the Journey added versatility.

No: With all the extra packages on the test model, it still didn’t include critical safety features like blind spot monitor or collision avoidance, nor are they available.

Reviews: 2015 Dodge Dart SXT

 Dodge, Reviews  Comments Off on Reviews: 2015 Dodge Dart SXT
Dec 052015
 

2015-05-22 DartinLA

Trying to compete in one of the toughest automotive segments, the 2015 Dodge Dart hits the bull’s-eye with features not normally associated with compact cars, as well as neat styling and good fuel economy. I’ve driven it multiple times, including a three-month test drive, and most recently, in Los Angeles. My first impression remains the same—this is a lot of car for the money.

Dart trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of volume.

Dart trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of volume.

When it was introduced, the Dart was configurable in 100,000 possible ways. Not surprisingly, the features have since been bundled among five models, SE, SXT, Aero, Limited, and GT. On a test drive in California, I drove the SXT.

All Darts include the unmistakable Dodge split crosshair grille and racetrack tail lamps with 152 indirect glow LEDs. I was approached more than once in grocery store parking lots with questions and compliments about it.

On the inside, the dash grabbed my immediate attention, beginning with the seven-inch digital gauge cluster that can be configured in multiple ways to suit the driver’s preference, a capability normally found on luxury models.

2015-05-25 DartNLAThe Dart’s 8.4-inch touchscreen above the center stack is easy to program, from radio station presets to Bluetooth. For 2015, it’s updated to be compatible with an Android smartphone for Bluetooth, voice command and streaming music, and USB connectivity.

The Dart was also one of the first in its segment to offer advanced safety features like a rear backup camera with dynamic grid lines, a blind-spot monitor, and rear cross path detection. I put these features to use navigating through shopping destinations and parking in Beverly Hills.

2015-05-25 11.DartLAseatsAs a compact, the Dart must offer competitive fuel economy. It achieves this via three four-cylinder engines, a 2.0-liter, 2.4-liter, and 1.4-liter turbo. Happily, all three can be matched to three available six-speed transmissions, starting with a six-speed manual. I drove one of two available six-speed automatics. The best fuel economy should come from the 1.4-liter-six-speed-manual combination that has an EPA estimated 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

Competing in the value driven compact car segment, the Dodge Dart certainly holds its own.

Pricing for the 2015 Dart starts at $17,490. For 2015, air conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control and power equipment can be added to the Dodge Dart SE base model for a reduced price of $775. The test model Dart SXT also included the California Package that added a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual rear exhaust tips, and a touring suspension, among other features. With that and more extras, the as-tested price came to $23,070.2015-05-23 dart.rear

 

Sí: Well-equipped, the Dart offers technology like a configurable gauge cluster, normally reserved for fancier models and a six-speed manual transmission on more than just the base model.

No: Air conditioning should be standard on a base model, not part of a package, even an affordable one.

Sports Car Test Drive Extravaganza

 Features  Comments Off on Sports Car Test Drive Extravaganza
Sep 132015
 

2015-05-19 MB.E-400topPowerful, nimble, and fast, sports cars embody the meaning of “fun to drive.” Not limited to a certain segment, however, these models can be found throughout any lineup, making them available in a wide price range. Here’s an overview of vehicles driven by Latino Traffic Report that meet as well as defy expectations of what a sports car should or can be.

 

2015-05-19 MB-E400.licMercedes Benz E400 Cabriolet

A Mercedes-Benz can’t help but “look” sporty. Happily, the E400 Cabriolet brings power under its sheet metal, namely a 3.0-liter biturbo V6 matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission, to support that impression.

Oh yeah, it accelerates from zero–60 miles per hour (mph) in 6.3 seconds.

The two-door cabriolet (convertible) version of the E400 (it’s also available in a hardtop) can accommodate four, technically, with seating made of topstitched leather fitted by hand in any of 16 leathers and a choice of eight colors, like the optional Red and Black Nappa leather on the test model. The triple-layer fabric top reclined with the push of a button in about 28 seconds on the test drive.2015-05-19 MB-E400.seats

Sustainably forested, hand‑finished wood trim accents the dash, doors and console. The E400 also came with dual-zone climate control and heated front seats, among other features.

While nice to look at, sit in, and drive, the E400 places a premium on technology.

Equipment usually included at this price point, like a blind spot monitor or rearview camera, were optional. In fact, there were five option packages on this model that added $10,510 to the base price of $62,275.

The as-tested price for the 2015 E400 Cabriolet came to $76,225.

2015-03-25 lr-rangerover

Range Rover Sport HSE

Land Rover first introduced this trim level in 2005 as a sporty alternative to its iconic Range Rover. Why would someone want a sporty SUV, one might ask? The simple answer is, why not?

Redesigned in 2014, the new Sport model reflects an 800-pound-cutting process to lighten the new model for better on-road agility, performance and fuel economy, from the new suspension to the aluminum unibody architecture.

Equipped with the second generation Terrain Response System that allows the driver to choose among five settings depending on road conditions, full-time four-wheel drive, and enhanced electronic air suspension, the Range Rover Sport also retains its off-road capability.

The supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine with 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque gives it more oomph, with a zero-to-60 mph acceleration of 6.9 seconds. A supercharged V8 is also available.2015-03-25 lr.license

The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy is 17/22 mpg. I averaged 20.8 mpg.

This trim level adds $5,145 to the price tag as well as additional luxury features like Oxford perforated leather with heated and ventilated fronts seats, a sliding panoramic sunroof, 20-inch split spoke alloy wheels, Shadow Zebrano wood trim, and branded aluminum tread plates.

As tested pricing on the 2015 Range Rover Sport HSE came to $82,027.

2015-07-07 lex.rc350 front

Lexus RC 350 F Sport

Diving deeper into the sport sedan market, Lexus introduced the RC 350 for 2015.

The rear-wheel drive (RWD) two-door coupe bears a resemblance to the latest design DNA from Lexus, including the spindle grille, but with a more aggressive, lower stance as if ready to pounce.

As an F Sport trim level, the test-vehicle took the sporty experience even further.

Engineered as a stand-alone model, rather than as a two-door derivative of a sedan, it’s powered by a standard 306 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 paired with an eight-speed automatic with steering wheel shift paddles. It has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. I averaged 23.8 mpg.

2015-07-07 lex.rc350dashThe transmission also includes Sport, Normal, and Manual modes to improve performance, plus a Drive Mode Select dial for setting the suspension, steering wheel, powertrain, and air conditioning response to better suit a driver’s preference, including Normal, Eco, Sport S and Sport S+ on the F Sport for maximum handling performance.

Aside from performance technology, the F Sport package ($3,985) also adds a blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, and ventilated front leather seats. On the test model they were a beautiful shade of burgundy.

Pricing for the 2015 RC 350 starts at $43,715. The as-tested price came to $54,220.

2014-12-31 Genesis3

Hyundai Genesis 5.0

Winning the North American Car of the Year accolade when it was introduced in 2009, the Hyundai Genesis gets redesigned for 2015 and the second generation is just as bold as the first.

With a refined version of Hyundai’s fluidic sculpture design DNA on the outside, the Genesis reaffirms its sporty intentions with a RWD configuration. For the first time, however, an all-wheel-drive version is also available.

The spacious interior affords the Genesis best-in-class front headroom and rear shoulder room.

2014-12-31 genesisdashWhat’s more impressive, however, is the suite of features included on the Genesis 5.0, from the panoramic sunroof to the smart cruise control with stop and start capability. I especially appreciated the haptic warning in the steering wheel as part of the blind spot and lane departure warning systems.

Powered by a 5.0-liter V8 with 420 horses and 383 lb–ft of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic simulated manual shifting and steering wheel paddle shifters, the Genesis performed like a champ. A 3.8-liter V6 is also available.

Continuous Damping Control suspension, included on the test model, allows drivers to choose between Sport and Normal modes to increase control of body motions and body roll, allowing sportier road holding.

Pricing for the 2015 Genesis starts at $38,950. The as-tested price came to $55,700.

2014-12-16 tlx2

Acura TLX 2.4L Tech

All new for 2015, the Acura TLX replaces the TL. Part of Acura’s re-envisioned performance-luxury sedan lineup, the TLX fulfills its objective via two available engines, two new transmissions, and new technology to improve ride and handling.

The test model came equipped with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder matched to an eight-speed dual clutch transmission. A 3.5-liter V6 matched to a nine-speed transmission is also available. It was also upgraded with the Technology Package that included navigation, the Acura-link Communication System, premium audio with haptic touch, perforated leather seats, a rear cross traffic monitor, forward collision warning, and a blind spot monitor among other features. Oddly, there was no parking sensor.

Precision All-Wheel Steer improved handling while the Integrated Dynamics System and paddle shifters improved performance.2014-12-16 tlx.lic

As an added bonus, the four-cylinder improves fuel economy with an EPA estimated city/highway mpg of 24/35. I averaged 26.5 mpg.

Standard features include a moonroof, dual-zone climate control, keyless access with smart entry, heated front seats, a multiview rear camera, and push button start.

Offering one of the best bangs for the buck in its segment, pricing for the 2015 Acura TLX starts at $32,340. The as-tested pricing for the Acura TLX 2.4L Tech came to $35,920.

2015-05-03 mini3

MINI Cooper S Hardtop 4 Door

The MINI Cooper has been bringing smiles to anyone who drives it since it first crossed the pond in 2002, I mean, just look a that front fascia, it’s a cutie patootie! Many models have tried to emulate it ever since.

The Cooper S adds another dimension to this diminutive hatchback, sportiness, while the all-new 4 Door adds roominess and versatility.

The specially tuned suspension and engine give the Cooper S improved performance and acceleration.

The 2.0-liter twin turbo four-cylinder that powers the Cooper S produces 189 horses and 207 lb–ft of torque. This engine plus a six-speed manual transmission made the Cooper S exceptionally fun to drive. A six-speed automatic is available.2015-05-06 minidash

The added power, however, doesn’t come at the cost of fuel economy. The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy is 24/34 mpg. I averaged 32 mpg. You can also choose among Mid, Green, or Sport mode for a more customized performance.

All new for 2015, the 4 Door’s oversized circular center display is now devoted to the infotainment system rather than the speedometer on previous MINIs, which just makes more sense.

Equipped with multiple packages added sport striping across the top of the car, 17-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, and a panoramic sunroof.

Pricing for the 2015 MINI Cooper starts at $21,550. The as-tested pricing came to $34,350.

 

2015-05-13 08.challenger

Dodge Challenger SXT

Muscle car enthusiasts heralded the return of the Dodge Challenger in 2008. The retro styling only added to the excitement.

Redesigned for 2015, Dodge decided not to mess with a good thing, opting to simply tweak the look by splitting the tail lamps and front grille.

The Challenger derives its power from a roaring 24-valve 3.6-liter V6 engine that generates 305 horses and 268 lb–ft of torque. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission helps push city/highway fuel economy to an estimated 19/30 mpg. I averaged 22.1 mpg.

This muscle car also offers a choice of two HEMI V8 engines, a 5.7-liter and 6.4-liter.

2015-05-13 chall.licSelecting the Sport mode can further enhance the sport suspension and ride.

With eight available trim levels, there are sportier Challenger models available, e.g. R/T, R/T Scat Pack, but even the base model that I drove reflected its performance DNA. I would pass, however, on the dull as dishwater Granite Crystal Metallic exterior paint.

Added equipment from the Sound Group ($495) and the Super Sport Group ($1,400) included 20-inch Satin Carbon Aluminum Wheels, steering wheel paddle shifters, a body color rear spoiler, and performance brakes.

Pricing for the 2015 Challenger starts at $27,990. The as-tested price came to $29,885.

 

 

 

 

Long-term Review: 2014 Dodge Dart Limited

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Jan 082015
 

2014-09-23 18.Dart

Some vehicles make a good first impression, others may need to grow on you.

I first met the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart at the launch in 2012. It immediately impressed me with its technology, design, and fuel economy. After spending three months with the 2014 Dodge Dart Limited, I’m happy to say my first impressions have held true—it’s a game changer for the brand offering good fuel economy and value.

When it was first introduced, the Dart was configurable in 100,000 possible ways. Not surprisingly, the features have since been bundled among five models, SE, SXT, Aero, Limited and GT for 2014. I’m driving the Limited.

The first Chrysler vehicle to share a platform with its European siblings, the Dart also grows the manufacturer’s fuel-efficient lineup. All Limited models are powered by a peppy 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 184 horsepower. The test model comes equipped with the six-speed automatic but a six-speed manual is the standard transmission on every trim level but the Limited, which is rare—most standard transmissions are relegated to base models only.

2014-09-24 09dart.dashThe EPA estimated fuel economy is 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway for the 2.4-liter. I’m averaging 26 mpg in the city and the best mileage so far on the highway has been 33 mpg.

I spent $395 in gasoline during the loan and traveled 4186 miles. While I like the fuel economy, it was a challenge to stretch $20 of gas beyond four days before heading back to the pump.

The best fuel economy on any Dart comes from the Aero model, powered by 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo—it should get 41 mpg on the highway. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder powers the base model.

The Dart is styled with the unmistakable Dodge split crosshair grille and racetrack taillamps with 152 indirect glow LEDs. I was approached more than once in grocery store parking lots with questions and compliments about it.

2014-09-24 09.Dart.seatsOn the inside, the sculpted instrument cluster grabs immediate attention. The test model included standard leather seating that reflects Dodge’s new attention to fit and finish. The stitching on the dash adds polish, but the choice of white (bone) and black leather seats with black accent stitching takes confidence. Admittedly, the white leather did show some black scuffs after three months, but saddle soap removed them quickly and easily.

The focus on detail is also apparent with soft-touch accents throughout. The available seven-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) customizable gauge cluster display offered easy interactivity and striking graphics. I settled on the eco graphic with a sunflower that added or detracted petals based on fuel-efficient driving. FYI, I completed my flower once I achieved 30 mpg or better, typically on a road trip.2014-09-23 19.Dart.sunflower

The display was also helpful when the tire pressure monitor indicator came on. Most tire pressure monitors just alert you that you need to add air but not to which tire. The Dart TFT also included a tire pressure screen that showed tire pressure levels for each tire.
2014-09-12 20.Dart.tires

For added versatility, the 60/40 split seats are easy to deploy, just pull the loops on either side, adding extra storage to an already roomy trunk with 13.1 cubic feet of cargo room.

Multiple storage options include a roomy glove box that harkens back to the days when a glove box fit more than just an owner’s manual. An excellent package of standard equipment on the Limited included 60 safety and security features, particularly a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, and blind side warning.

2014-08-10 18.04.55Pricing on the base model, or Dart SE, starts at $15,995. With an MSRP of $24,985, the Dart Limited that I drove packed a lot of features into that cost, like a sunroof, leather seats, a heated steering wheel as well as front seats, a digital configurable instrument panel, and an eight-inch touch screen above the center stack with navigation that has been extremely easy and intuitive to use. There were several locations that I don’t think I could have found as easily and quickly without navigation, and the Dart’s system was particularly simple and intuitive. The voice prompt that overrides manual programming if the car is moving was a little less effective. I would also appreciate at least six more presets for the XM stations. But the best news is that you can get a CD player. It’s standard on all trim levels but located in the center storage compartment on the Limited to make room for the eight-inch display screen.

2014-07-02 14.50.23Optional equipment on the test model included the Customer Preferred Package  ($995) with the afore mentioned safety and convenience features, like a blind spot monitor, and rear back-up camera (how did we ever parallel park without them?).

I was impressed with the Dart when we first met and two years later, I like it even more.