Toyota and SHPE Award Latino Scholars

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Mar 022023

Nunca Pares Scholarship winners, (left to right): Tyler McBride, Sr. manager, Brand, Growth Audiences, Cross Vehicle Line Marketing, Vehicle Marketing and Communications, Toyota Motor North America; Ruben Bonett, Giana Aguilar-Valencia, and Maximiliano Pombo Hernández.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Toyota’s Nunca Pares (Never Settle) Scholarship campaign, in partnership with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), has awarded three Latino students with a $25,000 scholarship each.

The scholars were celebrated at a ceremony held at Toyota’s North American headquarters in Plano, Texas on February 28:

  • Giana Aguilar-Valencia – Junior at DePaul University, studying computer science
  • Ruben Bonett – Junior at Texas A&M University, College Station, studying electrical engineering
  • Maximiliano Pombo – Junior at Texas A&M University, College Station, studying computer science

With these scholarships, Toyota joins SHPE in the shared mission of expanding science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities for Hispanic-heritage students. Each student demonstrated unyielding determination to making their dreams come true.

“We recognize these students for their commitment to creating solutions for a better tomorrow,” said Tellis Bethel, group vice president, Social Innovation, Toyota Motor North America. “Driving educational opportunities to Hispanic students is important to the development of future innovations for a more equitable and sustainable society. We’re excited to see how far these students go and to have the opportunity be a part of their continued educational journey.”

For more than 20 years, Toyota has engaged with SHPE on a regional and national level, including participation in their national conference. Toyota’s college programs with SHPE encompass recruitment efforts, co-ops, internships and scholarships.

“We’re excited to see this scholarship opportunity come to life for our members thanks to Toyota,” stated Monique Herrera, chief external relations officer, SHPE. “The Toyota Nunca Pares Scholarship gives these students the opportunity to continue pursuing their higher education goals by providing much needed financial support so they can achieve their dreams.”

Katya Echazarreta joined the ceremony to share her inspiring story. As an electrical engineer and the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space, Katya’s journey to becoming one of the youngest women in space exemplifies her resolve to be an example of success for others pursuing a career in STEM.

Toyota’s Nunca Pares brand campaign celebrates Latino’s collective spirit of pushing forward, to never give up on achieving their goals, regardless of the challenges. It was developed by Toyota’s marketing agency, Conill.


Toyota Partners With Latino Nonprofits For COVID-19 Response

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Apr 242020

Latino Traffic Report has learned that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the United States, Toyota Motor North America announced today a range of initiatives with longstanding national nonprofit partners to serve the U.S. Latino community.

More than $1 million in previously awarded funding to the Hispanic Federation (HF), Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU) Education Foundation, UnidosUS and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) was reallocated to their COVID-19 response efforts.

Funding supports emergency assistance, information dissemination, small business support and academic assistance for the U.S. Hispanic community.

“Together, we can help reach more people with the critical information and resources they need,” said Al Smith, group vice president and Chief Social Innovation Officer, Toyota Motor North America. “We want our partners and communities to know that we are here for them now and beyond the crisis.”

Toyota’s efforts with its partners on behalf of the Hispanic community include:


  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF):
    • Funding to provide support to K-12 students, parents and scholars
    • Emergency relief for families struggling with food, housing, and tuition payments, as well as support for distance learning.
  • The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU):
    • Funding to provide comprehensive services to scholars.

Emergency Assistance

  • Hispanic Federation:
    • Funding for the COVID-19 Latino Nonprofit Emergency Assistance Fund.
    • Emergency food relief to seniors, children, and families in New York.

Information Dissemination

  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC):
    • Funding to create resources in Spanish about COVID-19, and distribute them via community network platforms.
  • UnidosUS:
    • Funding to ensure accurate information and resources to slow the spread of COVID-19 are reaching the Latino community in English and Spanish.

Small Business Support

  • United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC):
    • Funding to provide economic relief resources and technical assistance to Hispanic and Minority-Owned Small Businesses that are heavily impacted by this COVID-19 crisis.
    • Direct 24/7 bilingual technical assistance support on the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Impact Disaster Loan applications, banking/loan/liquidity questions, and other questions about general support.
    • Connecting Hispanic-owned suppliers in the U.S. to buyers who quickly need supplies including gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other items.

For more information on Toyota’s COVID-19 response, please visit:

Honda, HSF Award Scholarships and Internships to Latino Students

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Aug 282017

Honda and Hispanic Scholarship Fund Honor Outstanding Latino Students with Scholarships and Internship Opportunities.

Latino Traffic Report offers congratulations to sixteen outstanding Latino undergraduate students from around the country were recently honored for academic excellence by Honda North America, Inc. and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) at the annual Scholar Awards Breakfast in Columbus, Ohio.

Each student is eligible to receive a scholarship up to $5,000 to help pay for tuition, books and living expenses, pending verification of fall enrollment. Recipients also had the opportunity to interview for Honda’s summer internship program.
“We are very excited to be able to maintain our relationship with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and these incredibly talented students,” said Yvette Hunsicker, assistant vice president of the Honda Office of Inclusion and Diversity. “Honda believes in the next generation of leaders and with the proper support, their ability to achieve a college education. My hope is that they will all be working here at Honda someday.”

The students, who qualified for the program by earning at least a 3.0 grade point average, also traveled to Marysville, Ohio, for an inside look at Honda’s manufacturing, research and development operations. This trip included a tour of the Honda Heritage Center Museum, which tells the story of Honda’s North American history through an array of historic and current products.

“HSF is proud of our partnership with Honda,” said Fidel A. Vargas, President & CEO, HSF. “When a company with Honda’s global reach invests in young scholars in this exemplary way, the whole world can see that Honda is deeply committed to higher education, the Hispanic American community, and the future of our country.”

2017 Students Selected for Scholarship:

Ana Cervantes, Arizona State University, Chemical Engineering major

Ava Mauser, University of New Mexico, Chemical Engineering major

Bryce Gutierrez, Texas A&M University, Engineering, Chemical Engineering major

Christopher Casares, Brown University, Electrical Engineering major

Eglen Galindo, Stanford University, Industrial Engineering, Management major

Gabriel Rojas, Oregon State University, Mechanical Engineering major

Gerardo Valdes Bustamante, Colorado School of Mines, Mechanical Engineering major

Gustavo Salazar, University of California, Riverside, Economics, Chemical Engineering major

Isabel Perna, University of Miami, Industrial Engineering major

Joanna Rivero, University of Pittsburgh, Mechanical Engineering major

Junnior Rodriguez, Cypress College, Mechanical Engineering major

Manuel Lopez, University of Texas at Austin, Electrical Engineering major

Mario Macedo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mechanical Engineering major

Paige Esguerra, North Carolina State University, Engineering, Chemical Engineering major

Paulo Montoya, Texas A&M University, Industrial Engineering major

Robin Franklin, University of Texas at Austin, Electrical Engineering major

New Passat Adds Value and Refinement for 2016

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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.


Ten Latino Students Win Buick Scholarships

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Jun 152015

buick1The first four-year recipients to benefit from the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program are receiving their degrees this year as the General Motors Foundation today announced nearly $1.2 million in new scholarships of up to $25,000 a year for 50 students to pursue degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Students can be selected for the scholarship after high school graduation or during any year of college study. Of the new class of recipients, 62 percent are first-generation college students and 68 percent come from diverse backgrounds. Nearly one in four have ties to the military, having served themselves or as dependents of a current or former service member, and ten out of the 50 selected are Latino. They are: Sandra Alarcon, Daniel Savala, Michelle Diaz, Sergio Banuelos, Marilu Duque, Christina Flores, Henry Gomez, Kathy Tangarife, Cristian Munoz, and Cash Forster.

Buick Achiever Marilu Duque from Deltona, FL.

Buick Achiever Marilu Duque from Deltona, FL.

To celebrate the combined achievements of the inaugural graduating class of Buick Achievers with the announcement of 2015 recipients, Diego Gonzalez, a Buick Achiever and 2015 San Diego State University graduate, teamed up with Buick last month to surprise high school senior Stewart Martin of Winston-Salem, N.C., with a $25,000 scholarship.

“Growing up, I loved racing. My dad told me about NASCAR engineers – and I chose that career path because it follows my dreams and it’s a way to connect with my father,” said Martin, whose father passed away when Stewart was a young child. “I’m so thankful for this scholarship. It brings me one step closer to following my dream.”

Martin plans to major in mechanical engineering at UNC Charlotte.

“The future of our country lies in technology and innovation and depends on a strong pipeline of highly skilled talent,” said GM Foundation Chairman Bob Ferguson. “Our scholarship program is helping bridge the gap between a skilled workforce and positions that companies are looking to fill.”

Buick Achiever Cash Forster from Purcell, OK.

Buick Achiever Cash Forster from Purcell, OK.

Since its inception in 2011, the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program has awarded more than $28 million in scholarships to more than 3,400 high school and undergraduate students nationwide. The scholarships are renewable for up to four years, with one additional year for students entering a qualified five-year engineering program.

“The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program has become one of the most impactful in the county, demonstrating our commitment to those students who excel while also giving back to their community,” said Duncan Aldred, U.S. vice president of Buick. “This graduating class serves as a testament to what this scholarship has done for so many students – put a college degree in hand, and set them on their way to further education or the start of their careers.”

Buick Achievers gives special consideration to females, minorities, first-generation college students, military veterans and military dependents.

Buick Achiever Kathy Tangarife from Lowell, MA.

Buick Achiever Kathy Tangarife from Lowell, MA.

General Motors and the GM Foundation have a long history of investing in education initiatives, investing more than $70 million since 2007. For example:

  • The GM Foundation provides approximately $3 million annually to key university partners and professional organizations to advance STEM curricula.
  • Last month, GM and the GM Foundation gifted $4 million to Kettering University to create dynamic automotive lab facilities that will provide a unique education for future engineers, scientists and industry leaders.

Click here for more information about the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, to view the complete list of 2015 recipients, or to register for an e-mail notification when the next application window opens.

2015 Audi Q5 TDI quattro Tiptronic

 Audi, Reviews  Comments Off on 2015 Audi Q5 TDI quattro Tiptronic
May 042015

2015-04-15 Q5

Once car prices pass the $40,000 mark, there should be little to complain about. Folks will pay at least that much for the 2015 Audi Q5 luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV). On a recent test drive in Austin, TX, there was indeed, lots to like, and a little not, about the elegant SUV.

The specific test model was the Q5 TDI quattro Tiptronic. Few manufacturers have remained as committed to selling diesel powertrains in the United States as Volkswagen, and the same goes for its luxury brand, Audi.

More refined than ever, diesels are quieter and cleaner, but efforts to dispel old sooty images remain a challenge. I literally forgot that I was driving a diesel and its impressive EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway made it so I didn’t need to pump more fuel. The fuel economy on the diesel even surpasses that of the Q5 Hybrid.

Elegant two-tone leather seats.

Elegant two-tone leather seats.

The powertrain includes a 3.0-liter V6 clean diesel engine with 240 horsepower and 428 lb–ft of torque, matched to an eight-speed Tiptronic engine with paddle shifters on the steering wheel for simulated manual shifting.

There is an average fuel economy calculator onboard to measure fuel efficiency, and once I found it using the Owners Manual (it was hidden behind the Tiptronic shifter on the steering wheel and attached to the windshield wiper wand), it showed my average mpg hovering at around 31.5.

As the name implies, the Q5 also came equipped with the quattro all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. It reduces fuel economy a tad but provides added confidence on slick road conditions and improved driving performance. Introduced 35 years ago, it was the first permanent AWD system for passenger cars.

Q5 Dash (not test model)

Q5 Dash (not test model)

Another feature that made itself immediately apparent was the blind spot warning system, or Audi side assist, that flashes brightly on the side view mirrors. Surprisingly, this system, and many more, e.g. back-up camera, aren’t standard but available on the Prestige model that adds $7,500 to the price.

Standard safety features include the usual suspects, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and side curtain airbags, among others.

Available in five models, 2.0T, 3.0T, TDI clean diesel, hybrid, and SQ5, and three trim levels, all Q5s come with leather seats, tri-zone climate control, cruise control, an AM/FM/SAT radio with SD card reader and CD player, and power liftgate. Stepping up to the Premium Plus trim level adds Audi Connect that includes one of the first in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots for up to eight passenger devices as well as Google Earth Mapping and real-time access to information.

2015-04-12 Q5cargoThe Premium Plus also adds a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, and Audi advanced key—keyless start, stop, and entry. The Prestige (the test model) includes all the above plus a rearview camera, Audi side assist, and MMI navigation plus with voice control and Audi connect.

With any SUV, versatility matters. The Q5’s 40/20/40 split rear bench folds easily. Once folded flat, cargo volume expands to 57.3 cubic feet. I had a chance to test this on the way to an event where I sold serapes as a fundraiser for the Center for Mexican American Cultural Arts in Austin.

The Q5 TDI offers excellent performance and fuel economy, but packaging to get features like a back-up camera that other brands include as standard, will force the price up very quickly. Pricing for the 2015 Q5 2.0T starts at $40,225. The as-tested price for the 2015 Q5 TDI that included several additional packages came to $62,025.2015-04-15 q5lic


Sí: Very quiet and refined diesel with impressive fuel economy.
No: Packaging sets too high a price for features that should be standard on a luxury vehicle.

Nissan Helps Soldiers Build New Homes

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Apr 222015

Iraq War veteran Brenda Lopez builds her home with help from Nis

Nissan North America, in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity and Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), today started construction of a Dallas-area home in partnership with Brenda Lopez, a current member of the Army Reserves who served with the 360th Brigade in Iraq during 2008 and 2009.

“I’m building my house! I’m excited,” Lopez enthused. “It means a lot to have the other veterans here, especially with the Wounded Warrior Project. They are like another family to me.”

Volunteers from Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, WWP Alumni and employees of Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. in the Dallas area will donate their time and construction skills as they work alongside Lopez and her dad, Teodoro. The new home will be located in the Oak Cliff Gardens neighborhood, which is located near the Dallas Veterans Administration Medical Center.Iraq War veteran Brenda Lopez builds her home with help from Nis

A Specialist in the Reserve, Lopez, a Dallas native, is a recipient of the Army Commendation Medal. She has two preschool children and is taking classes at Mountain View Community College, in addition to working as an office cashier at a local home improvement store.

Nissan has been a partner to both organizations for many years, donating $1 million to the two nonprofit organizations for the project.

“We are grateful to Nissan for their commitment to help families realize their dream of home ownership,” said Colleen Finn Ridenhour, Habitat for Humanity International deputy director Corporate, Foundation & Institutional Relations. “We were honored to be part of the Nissan Super Bowl campaign and to be building with the Wounded Warrior volunteers.”

Since 2005, Nissan’s total support for Habitat for Humanity has surpassed $11.6 million. In response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Nissan donated 50 Nissan Titan trucks to assist Habitat’s response efforts in the Gulf Coast and mobilized employees to partner in home building.

Nissan employees have helped to build 63 homes across the United States, including nine in Dallas, over the past eight years, logging more than 70,000 volunteer hours building homes with Habitat for Humanity.Iraq War veteran Brenda Lopez builds her home with help from Nis

The company’s support of the WWP includes a recent “Project Titan” adventure, in which two injured veterans piloted a custom-built Nissan Titan pickup on a 10-day adventure through the Alaskan wilderness.

2015 Nissan Juke SV

 Nissan, Reviews  Comments Off on 2015 Nissan Juke SV
Apr 172015

2015-04-08 juke2

On a recent weeklong test drive of the 2015 Nissan Juke, the five-door hatchback or “sport cross” as Nissan terms it, justified the appeal for this growing segment. It’s versatile, affordable, and fuel-efficient, a trifecta for the Latino car buyer.

Since its launch for the 2011 model year, the Juke’s appeal begins with its design. The distinctive profile, from the headlamps to the taillights, is matched with sporty two-toned cloth seats featuring the unique motorcycle tank-inspired center console, finished in high-gloss paint.

The rear 60/40-split fold-down bench seat adds versatility and 35.9 cubic feet of cargo room. I was able to fit a mountain bicycle in mine.2015-04-04 jukebike2

For 2015, the Juke includes standard LED Signature Accent Lamps, projector beam headlights, and bold new colors, like the Cosmic Blue (with a purplish hue) that came with the test model. It was matched to an interior with red accents, but the JUKE Color Studio program allows buyers to customize the colors of select exterior and interior pieces, such as wheels, spoilers and mirror caps. I might have chosen a different color, like black purple, instead of red.

2015-04-08 0jukeseatsWhile the test model was configured as a front wheel-drive (FWD), the Juke is available as an all-wheel drive, a nice option for this segment.

Powered by a fairly peppy 1.6-liter four-cylinder and matched to the Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Juke FWD has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. I achieved an average mpg of 34.1. A six-speed manual is available on the supped-up Juke NISMO and NISMO RS.

Standard technology for 2015 includes a RearView Monitor with a 5.0-inch color display, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, and Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System and Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant.

An AM/FM stereo with a CD player and USB connection port for iPod interface and other compatible devices, is also standard.

The Juke SV adds the I-CON system drive mode selector—another great feature at this level—and auto climate control digital display, privacy glass, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium cloth seating materials, SiriusXM Satellite Radio (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately) and a power/sliding sunroof.2015-04-juke.rear.lic

Packed with function and fun, the Juke, however, isn’t perfect. The front armrest can get in the way of the second drink holder and there’s no auto setting for the headlights, i.e. they have to be turned off manually.

Offered in a range of five trim levels, S, SV, SL, NISMO and NISMO RS, pricing for the 2015 Juke starts at $21,075. The as-tested price came to $23,585.


Sí: Great look and good fuel economy.
No: Armrest blocks drink holder, weak stereo.

Long-term Review: 2014 Dodge Dart Limited

 Dodge, Reviews  Comments Off on Long-term Review: 2014 Dodge Dart Limited
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.

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.

2014 Lexus GX 460

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Jan 072015


Lexus has redesigned the GX 460 for 2014 and as summer approaches, this new luxury utility vehicle (LUV) could suit the family road trip. For comfort and versatility, nothing beats the minivan, but for travelers who prefer a more posh ride, an LUV may be more apt.

I recently test-drove the all-new Lexus GX 460 around Austin. For starters, Lexus gives the GX a definite advantage—the base model is $4,710 dollars less than last year’s. It also comes with important features like the distinctive spindle grille, a rear back-up camera—an essential for the rear visibility challenged sport utility vehicle segment—plus a tilt/slide moonroof, and roof rails.

2014_Lexus_GX_460_002Adding the Premium Package will not only get you to last year’s price, it’ll get you the following features: a navigation system with backup monitor, perforated leather trimmed interior, heated and ventilated (cooled) front seats, heated outboard rear seats, Intuitive Parking Assist, and three-zone climate control.

For convenience the second row seats are split 40/20/40 or 60/40 to allow access to the back seats, which are also 2014_Lexus_GX_460_003split 50/50 to fold flat. Maximum cargo volume is 64.7 cu. ft. The rear tailgate, however, does not lift up, but rather opens to the right. The key fob includes a power release button that controls the rear window, not the tailgate, so that it pops up for reaching in or loading from the rear.

Road trips also call for onboard entertainment features. The GX 460 comes with an AM/FM/in-dash single CD with Automatic Sound Levelizer and MP3/WMA capability, Bluetooth hands free phone and phonebook download capabilities and music streaming, Dual USB ports with iPod connectivity, an eight-inch touch screen, HD Radio Real-Time Traffic and Weather, and an Integrated SiriusXM Satellite Radio receiver (complimentary 90-day trial subscription included).

For watching movies on the road, however, the Rear Seat Entertainment System is optional, available on the Luxury trim level, and the Lexus navigation and Enform telematics system were a bit tedious.

Powered by one engine, the 4.8-liter V8 with 301 horsepower and 329 lb.–ft. of torque, it has a towing capacity of 6,500-lbs. It’s also equipped with trailer sway control for added safety and stability.2014_Lexus_GX_460_007

Complete with the six-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain achieves a modest EPA estimated fuel economy of 15 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. My average mpg came to 17.2 at the end of the weeklong test drive.

An advanced standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System helps the GX 460 attain the smooth ride for which Lexus is famous. It’s enhanced by the Adaptive Variable Suspension that allows the driver to tailor ride and handling balance by selecting from among Normal, Sport or Comfort modes.

The standard full-time four-wheel drive with an electronically controlled transfer case and a TORSEN torque-sensing limited slip center differential gives owners added on-road security and off-road capability.

Standard safety features include traction control, vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes, and ten standard airbags including knee protection in the front seat and side curtain protection for all three rows.

The test model included the Premium Package as well as an essential safety feature, the blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, well worth the additional $800.2014_Lexus_GX_460_020

Smooth, quiet, luxurious and with seating for seven, the GX will take families to vacation destinations in style.

Available in two trim levels, Base and Luxury, pricing for the GX 460 starts at $49,995 with destination charges. The as-tested price came to $55,815.