Carefree, Arizona: For the 2013 model year Toyota is giving RAV4 customers a little less and a little more for their money. The “more” category includes a complete interior and exterior redesign, a new engine, new six-speed transmission, and new all-wheel-drive system. Under the “less” heading, Toyota has filed its V6 motor, which was previously available as an option on this compact SUV, as well as removed the optional 3rd-row seat. The 2013 RAV4 starts at $24,145, including destination. The 4th generation RAV4 is significantly more refined and distinct from the first models that came to market in 1994 as ’95 editions with little competition; since Toyota has sold 1.7 million RAV4s in 150 countries and says some 80 percent are still on the road. The latest edition now joins 45 crossovers, including its direct competitors, the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Chevy Equinox. Toyota’s California design team penned the new model for the U.S.; it gets 8 standard airbags (including driver side knee airbag, front passenger seat cushion airbag and side airbags for front and second row) and a standard backup camera, as well as optional goodies like Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and a height-adjustable power liftgate.
Outside, the all-new RAV4 has the profile of an Olympic cyclist, with a low front bumper shape that wraps up from below like handlebars and a roofline that slopes steeply back from the A-pillar like a hunched-over speed racer. Glistening headlamps have an asymmetrical shape that slants inward toward the nose, which features a V-shaped grille that emphasizes this “cute ute’s” more aerodynamic look.
The rear of the ute, which features an integrated spoiler with LED lights, has a bulbous shape that belies the cargo space inside. We’re thrilled that a liftgate replaces the swinging rear door of previous model years which also held the spare tire; standard steel wheels are 17 inches, with 17- and 18-inch alloys available on higher-end trim lines. The spare is now tucked under the cargo floor.
For its fourth birthday as a unibody crossover SUV, the Kia Sorento is getting the equivalent of a pony, a piñata party and a wardrobe of amazing new clothes all at once. Among its gifts: a completely new chassis, a new V6 engine, a redesigned interior and some vamped-up, top-of-the-line features including an entirely new high-end trim line. Kia wants to be known for design, safety and value.
The Sorento’s facelift freshens its design, while inside you’ll find improved conveniences, upgraded materials and more amenities. A top IIHS safety pick, Sorento seats five or seven (there are 2-row and 3-row versions), and comes in front-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive models that start at $24,950, including destination charges.
In case you have not noticed, there are a lot of vehicles in the competitive compact and medium-sized utility vehicle (CUV) segment – and they start to all look alike after awhile. Although Sorento doesn’t look radically different from its contemporaries, it has a few distinctive features that help it stand apart. Among them: a beefy grille and deep front air dam with black hexagonal grille inset behind chrome trim. Vertically set rectangular fog lamps offset sleek, slanted headlamps.
The rear end sits high and is capped at the bottom by a kickplate with a sweet-looking oval tailpipe.
past December I received an email that at first I thought was a hoax.
It was an invitation from Michelin Tire to be part of their
‘Influencer Community’. They wanted to send me to the NOLA
Motorsport Park in New Orleans where I would test drive their new
‘Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3’ ultra-high performance all-season
tires that will be available May 2013. Without even looking at my
schedule I replied: “YES!” and immediately started packing my
always enjoy driving cars on test tracks under extreme driving
conditions. Experience has taught me that tires are the most
important part of a vehicle that keeps you safely on the road. If
tires are worn, warped, not balanced, or are the wrong type of tire
for current driving conditions, you are taking a huge risk. Think
about this: you can be driving a car with a fresh tune-up, new
brakes, four wheel drive, traction control, and every other
automotive widget known to mankind, but if your tires are inferior,
you could get into an accident. If you are lucky your fender bender
would only damage your vehicle, but there is the possibility you
could wreck someone else’s car or worse yet hurt yourself or
General Motors says that today’s pickup truck buyers don’t just use their trucks from 9-5, but also from 5-9, too! They want trucks that have the DNA or core technology of toughness for work, carrying payload, and hauling trailers, but also comfort and room for taking their kids to ball games and ferrying their family around town, as well as connectivity and good gas mileage. Listening to their customers, who are also buying more extended cab models, GM has just taken the wraps off of its next generation Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 that have been updated and renovated for 2014.
Scheduled to go on sale later this year, the stablemates have a refreshed exterior, a completely redesigned interior and upgraded powertrains for more power—but also improved fuel economy. We took a ‘first look’ at the new models recently in Detroit; pricing has not been announced.
While General Motors played it safe with this model year update, and kept some familiar exterior design cues and, in some areas made modest changes, there are also some significant improvements, particularly with some technology features – the improvements offer a welcome change and are clearly a sign of many new and good things to come from The General.
People need to move—and carry things. Adding some all-new and updated game-changing, people-and-cargo-movers to its line-up, Ford has recently expanded its truck brand in the U.S., with new models that go on sale later this year. The Blue Oval is already the best-selling truck maker in North America and now adds two new vehicles for 2014-an updated Transit Connect Van and an all-new Transit Connect Wagon.
We recently took a look and climbed aboard the two new vehicles in Detroit, with Ford’s designers, engineers and marketers on hand to educate us about the new models. First, let’s take a closer look at the van, which came to the U.S. in 2010 as a creative solution for small business owners and others that had the need or desire to own a somewhat utilitarian, compact panel van.
If you’re not familiar with the first-generation version that came stateside from its popular run in Europe for close to a decade, you might think of a bulky, rectangular box with four wheels and the “Airport Shuttle” image, or the name of your electrician painted on the side of a van. You might even think back to the velour swivel seats and dastardly fuel economy of vans in the 1970s and 1980s.
Santa Monica, California: The Beetle is a model that needs no introduction; it’s not simply that the “bug” is known around the globe- it’s unique and carries with it a rich history of fun motoring.
Volkswagen brought its latest iteration, a convertible version of the updated Beetle, to the Los Angeles International Auto Show for the global debut of the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible. Although Beetle isn’t the best seller in this German automaker’s lineup, it is definitely the ‘halo’ for the brand and there was no better place than trend-setting LA to take the top off of the halo and also to talk about VW’s increased sales momentum in the U.S. and around the world. VW also brought a group of auto writers to the show and to the sunny and fun California coastal region that runs from Santa Monica to Malibu for a day of top-down motoring in the new Beetle Convertible. It is priced starting at $24,995, with its high-level version priced at $31,195.
What defines the new Beetle is an updated sleek, redesigned exterior and reworked interior. Volkswagen’s convertible bug is an airy, cute and clever version of the car that once redefined the very term “automobile” in the U.S.. Introduced in 1949 as the ‘type 15’ and reinvented in 2003 after a hiatus from the mainstream, the Beetle is an icon of the internal combustion engine, with seating for four adults and a happy-go-lucky character.
This year’s model looks both more modern and more retro at the same time, with a flattened-out, aerodynamic stance that juxtaposes design elements like plain button wheels.
Atlanta, Georgia: I thought I knew a lot about Buick and its changes. I know this General Motors brand has been busy putting the mojo on a cadre of new or updated models, building a stunning stable of quiet, beautifully-appointed, and fine-driving vehicles. But, I didn’t know that Buick is attracting younger buyers and attracting some new buyers from others brands. Nor did I know that Buick sales are up close to 25 percent this year and this luxury brand is outselling Acura, Audi, Infiniti and Lincoln.
I just drove the all-new 2013 Buick Encore, an addition to the marque’s crossover SUV stable. It lets you ride high while keeping a low profile, thanks to its elevated driving position along with its compact character. It has room for five and a bunch of techno-luxe features befitting GM’s marquee brand, it’s available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions--and priced starting at $24,950, including destination. Come along on our test drive!
Buick brought a group of automotive evaluators to Atlanta for the first drive of the new model. Our venue included an overnight at Atlanta’s Twelve Hotel, located in the upscale section of the city known as Atlantic Station, a live-work-play community.
And, just like Buick’s customer program that offers a drive and fine dining experience, we were treated to a cooking demonstration at the trendy restaurant Empire State South, co-owned by Top Chef Hugh Acheson. Buick has invited some 10,000 potential buyers to this program that has different venues across the country, using this same theme.
It’s a statement about the brand!
Encore doesn’t look like a typical luxury SUV – its wedge-like doorstop shape, contrast-color bumpers and scooped out sides evoke the aggressively sporty Nissan Juke, the Toyota RAV4 or even the before-its-time outdoorsy angles of the late Pontiac Aztek. But a closer look shows the same chrome accents and wide grille with signature vertical slats that adorn the Enclave, Encore’s larger, seven-passenger stablemate.
Extending back from that grille, which is set high in the snubbed nose and capped by trapezoidal blue-accented halogen headlamps, is a roofline that rises high before sloping steeply back toward the rear end. A relatively narrow-looking rear windshield sits high up in the liftgate, and a contrasting bumper with metallic inset rests above a stainless exhaust tip. Standard wheels are 18-inch, five-spoke aluminum, with seven-spoke chrome wheels available.
Inside, the massive front windows and windshield provide a nearly panoramic view of the road and the scenery. The dash and instrument panels seem to integrate almost seamlessly with the doors on each side, giving a wraparound effect to the front of the cabin.
The driver’s seat has a six-way power adjustment with lumbar support; all seats are covered in a cloth/faux leather trim, although leather is available as an option.
Storage abounds in Encore, which includes eight beverage holders, storage in all four doors, four bins in the dash, a double glovebox, pockets in the seatbacks, an optional bin beneath the passenger seat and bins under the rear load floor around the spare tire. With the rear seats in place, there’s room for all the groceries to feed a houseful of holiday guests; rear seats also fold flat for additional storage.
A standard 7-inch color screen in the center stack provided controls for infotainment systems, from the Sirius XM audio system to the rearview camera; GPS navigation is available as an option. The AM/FE/Siruis/CD stereo includes six speakers and an auxiliary jack for iPod and other devices; Bluetooth is standard.
Under the hood is a 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder motor delivering 148 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission; drivetrain is either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. EPA gas mileage estimates are 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway for front-wheel drive models, 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway for those with all-wheel drive.
We drove both the front-wheel-drive and the Active On-Demand all-wheel-drive models of the new Encore over a course of some 150 miles out of Atlanta. While the drive included a variety of roads, there was no opportunity to try out the traction-enhancing capabilities of the AWD system that sends torque to the rear for every launch and redirects torque only when the wheels are slipping. When there is no slippage, the vehicle is a front-driver, just like its bigger sibling the Enclave. The benefit is increased fuel economy (23 city/30 highway), which compares with only two others the Mazda CX-5 (31 highway) and the Ford Escape (30 hgwy).
Macpherson struts with coil-over springs are the backbone of the front suspension, while compound crank and coil springs hold up the rear. Steering is power-assisted rack-and-pinion. Both stability and traction control are standard handling technologies for Encore, as is “QuietTuning,” which uses Bose noise cancelling technology to quiet the cabin.
Brakes are four-wheel discs with ABS (vented discs in front, solid discs in rear); ten airbags including knee and side curtain bags are standard.
Things that stood out for us during the drive were the well-appointed cabins in each trim, great steering, comfortable and quiet ride.
We also noted the fold-flat front passenger seat, enhancing bigger utility in Encore’s small package.
Buick Encore comes in four trim levels: standard, convenience, leather and premium. The base Encore (1SB – starting at $24,950) includes the seven-inch infotainment screen with six-speaker stereo, Sirius XM and Bluetooth; rearview camera; cruise control; manual air conditioning; cloth and faux-leather seats; heated outside rearview mirrors; power driver’s seat adjustments, door locks and windows; leather-wrapped steering; rear cargo cover; roof-mounted luggage rails; dual gloveboxes; 18-inch aluminum wheels; and compact spare tire with mechanical jack.
Encore Convenience (1SD – starting at $25,760) versions add an electrochromic inside rearview mirror, remote start, dual automatic climate control, 120V outlet and fog lamps. Up another level, Encore Leather (1SL -- $27,460) models include leather-appointed seating, heated steering wheel, power passenger seat, heated seats and a driver memory package that includes driver presets for seat position, outside mirrors and climate control. Encore Premium (1SN -- $28,940) adds rain-sensing wipers, Bose seven-speaker audio system, front and rear park assist, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, cargo net and cargo mat.
Options include the premium Bose audio system (Encore Convenience and Leather); GPS-enabled navigation (Encore Convenience, Leather and Premium); 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels (Encore Convenience, Leather and Premium); sunroof (Encore Convenience, Leather and Premium); and an oil pan heater. All-wheel drive on all models is a $1,500 option.
How much do you know about your tires? Well, if you've been paying
attention here, you should know all about how important tire pressure
is to your safety, and you should know that winter tire care is
especially important ... but did you know that there are more than
150 different materials used to create a single tire? Let's take a
moment to go back to tire school and raise our tire IQ with these
interesting facts about tires.
goes into making a tire? Your
tires may look pretty simple, but there's a lot of engineering and
chemistry going into making them! Every tire is actually many
different pieces, including the body ply, sidewall, beads, belt, and
others, and each piece is made of its own special blend of
materials, from natural rubber to sulphur to textiles and
antioxidants! Tire makers like Cooper Tire are constantly
introducing new materials and construction methods in order to
achieve higher performance, whether it's tread wear, traction,
handling, or fuel efficiency.
does all this stuff on my sidewall mean?
Your tire's sidewall contains a lot of information – which is
probably just a bunch of letters and numbers to you. Allow us to
de-mystify some of them for you. On the sidewall, you'll see the
tire name, manufacturer, and a long string of numbers in large
print. It looks something like this: 215/65R15.
This is what they mean: The width of the tire (in millimeters),
the ratio of height to width, whether it's radial, and the diameter
of the wheel (not the tire) in inches. In the case of our example,
it's a 215
tire with an aspect ratio of 65,
it's a Radial,
and it goes on a 15-inch
wheel. Don't ask us why one measurement is in inches and the other
is in millimeters. It's just the way things are. While you're
looking at your sidewall, here's a little-known fact about tires:
their birthday is printed on them! Well, sort of. Look at your
tire's sidewall and find the serial number, also known as the tire
identification number. This number is the last four numbers located
after the letters "DOT." These four numbers tell the week
and year, respectively, when the tire was manufactured. Now you
know your tire's birthday! Bake a cake or something! The tire
won't eat much, and you deserve a little celebration.
does liquid tire sealants like Fix-A-Flat®
This is a tricky question, and many people ask if it works at all,
but the answer is, generally yes – liquid tire sealers usually do
what they are advertised to do, and that is temporarily seal a hole
in a leaking tire. But are they the end-all solution to tire
changes everywhere? Absolutely not! This is what happens when you
squirt this stuff into your tire: first, the liquid finds the hole.
This is what you want. Then, a chemical reaction takes place and
the liquid becomes solid, temporarily sealing the hole. Perfecto?
Not so fast! There's more of that stuff in your tire than just the
bit that sealed the hole, and it all becomes solid too. That means
it changes the shape of the inside of your tire, and worse, adds
This means that tire may never be properly balanced again. Liquid
tire sealer is great for a quick fix to get your car to a tire
dealership when you can't change to a spare, but use it spare-ingly,
if you'll pardon the pun. These sealants should only be used for
temporary mobility allowing you to reach a service station for a
professional inspection and possible repair or replacement. The
only industry-approved method of repair is the use of both a patch
(to seal the inside of the tire) and a plug (to fill the hole).
do tires need to be balanced?
Speaking of balancing, many of us ask for a “rotate and balance”
out of habit – but you may be paying for a service you don't
really need. Your wheels have little weights on them that keep them
from wobbling at high speeds. A tire that is out of balance will
produce a vibration at certain speeds, and it's pretty unmistakable.
Something similar happens if your washing machine is loaded unevenly
– once the spin cycle starts, you'll know! If you feel a
vibration that comes and goes as you drive, you may need a balance.
Balancing is done by trained tire professionals by mounting the tire
to a machine and carefully adding and removing wheel weights until
the tire is balanced perfectly. If you don't feel any vibrations
when you drive, just rotating should be fine.
tires recyclable? Yes!
In fact, many tires are recycled into … tires! Americans
discard 280 million tires a year, 25 to 30 percent of which are
retreaded or otherwise reused. One of the most promising ways to
recycle tires is by turning them into ground rubber "crumbs"
and adding them to asphalt for paving roads, running tracks,
runaways, and playgrounds. The result: pavement life is increased
by 4 to 5 years. Recycled rubber is also used in boat bumpers,
carpet padding, insulation, and get this: in India, tires are cut up
and used to make durable and inexpensive shoes! That's what I call
- from the roadway to the runway! Because you never know the
history of a used tire, it can be unsafe to buy and use them.
Buying a used tire is not "recycling" – it is risk
After receiving the invitation the first two people I would
have loved to share this exciting news with was my father and my grandfather –
unfortunately both had passed within the last year. My dad and grandpa loved cars, were pilots, and
both would be really proud (and just as excited as I was) to have heard about
my invitation. My dad would have been
especially stoked because he loved to race cars – more specifically drag race.
So in an effort to honor my dad I decided to put on a
special piece of jewelry and call my step mom.
I not only wanted to tell her the news about my racing school (dream)
invitation but to also inspire her. “In honor of dad I am going to wear my
butterfly (pendant) necklace (he gave me a few Christmas ago) while driving the Indy
car,” I told her. “That way (when I’m
driving) it will be like dad is flying around the track with me,” I added. Of course an emotional female moment ensued
- but it was all good..
At a recently held Bridgestone Tire event the manufacturer shared big news regarding their latest tire designs and their launch of a teen driving safety program.
One of the corporation’s latest designs is the updated Potenza RE-11, from Bridgestone’s premier tire line. “We recently added a groove in the tire’s shoulder for better road contact which helps maintain a strong corner stiffness by being flexible and draining water, (away from the tread),” Bridgestone Senior Project Engineer Cara Adams said. Another new design is the S-04 Pole Position, “Which is our ultra high performance and is designed for wet and dry roads. The S-04 has wide (silencer) grooves for rapid water evacuation and the design provides a quieter ride. We have also included high silica which improves tread (for wet braking), and ridges which increase response and handling,” Adams explained. The S-04 also has a, “Rayon body ply which assists in high speeds and provides excellent durability.”