San Antonio, Texas: One of my favorite car stories is about my friend Bob’s elderly grandmother, who drove a Toyota Avalon. She would take four right-hand turns to avoid a left. For a number of years, I thought of this driver as the demographic for this four-door, full-sized sedan. I surmised that this Toyota model was designed to appeal to older, more cautious drivers who loved rolling along in large and long lumbering boats. Times have changed, cars have changed, and so have my impressions of Toyota’s flagship Avalon. I have an all-new impression of the all-new 2013 Toyota Avalon which, by the way, is named for a mythical island in Camelot lore.
Continue reading "2013 Toyota Avalon: Grandma’s Car No More-It’s named for Camelot Lore" »
2013 Jetta Hybrid:
By Sue Mead
Santa Fe, New Mexico: Introduced at the 2012 North American Auto Show, the updated four-door Jetta Hybrid is Volkswagen’s second hybrid offering, following the Touareg SUV, and it both looks and drives like a success. We recently drove the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta hybrid in the trendy high country of New Mexico and parked overnight at Santa Fe’s luxury-appointed Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. The new Jetta Hybrid is most fuel-efficient car in this German automaker’s U.S. lineup, and gets up to 45 mpg. It will travel at speeds of up to 37/44 mph on electric power alone. The SE model starts at $27,785, including a $795 destination charge, while the SEL has a sticker price of $30,120; a base hybrid model, which is only available by special order, stickers at $25,790.
The Jetta Hybrid has modernized and sporty-practical styling as the other models in the Jetta lineup, has a narrow front grille and, by today’s big-badge standards, relatively modest “VW” logo in the center. The sedan’s overall profile looks lower, sleeker and coupe-ier than past Jettas, which have tended toward the boxy.
A low front air dam, side skirts and an integrated spoiler help to lower the car’s drag to 0.28 – lower than a standard Jetta by 0.02. Fifteen-inch steel wheels, featuring a windmill-like design unique to the hybrid, are standard, with 16-inch and 17-inch alloys available on higher end models. Up-market Jetta hybrids also come with standard fog lights.
Inside, Jetta hybrid is comfortable and somewhat spartanly-dressed.
Continue reading "The 2013 Jetta Hybrid Adds Miles with Smiles" »
Calistoga, California: Nissan
’s fourth-generation Pathfinder is completely new—and different in ways that will appeal to more women and families. The SUV weighs less, has more room and gets better fuel efficiency than the model it replaces. What’s also appealing is some clever cargo features and technology capabilities that you can’t find anywhere else in the mid-sized SUV segment. The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder
is available in 2WD and 4WD versions and starts at a base MSRP of $28,270, while top-of-the-line Platinum versions start at $40,770. Its competitors are the Ford Explorer
, Honda Pilot/Passport, Toyota Highlander/4Runner, and the Chevy Traverse/Trailblazer.
Nissan brought a group of automotive testers to the Solage Calistoga Hotel and Spa to cool our heels at night in quiet luxury, and spend our days motoring on the Calistoga Wine Trail, along twisty and scenic coastal routes. We also drove the 4WD version of the Pathfinder on the dirt track of a nearby ranch, and used the SUV to tow a trailer to assess its pulling prowess.
Just as many modern SUVs have evolved, the Pathfinder’s looks have changed to give it a more car-like, crossover appearance. The new model is lighter by some 500 pounds, more aerodynamic, and has changed from body-on-frame architecture to a unibody build; this makes it ride less like a truck and more like a minivan.
Pathfinder’s front end is distinguished by an attractive curved grille, dominated by a large Nissan badge and backed by a black honeycomb design; it stretches like a pair of wings across the entire front end. Large halogen headlamps wrap around to the sides. Optional fog lamps are mounted in the lower part of the grille.
The roofline slants downward from the shoulders to the tail end, giving the Pathfinder a more coupe-like stature despite its longer, three-row size. Character lines scoop out the middle section like a waist, and the rear liftback has an integrated spoiler. Standard wheels are 18-inch alloys, with bold 20-inch wheels available on the highest-end models.
Inside, Pathfinder is bigger than the previous generation version by 8.4 cubic feet overall, and there is ample room for seven passengers in the three rows of seats.
Continue reading "The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Takes a New Road " »
2013 Nissan Sentra:
With a sleeker profile, lighter footprint and a more upscale interior, the 2013 Nissan Sentra has been completely redesigned for this model year – and it could give dominant players in this category a run for their money. Boasting up to 40 mpg on the highway, this compact sedan also answers the continued demand for fuel efficiency in an era of continually-rising gas prices. On sale now, starting at $15,990, this is Nissan’s seventh generation of this popular, value-priced model.
A gleaming chrome-framed grille defines the front end, which is capped by arrow-point headlamps accented with LED bulbs lined up dot-to-dot under the larger lights. A lowered beltline and more aerodynamically shaped roofline cut a sophisticated profile; the rear end is a bit chunky and low-slung, with wraparound taillamps and a liftgate with an integrated spoiler (on some trims). Chrome also accents the door handles and windows.
Compared to the previous version, the 2013 Sentra has a longer wheelbase but shorter front overhang (and longer rear overhang), for a modern sports sedan look; it is five percent lighter and its drag coefficient is 0.29, down from 0.34 last year. Sixteen-inch wheels and tires are standard; 17-inch wheels are available, as are a few other exterior premium features, such as integrated rearview mirror turn signals.
Continue reading "The 2013 Nissan Sentra Gets Style, Content and Performance Makeover" »
The 2013 Lexus LS: Lexus has given its flagship sedan a complete redesign and added a new sport version to the lineup. The all-new 2013 Lexus LS 460 is unapologetically big, smooth and sumptuous-both inside and out. Plus, there’s an updated version of its LS 600 hybrid that brings increased fuel efficiency and added plushness. Since it came to the market in 1989, its designers and engineers have set the tone for the Lexus brand by endowing its top-of-the-line model with a high level of craftsmanship, technology and refinement. The newest LS has a more bold exterior; an interior that has been updated with a higher level of quality and technology; there is improved safety and upgraded driving dynamics—along with more than 3,000 new parts! The base LS 460 rear wheel drive version starts at $71, 990 and the LS600 hybrid starts at $119,910.
We came to Tucson, known as “The Real Southwest” and parked overnight at the sumptuous Ritz Carlton Hotel, with accommodations befitting this updated opulent auto. Lexus isn’t shy about its achievements and wants its success to be recognized, so has tailored its ride and drives and media campaign to heighten the prestige of the LS. For its first introduction this summer, Lexus revealed the new model as the centerpiece to an international photo exhibit in San Francisco called the “Lexus Laws of Attraction”, at an L.A. Food and Wine event and at the legendary Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance, in Monterrey, California. The new LS F Sport model was unveiled by renowned designers Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan to a global audience during a live webcast on Lexas.com and Facebook.
Looking at the exterior of the new iconic LS, you’ll notice it has an aerodynamic sweep of a profile, with short overhangs front and rear and a relatively long midsection.
Continue reading "Smooth, Sexy, Sporty and Smart:The 2013 Lexus LS" »
Santa Monica, California: The view from my panoramic window took in the sun’s orange globe setting over the Pacific, a small cluster of beachgoers relaxing on the golden-colored sand, a parade of strollers and bikers along the boardwalk, and the famed Santa Monica Pier with its trademark Ferris wheel spinning its riders high into the salt air above the ocean punctuated by ribbons of neon lights.
I was in trendy Santa Monica, staying at the upscale and amiable Casa del Mar Hotel—to drive the redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion over the course of two days. Not long ago, it would have been a fairly-short, one-day drive, but Ford has expanded the offerings of Fusion models to three model types, and there are now three powertrain choices to select from, as well. The mid-sized sedan market today is a new, highly-competitive arena and the Blue Oval automaker has stepped up to the plate loading the bases with good product and also bringing seven new whiz-bang technology features to the game. It’s bound to pay off!
Continue reading "The 2013 Ford Fusion-A Triumvirate of Models is a Home Run " »
San Francisco, California: It’s been on sale since July in 18 metro markets with success that has outpaced expectations and General Motors has now ordered more from Korea, where it is produced, to meet the increased demand. It is the new 2013 Chevy Spark, brought to the U.S. to join the ever-growing list of micro-compact cars now available in America. This little wedge of a four-seater has a sporty look, with more cargo room than you might expect from a mini machine. With a MSRP that starts at $12,995, Chevy hoped this new model that has sold in global markets since 2009 would ignite its home market—and it already has!
While many come to San Francisco for the charm of its cable
cars, Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, souvenir shops in Chinatown and the beautiful Victorian architecture in Haight-Ashbury, a group of autowriters came to San Francisco recently to try out the new Chevy Spark in this upscale and trend-setting environment. We bunked in at the stately-but-not
precocious St. Regis Hotel and, while north of the city for our drive day, we enjoyed the Hilltop 1892 as our lunch and jumping-off point to drive the Spark.
Continue reading "The 2013 Chevrolet Spark Ignites the Micro-Car Market" »
This is my idea of a good time:
#1 Visiting the Chicago firehouse directly across from Wrigley Field and trading chicken soup recipes with its chef.
#2 Driving an ambulance through the streets of downtown Chicago.
#3 Hanging out watching TV in a fully tricked out luxury RV.
#4 Soaring above Soldier Field (home to the Chicago Bears) in an aerial lift (cherry picker).
#5 Tucking into a creamy bowl of brisket from the Southern Mac and Cheese Truck.
I did all of the above and more at a recent Mercedes-Benz event in Chicago to introduce the many diverse ways that their Sprinter commercial vans are utilized.
Bottom line, the Sprinter can be morphed into anything from a cupcake truck to a luxury motor home, executive coach, ambulance or refrigerated van. As Claus Tritt, Vice President of Operations for Daimler Vans USA, mentioned, “For a commercial vehicle we always say it’s got a sexy back; behind the B pillar it’s all about functionality.”
Continue reading "Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 101" »
When I received an invitation to attend Bridgestone’s Indy
Racing Academy (Driver Development Center) in Toronto Canada I felt electric
excitement (and a little disbelief) that I had been invited (along with nine
other female journalists) to attend what to me, was my ultimate dream come true.
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..
Continue reading "Bridgestone Hosts Inaugural Event for Female Journalists" »
Complete with flower-filled courtyards, restful fountains
and red-tiled roofs, the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara is the perfect place to
enjoy the leisurely pace and warm embrace of the California lifestyle and test
drive the all new 2013 Honda Accord line up. The evening before the drive we
were treated to a reveal of the new models over cocktails, a cool demo of how
they design around people in the car and the excellent visibility designed into
front and passenger windows. We concluded the evening with a fine dinner of
Mexican inspired eats.
In the morning the Honda team went over all the new specs
and features in great detail to give us the all the background on all the
models including the 2014 Accord Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) Sedan that is scheduled
to debut in early 2013. The technology features are amazing and MANY for
safety, drivability, communication, GPS location and entertainment. Something
for every busy on the go woman driver needs and more.
I test drove both the all new Honda Accord 2013 Sedan and
Coupe models and had so much fun driving the 6 speed manual Coupe, YES a stick
shift! Very sporty feel as I took a long test drive over hill and vale in the
Santa Barbara wine country. We stopped for a Asian inspired lunch at the
Firestone Winery, (no wine tasting darn it). On the way back I drove the Sedan
with Tanya from Mommy Goggles which was so quiet and smooth, good thing too as
Tanya's tummy did not agree with all the winding roads!
My 2013 Honda Accord driving impressions: Nimble, quick acceleration
on both models. Smooth drive on uneven surfaces, better in the Sedan than the
Coupe. The manual 6 speed shifting was smooth and easy to handle as well. Loved
the Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system and the standard on all models rear
Trunk space is very roomy for a mid size compact car. New
body style and trim is quite a sexy departure from prior years Honda Accord
plain Jane models.
I so enjoyed meeting all the women bloggers and media at the event, including Tanya from Mommy Goggles and Jill
from UrbanMommies Media in Canada, and most of all the of so effervescent Vicki Poponi,
Assistant VP Honda Product Planning, who will be my September 20th Automotive
Advice for Women Radio Show Guest. Be sure and turn in at 3pm PDT / 6pm EDT to
learn more about the all new2013 Honda Accord and Vicki's career in automotive,
a fascinating story.
Big thanks to Honda for inviting me to the event!
Continue reading "2013 Honda Accord Hits the Road in Wine Country" »