Archive for March, 2012

Mar
29
Ram 1500 Tradesman

Ram 1500 Tradesman

If you’re a “meat and potatoes” driving enthusiast, you’re interested in two things when it comes to a new car: “How fast does it go and how much is it going to cost me?” For these drivers, we offer “Horsepower per Dollar”—2012 vehicles that deliver the most speed for the buck.

Among 2012 cars, Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro models dominate the list. But among new vehicles, the horsepower-per-dollar award goes to the 2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman, which is fitted with a 5.7-liter V8 Hemi engine. Starting at just $22,340, this roaring beast generates 390 horsepower for a horsepower-per-$1,000 rating of 17.457

To see where your favorite vehicle ranks, check out all of our 2012 “Horsepower per Dollar” lists.

Mar
29

2012 Hyundai AccentMan, does time ever fly!

Recently I had my first chance to sign up for the Hyundai Accent SE hatchback in the Consumer Guide test-car fleet. It’s a long-termer, one we’ll have for most of the year. In that time, everybody here will drive it more than once, but there’s got to be a first time, and this was mine.

Not that I was particularly looking forward to it, mind you. I couldn’t recall how long it had been since I’d last sampled the South Korean automaker’s entry-level subcompact, but the very words “Hyundai Accent” on the sign-up sheet summoned up a vague dread. These had always been terribly uninspiring “point-A-to-point-B” wheels. Nothing to see here, folks; move along.

Good thing I’m not particularly stubborn, or I might have failed to recognize just how much the baby Hyundai has grown up. This bigger, better Accent was a real car with decent driving dynamics and nice features. No, it still won’t inspire the writing of symphonies about it, but it’s certainly worthy of at least a “my eyes were opened” blog post.

Mar
29
2012 Nissan Versa

2012 Nissan Versa

I’m pretty sure that if Lenin were alive today and making decisions for the proletariat, we’d all be driving around in 4-cylinder Kia Rondos. At least folks with families would; the rest of us would be cruising around in Nissan Versa hatchbacks. Why hatchbacks? Because the trip between collectives always seems to involve schlepping a peck of peppers and the odd goat or two.

Mar
28

I love me some fast SUVs. Give me heaps of power to go with room and comfort for my family and their gear.

Of course, with many performance SUVs comes the potential for extremely high fuel consumption. Such is the price one must pay for having a stonking V8 engine under the hood.

Ford is taking a different approach with its take on the jackrabbit SUV. The new 2013 Ford Explorer Sport employs the company’s potent “EcoBoost” V6 to deliver the power I seek along with better projected fuel economy than any comparable V8-powered rival.

EcoBoost is Ford speak for its engine family that employs low displacement, high-pressure direct injection, and turbocharging. All three work in tandem to offer power that’s comparable to large V6 and V8 motors but with fuel economy similar to smaller 4- and 6-cylinder units.

While you can order an Explorer with a 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine, the Sport only comes with Ford’s 3.5-liter V6 variant. While a final figure wasn’t available at time of writing, officials project output of “at least 350 horsepower.” Even if it were to hit that number exactly, the Sport would be in the same ballpark as the V8-powered Dodge Durango (360 horsepower) and close to the much more costly Range Rover Sport HSE (375 horsepower).

Mar
28
2011 Buick Regal with ebony trim and piano-black accents

Buick Regal with ebony trim and piano-black accents

I can only imagine the challenges facing the people who pick out interior trim for new cars. There’s cost, durability, and, of course, appearance issues—and probably a million other things to take into account, too. And don’t forget that what looks great to some people will look lousy to others.

Mar
28

2013 Ford Flex

Though not redesigned, the 2013 Ford Flex received considerable freshening—revised front and rear styling, an updated interior, a boost in horsepower on the 3.5-liter V6, and much more. Read Consumer’s Guide’s detailed review of the 2013 Ford Flex.

Mar
28
2012 Honda Civic Si Sedan

2012 Honda Civic Si Sedan

Did you realize that the compact-car class has 22 entries? If you’re in the market for a new compact, sort through the confusion by checking out The Consumer Guide to 2012 Compact Cars. On one Web page, we list all the cars available in that class, providing pricing, fuel-economy numbers, and brief descriptions of each car. The 2012 subcompact class includes the Buick Verano, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Volt, Dodge Caliber, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Honda Insight, Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai Elantra Touring, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Leaf, Nissan Sentra, Nissan Versa, Scion xB, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Jetta, and Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. Read more.

Also check out our Buying Guides for all other cars, trucks, SUVs, minivans, and alternative-fuel vehicles. Click here.

 

Mar
28

2012 Jaguar XF SportbrakeAt the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, Jaguar introduced what Popular Mechanics called the company’s “first estate car in 90 years, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake.” Translating the Britishisms, that means that Jaguar is considering an XF station wagon. The term estate car conjures up an image of a wood-bodied wagon pulling up in front of a stately home.

Mar
28
NHTSA public-service announcement

NHTSA public-service announcement

As mentioned in Driven to Distraction: Part 1, the federal government has come out against distracted driving (DD) in general and texting from hand-held phones in particular. Not surprisingly, the Department of Transportation (DOT) seems on the verge of requiring automakers to install “anti-DD” systems that would disable certain phone functions once the vehicle is in motion. I’m not sure what they’re thinking of—perhaps some whizzer “damping field” a la Star Trek—but the technology is doubtless on somebody’s shelf. However, it’s odd that the DOT is okay with voice-activated devices, as various studies have found that drivers are more distracted by phone conversations than by chatting with people in the car—which must be discouraging for all those helpful live operators at OnStar.

Mar
27
2012 Honda Insight

2012 Honda Insight

With chatter about $5 gas by Memorial Day, maybe it’s time to buy a hybrid.

The question is, are any hybrids affordable?

Here’s the thing about most hybrids: Even though they get better gas mileage, you pay extra for the hybrid technology. Over the lifetime of the hybrid, you may or may not come out ahead financially. Manufacturers can’t do much about the high production cost of a hybrid powertrain, but what’s frustrating is that many hybrid vehicles are unnecessarily expensive.

Of the 28 available 2012 hybrids, three of them have supercharged hybrid engines. The Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, and Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid—all priced north of $60,000—are designed more for performance than fuel economy. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid starts at $91,850, and the Infiniti M35h has a $53,700 price tag due largely to its robust 360-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The Lexus LS 600h L is the most expensive hybrid of all at $112,250. The 600h L driver’s only solace is that the car gets slightly better mileage—2 mpg—than the base LS. Woo-hoo!

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