Archive for 2012


Following on the heels of the new-for-2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid comes its plug-in brother, the C-MAX Energi. Moving from a traditional hybrid to the plug-in variety allows for a certain amount of electric-only driving, but the transformation both giveth and taketh away.

The key component in the Energi is—as might be expected—a bigger battery: 7.6 kWh versus just 1.4 for the Hybrid. That power allows the Energi to travel about 20 miles on a full charge using just electric power before the battery is depleted and the gas engine starts up to help power the vehicle. However, the electric-only travel needs to be done with fairly leisurely acceleration (keeping up with commuter traffic is about the max). Anything more will force the gas engine to kick on to help, as the electric motor isn’t powerful enough on its own. Ford claims the Energi can travel at speeds up to 85 mph on electric power, but you have to be patient in getting there.

Once the battery charge is depleted and the gas engine starts, the Energi gets the same EPA fuel economy as its Hybrid sibling: 47 city/47 highway. Yet the biggest number on the car’s EPA window sticker reads “100 MPGe.” Why?


2014 Chevrolet Silverado

Between the Chevrolet Silverado and similar GMC Sierra full-size pickups, GM will net more than 700,000 high-profit sales in 2012. That’s not a number to be taken lightly. So any time the company looks to redesign those pickups, it’s a big—and important—deal.

And that’s just what GM will do next spring when the redesigned 2014 Silverado and Sierra are due to go into production. To whet our appetite, the company revealed prototypes of the new models at a recent press preview in Detroit.

In the styling department, GM played it safe. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, we’ll make no comment other than to say that the trucks don’t look radically different from their predecessors. That’s probably by intent. It’s risky to give a major makeover to vehicles that were already selling well, and there’s a certain tradition to be maintained. Since it is aimed at a more upscale audience, the Sierra differs mostly in sporting LED headlight surrounds and a more ornate grille texture. Also, in place of the chrome used on other models in both the Chevrolet and GMC stables, Sierra offers an All Terrain trim level dressed with body-color bumper and grille surround.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, a midsize SUV that starts at $24,450.

Test car came equipped with: Leather & Premium Equipment Package, carpeted floor mats, cargo net, cargo cover. Total MSRP with $825 destination = $33,025.

Powertrain: 264-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 6-speed automatic, all-wheel drive.

Acceleration:  This turbo-four produces impressive power and torque for its size. In fact, it packs more ponies than Ford’s similar 2.0 EcoBoost. I second the main-report comments. At least with just me aboard, the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is pretty peppy overall—I’d guess 0-60 mph in well under 7 seconds—and driveability is excellent, what with the crisp throttle response and virtually undetectable turbo lag. But full credit to the 6-speed automatic transmission, which is no less refined than the engine and partners with it very well. So here’s another case where less—in this case, engine displacement—really can be more.

Fuel Economy: Yours Truly averaged 18.2 mpg in Phoenix-area driving that was biased about 65 percent to fast freeway driving. That’s in line with the EPA’s 19-mpg city estimate—revised from Hyundai’s earlier inflated figure—but disappointing versus the feds’ 24-mpg highway rating (ditto).


Toyota Prius v

When we at Consumer Guide Automotive recently announced our 2013 Best Buy Awards, we bestowed Toyota’s entire line of 2013 Prius models as winners of the first-ever Editors’ Choice Best Buy Award. This honor recognizes them as the pinnacle in value, features, and driving experience among 2013 vehicle choices.


Plymouth Prowler

Perhaps failures is too strong a word. But these are all vehicles that impressed me mightily when new yet suffered lackluster sales and were discontinued without being replaced by a similar model. For sake of brevity, the list includes only models that disappeared within the last decade. A couple are now fairly inexpensive used cars, while others have achieved cult or collector status and unfortunately remain out of easy financial reach. Did I miss your favorite?


Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

I probably remember 1979 better than I recall any other year of my youth. My last year of grade school (and first year of high school), ’79 was the year I managed to fall out of a tree and badly injure myself, the year I had to make clear to my mother I wanted no part of being a priest, and the year I discovered legs. As it turned out, the last two items were not entirely unrelated. Where are you now, Lauren Tewes?

Special Edition Beetles

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertibles

Today’s small cars—particularly the European imports—are like coffee. You can’t just order a cup of black joe anymore. As at Starbucks, the options seem unlimited. At Fiat, the 500 Pop, Sport, Lounge, Turbo, and Abarth (not to mention the Gucci edition) were not enough. They recently introduced wagon, electric, and high-performance convertible models. Meanwhile, Mini offers its cars in “10 million” variations, due to all the available options and color schemes. And at the recent LA Auto Show, Volkswagen introduced its new line of Beetle Convertibles, which includes a whopping 11 trim levels.

Shelby Cobra

AC Cobra

I’m not a classic car guy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the designs of days gone by. Here are just a few of the cars that I think have stood the test of time. They look just as good today as they did back then, and arguably even better than many of their contemporaries. Presented for your consideration, in alphabetical order:


2013 Infiniti JX35

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Infiniti JX, a premium-midsize SUV that starts at $40,450.

Test car came equipped with: Technology Package, Theater Package, Deluxe Touring Package, Premium Package, roof rails. Total MSRP with $950 destination =$54,070.

Powertrain: 3.5-liter 265-horsepower V6, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive

Acceleration: The JX runs 0-60 mph in a little under 8 seconds with all-wheel drive, but this slightly lighter front-drive version felt more like 8.5 seconds. The main report states that less weight partly offsets a power deficit versus most rivals, but the weight-to-power ratio is still fairly leaden at 16.8 lbs/hp. The weight-to-torque ratio is worse, 17.8 pounds/lb-ft, and maximum twist isn’t online until a fairly high 4400 rpm. So unlike my colleagues, I thought the JX really is a bit underpowered, not only for on-the-level merging and passing but when going up even moderately steep grades—and that’s with just this driver aboard.

Since Infiniti admits it’s aiming the JX mainly at the 300-hp Acura MDX—0-60 in under 7 seconds with AWD—I can’t understand why the engineers didn’t provide more power by whatever means made sense. Unless, of course, the marketers said, “No, you can’t do that because it might cut into sales of our FX35.”


2013 BMW X1

Below are the test drive notes of Consumer Guide Automotive Editor Don Sikora. Also check out Consumer Guide Automotive’s complete review of the 2013 BMW X1.

Acceleration: X1 is rather quick from a stop, but ECO PRO really dulls the throttle dramatically. Stop-start system seems slightly better than in the new 3-Series, but that doesn’t mean it is seamless.

Fuel Economy: 27.93 mpg over 125 miles on premium. Rick Cotta drove approximately 20 miles of city, and I drove approximately 105 miles of nearly all highway.

Ride Quality: Mixed bag for this M Sport with sport suspension and 18-inch tires. It’s pretty comfortable most of the time, but at highway speed the car goes over some bumps rather than really absorbing them. It’s not really harsh, but it isn’t cushy either. Worst condition was on rippled concrete section of Edens Spur before tollbooth. There the X1 rocked front-to-back with more vertical motion than I’d like. Kinda like a 1-Series or a Fiat 500 Abarth.

Steering/Handling/Braking: Nice feel and seems reasonably sporty.

Quietness: Maybe a 7 [out of 10]? Seemed reasonably quiet on the highway for the little time I drove it when it wasn’t raining hard.

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