Car Review: 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium

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As the list of serious 4×4 SUVs dwindle away, the 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium is just what the off-road, truck-loving folks ordered. Currently in its fifth-generation, the 4Runner continues as one of the few fully capable mid-size SUVs. The redesigned 2014 4Runner receives a rugged new exterior design and interior refinements that add comfort and convenience without sacrificing its hallmark performance capability and excellent value. We drove the 4Runner enough to realize this is one tough customer!

EXTERIOR

The refreshed 4Runner features a redesigned front fascia that conveys a more rugged and aggressive appearance. This includes a muscular front grille and edgier smoked headlamps for a more forceful look. The headlights have also been changed from halogen to projector beam and the redesigned rear combination lamps now feature LED lights. The SR5 as tested and Trail grades feature a color-keyed grille insert and front bumper that is surrounded by fog lamps set in sharply cut inlays that extend from the headlamps down to the bumper. In addition to the distinctive new grille, the premium Limited’s front design stands apart with a chrome-plated grille insert and chrome front bumper that extends to the fog-lamp bezels. The side molding, roof rack and rear bumper are also chrome trimmed.

Both the SR5 and Trail grades ride on 17-inch alloy wheels with a new and unique wheel design to both, while the Limited continues to ride on 20-inch alloy wheels, which are now painted black prior to machining to add contrast. All grades continue to come standard with a full-size spare. The look of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium is very distinctive on the road, commanding attention with the aggressive front end.

INTERIOR

There are plenty of full-size pickups that would crave the cabin space of the 4Runner with the well thought out spacing, touches of refinement and made-for-work toughness. The SR5 and Trail grades add standard Soft Touch door trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather shift knob provide a premium feel and atmosphere. The SR5 receives a new bright and highly visible Optitron instrument panel that houses speedometer, tachometer, voltage, fuel and coolant temperature gauges, plus a multi-information display that offers multiple functions. An Eco-Driving feedback system allows the driver to monitor fuel consumption in real time. On the 4Runner Trail, an overhead console within easy reach organizes the off-road control switches into one location. A compass indicator and outside temperature display add functionality. A manually controlled air conditioning system is standard on SR5 and Trail grades, while the Limited features an automatic dual-zone climate-control system.

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Car Review: 2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited

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How many times have you confused the Elantra with other cars on the road? Probably seldom, as the 2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited is a standout that is smooth as silk and incredibly affordable. The award-winning Hyundai Elantra has been refreshed for 2014 with extensive design upgrades and new powertrain options. We tested the new 2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited in black diamond pearl and came away very impressed! A host of new features have also been added, while still maintaining the roominess, warranty and safety that has made Elantra a recipient of numerous awards.

EXTERIOR

The design flow of the new 2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited is unique and eye-catching, as this sedan just keeps getting better! For 2014, the Elantra has received a host of exterior design changes. The front and rear styling of the 2014 Hyundai Elantra have been altered for a more stable, balanced look. Up front, a new open-mouth lower bumper, grille, more technical foglights and projector headlamps with LED accents add a dynamic, precise feel to the car. The whole L-shaped foglight graphic stabilizes the front end and gives it a more grounded look, all while maintaining a greater sense of width that forces the eye to the corners. The headlamp and taillamp LED accents were also given a more technical appearance to give the Elantra a stronger attitude. From the profile, a chrome beltline molding and new sets of 17-inch alloy wheels on the Elantra Limited as tested and Sport accentuate the Elantra’s premium image. A new black, two-tone rear diffuser also sharpens the look of the 2014 Elantra.

INTERIOR

As good as the exterior appears on the 2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited, we were just as impressed with the cabin space. Inside, refinements in design give the entire 2014 Hyundai Elantra a more premium feel, with an all-new third-generation navigation and audio technology, available aluminum accents and new HVAC controls. Subtle changes to the placement of HVAC vents, controls and the height of the front center armrest lend a higher-quality, simplified look. Providing a more upscale environment is accomplished with a slightly darker, more neutral beige interior color choice, aluminum pedals on the Sport and aluminum door sill plates on the Sport and Limited we had the pleasure to drive.

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First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

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We came out of Turn 9 into a long arc that seemed more like a straight-away at the Portland International Raceway and hit 105 mph before braking to enter Turn 10. We were driving the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat; well, we were actually riding with a professional driver to get a feel for what this Dodge Challenger could do in expert hands.

One thing was clear: this 1.9 mile, 12-turn asphalt and concrete road racing track really wasn’t configured for the likes of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. That is the official name for this muscle car, but look for it to be condensed to Hellcat which is a perfect fit for its personality. The car will go on sale in the third quarter.

The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat has a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that makes 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. It can be mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a bulked-up eight-speed automatic transmission capable of funneling the massive torque that the engine makes to the rear wheels and onto the pavement.

At the track, we had the eight-speed automatic. The gear box didn’t matter, though; the performance of this car rivaled that of some supercars which cost 10 to 20 times more than its $60,990 base price. Some numbers have not been finalized, like the SRT Hellcat’s zero to 60 mph time, but that is expected to be in the low three seconds.

Top speed is 199 mph, the supercharger can pump 30,000 liters of air into the engine in one minute and, wide open, that engine will gulp 1.5 gallons of gasoline every 60 seconds, draining the 19.1 gallon fuel tank in 13 minutes. But driven normally, it’s been reported that the Hellcat could get 20 mpg on the highway, though official EPA numbers had not been released at the time of the test drive.

The Hellcat engine is not simply a bump-up of the last Challenger SRT powerplant. 91 percent of its parts are new. A deep-skirt, cast-iron block with cross-bolted main bearing caps, unique aluminum alloy heads with hemispherical combustion chambers and a screw-type IHI supercharger are at its core.

Dodge has managed to corral the Challenger Hellcat’s power when needed. First, the car will come with a pair of key FOBs – one red, the other black. The red one releases all of the car’s oomph, but the black one will hold output to 500 horsepower.

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Car Review: 2015 Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8

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When Hyundai released the all-new Genesis sedan a few years back, folks in the auto business wondered out loud whether the car would pay off. Well, with the second generation Genesis on the market, it only takes one look to realize something special was accomplished. The 2015 Genesis represents a bold step forward for Hyundai, continuing to build upon its successful strategy of marketing its premium models under the Hyundai brand umbrella, rather than a costly separate luxury brand sales channel. The new Genesis is incredibly well-equipped in every configuration, offering even more content than the first-generation Genesis. This additional content includes a generous suite of standard safety and convenience features, unsurpassed in its class.

EXTERIOR

Since its 2009 debut on the Sonata sedan, Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy has been continually enhanced and refined, progressively influencing every model in the Hyundai lineup. The all-new Genesis is the first Hyundai to embody Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, the second-generation of this convention-shattering design theme. Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 encapsulates a trio of main design elements: fluid aesthetics, the modern Hyundai look and a premium ambience. Fluidic forms are still present but with a more refined and precise presentation. This latest design philosophy is adaptable to a wider range of vehicle types and sizes, from CUVs to premium-luxury flagships. The all-new Sonata sedan, to debut later this year, will also clearly manifest the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design philosophy. You have to tip your hat to Hyundai as the sleek sculpture of the 2015 Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8 is an eye-catcher from every angle.

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis expresses a truly modern design through distinctive exterior styling with a sleek, upscale appearance. Evoking a premium feel, the design cues display a new Hyundai family aesthetic: simple and harmonious design with refined fluidic elements. The design features the modern Hyundai look, with a striking hexagonal front grille as a key geometric element, a dynamic crease accent running along the flanks of the car, and a dynamic rear design. Design surfaces convey a kinetic elegance, relying more on voluminous body sections than surface details to create dramatic forms. Proportions demonstrate a long dash-to-axle length, longer wheelbase and shorter overhangs than its predecessor. These proportions clearly convey the performance rear-drive configuration beneath the sheet metal. The single-frame 3D-hexagonal grille ensures the front end of the all-new Genesis is not only striking, depicted in semi-gloss chrome, but also encompasses available HID headlamps, LED indicators and fog lamps. In profile, the Genesis daylight opening is more expressive, with fluid lines and blended surfaces, a sleek C-pillar helping to emphasize the sporty styling. The rear of the all-new Genesis benefits from a sculptural aesthetic with jeweled, full-LED tail lamps.

INTERIOR

The cabin space in the 2015 Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8 certainly carries a wow factor that rivals costing 20K more could only dream of achieving. The cabin layout of the all-new Genesis has been designed to benefit all occupants with a spacious, comfortable ambience. The simplification of the switchgear and instrument panel ensures an intuitive layout and open feel. This user-centric design has sought to connect the various interior parts effectively, particularly the center stack with the console, upper-instrument panel and B-pillar with the headliner. Genesis displays ultra-precise fit and finish, with ergonomic seat design and a generous, natural feel. Particular design attention has been paid to the storage of practical items such as mobile electronics of all shapes and sizes, along with the flexibility of the cup holders. The steering wheel design and grip has been improved and onboard switchgear was redesigned; a number of switches previously found on the center console of the original Genesis were relocated and reshaped on the Genesis. Further ergonomic improvements to ensure ease of reach and control have been meticulously evaluated and executed using a specially-designed laboratory tool created to measure occupant operational force for ergonomics.

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First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger

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We came to the City of Roses to test drive the 2015 Dodge Challenger. But that was really a misnomer. Yes, we drove the Challenger — well, three of them — but the real news here was brand expansion rooted in horsepower. Dodge wants to reassert its heritage as a mainstream performance brand, and with the 2015 Dodge Challenger, it takes a big step in that direction by offering a product for just about every power niche when the new Challenger goes on sale in the third quarter.

Dodge offers a literal avalanche of variants. When the new Challenger goes on sale in the third quarter, trim lines will include the SXT, SXT Plus, RT and RT Plus, RT Shaker, RT Plus Shaker, Scat Pack and 392 Hemi Scat Pack. The variants are so numerous they rival the powertrains on pickup trucks.

But at the heart of this Dodge Challenger product assault are the engines, and all four of them get no less than 300 horsepower each. This menu of muscle cars is topped by the 707 horsepower 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat. It is in a class by itself, and we’ll deal with that particular model in greater detail later this week.

Power for the lineup starts with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque; this is the lone Challenger engine that has only one transmission, an eight-speed automatic. Then there is the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI that makes 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, but that output is when it is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With a six-speed manual gearbox, the horsepower is bumped up to 375 with 410 pound-feet of torque. That incremental uptick in power makes a difference to a true enthusiast. This engine has a cylinder shut off system for fuel savings when it is mated to the eight-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA rating of 16 mpg in city driving and a respectable 25 mpg on the highway.

The 6.4-liter HEMI developed by Dodge’s Street and Racing Technology Team (SRT) was more direct. With an eight-speed automatic or the six manual, this engine made 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. We secured a 2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L HEMI Scat Pack for the drive on historic U.S. 30 to the Crown Point Vista. It is the first purposely built scenic highway in the U.S., and the section we were on cut through the heavy foliage of the Columbia River Gorge. It was a winding, tight-turn, two-lane highway with tree-formed canopies and speed limits of 25 or 30 mph along this section. In other words, it was no place to unloose a car with almost 500 horsepower.

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