Car Review: 2014 Lexus ES 300h Sedan

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As Lexus continues to advance the styling of their products, they continue to lead with impressive hybrid offerings. The first luxury brand to introduce a hybrid vehicle nearly 10 years ago, Lexus continues its hybrid leadership by offering the 2014 Lexus ES 300h sedan powered by the innovative Hybrid Synergy Drive. We spent a fun-filled week driving the luxuriously appointed 2014 Lexus ES 300h sedan and can appreciate why folks just flat-out love this car!

EXTERIOR

The ES 300h cuts a striking figure, highlighted by the Lexus spindle grille dramatic L-themed LED daytime running lights and coupe-like profile. The car’s shape cheats the wind with a low 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd), which helps reduce fuel consumption and minimize wind noise. The ES 300h conveys its hybrid status in subtle ways, with specific split-five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, lip spoiler, hidden exhaust pipe and blue hybrid badges. The cerulean blue metallic paint stood out on the road and is one of the cleanest colors when it comes to maintaining that clean look. The striking looks are enhanced by the new generation ES 300h gains LED fog lamps with HID headlamps.

INTERIOR

There is no mistaking a Lexus when you enter the cabin space, as top of the line materials and ergonomically placed controls are right at your disposal. The original ES sedan upended the entry luxury category nearly 25 years ago by making a V6 standard in a category populated by four-cylinder models, and by offering more interior room and more standard luxury amenities. Lexus continues to set the trend in the entry-luxury category by virtue of a unique two-model strategy. The front-wheel drive ES models emphasize roominess and comfort, and the sport-minded IS models, which are built on a different platform, offer a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. In contrast, other brands try to mold one model series to fit both roles.

The ES 300h is built on the sixth-generation ES platform, which grew slightly in external size over the previous-generation model and added a significant 4.1 inches in rear seat legroom to offer 40 inches. That compares favorably with legroom in some larger sedans All told, the Lexus ES continues to belie the term “entry luxury” by offering sumptuous accommodations. The ES 300h comes standard with 10-way adjustable power front seats, automatic climate control, NuLuxe interior available in parchment, light gray or black and with elegant piano black trim for instrument panel, doors and upper console. Other interior trim options include espresso bird’s eye maple or bamboo. Also available, 12-way heated/ventilated power front seats allow the seat cushions to extend by 1.4 inches for added leg support.

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Car Review: 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

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The 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX rides on the redesigned Optima from back in 2013 and debuts a super-jump in mileage with the new hybrid version. We tested the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX for a week and the range on one tank of gas in more than impressive. Simply put, Kia’s Stylish hybrid midsize sedan returns with improved aerodynamic design and technological enhancements that take this car up a few notches.

EXTERIOR

Taking a great looking car like the Optima and improving on those looks while also making it more fuel efficient is not easy. The dynamic and sporty design upgrades on the gasoline-powered 2014 Optima are retooled for the Hybrid to increase fuel efficiency. Contributing to improved aerodynamics is a series of additional vents in the Optima Hybrid’s unique front bumper, increasing airflow and reducing drag. Newly designed and more aerodynamic 17-inch alloy wheels as tested (LX and EX, respectively) reduce weight and drag, while superbly integrating with the Optima’s eye-catching new design elements.

In addition to those elements designed with fuel efficiency in mind, the 2014 Optima Hybrid also boasts a unique new front grille design, Hybrid-exclusive front LED lighting, new Hybrid fender badges and an attractive and upscale optional white leather package. The smoky blue paint was crisp and very easy to keep a clean appearance.

INTERIOR

The roominess is noteworthy because often with sleek-looking designs, interspace can sometimes be compromised, but not in the 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX. The white leather package in our test model was very luxurious. Technological improvements to the gasoline-powered 2014 Optima carryover within the cabin of the Optima Hybrid, as drivers are greeted with more upscale and high-tech amenities. Activating the Optima’s push button ignition brings two displays to life: a 4.3-inch TFT LCD instrument cluster and optional high-resolution 8-inch navigation and telematics screen, featuring UVO eServices, an eight-speaker Infinity sound system, HD Radio , SiriusXM Satellite Radio and SiriusXM Traffic4. One of the interior highlights was the enormous panoramic sunroof, which brought in as much sunlight and fresh air that one could expect from anything but a convertible.

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Car Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE

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The Mitsubishi Outlander has been in the market for a few years now, and the one thing that you can count on is this vehicle getting better with every model year. We tested the redesigned 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE and really didn’t know what to expect at first, but after a week behind the wheel, we found a solid vehicle at a reasonable price.

EXTERIOR

The new 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE has sharp looks with an edgy design. Our rally red test model looked uncluttered and sleek for a SUV that is generally better known for utility advances. The 18-inch alloy wheels, super-wide HID headlights, chrome front grille surround, chrome belt line molding, fog lights, rear LED tail lights, rear spoiler and exhaust finisher spiced up the overall appearance. The look of the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE is practical and smart.

INTERIOR

Don’t look for luxury to be in the vocabulary when you’re driving a $25,820 as tested SUV, but roominess will fall right into place. Standard features such as climate control, air conditioning, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, high contrast meters and full color multi-information display were well thought out and placed. We also thought the 710w Rockford Fosgate Premium sound system with nine speakers was high quality and powerful. Cabin and utility space are solid without needless gadgets that can get in your way.

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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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