Car Review: 2014 Lexus RX 350

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There are certain vehicles that you know are special from the first time you see it, and that’s exactly how we felt regarding the 2014 Lexus RX 350. There’s no question that Lexus created the blueprint for the luxury crossover utility vehicle 15 years ago with the original RX models. The 2014 RX 350 maintains its segment leadership by evolving that original and admired formula.

EXTERIOR

From the bold, brand-signature spindle grille, to the classy 19-inch alloy wheel with all-season tires, the 2014 Lexus RX 350 arrives in style. The distinctive skin of this SUV makes an impression with sharp LED daytime running lamps, Xenon HID headlamps, rain sensing wipers, power folding electrochromic heated outside mirrors with blind spot monitor and roof rails. The silky smooth skin is highlighted with a rear taillights and hatch that blend in so discreet that they look like one piece of sheet metal. The styling has evolved from the early days of the RX 350, but the overall shape hasn’t drifted too far from the original, and that’s what you call staying power in the marketplace!

INTERIOR

The upscale ambience in the Lexus RX 350 cabin is just the beginning of a customized experience every time you set foot in the fabulous interior. Lexus interiors have set new standards in design, materials, standard features and details, and the RX 350 shows why. The 10-way power front seats, ebony or espresso bird’s eye maple and dual-zone automatic climate control system set the tone for the luxury found throughout the cabin. The RX 350 upholds another Lexus tradition: the inclusion of true premium audio as standard equipment. The nine-speaker Lexus Premium Audio System offers a multitude of music source choices, including a CD player, SiriusXM Satellite Radio capability with a 90-day trial subscription included, Bluetooth audio streaming and USB/iPod control. The seats are truly made for each individual driver and passenger, enhancing the driving experience for all.

The Display Audio/Rear Backup Camera Package upgrades the audio system to 12 speakers. For the ultimate in mobile sound, Lexus exclusively offers Mark Levinson audio systems, a brand revered by audiophiles. The RX 350’s as-tested 15-speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound system will delight discerning ears, no matter the music choice. The system delivers 330 total watts of power through a 15-speaker array with an incredibly low 0.1 percent total harmonic distortion (THD). Clearly one of the finest audio systems we experienced in a review vehicle.

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Car Review: 2014 Toyota Tundra 4 x 4 Platinum

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The redesigned 2014 Toyota Tundra has the opportunity to establish new markets, because from the time you see this beast, it makes an impression. For our test model, Toyota upgraded us to a Platinum 4 x 4 version, and it came in handy in the subzero snowy Ohio winter conditions.

EXTERIOR

For 2014, the Tundra sports a new chiseled exterior design that has a distinctive look for the full-size truck segment. Tundra is newly designed, inside and out, representing a major change since the 2007 model year. Each Tundra grade embodies a specific theme through distinct designs that go beyond badging, and that includes the high-end luxury Platinum series. The new front design integrates the hood and grille for a chiseled image. Designers increased the size of the front fascia and tightened up the surfaces and character lines to visually punctuate Tundra’s pulling power and wide stance. The grille has a taller, bolder look, visually connecting the upper intake to the lower bumper. The front lower bumpers are now a three-piece design, allowing for lower replacement costs. In addition, the fenders and wheel wells have been squared-off for a wide and sturdy stance.

A new exterior design helps carry the chiseled character lines all the way down the profile, leading to a rugged new bed and tailgate, with an integrated spoiler and “TUNDRA” embossed into the sheet metal, creating a one-piece forged look. Like the front bumper, the rear bumper changes from one piece to three, for lower replacement costs. Tundra offers a palette of nine exterior colors including three new colors: Attitude Black Metallic, Sunset Bronze Mica and Blue Ribbon Metallic. Popular carryover colors include Radiant Red, Super White, Silver Sky Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Black and Barcelona Red. The Magnetic Gray Metallic that our test model carried fit this truck very well.

INTERIOR

There are no boundaries in the cabin space of the 2014 Toyota Tundra 4 x 4 Platinum, as you need a separate area code for each passenger! Really, this is an awesome interior space with a luxury cap-off from the Platinum grade. Tundra features new contemporary interior styling focusing on differentiation between grades, while improving the availability of features most important to truck buyers. The new interior variations are thematic and cater to a specific customer with a specific budget. Ergonomic improvements include easier driver access to controls as the reach to the audio and HVAC controls was reduced by 2.6 inches. Overall passenger comfort was improved with a new front and rear (CrewMax) seat design and improved front seat ventilation. In addition, front seats have additional travel, and rear seats can now be folded up for additional cargo carrying capability, while maintaining a comfortable seating back angle and lowering load height by more than 11 inches.

Tundra features a number of key standard features and is the only truck in the full-size pickup segment to include a standard back-up camera (viewed from the audio display screen and standard Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming on all grades. Platinum models come with standard dual zone air conditioning with individual temperature settings for driver and front passenger. An auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink universal transceiver is standard on Platinum grades. The Platinum and 1794 Edition come standard with a 12-way power driver’s seat with memory and a six-way power passenger’s seat, both with heat and ventilation, power moon roof, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, front and rear parking sonar, and Entune Premium JBL Audio with Navigation and App Suite. Additionally, the 2014 Tundra is the only full-size pickup with available Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert!

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Car Review: 2014 Mazda3 S Grand Touring

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The new 2014 Mazda3 S is a big deal, because the redesigned compact vehicle is the Mazda’s best-selling and most recognizable nameplate worldwide with more than 3.5 million vehicles sold. We had the chance to drive the 2014 Mazda3 S in bitter cold temperatures with plenty of snow on the road to really put this car to the test.

EXTERIOR

This is one fine looking ride, and in titanium flash mica, the skin has a sleek and aggressive look. Lower and leaner than its predecessor, this third generation Mazda3 shares almost nothing with its older siblings other than a name. All new from the ground up, the 2014 Mazda3 sits on a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, which is 2.4 inches longer than the previous generation, yet the five-door is 1.8 inches shorter in length at 175.6 inches. Whether equipped with the standard 16-inch full-cover steel wheels or higher trim-equipped 16-inch and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, each set expresses dynamic motion from hub to rim. The Mazda3’s cab rearward posture and raked profile further emphasizes agility and speed.

From the dynamic signature wing of the five-point grille, to the expansive sheet metal cresting over sleekly slanted headlamps, to the wide-stance muscular fenders, to the taut character lines flowing from panel to panel, sculpting into a chiseled rear featuring provoking taillights, KODO begets the Mazda3 a presence unlike any other. Yet such style is not without purpose as the five-door and sedan models achieve best-in-class coefficient of drag (Cd) at 0.275 and 0.255, respectively, when equipped with i-ELOOP and an active grille shutter. A new-to-Mazda feature, the active grille shutter is mounted in front of the radiator and automatically opens and closes in accordance with driving conditions to improve aerodynamic performance while contributing to real-world gains in fuel economy.

INTERIOR

Mazda took things to a whole new level with the cabin space of the 2014 Mazda3 S Grand Touring. The interior will impress, starting with the driver-oriented cockpit. The pedals have been laid out symmetrically to the left and right of the driver’s center-line with a hinged organ-type accelerator pedal as standard for added safety and comfort. Designed not only to appeal to the senses, each control and function also is specifically placed with intuitive utility in mind. The less time spent focusing on adjusting knobs and tapping touch-screen commands, the more time a driver is engaged with the actual act of driving, being alert to what is on the road ahead and, therefore, being able to react quickly, accurately and safely.

For added precision, the base of the A-pillars have been repositioned 3.9 inches rearward to afford greater range of vision for both the driver and front passenger. The outside mirrors also are mounted onto the doors instead of the base of the A-pillar to expand the scope of visibility when looking over mirrors from the driver’s seat.

All-new for Mazda vehicles and being launched with the 2014 Mazda3 is a next-generation human-machine interface (HMI) system. Based on the heads-up cockpit concept, the new HMI system aims to help drivers maintain proper posture, concentrate on the road and drive more safely, even while handling larger amounts of information. The information used is divided into groups, and an innovative screen layout is employed to let the driver safely balance the primary job of driving with other peripheral information.

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Car Review: 2014 Acura MDX AWD

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Acura has made huge strides in their SUV lineup, and the 2014 Acura MDX AWD appears to be a hot pick for luxury buyers in this segment. Built on a completely new platform, the seven-passenger MDX offers improved ride comfort, a more versatile and luxurious cabin, increased fuel efficiency and enhanced dynamic performance.

EXTERIOR

Our forest midst-colored test model MDX had extraordinary good looks with a refinement that takes luxury SUVs to a new level. The 2014 MDX body applies more than 55 percent advanced lightweight materials – including high strength steel, aluminum and magnesium – resulting in a vehicle that is both more rigid and lightweight, with total vehicle weight reduced 275 pounds from the previous model. Measuring 193.6 inches in overall length, 77.2 inches in overall width (excluding door mirrors), 67.6 inches in overall height, and riding on a 111-inch wheelbase (up 2.75 inches from the previous model), the new MDX boasts an “Executive Aero Sculpture” exterior design that lends it a sleek, tailored and sophisticated appearance. The aerodynamic body design – refined by engineers in a new wind tunnel at the company’s Ohio R&D center – helps the MDX achieve a more than 17 percent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, making it one of the most aerodynamic and fuel-efficient luxury SUVs on the road.

INTERIOR

When you first enter the cabin of the 2014 Acura MDX AWD, you get the feeling of a high-end vehicle with a plethora of room that can’t be gauged from the exterior. Equally adept at carrying clients and kids, the new MDX boasts a luxurious and versatile interior. The revised body dimensions and new, more compact multi-link rear suspension, combined with innovative new technologies on the second-row seats, significantly improve third-row access and all-around passenger comfort. Third-row ingress and egress is significantly improved by a two-inch lower step-in height and three-inch wider entryway, and by the introduction of a new One-Touch Walk-In feature. With a single press of the illuminated One-Touch Walk-In button, the second-row seats automatically fold and slide to their forward-most position. The second-row seats now feature a four-position recline and a new Extended Slide capability that provides six inches of total seat adjustment for optimal balance between second- and third-row legroom. Rear cargo capacity is also improved and includes a new underfloor storage area.

Up front, there is a 10-way power adjustable and heated driver’s seat and an 8-way power and heated passenger seat. The MDX also addresses a major shortcoming of many luxury SUVs – available front-seat storage space – with a spacious new center console that can accommodate a purse, laptop case or a pair of iPads. The MDX’s luxury quotient is further boosted by its upgraded interior appointments, including premium leather-trimmed interior, silver plated accents, LED overhead and cabin accent lighting, along with new optional luxury features, such as Smart Entry, second-row sunshades, remote engine start and auto-linked air conditioning and climate-controlled seats. The 2014 MDX also takes a big step up in luxury comfort and quiet. The MDX’s dynamically tuned platform, more airtight body and triple path isolated dampers, along with the use of new sound-deadening materials such as acoustic glass and expanding body sealers, and Active Noise Control technology, make this the quietest and most composed MDX yet.

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Car Review: 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

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There were big changes in store for the dazzling 2014 Toyota Corolla, and although we knew the new design looked sweet, time behind the wheel would give us a true measure of the car. That was taken care of when we drove the Corolla for a week, and quite honestly, we hated to see the week end.

EXTERIOR

You’ll find yourself doing a double take when you first see the Corolla, because the new design is light years ahead of the past models with the new aggressive styling. The 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium looks that good and will shake the compact car segment without a doubt. Our test model was a sharp blue crush metallic sporting 17 -nch smoked alloy wheels. The all-new Corolla makes an immediate visual impact with a more expressive, chiseled exterior design that elaborates on the “Iconic Dynamism” theme first seen on the Corolla Furia Concept that debuted at the North American International Auto Show. The new Corolla is distinguished by its tauter, more athletic proportions that ride on a longer wheelbase (+ 3.93 inches/ +100 mm compared to current model). With the wheels pushed out toward the corners, compact overhangs, and more tapered front and rear expression, the new Corolla communicates a more dynamic compact sedan form, even at a standstill. The new sedan is 3.90 inches (99 mm) longer overall and yet presents a more compact appearance than the current model thanks to a basic shape that tapers at the front and rear of the vehicle to help emphasize the wheel arches and wheels-to-the-corner stance.

The new Corolla features an expressive front fascia with sharper, more pronounced details above a large trapezoidal grill that rests beneath a thin intake inlet below the hood. The front view of the new Corolla reveals a continuation of the design themes seen in recent Toyota sedans such as Camry and Avalon, and it creates a sleeker, more assertive impression of a Toyota compact sedan with its more precisely sculpted surfaces. Among the challenges presented by the new Corolla’s original design concept was the need to execute more deeply rounder corners to achieve the desired sleeker image. The thick structure of conventional headlamps would hinder the appearance of deeply rounded corners. Sleek, compact LED lamp assemblies were adopted to reduce the corner mass and help accentuate the Corolla’s tapered, rounded-corner, front- end design theme. In addition, the low heat generated by the LED lamp enabled the use of a lighter weight PES resin lens instead of conventional glass. Corolla is the first compact sedan to offer standard equipped LED headlamps.

INTERIOR

The impressive 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium continued inside the cabin with a plethora of new options that enhance the overall driving experience. The new Corolla’s interior continues the “Iconic Dynamism” theme to create a stylish, highly functional and inviting interior space with a greater sense of craftsmanship in its design, use of materials and attention to detail. A horizontally oriented dash structure helps enhance the interior’s sense of spaciousness while providing a more wide-open, intuitively functional space for interface with vehicle controls. The interior offers a premium aesthetic with its use of piano-black gloss trim highlighted by metallic ornamentation and trim that conveys an upscale yet sportier image. Depending on interior color theme, blue, black or amber pinstriped accents are used in conjunction with the dash and door panel ornamentation to enhance the premium appeal of the interior. Ornamental stitching along the leading edge of the dash pad adds a sense of craftsmanship to the interior’s upscale nature. An available decorative boot with ornamental stitching surrounding the shift lever adds a sporty, premium look.

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