Car Review: 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE

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The Jetta is Volkswagen’s number one selling car in North America, so there is always pressure on the Jetta to rack up sales for VW. The 2014 VW Jetta SE we tested sported a reflex silver metallic paint that was as clean as any paint we’ve seen. First impressions are important and the Jetta came out of the gate strong.

EXTERIOR

Volkswagens in general have a distinct look, and the Jetta is no different with a sleek design that looks smart and sporty. At the front, the coupe-like incline of the windscreen and the consistent use of horizontal lines define the Jetta’s design. The horizontal blades in the grille, together with the blades in the lower intake, are designed to make the Jetta appear wider and more dynamic. Volkswagen completely redesigned the Jetta a few years back and crafted a bigger car, with a longer wheelbase and 2.9 inches added to the overall length. The increased dimensions allowed designers to incorporate clear, precise lines and muscular surfaces to impart a timeless elegance, giving the impression that this is a car from a higher class. The 16-inch alloy wheels looked sweet and also came with all-season tires.

INTERIOR

The Jetta gets right to the point inside and out, and the cabin space is no nonsense. A key benefit of the Jetta’s extended wheelbase—it stretches an incredible 104.4 inches—is a truly spacious interior, with impressive rear-seat legroom of 38.1 inches. Long legs can rejoice. The gently arcing roofline also means more than ample headroom of 37.1 inches for rear-seat passengers. And stretch-out legroom in the back isn’t achieved by a cramped front seat either. Being tailored for an American audience, there is no shortage of legroom and headroom up front.

Just open any of the Jetta’s wide-angled doors and the quality of materials – the fit and finish, and the clean, simple, refined elegance of the cabin – is clearly visible. And in true German tradition, the layout of the fascia, the positioning of the switches and controls, and the clarity of the oversized, round instruments is designed to be ergonomic and intuitive. Trunk space also borders on the cavernous. The Jetta offers a class-leading 15.5 cubic feet of usable trunk space, and can be increased significantly by folding forward the 60/40-split rear seatback. The rear seatback is also offered with a pass-through to accommodate longer items, like skis. Move up to the SE (as tested) and additional standard features include: heatable front seats; cruise control; standard V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces; an adjustable center armrest with storage compartment; a six-speaker sound system; and a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod adapter.

Premium features that are available on the Jetta include: a six-way power driver’s seat; a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel; a soft-touch dashboard; two-tone V-Tex leatherette sport seats; the RNS 315 navigation system; the acclaimed Fender Premium Audio System; keyless access with push-button start; VW Car-Net connected services; Bluetooth connectivity; and a rearview camera. Exterior enhancements include a chrome radiator grille and chrome window trim.

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First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Genesis

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Hyundai stopped just short of calling its redesigned 2015 Genesis a luxury performance sedan. The Korean automaker opted to call the car a midsize premium sedan.

Nonetheless, the automaker said that German luxury brands, as well as Lexus and the newly resurgent Cadillac, are Genesis’ main competitors. In order to really compete with midsize offerings from the automakers, the new sedan has to offer a bunch of comforts and engineering prowess.

First, there’s the look. The 2015 Hyundai Genesis has a single-frame hexagonal grille. In other words, the sedan has a distinct face, low hood and short rump. It looks very athletic.

It also took Hyundai’s fluidic design to the next level, or 2.0 in Hyundai-speak. The lines are flowing, sharp creases are evident from stem to stern, and they end at the trunk with distinctive tail lights and either dual or quad exhausts.

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Car Review: 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV

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The Nissan Versa has been on a sales bonanza, delivering big sales for their company, and with the all-new 2014 Versa Note, things can only get better. The second-generation hatchback went on sale at Nissan’s U.S. dealers in June 2013 and gives notice that in an era of changing consumer needs and expectations, Versa clearly want to be a leader of the entry-level pack. After spending a week driving this hip compact, we also found some pleasant surprises in the Versa.

EXTERIOR

The new sleek exterior of the 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV really elevates this car into new heights regarding design and appeal. The Versa Note’s sculpted modern styling accomplishes things like providing enhanced aerodynamics to help improve fuel economy and make it stand out from the crowd of entry-level competitors. Its dramatic shape and proportions provide an energetic look that reflects the active lives of its target buyers. Attention to aerodynamic detail helps the Versa Note achieve a coefficient of drag of 0.298 (CVT-equipped models) – a nine percent decrease over the 2012 Versa hatchback’s 0.31 Cd. The large front spoiler combines with a “kick up” roof shape and low aero-drag floor structure (including front and rear tire deflectors, rear suspension beam mounted flush with floor and fuel tank deflectors) to direct airflow over, under and around the body.

CVT-equipped Versa Note models include Nissan’s first-ever Active Grille Shutter, which limits the amount of air entering the engine compartment, reducing drag force by 0.01. The Active Grille Shutter is generally closed at speeds above 20 miles per hour. The iconic front grille and large multi-reflector headlights are paired with Note’s “boomerang” rear taillights, which are similar to those found on the Nissan 370Z and Nissan JUKE. The special “vented” taillight design includes special outlets and lip to help guide air away from the body for reduced air turbulence and improved rear lamp visibility in bad weather. Fog lights and heated sideview mirrors are also available. The Versa Note’s dynamic design also takes full advantage of Nissan’s global “V” platform. It features a long, 102.4-inch wheelbase that helps maximize interior roominess, while the six-inch shorter front and rear overhangs than the previous Versa hatchback help provide a sporty stance and parking maneuverability.

INTERIOR

This is where the biggest surprise hit us with much more room than expected; the rear seating alone blew us away with crazy leg room. The roomy five-passenger Versa Note interior provides a spacious total interior volume of 112.9 cubic feet and ample cargo space of 18.8 cubic feet. Cargo area liftover height has been reduced by 1.7 inches (over previous generation Versa hatchback) for easier loading and unloading of heavy or bulky objects. Also leading the conversation is Note’s front headroom of 40.8 inches and rear legroom of 38.3 inches – which is nearly 3.7 inches longer than the nearest competitor (38.3 inches versus 34.6 inches) – making the Versa Note both kid-friendly and adult comfortable.

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Car Review: 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker

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Dodge is really serious about steering the Challenger into the front row of the muscle car race in North America with the 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker. You have to give it to Dodge, as they really know how to connect with their customers, and the new R/T Shaker is a perfect example of that connection. We drove a brand new model for a week and were blown away by so many aspects of this sweet American dream car.

EXTERIOR

The header orange clear coat exterior paint, Shaker graphics and racing stripes are electric attention grabbers wherever you drive this car! For a dynamically striking look, the new Shaker-style Satin Black hood, roof and deck-lid stripe graphics visually translate this Dodge Challenger model’s name, while a Satin Black deck-lid spoiler provides the added downforce needed for 155 mph max-speed runs. For contrast, a body-color grille surround and Gloss Black fuel-filler door were added, while all-new 20 x 8-inch polished-face aluminum wheels with black pockets and a satin matte clear coat feature a sculptured five-spoke design. For added detail, “Shaker” badges flank both sides of the hood scoop, while “HEMI” fender badges and a new “Challenger” grille badge in classic script completes the iconic exterior. Those 20 x 8 inch wheels give an already confident car about as much attitude as you can fit into one car. From just about every angle, the 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker will draw you in with throwback design that has longevity.

INTERIOR

You can feel your adrenaline pumping from the time you enter the cabin, and with the added Shaker touches, there is no doubt that this car is special. The new Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker features a unique three-spoke, flat-bottom, leather-wrapped performance steering wheel with black accent finish and integrated vehicle controls. Corresponding with the steering wheel is a unique “K-Black” painted instrument panel and center-console bezel for a discrete look. Matching the “Shaker” numbered dash plaque are door bolsters with graduated accent stitching that mirrors the logo’s artistic reverberation.

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Car Review: 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Blacktop

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Even though the Dodge Charger is possibly the only true four-door muscle car, the folks at Dodge are continually striving to build Chargers for every taste imaginable in the car market. We tested the 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Blacktop and were blown away by the appearance and performance of this beast of a ride!

EXTERIOR

This is one badass car from top to bottom, and there are no excuses along the way. Our TorRed exterior paint just popped off this car, and when you add in the gloss black aluminum wheels, there is no doubt that the 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Blacktop demands attention. The Blacktop package also included gloss black grille with black honeycomb inserts, black roof, power sunroof and rear body color spoiler. What is so exclusive about the Charger is the sheer size of the car, but then again, it’s a classic muscle car.

INTERIOR

The cabin of the 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Blacktop doesn’t get the attention that the muscular commands, but this is one sweet interior space. The black sport perforated leather seats were as comfortable as one could imagine with so much room to get really comfortable. The sport steering wheel with mounted paddle shifters, Parkview rear back up camera, parks sense rear park assist system, rain sensitive windshield wipers and heated and cooled front console cupholders were all great options.

Beats by Dr. Dre audio technology available in the 2014 Dodge Charger includes a powerful 552-watt 12-channel amplifier that integrates the heart of the Beats proprietary equalizer algorithm, creating the high-definition sound required in professional recording studios. Delivering the mid- to high-range needed for studio-quality sound are three 3.5-inch speakers located in the instrument panel and two 3.5-inch speakers located in the rear doors. Two 6 x 9-inch front-door woofers deliver bass, while two 6 x 9-inch speakers and a center-mounted 8-inch speaker located in the rear-shelf area provide full-range audio. Maximizing how music genres from hip hop to Motown should sound and feel, an 8-inch Beats Audio trunk-mounted dual-voice coil subwoofer with sealed enclosure delivers tight, powerful, punchy bass. The 2014 Dodge Charger sedan’s Uconnect 8.4N system integrates award-winning Garmin navigation, voice recognition and SiriusXM Traffic with an intuitive user interface to make operating simple. With natural voice commands, the Uconnect 8.4N enables passengers to input street addresses and navigate to points of interest. And with the integrated SiriusXM Traffic, real-time traffic monitoring notifies the driver or enables the Garmin navigation to reroute due to congested throughways.

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