Car Review: 2013 Lexus CT 200h
As Lexus continues to evolve and grow with vehicles like the CT 200h, it’s clear that the size, packaging, full hybrid technology and ultra-low emissions perfectly meet the requirements of a young, environmentally conscientious customer. Yet the Lexus CT 200h Premium offers no compromise on the refinement and driving pleasure that hallmarks the progressive luxury inherent in every Lexus. We spent a week driving this offering from Lexus in all kinds of weather and we were impressed!
There is no mistaking this car as a Lexus, as the grille is flanked by headlamp clusters positioned on a higher plane than the grille itself and the headlamps themselves focus on piercing, single halogen or optional twin LED low beam lamps. This gives the Lexus CT 200h Premium a new look that is more aggressive and modern. Believe it or not, the mirrors were something to behold in both function and style, as they were compact and aerodynamic door mirrors with an integral, LED side turn signal lamp. Careful aerodynamic detailing of the lower bumper and finned rear undercover smooths airflow from beneath the car, further improving both vehicle stability and fuel consumption. For just the right look, the 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels fit nicely under the fenders for that performance appearance certain buyers crave.
The first thing that stood out to us was how much room there is in the cabin of the CT 200h. Design and function were at high levels with the dashboard being divided into two distinct zones with an upper Display Zone with an 8-inch LCD multi-display screen located at an ideal distance for at-a-glance viewing, and a lower Operation Zone which allows access to the uniquely designed shift lever and system controls.
Our test model was loaded with power tilt and slide moonrooof with sliding sun shade; NoLuxe trim interior; 10-speaker Lexus premium audio system; auto-dimming rearview mirror; Lexus homelink universal transceiver; black perforated leather-trimmed seats with driver’s memory; heated front seats and 4-way power passenger seat rain sensing intermittent wipers with mist cycle; HDD navigation system backup monitor; Lexus Enform with destination assist; HD radio; illuminated door sills; Bluetooth technology and SmartAccess with push button start. The extensive use of metallic finishes and dark, soft touch materials reinforces the premium quality of the cockpit. Customers will appreciate the Ecological Plastics with 30 percent plant-based Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) materials that are used for the floor mats, deck side and deck board trim. The CT is more than 80 percent recyclable and is designed to be easily dismantled. Recycle marks have been placed on the front, rear and tailgate trim to facilitate optimum recycling.
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Car Review: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe LTD FWD
When Hyundai designed the all-new six and seven-passenger Sante Fe, their recipe of bold design, high-output powertrains with Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) and a host of other features to please drivers and passengers stayed intact along with high expectations for functionality, versatility and comfort. After spending a week behind the wheel of the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe LTD FWD, we can now see why sales keep going up.
The new Hyundais have accomplished fantastic reviews for styling, and the new six-passenger 2013 Hyundai Santa FE LTD FWD continues the good-looking traits of prior Santa Fes. Hyundai designers crafted Santa Fe Sport and three-row Santa Fe together, with the signature differentiating element being the sideview daylight opening (side window shape); the larger Santa Fe features a shape that highlights the increased passenger and cargo room behind the third-row seat. Santa Fe also has its own bodyside character lines from the B-pillar back, grille design, chrome-tipped dual exhaust and a flush-mounted tow hitch design. Our test model was shining in becketts black paint, and with the19-inch Euroflange alloy wheels, this was one sharp looking machine. Also adding to the overall exterior package were front fog lights, heated exterior mirrors with turn signal indicators, roof side rails and windshield wiper deicer. I will say the new front lighting system looks as sleek as any vehicle on the road.
Impressive from the moment you enter the cabin! The Santa Fe trim features the same flowing interior look designed for passenger functionality and comfort. From the available heated rear seats and eight-way power driver seat with four-way lumbar support, to a standard 40:20:40 folding rear seat back, Santa Fe boasts flexibility and a pleasant cabin for all. Also new for 2013 – and standard on all Santa Fe equipped with cloth seats – is a ‘YES Essentials’ seat fabric treatment that provides soil-resistant, anti-odor and anti-static properties for added longevity and livability. Special care and attention went into other interior details, such as an optional panoramic sunroof, which allows more natural light into the cabin and rear side window sunshades. Available on Santa Fe models is a push-button starter with proximity key, Electroluminescent Gauge Cluster with color LCD trip computer and a heated steering wheel.
Our test model sported heated black leather seating surfaces with second row captain’s chairs. The three-row Santa Fe increases second-row legroom by 1.9 inches and cargo capacity 5.5 cubic feet and features standard rear-passenger HVAC controls and vents to increase family comfort, while also offering a standard 50:50 split folding third-row bench seat with 31.5 inches of legroom. This seat back is perfect for seating five passengers comfortably or accommodating four passengers plus long items like skis, golf clubs, snowboards and surfboards. Fold down two seats to seat three people and hold larger packages, or fold all rear seats to maximize cargo space. Our three-row Santa Fe also featured a power liftgate for added convenience.
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First Drive: 2014 Chevrolet SS
The performance sedan has returned to Chevrolet with the introduction of the all-new Chevrolet SS. This badass, rear-wheel drive sedan features a 6.2L V-8 engine rated at SAE-certified 415 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque with paddle-shift six-speed automatic transmission and joins the new Corvette and Camaro in Chevy’s impressive performance lineup. The SS was designed and built in Australia by the team responsible for the Commodore and benefits from the global rear-wheel drive architecture that is the foundation for Holden’s VF Commodore, the Camaro and the Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle. I had the opportunity to drive the new SS on some great roads around Palm Springs and I enjoyed pushing it to the limit.
I love sedans with power so I immediately felt comfortable in the SS. The sedan is big and powerful but also impressively nimble as well. It performed as expected on straightaways with the kind of responsiveness and acceleration that will bring a smile to your face. But it also handled the mountain curves with ease as well. It marries the power of traditional muscle cars with the handling one expects from modern vehicles. The SS is fun to drive and you’ll love the sound of this vehicle as well.
The 6.2L LS3 small-block V-8 is paired with the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic with paddle-shift control. I was pleased to see the sport mode feature which is a necessary element in modern performance cars. It’s easy to slide into sport mode with the shifter on the floor and then drivers can also use paddle shifters or the floor shifter to manually control the gears. Some purists will lament the absence of a true manual option, and GM would not comment on future options, but there’s plenty here for performance enthusiasts to like.
The sport-tuned suspension gives you great handling when needed along with a very comfortable ride. The front suspension is a MacPherson-strut-based multi-link system with a direct-acting stabilizer bar, featuring a forward-mounted steering rack and dual lower links with individual ball joints at the outer ends. The rear suspension is a multi-link independent system with coil-over shock absorbers and decoupled stabilizer bar.
The muscular but clean design of the SS perfectly matches the performance characteristics. The SS is sporty but also understated in its design without any unnecessary flair thrown in. I like the front grille and also the dual-exhaust tips in the rear. I also like the styling of the rims, but I would have preferred an aluminum option as opposed to the shiny chrome rims.
The interior design is luxurious but also understated in a manner that evokes a sports car interior. I liked the horizontal dashboard and the prominent use of the SS logo and the controls are laid out in a logical manner. The clean, functional approach trumps any urge to push the design envelope which works well with the exterior design and performance car attributes. The interior only comes in black and the sunroof is the only option available. That shouldn’t be a problem as everything you would want is standard, including leather, eight-way power adjustable front bucket seats, in-dashboard touch screen that supports Chevrolet MyLink, navigation system, SiriusXM radio, Bose 220-watt, nine-speaker premium sound system, six months of OnStar and much more.
The SS is exactly the type of performance car we should expect from Chevrolet. This is Chevrolet’s first V-8, rear-wheel-drive performance sedan since 1996 and signals that the brand is heading in the right direction. The overall package from performance to design works beautifully and Chevrolet should have a hit on its hands with the SS. Priced at around $45,000 this car offers an impressive amount of performance and luxury for the money. Guys in particular will be drawn to this car, and if you’re into performance sedans you have to put the SS on your test drive list.
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Car Review: 2013 Toyota Sequoia
The 2013 Sequoia has made a statement of power, with all models for 2013 now boasting the 381-hp 5.7-liter V8 as standard. We had the opportunity to test drive this beast of a SUV for a week and have grown accustomed to this power trip.
There is certainly no mistaking the super white 2013 Toyota Sequoia on the open road. The Sequoia’s 0.36 drag coefficient (Cd) is comparable to smaller crossover-type vehicles. The vehicle’s mirrors, wipers, A-pillars and roof header are shaped to help maximize aerodynamic efficiency and minimize wind noise. Vehicle underside airflow is optimized to reduce drag and wind noise and to help improve directional control.
Headlamp washers are standard on all grades for improved visibility. The wide rear door-opening angle provides easy passenger ingress/egress and child seat installation. Our test model also included power heated outside mirrors, multi reflector halogen headlights with auto-off feature, fog lamps, tilt slide moon roof with sunshade, roof rack, rear spoiler, privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels and running boards. Yes, those running boards are worth every penny, as getting inside of the Sequoia is no joke!
The Sequoia dash features a finish similar to that in fine luxury cars. Each of Sequoia’s eight seating positions provides space sufficient to comfortably accommodate people well above normal height. The same efficient packaging that allows exceptional interior comfort also allows carrying items up to 11 feet long. Folding the second- and third-row seats flat opens the cargo area to 120.1 cubic feet of carrying capacity.
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Car Review: 2014 Jeep Compass Limited 4 x 4
As the Jeep brand continues to grow, there appears to be a Jeep for just about every lifestyle. Delivering the packaging and interior flexibility of an SUV with the performance, handling, fuel economy and price of a compact car, the 2014 Jeep Compass delivers for those wanting a little less size than traditional Jeeps. After driving the 2014 Jeep Compass Limited 4×4 for a week, we learned that the Compass offers an array of clever features that consumers will appreciate, whether commuting to work, driving in challenging weather conditions, or exploring new trails or out-of-the-way places.
The exterior of the 2014 Jeep Compass has been refined with specific updates that move the design forward. At the front of the Jeep Compass North and Limited models, the grille has been enhanced with a plated upper grille trim and in-color billet silver grille texture. The halogen headlamps now have a black inner bezel on the Sport and North models, and the Limited models have projector halogen headlamps with a black inner bezel and chrome fog lamp bezels. The Jeep Compass also features painted mirror caps, tail lamps with a new “smoked” inner bezel, a plated chrome insert on the tailgate trim applique, new available 18-inch aluminum wheels on Limited models, and a new plated chrome insert with a recessed “Jeep” badge on the tailgate trim applique for models equipped with the available Rear Backup Camera. Our deep cherry red crystal pearl coat test model boasted features such as high beam daytime running headlamps, 18-inch aluminum wheels, power heated mirrors with manual fold away, bi-function halogen projector headlamp, premium fog lamps, deep tint sunscreen glass and acoustic windshield.
As sharp as the exterior design is on the 2014 Jeep Compass Limited 4×4, the cabin is what really impressed us the most. For the 2014 model year, the Jeep Compass interior has been tastefully upgraded with accents and a trim that customers will appreciate. Upgraded features include a new interior trim option in the Jeep Compass Limited model as tested saddle brown perforated leather-faced seating with accent stitching. We found these leather seats to be extremely comfortable and stylish for any vehicle regardless of price! The North model includes a new sport mesh and vinyl seat with light grey accent stitching, and the light pebble beige trim features a new tangerine accent stitch on the seats. In addition, the armrests and center console lid are now wrapped in vinyl and the instrument cluster overlay graphics have been updated.
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