Car Review: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT

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Hot summer days demand drop-top cars to truly enjoy this time of year in the Midwest, and the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata answered the call for us. We drove and drove the MX-5, soaking up everything this car and the summer breeze had to offer, and never left the wheel disappointed. After a week of driving, it’s no wonder to us that the MX-5 is still by far the best-selling two-seat roadster in the world.

EXTERIOR

The MX-5 Miata was developed primarily for the North American market, and throughout the vehicle’s history, the region has come through to remain dominant in global sales. Available with two distinctive and easy-to-operate head wraps, the 2014 MX-5 Miata comes standard with a Z-fold design soft-top or an industry-leading Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) as tested. The soft top, available on all trim levels, continues to set the industry standard with its simplicity and ease of use. With a central latch handle, the top requires only a simple hand motion to fold and stow behind the seats. The top itself descends into a cleverly designed storage well, thus leaving the 5.3 cubic feet of cargo space completely untouched.

An available option on Club and Grand Touring trims only, the PRHT is stored in the same manner as the soft top, again not affecting storage space. Designed to perform in any climate, PRHT models outsell soft-top models by a 4:1 ratio worldwide. Using a single-button operation, the PRHT offers one of the fastest power-operated open-and-close cycles for a hard top in North America at an efficiently expedient 12 seconds.

The true red paint coupled with the shiny black hard top looked amazing and really popped with the dark gunmetal 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 205/45R17 street-sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires.

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Car Review: 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid

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There is no doubt that Toyota has been focused on styling with new models recently, and the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid keeps that spirit alive and well. The all-new Highlander is a no-compromise, mid-size, three-row SUV that brings together the best in style, technology, comfort, capability and safety. Its exterior design conveys both refinement and strength, which complements a totally redesigned interior that will raise the bar in its segment. We drove the new Highlander for a week and had the chance to see exactly where Toyota is headed.

EXTERIOR

I first want to comment on the silver sky metallic paint, because so many people took notice of the color and complimented on the appearance and paint for the whole testing period. It’s a very clean color that also looks very modern and stylish. Sophisticated and dynamic, the new Highlander Hybrid features a progressive silhouette, a lower roofline for improved aerodynamics and sculptured side-door panels. The exterior has grown in length by approximately three inches, while width has increased one-half inch, conveying a sleek and strong appearance.

From the front, Highlander’s hood merges with a redesigned trapezoidal grille, wraparound headlamps and deeply chiseled fenders for a more aggressive appearance. The length of the profile, from the front fenders to the rear quarter panels, boldly stands out with sculptured wheel wells at the corners, allowing for prominently protruding wheels. The total package is capped off by a newly designed height-adjustable rear lift-gate with an available one-touch power open/close and driver selectable memory height settings, and taillights and a bumper that exude style and strength. The chromtec roofrails were also a nice touch!

INTERIOR

This is where Toyota has really stepped things up with the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid, delivering a luxurious cabin with more space than appears from the exterior. Toyota engineers raised the bar on interior design for the mid-size SUV segment by adding even more refinement and functionality to the new Highlander and Highlander Hybrid. The 2014 model offers a premium interior highlighted by increased spaciousness for up to eight people, and an array of standard comfort, convenience and technology features.

The new Highlander’s interior utilizes premium materials to offer an upscale experience, with most models featuring standard contrast seat stitching. All Highlanders come equipped with a soft-touch instrument panel and silver-painted, satin and chrome-plated accents that are thoughtfully placed throughout the interior. Wood-grain pattern trim can be found on the front dash and door trim. The Limited grade model we tested adds touches of elegance. Premium fabrics, available smooth and perforated leather-trim seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add to Highlander’s redesigned upscale interior. The adoption of a high-quality knit roof lining and available second-row sunshades add to Highlander’s refinement and comfort.

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Car Review: 2014 Audi 8L TDI Quattro Tiptronic

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The words “Oh my goodness” come to mind when you take a look at the 2014 Audi 8L TDI Quattro Tiptonic. That’s not just the first glance either, because it impresses time and again before you even drive this beautiful machine. The long wheelbase extends this marvel, as the A8 embodies premium and functional design, progressive technology and advanced engineering and performance.

EXTERIOR

If you are okay with the “wow” factor, then keep an eye on the 2014 Audi 8L TDI Quattro Tiptonic when searching for your luxury sedan. The Audi A8 flagship sedan exudes modern elegance, luxury and dynamism. With its sweeping lines and uniquely bold Audi Singleframe grill with angled corners and horizontal chrome struts, the A8 delivers a striking visual statement. New for 2014, the Audi A8 Premium package option as tested includes powerful yet efficient full LED headlights that give the A8 a distinctive and unmistakable Audi appearance. Also featured on our test model were 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels that literally light up the road. The understated luxury actually makes more of an impression than some rivals that go out of their way to get noticed.

INTERIOR

Inside, the spacious A8 features meticulous craftsmanship and modern yet functional design elements. A new Premium package for the A8 3.0T, 4.0T and TDI includes 22-way front seats with ventilation, making any long drive enjoyable. Ventilated and massage rear seats have been added to the Rear Seat Comfort plus package for the long wheel base 3.0T, 4.0T and TDI models, which can be combined with the diamond stitch interior of the Luxury package. The interior space is endless and the rear leg room is just ridiculous, as some limos could get jealous from what the 2014 Audi 8L TDI Quattro Tiptonic offers. Luxury is at your every turn with heated 18-way power front seats with memory, four-zone automatic climate control, power rear window and rear side window sunshades, Audi parking system and high-tech rearview camera and extended leather package.

The 2014 A8 model line is equipped standard with the award-winning infotainment system, Audi connect. Audi was the first global auto manufacturer to offer factory-fitted in-vehicle Wi-Fi connectivity for passenger use, enabling the Audi connect system to deliver connectivity to up to eight wireless devices. With Audi connect – offered complementary for six months and available for as little as $15 per month thereafter – the onboard Audi MMI Navigation system is enhanced with Google Earth maps for a true aerial view of the route. Audi connect also features real-time localized weather, news and live fuel prices; Google Voice Local Search for detailed information about travel destinations, such as restaurant or hotel hours, pricing and customer reviews; and the myAudi Destination feature, which allows users to log on to Google Earth from virtually any location in the U.S. and download up to 50 destinations to the vehicle. Audi also offers real-time Sirius XM Traffic information via enhancements to the Audi MMI Navigation plus system (active Sirius XM Traffic subscription required).

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Car Review: 2014 Audi A4 Quattro

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The 2014 Audi A4 Quattro Triptonic is a winner in the mid-size class, packing a lot of punch while delivering the steady good looks expected of the car maker. In top form both in terms of looks and technology, it stands out with its sporty, yet balanced character.

EXTERIOR

The dynamic styling of the 2014 Audi A4 Quattro catches your eye from the moment you see this car with the 18-inch, 10-spoke RS design wheels, Audi xenon plus lighting with LED DRL tail lights and aluminum window surrounds. The distinctive design details – such as the stainless-steel underbody protection, the single-frame grille with vertical chrome bars and the range of wheels – underscore its strong character. The ice silver metallic paint was gorgeous and just seems to fit this car perfectly.

INTERIOR

Audi’s interior keeps getting better and better while obviously chasing perfection. The interior of the Audi A4 features all of the classic strengths of the brand’s uncompromising workmanship, finely coordinated colors and materials and logical, intuitive controls. The Audi A4 offers luxurious climate-controlled comfort seats for the driver and front-seat passenger. Small fans provide three-speed ventilation to the seat cushion and back. The trunk has a capacity of 16.95 cu ft. Capacity with the rear seatbacks folded down (a standard feature in the Quattro version) is 33.97 cu ft. There is also a wide selection in the areas of communication and infotainment. The versatile MMI navigation plus system can be combined with the Bluetooth car phone online, which connects the A4 to the Internet and brings the tailored Audi connect services on board. Another highlight is the sound system from Bang & Olufsen.

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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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