First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger

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We came to the City of Roses to test drive the 2015 Dodge Challenger. But that was really a misnomer. Yes, we drove the Challenger — well, three of them — but the real news here was brand expansion rooted in horsepower. Dodge wants to reassert its heritage as a mainstream performance brand, and with the 2015 Dodge Challenger, it takes a big step in that direction by offering a product for just about every power niche when the new Challenger goes on sale in the third quarter.

Dodge offers a literal avalanche of variants. When the new Challenger goes on sale in the third quarter, trim lines will include the SXT, SXT Plus, RT and RT Plus, RT Shaker, RT Plus Shaker, Scat Pack and 392 Hemi Scat Pack. The variants are so numerous they rival the powertrains on pickup trucks.

But at the heart of this Dodge Challenger product assault are the engines, and all four of them get no less than 300 horsepower each. This menu of muscle cars is topped by the 707 horsepower 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat. It is in a class by itself, and we’ll deal with that particular model in greater detail later this week.

Power for the lineup starts with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque; this is the lone Challenger engine that has only one transmission, an eight-speed automatic. Then there is the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI that makes 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, but that output is when it is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With a six-speed manual gearbox, the horsepower is bumped up to 375 with 410 pound-feet of torque. That incremental uptick in power makes a difference to a true enthusiast. This engine has a cylinder shut off system for fuel savings when it is mated to the eight-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA rating of 16 mpg in city driving and a respectable 25 mpg on the highway.

The 6.4-liter HEMI developed by Dodge’s Street and Racing Technology Team (SRT) was more direct. With an eight-speed automatic or the six manual, this engine made 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. We secured a 2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L HEMI Scat Pack for the drive on historic U.S. 30 to the Crown Point Vista. It is the first purposely built scenic highway in the U.S., and the section we were on cut through the heavy foliage of the Columbia River Gorge. It was a winding, tight-turn, two-lane highway with tree-formed canopies and speed limits of 25 or 30 mph along this section. In other words, it was no place to unloose a car with almost 500 horsepower.

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The Cost of a Car Without Insurance

If you think that avoiding car insurance is a sensible strategy, you’ll think again after reviewing this infographic.

fix it yourself infographic
Presented By IFA Auto Insurance

  

Rain, Wind, Sun or Snow: Safe Driving in Severe Weather

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When it comes to driving conditions, you never quite know what to expect. Whether you’re here in the US or overseas, you can experience blazing sunshine and then heavy storms all in the space of 24 hours.

Driving in severe weather conditions is all about being prepared and knowing what to do. Once you have the confidence and knowledge required, you should be able to cope with anything the skies have to offer.

Here are some tips and advice to help you drive safely and be prepared at all times.

Reduce visibility

In driving rain and other extreme weather conditions, this often leads to reduced visibility.

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Car Review: 2014 Kia Soul

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The new 2014 Kia Soul is a testament for just how far small utility vehicles have progressed in today’s market. We drove a solar yellow Soul for a week and discovered that this is not only a fun car, but refined beyond what we expected. The 2014 Kia Soul’s all-new take on design, driving dynamics and desirable features totally transform one of Kia Motors America’s best-selling cars into an urban utility vehicle that is as comfortable in the city as it is on the open highway.

EXTERIOR

When the wild Track’ster concept made its debut in 2012, Soul enthusiasts and pundits alike urged Kia to turn the aggressively fun fantasy into reality. With 18 months from design freeze to production, the stage was set for the all-new Soul, and many of the concept’s dramatic design cues can be found in the production vehicle. The upright stance, squared shoulders and distinctive fender flares are instantly recognizable as Soul. Combining a longer 101.2-inch wheelbase (up 0.8 inches), overall width that’s broadened to 70.9 inches (increased by 0.6 inches) and a reduced overall height of 63.0 inches (decreased by 0.4 inches) adds a more aggressive edge to the all-new Soul’s appearance. Likewise, the wraparound greenhouse, high-mounted tail lights and upright stance are all hallmark design elements. Premium touches such as available LED front positioning lights and rear LED halo lights help connect Soul to siblings within the Kia lineup that share similar design cues, such as the 2014 Sorento CUV and 2014 Forte sedan.

Exterior Track’ster similarities are easy to spot. The large trapezoidal lower air intake is nearly a direct carryover from the concept, and the location of the available fog lights – down low and pushed to the leading edges – mirror those found on the Track’ster. Kia’s signature grille is present, but it’s been reworked to more closely resemble the concept. Adding a touch of flair, the unique “floating” body-color panel inset into the lift gate originated with the Track’ster as well. Subtle enhancements include a wider (by 2.4 inches over the previous Soul) opening for the lift gate, allowing Soul to swallow more stuff. There is a smooth feel to the skin of the 2014 Kia Soul that exudes confidence and appeals to the eyes. The Soul Exclaim as tested adds to the Plus, with standard features like 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45R-18 tires, fog lights, body-color bumper “tusks,” projector head lights, front LED positioning lights and rear LED halo lights.

INTERIOR

Our test model was equipped with extra options from head to toe, and we appreciated them more and more as the week moved on. Overall, the design paid particular attention to instilling a more premium look and feel to the 2014 Soul’s interior. Liberal applications of soft-touch materials are found on the instrument panel, center console and door panels. Details such as our media car’s leather trimmed seating with improved lateral and thigh support, and the use of high-gloss piano-black trim pieces on the center console and dash, elevate the Soul’s interior to new levels of sophistication. The panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade was spectacular, navigation with a whopping 8-inch screen was bright and clear, and the Infinity audio system was spot on with a strong bass!

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Car Review: 2014 Lexus GS 350 F SPORT

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We set out to drive the 2014 Lexus GS 350 Sport Sedan with the formidable F SPORT package and came away with very favorable impressions. Lexus has moved the needle on styling in recent years and continues to challenge all rivals on the performance front. This car was up to that challenge!

EXTERIOR

Behind its distinctive spindle grille, which creates an unmistakable brand identity, the Lexus GS 350 shines bright with a refined but aggressive body. You first notice the 19-inch alloy wheels that pop along the amazing Riviera red paint. The GS 350 F SPORT is exclusively equipped with 19-inch staggered width wheels paired with 235/40R19 front and 265/35R19 rear summer compound tires for RWD models, while AWD models will have 235/40/19 all-season tires in the front and rear. The F SPORT stands apart with exclusive front bumper and rear lower valence styling, a rear lip spoiler and F SPORT mesh grille inserts. The rear bumper integrates a distinctive exhaust diffuser and centered aero fins to help control underbody airflow.

INTERIOR

Even with its sweeping, coupe-like profile, the Lexus GS 350 provides ample headroom for rear-seat passengers. The new-generation GS offers greater rear headroom, knee room, legroom and foot space than the previous GS, yet in a sleeker package. The trunk, too, grew with the redesign and can easily accommodate four golf bags. The sumptuously detailed cabin, trimmed in perforated leather and matte dark brown walnut wood, comes with standard 10-way power front seats. Some competitors charge extra for leather, even in this price range. Rear seat passengers are treated no less regally, with deeply scalloped seats providing excellent support and generous legroom for long trips.

Lexus recognizes that temperature is a personal preference, with passengers often having diverse needs. The GS 350 addresses this situation quite effectively. A first-in-class technology, the energy-saving S-Flow automatic climate control system detects if there is a front passenger and directs airflow only to the occupied front seat or seats.

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