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 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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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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Movie Review: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Starring
Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage
Director
Bryan Singer

Just when it seemed like Fox was engineering a smart reboot of its X-Men franchise with “First Class,” the series’ original director, Bryan Singer, has returned to combine the old with the new in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” That’s not exactly bad news for fans who appreciate the lengths that Singer has gone to in an attempt to fix the continuity issues within the X-movies, but by doing so, he’s tethered the prequels to the earlier films in a way that ensures they’ll never be able to exist on their own. And considering the potential of where the franchise was headed prior to this “sidequel,” it’s a little disappointing to see Singer turn his back on that initial vision. Granted, there’s still quite a bit to like about “Days of Future Past,” but it feels more like a step backward than the creative leap forward that Matthew Vaughn’s prequel pointed towards.

In the near future, mutants are being hunted down by advanced versions of Sentinel robots that can instantly adapt to any situation, making them impossible to defeat. With only a handful of X-Men remaining, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) uses her powers to send Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back in time to his younger body circa 1973 in order to reunite Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) for a single purpose: stopping Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering the creator of the Sentinel program, Dr. Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), in the hope that it will alter the course of history. Meanwhile, the X-Men from the future must hold off an impending Sentinel attack to provide Logan enough time to complete his mission, although that’s much easier said than done.

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