2015 Ford Mustang at Chicago Auto Show

I wasn’t really blown away when Ford revealed the 50th anniversary Mustang with a complete redesign. Sure, moving away from the retro design was a huge challenge, but the new look didn’t really grab me at first when I saw the photos. I have to admit, however, that I like it much more having seen it in person at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show. The fastback, in particular, jumps out right away. And while I can’t get too excited about the new headlights, they do fit the new, more aerodynmaic design. Still, I would have preferred that the headlamps sloped down at the far edges instead of flaring up. That might have made the new design perfect, but overall, it looks like the Ford team was able to meet some pretty high expectations.

  

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First Drive: 2014 Acura MDX

Acura practically invented the segment for luxury CUVs with three rows with the introduction of the first MDX in 2001, and now Acura is introducing the third generation of this vehicle with the 2014 model year with significant upgrades over the previous model. The market for 7-passenger luxury CUVs in now crowded with very healthy competition from other luxury brands, but Acura will remain very competitive with this all-new MDX. I had the opportunity to drive the new model and I came away very impressed.

Exterior

The changes to the exterior design of the MDX aren’t dramatic, as Acura sticks with its wedge-shaped grille for the front end, but the Jewel Eye LED headlights give the vehicle a much more modern look and feel as you can see from the photos above. The new headlights also provide superior road light and visibility as well. Acura slightly altered the size of vehicle, making it slightly narrower and longer. The new MDX is two inches longer with a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase which helps to enhance ride quality. Meanwhile, the vehicle width was reduced by 1.3 inches. The frontal area of the vehicle is also 2-percent smaller which helped to provide for greater aerodynamic efficiency. While the vehicle looks more modern with a number of refinements to the design, it retains the sporty essence that makes it an attractive option in this segment.

Interior

Acura strived to make significant improvements to the interior of the MDX with the goal of creating “synergy between man and machine.” The result was a very luxurious and practical driving experience that will appeal to buyers in this segment. The overall feel is modern and sophisticated and I experienced a very comfortable drive that will meet the expectations of the target market.

I particularly liked the improvements to the center stack. The center console storage area is large and well thought out with a handy slot for mobile phone storage. The sliding lid above the storage area and below the leather-trimmed top is equipped with rubber strips which prevents items like phones from sliding around.

Another feature that stood out for me was the turn-by-turn navigation feature in the main dashboard which compliments the main navigation system in the center stack, letting drivers see instructions in their direct line of site without needing to turn their heads to the main display panel in the center stack. The MDX also features a new 7-inch color On Demand Multi-Use Display touchscreen with haptic feedback which helped to reduce the number of hard buttons in the center stack from 41 to 9.

For the third row seats, Acura wanted to make it easier to get in and out, so they added a very convenient “one push” button in two different places for second row seats. With the longer wheelbase, the new MDX now has 4.5-inch wider foot entry point for third-row passengers along with a 1.8-inch lower floor height for easier step-in. With the new
Extended Slide second-row seats the process of getting into the third row is now much easier.

Performance

The new MDX is powered by a direct-injected 3.5-liter 24-valve V-6 engine, generating 290 horsepower at 6,200 rpm; 267 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm and 267 lb.-ft. of peak torque. The aluminumV-6 engine is paired with a reengineered 6-speed automatic transmission that provides reduced friction and smoother gear changes. I drove the all-wheel drive model and was very impressed with the responsiveness and acceleration. I’m partial to vehicles that offer different driving modes so I was happy to see that the MDX offers Sport, Normal and Comfort modes. You can really have fun with the Sport mode option and the paddle shifters, and when you’re stuck in slower traffic you can save more fuel with the Comfort mode. Speaking of fuel, the 2014 MDX also achieves best-in-class fuel economy with 18/27/21 MPG city/highway/combined for the AWD package.

Overview

The MDX is a family-friendly vehicle that also meets the expectations of luxury buyers. It’s a beautiful vehicle, inside and out, and it’s loaded with all the luxuries and amenities you’d expect from today’s luxury vehicles. Buyers with families will also appreciate all of the safety features as well. Prices range from roughly $42,290 for the base 2-wheel drive model to $56,505 range for the fully loaded SH-AWD model. If you’re in the market for a luxury CUV the MDX should be on your list.

  

Beyond the Oil Change

The oil and filter change is the backbone of automotive maintenance. Everywhere you look, this seems to be the lone ingredient to keep your car on the road. But beyond the items that your local oil change shop advertises, there are items that are just as crucial to check and change as your car gets older. In fact, ignoring these items is just as bad as not changing your oil at all.

Headlights

“Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone,” helps explain the importance of headlights and how little attention we pay to them when they work. Sylvania recently took Bullz-Eye out to New Hampshire to explain that headlights can go bad before they necessarily go out. Even though they might not go out, a headlight loses about 20 feet of light distance every year. If you have HID headlights, these usually change to a shade of purple before going out.

Although headlights last about 3 years, you should check or replace them in about half that time. When it comes to replacement, they are probably the most DIY friendly replacement item on this list. Sylvania even offers a guide on their website to help you install the bulbs correctly, plus tips and tricks to ensure lasting performance. You can also take the chance to upgrade your lights with better bulbs, such as with Sylvania Silverstars. These lights offer HID quality lighting for halogen applications. Don’t be driving in the dark by checking and changing your light bulbs before they go out.

O2 sensors

The O2 sensor measures the oxygen from your car’s exhaust to make sure the engine’s computer is supplying the right amount of fuel for the engine. However, when the O2 sensor stops working, havoc occurs with how the engine performs. The mixture of air and gas runs wild. This can affect your mileage, your engine’s lifespan, and the emissions it spews.

That’s why you should pay special attention to your O2 sensor’s lifespan. They don’t need replacing often, usually 30,000-50,000 miles, but once you hit the end of its lifecycle, fixing it could save you many costs down the road.

Fuel Filters

Repair shops will often tell you to replace air filters with due diligence, but they usually don’t advertise the other big filter in the car, the fuel filter. The fuel filter is crucial in keeping debris in the gas from getting into the engine. When it gets clogged, fuel may stop getting in to the engine, or dirt enters the motor.

Fuel filters usually last 50,000 miles, but do vary between cars. Some are easy to change yourself, others not so much. Try to find a guide online guide about your specific car, or get it changed at a repair shop. Changing your fuel filter is necessary in ensuring fuel mileage and keeping your engine and fuel system clean.

Timing Belts

The timing belt in most engines keeps the engine from destroying itself from the inside out. Without the timing belt, the pistons punch a large hole in the top of the cylinders. With a timing belt, they are pulled back right before contact is made. Because of their importance, timing belts last a long time, usually around 100,000 miles.

However, it is vital to check your timing belt every so often for cracks and stretch marks. If your car has reached 100,000 miles, or is past it and never had the belt changed, you should probably look into making an appointment with your mechanic. It is a little bit pricey to get your timing belt changed, but not nearly as much as getting your engine replaced.

Timing belts, fuel filters, 02 sensors, and headlights are the unsung heroes in car maintenance. They don’t need changing or checking very often, but if ignored will hurt your car and your wallet in some big ways.