Car Review: 2013 Buick Encore FWD Premium
Buick has taken a major step forward by entering the small luxury crossover market with the all-new 2013 Buick Encore. In the U.S., sales of compact crossovers are expected to grow more than 360,000 units by 2015 as buyers’ needs and priorities evolve. While many luxury brands offer similarly sized vehicles in other countries, Buick is one of the first to offer one to U.S. consumers. We spent a week driving the 2013 Buick Encore FWD Premium and now understand why this market is on a growth path.
The 2013 Buick Encore FWD Premium might be considerably smaller than the traditional Buick vehicle, but there is no mistaking Encore for anything other than a Buick. Encore’s sculpted and elegant styling identifies it as a contemporary Buick. Signature cues include a waterfall grille, chrome accents and surrounds, portholes on the hood and painted lower panels. Standard body-color door handles with chrome strips and a styled, stainless steel exhaust tip add to the premium look. Blue-accented halogen composite projector-beam headlamps and detailed tail lamps further enhance the Encore exterior, and 18-inch, five-spoke painted aluminum wheels are standard. Seven-spoke chromed aluminum wheels were on our test Encore and they really elevated the appearance. Our test model also boasted deep tinted glass, outside heated and power adjustable body color mirrors, chrome door handles and roof rack with side rails.
My first reaction after entering the cabin of the 2013 Buick Encore FWD Premium was a bit of surprise at how much space was available for both the front and rear passengers. With room for five and up to 48.4 cubic feet (1,371 liters) of storage space with the rear seat folded, the Encore offers substantial cargo capacity along with its confident, higher driving position. Encore’s distinctive styling carries over to a flowing instrument panel that wraps naturally into the door panels. A prominent central instrument panel houses the seven-inch, high-resolution, full-color display for the standard IntelliLink voice-activated infotainment system. It also features displays for the SiriusXM satellite radio and standard rearview camera, as well as the GPS-enabled navigation system. An all-ebony or contemporary mix of dark and light tones distinguishes the cabin, which is accented with ice-blue ambient lighting, select use of bright chrome and wood grain trim.
Premium seats feature high-density foam for greater comfort on long drives. They are trimmed in either a contemporary cloth/leatherette or available premium leather. The 60/40 flat-folding rear seat features a fold-down armrest with cup holders. We were impressed by the comfort seating and upscale feel of the leather seats.
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Cadillac reveals all-new 2015 Escalade in New York City
Cadillac revealed the 2015 Escalade last night with a stylish and festive party in New York City. I was on hand to check out the new luxury SUV as it was introduced by Bob Ferguson, senior vice president of Global Cadillac, along with Ed Welburn, vice president of design for GM. This fourth generation vehicle is immediately recognizable as as Escalade but the improvements are quickly apparent as well, particularly the new headlamps and taillamps. Cadillac is emphasizing the craftsmanship that goes into the luxury accents of the Escalade as they highlighted some of the people behind the vehicle with beautiful photography by Autumn de Wilde. Sitting in the Escalade one certainly notices the comfortable and luxurious interior that buyer will expect.
With the emphasis on luxury craftsmanship and technology, the 2015 Escalade is loaded with features that will draw in consumers in the luxury SUV segment:
- The new Escalade interior features cut-and-sewn and wrapped materials along with real wood trim options. The use of premium materials is immediately recognizable when you sit in the vehicle. The new seats are also very comfortable.
- The new LED lighting jumps out as the most distinctive part of the exterior design evolution with Cadillac’s vertical light signature. The headlamps consist of four vertically stacked crystal lenses and LEDs. Coupled with the large and chiseled front grille the Escalade retains its very distinctive look with these upgrades. The rear of the Escalade is now even more distinctive with tall, thin vertical LED taillamps that reach to the top of the vehicle and feature the brand’s wreath-and-crest insignia which illuminates in the dark.
- I’m a big fan of Cadillac’s CUE system for navigation, media and other internal controls and it will be standard in the Escalade. I like how CUE uses proximity sensors to activate common options and controls as your hand approaches the screen. The new CUE also offers an expanded “favorites” section that provides quick access to station presets, favorite phone contacts and navigation destinations all in one convenient spot.
- Cadillac claims the new interior will be “dramatically quieter” due to a stronger new body structure, new and enhanced acoustic material, and Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology.
- The Escalade is Offered with 2WD and 4WD drivetrains and features a new 6.2L V-8 engine rated at an SAE-certified 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque – a nearly 5-percent increase in horsepower and 10 percent more torque.
- Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control suspension system is now a standard feature.
- The front seating area offers more than 1.5 inches more headroom and more than four inches of additional legroom compared to previous models while the 2nd and 3rd-row seats fold flat.
I’m looking forward to driving the new Escalade to fully experience the new features. The updated design and luxury features will definitely generate more attention for this iconic nameplate.
Car Review: 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6L Premium
As the world at Cadillac continues to evolve, the expectations from buyers will also come to expect dynamic new products, which have to be the goal for any luxury car nameplate. The all-new Cadillac ATS 3.6L Premium was delivered to us at Bullz-Eye for a week of testing and admiration for what should be the new direction of Caddy and a shot across the bow at her competitors. Developed on an all-new, lightweight rear-drive architecture, the ATS reflects a new expression of Cadillac’s Art & Science execution philosophy, centered on a foundation of driving dynamics and mass efficiency. Germany ’s famed Nürburgring served as one of the key testing grounds, along with additional roads, race tracks and laboratories around the globe, where ATS engineers balanced performance with Cadillac’s trademark refinement.
The 2013 Cadillac ATS interprets Cadillac’s Art & Science design language in a new proportion, tailoring the signature styling and refinement cues for the most compact Cadillac while upholding and advancing the exemplary attention to detail and technological elements for which the brand is known. Although the 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6L Premium skin doesn’t stand out all that much from the CTS, it’s clear that this new Cadillac was designed for performance over everything else. A long, 109.3-inch (2,775 mm) wheelbase and wide front/rear tracks are the cornerstones of the ATS’ firmly planted stance, which is enhanced by short overhangs and taut sheet metal that appears to wrap tightly around the tires. 17-inch wheels are standard and 18-inch wheels are available.
Bold, vertical lighting elements, including new LED front signature lighting detail and illuminating door handles and active grille shutters, lend technologically advanced style and function to the ATS. The luxury feel of the exterior is clearly enhanced with the lighting from all angles of the ATS, including the sleek door handles. The grille shutters close at certain highway speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag and enhance fuel economy. High-intensity discharge headlamps with Adaptive Forward Lighting made our driving experience that much better. Exterior colors include: Radiant Silver Metallic, Black Raven, Black Diamond Tricoat, Crystal Red Tintcoat, White Diamond Tricoat, Thunder Gray ChromaFlair, Opulent Blue Metallic, Glacier Blue Metallic, Silver Coast Metallic and Summer Gold Metallic. Our test model looked incredible in Black Diamond Tricoat that somehow looked as clean after a week as it did on day one.
After taking in the striking good looks of the 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6L Premium’s body, Cadillac really needed a top-notch cabin to keep the first impression strong, and they delivered with a morello red combined with a jet black hand-crafted cut and sewn interior seating that was off-the-charts good. A driver focused interior with integrated technology and crafted materials complements the exterior elements and supports the ATS’ driving experience. Everything from the placement of the pedals to the position of the shifter is designed for effortless and intuitive performance driving. Available performance seats have power-adjustable bolsters to optimize lateral support during high-load cornering. Contributing to the interior’s intuitive feel is an instrument panel that wraps into the doors and a center stack in the mid-instrument panel that flows into the center console.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Car Review: 2013 Lexus ES 300h Sedan
The all new 2013 Lexus ES 300h Sedan has the chance to lead Lexus into the future with amazing fuel efficiency and new styling. We had the opportunity drive this new offering from Lexus for a week and took away the following impressions.
The new ES features a lower, progressive profile and clean, continuous styling lines from front to rear. All four corners are pulled tightly inward to the wheel arches, creating distinctive proportions. The wheelbase of the new ES has been lengthened by 1.8 inches, while the overall length of the vehicle has grown by just one inch, resulting in a more spacious interior. The new ES unmistakably bears the new face of Lexus with its distinctive, spindle grille. The LED daytime running lights and combination rear lamps reflect the “L” design motif. The ES 300h hybrid features a distinctive rear design with hidden exhaust and an integrated spoiler. New exterior colors for the 2013 ES include Fire Agate Pearl and Silver Lining Metallic. Our test model was nebula gray pearl and the paint was as smooth as the sleek exterior. The auto on/off projector bulb headlamps with integrated LED fog lamps and daytime running lights stand out both during the day and in nighttime driving.
The modern interior of the 2013 ES has been designed to provide a sense of openness and security. Sightlines and visibility are improved, controls are logically placed, and new cabin materials express a high level of craftsmanship. A newly sculptured seat enhances driver comfort. The steering wheel angle has been reduced from 24 degrees to 22 degrees for a more natural control position. Fluid-filled engine mounts, new sound absorbing materials and a tuned engine intake minimize the intrusion of outside noise.
Greater rear seat legroom and knee room are the hallmark of the redesigned, more spacious cabin. Knee room is increased by 2.8 inches and legroom is increased by 4.1 inches. The new design also offers additional foot room below the front seats. I was very impressed with the amount of room for the rear passengers and that is a major improvement over many competitors.
Available comfort and convenience features include manual door window shades, a power rear shade, and a one-touch power trunk closer. Optional ambient lighting, discretely placed under the wood trim, softly illuminates the surfaces of the instrument panel and all four doors. The new ES features enhanced NuLuxe seating surfaces, developed to reduce environmental impact. Genuine leather is also available, as is semi-aniline leather for an even more refined look and feel. Our heated seats and heated steering wheel warmed up in what seemed to be record time in some pretty cold weather. Interiors are available in Black, Light Gray and Parchment. Trim colors and materials include Piano Black, Espresso Bird’s-eye Maple and Bamboo.
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