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.

  

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Car Review: 2013 Kia Rio5 SX

kia_rio5_1

We still don’t know just how good the B car segment can be, but we sure are getting close. This market is growing and automakers like Kia are serious about gaining market share with entries like the 2013 Kia Rio5 SX. We spent a week testing a signal red model and came away with plenty of impressions.

EXTERIOR

The Rio SX M/T is inspired by Kia’s championship-winning motorsports efforts and the recently-introduced Rio B-spec race car. Enthusiasts are snapping these up as a limited quantity of around 500 Rio SX M/Ts will be initially offered for sale during the 2013 model year. There is no shortage of style with the new Rio SX 5, which sports exterior colors Red and Electronic Blue and comes with LED taillights, front LED accent lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The LED accent lights look very upscale, and the sleek skin on this car with the 17-inch alloys really gives this modestly price car a very sporty look. The chilly weather in the Midwest this March made us appreciate the heated power folding mirrors morning, noon and night.

INTERIOR

Inside, the Rio SX M/T adds a 7-inch navigation touch screen with a Sirius XM Traffic system and push-button start with Smart Key. Other standard SX features include sport-tuned suspension, rear camera display, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, Bluetooth wireless technology, and an AM/FM/CD/ MP3 Sirius XM Satellite audio system. Our test model had black cloth seating and was very comfortable and smooth to the touch. The cabin design is modern and well planned with a balanced dashboard. Added features included air conditioning, power windows and door locks, USB and auxiliary input jacks, 60/40 split rear folding seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, steering wheel controls, tilt and telescopic steering column, supervision meter cluster and metal finish trim and metal pedals. I will say that the back seats don’t offer much legroom, so adults might be a tight fit.

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Smart living

There are many unique cars out there, but the Smart Car has always gotten plenty of attention. These cool videos are worth checking out to learn more about this innovative vehicle, including some safety stories that may surprise you!

  

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.

EXTERIOR

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.

INTERIOR

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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First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe GSL and Limited

Hyundai introduced a two-wheelbase strategy for the completely new Santa Fe for the 2013 model. I tested the 5-passenger Sport model last year, and then had the opportunity to test drive the 7-passenger Santa Fe GSL and the 6-passenger Santa Fe Limited recently in San Diego.

The Sport model has been a hit so far, which isn’t a surprise given how much I liked the vehicle. In the six full months since the new model launch, retail sales for the vehicle have increased over 37%. Now the larger version with three rows is hitting showrooms as well. The GSL fits seven passengers while the Limited features captain chairs in the second row with a capacity for six passengers.

Exterior

The GSL and Limited look very similar to the Sport model, with the major difference being the lines for the rear side windows being softened in the larger wheelbase models. As I noted in the Sport review, “Hyundai continues to implement its “Fluidic Sculpture” design principles that have given Hyundai vehicles a bold and distinctive look. Specifically, the Santa Fe features a new design concept called Storm Edge, which captures the strong and dynamic images created by nature during the formation of a storm.” I like the idea of keeping the Santa Fe name across both the compact and midsize CUV models, as the design work well across both platforms. I like the front end in particular, and the rest of the design flows nicely from there.

Interior

The choice of a bench seat for the second row and two captain’s chairs offers nice flexibility for consumers. The captain’s chair offer a comfortable and roomy experience in the second row. And while there’s adequate room in the third row, there isn’t a ton of headroom there for larger adults so that third row is best used for kids. The split-folding third row seats offer very nice cargo flexibility for families and for road trips. The second row captain’s chair also fold down and then the second row bench in the GSL offers a 40/20/40 split folding option. The overall versatility is excellent.

The comfort and styling of Hyundai’s interiors have been impressive and the Santa Fe is no exception. I liked the design of the center stack as it offers a unique twist on what we often see. Hyundai offers a wide variety of option packages, so you can certainly get a loaded version that satisfies all your needs, but even the base models are stylish and very comfortable. I also liked the panoramic sunroof and heated steering wheel options in the technology package.

Performance

The power of the V6 engine in the GSL and Limited Santa Fe will grab your attention right away. When I test the Sport model I was impressed with the 2.0L Turbo 4-cylender engine, but I liked the easy power of the V6 even better. The responsiveness and acceleration were excellent and this vehicle is very fun to drive. The larger vehicle also handles nicely around corners given its size, and the six-speed automatic transmission performed flawlessly.

The Lambda II 3.3-liter GDI V6 engine is rated at 290 horsepower which is tied with the Explorer for the midsize CUV segment, and it’s the only midsize CUV with a standard direct injection V6 engine. Fuel economy is competitive at 18 city, 25 highway and 21 combined. From a safety point of view, all Santa Fe models feature seven airbags, including side curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag along with rollover sensors for the side curtain airbags.

Overview

Hyundai continues to put out hit after hit, and the entire Santa Fe line from the Sport to the GSL and Limited will fit into the lineup very well. With the different wheelbases and seating options, Hyundai will address the needs of most consumers looking for a CUV. Put this one on your test drive list.

  

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