Category: Autos

REVIEW: 2018 Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4 Shows Why It Was Top-Selling Passenger Vehicle Last Year

That headline most likely took you by surprise. Though the top three spots in U.S. vehicle sales went to pickup trucks in 2017, over 407,000 Toyota RAV4 CUVs were sold making it the top seller in the passenger vehicle category.

RAV4 stands for Recreational Activity Vehicle 4-wheel drive. Like its name, it delivers a smooth ride while hauling both passengers and gear on- and off-road. The 4 door CUV seats five people and – when the back seats are folded flat – has 73 cubic feet of space. Those rear seats recline to allow for ample headroom and legroom for adults.

The 2018 model comes in 6 trim levels – the LE, XLE, SE, Limited, Platinum, and the new Adventure. Toyota added the Adventure to the lineup with a slightly higher ride height and ground clearance. This version sets itself apart from other trims with 18-inch black aluminum wheels, black headlight bezels, roof rack and special badges.

A few things that impress me are the standard and available features like Bluetooth, a rearview camera, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a 6.1 or 7 inch touchscreen, sunroof, LED headlights, 18” alloy wheels, and a 360 degree view camera system.

As with other Toyota models, the 2018 RAV4 has a long list of safety equipment as standard on every model. These include forward-collision warning, lane-departure alert, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights.

You can compare the RAV4 to the Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and others in this category.

One of the reasons Toyota sells so many of these is the value. The LE starts around $24,500 – and there is also a hybrid version priced from $27,200. The new Adventure is priced from $27,800 and top-level Platinum begins around $35,000.

If you want to follow the lead of many other consumers that made this the biggest seller last year then hop in the driver for a test drive. And don’t forget to bring some friends and recreational gear for most any activity you feel like.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: 2018 Toyota 4Runner

Toyota 4Runner Handles Road Well But Built For Serious Adventures

I love the outdoors – primarily because we have to be outdoors to drive cars and trucks. But when you want to get around the real outdoors for off-roading, climbing big hills, and crossing ranches, you need a real outdoor vehicle. Preferably a truck or an SUV and quite possibly one like the 2018 Toyota 4Runner.

The 4Runner is built for adventures. If you have an active lifestyle you will like its durable, spacious interior. This is also one of the few SUVs in this price range that can take on a rough trail with seven people onboard.

Even though the 4Runner can hold that many passengers, when the third row is in use there is very little cargo space. The back row seats are a bit tricky to fold down but when it is flat you have almost 90 cubic feet of cargo space.

Not much has changed on the outside for the 2018 version. Toyota gave the fascia some large, boomerang-shaped indentions below the slanted headlights. The signature boxy shape is still here along with a roof rack. Active owners will enjoy a power-retractable rear window built into the rear liftgate. Lowering the window allows for gear to more easily be loaded into the cargo bay.

Most people will be driving their 4Runner on city streets and highways. To me, this drives more like a pickup truck than a car.

It leans a bit when cornering but the 270 hp, V6 is a great engine with strong power for merging, passing and towing. Fuel economy is not the best in this class of midsize SUVs (17 in the city, 21 on the highway), mostly because it is a 5-speed automatic and weighs a hefty 4500 lbs or so.

But te 4Runner is a superior off-road vehicle thanks to its body-on-frame construction – one of the last SUVs to still be built this way.

It has standard Hill Start Assist Control that keeps it from rolling backward when switching from brake to accelerator on a steep incline. The available Downhill Assist Control selectively applies the brake to help keep a controlled speed on steep descents.

Skid plates underneath the vehicle help protect the engine front suspension and fuel tank in case some of those boulders or terrain gets in the way. And a full-size spare tire is standard on all trim levels.

Though the interior is rather simple, the 4Runner’s cabin is roomy and versatile. The large center console has a power outlet and USB with 4 other power outlets throughout. The rear area is equipped with a household-style power outlet – perfect for plugging in a blender for those margarita tailgate parties.

Every 4Runner comes with navigation, voice recognition, and Toyota’s Entune infotainment system.

The screen high-resolution screen is 6.1” – I wish it were a bit larger for being in such a big vehicle. But I like the large knobs and buttons and all the apps it works with. 8 speakers are the norm but you can get 15 of them if you upgrade to the Entune JBL Audio package.

Toyota’s 2018 4Runner SUV starts just under $35,000 for a base 2WD SR5 model. TRD models begin closer to $38,000 and Limited models start around $43.

If you care about where your vehicle can take you a little bit more than how comfy it is along the way, this is definitely worth getting into.

Now go hit the great outdoors.

REVIEW: 2018 Toyota Corolla

The Compact Corolla Carries Tech With Comfort

Fun fact: The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling car ever. It’s fuel efficient, affordable and always reliable thanks to Toyota’s reputation for build quality. Over 43 million Corollas have been sold since 1966 and the 2018 version will push those sales numbers higher.

This year’s model includes the L, LE, LE Eco, SE, XLE and the top-level XSE trim levels. The reasonably priced L starts near $18,500 and maxes out with all the bells-and-whistles on the XSE around $23,600.

Not many people buy the Corolla for top speed or acceleration but the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine has a nice giddy-up with 132 hp. The L and LE trims get 32 mpg combined (28 city/36 highway) while the SE and XSE with larger wheels will get 31 mpg combined (28/35).

I was impressed with the cabin for a compact car as it is roomy for my 6 foot-tall frame in both the front and back seats. The XSE has a large moon roof and trimmed heated seats. Trunk volume is a pretty standard 13 cubic feet.

As technology goes the new Corolla has a lot of it. Toyota Safety Sense P is standard which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.

All trim levels come with backup cameras with projected path guidelines, smart-stop brake-override technology, vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist tech, and electronic tire pressure monitoring.

The 2017 model received Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the 2018 model earned a 5-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA).

Bottom line – there is a ton of great features in here that utilize some of the best technologies in the auto industry.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Toyota’s infotainment system, the Corolla does feature the Entune Audio multimedia bundle. The XSE has a 7” touchscreen, AM/FM CD player, 6 speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB port, voice recognition system and Bluetooth.

The Premium audio package has a suite of apps including traffic and weather overlays, streaming services like iHeartRadio and fuel price searches.

Interestingly enough, Toyota remains the only major global automaker with no plans to incorporate the popular Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connection packages. So until that happens, Entune is all you got.

VIDEO: One-on-One with NASCAR’s Joey Logano

The Super Bowl was just held in Houston to end the NFL season.  The “Super Bowl of NASCAR” will be held in just two weeks as the Daytona 500 begins the racing season.  Last year’s runner-up Joey Logano was in town to see his New England Patriots pull a great come from behind win.  I caught up with him the day after the big game to talk about his love of sports, changes to the NASCAR points system and what a new title sponsor to the Championship series means.  As we all know it’s all about sponsors so thanks to the Shell Pennzoil team for having me out at their headquarters to hang with Joey.

 

 

VIDEO: 5 Minutes with the 2016 Nissan Sentra

20160125_095839The Nissan Sentra has a 34 year history of being a solid, compact sedan.  2016 is not the year Nissan will introduce an “all new” model but they are releasing a mid-cycle refresh (aka “facelift”).

On a recent trip to Orange County, California, Nissan offered a group of automotive journalists and enthusiasts the opportunity to put the car through paces up-and-down the Pacific Coast Highway.  The smooth-rolling Sentra carried me past some of the most beautiful scenery in the country including a quick ride on a ferry boat.

Several new safety features debut on the car include rear cross-traffic alerts, blind-spot warning system, and NissanConnect emergency telematics with vehicle monitoring.  A thicker windshield, new engine mounts and more insulation make the car quiet – potentially a good spot to broadcast one of my radio shows from.

Competition in this segment include the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Toyota Corolla.

It’s a nice vehicle and with a starting price of $16,780, this could be a smart choice for a first car purchase and certainly a first family vehicle.

Check out my video review here:


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VIDEO: 5 Minutes with the 2017 Buick Cascada

20160119_164815A convertible from Buick?  Yessir.  I got a sneak preview of the car back in March 2015 at the Dallas Auto Show. It looked cool but then I didn’t hear much about it.  Until a few weeks ago.

The Buick peeps invited a select group of media to take the new ragtop on a drive from Miami Beach to Key West.  My hair was flying during the leisurely ride-and-drive as we hit the hot spots from Ocean Drive to Duval Street.

You’ll hear a lot more about the Cascada in the coming weeks as Buick will air an ad during the Super Bowl featuring NFL baller Odell Beckham, Jr.  His hair is much tighter than mine and won’t flow as freely as mine did.  But he will be smiling.

Check out my video review here:

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A Visit To The Cummins Engine Plant – What Will Drive The 2016 Nissan Titan XD

20150825_080117Nissan is excited.  Really excited.  The auto manufacturer will soon be launching its new 2016 Titan XD truck and they want the country – or at least the media here – to know about it inside and out.  I had seen photos of the body but Nissan could not be more proud of its relationship with Cummins as their engines will power this big boy.  So with an invitation I recently visited the Cummins Engine Plant in Columbus, Indiana, to see where the new 5.0L V8 turbo diesel engines will be built.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nissan and Cummins were gracious hosts during an extensive tour of the plant floor where my group saw the process of how these powerful engines will roll off the assembly line.  Cummins has a long history in the engine business dating back to 1919 and provides everything from power generation to fuel systems to emission solutions.  The 500,00 sq. ft. facility was in a test mode that day as they fine-tuned the many work stations it takes to assemble the heavy duty turbines.

Cummins expects to produce 150,000 of these engines each year and Nissan certainly expects them to move off dealership lots beginning in late 2015.

High-Tech Auto Reports – July 2015

Listen to the latest trends and news in the auto industry.  Michael Garfield covers all you need to know to keep up the rapidly changing world of cars and trucks.  Send questions or content suggestions here.

APPLE AND GOOGLE VIE FOR A SPOT ON YOUR DASHBOARD

MANUFACTURERS DEVELOPING AUTONOMOUS DRIVING, SMARTWATCH CONTROLS

 

 

Ford F-150 Named Truck of Texas at 2014 Texas Auto Writers Assn. Truck Rodeo

20141009_083515[1]I spent a few days in San Antonio last week living a dream for most every truck fan in the world.  Sixty fellow auto journalists and I had the duty of driving trucks, SUVs and CUVs up-and-down hills, through flowing streams and mud, and dirt and paved roads while judging them across 17 categories.

The annual Truck Rodeo organized by the Texas Auto Writers Association convened at Knibbe Ranch.  This event gives us one-on-one time with teams of manufacturers including designers and engineers.  Even better we had the opportunity to drive the trucks with these reps so we could experience the drive by the men and women who gave birth to these vehicles.

Below is the press release that touts the winners.  Congrats to them all.  Now it’s your turn to test drive them…at your local dealer.

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Ford F-150 Named Truck of Texas at 2014 Texas Auto Writers Assn. Truck Rodeo

The all-new Ford F-150 was named Truck of Texas at the 2014 Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) Truck Rodeo.

“This year, the Texas Truck Rodeo had a record number of vehicles on hand for our members to evaluate,’ said Michael Marrs, president of TAWA, “We want to thank all of our partners in the automotive industry as well as sponsors for making this such a great event.”DSC_9469

Sixty auto writers drove 75 vehicles on and off road for two days (Oct. 9-10) at the Knibbe Ranch outside San Antonio to choose the prestigious Truck of Texas. This year’s Texas Truck Rodeo, which was sponsored by the Steel Market Development Institute, also saw the 2015 Lincoln MKC take the CUV of Texas; the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee capture the SUV of Texas title for an unprecedented fifth straight year; and Ford being named the Truck Line of Texas.

Doug Scott, marketing manager of Ford’s truck group, said, “This is a significant honor, one of the three big ones along with the Motor Trend and North American Truck of the year awards. Our entire truck team is proud and honored to win the Truck of Texas trophy.”

Winning the Compact Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) title was the 2015 Honda CR-V Touring; the 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium was named the Mid-size CUV; the 2015 Kia Sedona SX was named Full-size CUV; and the 2015 Lincoln MKC was named Luxury CUV.

Stephane Cesareo, Lincoln Global Communications Manager, said, “It’s been a long time since Lincoln participated in the TAWA Truck Rodeo and we will definitely keep coming back. I had never been to Texas and have really enjoyed meeting the friendly members of TAWA and seeing some of the Hill Country of Texas.”

20141009_141932[1]The 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk was named Compact Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV); the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4×4 was named Mid-size SUV; the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD was named Full-size SUV; and the 2015 Range Rover Evoque 5-Door was named Compact Luxury SUV.

“We are extremely delighted and proud that for the fifth consecutive year, the respected and influential Texas auto writers have named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the SUV of Texas,” said Mike Manley, president and CEO of Chrysler Group’s Jeep Brand.

The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel 4×4 was named Mid-size Luxury SUV; and the 2015 GMC Yukon Denali was named Full-size Luxury SUV. The 2015 Jeep Wrangler was named Off-road SUV.

Mid-size Pickup Truck title was won by the 2015 Chevy Colorado Crew Cab; and Full-size Pickup Truck was the 2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch. Luxury Pickup Truck was the 2015 Ford F-150 Platinum; and Heavy Duty Pickup Truck was the 2015 Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn. Off-road Pickup Truck was the 2015 Ram Power Wagon.

Commercial Vehicle was the 2015 Ford Transit 250. Other winners in the competition included: Best Connectivity, Chrysler Group’s UConnect Access; Best Powertrain, Chrysler Eco Diesel Engine; and Best Technology, 2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch high- strength military-grade aluminum body.20141009_103032[1]

The Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) was founded in 1987, with a mission to promote quality and accuracy in automotive journalism and disseminate information about the industry through news related print, online and broadcast media. For more information, please visit www.texasautowriters.org. TAWA’s communication are powered by PR Newswire.

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Media contact: [email protected]; 469-363-7371

GMC and Chevy Slim Down Their Trucks

Trucks are supposed to big, right?  This is Texas and we like rolling around in trucks where we have to use a ladder to step inside.  Large enough to have a bed that can fit an actual king-size bed.  Side mirrors that rival the size of a chicken-fried steak.

But Texans – and residents of the other 49 – now have new options in truck size from GM.  Two of its brands have rolled out vehicles in the mid-size range that are squarely gunning for the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier and a soon-to-be-released model from Honda.

I spent some time in Del Mar, California, a seaside community just north of San Diego, putting the 2015 GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado through paces in traffic, hills, parking and, yes, a beautiful sunset.

2015 GMC Canyon

These trucks come in a wide variety of configurations but the basics are upfront for the GMC and Chevy models.  A four-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive and an extended cab with rear-hinged doors are standard features.  Options include a V-6, crew cab and four-wheel drive.

While the inside of each vehicle are identical in most features (save for the nice upgrades in the Canyon), the aesthetics on the outside stand out with nods from each brand.   The Colorado’s nose and front end is classic Chevy with a sportier design, hard-molded matte black plastic and lots of color.  GMC styling can be seen immediately on the Canyon with the larger, bolder nose; metal grill and wide headlights.

2015 Chevy Colorado

The technology in the trucks makes driving and comfort easy on everyone.  The driver information center in between the speedometer and tachometer is controlled by some clever switches and buttons on the turn-signal stalk.  Buyers who opt for the Canyon SLT or Chevy Z71 trims equipped with the navigation system get color and even more information.  GM also offers full Wi-Fi hotspot capability with its OnStar 4G LTE offering that will allow up to seven different devices to connect simultaneously.

Setting up the hotspot can be as simple as using your voice and the connection speed was as fast as driving in the speed lane.  I can imagine my kids enjoying trips a bit more by burying their heads in their portable devices streaming music, watching YouTube and giving me directions of the nearest bathroom via their own GPS.

A standout interior feature in the extended-cab and crew-cab versions is the storage space – seemingly every inch is useful.  From the door pockets and small cutout in all the doors to the extra space underneath all the seats, little interior space was wasted.

GMC Canyon console

All Canyon and Colorado models come with six air bags, a locking tailgate that hydraulically lowers slowly and a backup camera.  I tested some models with lane departure and collision warning systems, text-messaging alerts (so much for my Samsung smartwatch) and a feature for iPhones that allow Siri to control some features.

I hereby declare the mid-size truck category war to be reignited.  The GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado are the first out of the gate and have a head start over the new Toyota and Honda versions.  It’s a great start and I would be happy to ride off into the sunset with one of them.