2014 RAM 3500

2014 RAM 3500

As a boy growing up in Texas there was a time when you put on a grown mans boots, while you were still less than six years old. The top of the boots usually hit you about the groin but, that was fine. All you knew is that you could fill your dad’s or grandpa’s boots. I’ll never forget the feeling I got from walking around is those old smelly things.

Fast forward a half a century and I was able to recapture that feeling again, behind the wheel of a 2014 Ram 3500 Dualie. This truck is big. With hips that make a Kardasian blush, you have to take great care in cornering and parking but, the good news is most drivers will get out of your way on the road.

This wasn’t my first time to drive a daulie. As I mentioned, I’m from Texas. When I was in college I worked at a local nursery and from time to time I had to drive a flat bed daulie to make deliveries of trees or grass. This was the legal kind of course. That truck would skip all over the road when the rear had no payload. It was loud, mud fouled, and the steering had more play in it than a one year-old puppy.

The 2014 Ram 3500 suffered none of these shortcomings. With 375Hp and 850lbft of torque you could haul anything UP TO 15 tons. Or, put another way, you could haul anything. In Tyler, Texas dualies are a way of life. I see them everyday doing what the manufactuers intended them to do, haul horses, hay, cars, and many different kinds of freight. The life of a daulie is usually hard, so all of the big three offer trucks that are designed to be almost bullet proof. But, unlike the dualies of the past the 2014 Ram 3500 has an incredibly quiet cabin.

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The ride is much smoother than I anticipated and I drove it quite a bit. It was my pleasure to take this behemoth on a round trip to the DFW Auto show last week. Hell, it even got to park at the downtown Omni Hotel. It should be no surprise to you that it was the only daulie in the parking garage. There was a small bit of levity as the parking attendant ran out to protest my arrival, in vein of course. No one can stop a three ton truck from going where it wants to go.

It was on this trip that I was able to acclimate myself to piloting the big Ram. After you get used to it, it’s really quite easy to drive, comfortable in fact. Just don’t plan on parking it anywhere but a pasture. Even with four-wheel drive the turning radius is a little over a mile in diameter.

But enough about my metrosexual take on the truck let’s talk about what this truck has to offer the hard working potential buyer. For starters it has a new 11.8-inch rear axle and Hotchkiss leaf spring rear suspension. I have the same hothkiss brand on my 1974 Camaro. I’m sure it’s the same one. Power is transferred from the Cummings to the ground via a very responsive 6-speed transmission that allows the Ram to get decent mileage. And although the Chevy and Ford are more impressive on the track, the Ram cam still offer more torque.

Look, no one buys a daulies unless they need one. If you are in the market for an Armageddon vehicle you owe it to yourself to check out the 2014 Ram 3500. Pricing starts at $54,385.00 and top out just north of $70,000.00. But, hey, when it comes to payload, that’s around two bucks per pound. And that’s cheaper than the cows you’ll be hauling.

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2014 Dodge Avenger SXT

2014 Dodge Avenger SXT

For a car named the Avenger the 2014 Dodge Avenger SXT is fairly pedestrian. That’s a good thing. Sure, it’s a blast to get the, over the top cars like the Charger SRT8 but, it’s also nice to get the cars I see a lot of people buying, like the new Avenger.

Painted in Billet Silver Metallic and sporting 18-inch Black spoke wheels the Avenger looks sporty and a little aggressive. Black wheels always set off the color of a car and this is no exception. The avenger appears a bit small from the outside but once inside I found ample room for a family.

Speaking of family, protection comes by way of Advanced Multistage Front Airbags, Supplemental Side Curtain Front and Rear Airbags and Front Seat Active Head Restraints. Collectively, these bags could hold enough hot air to accommodate a Fox News segment. At the end of the day, however, your cranium will thank you.

interior

Other safety equipment includes ESC, speed control and Front and rear stabilizer bars to keep you on the road, shinny side up.

The interior is appropriate for the segment and comfortable with a Power 8-Way Driver Seat with Manual Driver Lumbar Adjust. The front seats are very comfortable and don’t pinch all of the wrong areas. My one big gripe with the interior is the lack of descent lighting in the car. The front and rear Aimable LED lights are dim and inferior when trying to find anything in the Avenger at night.

What the Avenger does with great success is fit the needs of the family. With a 60/40 split rear seat with trunk pass-Thru, you can pack skis and small items from the local Home Depot. One of the things that I find with my family is that versatility rises to the top every time. And the 2014 Dodge Avenger is versatile. Its size allows you to jump in and out of parking places with ease. Never at any time does versatility cost you comfort.

Powering the Avenger is Chrysler’s 3.6 literV6 24-valveVVT Engine mated to a 6-speed Auto that shifts smoothly through all of the gears. Power was adequate but I’m wondering if the little turbo might be a good fit for the Avenger. While 22MPG city and 29MPG highway are respectable numbers, I was hoping for a bit more. The Avenger is just not exciting enough to get below 35MPG on the highway. Trucks are getting 25MPG.

The bottom line, in the Avenger, Dodge has given us what we need in a package that we might want.
Also, not to be forgotten is the 5-year 100,000-mile Powertrain Limited Warrany. Nothing screams family like protection.

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2014 Dodge Charger SRT8

2014 Dodge Charger SRT8

I’m almost 47 years old and right now nothing seems faster than father time. It seems I’ve been racing that scrappy bastard for years and have yet to gain a car length on him.

Maybe, if I bought the 2014 Dodge Charger SRT8 that was just left for me by the fine folks from Mopar I might actually give Mr. Time a run for his money.

The Charger is fast, really fast, 470 being the operative number for both horsepower and torque. What I wasn’t prepared for was how well the engineers translate that power to the ground. The car is a complete “fun box”. I remember driving the 2014 Jeep SRT8 and being disappointed by the limits placed on the car thru electronics. Someone at SRT must have noticed that. The 2014 Charger is as loose as honeymooning couples, on a deserted beach , in Maui.

Keep your foot out of the rev zone and it feels like you’re in your father’s well matured sedan. Actually, you are. This one just happens to have an extra 270 horsepower. The moment you plant the right toes though, you can do any number of things. You can quickly spin the tires and pitch the car ever so gently to the left and continue gently on your way. You can switch the driving mode to a competition mode and prepare for a 0-60 or a quarter mile blast, in just under 13 seconds. The charger will let you know how well you’ve mastered the car…of course I did very well. Or, finally, you can just play with the throttle. The throttle response is nothing short of amazing.

2013 Dodge Charger Daytona

Maybe the best part of the power-plant however, is the ECO mode. This allows you to save enough fuel to roast the rear tires even more. The power of the 6.4 liter allows you to move the car from A to B with almost zero effort. I can’t tell you how much fun I had driving around town trying to stay in ECO mode. I know that that is in stark contrast to the ‘Power” talk, but, it’s challenging! And if there is anything that a fast car should be, it is a challenge to master.

Of course, all that power has to be harnessed in some way. That’s where the huge Brembo brakes on all four corners; seem to harness this water buffalo of a sports car into quiet submission.

Keeping you in command of the beast is a heated (nice) fat steering wheel that feels in perfect scale to the car, although, it does block much of the gauge cluster. But, really who cares about the gauge cluster when part of the SRT package is a set of gauges appearing in the center of the 4.3 touch screen mounted front and center that displays oil temp, water temp, and voltage.

The seats are more comfortable than you can imagine and my ten year old tells me there is tons of room in the rear seat.

So, why go and purchase a 470HP, four door, and well matured sedan for $44,435.00? Go test drive one and find out. Hey Fiat, don’t kill the SRT program.

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2013 Dodge Caravan SXT

2013 Dodge Caravan SXT

Since the Automotive renaissance began in 2007 cars have become more reliable and definitely more user friendly and interactive. The minivan would be at the top of the list. The first generations were blocky at best, cubescent at worst. Fast forward seven years and you will find stylish curves on even the most mundane people movers.

Continuing that trend is the all new 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. After spending a week in the Caravan I have become a fan of the van. I know, this has to be a sign of age but, I am also a fan of mid-size trucks and the Dodge Caravan feels like an elongated cab in a mid size truck, absent the bed of course.

Let’s start with the things everyone enjoys about minivans, every seat but the driver’s. It’s interesting to me that my ten year old only gets excited about two types of cars. He loves the speed and performance cars and trucks and, the minivans. If you have to ask why my kid likes minivans then, you don’t get minivans. They are a play room on wheels and the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan is no exception. My son plays the back half of this minivan like a piano, effortlessly opening the power-assisted side bay doors and flipping down the Blu-Ray DVD player’s 9-inch screen. He slides the headphones on and I forget he’s there. Meanwhile I turn on the Sirrius radio that he can no longer hear, and listen to my man, Howard Stern. Hey, I said he had headphones on.

That’s the beauty for me. I love talking with my son but, just because he wants to enjoy the 1,236 viewing of Cars 2 doesn’t mean I want to.

What I want to do is a transport a happy person to and from places of interest, cloaked in comfort. And that, my friend’s, is exactly what the 2013 Dodge Caravan is all about.

Caravan Interior

2013 Dodge Caravan Interior

The all-new 3.6 liter V-6 24-valve VVT Engine delivers ample power any time you need it. The 6-speed transmission shifts cleanly but with purpose giving the Caravan a larger car type feel. I swear you will forget you’re driving a minivan.

The base price of the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan starts at $26,695.00. If you add the Blu-Ray/Dual DVD, remote start-a must- and Uconnect with the Garmin navigation system you can bring the sticker closer to $33,000.00 once you include the destination charge.

The five-star side crash ratings don’t hurt either. After all, it is the cargo you want to protect. The mileage is a very respectable 17mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway combining for a 20mpg average.
Dodge was one of the original pioneers of the minivan and by the look, feel, and performance they still have the best recipe for family bliss.

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2013 Hyundai Azera

2013 Hyundai Azera

While driving the all-new Hyundai Azera I couldn’t help but wonder if I had watched a car company grow up and move out of the parent’s house out to become an adult competitor in the automotive arena.

As any forty six year-old will tell you, the Early Eighties were not a time that Hyundai and quality were even in the same galaxy. The Exxel was just god awful. Fast forward twenty years to the beginning of the millennium and Hyundai finally brought a very competitive offering to the world. The Sonata was the first Hyundai that I ever remember service techs talk well about. In the past, Hyundai had been a punch- line to a dealership technician.

The Sonata Put the Japanese imports on notice that a young rookie free-agent was on their way and they were hungrier than the over-paid stars. Basically, they built a very reliable car, backed by a game changing warranty. It worked.

Finally, about five years ago Hyundai added the final touches to their branding and refined their styling. To be honest, I have liked most of the current models. However, like many other people I was caught off guard with the Equus. An eighty thousand dollar Hyundai, come on, man.

Look, the Equus is great; it even has a reclining rear seat with a bar. Sounds good I know but, if I’m lucky enough to have the bank to purchase a car with a reclining back seat, It will have to be one that impresses the likes of Jay-Z. Right, not gonna happen.

Thankfully, Hyundai decided to take a stab at the 30-40 thousand dollar market. Their sabre of choice is the all-new Azera.

The Azera Is whisper quiet, quick and comfortable which are most of the things I covet in a four-door sedan. The test car was Bronze Mist Metallic which is just dark enough to accent some of the more subtle lines on the rear quarters. The color also looked great with the 19” Hyper Silver Alloy wheels.
Really though, it was behind the wheel that I realized Hyundai had earnestly come into automotive adulthood. I wouldn’t bet against the Azera in any head to head competition against Honda, Mazda or Toyota. If Kia gets much better with the Optima turbo the same goes for them.

2013-Hyundai-Azera-interior

I can spend the rest of our time here telling you every detail concerning the seats, ride and performance.
I’d surely mention the 293 horse power and the 255 pound feet of torque that the 3.3 liter, Gasoline Direct Injected V-6 delivers. Probably would have to cover the two-tone leather interior that could easily be found in any of its Japanese or German competitors. And again, I would mention the quiet comfortable ride.

For Honda it was the Acura, for Toyota it was Lexus, for Hyundai it is the Azera. If you’re in the market for a four door grocery getter/commuter you would be remiss to over look the 2013 Azera.
Starting at $32,250 and hard loaded for $37,250 the Hyundai Azera is going to make a lot of people happy any a few manufacturers nervous.

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2013 Acura ZDX

2013 Acura ZDX

I remember the early nineties, really. Some events are foggier than others especially when you enter in TSAC (Time Spent at Concerts). Most of the bands I enjoyed, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden were a welcome change in music to the ever forgettable eighties bands. But as time passes bands grow old and change, some for the better, some for the worse. But everything evolves one way or the other.

If you ask me in 1991 which car I would most like to own, I would ask you to repeat yourself because my ears were still in pain from the concerts. But, after understanding the question I would have answered, an Acura Integra GS. That car was amazing, efficient as an expensive time piece and as sporty as a Michael Jordan ad.

Acura seemed to own the nineties. My dad owned a 1990 Acura Legend that drove better than any car I had ever driven. It was quiet, refined and fun. If only Acura would have done a better job on the valve guides that car would probably still be in his garage today.

That was the nineties. Fast forward to the 00’s and you find a whole new Acura, and I’m not sure I’m happy about that.

Take for instance this week’s review subject, the 2013 Acura ZDX. The ZDX is a crossover meaning it’s a sedan that makes people feel better about their driving position. The ZDX is powered by a 300HP VTECV-6 engine mated to a six-speed transmission with sequential SportShift, and paddle shifters. Note to guys at Acura, if it is considered a crossover and has less than four-hundred horsepower you can skip the paddle shifters. That’s like training wheels on a tricycle, just totally not warranted.

As a highway runner for the upwardly mobile couple without kids the ZDX is a great choice. The mileage as stated is not great but, as I have found out recently some cars seem to fare better than the sticker suggest. I drove the ZDX from Tyler to TMS located just below Denton and back and forth to my hotel (a sixty mile round trip) three times, and headed back to Tyler before I needed only a splash of fuel to make it home. Take my word for it that is impressive.

And comfortable, if you’re driving or sitting in the passenger seat you are in for a treat. Front heated and cooled seats offer just the right amount of support in all of the right places. The infotainment stack is easy to use and within reach and the NAV system is one of the best I’ve used to date.

Now, for the problem, who in the hell designed the car from the B-pillar back. I’m 5’10” on my best days. My father is an inch shorter. Suffice to say in today’s world we are far from giants. So, why, in God’s name is it so hard to get in and out of the back seat without contorting more than an MMA fighter? Everyone I asked to get in and out of the back seat, and there were many, came out of the ZDX saying they would never put the ZDX on their short list.

For some unknown reason Acura made the C-pillar drop more sharply Than Facebook stock on first day it went public. I just can’t figure this one out. Why make a crossover, meant to carry multiple passengers so incredibly difficult to get in and out of. You don’t see my reviews written with college level writing do you? Know your audience, right?2013zdxint

Fifty thousand dollars is still a good chunk of green. At this level you want sophistication. In this area, as has always been case with Acura they deliver. But, for a crossover they miss the mark.

So, if the 2013 Acura ZDX was a nineties band I would have to say it resembles Creed a lot more than Pearl Jam. You’re welcome Eddie, Stone and the boys.

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2014 Mazda 6

2014 Mazda 6

I think Mazda gets it and by “it” I mean Mazda seems to understand what drivers need and want in cars and Crossovers. There is no better example of that than the 2014 Mazda 6.

I really started to like the 6-series in the production years of 1993-1997. It had a 2.5 liter power-plant that put out 200HP in a very fun to drive platform.

Steam ahead to 2014 and you find a much improved 2.5 liter that puts out the same amount of horsepower put does in a much more efficient manner thanks to the SKYACTIV technology. This new technology which has many ways to make the internal combustion engine more “fuel stingy” allows the Mazda 6 to perform like a sports car should.
One of the ways Mazda achieves this is by raising the compression of the 2.5 liter to 14-1. For those of you that care, that is about as high a number that you will ever see for a production car. Raising the compression raises the thermal efficiency of the motor which in turn burns fuel more efficiently. That means the 2.5 requires much less fuel to achieve remarkable performance.

If you are in the market for a new car I would strongly urge you to visit Mazda’s website and review the information on the SKYACTIV technology.

Ok, now that you understand how efficient the Mazda 6 is it’s time hear how much fun it is to drive. I don’t know if effortless and sporty belong together but, this is what makes the experience of driving the 2014 Mazda 6 such a fantastic one. Whether it’s a trip to the store or, a weekend getaway on the country’s blacktops, the Mazda 6 makes the trip more fun than a shower scene with Chelsey Handler and Conan O’Brian.

review2My test car was delivered dressed in a very deep red that Mazda calls SOUL RED and the interior was wall to wall almond with black accents. I always liked that combination. The interior not only looks good, it is extremely comfortable. With 8-way power drivers seats with lumbar supports and seat memory you feel like you’re able to take on long trips in comfort. That is what really stood out to me about the Mazda 6, comfort, performance and great fuel mileage. That’s the holy trinity of the commuter car.

Of course the Mazda I Grand Touring has every amenity you could hope for from heated front seats to heated side mirrors with driver’s side auto-diming.

With a list price of $29,495.00 the Mazda 6 screams, come look at me. It a scream worth hearing.

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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

I feel like I have been here for the complete Hyundai renaissance. Starting in 2000 Hyundai, which had not been a player in the quality standard contest changed course. They introduced a new line of Hyundai that offered good styling and unmatched reliability and backed it up with a ten year power-train warranty.

The segment that Hyundai competes in would never be the same. Year after year Hyundai has honed its offerings and made them more attractive. The newest edition of the Santa Fe Sport is hardly an exception.

While concentrating on continuing the effort on reliability Hyundai, it seems now more than ever is attacking styling as well. I think this started about five years ago and really shifted into high gear in the last three years. Hell, they even offer an extremely nice town car the Hyundai Equus. I know, funny name but, a very nice car.
This week I was the lucky recipient of the 2013 Santa Fe with the 2.4 liter 190HP four. There are other choices for instance, the 2.0 turbo and the V-6 for the Santa Fe with the third row seating but today I can tell you that the 2013 Santa Fe Sport is a Crossover you will want to look at if you’re in the market

Priced in the middle of the pack the Santa Fe offers buyer a solid bargain at $24,450.00, nicely equipped at $26,525.00.

Some of the features like a Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System and steering wheel controls that are laid out in easy to understand arrangements make driving the Santa Fe more enjoyable than ever before.
Although I’m not crazy about the infotainment stack, I know it has to be difficult to arrange everything offered in today’s cars and truck within comfortable reach of the driver.

Crossovers however, are the soccer moms service vehicle, and when it comes to moving children, friends and cargo around town the Hyundai Santa Fe’s star shines brightly.

The exterior styling is sharp from front to back with heavy wheel wells designed to give this Sante Fe Sport a bit more of a rugged look. The “Bass Mouth” front fascia looks less ominous than some of the competitors and the ride height is perfect for almost everyone.

This is what impresses me about the Santa fe, it fits everyone. If you’re under 6’7” and over 4’10” you will find getting in and out and moving about the cabin is effortless. That comes in very handy when the family is running all over town.

Santa Fe Sport interior

Santa Fe Sport interior

After many years it seems like Hyundai finally started putting enough sound deadening material to make the Santa Fe very quiet on the highway. Something many of the competitors still lack.

I couldn’t complete this review without noting the gas mileage of the Santa Fe. The window sticker states an average of 24mpg comprised of 21 city and 29hwy. I know in the recent past Hyundai has had issues with reporting generous mileage numbers but, I was able to achieve well above the 29mpg on the highway.

Good mileage, quiet and fun to drive. If I’m not wrong that’s the holy grail for Crossover expectations. Expectations Hyundai is fulfilling nicely.

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