2013 Kia Rio SX

2013 Kia Rio SX

I’m noticing as I age I begin to seek out good deals more and more. Whether it’s finding fresh produce at the local Hispanic supermarket or sorting through ten high school kids to mow the lawn, now more than ever value is the most important thing to me. Ok, other than the never ending quest to get rid of March Madness.

After attending this year’s DFW Auto Show I left with the impression that the automakers must be aging too because, if there was a theme to this year’s show it had to be value. No one has done more with less than Kia.
Last year the Kia Optima Turbo was my car of the year. There is simply something about the total package of this car that left me wanting for nothing. Well, other than the demise of the Tea Party.

The newest offering from the Korean’s impresses me even more. I’m talking about the all-new 2013 Kia Rio SX. As I write this review I’m trying to recall a better value than the Kia Rio and truthfully, right now I can’t.
For under $20,000.00, you’re telling me I can purchase a car with more options Mila Kunis? The 2013 Kia Rio was delivered with leather, a sunroof and cool wheels for less than what it probably cost our commander and chief to play a round of golf.

Don’t get me started on the mileage. I can tell you the numbers are 28mpg city/36mpg highway with a combined average of 31mpg. That’s impressive but, I usually gauge the mileage on how many times I have to fill up during the week I have the car. I never filled the Rio up. As a matter of fact I drove all week on three quarters of a tank of gas. Considering the modest cost of filling up the Rio that is extremely easy on the wallet.

Although frugality is admired, it is hardly ever enjoyed, but, frugality in my opinion is not what resonates with me about the Rio. What stuck with me was the enjoyable driving experience offered by the Rio.

At a time when several small cars are approaching 200hp the Rio boast only 138hp. Who cares? If you would’ve asked me about the power I would have told you that it was fun to drive. The four-cylinder is direct-injected and very spirited.
The interior fit and finish was better than expected at this price point and the only real criticism that I could find was the road noise level. But, certainly you can’t expect $50,000.00 peace and quiet for under $20,000.00.
As far as the on-board infotainment systems go I found the touch screens very driver friendly. The Sound system was very acceptable, especially when equipped with Sirius Satellite Radio. You’re welcome Howard Stern.

Interior

Interior

I always get asked, what is the best car to purchase for my child who is going off to school? Well, if the Kia Rio doesn’t fit all of the criteria, I don’t know what does. With a low sticker price and fantastic mileage it is a perfect car to send your son or daughter of to college in. But, don’t just let the kids have all the fun, Buy two Kia Rio’s for the price of one crossover or SUV.

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2013 Mustang Shelby GT500

2013 Mustang Shelby GT500

What’s the craziest thing you can think of doing? I bet you think of sky diving, cliff diving, bear hunting, or partying with Mike Tyson in his glory days. If I had to compare the ridiculously powerful 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 to any of these it would be partying with Tyson when he was knocking competitors out in seconds and then scaring people to death until the wee hours of the morning. Never has someone hit so hard and spoken so softly, until now.

Waiting in my driveway this week was the automotive equivalent of Mike Tyson, a Grabber Blue-compare to Mike Tyson’s high pitched voice-mustang with a 662HP fire breathing Ford SVT 5.8 liter blown motor under the bonnet- compare to Mike Tyson’s right hand.

Driving the GT500 requires more restraint than a southern Baptist at a beer store. Ford has given us a slew of options to control the power but, honestly, the traction control feature is more like an insinuation than a demand. There is simply no way to keep the back tires from busting loose. That’s not a bad thing, I understand, but, sometimes you just want to relax and drive and not be so over-aware. Before you lower my cylinder index, understand I’m not griping. It’s just that much like Tyson the 2013 Shelby will make an ass of itself very easily.

Here’s something you don’t hear every day. Starting at $54,495.00 the GT 500 is cheap when you think about the performance it offers. The guys at Ford had three goals in mind when designing the newest street fighter. They wanted 650-plus horsepower, 200mph, and 600lbft of torque. They hit on all three of them thanks to the blown 5.8 liter wet sump world beater. Take off in first and you won’t need to shift until 60mph. Under hard acceleration you will shift from second to third at about 90mph and third gear last all the way to 130mph. I’m not saying I did this. I’m just saying the car can.
The GT500 is capable of running 11.8 second quarter mile times and I’m guessing with some drag radials on the back could best that effortlessly. Oh by the way, top speed is over 200mph. Not that I would know. Truth be told I am terrified to drive that fast. But, hey, if the revenuers are coming I could test my bravery.

2013 shelby

2013 shelby

Helping the 5.8 liter body slam you into the best ever set of Reccaro racing seats is a supercharger set at 14psi. This is up from last year’s 9.0 psi. Helping the bottom stay in place are piston oilers, plasma –transferred wire-arc bore coatings and billet main bearing caps. The 5.8 liter is just a larger bore on the standard 5.4 liter. The Ford engineers say they is no more room to stretch this block. I believe them.

Stopping the GT500 are huge Brembo brakes. The test car has thirteen thousand miles on it and has had three sets of pads littering the trash already.

The interior is noticeably simplistic as it should be for this factory racer. Trust me there is no time for distracted driving when you are behind the wheel.

Which brings me to this question, how much is too much for the street? I know, it’s hard as a gear head to ask this question but, until you drive a production car with over 650HP you can’t possibly conceive the abundance of power.
Somewhere up there Carroll is laughing at me, I know it. This is the true mountain-top Shelby. Born out of his vision, perfected by technology.

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Ken Block Interview

Ken Block Interview

In my research for the interview it was obvious Ken is a lunch pail kind of guy. Comes in early, works hard, and stays late. However, what I didn’t know is what a great and humble dude he is given his litany of achievements.

Listen to the interview

Join me in wishing him the best of luck tearing it up on the 2013 Rally of the Americas.

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2013 Ford Focus ST

2013 Ford Focus ST

When I’m wrong I’ll admit it. Over the years we have had lots of great people involved in the Car Show. But none more fun than a producer we affectionately called “fish”. Fish is somewhat of a hardened metro-sexual. You know the kind of guy who pays someone to change the oil in his car but, drives a very manly car.

Last year, Fish starting talking incessantly about this new car Ford planned to roll out called the Focus ST. Having driven several examples of the Ford Focus I had a very hard time not picking on him on the air for this strange fantasy. “Just wait”, he would say. Everyone on the show would just kind of chuckle. You know, like a redneck chuckles at a truck with a sunroof.

Well, Finally the Focus ST showed up. I was lucky enough to draw the one tabbed the Tangerine Dream. I always thought tangerines were orange. Turns out, I was wrong. Tangerine is an electric yellow color. It’s not obnoxious, just obvious.

I do my standard walk around. Lowered stance, check, larger wheels, ok, maybe there is something to this Focus ST. I get in, fire it up and head out. Boom, I instantly understand that I am sitting in a very fun drivers car. Yes, the Focus is FWD but with the advanced torque steer system it drives great for a car with 252HP and 270lbft of torque.

When I was young the only people making fun to drive 5 door hatchbacks were the Germans. Now Mazda is in the game, Volkswagen still is, and Subaru can’t be left out. The competition in this segment is intense. Ford stepped up to the plate and blasted a homer with the Focus ST. It would have been a grand slam except someone decided to install the most uncomfortable seats ever produced for a driver and front passenger.

The seats I describe are an option that I would not order if you’re over the age of thirty. They are Recaro seats that are included as part of a 2,385.00 package. I would opt for the “normal” seats unless you posses the backside of a super model. While offering more support than an underwire bra, they are more uncomfortable than one of Dick Cheney’s hunting partners.

The jewel however is the 2.0L turbo. This engine is whisper quiet until you put your foot in it. When you mash the go pedal, it wakes up and screams. That’s by design. There is a valve that opens that makes the car scream, “ready to rally”. My nine year-old couldn’t be more impressed with the car. And, as I’m finding out more each year, want to know what’s cool, ask a ten year-old.

Putting that power to the ground is always tricky with a FWD car. No problem with the Focus ST. Ford uses a torque Vectoring Control system and an updated electronic steering system to keep the Focus straighter than a west Texas blacktop. This technology is backed up by a torque steer cancellation system. Helping the Focus ST hold the road as any self respecting sports car should are 235/40/18 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.

2012 focus interior

2012 focus interior

Moving inside and ignoring the back breaking Recaros, you will find an expertly laid out series of gauges to keep track of everything from MPH to level of boost. Ah, Boost. Love me some boost! I’m a little disturbed at the technology present in the infotainment system but, my smarter friends tell me it’s impressive.

Fish, I’m saving the best for last. You were right. Ford did make and extremely fun to drive Focus. What next, bipartisanship in Washington?

The Ford Focus starts at $23,700 which is 300 dollars less than it’s ex cousin the Mazda. It’s priced perfectly for the first time buyer. Now maybe some of these twenty-something kids will have their mileage, 40mpg Highway, and infotainment-too much to list, and still find out what it’s like to pilot a driver’s car.

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2013 GMC Sierra Denali

2013 GMC Sierra Denali

It’s really difficult to choose the best truck, especially in Texas. We are, after all, in serious truck country. If you ever have any question as to how important Texan’s trucks are to them just attend the State Fair of Texas. Of course there will be no more appearances of Big Tex as he did his best Richard Pryor impression a few weeks ago. Thank God for cell phones.

The unique thing about the State Fair of Texas is that Big Tex is not the biggest attraction, trucks are.
Each manufacturer spends tons of cash to try and convince you their truck is the biggest, baddest, most fuel efficient model ever produced.

Truth is they are all impressive. So, if they all are good, what do you look for in a truck? Well that’s up to you. Me, I look for a sunroof and leather.

But, for the rest of you out there I know you tow boats and R.V.’s. And, if you listen to the Car Show on Saturday’s you probably also occasionally fill your truck bed with ice, and tailgate for all the Aggie home games.
The Denali has always been the exclusive brand for GMC. At first I wasn’t sure this would work for them but, years later it seems obvious they knew more about truck buyers than we knew about ourselves.

You see there’s no shame in admitting that you like to pull your hay trailer in absolute comfort or get out of the cold deer blind and enter an extremely well appointed cabin with heated seats. Of course if its summer and you are outside building fence in the Texas heat, you can jump in and cool your ass down with the air conditioned seats.
Yes, heated and air conditioned seats seem a little soft for a “truck man” but, you saw the elections we are evolving.

2013 denali interior

2013 denali interior

Let me assure you however the GMC Denali is not soft in any way. With the 6.2 liter with variable valve timing (E85 capable); and a Hyra-matic6L80 six-speed automatic transmission the 2013 Denali delivers 403HP and 417lb.-ft of torque. That is all you need to tow over 9,400 lbs.

The brakes were very impressive. The Denali offers standard powertrain grade braking through automatic downshifting. This feature will be extremely helpful when towing up and down hills.

Of course safety is not forgotten. The Denali has more air bags than the legislative branch, too many to list. Lets’ just say if you’re traveling down the newest Texas toll road between Austin and San Antonio and you have an accident, prepare to see lots pillows and powder. Ha, sounds like an early Rolling Stones album.

Mileage for the Denali could be better. Listed as 12/18, I was lucky to get that. I know it’s a big heavy truck but, GMC should deliver more on this front.

The best thing about the 2013 Denali is driving it. If you’ve never driven one expect to be blown away with the absence of road noise and the quality sound produced by the Bose sound system.

The pricing for the Denali starts at $48,635.00 but with Nav, sunroof and integrated trailer brake controller expect that number to increase to $53,694.00. I know, it’s a lot of cash but the 2013 denali is a lot of truck.

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2013 Honda CRV

2013 Honda CRV

2013 Honda CRV


When you chose your wife/girlfriend or your husband/boyfriend did you go safe or go wild? If you went wild, good luck. You’re in for a hell of a ride for a few months, a few years, or eternity. If you chose safe then be sure to buy the 2013 Honda CRV for all of your transportation needs.

I know, safety is important to us all. It’s just that I crave a bit of a challenge in my life, some excitement if you will. It’s why I chose my wife and why I remind myself everyday that, that choice was made for fun and not safety so, I chose an eternity of cooking and cleaning. Hey, there is always the ever present opportunity cost.
The opportunity cost of safe is usually excitement. That’s my overall impression of the 2013 Honda CRV. I can’t find one thing to knock about it except that it’s boring. I’m talking Bill Cates/code writer boring.

It’s quiet, efficient and comfortable but, so are Hush Puppies. With so many crossovers with angled bodies and peppy power-plants the CRV is forgettable in a crowd, but hasn’t that always been the case with Honda. I know, there are exceptions, the early CRX, the NSX and, whoops, that’s it.

The 2013 CRV gets respectable mileage, 22/30 and it doing this it achieves the highest fuel rating in its class. To get these impressive numbers in fuel economy Honda chose to put taller gears in the CRV which didn’t do much for the performance. However, if you buy the CRV you aren’t someone who’s into performance. You probably measure performance in longevity. I know it sounds sad but there are those out there among us that think like that.
Even though the CRV comes in available Four-wheel drive I wouldn’t take it past the closest State Park.

Here’s the deal, even though the Honda CRV is about as exciting as Betty White it’s also amazingly effortless to operate. There is something to be said for stability and reliability. Each time you drop behind the wheel and into the ten-way adjustable driver’s seat, turn on the 328 watt audio system and venture out into the world you feel a sense of comfort and adulthood.

There comes a time when we all grow up and realize that there is value in modesty. Honda has always driven this point home and nothing has changed with this year’s CRV.

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2013 Hyundai Veloster

2013 Hyundai Veloster

2013 Hyundai Veloster

If you don’t want a Hyundai Veloster turbo of your very own after you drive one, you have no sporting automotive soul. The 2013 veloster turbo is the Aaron Neville of cars. Fun, light, and fulfilling, I got lost in myself while driving the Veloster this past week.

I drove the Hyundai Genesis not long ago and was unimpressed with the 2.0 turbo. Granted the Genesis with the six cylinder is quite fun, but, the 2.0 turbo was just no fun to drive at all. In fact the Genesis 2.0 lowered my expectations for the 2013 Veloster.

One of the guys I do the radio show with has been making more noise than a broken rod about this car for over a year. He’s a euro dude, if not geographically, then mentally. He drives a BWM and covets small fun to drive cars. He also wears low top Chuck Taylors with no socks. See, told you so.

When I came down stairs to pick up the Veloster every expectation I had of the car changed. First off, I love the styling. The front end is blunt, like very blunt, like blunt like me. The wheels fit perfectly in the oversized wheel wheels. Then, there are the huge fenders, square back and a great stance, the Hyundai Veloster had everything I covet in a rally inspired car.

Granted, it’s one door short. Well, no, actually if you count the hatch back there’s four. The Veloster actual has one back door on the passenger side it’s just the right ingress opportunity for a young adult. It’s not the door I would choose to enter the car. It’s much more fun to enter through the driver’s door

Jump in and you will find a comfortable cockpit with extremely functional, sensible easy to use gauges and controls. The seats are firm and very supportive. The interior lay out is very sporty with sport accents on the front seats of the turbo. One of the best ideas Hyundai had was putting the start/fire it up button, in the center of the dash. It feels great to reach up and slightly to the right to bring anything to life.

veloster interior

veloster interior

Once fired up and on the tarmac the Veloster turbo shines more than Lil’ Wayne’s grill. The turbo version of the 1.6 liter offers 201 HP and 195 pounds of torque. That’s more than enough to propel the 3700 pound car. What also surprised me was the stiffness of the chassis. Where the Genesis felt like it couldn’t handle anymore boost, the Veloster almost screams, “give me more”. The six-speed manual was smooth and tight. And the clutch engages at just the right point.

I know I should point out a weak point. That could have been the mileage but, it wasn’t. The Veloster turbo gets 26 city and 38 Hwy. I’m beginning to wonder if the manufacturers are understating their mileage, as Ford has done for years under estimating their horsepower on the Mustang GT’s. I was able to easily coax 40mpg out of the Veloster turbo on the highway.

Hyundai manages to place all of this fun in an affordable package. The MSRP on the 2013 Veloster is 21,950. It feels like it could sell for up to eight grand more than that before you would start to hear complaints.

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2012 Toyota Yaris

2012 Toyota Yaris


If you’re the kind of commuter that could care less if you take the train, bus or any subcompact on the road, I’ve found the car for you. With as much edge as Sinbad set, the 2012 Toyota Yaris gets the job done. At forty-six years of age I’m starting to understand the benefit of proper tools.

Gas prices are going to continue to rise no matter what party you choose to be conned by in the fall elections. I for one do get tired of filling my truck up at 80-100 bucks a pop. Truth be told, I rarely use my truck for truck duty. It spends most of its life empty, with no dead weight dragging behind it. Sounds like Tom Cruise. So, what’s wrong with me seeing the sensibility of owning a high mileage subcompact for daily commutes around town? As far as style, style cost money, money that could be used on gas. That reason alone could justify throwing down the small amount of jack required to purchase a new Yaris. The Yaris pricing starts at $14,115.00. That seems very reasonable considering Toyota is happy to include their reliable reputation in the deal.

Just don’t expect an exhilarating driving experience. Not that it’s boring; let’s just say you have about as much sex appeal Andy Dick on a three week bender. But, automotive sex appeal can’t always take center stage. At some point we all have to realize it’s just a commuter car.

One of the things that really appeals to me is the radio. Instead of all these crazy teeny tiny little buttons to control everything but nuclear fusion, there is one giant button, one for volume and for scanning. Brilliant. Of course, you can still connect your iPod. The 2012 Yaris includes iPod connectivity plus AUX and USB ports.
There no optional NAV system but, that’s ok ,they still make maps, right?

Now, for the power numbers. I was going to make a joke here but, the power is actually ok. You get 100HP and 100 pounds of torque. Offering old school port fuel injection –vs- the more modern diret injection the Yaris still claims fuel mileage of 30/38. Did I mention it’s under $14,500.00?

If I was a gen-Y and wanted to make a break from my parent’s house before I was thirty I would strongly consider the 2012 Yaris.

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