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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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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