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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.]]>
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.
My 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.]]>
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.
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.]]>
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.
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.]]>
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.
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.
Listen to the interview
Join me in wishing him the best of luck tearing it up on the 2013 Rally of the Americas.]]>
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.
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.]]>