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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