minivan


Mazda’s 5 and CX-5: A Family 10

 

by The Car Family

 

For more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

 

Mazda should win the best underdog car award for its remarkable creation of economical, fun to drive, and utilitarian vehicles. Typical of these are its updated CX 5 CUV and the its minivan, named the 5. If you love to drive the 5 and the tossable CX-5 are a must to test.

 

Mazda CX-5

2014 CX-5 (16)

 

The 2014 CX-5 is a compact CUV that is the most entertaining to drive of any of its competitors. The trade-off is that you don’t get as much interior cargo space, but 65 plus cubic feet is not only ample, but only a few feet under that of the much larger Honda CR-V, and the Mazda gets better fuel mileage and maneuverability is in the CX-5’s favor.

 

 

Make sure you or driving the one with the Skyactiv technologies that sharpens the Mazda’s performance and provides increased mileage. We got over 30 mpg in mixed driving with the all wheel drive version, 2.5 version. That makes it superior to the Subaru, the previous best gas mileage champion in the all wheel drive segment. The government has rated the model at 35 mpg on the highway for the base model’s 2.0 engine.

 

 

The 2.5-liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder engine standard in Touring and Grand Touring models and is a combination of improvements from weight reduction to better aerodynamic bodies to make this Mazda a heady performer considering its size.

2014 CX-5 rear

 

The five-passenger CX-5 are two rows of seats which can be upgraded from cloth to leather. There is good leg room in the second row and the cargo hold is generous with over 34 cubic feet of space. The ergonomics are straight forward, but the GPS is slow to respond and the audio outputs are limited.

 

Sport, Touring and, and Grand Touring are the models, but we recommend you go for the high end models as they have so many features including the larger engine, blind-spot monitoring, Bluetooth with upgraded stereo, a rearview camera, and a larger monitor. The Grand model offers standard safety equipment such as stability/traction control, antilock brakes, and front, side and side-curtain airbags. Worth every penny. As for the all wheel drive option, that would depend on your weather conditions. Safety wise you can also get the Smart City Brake Support, which can automatically stop the car at speeds under 20 mph situations to help avoid a collision. There are many other options, too, but we found the front and rear parking sensors must haves.

 

The bottom line is that this is a terrific driving machine that look good, drive well, and even run on regular fuel. A bargain, they start just over $20,000 but the Grand Touring models can breach the $30,000. Be prepared as to what you want in terms of options and models and note the dealers are offering some excellent prices.

2014 CX-5 side

 

Family conference: Cute, comfortable, and affordable, the CX-5 comes with a plethora of features that make is a compelling choice for those who march to that different drummer. The bottom line is that Mazda makes the best handling, affordable, vehicles in the nation and the CX-5 continues that tradition.

 

Mazda5

 

Nimble, great visibility, and enough power to make it fun to drive, the 5 is the utility vehicle of the future that caries a price tag from the past with a starting price just over $20,000 and we went 25 mpg in mixed driving. Despite its exterior size the interior is spacious. With the rear seating folded down you have over 44 cubic feet of cargo space and Mazda has incorporated a number of small spaces to provide storage for cell phones, drinks, and much more. The seating is comfortable and the ergonomics are well done. There is room for six by using the third row of seats, but the last row is small as opposed to the more generous front seats. The second row in our test vehicle had captain’s chairs which provided ample leg and head room and slide and recline. There is an abundance of features on the more upscale models, but even the base version has cruise control, automatic climate control, remote key less entry,and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD system with USB and auxiliary inputs and six airbags, traction control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

2013 Mazda5

 

The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine offers 157 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque running through a five-speed automatic transmission. For a family of our this Mazda makes sense. If you opt for the much more expensive Honda, Nissan and Toyota models you are going to be carrying around a lot of unneeded and expensive to fix equipment so think carefully if you are looking for minivan at what you are really going to use it for.

2013 Mazda5

 

Family conference: This Mazda 5 is fun to drive. Really drive. It is easy to park and easy on the environment. Of the three versions, the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, we advocate you take a look at the best price the dealer is offering of each model as we have found for only a few dollars a month more you can get a lot of extra features. Regardless, you get a handy vehicle that has wide opening side doors and a tight turning radius. Taking with the Mazda CX-5 this pair makes for a commonsense consideration for those who enjoy driving and saving money and aren’t afraid of not having the biggest gas guzzler on the block. Mazda’s Family 10.

 

 

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Listen to Your Dog: Safety and Travel Ideas

by The Car Family

For more reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily

dog1

Diary Entry 21000.7

I have asked my care giver for a walk or ride every day this week without luck. I have tried to remind him that the new Persian carpet is tempting, but he has ignored my threats. I have developed new plan: guilt.

Dairy Entry 210001.8

After reading about the Jewish Guilt Syndrome I have decided to give it a try. I think it has a good chance since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide this year, probably for the last time in a million dog years. I have practiced my beaten dog look in front of the floor length mirror. I just have to remember not to be saucy.

Diary Entry 21000.9

It almost worked. He fetched my leash, checked two websites for good places to walk when suddenly the plan fell apart. Apparently, the Center for Pet Safety researched dog restraints and only one model they tested passed and I didn’t have it. On the other hand, the big guy did promise he would buy one. In the meantime, he grabbed a handful of his fast depleting cache of plastic grocery bags and took me for a walk around the neighborhood.  It felt good to make my marks in and proud to be a quadruped.

latkahask

Diary Entry 21001.0

Life is good. I saw the big guy looking for ideas where to take me. I decided to help out and suggested he use the Yelp website. I love that name. He typed in the name of our city and asked for dog walks and out came the results with reviews and even photos.

I was pushing for the Cold Creek Trail and he caught my drift and agreed. Better yet, he ordered me the highly rated harness that The Center for Pet Safety mentioned. All I can say is that after looking at the restraint he bought me I was glad to be color blind. Oh, he did mention that since I was pushing a (muscular) 60 pounds that if I was not correctly fastened I could become a 2700 pound projectile if the car was in a crash doing 35 mph. I could have lived without that image. No wonder a thrash my legs when I nap.

Best Dog Friendly Cars

Diary Entry 21011.2

A new scent in the garage. I had noticed that the recycle bin had been especially full of colorful brochures of late and I can recognize images of cars. Good grief, I chased my share of them before I was picked-up by animal control and neutralized. Luckily, my new caretakers rescued me before long and here I am writing this post, which in my case, is a very clever title from a dog’s standpoint. Anyway, he narrowed the decision to three. The Mazda 5 is fairly inexpensive with easy to open slider doors and a low hop over entry height. I also liked the air outlets for the second row and the gas mileage was exceptional. The Mitsubishi Outlander has a third row of seats that can be folded down to provide ample storage space for a dog crate. This bargain priced SUV was another finalist until I advised the big guy that being in a crate wasn’t such a good idea as I could still be tossed around during an accident despite the 30 plus miles per gallon rating and noteworthy pricing. The same could be seen for the underrated Dodge Journey. Great value, plenty of features and room, and surprisingly easy to buckle-up in.  The finalist, much to my delight, was a Subaru Forester. Coincidentally, Subaru has several dog friendly options and sponsors The Center for Pet Safety. The Forester was fun to ride in and the all wheel drive opened up the possibility of reaching more adventurous trails. It also carried a 22/29 mpg rating. The elevated seating made it easier for me to check on what other dogs were cruising. And trust me, there were a lot of dogs, if you get my scent. My keeper loved the hill holder feature that held the car motionless on grades even with a stick shift, enabling the Subaru to start jerk free. And being jerk free is always a good thing. By the way, the local Ontario Subaru dealer refused to let me have my picture taken in at the dealership. We walked around the block and the Mazda dealership was happy to let us there. Thank you Romero Mazda and move Mazda into the top spot for dealer friendliness.

Best People Gift

Diary : Today

I decided to splurge on a gift for my keepers and pointed out the MapMyDogWalk free app to them. It tracks the distance I drag them, locates dog parks and they can even share my deeds with others. In the meantime, I think I’ll go outside and sniff around for Tribbles.

For free teaching materials go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/

outlanderside                                             2013 Mazda5

Mitsubishi Outlander                                                         Mazda 5

029_2014ForesterXT

2013 Dodge Journey

Subaru Forester                                                    Dodge Journey

Notable 2013 Cars

With an improving economy and the desire for many to own more fuel efficient vehicles a schism is between the practical and the look at me crowd is emerging. The result is more sophistication and a more difficult choice for buyers. It is no longer simple to buy a vehicle of your dreams without doing significant research. That is why sites such as this are so valuable in helping you winnow out the wheat from the chaff. Here are some of the most significant new cars at this point.

Acura ILX

The ILX is a more refined Honda Civic with upgrades nearly everywhere from the suspension to the interior to the engine. You can also get it as a hybrid or a hot rod version with 201-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual. Look for prices to go into the mid $30,000 range and start ten grand less.

Acura RDX

Small families in a hurry will like the RDX with a 3.5-liter V-6 creating 273 hp that uses a six-speed automatic. There is an available all-wheel-drive system. Priced between $35,000 and $41,000.

Acura RLX

For around $50,000 you can own all all new RLX that come with front wheel drive or as a hybrid with all drive. Lots of technology and fairly good fuel mileage as well. Pricing will most likely be around $50,000.

Audi Allroad

Audi Q5

Back again and this time a bit tame compared to the previous version. A tough looking little wagon with a turbocharged four cylinder engine. Figure $40,000, but not nearly as rugged as its older brother.

Audi RS5
The RS5 coupe has a V8 that makes 450 hp and is mated to a even-speed transmission and all wheel drive. This slippery two door is going to make friends quickly with the highway patrol as the rear spoiler deploys automatically at 75 mph. Perhaps a performance bargain at $80,000 or so.

Audi S6
Now with a twin-turbo V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission and a plethora of high end goodies, this Audi combines both performance and luxury.

Audi S7

Similar in nearly every way to the S6, except it costs more and is a hatchback.

Audi S8
The S8 is a big, fast sedan with power from a twin-turbo V-8 trumps and an abundance of technology and performance features. Oh, this 520 horsepower version is going to cost you well over $100,000.

Bentley Continental GT V8

We thought the GT was a bargain at $150,000 when it came out ten years ago. It now $177,000 and up, and you are reduced to just eight cylinders. Oh, you still have 500 horsepower and are driving one of the world’s most expensive gas hogs.
BMW 640i Gran Coupe

It is all about looks with this sort of new model with previous mechanics and a sculptured four door design. If you like it and have close to $80,000 you won’t have to worry about some of the impractical elements such as a small trunk and reduced visibility, You also need to control your impulses when deciding on options. but you are going to be seem in one of the all time family friendly babe magnets.
BMW M6
Seriously expense with a turbocharged V-8 places 560 hp at your disposal. For about $107,000 this is a very fast machine that handles well. Best advise, pay an extra seven grand and get the convertible. Rich speed demons will love it.

BMW X1

BMW X1

A small SUV with the BMW character for those with over $30,000, this model looks a lot like its sister, the X3 with the same engines, all wheel drive availability, the availability of a M Sports package. A plethora of options, but most important was the fact that this just might be the most useful and “inexpensive” BMW you can buy.

Buick Encore

A small Buck, who would have thought. Nevertheless, GMC is on a roll and this is one luxury placed small car, but far from tiny. The 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder has plenty of pep and the interior r is very upscale, Look for pricing I the $20,000 plus range. Going to be interesting to see if this model brings the younger fold to the dance.

Buick Verano Turbo

The news this year is the turbo and, honest, you can order this Buick with a manual transmission. Add the usual Buick reliability and interior treatments and you have a fun, fast, family vehicle for about $30,000.
Cadillac ATS

The American BMW, this line of Cadillacs has a vast array of options from turbocharged four and six cylinders power plants to a manual transmission to all wheel drive and sophisticated suspensions. Starting prices around $34,000.
Cadillac XTS

This bigger cad is big and filled with luxury features as those of olden days. A 300 hp plus engine makes it a highway cruiser. With options the $45,000 price sprints to nearly $60,000 for this front wheel drive model. The Cue system takes voice cues and runs the information and entertainment controls. Huge touch screen. A lot of car for the money.

Chevrolet Corvette 427 convertible

Convertible, that is all you need to know. Over 500 horsepower and the wind in your hair for $77.000 or so.

2013-Chevrolet-Corvette-427-054-medium

Chevrolet Impala
A fresh face, underpinnings, and a 2.5-liter engine, a 2.4-liter hybrid and a 3.6-liter V-6 with 303 hp to keep face with the competition. Priced well under $30,000. Much more youthful looking then Ford. I family oriented winner.

Chevrolet Malibu

A couple of engine options including a form of hybrid for his well priced and equipped model.
Don’t pay more for the competition until you check it out. Prices starting around $22,000.

Chevrolet Sonic RS

A sporty compact, this sleek model has upgraded appearance and suspension and brakes. . The turbo engine creates excitement and at $20,100 it does that.

Chevrolet Spark
This is a price leader with great fuel mileage and room for four adults. Prices too low to mention here. Just kidding. About $13,000.

Dodge Dart
Built on a sporty Alfa Romeo platform and sharp looking, the Dart is a a low priced, well finished car that should draw people back to the dealerships who are looking for value and looks. Starts under $17,000.

Fiat 500L

Bigger may be better. We love the Fiat for what it is, fun-to-drive and cute. The new version is bigger and more expensive. If you need four doors this Fiat may be just right.

Ford C-Max
The C-Max hybrid can be ordered as a standard hybrid or a plug-in. We tend to wait a while before buying new vehicles laden with technology.

Ford Escape

Ditto, the Escape is all new in design and look for prices to be higher as well. A lot of competition in this segment and the trick rear hatch that opens by detecting your foot passing under the rear part of the vehicle is interesting, but what about just hitting the remote keyfob?

Ford Fusion

Well, it sure looks different and comes with a variety of power train configurations. Look for competitive pricing, but check out Ford’s quality ratings first. The are now 23rd, according to J.D. Powers.

GMC Terrain Denali

More is the operative word here. More safety features, comfort and good fuel economy with the base engine. If you must have a SUV, this one is highly recommended with great fuel economy and interior room. Priced in the mid $20,000 range for the base version.

Honda Accord
Honda does not let us test their vehicles. As such all we can say is that there is a lot of competition in this category and we highly recommend you drive them all before making a decision. Do your homework first, because there are a lot of options. As for hybrids, Honda has lagged behind Toyota in this regard for years after getting a headstart with its terrific, but small, Insight. If you are considering this type of power train take the time to see the price of replacement battery packs, too. We can recommend three Honda models based on past experience. First, the expensive Odyssey van. Next the CRV crossover. Finally, the Fit with the latter being the best value overall.
Hyundai Elantra GT

Elantra GT

Elantra GT

An exceptional combination of sporty, fuel frugal, and family friendly features makes this bargain priced Hyundai a great choice for those on a budget or who just like to have fun. Prices under $19,000 to start. Remember, if you don’t want the sporty model the base Elantra is a winner, too. Hyundai is clearly providing good looking vehicles with superior gas mileage and warranty. If you have a dealership near check out the line.

Hyundai Santa Fe

With room for seven in some versions, the Hyundai is loaded with features and priced right starting at $23,000. Expect gas mileage to be in the low 20 mpg range. The Sport model has two rows of seats. If you choice to go with front wheel drive and the smaller engine your mileage could easily be 30 percent better.

Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Looks and features are the reason for the Veloster. Good fuel economy, reasonable performance and interesting options for about $23,000.

Infiniti JX35

A three row SUV, this well equipped luxury model is an extensive list of safety items and enough goodies to entertain the family as well. Prices start at $41,000.

Lexus ES
The bread and butter car of the Lexus line-up along with the RX, the new ES is longer and better and improved in every regard. Excellent fuel mileage and performance make this a dominate player in this market segment. Also available as a hybrid and you can average nearly 40 mpg in mixed driving with this option.

Lincoln MKZ

Interesting looking and using a variety of engine combinations that are shared with the Ford Fusion, the MKZ can be ordered with all wheel drive and as a hybrid. Prices around $36,000. A direct competitor to the Lexus ES so check resale values, too.

Mazda CX-5

Mazda5

A tremendous value in base form, this SUVish hauler gets a class leading 25 to 31 mpg and plenty of technology and standard features. There isn’t much downside on this model, and it even is available with all wheel drive. Prices start in the low $20,000 range, but don’t expect luxury, expect a useful people mover that will probably be invisible to the highway patrol.

Mercedes-Benz GL
The GL can be order with a Bluetec’s turbo-diesel, a V-6 a V8, a 4.7-liter turbo, or an AMG 5.5-liter twin turbo V-8 so be prepared to spend some time test driving a variety before buying. The new model can hold seven passengers. Prices start around the mid-$60,000 range and escalate to well over $100,000 depending on your need for speed.

Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec

It is here, a diesel SUV, and with prices below $40,000 and fuel mileage in the 22 mpg range it might make sense, but be aware the higher diesel fuel costs must be considered in comparison to the premium fuel recommended for gas engined versions.

Mini Paceman

Interesting looks is what this Mini offers. Priced around the mid $20,000 depending on options.

Nissan Altima

Believe it or not this Nissan is catching on with those who like value, performance and features. Only the Toyota Camry sold more in this market segments. It is fun to drive and if you are easy on throttle with the base engine you can easily get 35 mpg. A best value if you are looking for a family car that doesn’t take away driving enjoyment.

Nissan Pathfinder

Now a crossover, the Pathfinder gets better fuel-economy, a better ride, and treats inhabitants better. Priced in the $30,000 area, the model has a lockable all wheel drive option and third row seating. It also has the great Nissan’s Around View monitor that must be seen to be believed. That alone is worth a drive to the Nissan dealership.

Porsche Boxster

All new and sharper looking and more expensive, this Porsche is no longer the poor man’s 911, but now stands alone as a top performing sports car. The S model is the one to have, but the extra horsepower will cost you over $10,000 more. Base price is about $50,000.

Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ

Scion_FRS

The Scion is less expensive, but both sporty cars are back to basics funmobiles. The reason we compared them together is that they were developed together. In a way, they are the new Mazda Miata with a starting price in the mid $20,000, a long list of extra cost options, and Subaru’s four cylinder, 200-hp boxer engine. As close to a thrill ride is you are going to get for this price and and it has a 25 combined mpg to justify the purchase.

SRT Viper

Priced about $90,000 and with enough horsepower to challenge most anything this side of a drag strip, the modernized Viper is no longer so touchy to drive with electronics to help control the power.

Subaru XV Crosstrek

The XV Crosstrek is a more outdoor friendly Impreza. Cute, gets exceptional gas mileage for an all wheel drive vehicle, and with a starting price around $20,000 well equipped, this crossover might have the right combination to attract more buyers the same way the Outback did for the Legacy.

Tesla Model S

Tesla is a sporty electric motor powered sedan that is sexy and handles well. Driving range between charges depends on speed and the use of other features such as air-conditioning. The best thing about this model is that it is available. A tribute to tenacity. If you have the money this is a car you want to be seen driving.

Toyota Avalon

Bigger, no. Better, yes. This is a far sportier, more fun to drive, and still roomy sedan. Same engine options as the Camry. A great family sedan starting above $30,000 and more eager to please. Passengers will never know it isn’t a Lexus.

Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

_VW_Beetle

Sleeker, but retaining its charm, the new Beetle has the same engines as its hard-top VW sisters. Prices should hoover around the $30,000 range. And wait till you see the option packages that date from previous decades. Cool. You just have to go.

Family conference: Our favorites are the new Audi sedans with diesel powerplants, the BMW X1, Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, Buick Encore, and Elantra. We think Buick, Subaru, Nissan, Audi, Toyota, and Kia/Hyundai are on winning streaks.

Dodge Grand Caravan SXT: Family Friendly and TV Too

by The Car Family

for more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

It isn’t difficult to find reviewers who want to cast stones at the Dodge minivan, but we didn’t find any from families. Here are the facts. The Dodge has the most family-friendly interior of all vans. Secondly, it has good crash scores. Finally, these vans are built with kids in mind even to a built in child’s seat.

The Dodge Grand Caravan comes in three trims of which only the SE and SXT are for a family and we highly recommend the latter. The smaller, 3.3 engine has flex-fuel capability and can run on E85 if you can find it. We don’t recommend this engine as it does not have enough power for a family traveling in the mountains or even pulling a small trailer. There is word that the 2011 version is going to have a sharper interior and more potent engines and with a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, it might pay to look into the new model. Of course, that also means there are going to be some bargains on the 2010 model.

Mom’s view: As soon as you drive this Dodge it gets smaller. It is fairly nimble, has good visibility in all directions except the rear, and the optional 4.0-liter V6 engine and a six speed automatic can get about 22 mpg in mixed driving. The Caravan has active front-seat headrests, antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, full-length side curtain airbags and you can order an integrated child booster seats with Swivel ‘n Go, rear parking sensors, a blind-spot monitoring system and Rear Cross Path. The latter is a must. When you are backing up it warns you of traffic coming. Great for crowded malls when you are parked beside gas hoggish, large SUVs that block your view. You also need to always consider the optional rearview camera when ordering any family vehicle. The crash test scores were excellent.

The interior is a bit drab, but with the stereo controls mounted high and the sliding door buttons also within reach. It is easy to get used to driving this Dodge. I especially like the optional seating choices. The standard Stow ‘n Go setup has two second row captain’s chairs that fold into the floor. The bench third row seat also folds flat into the floor. That leaves a very large, flat cargo bay. The optional Swivel ‘n Go seats turn so you can face the other passengers. A pole-mounted table can be moved between each row of seats, although I found it a bit wobbly. The center console has a hole near the bottom that makes a good place to place a purse, which is always nice. But make sure it is won’t roll into the pedal area. By the way, some models have adjustable pedals.

The interior is rugged, but really needs some upgrading in materials. However, this isn’t a show vehicle and so durability is my concern. The van we tested had 10,000 rough miles on it and there was no sign of wear on the seats or anywhere for that matter. A few rattles, but nothing that a screaming child can’t drown out.

The standard three-zone manual climate control works well, but has its fans full when the outside temperature gets into triple digits. Do get darkened windows. The optional Swivel ‘n Go rear captain’s chairs allow passengers to face each, which is fun for playing games, and there is a table available on some models to facilitate this. A rear entertainment center is available as well as Sirius Satellite TV. Yep, you can get television delivered to the back seaters.

The less expensive SE comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, three-zone climate control, cruise control, a tilt steering column, Stow ‘n Go second-row seats, a flip-down kiddie mirror and stereo/CD. The SXT model adds a larger engine, a power driver seat and remote-operated sliding side doors, and third-row power vent-style windows among other items. The optional SXT model features a4.0-liter V6, the SXT and a sport-tuned suspension. This is the van to order as it makes the Dodge more playful to drive and still retains its practicality.

Dad’s view: The optional 4.0-liter V6 option and six speed transmission are as good as anyone’s. Don’t get any other version if you travel or tow as the 251 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque makes this one quick minivan. Driving the Grand Caravan was relaxing with good seats and a quiet ride. It is, dare I say, fast and the handling is okay, but not up to that of the more expensive models from Honda. The steering is light and the brakes feel overboosted, The handling was a surprise because it does corner well considering its mass. I liked this rig and wouldn’t mind owning one even for commuting.

Young working man’s view: Not yet. The upgraded sound package is worthwhile, but not first rate. The high-mounted audio controls are easy to reach and the television reception is fairly good in metropolitan areas even though you are limited to children stations. Driving a minivan is always interesting at first. You keep thinking someone is following you, but this Dodge is fairly responsive and easy to park. The low liftover makes loading simple and the interior lighting is adequate. The headlights are barely average. Overall, this is too much vehicle for my needs. I also felt that the interior needed to be refreshed and the option packages appealed to those kid prone. By the way, I am now engaged and am off the market, so to speak, in case you were interesting. So maybe in the coming years this Dodge may move up my desirability list.

Young working woman’s view: As usual with Dodge, the option packages are numerous and a buyer needs to spend time researching the packages before shopping. For example, you can order a 30GB hard drive for digital music storage, touchscreen controls, satellite radio and a rearview parking camera. Or you can opt for a rear DVD entertainment system with a nine-inch flip-down screen, remote control, two headphones and a 115-volt outlet. There are also a flashlight and a driver-side umbrella holder.

All of these are nice touches, but unless you have children or/and dogs, a minivan isn’t the best choice. A good sedan can do most things just as well and get better fuel mileage. But they don’t offer the variety of options that this Dodge does, especially for youngsters. For example, the Family Value Group adds second- and third-row sunshades, a sliding center console and remote engine start that help heat or cool the vehicle before you get enter. You can also get GPS, heated seats for the front and second row, and real time traffic. The Premium Group adds rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, a power-folding third-row seat, Bluetooth with an iPod interface, and nine speakers.

Buying this minivan reminds me of buying a house before it is built. You can have it anyway you want, but almost everything is an upgrade and adds to the cost. Keep it simple and you still have a house, but nothing to show-off to the family. The same goes for the Dodge. In basic form it is transportation, but with a few packages it can be an entertainment center or fun driver. And, Dodge is dealing.

Family conference: Quality statistics on the Dodge are a consideration, but we feel with the long warranty and the fact that Dodge has to do its best to keep every customer for leaving the fold well result in better ratings in 2011. The Volkswagen Routan is nearly identical to the Dodge, but has a better interior design and superior handling.

For a list of vehicle websites go to: http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/auto/index.html

New for 2011 and Notable

by The Car Family

For more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

There are a lot of changes for , but most involve tidying up existing models and a shot of adrenaline here and there to get a tinkle from the buying public. However, there are a few that might create a rash on your credit limit with great fuel mileage, family oriented designs and speed limit challengers.. As always, with The Car Family, we disclose what we own so as not to hide any bias. In the fleet are an Oldsmobile, Saab, Lexus, and Mercedes.

Acura TSX Sport Wagon is a glamourized Honda Accord wagon with a 2.4-liter 204-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. A good choice for the family that doesn’t want the stigma of driving a mini-van.

Aston Martin Cygnet is difficult to portray. It has a very upgraded interior, trademark front and rear treatments, and a smallish engine producing just enough thrust to make it a little fun. Priced in the near luxury range. Sort of cute.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage has a gas hoggish 6.0-liter V12 engine with 510 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, and costs around $120,000. Aston Martin also is offering a four door sedan. The Rapide is expensive, fuel swilling, and beautiful. They won’t let family oriented writers test it so we can’t offer any opinion on its real life virtues.

Audi is on a hot streak. They have a good product and treat the family press fairly meaning that aren’t afraid of you learning the truth. That said, the Audi A7 Sportback is coming and it should redefine the segment. The stunning RS5 is already being sold elsewhere and could be an instant classic. The Audi A8 gets a new look, but for families we much prefer the Q5. We recently tested the A4 and felt it was the equal to the 3 Series BMW, but better looking. Great fuel mileage, too.

Bentley has become arrogant with their dealings with family oriented reviewers. In the past they were bargains, but lately they just added more horsepower, a few tidbits to attract conspicuous consumption crowd. The sedan is family friendly, but the gas mileage isn’t. If you can afford the, payments, insurance and fuel, the sedan is a good used vehicle to consider as they depreciated quickly. The Mulsanne is new and can be yours for $300,000. The Continental GTC Supersports Convertible has 621 horsepower and is very fast. If you have the $300,000 this might be the convertible to own and express your support of the British worker and German owner.

BMW X1 is a small SUV built on the 3-Series platform. s should be in the mid $30,000 range. How different it will be from the X3 remains to be seen, but it could be more nimble and quicker.

BMW ActiveHybrid 7 combines a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine and an electric motor for excellent performance while getting about 20 mpg in a very large car. To save on gas you must first pony up over $100,000

We always liked the Buick Regal. It was comfortable, rode well, and gave us good economy and reliability. It wasn’t fun, but it was ready when you were. Buick has brought back the Regal and gave it some European DNA from its Opel line. The power is probably going to be the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and GM’s excellent 6-speed automatic transmission. Note, fans of the lamented Grand Nationals, the the lightweight Regal might make an excellent fit for a turbocharged engine. The base model is probably going to be in the low-$20,000 range.

The CTS Coupe could be the flagship for Cadillac. It looks good and there is no reason to believe that it isn’t going to be available with engines from mild to wild. Prices should start under $40,000.

Far more practical, and if well marketed it could be a surprise hit for Chevrolet, is the Cruze with a price in the mid-teens. Chevrolet is going to plant a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine in this price leader with an optional higher output unit available. Look for gas mileage in the 30 mpg range in daily driving.

Chevrolet Camaro Convertible is a reinforced version of the Camaro now on sale. With pricing expected to be in the area of $30,000 this could ignite the pony car war between Ford and Chevrolet again. Power for the Camaro should be the potent 3.6-liter 304-horsepower V6 and the gas 19 mpg, 6.2-liter 426 horsepower V8.

Chevrolet Volt has oozed press for two years so it better be good or else. This extended-range hybrid is said to be capable of going 40 miles on just battery power and uses a small internal combustion engine to recharge the batteries and additional power. Look for tax incentives to help build interest for this $40,000 White Knight.

 Chrysler 200 is the new Sebring, which could be a good thing. The new look sedan would include a variety of powerplants and a sharper image. Engine choices should be fairly conservative with a four cylinder and V6 as the motivators. Prices probably be in the low $20,000 arena.

 Chrysler’s 300 is a big seller and the company has cleaned up the previous models Bentley like stance and snow plow front end with a much sleeker style. The possibility of a V6 with nearly 300 horsepower would make sense, but there is still the Hemi to consider. Look for prices in the mid-$20,000 range.

 

Dodge Charger is slightly tidied up both outside and in with the “Pentastar” 3.6-liter engine the main force. The 5.7-liter HEMI V8 will return with cylinder deactivation technology available. All wheel drive is also offered with prices in the mid-$25,000 ballpark.

 Dodge Durango is an old fashioned big, heavy SUV. Look for a price around $30,000 and a large interior with three rows of seating. Probably not good on fuel and probably not swift with the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. If you want to haul order the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine.

 Ferrari’s 599 GTO is priced at $460,000 and up. For that you get 6.0-liter V12 front mounted engine driving the rear-wheels with a top speed over 200 mph. You also get a happy car insurance sales person.

We have never liked the crude ride and problematic of the Ford Explorer and we hope this nearly $30,000 new version well erase those images from our mindset with better its fuel economy and sharper handling. Since we think highly of the newish Ford Flex and Edge we know Ford is up to the task. The Explorer is going to be powered by the same engines as the others with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder a possibility.

Ford Fiesta. This is probably the best small car Ford has ever produced. It is youth oriented with colors and interior treatments that appeal to young drivers. A 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with 120 horsepower should enable the lightweight Fiesta to earn 38 mpg credentials. Not bad for about $14,000.

Honda CR-Z Hybrid is a sporty coupe with gas mileage figures of 39 mpg. We would have loved this car with just a gas engine, but Honda has brought into this world an interesting alternative. The problem is that the extra weight takes away some of the fun. Still, this is a car for those who love to drive and are frugal. The 1.5-liter 122-horsepower gasoline engine coupled to Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist is enjoyable for $19,000

The Honda Odyssey has been recognized as a superior minivan for years, but it never had the utility of the Dodge and Chrysler vans. This all new version is sporty looking inside and out and the engine has even better gas mileage squeezed out of it. The 3.5-liter V6 engine comes with 248 horsepower and is rated at 28 mpg on the road. That is awesome, considering its size. Look for a base version with a 5-speed automatic to start around $28,000 and the shinier model, with a 6-speed automatic, to push well into the $30,000 range with any sort of options. All new look should draw customers.

The Equus is a truly big gamble from Hyundai as it moves this Korean manufacture into the luxury car segment by offering a $50,000 plus sedan with a potent 385horsepower V8 engine and features aplenty. Is this the right car at the right time remains a question, but there is no question that Hyundai is on a winning streak.

 Hyundai Elantra is a very economical vehicle that has good looks, good gas mileage, and a good warranty. It is probably the biggest sleeper in the under $15,000 segment, and if you want they are even offering a base model for less. The car’s fuel mileage rating of 38 mpg comes from its 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower. A well priced commuter car, family car, second car, and go to college car.

The Hyundai Sonata is priced under $20,000 and for that you get one of the better equipped cars in this market segment that is usually dominated by cars from Ford and Japan. The Sonata is sharp looking and its 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine makes an outstanding 198 horsepower. You can also order a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine or hybrid, but the base engine is our favorite.

 Infiniti IPL G Coupe is a vehicle that frankly surprises us. Not so much its performance, which should be good with a 348 horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine, a stern suspension and better brakes, but why pay more when the G Coupe is nearly as good in all ways? Anyway, Infiniti is now bringing a performance based niche vehicle to market for about $45,000 and that should appeal to early adopters eager to test the performance of Infiniti’s IPL arm.

 The Infiniti G25 is an attempt by Infiniti to expand its market to those who love the handling and interior appointments of the more expensive G37, but don’t need the extra horsepower or cost. Call it the base Infiniti as it is priced about $30,000. Gas mileage figures to average around 24 mpg on premium fuel for the 2.5-liter V6 with 218 horsepower powerplant.

Well now, Infiniti has redone its powerful M sedan and made it slicker and a bit nasty with an available 3.7-liter V6 engine creating 330 horsepower or a ground pounding 5.6-liter V8 with 420 horsepower. Even with a new 7-speed automatic transmission both versions will be hard pressed to get 20 mpg in mixed driving. Prices should be in the mid-$40,000 range. The luxury car field has never been more compelling.

And there is the Jaguar XJ with its slick exterior and interior and two potent engines to tempt your driver’s license points. The 5.0-liter V8 engine has 385 horsepower and the supercharged version produces about 510 horsepower if you go with the Supersport option. Why not. Priced just south of $70,000.

Jeep Grand Cherokee is a big gamble for Chrysler. This is a core product in its line-up and one that must be good to keep the company from doing Yugo. The interior is sharp, the drivetrain includes a strong 3 .6-liter V6 engine making 290 horsepower, a goodly amount of cargo room, and much improve ergonomics. Everything has been improved including a “Selec-Terrain” feature that allows drivers to choose from five pre-programmed settings depending on road conditions. The optional 5.7-liter V8 ups the towing capacity to 7,400 pounds. Easily the best Grand Cherokee ever and priced around $30,000.

For ten grand less you can order the new Jeep Wrangler with a much improved interior and ride. Everything is better, but the design is still unique so not to disappoint the clientele.

The Kia Optima is a looker, no kidding. This sub-$20,000 sedan is loaded with standard features and comes with two new and interesting powerplants this year. A turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a hybrid option could make Civic owners a little shy.

Kia has also upgraded its Forte by offering a 5-Door. You can order this sharp looking, well under $20,000 bargain with a a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 156 horsepower or a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 176 horsepower and more motor choices are possible.

 Kia’s Compact SUV is the Sportage and this year it sharper all around. The
2.4-liter 176-horsepower 4-cylinder engine is economical and frisky and its priced just over $18,000.

For a couple of grant more you can order the new Kia Sorento with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine or the 276-horsepower 3.5-liter V6.

We loved the Toyota Supra, but the Lexus LFA is no Supra, especially priced at $375,000. Of course, the LFA is other worldly when in comes to Toyota as the car has carbon-fiber bodywork, a V10 engine with 552 horsepower, and you can only lease them.

 Lexus CT 200h is an interesting consideration. The hybrid hatchback uses a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder hybrid engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. Look at it as a sporty Prius. Priced under $30,000.

The Lincoln MKX is a crossover that uses a potent 3.7-liter V6 with 305 horsepower and improved suspension and a plethora of luxury items to entice SUV buyers. Priced just under $40.000.

Lincoln’s MKZ Hybrid is really worthwhile with a staggering fuel mileage estimate of over 40 mpg in town and 36 on the road. The engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid and is combined with an electric motor to create 191 horsepower. This could easily be the car of the year for about $34,000.

Lotus Elise is the ultimate niche vehicle trying to emerge from that niche. They are offering a wider range of engines, including a supercharged version and there are hints the company might be experimenting with more environmentally friendly versions of this lightweight flyer which would be a good idea because these are not high mpg vehicles despite their size. The SC is the fastest version with 0 to 60 times under five seconds. Of course, handling well be outstanding and a new ABS promises superior braking.

Lotus Evora is new with a 2+2 passenger cabin that offers more room without sacrifising zip. Lotus is planning on bringing out five models this year all great handling, sleek, and fast.

What, an even smaller Mazda? Yep, the Mazda2 is a basic economy car with a 1.5-liter 100-horsepower 4-cylinder engine with fuel economy in the 32 mpg range. Priced under $14,000.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet is a four-seat convertible with a well insulated power soft-top and either a 5.5-liter V8 engine with 382 horsepower or a 3.5-liter V6 with 268 horsepower. Priced under $60,000. Not much completion in this price range for a topless touring car.

Gullwing doors are back and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG has them as well as our favorite bad boy engine, the 6.3-liter V8 with its 563 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. If you can afford
$185,000 or so, this might even be looked at as an investment.

 A Big MINI, the Countryman is a sort of cute utility vehicle with all wheel drive and room for five, sort of. Could be a good value, but at $30,000 it might be a rare sight on the road. Engine choices probably the same as the MINI.

Another all electric vehicle is coming in the form of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. This car has been for sale elsewhere and so should be well proven. It can go 80 mph but that will probably cut down on its expected range between charging of 80 to 100 miles. A long charging time may slow sales of this $30,000 sedan.

 Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport comes with front-wheel drive or all wheel drive and can be ordered with a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters. The upscale SE comes with automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated front seats, cruise control, upgrade stereo, and a keyless entry system. The base engine is a four cylinder making 148 horsepower for about $19,000.

 Nissan Leaf is electric, in case you haven’t heard. The 80 kilowatt electric motor can push this sedan to 90 mph, although the expected range of 100 miles well be diminished. As with all electric passenger vehicles, look for a federal tax credit to help defray the cost and that could be worth $7,500 on the $33,000 early adapter.

Its no Juke, Nissan is bringing to market yet another SUV. This one is smaller and unique in its styling. It rides high, has five doors, and should be rambunctious with a 180-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Priced under $20,000.

 The Quest minivan from Nissan is going to challenge the Honda Odyssey for looks, attitude, and performance. Look for a sharp exterior, the potent 3.7 V6 engine and power everything. It will probably handle better, but not have as many family friendly features as the Chrysler.

Saab is back, thankfully. This is a great name in the industry and deserves a fresh look. The
9-5 has a chopped like top, and looks very modern. Engines should continue to be the same with a fuel sipping and plenty fast turbocharged four cylinder with 180 horsepower and a 2.8-liter V6 with 300 horsepower. Pricing is just under $50,000. This could be another cult car just as the older 9-3 hatchback and the 2006 anniversary edition convertible.

Scion iQ is a small car that Toyota is bringing to market to do battle with those interested in fuel mileage and basic transportation with a flair. The 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine is attached to a continuously variable transmission. Look for fuel mileage in the 40 mpg plus range and prices to start well under $14,000.

smart fortwo is adding to its offerings with an all-electric model and a fortwo+2 with a rear seat and four doors. Prices should be under $15,000 and that’s a lot of cute for the money.

 Suzuki Kizashi Sport has a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and a sport-tuned suspension and it is sharp handling. With 185 horsepower and a manual transmission this could be fun for under $24,000

 As always, the Toyota Avalon is simply a Lexus in disguise. It looks sharper now and is more streamlined. The 3.5-liter V6 engine with 268 horsepower is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission tuned for obedience and not free spirits. Should be priced under $33,000 so not to step on the toes of the Lexus ES 350.

 All new, sort of, the Toyota Sienna looks like the previous version that has gone through a frugal modernization. We like the look and the many trim levels that enables a family to select the model that suits their needs. There is still an all wheel drive option. The base engine is fine if you don’t load it up and head for the mountains as its 2.7-liter 187-horsepower 4-cylinder is stout. The 3.5-liter 266-horsepower V6 is an option. Prices start around $25,000.

 Volkswagen’s Jetta is a bargain at under $17,000. A bit larger, but with the some of the same engine selections as the current Jetta, this model seems aimed at the family on a budget. The more you pay for the Jetta the larger the engine. Expect the fuel-economy to be in the mid-26 mpg range for most powerplants.

Volkswagen Beetle is new. In fact so new that we can only surmise it well be larger, quicker, and hopefully, quirkier. It should be priced well under $20,000 unless you want a hotter version. Worth the wait if this is your meat.

 Volkswagen Touareg is a real off road SUV. This model can be ordered with a hybrid drivetrain that can create 375 horsepower while still delivering over 23 mpg in mixed driving. In reality, this is a superior vehicle to the Porsche Cayenne and costs less.

 Volvo is now owned by a Chinese company, but they would be foolish to change the safety image that this marque has nurtured over the years. The S60 is a good looker and can be ordered with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6 making 300 horsepower. Pricing should be well below $40,000, but the safety features make it well worth it for a family. Volvo is a class leader when it comes to pedestrian safety as well and some models actually stop the car when a person is detected in front of the vehicle.

Ford Transit: Love it or Load it

by The Car Family

for more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

for a list of vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

By first reaction was one of dread. The huge front window made me fell like I was in a fish bowl. The interior was cheap, the radio impossible to master, the bare metal sidepanels got very hot, and the cupholders were awful. The seats were thinnly padded, the side mirrors way too small, the center console way too small, and there were no tie-downs in the large rear cargo area. So why do I love it? Well, it is an absolute joy to drive. It corners like a sports car, the engine loves to be pushed to its limit, the four speed automatic transmission has too few gears to matter, and you can find it in a parking lot.

I loved this vehicle so much I called Ford and wanted to buy it if it had a diesel version. The answer was no, they are going to keep that engine in Europe. What a shame. On the other hand, if Ford does bring out a smallish mini-van making the Transit too family friendly might cut into potential sales. That being said, I think that this is a great second family vehicle for those that don’t mind the interior noise and enjoy not having to stay in the fast lane.

Mom’s view: Not in my lifetime. It is very user friendly and the cargo bay is fun to fill, but there is something called image and the Transit isn’t it. Of course, it doesn’t matter because Ford is selling it to the handyman crowd, thankfully. There might be a few men out there who to would try and sneak this bad-boy into the garage under the guise of a dog hauler, or family recreational vehicle, or grocery getting. Don’t be fooled. The interior is stark and the radio so complicated it belongs in a German sedan. The seats have barely enough padding for long trips and it has a general unfinished feel, which it is as the owner is supposed to see it as a blank canvas. Safety wise there are antilock brakes and airbags.

Dad’s view: Great in black, some good interior quirks to share with the guys such as storage area above the front window, and the interior plastics aren’t bad. The rear storage area needs tie-downs as everything rolls around the barish floor. I found the seats comfortable enough with the side mirrors being too small as my only concern. The optional laptop Work Solutions system keeps track of your tools and other items, but the best part of the Connect is how remarkably fun this rig is. The 2.0L Duratec I-4 and four speed automatic transmission are out-dated, but they are willing to give their all when you need it, within reason. This is a small engine in a very unaerodynamic vehicle so passing at high speeds need some planning ahead. The 138 horsepower engine pushes the Transit to 60 mph in under 13 seconds, but it sure feels faster.

The Transit has a sturdy body-on-frame and unibody construction. The result is a low center of gravity and a low towing rate. We tested the family version with a second row of seats that makes it easy to haul four adults somewhat comfortably. The base Transit is quite basic. You get 15-inch steel wheels, gray air-conditioning, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, loth upholstery and a simple stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The Wagon XL adds a two-person bench seat and the XLT bumps up the Transit with heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, a 12-volt power point and a CD player. The Wagon XLT was the one we tested and it had a split-folding 60/40 three-passenger second-row bench seat. We recommend you avoid the base model because the keyless entry alone is worth the extra cost because of the strange key the Transit uses.. Major options include an in-dash computer, rear parking sensors, widerer opening rear doors, Bluetooth and remote ignition.

I loved it and only wish Ford would bring it to the US with a diesel, but I assume that passing smog regulations for such a limited production vehicle won’t make it a good money call. Too bad.

Young woman’s view: At first I was panicked. What would the neighbors say. Yes, it would be perfect for my three rescue dogs, and the optional rear doors opened widely and stayed in place. The

135 cubic feet of cargo space isn’t as large as it seems because you would have to pile items very high to use all the footage. You can even walk into the Transit should that be a selling point. The Transit Connect is available with a variety of models, but basically you get a van or a wagon, with the wagon having side glass, the does not roll down, a second row of seats, and dual sliding side doors.

Young working male’s view: If my company, http://www.eracks.com, that makes open sources servers and computers, ever buys a delivery vehicle this is the one I would want. The radio isn’t all that much, and the hood opener is strange, but the key is even stranger. Don’t lose this key because it is like no other and probably costly. The Transit is nimble and gets nearly 24 mpg if you stay within highway speed limits. The radio is also an in-dash computer that uses a Microsoft operating system, as well as a wireless mouse and keyboard, a navigation system and even available Internet access. Our model had the Work Solutions which tracks the vehicle’s location, and Tool Link, which tracks your tool inventory via radio frequency. It is very high tech for such a low tech truck/van/station wagon.

The ride over roughed up roads is a bit rough as the rear suspension is set up more to haul loads and not so much people. It actually rides better when full. The turning radius is about 39 feet and that makes parking very easy, but visibility is rather limited. The interior is noisy so it is worth considering some soundproofing. The huge windshield is cleared nicely by what has to be the world’s largest wipers. However, good luck finding replacement blades at your local auto store. I liked it, but only if there is enough left in the kitty to make it your own with some personal upgrades like a better stereo system, sound deadening materials, and a little more cushion for my tush.

Family conference: The Transit Connect has no competition. Its size makes it handy and fairly frugal. It also can be made family friendly, but we doubt many women would fall for that idea. It needs larger rear view mirrors for sure. A better interior lighting system is a must, and more tie downs, softer seats, and a more normal hood opening operation would be appreciated. In fact, Ford should abandon the Transit key as it snags on your pocket, purse, or anything else it can reach. If the Transit Connect had a diesel engine it would be a terrific second car. As it is this Ford is a terrific utility vehicle and we highly recommend you don’t judge it by appearances.

Death Rates for Small Car Occupants Down: Large SUVs, Trucks Dead

By The Car Family

For more vehicle reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/h2-hummer-do-you-need-attention-this-badly/

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

The death rate for drivers for small cars continues to fall and are now at the same rate as drivers of large pick-up trucks giving small car scared cats a glimpse of the reality that big vehicles are not safer for the vast majority of families. Of course, the full-size sedans are still the safest if they are over the 3000-pound threshold that seems to be the touchstone for the highest safety ratings.

This is good news for intelligent buyers as large SUVs, such as the horrible Hummer H2, are literally being abandoned on the sides of the marketplace as people fight to buy safer and more fuel frugal small cars. In fact, the average dealer lot time before sale of a Prius is four days. It takes months for someone dumb enough to want to buy a large SUV to show up and qualify. Rebates over $5000 are not uncommon and as the end of the model year looms closer rebates on the Hummer and other dreadnaughts might hit $10,000. Residual values could set new records for loss rivaling those of the ill-fated Yugo as the truck chassis based SUVs find few buyers and less dealers interested in taking these slow movers as trade-ins.

In an effort toe save the company Ford and General Motors are both trying to make their rigs more attractive and even Toyota is offering huge incentives on its large pick-ups. Unfortunately, Chrysler doesn’t have a single quality high mileage compact in its fleet and is gambling on freshly designed Dodge Ram to woe the public in the fall. What we find the most upsetting is the Chrysler’s excellent minivans are not finding owners despite good gas mileage and tremendous passenger and cargo carrying capabilities. They have the most family friendly interiors of any minivan, too.

What is most fascinating is that the owners of large pick-ups usually owe more than the deflating value of their truck. The good news here is the workers still use pick-ups and their purchase can be justified. Large SUVs are another matter. There is no practical use for a Hummer H2, Lincoln Navigator, or Ford Excursion that can’t be solved with a more environmentally friendly vehicle. The excuse that I use it to tow a trailer or boat is losing its appeal when you are paying fifty cents a mile for gas. And, they aren’t safer.

According to Charles Oglesby, CEO of Asbury Automotive, the trucks are worth so little that people are just keeping them and buying a small car. Sadly, it looks like they are going to own the gas gulper for a long time because unless someone starts to cut down on speculation fuel is going to suck the energy out of the economy. By the way, gas should cost less than $70 a barrel. The rest of it is to pay for speculator’s profits not that Big Oil isn’t enjoying record profits at the expensive of the nation.

The surge of interest in hybrids is overwhelming with stock barely getting into dealer lots before it’s sold. The lines are only going to get longer so it is good thing that those big Hummers and other monsters of the highway give a lot of shade for those waiting for the fuel friendly vehicles to arrive.

Interestingly, diesel powered vehicles are still not on many people’s radar and this could be good news for early shoppers for Volkswagen and Mercedes new products. Diesel cars don’t get quite the mileage as hybrids, but they are better on the highway and less expensive to maintain. Of course, finding a diesel fuel station in some parts of the country isn’t easy, but they are just as good as gas powered vehicles, and much better in terms of longevity and miles per gallon.

The number of children who have been run over by large SUVs and the crowded freeways has created technology options that are increasing in demand. The blind spot detection system is very good, we love the one on the Cadillac, and the back up sonar and cameras, Nissan has the best, are gaining buyers. The outlawing of hand held cell phones is making wireless systems a hot item. Don’t leave the showroom without one because in time this is going to be in the same category as a radio when it comes to resale.

Suzuki, makers of an under-valued new SX4 sedan and small SUV, is going to make a GPS available next year that is portable. It is also much less expensive and easier to update than those that are permanent.

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