Porsche


Porsche Macan SUV: A Practical Family Sports Car
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

Unless you drive a Porsche Macan S you may never understand what all the buzz is about. Here is an SUV that handles, accelerator, and stops as well as a sports car. but can carry five adults, tow a trailer, and be equipped with a top rack. To say this vehicle is a wonder is an understatement. Consumer Reports and US News and World Report both selected it as the best vehicle in its category. So what is it that makes this vehicle so desirable that it is sold out in some countries for nearly a year and there is probably a waiting list at your local dealer for one built to your liking? Well, it is registers on the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. It is playful, practical, fast, and, yes, expensive. The Macan starts at around $51,000, but don’t expect to leave the dealership without another ten thousand dollars in options. porsideleaf

Mom’s view: This is the best vehicle we have ever tested regardless of price. Its easy to park, zips through traffic and its performance during freeway driving can only be described as amazing. From a practical standpoint it is difficult to justify such an expensive daily driver. That is until you drive one. At that point it is challenging not to rationalize why you don’t need one. Ladies, this is an agile, engaging SUV with a surprising cushy ride and the interior is stunning. With optional heated and cooled seats, quality interior materials, and ample storage this is definitely going to be your home away from home. Standard safety features and options include an all wheel drive system, airbags everywhere, tire pressure monitor, remote key, ABS, stability and traction control, blind spot monitor, and lane departure warning among others. Fit and finish are splendid. There is a small indentation on the exterior door handle that, when pushed, locks the doors and swivels the side mirrors inward if you desire. I could go on forever, but this is the SUV I would choose for a trip, to shop, or drop the brood of at school. If I get lost the GPS map can show on the central monitor and the instrument panel. Ladies, you can have it all.

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Dad’s view: First, it is a hoot to drive. Quiet, unassuming, and comforting, the Macan is just your mild mannered Clark Kent. That is until you press the “sport” button. The result is supercar. This 4300 pound SUV changes its character. The exhaust sound is deepened and the acceleration sharpened as the 340 horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 engine makes it fly. Porsche’s PDK 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission shifts immediately and the all wheel drive system sends power to where it is needed. It takes a super human effort not to have the sports mode on all the time. Nevertheless, there are some drawbacks. Tall people will find a lack of rear headroom and the electronics aren’t as world class as one would expect. Readers with a passion for driving, love the outdoors, enjoy unplanned trips, this is your feisty, family friendly SUV.

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Young unemployed male’s view: Being unemployed puts this car into the realm of unattainable. So much for that expensive degree and Microsoft training certification. Back to business. The 2016 Macan comes with an 11-speaker stereo with a 7-inch touch-screen display, Bluetooth, a USB port, and fairly good quality sound. You can opt for a 14-speaker Bose sound, a 16-speaker Burmester system, a PCM infotainment system, and Porsche Car Connect. The latter is interesting as it enables you to find your Macan using your smartphone. I can’t comment on the upgraded $1400 Bose or the$5700 Burmester with its 1000 watt units, but I found the base unit adequate. The Macan’s stunning sport steering wheel is from the 918 Spyder. Interestingly, the tachometer is positioned in the center of the dash where one would expect to see the speedometer. Along side that unit is a 4.8-inch color screen that displays messages from the on-board computer and, if needed, a GPS map. The main monitor is a 7-inch touchscreen. Now if I can just find work.

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Young woman’s view: The tailgate is devoid of a handle. The opener is located under the wiper stalk. One press and it opens to any height you desire. Low garage, just a quick click on the lowering button and it is set. So very nice. In fact, if you enjoy driving, are a poser, or just want to see what a Porsche is all about, this is, believe if or not, one of the least expensive ways to find out. The doors have large storage bins that can even accommodate large bottles. The luggage compartment offers 17.7 cu. ft. of space and the rear bench seat when folded down increases capacity to 53 cu. ft. This is small for its class, but it could carry my bike without any problem.

 

The Macan is totally female friendly with easy to reach controls and exceptional interior lighting. In fact, the guttural sound of the exhaust, the brisk acceleration, and subdued ride are addicting. There is a lot to love here. The hold feature keeps the Macan in place when stopped on grades, the firm brakes provide confidence, and the high quality ratings add luster. Gas mileage was about 20 mpg. This Porsche bedevils one’s brokerage accounts.

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Family conference: Robert Browning said it best, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” I believe he foresaw the Macan.

Using vehicles to create student interest in math and Language Arts
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Using vehicles is an excellent way to motivate students and to help ready them for real life buying decisions. The following links deal with the various manufactures where students can write for information, obtain pricing information and to harvest compare and contrast data for Common Core related essays.

A listing of all DMV offices.
Finding the office that deals with your state and others can provide information on how old one needs to be to drive as well as the various license fee data that could be used for Common Core math problems. I have used driver manuals to motivate students to read.
http://www.dmv.org/

Data on fuel economy
This federal site would enable students to select a variety of vehicles and there fuel mileage. This could be used for math as well as to provide statistics for an essay on the best or worst type of vehicles in terms of fuel costs.
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

A link site to manufacturers who sell cars in America
http://search.ezilon.com/united_states/business/automotive/auto_manufacturers/

A listing of vehicle websites worldwide
http://autopedia.com/html/MfgSites.html

National Motorists Association
A great source of information on driving and the law.
http://www.motorists.org/

A listing of car value prices
A good place to find statistics for math problems about the prices of cars and motorcycles.
http://www.nadaguides.com/

Where cars are made by location
Great way to teach geography.
http://www.caranddriver.com/features/a-graphic-representation-of-whats-really-made-in-america-feature

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.

Porsche 918 Spyder Could Fly (pun intended)

by The Car Family

One hot hybrid convertible has been given the okay by Porsche’s Supervisory Board okay the development of a 918 Spyder concept as a limited production model. The mid-engined plug-in hybrid super-sports car combines both gas and electric propulsion systems. This concept version of an ultra-high-performance mid-engined sports car with plug-in hybrid technology.

 

Porsche said that the Spyder will be develop ed in Weissach and assembled in Zuffenhausen. Best of all, the German manufacture has indicated that fuel mileage in Europe was an estimated 90 mpg plus. Prices have not been set, but it really doesn’t matter the line has already formed behind this glorious salute to the environment. Just kidding.

 

One Porsche probably overlooked is that Ferdinand Porsche was one of the primary inventors of the hybrid, which, interestingly, was and is used in locomatives today. Yep, the diesel electric is his idea.

 For a list of all vehicle websites go to

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Most Reliable Vehicles

By The Car Family

 

For more reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/best-new-cars-for-2008/

For free educational materials go to

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/index.html

For a list of all vehicle websites go to

 http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

Gas mileage drastically improves if you are being towed. Other than that there is very little to recommend a vehicle that gets great fuel figures but costs you money at resale due to buyer worries about reliability. Add to that fact that just one problem could erase all the savings in gas over the lifetime of the car. Thus Consumer Reports has supplied their list of the most dependable vehicles. I have never been a fan of Consumer Reports since we followed their ratings for buying several household appliances only to have them require sufficient work. That might not be the fault of Consumer Reports. What might be the problem is that once a company gets a high rating and sales increase they start cutting corners on the tested products.

Here are Consumer Reports top picks and our assessment based on models up to 2007.

Mercedes continues to battle with quality problems in some models as their M Class ranks as the most unreliable vehicle. We find that the best Mercedes product is the E Class, especially with the diesel or Bluetec engine. We also feel that they have made considerable progress the last two years.

Price appears to have little relevance to quality and old myths are shattered when you look at the data that reveals that the Lincoln Zephyr was nearly as reliable as the always reliable ES 350. In fact, if you want to buy a good used car a 1995 Lexus ES is the one to have. Outstanding gas mileage and exceptional reliability. They have oil leaks and thin leather seats but for under $3000 you are probably going to get 300,000 miles.

Ford continues to improve with good rankings for its Fusion and Milan. Indeed, these vehicles performed at the same level as the pricier Camry and Accord. General Motors also did well with good rating for its Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS.

One of our frequent best vehicles is the Subaru line and Consumer Reports agreed. All their models did well, but we don’t recommend the racy WRX STi due to its hot rod engine and stiff legged ride. A great car, just not a family car. Outside of the Versa and Sentra we don’t really feel that Nissan has that many quality products and some, such as their large SUVs, gets astonishing low gas mileage and quality marks.

Porsche continues to suffer, according to owners

Porsche continues to have reliability issues. Since this is the only company that refuses to allow us to test its vehicles we have no reason to disagree with the Consumer Reports information. If you buy a Porsche you are buying a possible source of problems that the company’s short warranty may not help you cover.

The Porsche 911 and Carrera, Pontiac Solstice, Mercedes SL and CLK, and V6 powered Ford Mustang all did poorly and the Porsche is easily the most expensive of this list. We feel Mercedes is improving and that the Solstice is very new and probably going through growing pains. The Mustang is priced under $20,000 and we don’t feel its quality is as good as it should be. As for the Porsche, how could a company that has been building essentially the same car for decades continue to have problems? We feel it is the fact that they are profitable and have a loyal following even though there are several cars that costs tens of thousands of dollars less that can perform equally.

Small Cars

As expected the best small cars are the Honda Fit and Civic Hybrid as well as the Toyota Corolla. What we didn’t expect was the high rating of the Toyota Yaris, which we did not like and found very uncomfortable and lacking a quality feel. However, we love the Fit and the Corolla. In this category the Chevrolet Cobalt and Aveo, Nissan Sentra, and Volkswagen Jetta did poorly. The Sentra has been redone and is much better. The Cobalt’s rating surprised us as we found it was a great compact with a spirited ride and spacious interior. Volkswagens continue to be suspect, although we have placed an order for the new Jetta wagon and have our fingers crossed.

The important family sedan segment had the Accord, Fusion, Milan, and Toyota Prius in the top positions. The Accord four cylinder was our choice. We have no idea why anyone orders the V6 version when the four is so frugal and energetic. The Volkswagen Passat didn’t fare well and we don’t recommend it either.

As noted the Lexus ES does well, as did the Zephyr. Add to that the surprising Hyundai Azera and the Acura TSX and TL and you have some great vehicles although the Azera is very softly sprung. However, it is loaded with equipment and looks far more expensive than the Lexus. The Jaguar X Type, Chrysler 300 V8 and Saab 9-3 rated at the bottom. Our experience with the Saab is that the older ones do better than the new ones. After 2002 they seemed to lose their composure. Still, they handle, accelerate, and feel as solid as any sporty sedan. We like them. The large Chrysler has visibility issues and the V8 isn’t needed as the large six does just as well for the family. The Jaguar is an old design and isn’t going to age well anyhow. Nice looking, though.

Luxury Cars

In the luxury field the older Cadillac STS, Mercedes S and CLS and E and the BMW 7 Series and Jaguar S should be avoided. The new models of these are far better, but we always have doubt about BMW products outside of the 3 Series due to the complexity of their electronics and poor fuel mileage. The Jaguar S is another old design and the new Jaguar FX promises to be much better. Winners include the always terrific Lexus LS and Infiniti M. We noticed tire wear problems with the big Infiniti, but the Lexus is perhaps the best luxury family sedan ever made. We bought one of the first ones brought to the US in 1989 and it was a dream. They still are, but beware of the costly prices to replace such items as oxygen sensors. You pay for the Lexus name. We actually bought the same anti-freeze solution at the Toyota dealership for nearly 30 percent less than the Lexus dealer wanted.

If you want sportiness the Lexus SC isn’t the answer, but it has exceptional reliability as does the Toyota Solara. We found the chassis on the Solara was too flexible, especially in the convertible, but that was the previous model. The Subaru Impreza WRX is fun and highly rated as is the Honda S2000, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and the fun MINI Cooper. There is quite a price range here, but if you don’t need the room the MINI is excellent with gas mileage over 30 mpg. Get the Clubman if you have a family for the extra cargo space. The Subaru is the most fun for the buck, though, just make sure it has been maintained. Subarus are expensive to buy parts for and we don’t like their automatic transmission.

In terms of people movers the Nissan Quest fared poorly as did the General Motors trio of the Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, and Saturn Relay. We were shocked at the General Motors listings as we tested them and found them tight and well made. Perhaps it was too much to try and make a SUV look like a minivan. On the plus side the gas sipping Pontiac Vibe/ Toyota Matrix were superb and so was the Toyota Sienna. A used Sienna is worth considering. We got great gas mileage. The Honda Odyssey van, everyone’s first choice, finished in the middle. The complex engine management program may have been the problem. If you need less room, the cute Scion xB finished among the elite, too. Very economical and a hoot to drive.

SUV Rankings

Crossover SUVs did well as a group with only the very inexpensive Kia Sportage reporting poor ratings. It was also among the least costly in this grouping. Favored crossovers were the Toyota FJ Cruiser and RAV4 as well as the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outland, and versatile Subaru Forester. The FJ has so little side and rear visibility and poor fuel mileage we can’t recommend it. The Outlander is okay, but not the best choice. The RAV4’s gas mileage when tested was over 25 mpg and the all-new Honda CR-V had a great interior. We like the RAV4 and the Subaru Forester. In fact, we like the old Forester better than the new one. They get the best fuel mileage of any all wheel drive family crossover.

Good scores for large SUVs was dominated by the Japanese automakers with the Toyota Highlander, 4Runner, Lexus RX 400 h, Acura MDX, and Honda Pilot all ranking on top. The Lexus is much more expensive than the others and we would recommend the RX 350 instead and save thousands. The Highlander and Pilot are both very good. The fuel mileage on the MDX causes us to place it much lower, although it handles better than the others.

As expected the worst of the SUVs are some of the vehicles we never recommend such as the Land Rover LR3 with the V8, the horrible Hummer H3—all Hummer models are horrible, the lumbering Volkswagen Touareg, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mercedes R and M Class, Volvo XC 90, Ford Explorer, and Mercury Mountaineer. If there ever was a grouping of vehicles to avoid as lacking any quality traits this is it. Why anyone would consider one is beyond our grasp as they get stinky fuel mileage, handle poorly, and every one has a better choice from the same manufacture.

Hummer Owners Rank them Lowest

Large SUVs, and why anyone in their right mind would need one of these top-heavy burdens on renewable resources escapes us, are lead by the Toyota Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Lexus LX, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. The god-awful Hummer H2 performed as expected, at the bottom of the list. We don’t’ think it would matter to a perspective buyer anyhow. Buying one of these Hummers, which are illegal to drive on most residential roads as they exceed the three-ton limit, is for those who need attention and are willing to pay for it. The same can be said for the Ford Excursion and Lincoln Navigator. The Lincoln only beat the Hummer in the race to the bottom of the reliability chart. Of course with all that weight going to the bottom is easy. Think 10 to 12 miles per gallon and a resale value that rivals current presidential approval ratings when you buy in this segment.

Consumer Reports final ratings were for pick-up trucks. These are the cash cows of the industry and their success is important. The Subaru Baja, which is really too small to carry much more than a six foot long rope, the Toyota’s Tundra and Tacoma were joined by the Nissan Frontier V6 as having superior quality ratings. The Baja is handy, but clearly does not belong in this group. The worst were the Nissan Titan, horrible gas mileage, too, and the Ford F-250 diesel, Dodge Dakota, and the wallowing Cadillac Escalade EXT. The latter model drives like a boat with little road feel and a tendency to absorb gasoline faster than the Saudis can produce it.

Two elements emerge from the Consumer Reports study. First, only Toyota has a vehicle line-up that excels in quality and Honda is close behind. Thus the higher resale for these two brands. Secondly, the cost of the vehicle is not indicative of its quality. The Ford Fusion is about $20,000 and does well while the Porsche and Hummer H2 are complained about by their owners who shelled out those big bucks the most per dollar.

Family conference: Our favorites by category are the Honda Fit and Toyota Corolla in the compact class; family sedan class winners are the Toyota Prius, Accord and Ford Fusion; larger sedans would find the Lexus LS in our garage; the MINI Clubman would be our fun to drive vehicle; the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe would be the handiest to own; and the Lexus 400h and Subaru Forester can carry our family anytime. We don’t recommend large SUVs and feel that pick-ups are not family vehicles and can be very unsafe.

Acura RDX: Putting the Sport in SUV

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For many years we have scoffed at the acronym SUV as almost without exception such a designation has been given an overweight, underpowered, gas swilling insult to the environment and common sense. Indeed SUV was an oxymoron. How could a utility vehicle, one meant for hauling heavy loads, going off-road, and still be able to carry a family be sporty? They weren’t. Of course, there was the ultra expensive and troubled Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X5, which had little interior space that were fast and handled well. But for $50,000 and up who is really going to take these insurance agent’s dream comes true anywhere but the local mall.

Along comes the $34,000 Acura RDX and changes the equation in terms of sportiness, although still lacking in interior room. It is a corner clinger and can get to 60 mph in about seven seconds. It is a tidy ride with a lot more hot rod than luxury vehicle feel. The wide tires generate a lot of interior noise and the turbocharged 2.3 engine that divulges 240 horsepower has a raspy note, but all this is forgiven when the RDX is pushed. The 260 pound-feet of torque are ready to play most anywhere on the RPM dial and the five-speed automatic can be manipulated with steering wheel paddles to keep everything on boil. In other words, this is truly a sporty utility vehicle if you are willing to put up with a smaller cargo capacity and gas mileage in the 18-mpg range on premium.

Mom’s view: Good brakes, small and easy to maneuver in traffic and crowded parking lots, the Acura RDX is a nice combination for a small family with a husband who was forced to give up his sports car.  There are some expensive options that can push the price into the $38,000 range, but might be worth it if this is your only car. Otherwise you get a leather trimmed interior, heated seats, satellite radio, alloy wheels, xenon headlights, ABS, heated front seats, ABS, and stability control as standard. There are also six airbags. Not my favorite, but at least it is more fun to drive than the BMW SUVs and those from the Japanese competition. However, that Subaru Forester isn’t a slouch.

Dad’s view: It takes more courage than I have to get the most out of the RDX. It is capable of outstanding skidpad times, but the nature of all SUVs is one of being top heavy and it is difficult to rid your mind of this when entering any corner. After a while the competence of this Acura starts to win you over and you become less intimidated by the past and more inclined to stretch this SUVs sidewalls. I really liked the RDX in many regards such as build quality, braking, and of course handling. The engine needs to be kept busy to get the most out as, although small, the RDX weights 3900 pounds. The only element that gave me pause was the gas usage. The best I could manage was 20 mpg and the more powerful, but not nearly as fun six cylinder Toyota RAV4 got 25 on regular fuel.

Driving the RDX is a study in restraint. It is ever so tempting to crush the turbo boast gauge only to see what is left in the 18 gallon fuel tank quickly disappear. In heavy traffic too much accelerator input can fool the automatic transmission, but this really isn’t a car for daily crowded commutes. This is a car for those who love to drive and don’t mind a bit of turbo lag. A perfect skimobile, this Acura has a driving feel that is nearly identical to the TL sedan, albeit a bit less refined.

Young working woman’s view: The seats are comfortable, the interior easy to master, the GPS workable, but the rear cargo area was quite small and the second row of seats doesn’t have a lot of foot room. I cute SUV with plenty of character and very willing to please, this is one SUV that I wouldn’t mind owning if it got better gas mileage.

College going male’s view: Easily the sexist of the SUVs, the Acura RDX is capable of being whatever you want it to be. The 18-inch alloy rims look good and the grip is outstanding. You have Acura’s all wheel drive system that can send torque to the front or back or right or left side and clings to every type of surface better than any SUV I have ever tested. Very appealing, but the price is too dear for those of my ilk. If you need less sport and more room try the Acura MDX which supplies 300 horsepower, an optional third row of seats, and gets nearly the same fuel mileage.

Family conference: The only SUV that we have tested that is sporty. The downsides are its initial cost, poor fuel economy on premium, and interior cargo space. It is clearly capable of playing tag with the BMW and Porsche and is much easier to live with for a small family.

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2008 Convertibles

by

The Car Family

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Make your garage happy this holiday season, put something under the roof that will make the neighbors feel old and nothing says that better than a shiny new toy whether it is a Bentley, Mercedes, Audi, or for the self-actualized, a Pontiac convertible. Regardless of what model you choose two things are assured. First, you are going to make your insurance agent very happy and secondly, a relative could have gotten it for you cheaper.

With the most major arteries clogged what you are seen driving is just as important as how fast it goes. So the ideal holiday car is one that articulates style while waiting for the (circle all those that apply) rockslide, floodwaters, movie star gawkers, accident, fire engines, out of state RVs, undressing surfers, and/or crashed Ferraris to be cleared.

Only a couple of decades ago the car industry had written off convertibles as too dangerous due to potential deaths and injuries due to rollovers. Imagine if they had that same safety interest when they started tossing top heavy SUVs on the public which are so unsafe that the government, always slow acting, is forcing manufactures to offer some sort of stability control. That being said, there are now a terrific, entertaining, and fabulous group of convertibles available, including those with retractable hardtops. Here is a review of almost every convertible with the exception of the Ferrari—who wants to pay $100,000 over list, the Porsche, you can’t test our cars because you wrote they weren’t so good, and the restyled Mitsubishi. Pretty much all the others have felt the weight of our rears in their seats.

For the size doesn’t matter buyer the Mazda MX-5 (nee Miata) now comes with as a hardtop convertible that tucks into the briefcase sized trunk. You get room for two and your bottle of STF 50 sun block and not much else. On the other hand that’s all you need. With Mazda’s $22,000 flingable flyer the sky’s the limit for this young at heart tanning machine.

Want something even minier? Try the MINI Cooper convertible. You can order yours with a turbocharger if you fancy playing tag with the big dogs. Either way its Bulldog stance, retro interior, and road-hugging ride make the MINI both frugal and exciting. A perfect car for that tight parking space, too, and you don’t have to challenge your credit limit with a starting price around $22,700 for the fuel sipping 115 horsepower Brit.

Larger five passenger convertibles from Chrysler and Ford are best sellers due to their pricing, relaxed fit comfort levels, and easy egress. No surprises and plenty of standard features make the new 235 horsepower Sebring and 210 horsepower six cylinder Mustang practical driveway decorations for those who like their vehicles traditional while coveting that topless lust. Priced around $30,000 and $24, 000 respectively and ideal for those who just want to get there with a little style and ruffled hair. The Mustang is the nosier of the two with its rough and ready exhaust and a V8 that promises the joy of acceleration. However, it is deer unless you go with the base model. Our test GT was priced over $30,000, well over. It is good looking and can be equipped to your taste, but overall this Ford is going to have its hands full when the competition from Chrysler and General Motors enters into the fray in a few years. Get the base model, the very good six-cylinder engine, and drive a bargain. The Sebring is very large and has a fair amount of cowl shake on tax deprived roads. It is ideal for a large family or those who need room for four adults. Much better than the previous Sebring, the new ones is for those who like to cruise.

Hard top convertibles are hot and the Pontiac GT is one of the best sellers. But be prepared to pay $30,000 for the privilege of watching the metal top fold gently into the trunk to reveal its solar appeal. The 217 horsepower engine gets over 27 mpg. Cute, but the trunk space is Speedo sized. Until a new Firebird emerges, this is the best open Pontiac you can buy and can be well worth it in the long run. Don’t look for a hot rod or canyon cutter, though.

A bit more expensive, but hey, it’s the holidays, are hard top convertibles from Volkswagen and Volvo. We especially liked the Volkswagen Eos, as it not only had the metal top folding option, but a glass sunroof as well. So cool and priced well at about $30,000. The 200 horsepower engine is responsive, gets about 26 mpg, and likes to play. It is easy to see that the Eos is going to be a good seller for Volkswagen and resale promises to be high.

The Volvo was another matter. It was bigger and pricier at $43,000. Competent and eager to please the typical driver, the 227 horsepower Volvo has also been rated one of the safest convertibles you can buy. Spacious and well equipped, the C70 returned 18 mpg for this hardtop convertible with a glued to the road ride. When you compare the ride and handling of the Volvo to the Sebring in terms of performance, handling, and room there is no question they are very similar. So where does the extra $12,000 for the Volvo go? Probably into the abundance of safety features and a more elegant interior as well as that retractable hardtop. The Volvo won’t offend anyone and makes you feel good, but don’t race any Saabs. Speaking of which, the $39,000 Saab is one of our favorites, though it does not have a retractable hardtop. Sharp handling, able to attract attention especially in Electric Blue, this is an underrated driving experience with its turbocharged 210 horsepower engine. Great seats and a responsive engine help offset the 9-3’s large turning radius and dependence on premium fuel. Best of all, its still a bit quirky.

Covet moving to the head of the class? Try the $82, 000 BMW 6 Series convertible. This understated yet elegant convertible is stunning inside and out. Its 360 horsepower may not be as fast as Santa’s reindeer, but he doesn’t have Real Time Traffic information that suggests alternative routes around holiday traffic. And, I’m sure the view out of the BMW’s windshield is better. Fast fun for those who like to drive and don’t mind 19 mpg on high-test fuel.

If you willing to deal with the slow shifted SMG seven speed transmission BMW has put into the M6 convertible, you can count on 500 horsepower, a multitude of transmission, engine output, and ride settings, and a swift power soft top. We highly recommend that you drive this stunning four-passenger convertible and see if you can live with the iDrive and the shifting of the SMG. If you can this is one super fun ride that can get you to 60 mph in less than five seconds. The cost, over $105,000 and that doesn’t count the $3000 gas-guzzler tax. We got 14 mpg, but enjoyed every ounce. However, we never could master the transmission and the way it takes over for you by blipping the throttle for downshifts and being slow to upshift at times. Hopefully, this lovely engine will find happiness with a manual transmission shortly.

What says love more than his and her Mercedes convertibles? In this case the so fast $90.000 6.3 CLK AMG and the stunning retractable hardtop equipped SL 550 roadster. The SL550 has a new seven-speed automatic, a $94,800 price tag, and a 382 horsepower engine. A study in chic understatement, this convertible has everything from stability control to deployable rollover hoops. A great choice for the well kept. In the other corner of the garage is the “What has god wrought?” CLK AMG with 495 horsepower to propel this four-seat convertible to 60 mph fewer than five seconds while looking so innocent. Gas mileage, well better then we expected at 22 mpg in mixed driving.

The only Porsche we can recommend is the 911. The Boxter and the rest are very pricey and don’t offer the performance of other vehicles in their price range. You are paying a lot for the Porsche name at the dealer and at the service bay so why not get one of the truly great Porsche’s and buy the Cabriolet? It is solid, swift, and actually not too bad on fuel consumption. If you can afford the $137,000 get the turbo version and never have to use your rear view mirror again. Those flashing red lights are for you.

Last, and easily the most sexsational holiday vision for your driveway is the Bentley convertible. No need to decorate your dwelling, simply park this beauty out front and watch the traffic slow to view the true spirit of giving. Yep, it is expensive at $190.000, but you had 12 months to save, which is the real reason the holiday season is at the end of the year. The Bentley is a study in outrageous numbers. Two turbochargers, four wheel drive, six speed transmission, a dozen pistons being rammed into action by enough exploding hydrocarbons to make Exxon stockholder’s shout in glee, 15 mpg, 552 horsepower, and I didn’t’ even mention the gas guzzler tax. Whether it is humiliating the Highway Patrol helicopter, or just maxing out your gas credit card, this is the vehicle for those who aspire to show their true love of consumption in this season of giving.

Family conference: There are a few convertibles we couldn’t get for testing and that includes the updated Jaguar, Honda 2000, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse Sypder. The Volkswagen Beatle, Lexus, Toyota Solara, and PT Cruiser are all long in the tooth and don’t have much new to offer even though they are good value with the base engine. That being said our test revealed that buying a convertible no longer has to be considered a summer only decision. Much better top construction and a more solid chassis make the decision to own a convertible as ease as for a sedan or coupe. We especially like the hard top convertibles that blur the distinction between coupe and convertible and offer both glamour and practicality.

The convertibles can be grouped into four main areas. First, the bang for the buck category. This is where the Mustang convertible reins supreme. Not as smooth as the others, it nevertheless is fast fun. Second is the price is no object classification. The BMW M6 is quick and elegant, the Mercedes CLK AMG is a bargain, and the Mercedes SL and Bentley convertibles make those insurance payments feel almost worth it. Of these the quick CLG 6.3 AMG is the best combination of go fast and look good. The final category is based on friskiness. These cars are just plain fun to drive fast or slow. The Mazda MX-5 is the best here with the Volkswagen Eos surprisingly almost as fun. The last area is for those convertibles that are essentially for touring. The Chrysler Sebring, Volvo, and even the Saab fit here. The former two have plenty of room, but the Saab is just too cute to ignore.

Regardless of which classification fits, this is a great time to buy a convertible. And, they hold their value better than most other models. The only cavet is that they have reduced side visibility and are nosier than their hard top cousins. But hey, that’s what a high output stereo is for. Pass the sun block.

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