station wagon


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

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Lexus CT 200h: Thrifty, Nimble, and Stylish
For more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

An inexpensive Lexus might sound like an oxymoron, but that is what the Lexus CT 200 h is and with it comes the attributes the marque has brought to buyers including vehicle quality and buyer satisfaction ratings that top the charts, as well as a frugality usually associated with the ubiquitous Toyota Prius. Of course, there are some caveats with this Lexus and they are in it diminutive size and it performance. Nevertheless, if you want a good looking hatchback that can get you a combined 42 mpg with the Lexus treatment the CT is your only choice. Helping make it an interesting choice is the utility of its four-door hatchback body style that make it an ideal choice for commuting, runs to the vet, or a weekend escape. 2014_Lexus_CT_200h_020

The CT 200h is very athletic and trim making it capable of being piloted through crowded mall parking lots as well as canyon runs with equal aplomb. Don’t expect exuberant response because the 134 horsepower engine is designed with economy in mind. The good news is that the pricing of this Lexus is exceptional. Indeed, you can acquire this Lexus for less money a well equipped Prius, although the latter may have more interior space and better fuel ratings. The Lexus comes standard with alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors and puddle lamps, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free technology that connects to select smartphones and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface. Options include a Seat Comfort, and Premium, Leather, Navigation package features a rearview camera, voice-controlled navigation system, Display Audio and F Sport package for those who want the go fast look.

Mom’s view: The CT is an interesting four passenger hatchback that has a cool, almost retro look. Very intuitive and its hybrid feature makes commuting effortless. Although the ride height is quite low, the visibility is good and the turning radius tight enough to make U-turns effortless. Safetywise, the Lexus has antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, and airbags everywhere. Lexus’ telematics system automatically provides collision notification, stolen-vehicle location and emergency assistance. Most importantly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CT 200h its highest rating of “Good” in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength, and for whiplash protection. Overall, you get a Lexus that does most everything well at a bargain price.

Dad’s view: Power for the 2015 Lexus CT 200h hybrid isn’t overwhelming, but when the electric motors and gasoline engine are united freeway merging and passing aren’t a concern. The CVT is excellent and keeps the 98-horsepower 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine on task. Handling is a good as most hybrids, especially the good feel of the steering and brakes. Very competent for what it is. The ride is compliant, but don’t expect the same level of quietness that is in the more expensive Lexus models. Still, it is enjoyable to drive and grows on you. The CT is like a secret that more people should know about as it provides a fun ride with frugality, exceptional suspension, comfort and quality of the Lexus brand without the big bottom line.

Young working woman’s view: The controls are fairly easy to master, but the control for the info-entertainment entries takes a while to learn as it uses a unique mouse-like interface and a joystick to move the cursor on the screen. It provides excellent feel, though. Interestingly, despite its size, the backseat has an amazing amount of leg and head room. The doors, however, are a bit slim so entry wearing a dress requires some practice. The glovebox and door pockets are diminutive, but the backseats can be folded down to provide access to nearly 35 cubic feet of cargo area. I really liked the smoothness of the CT as it switched between electric and gas modes and auto stop-start functions smoothly. BMW and Porsche could learn from Lexus in this regard. You can select three different driving modes from normal for day to day outings, Eco for crowded commuting, and Sport for a more aggressive feel.
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Young married man’s view: Finally got hitched and this would make a fine addition to the family. The CT has several features I admire such where Lexus claimed to use bamboo speaker frames and trim items made from plant materials. Although it looks small, once inside it does not feel that way. With the requirement that all news cars have backup cameras next year I was surprised that this was still part of an option package on the CT. That aside, I found the optional voice-command HDD tilt-screen navigation system with remote controller, the Enform emergency notification system, NavTraffic to be easy to use and quick to respond. The joystick control actually provides feel as you move it about. Very cool.

Family conference: The 2015 Lexus CT 200h is the most affordable Lexus with a starting around $33,000 and we have seen some models well loaded for this price. For that you get a handy little rig that enjoys pleasing its owner whether it is sipping fuel, parking in the smallest of spaces, or just making you proud every time you enjoy the many luxury features. A great way to reduce your carbon footprint, too.

BMW Diesel Sport Wagon: The Family Bimmer
By The Car Family

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

There is something for everyone in the BMW 328 all-wheel drive diesel wagon. For the family there is room for five and a dog or two. For the enthusiast there is the typical excellent BMW handling, suspension, and brakes. For the frugal there is the 30 plus mpg highway mileage and the reliability of a diesel engine. And for the adventurous that all-wheel drive makes light off-roading an enjoyable task. Of course, all these ingredients come at a cost and the wagon’s base price is just north of $40, 000 BMW.

2014 BMW 328d Sedan and xDrive Sports Wagon.

The real story is the BMW diesel engine which has a unique feature that turns off the powerplant at stoplights to save fuel. It starts immediately when you remove your foot from the brake or push the accelerator pedal. BMW’s diesel starts quickly, even in colder weather, with very little chatter normal associated with such robust engines. Matted to an eight speed automatic transmission the wagon does not have to be refueled for about 500 miles.

Mom’s view: A nice combination of practicality and sexy, this BMW even comes in an M Sport package and enough electronic programming features to keep a teenager happy for weeks. There is the iDrive infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, and a host of other features that make your life easier… You can even program the suspension. I left the wagon on the Comfort setting and was quite happy with the result, but I could have chosen Eco, Sport and Sport Plus. My advice is to do your homework first as the option list is extensive with an abundance of features for safety, handling, and entertainment. If you aren’t judicious with your choices the price can touch the $60,000 mark, but for that you get a car capable of most everything but driving itself. Oh, it does have an automatic parking feature if you must.

2014 BMW 328d Sedan and xDrive Sports Wagon.

Dad’s view: An interesting choice, this wagon demands attention from those looking for the utility of a SUV and the benefits of a low center of gravity and the ability to easily achieve over 40 mpg on the highway. The ride is impressive with very little noise and the understated interior has superior fit and finish. Interestingly, BMW has equipped the family station wagon with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters to provide control freaks a bit of fun in maximizing the diesel engine’s 280 pounds-feet of torque whenever the need arises. The acceleration is very linear with surprising initial acceleration. Using the Eco mode does give you better fuel mileage, but dulls the driving dynamics. The Eco mode is best used on long stretches of divided highway. The xDrive drivetrain is very seamless and is reassuring, especially when the weather is inclement, however, going off road is really limited due to the wagon’s low clearance level. If you want to play in the dirt BMW’s SUVs are more suitable. You do pay a small premium for the diesel package, but this difference can be made up in about 30 months of normal driving due to the diesel’s better fuel economy, especially considering that most BMWs require premium fuel. Look for good resale too, as this is a fairly rare model. It is an oxymoron to label a car both sporty and frugal, but this BMW is just that. I would get the upgraded interior and have a one car does it all vehicle capable of everything from ski trips to driving on Pismo beach to kidney challenging eight hour journeys without refueling.

Young working male’s view: The 328d diesel wagon requires a special additive called AdBlue that helps with emissions and needs to be replenished at normal oil change times. And don’t forget that because the diesel won’t start if it is not supplied. Essentially, that’s all that is required to enjoy the benefits of this diesel wagon. BMW’s iDrive system has a significant learning curve, but a good salesperson can provide you with some worthy tips to make the benefits easier to utilize. The display is easy to see, as it is the driver’s line of sight, and the SiriusXM is very worthwhile. Interestingly, the iDrive even has a feature that enables you to draw letters and numbers with your fingers and confirms such requests by voice or visually. Interesting, but not as valuable as the optional head-up display as it is difficult to keep this vehicle at legal speed limits. The large panoramic sunroof is nice and the safety net is a lifesaver in emergencies. My thoughts are that the BMW buyer must decide between this and the BMW X3 or X1, which offer increased ride height and useful cargo space, but lack the handling, lower load height, and economy of the wagon.

Working woman’s view: There is adequate cargo space and the 40/20/40-split folding backseat add more useable room as the wagon lives up to its name. As usual, BMW has a variety of option packages. I would certain opt for the Driver Assistance Package Plus with its backup camera, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, side and top-view cameras and proximity sensors as well as collision warning. BMW has a reputation of being well built with excellent handling, superior braking, and performance all the while providing good fuel mileage. The wagon fits and adds the unique factor. I found it compelling, but the rear visibility is limited.

Family conference: If you are looking for something albeit tidier than the ubiquitous SUV, this BMW might be just the tool. The diesel engine is well worth considering, but do your research when ordering options.

Nissan Versa Note: You Can Carry it All

By The Car Family

For more vehicle reviews go to www.motorists.org/carfamily

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

Searching for a snappy vehicle that gets gas mileage in the 40 mpg range, offers ample cargo space for a growing family and is cute enough to brighten up a gloomy day, take note; Nissan’s Versa Note. This roomy hatchback also adds one element missing in the competition and that is a starting list price under $15,000. Not bad for a competent, willing, and easy to maneuver vehicle, but it has one more notable attribute. This Versa Note would make it an ideal go to college car. You can pack the all the dorm room furnishing inside, park it in the tightest of parking spots, and never have to worry about your future graduate being in a speed contest because the 109 horsepower engine is built for frugality not velocity. Nevertheless, there is ample torque from the four cylinder engine to make freeway merging reassuring.

2014 Nissan Versa Note

Mom’s view: A sharp looking exterior hides a rather bland interior. However, the controls are easy to reach and visibility is outstanding, I would opt for the more upscale SV and SL models that offer the amenities I appreciate such as an ungraded interior fabrics and available heated seats. Speaking of which, the seats are a bit tight for those with girth concerns, but they are comfortable even on long trips. Those riding in the backseat are going to love the huge amount of room the Note offers. The rear cargo space is very generous and there is even a slim package shelf under the main floor for that iPad or laptop to cozy. Nissan’s Versa sedan costs less so you may want to cross shop them, but I found the looks of the Note more aesthetically pleasing and the hatchback configuration makes it easier for me to load. The greatest plus in owning the Note is in its versatility giving ample credence for the company’s selection of the Versa name. I also liked the way it handled in traffic and the slightly higher seating position that made it easy to enter and leave as well as see traffic ahead. Good value, a cute face, a tight turning radius and achieving hybrid type fuel mileage without the high cost of a hybrid were the closers for me.

 

Dad’s view: The 1.6 liter engine is designed for fuel economy and thus I would recommend the more upscale CVT equipped models to keep the engine in its sweet spot as much as possible. The initial acceleration is adequate, but you are going to have to be a bit abusive to the accelerator when going skiing with four adults and luggage. Brake feel is good and the steering surprisingly well weighted. Overall, this is a very enjoyable rig to commute with as can safely navigate through traffic and an wiggle its rear into tight parking spots the Kardashians could only dream about. The engine noise is fairly well muted and at cruising speed things settle down allowing you time to appreciate the option packages the Note offers. In fact, there is so much optional technology available that you could tickle the $19,000 mark. But I have noted that Nissan dealers are offering some enticing deals that truly make the MSRP truly a suggestion.

 

Young working woman’s view: The 360 degree Around view monitor comes only on the high level models, but it has to be seen to be believed, literally. It is so useful that it is almost a necessity once you get used to it as the Around system provides an “aerial” view of the Note and its surroundings. Great for tight parking situations. In fact, it is going to spoil you for any other vehicle that does not have this safety feature. Go to your Nissan dealer just to see the 360 Around view if nothing else. You can also order GPS and information and entertainment systems that go far beyond what you would expect in a car at this price. Young parents are going to love how easy it is to put a baby seat in as you don’t have to stress your back. The rear doors open wide and the height of the Versa means you don’t have to reach so far. The seniors shouldn’t pass up the Note either. It is economical to own and operate, carries large yard sale finds with ease, and there aren’t the usual blind spots. If you own a RV, with the proper equipment towing the Note with its light weight and spacious interior would make it an ideal choice. The Versa Note is a funky hatchback with a lot to love

2014 Nissan Versa Note

 

Young working male’s view: If you go with the SL package you can get USB socket, 4.3-inch color display, a fun to use Easy Fill system that monitors tire pressure, and an assortment of other smart driving and comfort features. Step up to the SL with the Tech package, which I recommend, and you get a larger monitor, navigation, the sensational Around View camera, satellite radio, Pandora, voice reading texts, Bluetooth audio streaming, and more. You just have to get this package as it adds so much to the Note’s enjoyment and if you are driving a Note you must have your tunes.

 

Family conference: The Note is unique in that it could be ideal for a one car family or as a second car or even as a handy tow behind RV choice. It is not a luxury car. For that move up to the smooth Nissan Maxima. What really separates the Versa Note from the competition is the myriad of technology available and its ability to offer owners a vehicle that can meet their needs without challenging their budget.

 

 

Audi allroad: You Can Have it All

 

by The Car Family

 

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

 

First, don’t leave the dealership without a complete explanation of all the electronics on this handsome station wagon. There is so much technology built into the $40,000 bank vault on wheels that you sometimes question whether it can drive itself. Although we dearly love the Audi Q5 SUV, this station wagon is much more sleek and clearly intended for a different buyer. It is the perfect ski car and always a treat to look at and drive. The ride is uneventful. The only downside was that the option packages are dear so take the time to do your homework before you shop. For example, the allroad Prestige package adds $9000 to the tab. However, you do get a plethora of very important features such as lights that illuminate corners as you turn, an elaborate audio and information system, and a powerlift gate, just to name a few.

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Audi selected the allroad name based on the vehicles slightly raised stance and four wheel drive, (quattro) system that enables the wagon to take on inclement weather and mild off-highway excursions with ease. There is little competition for this unique vehicle and one look at the glamorous interior makes those with the need and wherewith not to look elsewhere. It is a classy, family friendly, and sophisticated package that offers the opportunity for buyers to show that they are marching to a different drummer, one who performs in an orchestra and not a band.

 

 

Mom’s view: Taking the roads in inclement weather or even the high Sierras in winter has never been easier. What is most unexpected is that at altitude the turbocharged four-cylinder engine never feels oxygen deprived and the eight-speed automatic transmission is so seamless that the canyons and passes just melt away. Very reassuring. But the real pleasure is the interior with a more is more approach. Nappa leather, and a choice of walnut, ash, oak or aluminum trim, are eye candy, but the way the dash lights up at night is the real treat. From a practical viewpoint, there are 17 cubic feet behind the second-row seats and 51with the rear seats folded. The liftover isn’t too high despite the Audi’s seven inch raised suspension. The motorized rear hatch is a must have as it easy to operate and so useful when you have your hands full. Safety wise there are antilock brakes, traction and stability control, airbags most everywhere, and a blind-spot warning system. The handling and braking were fine, but not sporty. My opinion; one sharp mall mobile.

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13allroad_23dash

 

 

Dad’s view: I didn’t think I would enjoy this vehicle with its turbocharged, 2.0L 4-cylinder engine and mild ratings of 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, but the exceptional transmission kept the engine on task in impressive fashion. Indeed, this was the perfect package for high terrain driving and the 20/27 gas mileage was a plus. We registered 24 in mixed driving. The higher center of gravity does promote some lean that the lower to the ground A4 Avant doesn’t exhibit, but the higher stance does improve visibility. The steering is well weighted and the brake are confidence  builders. A good alternative to the Audi SUVs, but it is much more responsive and draws attention from fashion minded folks.

 

 

Young working male’s view:

 

The MMI infotainment system is complex and the myriad of control systems enables you to custom tailor this five passenger wagon to your own needs. When you use the Prestige’s Drive Select system you can adjust the steering, accelerator, and transmission settings. If you want to pay a monthly fee you can have Audi’s connect feature that has a navigation system tied in with the Internet and Google, and that means you can achieve a Street View of your destination. Impressive, and you can even communicate with your car from your computer as well as use a number of Wi-Fi devices at the same time. And, you can use voice activation. That is what I am talking about. For a few more shillings, make that Euros, you can let your ears feast on the Bang and Olufsen Audio option audio system. Too rich for my demographics, but it has a certain elan.

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Young working woman’s view: You can order the allroad in three version Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Even the base model Premium, a term really not appropriate for any Audi, provides 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights, cruise control, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power front seats with lumbar, 10-speaker system with CD player and satellite radio. The top of the line Prestige comes with adaptive headlamps, a blind-spot warning system, a more sophisticated sound system and you can opt for adaptive cruise control, and rear sunshades. You get the idea. This is one vehicle you need to do your homework on before you shop. Now for the important part, it is wonderful to look at, drive, and feels sure footed in all types of weather and I loved it, but the MSRP requires reflection. Pricing starts at $40,495 for the Premium, $43,795 Premium Plus and $57,170 for the Prestige model loaded. The warranty is four years/50,000 miles. Sharp looking, easy to love and a car that makes you feel good inside and out.

 

 

Family conference: There is no doubt that the vast price range of this Audi and its high value option packages are going to challenge potential buyers, but one drive in the allroad as it is unique, fun to drive, gets good fuel mileage, and its outstanding looks make this a first choice for those wanting the versatility of a station wagon with the utility of all wheel drive.

 

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

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Toyota has a new Prius Prius and this one is bigger, sort of. It uses the same platform and full hybrid powertrain as the current version but squares off the back to gain more than 50 per cent more interior cargo space .

Called the Prius v, this version has been redesigned with an extended roofline with revised tailgate. Inside, the second row seats have slide adjustment  and can be reclined through 45 degrees. The valuable 60:40 split rear seat adds room, especially since the front passenger seat can also be folded flat.

Options include a panoramic sunroof, but the real story is the gas mileage which should be nearly the same as the exiting gas sippers. There will also be the fun power button for added acceleration and a CVT with electronic gear selector. Wireless multimedia systems are promised.

The Car Family thinks this is a winner and can’t wait until this summer to test one. Shades of the old Toyota Camry station wagon, though.

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.

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