Toyota


Prius Prime: 70 mpg at 70 mph
by The Car Family
For more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

Forgot the old Prius, the new Prius Prime is better in every way except for the interior room. It handles well, has frisky acceleration, and is loaded with features. The larger battery is good for 25 miles of electric-powered go and you can fill up the 11.3-gallon tank on regular and go over 600 miles. Indeed, it was easy for us to get 70 miles per gallon at freeway speeds and even better results when the traffic got stickier. Some may decry its busy exterior, but the beauty here is on the inside where it counts. Yes, there are a few other suitors for the environmentally conscious from Hyundai and Chevrolet, but they do not offer the proven reliability of this Toyota. As for interior space, the new Prime battery pack takes up passenger space limiting the cargo capacity and back seat room. It is well worth the sacrifice.

We have been enthusiastic about Prius since it came out in the 1990s, and we are just as excited about this new model. It is quieter and easier to maneuver. However, the larger battery pack takes longer to charge using a 110 outlet requiring about six hours of plug-in time to get the full benefits of the electric battery range whereas the previous model could be topped off in three. A 240 line is noticeably faster, but may require residential rewiring.

Be aware that before you buy a Prius Prime your state may have incentives to encourage their use, including high-occupancy lane usage. The federal government also gives you a tax advantage such as a $2500 tax credit for the Toyota. In addition, every vehicle rating service names the Prius as one of the most dependable cars you can own. For example, in 25,000 miles of travel, our car had 80 percent of its brake pads remaining as the Prius used the regenerative braking to help with stopping.

Our test vehicle was the Advanced model that lists for about $34,000. You can order the Premium model ($28,800) and still get the 11.6-inch central touch screen, and a power driver seat, keyless entry/start, and wireless smartphone charging. There is also the entry-level Plus ($ 27,000) with considerably fewer features.

Mom’s view: Make sure to order the Star Safety System that includes ABS, traction control, brake assist for emergency stopping power, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution that equalizes stopping force to each wheel. I especially like the Smart Stop Technology that automatically halts the vehicle when both the accelerator and the brake pedal are pressed at the same time. Parking is a breeze with a 33.4 radius. Safety wise you get LED headlights and taillights, heated door mirrors, programmed grille shutters, navigation, automatic climate control, heated front seats, a proximity key and push-button start plus airbags everywhere. It is a joy to park, but the rear hatch lift over is a little high. The Prius Prime Advanced featured a heated steering wheel, color head-up display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, parking sensors, self-parking system, and blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, more powerful headlights, automatic high-beams, and lane-departure warning with a lane-keeping assist.

Dad’s view: The ride on the new Prius has dramatically improved with independent MacPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone style multi-link rear suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars. The electric steering is excellent, and the electric motors and four-cylinder gas engine work to provide a nimble and satisfying ride. If you need more power, such as for passing, clicking the Power button will bring plenty of acceleration. The Prius Prime is a joy to drive on longer trips as the seats have been improved. One of the biggest problems we had was forgetting to check the gas gauge and were shocked one day to notice the fuel warning light illuminated. Fifteen dollars later, we had a full tank and another 600 miles plus of trouble-free driving. The Prime has a plug-in port to charge the 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that enables an EPA-rated 25 miles of electric-only driving range. The combination of electric and gas propulsion and the continuously variable automatic transmission are nearly undetectable. Even when the Prius automatically turns off when stopped in traffic, there is no jerky movement as is common in the competition. The lithium-ion battery pack resides under the rear seats and weighs 265 pounds. Except for the noise from the tires chosen for gas mileage maximization vs quiet ride, the Prius Prime Advanced is easily the best and most reliable plug-in hybrid you can buy. In the past, the resale has been excellent as well. If you are worried the battery pack, it has a ten-year or eight-year warranty, depending on your state’s standards.

Young working woman’s view: This is a four-passenger sedan and the seats are comfortable. One can choose among a couple of setting depending on your needs while driving. The EV Auto mode is your best choice. Among your other choices are select Eco (very slow) or Power (very fast). The interior is well done and there are a variety of storage bins and plugs. I like the Prius Prime, but living in a condo I do not have access to an electric outlet, and thus the regular Prius would be my choice. Overall, easy to park, maneuver, and does not attract undue attention from ne’re-do-wells.

Young working male’s view: Toyota continues with its dash centered display, but the images are nearly invisible if you are wearing polarized glasses. The Advanced model has semi autonomous parking and an excellent 11.6-inch LCD touch screen that works well. Thankfully, there is a volume control knob. The JBL sound system is adequate. The inductive phone-charging pad in the center console, but the white color of the charging surfaces is a bit much. The large monitor looks good, but just means another layer of learning before you get accustomed to it. For example, the lower half of the display is buried at the bottom of the screen when you are using the GPS map. There is an abundance of audio alarms that need to be addressed before leaving the dealership. You are notified when a window is down when parked or a lane is being crossed without a turn signal on and a variety of other warnings. Finally, according to our local Toyota dealer, the Prius Prime plug-in chord costs over $1000 so keep good care of it.

Family conference: We highly recommend the Prius Prime to those who drive in heavy commuter traffic and still want to take a long vacation knowing that the Prius has excellent mileage, features, quality, and resale. Don’t let is futuristic exterior deter you from considering this gas sipper. It has a heart of gold and lithium-ion.

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Toyota’s Top Hybrids: Prius and RAV4
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/
Toyota RAV 4 and the Prius have provided consumers with a nice combination of utility and frugality with both cars offering room for a young family and exceptional fuel mileage. Both vehicles have a lot in common from pricing, to Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrains to class leading fuel mileage in the over 50 mpg for the Prius and 30 for the RAV. Indeed, if you are after economical travel these two are tough to top.

Prius Tourning

Prius Tourning

RAV4 Hybrid

RAV4 Hybrid

Of course, the real reason hybrids are popular is their fuel mileage. However, buyers need to do some math homework with several important variables to consider. First, how much more is the hybrid going to cost over a similar vehicle. The government has a handy site that simplifies this math at fueleconomy.gov.
With that in mind we tested two of the best hybrids from the most successful hybrid company in the world, Toyota. We weren’t disappointed.
Mom’s view: The RAV4 hybrid is easy to drive, park, and use. It can seat five, but is only available in the more expensive trim models. I wasn’t impressed with the RAV’s interior as it just looks and feels dated. I did like the utility tray and storage areas and the easy to use automatic rear hatch. You loose a little cargo area with the hybrid, but still get between 35 to 70 cubic feet of room depending if the rear seat is lowered. Safety wise, the RAV4 top of the line Limited includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length airbags, a driver knee airbag, rearview camera, blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert. An optional Advanced Technology package that includes an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system with a top-down-view parking camera system is also worth considering. We tested the Prius Four Touring model that has a much improved electronics and is loaded with safety features, too, with a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and air-bags most everywhere. My only problem with the new Prius was the white, really white, center console, and losing some rear seat leg room due to the placement of the batteries. Otherwise a really great car. My opinion is that the RAV4 is an excellent all-around family vehicle and the Prius, and I hate to write this, a really fun sedan. Both cars have excellent quality scores.

Dad’s view: The RAV 4 hybrid is all wheel drive and is the most fuel efficient vehicle in its class. The ride is excellent and, best of all, aggressive pricing makes it difficult to pass by for bargain hunters. The brakes take a bit to get used to as they are regenerative, but almost all hybrids have a similar feel. The RAV4 has the same system as Lexus NX uses and it shows. This is the best hybrid in its class for cargo and mileage. The ride is smooth and fairly quiet, but can be rough over tax-money deprived roads Driving the hybrid is enjoyable once you get used to the thrust the electric motors provide. All in all the RAV4 is a tidy SUV with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motors front and rear and a continuously variable transmission. The result is 194 horsepower SUV that uses front-wheel drive in normal operation, but automatically engages the electrically driven rear wheels when needed. In other words, a perfect vehicle for readers who want to be prepared for whatever nature throws at them while still being fuel frugal. The Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine aided by a pair of electric motor/generators. Using the console mounted power button maximizes thrust making it easier to pass and merge. In fact, it is addicting. However, the best feature in this new Prius is its improved brakes, suspension and driving dynamics. My choice would be the Prius because it is fun to drive and consistently get 50 plus mpg. With its 11 gallon gas tank full of unleaded a 500 mile trip will cost under $25 and no TSA waiting line.

Young working girls’ view: Neither car is beautiful, but both have an inner beauty and that is reliability. The RAV4 is spacious and honest and doesn’t try to fool you into thinking you are driving a luxury car. I found the Prius too difficult to get into with its lower entry and the unique center gauge placement wasn’t to my taste. The RAV4 hybrid was much easier and, with certain options, was a breeze to park. I would definitely get Toyota Safety Sense that includes collision alert, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, radar cruise control and more. I really liked the intelligent park assist that can be used for both perpendicular and parallel parking especially living in a parking challenged city. The cargo space is very generous and rear seat room was ample. A perfect SUV for a single or young family who love to travel winter or summer.
2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_inter

Young working male’s view: Both hybrids are loaded with electronic choices that make option selections difficult. For example, one package includes larger wheels, parking senors, and heated seats. No substitutions allowed. One thing I would get is Toyota’s Entune with the bigger 7-inch screen, smartphone-connected services,and a navigation. Not the best, but much improved, and make sure you get help with the set-up and tie-in with your cell phone. As much as I liked the vastly improved Prius driveability, the RAV just appealed to me more for its usefulness.

RAV4 Interior

RAV4 Interior

Family conference: Loaded with safety features, both priced similarly, the choice between the RAV 4 and Prius Touring hybrids is basically perception. Are you bold enough to make the Prius your daily driver or does the utility of the RAV4 hold sway. Either way they are unique and family friendly.

Last Year for Prius Plug-In; Hopefully not Forever
by
The Car Family

Good-Bye Old Friend

Good-Bye Old Friend

Toyota is making some bold moves lately, and we aren’t talking about pulling up stakes in California and moving to Texas, but it ending production of its much loved, but pricey, Prius Plug-In. The 2015 will be the last year for this model as Toyota looks to rethink, redesign, and reimagine what The Car Family believes was the best commuter car you could buy. Period.

To give you an example of what the model provided, it got a real world, daily use, mixed driving use, multiple driver use, 67 mpg average. The electric bill was only $4 extra a month using the off-peak hours feature. And, in some states the Plug-In was eligible for the coveted high occupancy permit saving an average of ten to twenty minutes of travel time on a typical commute. Add to that the high resale value, about 60 percent after three years, the exceptional cargo capacity, ease of loading, and ability to be parked in the smallest of spaces and you have a winner.

That being said, Toyota is facing more competition and is apparently rethinking the extra engineering and cost of a plug-in version to the insanely popular Prius. The cost of this option has already placed the plug-in over $5000 of the price of a Camry hybrid, although the Camry didn’t have the plug-in feature.

We shall miss what Plug-in owners affectionately call the PIP, and wonder how many potential buyers were opt for a non-Toyota product to replace it. One thing for sure, Toyota has weighed that decision well and is apparently willing to gamble that a new, improved version may attract PIP owners back into the fold in a few years. Stay tuned.

Priusization of the Nation: How Toyota Changed the World

by The Car Family

for more car reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

It started fairly innocuous with Toyota’s introduction of the Prius in 2000. It was ugly, underpowered and cramped, but the technology and fuel mileage were stunning for the price. The word was that Toyota was losing money on each sale and still many took one look and walked away from the nearly $20,000 pricing. After all gas was $1,40. The Prius was ignored by the major publications because it was slow, fairly plain looking and, let’s face it, Toyota wasn’t backing it with much advertising.   Since we test vehicles from a family viewpoint we immediately made it our car of the year and sent Toyota our award, the only automobile journalists that did so.

Unsure of the potential of the Prius, Toyota only ordered 1000 units per month for the first two years and this gave wings to the company’s planners and so  in 2004 they introduced the much sleeker, for  Prius. This second generation and model was again a sales success and today the Prius is the number one seller in the number one market in the United States, California. As Sam Butto of Toyota pointed out, ” I think the name Prius was, and is, perfect for the vehicle as Prius in Latin means to go forward, suggesting it is a predecessor of cars to come. And indeed it was a fortuitous choice.
 

1998001_2001_Prius_color-prv

Prius becomes a Household Name

 Today, nearly 15 years later, the term Prius and the idea of the Prius has enveloped the nation. Jokes such as the movement of the space shuttle Discovery through the streets of Los Angeles at Prius speeds are understood, something that was unheard of before Toyota took the bold leap to bring mass produced family hybrids to the world.

Ferdinand Porsche, yes that Porsche, developed the first gasoline-electric hybrid in the early 1900s and diesel electric hybrid locomotives have been around for generations, but it took Toyota to take the risk of bringing to market a vehicle that by all standards was a money loser and no one outside of the Sierra Club and Greenpeace were worried too much about the environment at the time.

Perhaps an even greater hurdle was the demise of General Motors’ all electric EV-1. It had a short driving range and a shorter lifespan. The Car Family thought the EV-1 was a stellar idea with regenerative braking, a quiet ride, and about 70 miles of power if you weren’t using the fast lane. The problem for the Prius was that people assumed future vehicles that used battery power were all plug-ins with a short range because of the EV1 legacy. This range worry was carried over to the Prius by the uniformed and thus Toyota’s product languished for a while. Honda sold a few of its sleek Insights, a two-seater hybrid, but despite their excellent fuel economy, the lack of storage and comfort rendered it ineffective in cultivating consumer interest.

006_2010ft_Prius-thmb

In 2000, Toyota only sold around six thousand Prius sedans, but the word was getting out that the Prius was a money saver and kind to the environment. Slowly sales increased driven largely by word of mouth and gas prices increasing to over $3.50. The result was sales of over 100,000. Today, Toyota is selling that many in six months and the demand is staggering even, with steady price increases. You can still buy a standard liftback Prius for just over $22,000, but many buyers are moving upscale to the solar roof paneled 5 model and even to the fully loaded Advanced Plug-in that list for around $40,000. The hot selling base Plug-In with the optional white paint, is the most coveted of all bringing premium pricing and why not with real world gas mileage figures easily topping 65 mpg.

Other Manufacturers Motivated to Join

 What is even more dramatic is that this Priusization of the nation has yielded to the public a choice of over 60 hybrid vehicles now and they include everything from a Porsche SUV to a Honda sports coupe. Toyota is upping the ante with the possibility of making all of their vehicles available with a hybrid option. This is not only driven by consumer demand, but by pending corporate fuel economy standards that will force automobile companies to have cars averaging over 50 mpg in the near future. That reality is augmented by the fact the steady surge in demand has carved out a lucrative consumer  niche for hybrids that can’t be ignored.  That belief is cemented by the fact that over five million hybrids have been sold around the world with Toyota earned profits on four million of those. And Americans buy the most.

Prius

Prius

The Prius has also established itself as a vehicle to be owned by environmental leaders and this clout puts pressure on other manufactures to keep pace. It also helped  prompt the government to give federal tax breaks. Progressive states also  adopted this policy and even offer owners the privilege of driving in the high occupancy lanes.

The Priusization has brought energy patriotism into vogue by reducing the United State’s dependence on imported oil. In 2012, 12,778,885 vehicles were sold and the average fuel economy was around 23 mpg. If even about 25 percent of these were a Prius the total gas burned would be reduced by over 40 percent. Of course, that is unrealistic, but it does show the potential that Priusization offers. And, just as importantly, the pressure it puts on other manufactures to compete by producing more efficient engines. Indeed, almost very hybrid now offered uses some of the basic ideas that Toyota helped bring to the public.

Finally, the Prius has become a cult favorite for both movie stars and those that want to fly their We Care colors. And today that cult is expanding as more families are tempted to test drive these sedans and find there is plenty of room, good performance–thanks to the Power button, and the ability to take 450 mile journeys without refueling. It is when they refuel the the real magic occurs as the Prius only uses about nine gallons of gas to  travel 450 or more miles. This creates expectations for other manufacturers to meet. In 2010 there was only one non-diesel, non-hybrid car that could get over 40 mpg on the highway. Today there are seven non-hybrids, 21 hybrids, and three plug-in cars that better that mark and there is little doubt that the Prius pushed these manufacturers into spending the funds to meet the competition and even tickled the German companies to expand their diesel powered line-ups.

The Real Meaning of Prius

The world Prius has also entered the media with terms such as Prius Progressives, and Prius Politics gaining immediate understanding. As well, the idea of the Prius as an environmental statement has now been somewhat overwhelmed by its practicality and utility appeal. Driving a Prius is no longer just seen as being caring, but pragmatic as well. Cities, such as Rancho Cucamonga are placing electric plug-in outlets at parks and businesses are buying Prius in fleet quantities. The reason is simple, the government is allowing 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, When you consider that the Prius can cost well under ten cents a mile and has very high resale you have an exceptional, and legal, tax benefit. And if you own a plug-in and use your business to charge the batteries the energy used is a business expense, too. Makes one wonder how long it will take before the government makes a Prius regulation for tax allowances.

In America only a few words have gone from proper noun to noun or genericized trademarks. “Crescent wrench, Kleenex, Xerox, Q-tip, Coke, and Jello to name a few. In the automobile world,this list includes brands such as Cadillac for quality, Rolls Royce for wealth, Jeep for off-roadability, and Edsel for poor value are some.  Joining this list now is Prius, the only vehicle in the modern era that has not only created an image, but a car whose name has joined popular lexicon for frugality, environmental concern, and yes, even slow moving.

For a list of all manufacture websites go to

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

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.

The Low Down on Hybrids

by The Car Family

for more reviews go to:

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

There are over 35 hybrids on the market from the new Toyota Prius C for under $20,000 to the Lexus and BMW hybrids at over $100,000. Gas mileage varies all hybrid models can vary from  over 50 to 21 mpg depending on the size of the vehicle and its use of the electric motors. What they promise is more power for less petroleum dollar. They aren’t offering a free lunch, but a healthier one. Most of these vehicles are capable of a 500 round-trip without even looking at the gas gauge. In town they are even more fuel friendly in daily commutes with 40 mpg and up figures common.

As usual, there is a trade-off and that is the fact the battery packs wear out and can be expensive to replace. Toyota charges about $2500 plus installation, but that expense could go down over time. Kia and Hyundai have announced a limited life time warranty on its’ batteries. Regardless, with gas around $4 a gallon and high resale values on used hybrids, it is financially well worth your time to consider a hybrid.

Kia’s Optima and Hyundai’s Sonata hybrids combine a 2.4-liter engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, a 30-kw electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer batteries to provide 206 horsepower and 35 city /40 highway and 37 mpg combined figures. Both have lots of features but the trunk space is limited.

If you need a tough SUV, Volkswagen’s new Touareg hybrid is an option worth considering. It is expensive, but very fast, especially considering it is rated at 20 mpg city and 24 highway and has a 7700 pound towing rating.

Toyota’s gas savers are the Prius and the plug-in Prius. Both are gas misers with 50 mpg ratings. We were able to get over 60 mpg with the new plug-in version. Easy to love, but if you need more room the Prius V is a larger version with a station wagon design. It will cost you ten miles per gallon, but may be worth it for those who need to haul those Mastiffs to the vet.

The Chevrolet Malibu Eco assist has 25/27/37 ratings. The Malibu is am excellent family sedan and the interior and ride are exception for a vehicle priced around $26,000. General Motors calls this a soft hybrid because the battery pack alone cannot power the sedan. The interior is grand and the ride exceptional. This is perhaps the best family sedan Chevrolet has ever made for the price.

At the other end of the family hauler hybrid category is the Infiniti M35h Hybrid with a MSRP north of $50,000 and fuel economy ratings of 27/29/32 mpg city/highway. The rear wheel drive Infiniti is another very fast hybrid and can use its battery power for long periods of time in traffic. It handles well and the leather-wrapped interior is very smart. Perhaps the best of the luxury hybrid sedans and certainly one of the fastest ever with 0 to 60 times in a little over five seconds. Wow. And we got 32 mpg in mixed driving. A wonder car.

Mom:s view: With all new Toyota Camry hybrid raises the bar for family hybrids with a starting price around $26,000 and room for five adults. It clearly is better than the Ford products at this moment. I didn’t like the Kia or Hyundai as much as the Prius plug-in and the Chevrolet. If I just wanted to save on gas I would get the Prius, if I wanted more comfort the Chevrolet would be my choice.The Kia and Hyundai are good looking, easy to use, but not as smooth as the others. No doubt the non-hybrid versions are nearly as frugal and less expensive.

Dad’s view: The Touareg was a wonder. It is very powerful and handles any conditions you can throw at it with ease. This Volkswagen is loaded with special features that makes it ideas for those with homes in the the mountains or who like off-roading. It has a very large fuel tank which can make most weekend trips fill-up free. However, my favorite was the Toyota Prius plug-in. If you stick with the base model it is $33,000, but you lose your spare tire as the extra battery pack goes there. We drove one to Santa Barbara and back and had over 100 miles left and the gas tank only holds 10.6 gallons.

Young working woman’s view: Call me stuffy, but I love the Infiniti and its glorious interior and peppy ride. This car is luxurious with just the right touch of dignity and economy to justify the expense. The reality is that the Kia or Hyundai are more in my price range. I really like the Hyundai best in looks and feel. The transmission was a bit hesitant at times, but the exterior, ride, and cost make it well worth the payments. If I had a family the Chevrolet would easily be my choice. It is the only one that really makes it easy to put in a car seat outside of the mundane Camry and expensive Infiniti. However, if I had the means the glorious interior and jet like performance of the Infiniti would be in under my car port and a lucky girl I would be.

Infiniti Interior

Young working male’s view: I like the look of the Kia, but the handy nature of the Chevrolet makes it my choice in terms of pricing, mileage and interior space. Before you go car hunting I would spend some time getting a fix on what options you want because these hybrids are pretty well loaded and so spending extra may not be necessary.

Family conference: The average commute for readers is over 40 miles and with weekend trips to the beach putting 20,000 miles a year on a vehicle is not uncommon. If that is the case these hybrids could save you a couple of thousand dollars a year on fuel.

For links to all manufacturers go to

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

Two Sedans to Charge Your Drive

by The Car Family

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

Even after spending weeks in these two vehicles it isn’t easy to tell you which one is best because there isn’t a best. It just depends. If you travel 50 miles or less on a regular basis the Volt is the one to own. It is a great drive and comfortable at speed. If you travel 12 miles of less the Prius is the one to own. The difference is what happens after you travel your electric-only distance in each car. At that time the Chevrolet Volt’s engine returns 34 mpg while the Prius tops 50 with ease. As for cost, the Volt is priced around $40,000 and Toyota has yet to price its plug-in version of the Prius. Regardless, it will come in under the Chevrolet due to the fact that uses many of the same parts as the existing Prius while Chevrolet’s Volt is new and uses far more expensive batteries to achieve its longer electric-only mileage.

Just in, the plug in version will be priced from $32,000 to nearly $40, depending on the amount of electronic goodies you want. Look for better range for the added battery pack and the government has an incentive that could take off a couple of grand from the total.  Meanwhile. Chevrolet has lowered the price of the Volt.

In our case, the Prius is the better fit and with the new models said to have the ability to control when that 13 miles of electric only extra battery pack will come into use it makes it even more desirable. Why? Because when you are at freeway speeds that Prius gives you 50 miles per gallon and when you hit traffic you simple hit the electric power only button and you aren’t going to use any fuel for over ten miles. Indeed, on our recent 200 mile venture the Prius gave us 62.3 mpg. The Volt does not have that feature, but does offer superior interior design and better highway ride.

Driving each vehicle is easy and hassle free. At night, when electric rates go down, you plug them into a 110 outlet. It takes three hours for the Prius and about eight or nine for the Volt as it has a far larger battery pack. Both cars have the ability to charge more quickly with a special 220/240 volt outlet connection.

If you like to drive fast the Volt is very responsive and highly underrated as a handling car. The weight of the large battery pack that sits low in the frame makes cornering a breeze. The Prius has its extra battery pack in the area below the rear hatch. This location means that the car does not have a spare tire. We would buy a space saver and sacrifice the trunk space if we were traveling away from services. The Prius and Volt both brake well and you hardly notice when the gas engines turn start. The Volt is the better performer overall. However, when you hit the power button on the Prius you are going to find yourself pleased with the added acceleration. It can become addicting.

There is one variable here that needs to be addressed and that is whether or not the extra cost of the additional battery pack in the Prius is going to be worth the few extra miles per gallon over the standard Prius. After all, the plug in version only gets you a few extra miles of electric only travel and it may costs several thousand dollars more. In our case it would be worth the extra. If we remembered to plug it in after six when the electric rates were lower and unplug it three hours later we would not have to buy any gas for months. This did not prove a problem for us.  We also didn’t have to worry about range anxiety in either of thee vehicles because if you want to take a longer trip the gas engines fire up. Finally, there is another consideration and that is the fact the Volt is made in America and the Prius in Japan. We are not being xenophobic here, but with the recent nuclear power plant problems in Japan and its impact on both parts and vehicles one might consider availability for granted. On the other hand, we have noted a few Chevrolet dealers were asking a premium price for the Volt.

Mom’s view: The Volt is a better family sedan. It is easier to get in and out of and has the features that we have been accustomed to over the years such as more passing power and passenger comfort. That being said, I like the maneuverability of the Prius more, although it takes a longer time to get used to its handling and braking characteristics whereas the Volt felt more handy. I would note here, that if you drive more than 50 miles a day and take frequent long trips the Chevrolet Cruze may be a better choice. It is a refined sedan with a huge trunk, priced at half of the Volt’s cost, and gets 40 miles per gallon on the highway. I found the Cruze the best compact car Chevrolet has ever built and well worth a test drive.

Chevrolet's new Cruze

In terms of design, the Volt is a winner, Everything is very well thought out with easy to read gauges and comfortable seating. The Prius is more basic. The rear seats offer less room and there is less useful cargo space. The dash layouts on both are simple, but the Prius offers more information once you learn to manipulate the screen buttons. Neither car has a good GPS with the Toyota locking you out when the car is in motion and the Volt’s being difficult to navigate. The Volt also has a center stack that is difficult to read and requires a longer learning curve.

Safety wise the Prius has driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, driver knee airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. Toyota’s Star Safety System features Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist. Crash tests for the regular model have been good. Since we were testing a prototype we can only surmise that the same scores would apply to the 2012 version. We always recommend ordering all the extra safety equipment which includes a Pre-collision System and Lane Keep Assist. The Volt gets nearly identical crash scores and such features as a StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, front, side, and knee air bags in addition to a roof-mounted head-curtain air bags. Our test Volt had the optional rearview camera and it worked well. Overall, I liked the Volt best except for the center stack and visibility concerns.

Dad’s view: So alike and yet so different, these two plug-in sedans are the future for those who can abide by their restrictions. For example, batteries don’t do well in extreme cold weather and there isn’t a lot of cargo room in these two. But for the majority of people, they are a perfect fit. Research has shown that the average commute is 16 miles. Now that means that half of the people travel less, which would make the Prius an excellent fit. And for the other half, the Volt would be ideal. Add to that the fact that many commutes are in heavy traffic. In that case, both are ideal because the engines shut down when traffic is stopped.

Engine wise, the Prius has a 1.8 liter engine that easily produces 98 horsepower and with the regular battery pack you can expect even more power, especially since the electric motors offer immediate torque. The Chevrolet Volt has a smaller engine with is its 1.4 liter seeking premium fuel, and with help from the battery powered motors provides a similar thrust, but with less engine noise. The Volt feels faster and reacts quicker to inputs. Advantage here to the Volt. As for my choice, I would go with Prius for two reasons. It is well proven and will undoubtably cost less.

Young working woman’s view: Of note is the recharge time for these two. Since the Volt has a larger battery pack it uses more household electricity. You do go further with that charge, but it takes longer. Special fast charging stations that use a 220/240-volt set-up are going to cost you a reported $2000 more. To me that isn’t worth it. However, if I had such a devise at work and could plug in my hybrid there it would be a real plus. The battery packs are said to last for at least a decade, but that really does not seem to be an issue as many Prius models have never had a battery failure in hundreds of thousands of miles.

For appeal it is all Volt. It comes standard with a lot of features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, remote ignition, cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a limited free OnStar subscription, a touchscreen navigation system, voice controls and a six-speaker Bose stereo with CD/DVD player, audio jack, iPod/USB interface and more. There is also a Premium Trim package and The Rear Camera and Park Assist package adds a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. I recommend the latter as the visibility outside the Volt is more restricted than the Prius. So Volt is the winner for me even though I much prefer the maneuverability of the Prius. It is just more trendy and up to date.

Young working male’s view: The Prius PHV is interesting in that you need to control your demand for forward thrust or else the gasoline engine fires up. I learned to feather the throttle is for no other reason than to avoid listening to the groan of the 1.8 engine. The Volt also has an exhaust note that isn’t very pleasing, but you don’t have to be so gentle with the accelerator pedal. The reason that some people complain about getting gas mileage in the 40s with the Prius is that they drive it like a gasoline or diesel only powered vehicle. These vehicles require a different driving style. Momentum is everything and taking advantage of there high mileage tires and the vehicles low rolling resistance is a must. You can easily pick-up speed going down the smallest incline in these sedans without having to use an throttle input. In mountain driving both cars have a lower gear to use to help slow the vehicle as they can pick up speed quickly on steep grades.

I had a difficult time trying to tell the Prius PHV from the its trimmer, unplugged sister. The only clue was the cutout in the left front fender that houses the electric input adapter. There were extensive decals annoucning that this was the new plug in, but basically that was it. I was somewhat concerned that the small door that covers the Toyota’s plug in connection does not lock with the central locking system. The Volt’s does. The Prius and the Volt both come with a kit that enables you to plug it into any 110 outlet. Toyota provides 22 feet of cord and be well warned that you must not use any other extension. The same goes for the Volt. I felt that Toyota should have followed the Volt in having the Prius receptacle lighted for night use. I also thought that the Volt had a better system of tracking the time left for a complete charge. It should be noted that we were in a prototype and that Toyota retail version will surely have many tweaks that will make it more user friendly.

The PHV’s cargo floor is a bit higher than in the regular Prius to allow for the added battery pack. The Prius PHV battery pack is a potent lithium-ion pack. Since I work making open software computers and servers at http://www.eracks.com I am familiar with these and find them reliable. The Prius uses a parallel-hybrid powertrain that is seamless and when you use the power button, almost frisky. I did say , almost. The 15-inch wheels are not nearly as nice as the Volt’s and the brakes and steering are vague and unfeeling. For my use the Volt would be the choice. Sexier and not so bland.

Family conference: No clear winner, but the one the fits our needs best is the Prius. The plug in model should be ready by 2012 and we have placed our name on the waiting list. Why? Simple, it is going to have a proven track record of reliability, high resale, and fits our driving needs. We dearly loved the Volt, but the pricing and fuel mileage once the batteries are depleted are a concern. If your daily driving needs are more aligned with the Volt it is worth the price, but if you drive further the Chevrolet Cruze is a strong consideration. The Cruze is our pick for the best of the compact gasoline powered vehicles at this time.

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

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