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Buick LaCrosse

by The Car Family

For more reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/new/carreviews/index.html

 Buick has made a better, ah, Buick. Nothing more, and nothing less. If you like Buicks, this is the best one. If you don’t like them this model isn’t going to get many consumers to leave their Toyotas, Fords, and Chryslers unless they appreciate its understated looks and familiar accommodations.

The good news is that there aren’t many flaws with this car. However, it isn’t going to create much envy with the competition for three main reasons. First, the engine is not fuel efficient despite its ratings. If you get 20 mpg you are probably doing well. Secondly, the room in the backseat both in terms of legroom and headroom are not generous. Finally, the lack of some features that we feel should be standard such as side airbags, are extra cost options.

Buick is a big seller for General Motors and it now firmly holds the ground between the Cadillac and the Pontiac. It does so resolutely with a fine record of build quality and customer service. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Buick model line has not resonated well with the younger buyers. Indeed, the average Buick owner is well past 65-years-old. Thus the LaCrosse has being designed to appeal to younger buyers and it just may with a sportier feel and energetic engine. Perhaps what might most make it most attractive to the youthful customer are a streamlined roofline and more shapely shape. Unfortunately, that makes maneuvering in and out of the front seats an exercise that requires a supple body, as you have to lower your body and duck your head at the same time. It is not a difficult move to master, but it definitely is not for those who are not flexible. For them we recommend our favorite Buick, the Park Avenue or, if you need even better value, the Rendezvous van.

Buick has made the LaCrosse in three trim levels, the CX, the more sporty CXS, and the luxury oriented CXL.  The CX is the price leader and comes with the 200-horsepower, 3.8-liter (3800) V6, a power driver’s seat, a stereo/CD, and OnStar. If you upgrade to the CXL you find yourself sitting on leather, looking at a more luxurious trim level, and riding on alloy wheels. The CXS offers Buick’s new 3.6 liter V6 that produces 240 horsepower and is definitely more youthful in ride quality. It has a bigger set of wheels and sportier suspension. For those who dread the thought of getting into a frigid car in winter, Buick adds an interesting option in the form of a remote starter. All you need to do is point it at the frost covered LaCrosse and it jumps to life with its very fast acting heater and defroster preparing the interior for your highness’s entry. There is even a good- sized cupholder for the required early morning coffee cup.

Mom’s view: I am always interested in anything new from Buick since it has an outstanding reputation for build quality, resale (http://www.nada.com) and reliability. So when the all-new LaCrosse was announced we pounced on the opportunity to test it out. It is certainly a better Buick, but whether it has enough going for it to capture sales from the competition is uncertain.

Someone at Buick should find out a way to shut the trunk lid without getting his or her hands dirty. There is no handle. In addition, when you use the remote to unlock the rear deck lid it does not pop open high enough. I also found the glare from the chrome strip that runs the width of the dash annoying as it is reflected in the side window where you constantly see it when checking the mirror. There is more that I found needed to be explained by Buick designers. The combination of small side view mirrors, and large doorframes create blind spot on both sides of car. The seats have a manual rake

adjustment, although the fore and aft controls are electrical, and the lever is awkward to reach, as it is located far back on the side of the bottom cushion. I also have no idea whose idea it was to make the interior trunk release so bothersome. You have to have the car in park and depress the door lock for a couple of seconds to open the trunk lid. This caused me much angst at the airport where I was cited by the police for blocking the pick-up lane since I had the car in park in a no stopping zone. Yes, I am fighting the ticket.

Getting in and out of the front seats wasn’t as easy as it was on one of my favorites, the Buick Park Avenue. The A pillar cuts into the entry space. Once inside the layout is clearly not cutting edge, but old world in appearance. You can order three across front seat seating so the LaCrosse can carry six, but it would be tight. The plastic wood trim is not badly done but it is so dark and brooding that it looks out of place with the gray interior of the test car.

The instruments were easy to read, but I had a major complaint about the windshield wipers. It rained a great deal on our test and even at the highest speed they could not keep up with heavy rainfall. I am not talking about torrential, just above average, and it struggled.

My greatest disappointment with the LaCrosse was its poor gas mileage. On a trip with the family onboard and the cruise control set at 75 through the desert we averaged less than 20 mpg. This same trip with the more expensive Toyota Avalon saw 27 mpg.  The new V6 engine in our test vehicle has ample scamper power, but I never felt its 240 horsepower was as enjoyable as the old 3.8 with the optional supercharger providing the poke.

Safety wise the Buick had front dual-stage airbags and OnStar. The problem for me was that unless you order the more expensive CXS model the ABS is an option and even on that model stability control system extra, as are full-length side curtain airbags and a reverse-sensing system. I would like to see all these types of safety features as standard equipment on a passenger vehicle. If family genes are indication though, this should be a very safe vehicle as its sister, the Buick LeSabre, was listed as one of the safest cars of all time.

The driver’s information center came with current weather, gas consumption, fuel range, and time on the road readouts that we were easy to understand. I was surprised to see a steering wheel that both tilted and telescoped and I liked the size of the wheel and how it felt. Other items I liked about the LaCrosse were the OnStar, the ease of which you could change the stereo controls and cruise control features. The heater was superior and the heated seats had two settings. Satellite radio is also available and highly recommended if you travel a great deal.

On the road I noticed that the rear view mirrors needed to be slightly larger to improve side visibility and that the ride of the car was quite solid and, should I say, a little BMWish in feel. The engine was strong in this front wheel drive model, but I didn’t notice any torque steer. The transmission works well, although I would have liked to see an overdrive gear to get that gas mileage where it belongs on long trips.

Overall, for the price of nearly $34,000 (US) I felt like the LaCrosse should provide me with a more exceptional interior and exterior appearance. I am a fan of the understated look, but for that type of money I would like a little more bling.

Dad’s view: The real news here is the double-overhead-cam 3.6 aluminum V-6 with variable valve timing that creates 240 hp and 225 lbs. ft. of torque nearly everywhere along it rev range above 3000 rpm. It is quiet, has good pick-up, and appears ready to take its place under the hoods of the new Buick line-up. However, as all The Car Family stated, the gas mileage wasn’t very good.

I was frankly surprised at the handling the LaCrosse provided. This Buick uses an electric Magnasteer system for its power steering that provided fairly good feedback and is easily the most responsive vehicle in the Buick line-up as it takes the steering angle and vehicle speed into account before adjusting the power assist. A fully independent suspension with front strut and a rear tri-link suspension give it a well-dampened effect, but nothing Buick owners would find objectionable. The ride is fairly quiet and the aluminum engine cradle helps keep the weight down to 3500 pounds. You can tow 1000 pounds, according to Buick.

The gas throttle has an electronic control that takes a while to get used to, as it tends to respond to initial inputs more dramatically than other Buicks. The acceleration is good to 60 mph, look for a time around eight seconds, and it has enough energy to easily conquer hills with a full family onboard. The four speed automatic transmission is an excellent unit, but it does need that extra fifth gear to enable the engine to loaf more at speed and increase fuel mileage.

Clearly, the LaCrosse is a step in the right direction for Buick and should quickly make aficionados forget the Century and the LaSabre.

Young working woman’s view: This is clearly a Buick in both looks and treatments. Buick has improved the silence in the interior with its “Quiet Tuning.”  This was accomplished by using more sound-deadening materials and a special Sandwich-construction steel panels that is said to reduce noise, and thicker carpeting. It works, but don’t do a back-to-back drive with a Toyota Avalon or you are going to be disappointed.  The interior look is an acquired taste, but there is nothing that would detract a potential buyer except for the dreaded chrome strip alluded to by my mother. It is not only a distraction, but out of place in this understated vehicle.

Driving the LaCrosse is quite easy. It responds well, gives you enough road feel, and the car has more than enough speed. The brakes are reassuring with little dive under emergency stopping. I found it easy to park and roomy inside. It would not be my first choice, but owning this Buick owning one would not be embarrassing either and I think that is a credit for Buick in its quest to reach the younger buying demographic.

Young working male’s view: My singing career is starting to bud. Just sold 200 CDs to Finland. Who says the Europeans don’t know good tunes. Anyway, this Buick is just not in my field of vision and so I give my time to my Grandfather.

Grandfather’s, not working and not interesting in working view: Didn’t like it. Looked like a new old car. There wasn’t enough room in back and getting in and out of the front seats had me holding on to the top of the car so I wouldn’t hit my head. It wasn’t all that quiet inside compared to the Toyota Avalon we just tested, but it was cheaper. You get what you pay for. I expect you read that before. The trunk lid was hard for me to close. My hand kept slipping off the freshly waxed paint and there wasn’t any other place to grab it. I liked the Park Avenue much better. It even looked slinkier.

I really enjoyed the XM Satellite radio. I was singing along to all the top bands from the 30’s and 40’s much to the chagrin of my protégé, Mr. Simple Thoughts. Sort of interesting that I learned electronics by building a crystal radio set and now you get hundreds of stations without any static. Just pay the money. Being a veteran of these tests, this is my second thanks to my hip-hop rapping grandson, I prefer the Sirius satellite offerings more.

Since I have owned a number of Buicks in the past, can you say Roadmaster, I think that this one is quite good for the younger folks. I just felt out of place in it. Maybe progress isn’t what I thought it would be.

Family conference:  Although we liked the more expensive CXS with its many extra features, we encourage you to look at the less expensive CXS model with it proven 200-horsepower, 3.8-liter (3800) V6 that meets the stringent Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standards if you don’t mind the floaty ride. However, if you want the well-optioned CXS prepare to see a sticker price of $33,750 (US) for the heated seats, traction control, side-curtain airbags and XM satellite radio. Either way you get a much-improved Buick, but be prepared to battle that chrome strip reflection and learn to duck your head. For all manufacture websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/auto/index.html

Reviews: Dodge Magnum versus Chrysler 300 C

By The Car FamilyFor more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/new/carreviews/index.html

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

Update: This is the last year for the Magnum so good deals could abound.

A perfect license plate for either the Chrysler 300C sedan or the Dodge Magnum station wagon would be “Attention Hog.” That’s right, these cars gather eyes as easily as Donald Trump fires people. Call it risk taking or just plain back to the future thinking, but DaimlerChrylser has created two family haulers that are credit friendly, handle well, and stir the juices. What is more noteworthy is the company has brought back the HEMI engine and that brand name still has cachet with many buyers, even though we feel that having 340 horsepower in a passenger sedan or wagon is clearly overkill. However, Chrysler did it responsibly providing good gas mileage figures of over 20 mpg. After driving models with the base six cylinder and the bad boy HEMI we whole-heartedly recommend you drive both the sedan and the wagon with each of the three available engines because you might be surprised. Although a lot of attention has been placed on the HEMI the other eight-cylinder engine and the base six-cylinder model are more than adequate except for mountain driving and towing.Inside the Dodge and Chrysler there is room for four with five a possibility. The interior is modern and certainly not what one would expect of a Chrysler product in the past. The trunk has a very handy cargo net and except for a short-range remote, is easy to open and load.Of course, our favorite was the Magnum because of its in your face chopped top appearance. Indeed, it reminded us of the coveted Chevrolet Nomad wagon with it small windows and high waistline. This is one Dodge that looks like a custom car and can even be modified to make it even trendier.

Riding this bumper crop (pun intended) of DaimlerChrysler products the company has decided that the HEMI should be modified even more and is going to provide one with 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, special Brembo brakes, retuned suspension, and supercar performance. Can you say world class?

With most new products there is some need for refinements. The seats can be uncomfortable, especially the less adjustable passenger seat, and the visibility to the rear and to the sides is restricted for both the Dodge and Chrysler. The plastic seems to be less attractive looking than in other vehicles in this price range and we noticed the covering of the front headlights had small irregularities. Tire noise is noticeable, but the wind noise made is very subdued. We also noted that there is just one key lock and that is for the driver’s door. Small quibbles aside, this is a superior first effort from DaimlerChrysler.Mom’s view: Understated would not be a term to describe these two fellows. They are in your face, larger than life, and appear to have been dipped inside and out in the chrome tank. That being said, it is not a bad ride and the cars have very good safety ratings and certain to be someone’s pick for car of the year.Chrysler offers three engine choices starting with a base 190-hp V6, a Touring version with a 250-hp V6, and the HEMI. When this large displacement engine is tucked into the sedan it continues one of the alphabet Chrysler cars being labeled a 300C model. I have no idea what they are going to call the sedan when it hosts an even more powerful engine with 425 horsepower planned should anyone need to fulfill some primal need for speed.Between the wagon and sedan my choice would be the sedan. I found the Dodge Magnum station wagon’s leisurely ride, limited rear visibility, difficult to activate horn, and hard seats not to my liking when compared to the 300 sedan.Although there is no doubt the Magnum is an excellent station wagon and one of the best bargains we have ever driven with a base price of just $21,870 (US) for the six-cylinder model. Perhaps my love hate relationship with the Magnum was the rear hatch. It was huge and allowed me to load more than any other wagon ever did. Unfortunately, closing this hatch was next to impossible unless you grabbed the rear wiper arm. There is just not an adequate handle and it drove me to distraction, as I had to wrestle it down. Perhaps for a few hundred extra Dodge could put in the power lift gate from their fabulous mini van. It would be well worth it. Another concern was the limited horn activation area. There are just two small places you can push to complete the circuit to sound the horn making it very difficult to use in an emergency. The positive news is the horn has a beefy sound similar to the Cadillac.

Finally, it is difficult to explain what an improved ride these two vehicles had over previous front wheel drive models. There are easy cars to drive long distances once you find a comfortable seating position.Dad’s view: The Buzz is all HEMI, but that is not what impressed me the most about these two new products from DaimlerChrysler. The pricing is stunning. If you can avoid the need for the HEMI these can be in your driveway with a terrific six cylinder willing to provide you with 250 horsepower for well under $25,000 (US). That is a bargain of the first magnitude.However, since we can not argue with the public we did feel that the 340 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque the HEMI engine provides is notable not so much for its obvious grunt, but for the fact you can honestly get well over 20 mpg with it thanks to Chrysler’s Multi-Displacement System, which deactivates four cylinders in idle and cruise conditions to save fuel. Indeed, the EPA fuel-economy estimates range from 21/28-mpg city/highway for the 2.7-liter six to 17/23 for the Hemi even when equipped with optional all-wheel drive.We tested the 300C and it comes very well endowed. There are standard four-wheel disc brakes, ABS and antiskid/traction control, tilt/telescope steering wheel, power driver seat, 18-inch wheels, and such options as curtain side airbags, satellite radio, navigation system, and a hands-free wireless link to a cell phone.The transmission for the 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the Dodge Magnum wagon had a four speed automatic transmission while the HEMI used a fine five speed automatic unit that comes with Chrysler’s AutoStick driver-interactive manual control for shift it yourself fans. I never bothered as the big HEMI had enough torque to pull you free of any traffic without the need for my input.

There is going to be a lot of arguing about whether the HEMI is worth the extra thousands. A check with www.nada.com can give you the latest sales evaluation numbers, but it is safe to say that with the additional insurance premiums and higher fuel usage it would be hard to justify the 340 horsepower option as an investment especially when the six cylinder is so darn good. I doubt many people would even notice the difference especially since it provides more horsepower than the police special Ford Crown
Victoria with its V8.
Although it may look large, the 300C is not nearly as large as the Ford Crown
Victoria. It has a length of 196.8 in. compared to the Fords 212 and is four inches narrower. However, both weigh nearly the same at a rotund two tons and, surprisingly, the Chrysler has the longer wheelbase by six inches. The interior space of both vehicles is nearly identical, but the Ford has a huge trunk that is much easier to load than the Chrysler’s.
As might be imagined, the handling in the wagon was much softer than the 300 C due to its softer and more pliant suspension settings. In both vehicles the brakes were very good, however I would have liked more brake pedal feel in the Magnum. The steering for such large vehicles is precise and the ESP technology takes over when you over extend yourself in corners.Both the Magnum and the 300 are brutish looking and nothing else on the road can be mistaken for them. That is both good and bad. The good news is that you are going to be driving a vehicle that makes a statement. The downside is that people tend to believe that statement is an invitation to race. Call if the influence of the Chrysler ad campaign, but outside of a BMW or Porsche, we have never been invited to so many stop light challenges as when in these two family oriented vehicles.A word about the spaciousness of the Magnum wagon’s interior is well worth noting as it measures 133.1 cubic feet. Even with the rear seats folded, there’s 71.6 cubic feet, or 27.2 cubic feet with rear seats up. That is right up there with a Ford Explorer.Young business woman’s view: Understated would not be the operational word when you see these two parked in your driveway. Their looks demand your attention. Even the interiors, although much less outspoken than the exteriors, are not for the trendy. Call it meat and potatoes, but elegant it ain’t. Still, the ride is fine and the highway miles fly by without much notice.There is a lot to like and a lot to consider with these newcomers. Driving in town is a different experience as the side and back visibility is impinged upon by the wide C pillars. The ignition key fits into the dash, which is always nice, and the gauges are easy to read. The heat and stereo controls don’t fall as readily to hand. The stalk for the cruise control is easily confused with the turn signal stalk, although you push it in a different direction. The one area that business people are going to appreciate is the strong position DaimlerChrysler’s pricing policy has placed on sales. These are what I call “peg” cars. The set a pricing standard that others manufacturers must meet to be competitive. There are a few of these cars such as the base Honda Accord, the Scion C, the Ford Escape hybrid, the turbocharged Neon, and the base Toyota van that serve as price points that are difficult to match. For example, the Ford Escape is almost priced the same as a loaded Toyota Prius and offers much more room and even an all wheel drive option.However, despite the excellent values, these rear wheel drive car of the year candidates are not my dream cars for three reasons. First, the image they convey is too bold for me. Secondly, even though they ride smoothly, have good balance, and appear to be well built, I don’t need that much cargo room and I don’t like the side visibility issue every time I change lanes.Young working male’s view: You can clearly tell that the DaimlerChrylser marriage has produced an interesting, but not elegant, offspring. The 300C looks like a Dodge Ram truck mated with a Mercedes E Class. Anyway, I dropped the genetics class so I might be off a touch with that insight.In a nutshell, both cars ride on independent suspensions that earn their keep by steadying these 4000 pounders in all but the most extreme situations . The wide tires and bulk of the cars seem to push most bumps back into the pavement and only a nervous twitching when the tires try to relay messages from diamond cut concrete highways prevents you from feeling totally isolated from the road. The acceleration for both cars was not brisk, despite the HEMI’s reputation. I figure it takes over six seconds to get to 60 mph in the 300C and about nine in the six cylinder Dodge Magnum. That is fast enough for me when driving such large cars, but for the speed challenged the new 425 horsepower HEMI should be the cure.Of the two I really liked the Magnum the most. It had a nasty top chop look, held all my sports equipment and other unused items such as a nearly unopened genetics textbook, and was fairly frugal on regular fuel. The optional sound system is quite good and the safety equipment typical for this segment with advanced airbag system with front and side-curtains available, anti-lock brakes, all-speed traction control system, and electronic stability program.Family conference: American cars are clearly making a comeback and Chrysler is doing more than its share. We really like the new offerings, especially when you keep the option list under control. For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com and click on business.

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For reviews click on http://www.motorists.org/new/carreviews/index.html

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Acura TL versus Honda Accord: Two Winners

By The Car Family

For more vehicle reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/new/carreviews/index.html

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

Call it a form of nepotism, but since the Acura TL is based on the Accord chassis and running gear the question that comes to mind was whether this Acura is really worth thousands of dollars more than its close relative, the Honda Accord. It didn’t take long for us to find the answer. If you need the extra leather, 30 more horsepower, larger tires, sterner suspension, and more aero styling you can rationalize the extra funds. However, if you are practical the Honda Accord is the better value.

The Facts: Resale is higher with the Accord based on nada.com. Costs of operation are lower with the Accord. The Accord is quieter. The Accord has more storage room by over two cubic feet. The Accord gets better gas mileage by over two gallons per mile. The warranty for the Acura is considerably longer at four years and 60,000 miles versus the Honda’s standard three year, 36,000 mile program. The basic cost of the Acura is $34,650 loaded with the navigation system. The Accord with the same options cost $28,400. Finally, the Accord turning radius is much better taking nearly three feet lesser.

Mom’s view: The Acura is much more a driver’s car than the Honda. It has a sharp turn-in, bordering on over steering, and the large tires make a rumbling noise that is distracting at times. Perhaps the worst feature of the Acura TL is a way too large turning radius the makes mall parking more of an adventure than I would like, and a front spoiler that scrapes its nose on pretty much anything the resembles an incline.

On the other hand, the Accord is much more pedestrian, bordering on boring, and does not have the snazzy interior of the Acura or the zoom potential. As the Accord, the Acura has an available manual transmission that is fairly easy to shift rapidly. In the Accord the manual transmission yields better fuel mileage. In the Acura it means getting the most out of an engine that needs at least 4000 rpm to be taken seriously. In fact, the reason I did not like the Acura, besides the fact that it scrapes its lower lip on every driveway entrance is that if you are in the wrong gear and want acceleration, you better be prepared for a wait. However, if you are an attentive driver and attuned to the demands of this Acura it rewards you with aggressive thrust.

Where the exterior is too boy racy for me, the TL’s interior really glows, honest. The gauges are very easy to read with bright blue electroluminescent gauges with white and red trim. You also get leather upholstery. However, I did notice that the seat bottoms were getting a little lumpy in our test vehicle that only had 11,000 miles on the odometer. Storage wise, the door pockets have hard covers that make it difficult to reach items without the door open. Acura also has a trunk that isn’t really large, although it has a terrific cargo net. In fact, it’s the best we have ever tested. Another great feature was the GPS that worked well, but someone needs to understand that on the highest setting the street names all have to be there and large enough to read without your glasses.

Standard safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and BrakeAssist, as well as stability control, seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants and side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants. The TL has not been crash tested, but Acura is predicting a five-star sweep of government front- and side-impact tests, and a top rating in IIHS frontal offset crash testing.

If you have reached the conclusion that this Acura was not my favorite you are correct. For the price there are better handling entry-level luxury sedans for those who put the emphasis on luxury.

Young working woman’s view: The trunk is smallish with a small deck opening, hinges that take up space, and only a ski pass through opening instead of the rear seat fold downs on the Accord. Storage space inside is adequate, and the seats comfortable. In other words, this Acura is not really a family oriented vehicle and does not pretend to be one.

The best part of the TL is the design of the interior. It quickly dispels any lineage to the Honda Accord. The gauges are easy to read and the leather first rate. The navigation system is more complicated than necessary. Honda has the best system in the business, but in the Acura the engineers have decided that more is better and so make yourself familiar with this option before journeying from the dealer’s lot. It is interesting to note how different you feel when sitting in the Acura TL as opposed to the Honda Accord. The Honda feels open and the Acura cozy and much more formal. Getting into the backseat isn’t a problem, but the rear seats are not all that comfortable.

There is no question that Acura has loaded the TL with a lot of standard features. All TLs come with ABS, 17-inch wheels, ABS, front and side curtain airbags, leather interior, heated front seats, sunroof. satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, high-intensity discharge headlights, a 10-way power driver seat and a four-way power front-passenger seat, telescoping steering wheel, a 225-watt surround-sound audio system that can play both CDs and DVD discs, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone capabilities, steering-wheel audio controls; one-touch front windows, and the stick shift cars get even better disc brakes.

So, for the extra thousands you pay over the price of the Accord you are getting a significant amount of goodies. But, despite the spiffy interior, more potent powerplant, tight suspension, and more youthful appearance, the Honda Accord is my choice. It does the job well, gets superior gas mileage, has superior resale, and is more comfortable to drive on roads that have seen the anger of mother nature.

Dad’s view: Although I like the Accord a great deal the one that I like the most is the stick shift equipped four cylinder model because it is thrifty to operate and a lot of fun to drive at the edge because it doesn’t take long to reach its limits. The Acura is much more serious. The tires, P235/45WR17, are significantly better than the Honda’s P205/60R16 even though I find the Acura has too much tire for normal driving and they generate a constant and, should I say, tiring sound over roughened roads. I also dislike the suspension settings on the Acura. Yes, they certainly make it handle well, but the low profile tires on winter-tortured roads become a source of irritation despite the fairly well isolated cabin.

Knowing the Acura is going to appeal to a more spirited driver, the manufacture is offering a more diverse range of options. You can order everything from sterner shocks, stronger springs, to exterior styling add-ons.

Statistically, the Acura TL has a 3.2-liter, 24 valve, single overhead cam engine that produces 270 horsepower at a very high 6200 rpm. Torque is 238 ft-lbs. @ 5000 rpm making this engine a good candidate for supercharging. The average sized gas tank and above average gas mileage makes 600 KL trips possible on premium unleaded.

Acceleration is brisk after you reach 4000 rpm and you can probably get to 100 KL in less than seven seconds with the automatic transmission. The steering is sensitive and if you have the wheel turned for a tight corner and hit the accelerator you are going to get a dose of torque-steer. Stopping power is excellent.

Young college going male’s view: Maybe I missed something, but this new Acura simply did not impress me for the money. I found steering that was overzealous, tires that were too much for the chassis, and a lot of road noise. Yes, you get 270 horsepower, but you have to wait for the engine to reach over 4000 rpm to get serious. This would not be as much of a problem with the stick shift, but the smooth five speed automatic transmission dulls the edge of this high revving V6. There are other features I found that grew tiresome such as way too low for everyday driving front spoiler, the lack of storage space, a trunk that only holds 12.5 cubic feet, and a driver’s computer that is downright difficult to use with the button hidden behind the steering wheel.

Certainly, it looks keen, but unless you live in an area of smooth roads and don’t care to haul anything to large, look at the Infiniti G35, the Cadillac CTS, the BMW 3 Series, or the Lexus ES. As for comparing the Acura to the Honda Accord, its not even close with the TL being much more enjoyable to drive. If you don’t mind an over abundance of torque steer, the Nissan Maxima is a fast ride.

Decision: Unless you get the manual transmission the Acura’s engine makes most of its power beyond 6000 rpm and without the manual trans to keep those revs up the car is not nearly as fun to drive. What we are saying is that the Acura is a sporty car with very little competition. So if going fast, fighting corners, and looking good is your thing the TL should be on your shopping list right next to the Infiniti G. The Honda Accord is more versatile, less spry, and more generic in appearance. You can hardly make a mistake considering either sedan seriously, but you need to test both the manual and automatic to best see which one best serves your desires. For a list of all automobile manufacture websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com and click on business.


Lexus RX 330 Review: The Best of Both Worlds

By The Car Family

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We own a Lexus RX 330 and are biased toward this product. That being said, this is perhaps the best SUV in its price range for handling, acceleration, and attention to detail. Being a crossover it uses the best features of the Lexus 330 sedan it is based on and the higher stance and utlity of a SUV. It makes our 1998 model appear almost ancient since the new model is improved in the three areas the earlier Lexus lacked and that was handling, acceleration, and cargo room. On the other hand, the earlier model has better front seat storage. Both get the same gas mileage, about 20 mpg in mixed driving and both offer pleasant and versatile driving experiences. Notable new standard features include a 40/20/40 split rear seat with slide and recline adjustments, a tire-pressure monitor, and 17-inch wheels. All of these are welcome additions and certainly worth the base price for the front wheel drive model and more for the all wheel drive set-up. We have never needed the all wheel drive option and question its value to those who don’t live in areas with notable inclement weather.

The new model’s major changes are the 3.3 liters engine, a smooth 5-speed automatic and about six inches of length mostly in the rear cargo area. You also get 140 more pounds to haul around. The options include front headlights that turn with the wheel and a multipanel sunroof with a larger opening than the regular sunroof that gives the RX a dinosaur like image. In addition, you can order 18-inch wheels, xenon headlamps, self-leveling air suspension with driver-selected height settings, laser cruise control designed to maintain a set following distance, a handy power liftgate, power tilt/telescopic steering column, rear DVD entertainment, rearview TV camera, voice-control navigation, and Lexus Link.Mom’s view: Always a pleasure to drive a product that feels so solid and responsive. I liked the range of safety features that included front side airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags and a driver knee airbag. Strangely, this model doesn’t seem to give the tipsy feeling the early models did when cornering. This may be attributed to the larger tires or, more likely, a tighter suspension setting. Regardless, the RX 330 is a better driving SUV.

That important issue out of the way, I would say that the new RX’s only notable competition is from the Honda MDX, and the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The Lexus is nicer to drive than these models, but is not as off-roadable. We also liked the fact that Lexus has stated that they are going to bringing a hybrid version out in 2005 making this the first available luxury vehicle with this option. We compliment Lexus on this decision especially if it is as good as the Toyota Prius.

Although the RX is based on a Camry platform, it is definitely off-roadable. However, who would want to take one of these into the bash and bruise outback is beyond me as the Lexus has some of the best paint I have ever seen on any vehicle.

I also want to compliment Lexus on not placing its RX options into large and expensive packages as they did on the LS. On the RX you get more modest priced choices, abeit some have a strange combination of options. You can order the Premium Package that includes leather, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, roof rack, and moonroof. The Premium Plus Package adds a power liftgate, HID headlamps and a wood and leather steering wheel. The Performance Package includes all of the items in the Premium Package, plus 18-inch plated aluminum alloy wheels, air suspension, sequential shifting transmission, power rear door, HID headlamps that turn, and rain-sensing wipers. There’s also a multi-panel moonroof available that’s larger than the standard moonroof that is part of a option package and a navigation system that includes a rear-view camera. There is also optionals like laser cruise control and a rear-seat entertainment system. You can easily take your base model RX 330 and drive it’s price high up.Although our test car was far from loaded, I can recommend the laser cruise control if you travel the highways a great deal and appreciated the power lift gate and the great headlights. They made daily life with this Lexus much easier as did the tight turning radius that was a major problem with the older model.

The cabin is full of wonderful things to touch. The optional leather and wood steering wheel is easy to hold, the cruise control, light, and windshield stalks don’t require you to lift your hand and the dashboard lighting is the best. The GPS is easy to understand, although we had a problem when we just wanted directions to a city and didn’t have a specific address. This is one of the easiest systems to use and worth considering. There are a lot of look alike buttons in the center of the dash that must be learned because reading them is difficult in bright sunlight.

Of all the lovely things in this RX, perhaps the most appealing was the small touches that made you feel special. At night, the Lexus name on the doorstep plate lights up and the door panel storage areas have covers that pull out making it easy to get the smallest of items. The only item I found out of place was a gas warning light that was way too small to spot, especially at night.

Dad’s view: Lexus claims the RX 330 can get to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds from the 230 horsepower, 242 foot pounds of torque, 3.3 liter V6. Whatever, it is still a fairly fast vehicle for its class while still getting over 22 mpg on premium during highway cruising, The engine should be good for over 200,000 miles if the past record is any indication.

Basically, I am not a huge fan of SUVs because of their handling, gas hoggish nature, and limited side and back visibility. I am proud to say that the RX 330 has none of these traits. In fact, it rides as well as some luxury sedans over highways. Be warned, though, that this is not a nimble vehicle and the steering can feel slow to react when the road requires your frequent corrections. Visibility to the side is excellent with the best mirrors in the SUV business. The rear view is okay, but the small window hinders your vision immediately in back of the Lexus. It is clear that the Lexus engineers designed this for more cruising than bruising.
Braking is quite impressive with very little front dip, but we would strongly recommend you don’t overestimate the stopping distance because this is a two-ton vehicle when loaded. The RX we own gets about 20,000 miles between brake pad replacements due to the freewheeling nature of the transmission. We anticipate the new model to get close to that figure, although the new five speed automatic let us feel like we had more control over the RX 330.
College going male: Finally got a part-time job. I am working in public relations building up a client list for a famous brand of women’s wear. Sure beats pushing audio books for $6.50 an hour. Anyway, I really liked this Lexus. It rode very well and my only complaint was the noise level when you put the rear windows down at speed. It boomed and so the only way to cool the cab was by opening the huge optional large moon roof or turning on the air conditioning.

The back seats were very comfortable with handy cupholders, ample room, and ample headroom and foot space. Make sure you adjust the rear backrests before you get into the RX because they are really hard to adjust when you are sitting in them. You can fold the rear seats down in three sections, but they don’t fold flat. You also have extra storage space in the rear cargo area on both sides and under the cover. And, there is a standard 115-volt 2-prong outlet behind rear seat. The rear tailgate is easy to open, but I recommend the power option because it is so cool to watch and so handy. I wish Lexus would include a standard cargo net, though.

Young working woman’s view: An excellent buy, but why not get the Toyota Prado instead? It has the same engine, the possibility of seating for more, and costs less. To me, the answer isn’t one of practicality. I love the Lexus service, the Lexus extras, and the pride it brings. Does it make financial success? Not really, even through the resale is slightly higher for the Lexus.Driving it is without fuss. It never bores you or bothers you with problems. It has a smooth, quiet, ride and has an excellent cruising range of over 300 miles, something that our older model couldn’t do because of a gas tank that was about two gallons smaller.

If you are into SUVs, and I am not, this is about as good as it gets for the price. But, be warned, if Lexus does bring out a hybrid model and my job remains secure, I am sorely tempted to abandon my sports car phase and go directly to the SUV stage.

Family conference: Call it a tall station wagon, try to humiliate it by claiming its an overpriced Toyota, make fun of its turtle shell appearance, or just point out you can get an SUV the same size and power for less money and you still are not going to convince buyers that this isn’t the cat’s meow of luxury SUVs. While the Honda MDX handles a bit better, the BMW is faster, and Mercedes more off roadable, and the Infiniti more sporty, the Lexus is all alone when it comes to providing buyers with what the majority want, and that is a luxury vehicle that is both practical an elegant. For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com and click on business.

2007 Honda Civic Sedan Review

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With starting prices ranging from below $14,000 to above $20,000 (US) the new Honda Civic has reasserted itself at the head of the class with exceptional fuel mileage, ride, braking, and literally in your face instrumentation.

Mom’s view: Despite its Toyota Prius like profile, the Civic is a much better vehicle than previous models. The interior is very iPodish with boldly colored gauges and a digital speedometer that can’t be ignored tucked just below the very steeply racked windshield. The automatic transmission dulls the reaction of the 140-hp engine, but still provides excellent economy seldom going below 30 mpg. We averaged about 34 in mixed driving. The 60/40 fold down rear seats of our EX test car expanded the trunk space, but there wasn’t as much room as the Toyota Prius. Honda did the right thing by providing standard side curtain airbags and ABS which are reassuring in smaller vehicles. You can even order a hotrod Si coupe with a 197 horsepower engine if you want to tempt the highway gods. Overall, I liked the Civic, but would go with the standard transmission.

Dad’s view: Larger, more powerful, more expensive, and more refined, the Civic sedan easily is the best in this segment at this moment. The four-cylinder engine with either the 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic work well together.

Honda Civic video review

However, the engine gets quite loud when acceleration demands are accentuated. Other than that this is a fairly quiet ride. Braking and steering are exceptional for the price. Overall a marked improvement with room for four and hybrid like fuel mileage, but not a speed merchant.

Young working woman’s view: There is actually room for two adults in the back seat. The seating in front is very good, with everything easy to use, even the emergency brake located under the stereo. By the way, if you get the GPS option be prepared to use the steering wheel ancillary gauges because the heating controls seem to always be in the way. The digital gauges are brightly lighted blue with white and red lettering at all times. It definitely keeps you awake. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes and has a good feel. It takes a while to get used to the speedometer’s placement, but it is much appreciated for us leadfoots. Storage areas are most everywhere, but those in the back don’t get cupholders. The remote opens the trunk just enough to get your hand under it and the cargo area is adequate, but the hinges and smallish pass through into the rear seats makes loading large objects a trial and error process.

College going male’s view: Pay the extra and get the EX rather than the bargain priced DX or LX. You get alloy wheels, a moonroof, the split rear folding seatbacks, two extra speakers, steering wheel controls, and jack for plugging in your downloaded music players, hopefully filled with my CD at www.simple-thoughts.net, and most everything else. The upgraded stereo isn’t too bad, the radio reception above average, and the whole package is tight.

Family conference: A new Civic that is worthy of your attention, but don’t overlook the competition form Mazda and new Volkswagen. Best of all, don’t forget those superior crash test scores and the available hotrod Si version. Also available as a hybrid, coupe, and sports coupe. Bottom line: The best Honda ever for the price. For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheveychild.com and click on business.

2007 Honda Civic Hybrid Review: Highway Friendly

By The Car Family

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You don’t buy a Honda Hybrid to save money, you buy it because it makes you feel good about doing your part to make the world a better place. To this end, it works. The Hybrid is nearly as joyful to drive as a regular Civic with good performance, a roomy interior, and gas mileage that is consistently in the 40-mpg range or better. The bad news is that it does not handle like a regular Civic because of its heavy battery pack and gas mileage oriented tires. So, in essence, this is a delightful commuter car and a bargain at about $22.000.

Price wise, the Hybrid runs a few thousand dollars more than a comparably equipped Civic. For the additional funding you get a lot of technology and some pride of ownership. However, even with gas at record high levels and the Hybrid returning about 30 percent better fuel mileage in daily driving, it would take several years to save the extra cost of the Hybrid. And, just as you would be narrowing the difference, the Hybrid’s battery pack would have to be replaced at a cost of several thousand dollars. On the other hand, if you justified your car buying decision only on costs everyone would be driving a sub-compact vehicle. A car has got to make you feel good to own it and the Hybrid does just that.The major competition for the Hybrid is the Toyota Prius The Toyota car had been redone for 2004 and offered significant improvements over the excellent first version that debuted a few years ago. Currently, the difference in the new Prius and the Hybrid is in the ride, quietness, interior space, and appointments. Overall, the Honda is sportier, but not too sporty, and is less visible. In fact, when we went to a crowded mall we could not find our Hybrid because it blended in so well with all the other Civics. We had to use the remote and look and listen. We felt like a mother lion who was searching for her cub.

Mom’s view: I didn’t mind it at all, except for the gauges which were too small and too difficult to read with their bright and trendy colors. I also found that the air conditioning was hard pressed to cool the interior in our 105-degree test days. I would have the windows tinted immediately. Otherwise, this is a handy car.In smaller cars, safety is always one of my concerns. This is especially true as large SUVs with phone using drivers have been known to overlook vehicles that don’t ride as high as they do. To help alleviate any fears Honda provides dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, stability control, ABS brakes, and dual-side impact door beams. It does need a louder horn.

Overall, this is a pleasant vehicle with enough snap to make it capable of blending in on crowded highways and an interior that is acceptable, if not a bit youthful for my taste. Would I want one for my daily driver? Yes, and no. Although I obviously love the gas mileage and size of the Hybrid, I find the fact that you have to sacrifice the fold down rear seat to accommodate the battery pack frustrating at times when I have a long item to carry. I also find the gauges difficult to quickly read and nearly impossible to comprehend while wearing sunglasses. Other than that this is would be a great value and a treat for the environment.

Dad’s view: No, this car does not have to be plugged in and, no, this car does not just run on batteries. It runs on a combination of a gasoline engine and batteries and it does this very well. The news here is the engine and motor that combine to power the Hybrid with such efficiency.The Hybrid’s 1.3-liter 4-cylinder gasoline 93 horsepower engine has been highly modified with special ignition, lean burn combustion, two spark plugs per cylinder, and variable value controls. The engine also has low-friction pistons, thin-sleeve cylinder walls, lightweight intake manifold and meets Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle requirements. Can you say clean, and you still get plenty of low speed grunt with 116 foot-pounds of coming online at a low 1500 rpm.

Assisting the engine is a 10 kilowatts electric motor that utilizes nickel-metal-hydride batteries that are recharged by the gas engine as well as by deceleration and braking. Thus you don’t plug this car in to an outlet. The batteries take up space that is hardly missed, but it does require the elimination of that very popular rear-seat fold down feature available on other Civics. The electric motor is brushless and silent and gives you about between 15 and 30hp of electric boost at high speeds, and is capable of providing all the drive energy necessary in slow, bumper-to-bumper traffic. Honda calls this the Integrated Motor Assist. The electric motor sits between the engine and transmission and together they operate nearly seamlessly.

You can order a five-speed manual or the continuously variable automatic transmission version that we evaluated. Either way, in real life you get about 42 miles per gallon on the highway with the air-conditioning working. On a cool day at posted limits you can count on a ten percent higher figure with a family onboard.One element I found disconcerting was the fact that the Hybrid automatically turns off its engine when you are stopped and have your foot on the brake pedal. This does not stop the air-conditioning and stereo from continuing to work without pause. The problem is that once you release your foot from the brake pedal the car immediately starts and gives a slight tug. This is barely a fault, but it is more noticeable than I found while driving the competition’s Toyota Prius.

The Civic accelerates fairly well, but if you are going at a brisk pace don’t expect much of a boast when you ask the Honda for more power. It is set-up more for cruising. It definitely is not set up for canyon runs. In addition, if you are going uphill at speed with the air on the batteries can be exhausted and you must rely on the gas engine only. This can slow you. This Honda is not at its best in the mountains. Besides, the gas mileage oriented tires don’t appreciate having their sidewalls tested and the steering is slow to react to tight corners. Let’s be honest, here, Hybrid is a couple of hundreds pounds heavier than other Civics and simply not aimed for the sports car crowd. But, since gas prices are now at record highs, I feel that some those lead footed drivers would welcome the 600 miles or more range of the Hybrid.

Besides all the technological extras under the hood, Honda also provides a firmer suspension, larger brakes, clear tail lamps, a small spoiler, 15-inch lightweight alloy wheels, automatic climate control air conditioning, air filtration system, cruise control, power steering, tilt steering wheel, power mirrors, windows and door locks, and an AM/FM/CD system. In other words, the Hybrid is a bargain.

Driving the Hybrid is relaxing and makes it easy for you to forget that you are in an economy car. The sound level is reasonable, the performance adequate, and there is enough room to get comfortable. If you are a smooth driver this is a nice ride. If you are into cut and thrust driving, find it difficult to spend more than a few seconds behind any other vehicle, or display your ego with your exhaust tips, this isn’t your gas sipper.

College going male’s view: I didn’t mind the Hybrid one bit. To me, driving an “alternative” powered vehicle says I care and one of these should be in every high school and professional driver training program in the United States. Let people know that driving green machines is not an ordeal and plenty cool. On the down side was the radio reception. You would think that with a high masted antenna stuck in the middle of the roof you would be able to pull in some long distance stations, but it was not to be. The rear seat has a fair amount of room. The seats need a lumbar support badly. You buy this car to spend long hours in and the front seats just aren’t all that comfortable.Family conference: It is easy to decide if you want the Honda Hybrid or its competition, the Prius, by looking at your annual fuel bill and donation list. If you support environmental organizations these are must have cars. If you would like to save between ten and twenty percent on your gas bill, these cars are naturals. On the other hand, they cost more to service, don’t handle as well as sportier models, and have an uncertain resale history to draw from. If you are undecided, Ford promises a hybrid powered Escape shortly and several other manufacturers are coming online with their alternative powered vehicles so you may want to wait a few months. Regardless, you need to test drive this Honda to see what the future is bringing.

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