Using vehicles to create student interest in math and Language Arts
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

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

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

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

A link site to manufacturers who sell cars in America

A listing of vehicle websites worldwide

National Motorists Association
A great source of information on driving and the law.

A listing of car value prices
A good place to find statistics for math problems about the prices of cars and motorcycles.

Where cars are made by location
Great way to teach geography.

New for 2011 and Notable

by The Car Family

For more reviews go to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best 2010 Vehicles

By The Car Family

For vehicle websites go to

After a long look at the 2010 vehicles it becomes clear that this is not a stellar one. The Audi Q5 is the best of the SUV/Trucks and the Kia Forte sedan is the best of the vehicles, although we found the Toyota Prius terrific. As for our best family vehicle, we would go with the Ford Fusion hybrid. And for the rich family vehicle, the Lexus RX 450h/RX 350 are useful, frugal, and hold their value.

Mom’s view: The Toyota Prius is great, but I just like to slide into a vehicle and so the Lexus RX is my favorite. I also enjoyed the Kia Soul more than I would like to admit. Comfortable and handy.

Dad’s view: The new Jaguar sedan with the supercharged engine is fun and dominating. You can run with the best sports cars and still enjoy the comforts of a large sedan. I also liked the Lexus RX and the Kia Soul.

Working woman’s view: The Nissan Cube is cute.  But what stole my heart was the Mercedes GLK with a diesel engine.  Awesome, and I probably am going to buy one in the future. That says something.

Young working male’s view:  I’m still making open source hardware for and they are the most quiet units on the market. As such a treasure my comfort and so the Mercedes E Class and the Subaru Legacy and Outback are my choices

Alfa Romeo

This model year tends to reflect the down nature of the economy with a few bright spots for those with dough and risk takes. For example, Alfa Romeo is back with three Italian beauties. The Alfa Romeo 159 Sedan is a BMW 3 Series fighter with a 260 horsepower 3.2-liter V6 engine stunning looks and standard all-wheel drive all for about $35,000. Adding to that Italian Flair is the Alfa Romeo Brera 2 plus 2 Coupe that is really attractive and carries the same drive train as the 150 sedan. As usually, you have to pay more for something beautiful so the sleek two door should run a couple of grand more. Of course, going topless is the sole purpose of the Alfa Romeo Spider which should cost over $40,000 probably with the same V6 engine. We suggest wait and see.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin has more expensive eye candy for anyone to own who has a couple of hundred thousand dollars to spend. The Rapide has four door, a first, a first for this newly purchased company, and a 470 horsepower. For a hundred thousand dollars more you can own a smaller vehicle, the DBS Volante 2+2 and sit on 510-horsepower. That is the same horsepower you can feast upon in a Jaguar sedan that costs $80,000. There is also the One-77 for two million, a V12 with 700 horsepower and it is built to the owner’s specifications, more or less. Oh, the name? They are only going to build 77 of them. Hurry. You can get a lot more for a lot less.


Whether Audi’s winning streak lasts is in the hands of four new Audi vehicles. The A5 Cabriolet does away with the A4 in appearance only as most of the drivetrain is the same. Look for some more technology and a price a little over forty grand. You can also order supercharged version for a few thousand dollars more. Finally, the Audi S4, at around $50,000, is going to have a 3.0-liter  supercharged six-cylinder engine making about 335 horsepower and all wheel drive.  A BMW with a softer image.


BMW continues its quest to build some pretty strange looking vehicles, but they continue to succeed. The  Z4 well have a retractable hardtop and its excellent  twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine as well as a base model sans the induction help starting in the mid-$40,000 range. For $80,000 you can harvest a large BMW 7-Series with a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 with 400 horsepower. Again, less horsepower than the Jaguar sedan, but it has more backseat room. Back to strange looking BMWs and the X6 M. For nearly ninety thousand dollars you can drive a very fast SUV that can rival the Porsche Cayenne in everything, including depreciation. Look for 550 plus horsepower from a twin-turbocharged V8. The base 3 Series is still the best BMW.

Buick Lacrosse

We don’t recommend General Motors products at this time. The Lacrosse is priced at about $28,000 and for that you can get a slightly used Lexus RX still under warranty for that price. Remember that General Motors only allows select people to test drive their vehicles so watch for bias in reviews.


We don’t recommend General Motors products at this time. Cadillac has a new sports wagon and more powerful engines in most of its products. The SRX and sports wagon cost nearly the same, about $34,000 and they both do essentially the same, with the wagon being more sprightly. We don’t get the pricing strategy, but we also don’t understand why GM hired back a leader who helped create the bankruptcy in the first place. Stick to the base CTS.


Ferrari California is offered at about $195,000. For that you get a retractable hardtop convertible, a 4.3-liter V8 that produces 460 horsepower, a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and a Ferrari that makes the overpriced and poor riding Bentley look like yesterday. No wonder Bentley sales and resale are suffering.

Fiat 500

When it comes buy it. Pricing is fairly high for such a small machine, just below $20,000, but it is cute, rides well, and you can order it with a fuel sipping 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 100. We recommend you delay your gratification until the more powerful engine becomes available.

Ford Mustang

It isn’t getting old and it is getting better, The Mustang looks much sharper this year and the handling has been smoothed. A myriad of engine choices. For about $20,000 you can have a car that makes the weird looking Chevrolet Camaro and bulking Chrysler Challenger like bad styling exercises.

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Expensive, high riding, and expensive, the F-150 Raptor is meant to destroy off-road obstacles and pass most everything except a gas station. $39,000.

Ford Taurus

We highly recommend the Ford Fusion. However,  if you need more leg and cargo space, the new Taurus is a darn good vehicle to consider, especially with a $26,000 asking price. Good fuel mileage, a six-speed automatic transmission and a 3.5 engine are standard. If you need more power and want to spend nearly $39,000 you can stuff your Taurus with the SHO turbocharged, 365 horsepower engine.

Ford Fusion

A bargain and fun to drive, the Fusion is now available as a hybrid that can easily get mid-30 mpg. Well priced at just over $20,000, the Fusion is just as good as the competition from Asia and the hybrid is one of the best family vehicles you can possess that offers exception fuel mileage.

Honda Insight

Priced below $20,000, the Insight is less expensive than the Toyota Insight, but you get a lot less. Fuel mileage in the low 40 mpg arena. Look for Toyota to offer a stripped Prius to offset the Honda’s price advantage. However, it won’t have the Honda handling.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Wow, for those who like a slick looking coupe that goes fairly well, the $23,000 Genesis coupe is a must drive. The turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and the 3.8-liter V6 produce 210 and 306 horsepower respectively. Why pay more?


Jaguar XJ Series

This stunning sedan is available with an extended-wheelbase and potent powertrains from the base 5.0-liter V8 and its 385 horsepower, to the .XJL Supercharged 470 horsepower version, to the Supersport’s 510 horsepower engine. Safety wise the Jaguar offers ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags. Add to that Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics adjustable air suspension and you have a sweet riding sedan. You can also add a dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The Supersport is a bargain for those who like their sedan to truly leap. One of our favorites. Priced just under $70,000.


Jeep Grand Cherokee

As the much anticipated Chevrolet Volt is said to be the most important vehicle to General Motors, the Grand Cherokee is even more vital to Chrysler. To this end they are offering extended warranties on the drivetrain and a less ancient styling. Pricing is expected to be just over $30,000, but more importantly, you are going to own a vehicle with a nicer interior and better handling than any previous model.  Well worth the late for those that need the Grand Cherokee’s legendary off-road ability.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

Kia Soul

A real surprise, the Kia Soul can be bought for under $15,000 and you get a very useful and fun car to drive. It has a high seating position and both the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and 142 horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder get good gas mileage. The large tires give a sturdy ride, but that is the sole concern with the Soul. Another one of our favorites.


Kia Forte

Yet another bargain from Kia, the Forte is a sedan that has an available 173 horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and room for five all for under $15,000. Kia is on a roll, pun intended.

Kia Forte Koup

A two door version of the Forte for under $20,000.

Kia Sorrento

The Sorrento is leaner, but still not nearly competitive with the other crossovers at this time. However, Kia dealers are willing to deal and the new engine choices might make this a thrifty hauler. Well under $25,000 and look for good deals.

Lexus IS C

This convertible relies on the Lexus name and stunning interior to gather new customers. The base engine is barely adequate, and the larger engined IS 350C and its 3.5-liter, 306 horsepower V6 drives up the price thousands. Look to pay over $40,000 and for that you get a retractable hardtop and Lexus service.  Watch for those bulging side panels in parking lots, though.

Lexus RX 450h

Another giant leap forward for the best crossover in the land, the Lexus RX. This time Lexus has improved the performance and offers a plethora of new technology treats for those who want the $42,000 smoothmobile. You can easily get over 30 mpg and there is plenty of pep, but the reality is that the base RX offers nearly the same mileage for much less. Drive them both.

Lexus HS 250h

Not the best Lexus when it comes to styling, the HS 250h is a larger Prius with the Camry hybrid’s 2.4-liter engine. Rides well and is pretty perky, but it is priced in the mid-$30,000 range and the fuel mileage isn’t that much better than the terrific Toyota Corolla.


Lincoln MKT

We like Lincoln, but we don’t always understand their attraction. They seldom are different than the base Ford they are based on, but that may all be in the past as the MKT comes online. A stunning interior, an attention getting exterior and ample power. Priced in the mid-$40,000 range. Our advise, buy the turbocharged engine with its 355 horsepower.


More versions of this poor man’s BMW, the Mazda3 in the form of a four and five door and a souped-up sizzler, this fun and frugal winner has seen its interior expanded, but not its powertrain.  Prices start around $17,000. The Speed version threatens the pavement with a 2.3-liter engine creating 263 horsepower. Can you say torque steer?

Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

For nearly $90,000 you can own the luxurious S Class Mercedes that combines the power of the base engine with that of electric motors to give a big push to a big car without sacrificing too much fuel. Personally, we think the Bluetec diesel is the best offering, but it does not come in the S model.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

A very large coupe at a good price, the $54,000 E-Class is available with an optional 382-horsepower V8 to provide a lot of go in this attractive two door.

Mercedes-Benz GLK

An optical illusion, this SUV is actually small on the outside, but large on the inside. Available with the diesel, which would make it perfect, it also comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a potent 268 horses. Priced below $35,000. The best MB SUV.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class Hybrid

Priced around $50,000, this SUV combines a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a continuously variable transmission and two electric motors to make it seriously fast and still get fuel mileage above 20 mpg. In reality, this is better than the General Motors products in the form of the Cadillac Escalade hybrids, but lacks the polish of the Lexus RX 450h. Stick with the M-Class.

MINI Crossman

A MINI on steroids, the all wheel drive Crossman is a tall, stubby, attention getting version of the MINI that uses a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with 172 horsepower to push it through the considerable turbulence its design creates. For about $30,000 you can drive something different.

Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback

Sporty in appearance and handling, this Lancer can be ordered with all wheel drive and the station wagon styling makes it very family friendly. The hot rod Ralliart version is also planned. Priced under $30,000, the Sportback is the most utilitarian of the Lancers, but look for dealers to offer some good pricing.


The 370 Z convertible is here and this two-seater is a hoot to drive, especially considering its base pricing of just over $40,000 well equipped. For a lot less you can have the hard top version with the same engine, transmission, and suspension. With prices starting around $30,000, the 370Z comes with a 332 horsepower V6,  six-speed manual transmission and the must have SynchroRev Match system that automatically matches engine speed to your selected gear on downshifts. A real bargain, but there is a lot of competition in the sporty car field now with the upgraded Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Chrysler Challenger, and Hyundai Genesis coupe.

Nissan’s Cube is a box with a little style and a lot of utility. The poster car for funky, the Cube has an asymmetrical rear glass and a side opening rear hatch. For about $14,000 this eye catcher can do your daily chores without much fuss thanks to the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with 122 horsepower. There is a lot of competition in this niche once dominated by the Scion B and D. Now the pressure comes from the Kia Soul.


Porsche Panamera

This is a four door Porsche that comes in two forms, fast and faster. The 4400 pound sedan comes in either two or four wheel drive, but with engines pushing from 400 horsepower to 500 horsepower version. Certainly usable for a family, but at $125,000 plus it is best left to those who enjoy the status of owning this unusual vehicle.

Rolls-Royce Ghost

Why bother. Another Rolls gas hog that serves no purpose that a vehicle half its cost does not provide. A good way to spit in the face of environmentalists while getting the best parking spot at upscale restaurants.

Saab 9-5

Probably due much later in the model year, the new Saab 9-5 is a knockout. Nothing else much new from Saab due to its sale, but used Saabs are a bargain and the 2006 anniversary edition convertible remains one of the great undervalued and automobile collector bargains with only 400 produced. (see photo)


Smart fortwo ED

We love the Smart cars, except for the jerky transmissions. They are a hoot to drive and with this version you even get good gas mileage thanks to its electric motors. Another of our favorites.

Subaru Legacy

Bigger and sort of better, the $20,000 Legacy is larger and better looking, but the weak base engine still is challenged in mountain driving even with the new 6-speed manual transmission. We highly recommend the more expensive 3.6-liter flat-six engine option. Another one of our favorites.


Subaru Outback

Essentially the same as the Legacy, but with fancier exterior parts, the one to own is the
2.5 GT.  Priced under $25,000

Suzuki Kizashi
The Kizashi is a totally new direction for Suzuki to grow with a appealing exterior, a 2.4-liter, dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT, all wheel drive option, and the promise of more power to come. Lots of promises from Suzuki such as upscale audio systems, lots of safety equipment, and a price not much over $20,000. If you are interested in smaller vehicle this is a must drive.


Toyota Prius

Another winner from Toyota. The new Prius is much superior to the previous generation in every way from better fuel mileage to improved cargo room. Prices start about $23,000.  Awesome, but the tires are noisy and the handling is for the slow goers. Easily one of the best cars of 2010. Another one of our favorites.

Volkswagen GTI

It looks the same, but the GTI I much improved, although the powertrain remains virtually the same with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 6-speed manual or dual-clutch gearbox. Not inexpensive at $26,000, the handling and versatility of this VW might just spark new interest.

Volkswagen Golf

A well priced Volkswagen; the Golf is essentially the old Rabbit with a 2.5-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine or the highly desirable 2.0-liter diesel pushing the wind aside. Excellent fuel mileage and a $17,000 price tag make this a good vehicle for those who like to drive, but still enjoy passing a gas station.


Volvo XC60

The Volvo wagon remains one of the best you can buy for safety and room, especially the XC 70. However, the pricing on these big wagons is steep and so Volvo is offering the XC60. This smaller, Volvo wagon has an abundance of safety features and the  3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with its 285 horsepower has just enough power to move this crossover. The all-wheel-drive unit and better handling make this a better choice than its longer brother. Look for prices around $38,000. This is the best Volvo.

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Live Healthier: Buy a Safer Vehicle

The Car Family

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Want to live longer? Don’t buy a large SUV or pick-up truck or used vehicle without a full compliment of safety features. Buy a new family sedan which weighs at least 3000 pounds. You don’t have to shy away from high performance machinery, but at the very least take a professional driving course with it. Finally, do your homework. In other words, this article could be the most important reading you do short of a pre-nuptial agreement or that Nigerian email offering to share the wealth.

The crash statistics are overwhelming. In 2005 there were nearly 45,000 people killed in vehicle accidents or about one every 12 minutes in 2005. The majority of these accidents occurred within ten miles of the home and driver negligence was the cause. The most dangerous accident is a side impact one, which is the most common cause of injury. Side airbags are a must. You might try to lobby for all vehicles to have bumpers the same height so in side crashes the bumper does not override the steel beams in the door. Data reveals that driving while using a cell phone is more dangerous than driving drunk so get a hands free unit. In addition, remember that large Hummers, Lincoln Navigators, and Ford Excursions all weigh over 6000 pounds and are illegal to drive on many residential streets and some older highways so owning one could be safer because they might not legally be able to leave the owner’s garage.

So what is the safest vehicle? There are four factors to consider. First, understand that the larger the vehicle that more difficult it is to control. Large SUVs and pick-up trucks may be safer in an accident with a smaller vehicle, but are much more likely to be involved in a single vehicle accident due to loss of control. SUVs and pickups have more than double the chance of rolling over, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, and have a higher fatality rate than cars in the same weight category. While large SUVs and pickups may be at an advantage in multi-vehicle accidents, they are involved in over 40 percent of all fatal single vehicle accidents. Putting an inexperienced driver in large SUV is an act of faith rather than logic.

Next, do your homework. There are crash test scores generated by the government and insurance industry that must be checked and are readily available online. Following that buy every safety related option. Saab and Volvos, for example, come with whiplash protection systems. Cadillac, for one, offers lane departure warnings and a system that warns the driver when a vehicle is in the vehicle’s blind spot. Mercedes and others offer knee airbags and several manufacturers offer side air bags for rear passengers. And make certain you order the electronic stability control that helps prevent rollovers.

Finally, look for the vehicle’s ability to avoid accidents. Good handling, braking, and visibility are vital. The latter should not be neglected as the rise in ownership of SUVs has resulted in over 2400 cases of children being run over or backed over.

With all that in mind here is a list of vehicles that offer excellent safety features, have good crash scores and good handling. Be advised that not all the 2007 vehicles have been evaluated and so this data is based on earlier models. Our recommendation for the “healthiest” cars in the large car category are the Acura RL Audi A6, Buick Lucerne, Chrysler 300 C/Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Lexus ES 300, Lincoln Town Car and LS, and the Volvo S80, wagons and convertibles. The Lexus would be our choice here, but the Ford is a very good family vehicle. The Volvo wagons are ideal replacements for SUVs and are loaded with safety features.

For midsized cars the Audi again is a good choice as well as the Acura TL, Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Element, Subaru Legacy and the underrated Saab 9-3. The Saab convertible is as safe a drop top as they make. Subaru’s Impreza is also a good small car. Subaru’s Forester and Honda’s CR-V were also cited. The Volkswagen Passat, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima also had high scores. Of these we like the Saab best with its perky performance and handling, but the gas mileage and roomy interior of the 2008 Accord make it attractive and the Malibu is a bargain.

Minivans from Honda, Kia, Toyota, Mazda, and Hyundai have earned top honors and there are a lot of midsized SUVs to consider. Those from Acura, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes, Saturn, Subaru, Toyota, and Volvo are rated well. We always like the way the small BMW X3 handles, but the new Saturn and Ford Edge are excellent values and Kia minvan is a bargain. The Lexus RX would be the top pick in the SUV category.

Other vehicles that are worth a look are the Lexus IS, Volkswagen Jetta, Passat, and Rabbit/Golf, and the Honda Civic. The Honda is good, but if you can afford the IS go for it. On the other hand, we are thinking of ordering the Jetta diesel wagon for our fleet next year.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published its list of death rates by vehicles collected over four years. The safest were the Chevrolet Astro, Infiniti G35, BMW 7 Series, Toyota 4Runner, Audi A4, Mercedes E and M-Class, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Lexus ES 330, Lexus RX 330, Toyota Sequoia, Honda Pilot, and BMW X5. The highest death rates were recorded for those in a Chevrolet Blazer, Acura RSX, Nissan 350Z, Kia Spectra, Pontiac Sunfire, Kia Rio, Chevrolet Cavalier, and Mitsubishi Eclipse, among others. Note that all the latter models have been replaced or redone since this data was published.

Family conference: The top choices from The Car Family in selecting a safe family car would be the small Saab, large Volvo sedan and wagon, BMW, Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru, Lexus RX and ES, Audi sedans, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. We have high hopes that the new Volkswagens will soon be added to this mix.

A healthier life style could be as simple as exercising your credit line.

Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety

National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration

2008 Volvo XC70: Inoffensive Transportation

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Volvo’s redone XC70’s main trait is to blend in and avoid controversy. Even though there has been major work done, the old XC is nearly identical in appearance and performance to the new one. Thus if you can forgo the extra safety features and larger cargo capacity a good deal on a 2007 model would be in order. Remember that these aren’t big sellers, but they do have a wonderful reputation for utility and safety that should appeal to those customers who like a bit of character in what they drive as well as having a practical bent.

To make more room the new model is two inches longer in the wheelbase and four inches longer overall. This makes for a very commodious interior, but one that lacks any type of exotic or cushy features. It is as if Volvo decided that being political correct was the way to attract new customers. There aren’t any sharp edges, puffy leather surfaces, glaring chrome pieces, and no electronic doodads, just a large cavern on wheels. Of course, that cavern has a host of safety features that has become a tradition from this Swedish company.

Standard equipment includes traction control, a hill decent program that permits the car to edge slowly down steep grades at six mile per hour, air bags nearly everywhere, tire-pressure monitoring, and a unique adjustable child’s seat that is clearly novel and needed. Also available are a collision warning with brake support that warns the driver if it senses a collision may occur with the car in front and automatically brakes if the driver fails to respond. We didn’t check this system or even challenge it, but it is nice to know it is there. Also available is a blind spot information program. This lets you know if there is a vehicle in your side mirror’s blind spots. Well worth it, but after testing if we found that there needs to be a more distinct warning buzzer that can be turned up or off by the driver.

Under the hood is a transversely mounted 235-horsepower, 3.2-liter; inline-6 that offers 236 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is adequate, but when the wagon is fully loaded and you are driving in the mountains you are going to want a more power. It takes a while for the six speed automatic transmission to react to and when it does the engine’s response is tepid. The standard all wheel drive system eats up a lot of the propulsion and the cars 4400-pound weight doesn’t help either.

Mom’s view: A trip back in time, that was my reaction to the Volvo XC70. It is the least expressive car I have driver in ages. It is smooth, quiet, slow, and gentle. There isn’t an aggressive bolt in its character. You can’t even provoke it by pushing on its petrol pedal. The ride is on the bouncy side due to the long travel of its off-roadable suspension and any quick input from the steering wheel is taken with a grain of salt. It reacts, but not dramatically. For those who like to drive get the V70 wagon and you have a winner. This is the best XC 70 ever, but it isn’t overwhelming in terms of driver participation. Overall this Volvo is a fine car for ski trips, travel in areas of inclement weather, and for those who want the room of a SUV with the safety and practicality of a station wagon. It is well worth the $36,000 price especially when compared to the competition from Subaru that offers less interior room and fewer features for a similar price.

Safety features abound. High -intensity-discharge headlights that turn in the direction of the steering wheel are optional and terrific. They could fry that deer caught it the headlights. You also have over eight inches of ground clearance to safely ride over highway residue as well as snowdrifts and high centered dirt roads. There are dual stage front airbags, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags that extend lower than on previous models, a stability system, and the Volvo anti-whiplash system that helps prevent serious injury in rear-end collision. The longitudinal layout of the engine provides a greater front crush area. Volvo also has daytime running lights and adaptive cruise control as well as an available Personal Car Communicator keyless starting system. I found this feature very useful as it was easy to place the keycard in the ignition located high on the dash and press the start button to get underway. It was much better than a key system. Volvo also had what they call a Ready Alert Brakes and Fading Brake Support that are supposed to improve braking response time. I found the brake pedal feel a little soft, but when you were serious the XC responded well.

The interior is plain, painfully plain, except for a very unusual gas gauge that sits horizontally near the bottom of the center cluster. It is easy to read and leaves room for a larger speedometer and tachometer. However, the font sizes could be increased for ease of reading at night. The interior lighting is only average. The rear hatch isn’t too high or heavy to lift and close, but if you are left handed, as I am, you are out of luck because the grab handle to shut the hatch is on the right hand side. Why not one on both sides? The rear seats have a 40/20/40, and the outboard ones have an optional heating feature do the front seats. This is a blessing on cold mornings as the seat heaters work quickly and evenly. The car heater and air conditioning are slower to react and the controls are a bit more complicated. Fortunately, Volvo has gotten rid of its awful radio station all in one knob. The stereo selection if now simpler to use, but the knobs for the climate control and radio are easy to mix-up at first.

I like the look of the XC70 and feel it is superior to SUVs and even minivans for straightforwardness of use and safety features. It has a high seating position, is easier to load an infant, and has much greater visibility in all directions to vans and SUVS. My only disappointment was the relaxed nature of the engine’s response and the 18-mpg we averaged on regular. Only at highway cruising speed were we able to break the 20-mpg barrier.

Dad’s view: A very solid vehicle that appears unflappable on most every type of road. The transmission can be shifted manually, but the lack of engine torque makes this frustrating at times as there is just so much the inline six can do when confronted with a high gear ratio and two tons of Swedish steel to tote around.

The cargo area has aluminum rails and a tie-down system to secure boxes and you can order a special unit that pops up to help hold grocery bags in place. When we owned a Volvo wagon we just put some small cardboard boxes back there, but this unit is clearly better, especially since it folds out of the way.

I felt relaxed driving the XC70, not because it felt sturdy and was loaded with safety features, but because you just can’t be in a hurry with this wagon. The 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine with its dual overhead cam design and variable intake system needs 6200 rpm to produce its work, even though the 236 lb-ft of torque is ready at still high 3200 rpm. This means that unless you are willing to work the Geartronic manual shift acceleration is going to be languid. Volvo says the XC70 will arrive at 60 mph in just over eight seconds. We found that with a family onboard it was over 10 seconds. I found that it was best just to let this Volvo do its work at its own pace and relax.

Suspension is fully independent with MacPherson struts in front and a multilink system in the rear. Shock damping is very good considering that the engineers had to design a car that was capable of going both off road and on paved highway without sacrificing safety or ride comfort. You can even get a 3000 plus pound towing capacity with the wagon. Driving curves is best left to the brave as there is considerable lean. However, this Volvo is far more capable than it feels as it stays well grounded and the front wheel power pulls you through corners well, but beware that the understeering means you must be schooled in how to drive all wheel vehicles to get the most out of them.

Working woman’s view: There is a lot of room here and seating for four adults is a snap. The back seats could use a bit more headroom and the rear center position has a driveline hump to deal with. Pricing on our test vehicle was $37,520, but the major options can drive that up dramatically with a navigation system adding over $2000 to that total and the twin-screen rear entertainment system nearly $1800 more. Other options include a premium package with leather upholstery, sunroof, wood trim, auto-dimming inside mirror, a garage-door opener, heated and power driver’s seat, a desirable power tailgate, and a parking-assist system. You can easily find yourself with a $45,000 Volvo if you aren’t judicious in your option selections.

I’m a sucker for a gimmick, which is why I love the Chrysler minivan Stow and Go option. Volvo has now entered my realm of interest with its adjustable kid’s seats. They are located in both second row outboard seats. To use them just raise the seat bottoms to either of the two available positions based on the height of the child. One setting is for children from 45 to 55 inches tall and the other for those 37 to 47 inches in height. Designed for children from about four to 10 years of age or so, they are simple to use and an industry first for Volvo. The seats also allow children to look out the windows if you don’t order the DVD option with screens mounted in the front headrests to transfix their attention.


If you have a family this Volvo should be on your short list as if is so much user friendly than the gas hoggish SUVs and provide more ground clearance then minivans. I liked the looks, too, with its wide stance and easy to use interior and cargo areas. And I always like those full-height taillights that frame the rear hatch.

College going male’s view: The sound system needs to be improved and the option system is highly recommended for a car with such a large interior space. The Audio Package has a 650-watt amplifier, Dolby Pro-Logic II Surround Sound, 12 Dynaudio speakers, 6-CD changer, rear seat headphone jacks and Sirius Satellite Radio. Get it. The slim center stack area is clever, but not visually impressive. We didn’t get a car with the GPS, but if the salesperson can’t explain it to you in under a couple of minutes don’t order it. Handheld units are less expensive, easier to update, and are obviously portable. Volvo also has a Personal Car Communicator with Keyless Drive, two-way car communication and heartbeat sensor. We didn’t have this option, but it sounds very cool. Maybe it could monitor the heart rate of your date? Now that would be an option every guy would order.

The steering wheel is a little too thick and blocks the gauges after I found a comfortable seating position even though the steering column is adjustable. The sun visors don’t slide enough to provide good coverage and although there is an abundance of interior storage areas, the glove compartment light and map lights are barely adequate. Drop the key fob on the floor at night and you’ll see why.

This is one car that looks bigger on the outside than the inside. I love to camp and there is enough room to sleep in this Volvo, but the Volkswagen Passat wagon has more area and is much less expensive as is the Dodge Magnum, and it can also be order with all wheel drive, too. Both the Dodge and the Volkswagen also get better fuel mileage. In other words, the Volvo is for those who love the idea of the Volvo and need the reassurances that it represents. If I wanted a wagon I would wait for the new V70 from Volvo.

Family conference: We owned a Volvo wagon for nearly ten years. It was expensive to maintain, but we put over 400,000 miles on it without having a major problem. Even the turbocharger proved problem free. The 2008 Volvo XC70 is much improved and a fine family vehicle. It does everything expected of a station wagon and adds all wheel drive, built in boaster chairs, and a go anywhere ability. The only drawback was the fuel mileage and the power. Overall, this Volvo is easily one of the best vehicles for those who want the versatility and safety of a wagon with the utility of a SUV.

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Best SUVs for gas mileage

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It is an oxymoron when you write about fuel efficient SUVs. They are just not built to be economical to operate. They push more wind, have greater weight, and frequently have less efficient engines because they don’t have to meet the same economy standards as other vehicles. However, there are a few that provide better gas mileage and still offer the attributes of a SUV.

Before we start please note that Saturn, Ford and Toyota have hybrid SUVs that give well over 26 mpg in mixed driving and more into town. . If you really want the best fuel mileage and like the Saturn Green Line, Ford Escape, Lexus RX, or Toyota Highlander they are the best in this regard.

The new General Motors hybrid SUVs are very, very expensive, costing several thousand dollars more than the gas only version. How these vehicles earned any Green awards is beyond us. It is much better to get the very good GMC Acadia unless you need to tow on a daily or weekly basis. And, don’t forget the upkeep of those new hybrids in terms of replacing the battery packs and the extra maintenance costs. With gas prices heading upward almost daily and both the safety and insurance concerns with owning a large SUV it only makes sense to consider one if you need the extra towing capacity.

BEWARE. The Hummer, Hummer H2, Lincoln Navigator, and Ford Excursion all weigh over 6000 pounds and are illegal to drive on many residential streets and some older highways such as the Pasadena Freeway in Los Angeles. Before you even consider one of these fast depreciating vehicles check your community’s weight restrictions.

You might also be interested in knowing that The Car Family was the only group that selected the Toyota Prius as the outstanding car both the year it came out and this year. We believe strongly in economical, family friendly vehicles. We can’t tell you about the latest Ferrari or V10 powered two-seater pick-up truck, but we have reviewed every station wagon.

Sports utility vehicles come in three varieties. Those built on a passenger car platform such as the Toyota Highlander. Those built on a truck chassis such as the Ford Excursion. And, those built on a dedicated frame such as the Land Rover, Range Rover vehicles. They also vary in size so it is only going to be natural that the lighter, smaller sedan based SUVs are going to go further on a gallon of gas. Furthermore, those SUVs powered by four cylinder engines are going to rank higher.

Before we get into listing specifics remember that all figures are from the government.

Best Mileage SUVs

The best fuel mileage SUVs that get over 20 mpg on regular fuel are the four-cylinder, two wheel drive Toyota RAV4, Saturn Vue, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, and Toyota Highlander. We have tested all of them and like the Highlander the most, although it is more costly. Another new player is the Nissan Rogue which is well worth a look, although not in the top grade. Review at

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the all wheel drive Subaru Forester ranks nearly as high in fuel mileage as the front wheel drive only competition. This makes it a best buy and we highly recommend it if you need the traction. All of these SUVs should provide you with nearly 25 miles per gallon on the highway or better. Following the high mileage Subaru in the four-wheel drive category are the Honda CR-X and Toyota RAV4. Of these we adore the Subaru most and, if equipped with the optional turbocharged engine and a manual transmission it is a joy to drive anywhere. Don’t overlook this vehicle or its sister, the Subaru Baja with its small pick-up bed, but beware of fast depreciation. By they way check out my open source servers and computers built to your specifications at You might note that I owned a Subaru for several years and found them very reliable, but the cost of parts and upkeep were extremely high.

Another surprise is how efficient our favorite SUV is with the two-wheel drive. That is the improved Lexus RX 330 that gets nearly 24 mpg in mixed driving. The luxury competition simply cannot match this worthy vehicle and when the hybrid version comes out you can expect even higher demand. Not as expensive, and a relative bargain as its priced under $20,000 is the Hyundai Santa Fe. We like this car when equipped with the 3.5 engine. However, the best gas mileage only comes with the four-cylinder engine. We doubt you are going to like this combination if you haul a family around.

A good new car to consider, and one of our recommendations, is the new Chevrolet Equinox. We averaged 22 mpg on regular and were impressed by its space and utility. Don’t pass this one by if you need a smaller SUV that runs under $25,000.

Moving down to the 20 mpg overall average range you get the trim Jeep Liberty/Cherokee 4WD and the new BMW X3. From there on down the mileage figures drop dramatically.



On the bottom on the list are the luxurious Mercedes-Benz G500 and Land Rovers that barely crack 14 mpg. They are not alone at this end of the environmental friendly graph either. The list is loaded with heavy SUVs that don’t offer either the room or utility of many other SUVs and cannot be recommended by The Car Family in this regard. The good news is that these very expense vehicles are well equipped to tackle any terrain.

Other SUV gas-guzzlers are these four-wheel drive models and they have two elements in common. First, they have powerful engines many putting out over 300 horsepower. Secondly, they are loaded with features that the more fuel-efficient models don’t even offer as an option. Look for real life gas mileage under 14 mpg with these rigs. In no particular order in this category are the Toyota Land Cruiser, Lexus LX470, Lincoln Aviator, GMC K1500, Yukon XL, Ford Expedition, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Dodge Durango, Nissan Armada, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Infiniti QX 56, Mercedes G, Toyota Sequoia, Volkswagen Tourareg, the quality control bothered Range Rover, and the Chevrolet Suburban. Of these, we find the Toyota Sequoia the best in real life gas mileage situations. We have tested all of these except the ultra expensive G55 and find them all ponderous and fuel hungry. The best handling are the Porsche and Volkswagen with the Porsche having poor quality scores until recently. Not mentioned is the BMW X5 which gets slightly better mileage than the others and is a better handling vehicle than most. However, it has very little storage space.

Without doubt the vehicle we fault the most because of its poor gas mileage, you’re going to be lucky to break 12 mpg, is the Hummer H2 with its huge blind spots, high noise levels, and a very questionable handling. In fact, this $52,000 plus block of steel had the lowest ranking of any vehicle after three months of ownership, according to the J.D. Powers study. This was largely due to complaints about its notorious bad gas mileage. I have no idea what these buyers expected, but The Car Family does not recommend this vehicle regardless of where you live. There are far better off-road vehicles. We won’t even mention the military based Hummer because they just are not family transportation based on their long stopping distance, high noise level, lack of storage, limited seating arrangements, and diesel fuel mileage of 8 mpg. Luckily it had two large fuel tanks.

In the middle

There are a great many SUVs in the middle especially those using the Chevrolet Trailblazer six cylinder engine and chassis and the new crossover such as the Saturn Acadia. These are comfortable, large, six cylinder powered SUVs that get about 20 mpg in real world driving. One of our favorites is the Buick Rendezvous, which is very roomy, and the Acura MDX and Honda Pilot. The latter two have exceptional rides. These vehicles are in the middle in terms of gas mileage because they are neither excessively luxurious nor spartan in nature. If you don’t drive a lot of miles and truly need a SUV there are some good family oriented vehicles here. But, before you drive check out the insurance rates and roll over results.

Family conference

We do not recommend SUVs to anyone unless there is a strong need for their heft and traction. However, the best ones in each category for us are the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester as the most friendly and fuel-efficient. The Ford Escape, Highlander, and the Lexus RX 330 all with V6 engines are excellent. We also suggest you consider the new BMW X3 and Jeep Liberty if you need more serious off-road tendencies and still care about fuel mileage. As for the extreme gas users only the Sequoia is of note and they make one that carries seven people, too. We are currently testing the new Cadillac SRX V8 and find it very powerful and a great ride for the $56,785 price. However, we have not been able to get over 15 mpg in mixed driving. The good news for Cadillac is that we like it much better than the Volkswagen Tourareg and the Cad seats seven, too. We urge you to think carefully before buying a SUV. A fairly loaded Mercedes E Class wagon with room for seven and more cargo space than almost any SUV is rated at 27 mpg on the highway and costs less than the Cadillac Escalade and the all wheel drive Volvo wagons are even less expensive. As for the least desirable SUV from the standpoint of fuel mileage and interior space there is little question that the Hummer creates the heaviest carbon footprint especially when it can only carry five with very limited usable cargo room. For the same price get the Saturn Acadia.

Where you can find all the manufacture’s websites

Calculating fuel mileage

When fuel was $1 a gallon the difference between a vehicle that got 10 and one that averaged 20 miles a gallon during normal driving was not going to save you much in fuel perhaps ten dollars a week. With gas prices well over $3 and rising still the difference is a thousand dollars a year. However, even at these high rates research has indicated that people would not be willing to change their driving habits or get rid of inefficient vehicles until the price reached over $5 per gallon. Please remember that these figures are at 10,000 per year. According to studies most Americans are traveling 20,000 miles per year and have commuting times from 30 to 45 minutes daily. If that is the case you can double these costs. In other words, driving a Ford Excursion with gas at $2.50 a gallon is going to set you back about $4000 a year while driving a Toyota Highland is going to save you nearly $2000 and return a much higher resale figure.

For our calculations we have used a yearly driving average of 10,000 miles. If you drive more it would be easy to multiply the costs accordingly. Using this table you can quickly see that paying $20,000 for a Honda CR-V that gets 22 mpg in mixed driving and

What is gas really costing you (based on 10,000 miles)

Cost per year for gas in dollars round off

Gas price

$2.50 $5000 2500 1665 1250 1000 832

$3.00 $6000 3000 2000 1500 1200 1000

SUV mpg 5 10 15 20 25 30

Review: Volvo XC 90

By The Car Family

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It’s big, expensive, guzzles gas, and is loaded with features, but Volvo’s entry into the SUV field promises to appeal to those who want to rationalize that they need a sports utility vehicle for versatility and safety.

Mom’s view: Caring people have grown to fear large SUVs because of damage they do the others and the environment. Studies have well documented that large SUVs are also a danger to their own occupants, largely from one vehicle accidents resulting in rollovers and deaths. Volvo has done a good job of alleviating those fears with this new XC 90. It is loaded with safety features and more environmentally friendly than most others large vehicles.

Inside, Volvo has the ability to carry seven people. With 93 plus cubic feet of cargo room, and a Volvo claimed 64 different seating configurations for the XC 90’s 9.5 feet long cargo area, this is certainly a true utility vehicle. Furthermore, Volvo offers an optional third seat for those who are small or agile.

The front seats are comfortable, and you have separate controls for the rear air conditioning and an optional rear sonar system that is a must because this Volvo offers extremely poor rear visibility. The visibility to the sides is okay, but the hood slopes away so steeply that you can not see where your fenders are leaving parking lot manoeuvres one of judgment as much as hope.

We tested the A$82,950 XC90 AWD T6 version. A less powerful, but less expensive model is also offered. We weren’t impressed by the acceleration of the XC90 regardless of the 268 hp rating for Volvo’s flag carrier. Maybe it was the hot weather, but this engine was just adequate. However, nothing prepared us for the gas mileage we got in mixed driving. We barely got 15 mph on premium. We recommend you consider the base version which has less horsepower and is less costly to operate. Both require premium fuel.

We much preferred Volvo’s highly competent all wheel drive station wagons to the XC 90, but they don’t offer the versatility of this big machine. One thing they do have in common is Volvo’s significant safety features. The XC90 offers two-stage dual front airbags, side impact protection, whiplash protection front, curtain side airbags for everyone and a baby seat attachment system. Most importantly for any tipsy SUV, is a state of the art roll over protection system, seatbelts with pretensioners, and an integrated sliding child booster seat.

The most interesting statistic given to us by Volvo was that the XC has a lower centre of gravity than the V70 wagon, which is difficult to believe noting the 9.2 inches of ground clearance with the 18-inch tires. I can tell you this, give my choice of driving on mountain highways I would take the wagon.

Working college male’s view: The sound system with its Dolby 5.1 Pro Logic II surround stereo was above average, but the radio reception, although good, sometimes attracted a shadow signal that was very distracting.

This is a large vehicle, even though it doesn’t look it. Unfortunately, this model as has become the custom lately, has a third row of seats. Why not just get a mini-van? Anyway, you can probably tell I was assigned to struggling into the third row seats. There is virtually no legroom, although the second row seats scoot forward to make entry a tad easier. Third-row seatbelts have pretensioners, which go with the safety theme of this Volvo. There is also a much needed rear crumple zone, which is a must for any family vehicle.

I did like the fact that there were headphone plugs for second and third row passengers, cupholders for everyone, and several zones of climate control. A lot of nice touches in this Volvo, such as an optional drop-down DVD player, for both second- and third-row passengers, and fairly comfortable, although small, seats. There was probably more for a rear seat passenger to do in the this Volvo than any SUV I’ve been in and I don’t think any of them paid as much detail to safety. On the other hand getting into the back seats require you to navigate narrow rear doors and getting into the rear seats is not easy.

Volvo did an interesting thing in the rear seating area by lowering the second row to offer those in the third row a less claustrophobic view. A real treat was the fact that the second-row seats don’t have to have their headrests removed when the seats are folded flat. This is probably the most well thought our SUV I have ever seen. It ranks with the new Toyota Sienna van as the most family friendly.

Dad’s view: I won’t mince words. Raised SUVs and pick-up trucks are a danger to everyone. If the bumpers on a vehicle don’t line up with those of regular cars they can crash through the protective side beams and cause injury and death that could have been prevented.

Volvo knows this and, like the Lexus RX and Mercedes M class, have placed a low front chassis crossmember on the XC at, about the same height as the bumper of a sedan. In this way, in case of an accident, there is less likelihood to kill or maim. Such common sense protection should be the law.

Engine wise the Volvo XC90 has two models, the 2.5T and T6. We tested the more expensive T6, but highly recommend the more economical 2.5T with its inline five-cylinder turbocharged engine delivering 208 horsepower with 236 foot-pounds of torque.

Our test car, the T6, had a six-cylinder with twin turbos, 2.9 litres, and 268 horsepower and was loaded with options. We recommend you look at the base model front wheel drive 2.5T which costs A$69,950 or A$13,000 less than the top model.

And has many of the same safety features, albeit without the stronger engine and all wheel drive capabilities. Volvo does not offer a low range transfer case in any form indicating that these models are more highway oriented than off-road capable.

Popular options for the XC are all wheel drive, the Premium Package with leather power seats, a moonroof and 6-disc changer, the third row of seats and related extras although this option can only be ordered with the Premium Package. There is also the navigation system, a reverse warning beeper, and the excellent Dolby 12-speaker sound system. The DVD entertainment centre is installed by the dealer, and worth it. It should be noted, that when you go with the high line T6 model you get all wheel drive and the Premium Package for a base price around A$83,000.

We always liked Volvo seats, and these are very good, too. The instrument panel is simple, and the Whiplash Protection System appreciated.

Make sure you try the lumbar support and practice adjusting the steering column because not everyone in The Car Family could find a sweet spot while driving.

What stood out for me was the ride of this Volvo. It was floaty over bumps due to its off-road capable suspension, but otherwise was exceptional. It handles highways well, although it never feels like a small car. This Volvo sets a new standard for SUV handling beating the BMW’s stiffish ride and the Lexus jelly roll suspension.

Too bad, the engine didn’t have more power to take advantage of the potential.

Young Working Woman’s View: Such an unusual vehicle. Very large, but nice looking, this is a very desirable car if you need a SUV. I would rather have the new V70 wagon myself, but that’s the point; I don’t have a family. If I needed a utility vehicle that could haul a stepladder, seven people this would be a very desirable choice. At least until I filled it up with premium and than I would swallow my pride and get a mini van or wagon.

There are a lot of features on our Volvo V90.The rear tailgate has two sections with a smaller, drop down section making it easy to slide have objects in and the larger, upward tailgate, being easy to lift and adequate head room while loading. I also liked the stereo controls. Unlike the tuning knobs on other Volvo models that are unbelievable complex and useless when driving at speed, the XC returned to the basics so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to find your station.

I was not impressed with the automatic transmission that hesitated at times when going uphill as the computer tried to anticipate the power the turbo was going to provide when the driver was asking for more speed.

The transmission seemed miffed and didn’t know whether to kick down one or two gears. It reminded me of the Jaguar transmissions that did the same thing. Anyway, the gas mileage was poor and I cannot imagine what it would be if you decided to haul the 5000 pound trailer Volvo states this model can handle.

I doubt you are ever going to see 18 mpg on premium gas with either engine choice. It’s a good thing this rig has a 19 gallon tank. To my mind the Lexus RX 330, is better from that standpoint. Of course, you don’t get all the room in the Lexus, but the costs are very similar.

The steering is light, nearly void of feedback on the highway. This is not a performance-oriented vehicle despite the horsepower figures. The brakes are good, but need getting used to because there appeared be a long pedal travel before the giant discs did their job.

Overall, I liked the look of the XC90, the way it rode on the highway, and the many safety features. A good start.

Family Conference: This is an expensive SUV and you can clearly see what you are getting for your money: safety and interior space. If these two attributes are at the top of your list you have little choice, as this Volvo is the only one to offer such traits in such abundance. If you are looking for nimble, economical to operate, or handling look elsewhere. For links to every vehicle manfacture go to and click on business.