Detroit Bureau on Twitter

Posts Tagged ‘auto review’

First Drive: 2016 Toyota Prius

New look, new suspension - great mileage and moderate improvements to ride.

by on Nov.23, 2015

The top-line Toyota Prius Four Touring model starts at $30,000 plus delivery fees.

In an era when so many cars have a tendency to look alike, the Toyota Prius has been an unabashed, if somewhat geeky, standout. Of course, it’s what’s below the skin that really makes the difference. The Prius was the world’s first hybrid-electric vehicle when it made its debut in Japan in 1997 and, ever since, it has overwhelmingly dominated that segment worldwide.

But times have changed, and the third-generation Toyota Prius has been losing a lot of sales momentum this year. There are several reasons why, perhaps most notably the sharp slide in fuel prices that has reduced demand for all “green” vehicles. But there are other factors, among other things that geeky design and the less than thrilling ride offered by the old Prius.

Reviews You Can Trust!

And those are issues Toyota has set out to address with the fourth-generation hybrid. The 2016 Toyota Prius gets a complete, top-to-bottom makeover: new skin, a new platform, a new independent rear suspension — and an updated Hybrid Synergy Drive system that delivers as much as 10% better mileage.


First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50

An SUV by any other name.

by on Sep.28, 2015

The new QX50 with designer Alfonso Albaisa during the crossover's debut earlier this year.

At times, the auto industry has at least one thing in common with baseball: you can’t tell the players apart without a scorecard. That’s especially true with Infiniti, the Japanese automaker sowing plenty of confusion when it decided to rename familiar products like the old G and JX lines.

It’s hard to tell whether that’s the reason why sales of the Infiniti EX stumbled to a virtual halt after it was renamed the QX50 for 2014. Perhaps it was simply the result of a once-popular product growing old in hotly competitive segment. Whatever the reason, the luxury arm of Nissan Motor Co. is hoping to kick-start the crossover’s momentum with a modest, but much-needed refresh for the 2016 model-year.

Product, Product, Product!

The basic shape will immediately be familiar. Like the bigger Infiniti FX, the EX was one of the first crossover-utility vehicles to stop trying to pretend it was a classic SUV, instead putting an emphasis on styling, features and on-road manners. That part hasn’t changed. During a trip to San Diego to try out the 2016 Infiniti Qx50, off-road capabilities didn’t even merit a footnote.


First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-In

Hyundai plugs in with updated HEV and all-new PHEV sedan.

by on May.26, 2015

Hyundai's second-generation Sonata Hybrid.

Initially slow to embrace alternative powertrain technology, Hyundai is determined to catch up with green rivals like Toyota and Honda. It was the first to market with a retail hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle and it is about to update its original Sonata Hybrid for 2016 – while also adding its first plug-in hybrid model.

The timing likely isn’t the best. With gasoline prices running about a dollar lower than a year ago, and likely to say depressed for a while, demand for battery-based vehicles has taken a dive. But based on a day’s drive of the two new Korean models, green-minded buyers looking for alternatives would be well advised to check out the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Sonata Plug-in Hybrid.

Stay Plugged In!

The plug-based model, in particular, offers the longest range of any midsize PHEV on the U.S. market and its gas-electric driveline provides one of the smoothest, most transparent rides of any plug-in we’ve so far tested.


First Drive: 2014 Mazda3

Not your old econo-box.

by on Sep.20, 2013

The new 2014 Mazda3 is the latest model to pick up on the Kodo design language.

The Mazda3 has been around for a while now and familiarity has no doubt bred an array of preconceptions about the car.

With the launch of 2014 Mazda3 with SkyActiv technology, however, Mazda3 is going to force a lot of buyers to drop their pre-conceived notions about compact cars. The new Mazda3 is definitely not your aunt’s econobox.

Instead it’s sleek and nimble, as well as comfortable, efficient and versatile. In fact, the exterior design of the new Mazda3 — which carries on the distinctively sculpted Kodo design language the automaker has highlighted with recent concept vehicles — makes it one of the most stylish vehicles in a crowded segment.

Reviews You Can Trust!

That’s no faint praise when you consider the alternatives include the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Honda Civic and the new Toyota Corolla.

But while some of those competitors are content with a single body style, the new Mazda3 will be offered in both four–door sedan and five-door hatchback form.


Stylish yes, But is 2013 Ford Escape as Useful as Old One?

Sleek new cute ute is a major departure from the old box.

by on Dec.26, 2012

Ford says the 2013 Ford Escape is as useful as the original, but now in a sleek and stylish package.

For me, a new Ford Escape is personal. Our 2002 model was simply the best car we’ve ever owned.

With its optional V-6, it was powerful, it was as maneuverable as a go-kart and it had an interior that simply could not possibly have fit inside what looked like a smallish sport utility on the outside. Tough grey plastic cladding on the bottom gave that original Escape a rough and read, youthful look and it brushed off road debris without trouble.

Sleek and Modern!

There’s a good reason buyers have made it the best-selling small SUV on the market. It may have been a box, but it just worked.

But now Ford has built a new Escape, with swoopier styling, new powertrain options and a modern interior. The question is whether this new Escape can live up to or improve on one of the most useful vehicles of its size ever made.

Let’s take a look.

First Drive: 2013 Ford Explorer Sport

Big crossover conquers the only jungle that really matters.

by on Nov.30, 2012

The Ford Explorer Sport is the perfect vehicle for conquering the concrete jungle.

The Ford Explorer Sport is the perfect vehicle for conquering the concrete jungle.

It’s a jungle out there and you need a vehicle that can handle it. Pitted trails, obstacles to avoid, narrow spots to fit through.

Yep, the parking lot can be a real test for any vehicle … Oh, you thought this was about the REAL jungle? As in vines, mud holes and “roads” that are more like deer trails? Ha, while SUVs may purport to go there, virtually everyone knows that the only time the large majority of these beasts ever leave the road is to enter the parking lot at the mall.

So it is with that in mind that we put Ford’s new Explorer Sport to the test. In fact, we subjected Ford’s biggest crossover – sorry, Ford may want you to view this as a sport utility vehicle, but it’s based on the same platform as a Ford Taurus – to the most grueling test possible: Black Friday shopping.

Back from the Jungle!

The test actually began with what became a reconnaissance mission on Thanksgiving Eve Wednesday night – go ahead, call us geeks – to Carson’s where we were able to scout locations for bounty which would become critical Thursday night/Friday morning.

As is typical these days, Black Friday actually begins Thursday night as families are wrapping up their Thanksgiving Day celebrations. So having a sure-footed CUV with a commanding driving position becomes important in the battle to avoid other motorists in their tryptophan-induced stupors.

There were presents to buy, deals to be had and mobs of people to be crushed by. Our Black Friday escapade was on.


First Drive: 2013 Scion FR-S

Toyota CEO says he wants more passion and this new sports car delivers.

by on Nov.08, 2012

The Scion FR-S fills a noticeable void in the market - the affordable rear-wheel drive sports car with somewhat useful interior space..

In recent years, if you wanted a true sports car, your only choices were to accept a car based a front-wheel drive econobox or cash in your 401(k) to buy a real sports car putting its power to the rear wheels.

No more. Subaru and Toyota – a seemingly unlikely pair to create this car – got together to develop what is essentially the Holy Grail of fun cars – the affordable sports car.

Covering the Auto Industry with Passion!

Think about it. Subaru, known for its variety of sensible all-wheel drive cars with just one performance-oriented model, the WRX, wants to build a car that is completely out of its element, a RWD sports car. Knowing it couldn’t justify the investment without a partner, the small Japanese automaker approached giant Toyota, known recently more for its fuel-sipping hybrids, but with a somewhat forgotten history of performance machines.

Together, they created a masterpiece, a car to be celebrated by everyone who enjoys driving, but wasn’t born with a trust fund in his mouth.


First Drive: 2013 Ford Taurus

Ford flips the big engine/small car paradigm to provide better fuel economy with similar performance.

by on Oct.19, 2012

A 2.0-liter four cylinder may sound small for a full-sizer, but Ford makes it work with turbocharging and direct injection.

Car enthusiasts love the small car/big engine formula when it comes to sports cars. But now automakers are starting to flip the formula, putting small engines in big cars.

None have been more aggressive than Ford with its EcoBoost engine strategy. A case in point is the refreshed 2013 Taurus, where the 2.0-liter EcoBoost is now an option to the standard 3.5-liter V-6. Of course, another engine carrying the EcoBoost name, the 3.5-liter twin turbo is still available in the high-performance SHO.

The tenets of EcoBoost are smaller displacement, direct fuel injection and turbocharging and providing performance that is similar to the bigger engine with better fuel economy.

Your Auto Review Source!

The smaller engine comes up 48 horsepower short compared to the standard V-6, but it actually has more torque: 270 vs. 254 pound-feet. And it peaks at lower rpms: 3,000 vs. 4,000.

But the bottom line is fuel economy. The 2.0-liter is rated at 22 city and 32 highway, both three higher than the V-6. We saw 25 in a combination of freeways and rural two-lanes.


First Drive: 2013 Acura RDX

Honda’s luxury brand bucks conventional wisdom, replacing a turbo four with a V-6.

by on Sep.25, 2012

Acura redesigned the RDX to be more luxury oriented and less sporty.

Just when many carmakers are downsizing their engines, it came as quite a shock when Acura announced at the Detroit auto show earlier this year that it was replacing the turbocharged four cylinder in the RDX compact luxury ute with its venerable 3.5-liter V-6.

But cars are about the bottom line, the way the car performs, not what’s under the hood. If bucking conventional wisdom works, then why not?

Powerful, Yet Efficient!

In a lot of ways a V-6 makes a lot of sense for a luxury sport utility. No matter what you do to make a four feel smooth, an extra pair of cylinders will almost always feel smoother.

So, what’s the verdict? Does the new V-6 make for a better luxury crossover? Let’s found out.


First Drive: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan

Kia continues stylish reinvention of its lineup with revamped subcompact.

by on Sep.21, 2012

Kia's Rio continues a string of strong designs from the Korean automaker's design group.

It’s good to be Kia right now. Kia and its sister company, Hyundai, have received a lot of attention lately for groundbreaking styling along with class-leading fuel economy in some segments.

In fact, we’ve often said in this space that once the Koreans figure out the black art of proper suspension tuning, the pair could rule the automotive world.

Auto Reviews with Style!

Well, with this little Rio subcompact, it would appear that Kia has come to grips with finer points of ride and handling development.

So, does that mean the little Rio is ready for world dominance? Let’s find out.