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First Drive: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Strong performance, lots of options make this a winner.

by on May.03, 2017

Toyota continues to grow its hybrid line-up beyond the Prius family with the 2017 RAV4 Hybrid.

Toyota has gone to extraordinary lengths over the years to build up its hybrid business and most of the effort has been centered on the Prius.

The Japanese auto giant also has moved to amortize its investment by using the hybrid technology in other vehicles with varying degrees of success. But one place where the idea of extending the hybrid technology to other vehicles clearly has worked is in Toyota’s compact sport utility, the popular RAV4.

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The RAV4 is one of the most important vehicles sold by the company and it is critical to the continuing popularity of the Toyota brand. But adding the hybrid technology to the RAV4 hasn’t diminished its overall appeal vehicle one bit in my humble opinion. (more…)

First Look: Suzuki S-Cross

Bringing nature back to the city, says the Japanese maker.

by on Oct.01, 2012

Suzuki's new S-Cross Concept will reach production in the latter months of 2013.

Suzuki may not mean much as a brand in North-America, but iit is a well-established name in the Old World. Hence, there was plenty of interest in the maker’s new S-Cross Concept debuting at this year’s Paris Motor Show.

The new crossover is intended for city use, Suzuki cryptically suggesting it is designed to evoke “nature in the city and the city in nature.” To battle snowdrifts and potholes, it will be offered with 2WD and iAWD, Suzuki’s intelligent all-wheel drive system.

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The 169.7-inch long vehicle is still a design study, but Kenichi Ayukawa, Suzuki’s Executive General Manager of Global Automobile Marketing, confirmed that the production model will enter the market in the fourth quarter of 2013. With its 102.4-inch wheelbase, the S-Cross would fit in somewhere between the new Mazda CX-5 and the Mini Countryman


Hyundai Delivers Two Versions of New Santa Fe

Long-wheelbase model delivers added room, third row.

by on Apr.05, 2012

The short-wheelbase Santa Fe Sport.

The 2012 New York Auto Show is delivering more than a few surprises – notably including Hyundai’s unexpected announcement that it is launching not one but two new versions of the 2013 Santa Fe crossover.

The Santa Fe is one of the most important models in the Korean carmaker’s line-up.  An earlier generation signaled the start of Hyundai’s dramatic transformation from econobox maker into a high-quality, stylish brand.  But today, it’s a critical entry into one of the U.S. market’s fastest growing segments.

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The challenge, said Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik, was meeting the needs of both young buyers and empty-nesters who might need just a 2-row crossover-utility vehicle, as well as growing families who want a 3-row CUV with seating for up to seven.

Rather than try to squeeze in the extra seats – as it done previously – Hyundai decided to produce the long-wheelbase Santa Fe and shorter Santa Fe Sport.


First Look: 2013 Ford Escape

From boxy to beautiful?

by on Nov.16, 2011

The 2012 Ford Escape migrates to a more rounded, crossover design.

Beauty is clearly in the eyes of the beholder, and seldom is that more true than in the automotive market, where fiery debates can break out over even the smallest design details.

So expect some fierce disputes when the subject turns to the new 2013 Ford Escape, which is making its debut at the L.A. Auto Show this week.  Following in the tread marks of the bigger Ford Explorer, the new Escape is migrating from its traditionally boxy, truck-like shape to a more lithe, car-like silhouette that Ford hopes will move it to the center of the fast-growing compact crossover segment.

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That transformation could prove particularly well-timed as Ford has grabbed the top spot in the small ute niche – taking advantage of the production cuts suffered by long-term segment leader the Honda CR-V due to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last March.  Honda is rushing to get its plants back up to speed as it rolls out a replacement for its own “cute-ute,” which had led the market since its 1996 launch.


Ford Dropping Escape Hybrid and Adding EcoBoost

Maker claims new 1.6-liter EcoBoost will outperform old hybrid - and deliver better mileage.

by on Oct.05, 2011

The redesigned Ford Escape will no longer offer a hybrid package - but will have two available EcoBoost options.

Ford will drop the Escape Hybrid when it launches an all-new version of its popular utility vehicle next year, turning to a high-mileage alternative using a new 1.6-liter version of its EcoBoost engine family.

The Escape Hybrid, though heralded as the first use of gas-electric technology in an SUV, has been selling at a sluggish rate in recent years.  So, Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of Global Product Development, says the hybrid powertrain will be shifted to a newer people-mover in the Ford line-up, the upcoming C-Max Hybrid, that should be 25% more fuel-efficient than the outgoing Escape Hybrid.

The next-generation Escape, which will migrate to a more crossover-like design and platform, will be officially unveiled at the LA Auto Show next month.  It will come with a 4-cyliner EcoBoost engine rather than a V6 engine, Ford confirmed during a background session.

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“Customers are prioritizing fuel economy above every other trait when they make most vehicle purchases,” said Kuzak. “Ford is meeting people’s needs by offering a family of fuel-efficient vehicles – from hybrids to electrics to traditional gasoline-powered cars – packed with class-leading technology, giving customers both exciting and greener driving choices.”