2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE Sedan

Susan Frissell

The newly redesigned Toyota Camry is out, and an improvement-at least in looks-to years past. Not known for its head-turning looks, the Camry, has been nevertheless, a standard in the automobile industry; a dependable, comfortable sedan with decent fuel economy.

Ten years ago, Toyota added the gas-electric hybrid powertrain to the lineup, capable of 34 mpg, a mere 10 mpg’s better than the conventional Camry four-cylinder engine. The Camry was and is a large sedan, with a decent amount of cargo space and a lot of comfort; especially over the road.

Honda, of course, entered the fray, with its 2005-07 Accord hybrid V-6, but didn’t hit the mark, although has improved it since. Other manufacturers, such as Chevrolet and Nissan also added hybrid sedans, the Malibu (2008-10) and Altima (2007-11), respectively. While the Accord offered more power than the Camry, Nissan borrowed Toyota technology, and Hyundai fell short with its 2011-12 Sonata hybrid.

As with many things automotive, others have learned from Toyota.

Since then, other manufacturers have added hybrid sedans, yet, none have matched the Camry. Like any other sedan, the Camry has its highs and lows. In other words, it isn’t perfect. However, the spacious interior is hard to match, along with Toyota’s infamous reliability. Don’t expect handling and style to be at the top of the list in hybrid sedans. And although fuel economy is good, it’s not stellar.

Consumers can opt for the standard Camry mid-size sedan 4-cylinder and expect fuel economy to be almost as good as the hybrid. As with all things technological, Honda and Chevrolet have caught up. And Ford Fusion is perhaps, Camry’s best competitor to date.

Receiving updates in 2015, the 2017 Camry is still equipped with Toyota’s 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder paired with a 141-hp electric motor powered by a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. A second motor/generator determines the drive ratio between the engine and the differential.

We averaged about 38 mpg. these last few days in the Camry sedan. Our XLE trim version probably added a little weight due to some extras not included on a SE model.

Acceleration and keeping up with traffic on the highway were no problem, and as quiet as the Camry is, one doesn’t always know you’re quickly approaching 80 mph. Responsive to acceleration, the Camry passes with little effort. Spirited driving, it isn’t. But it suffices for most.

Our XLE trim level came equipped with several options, including Safety Connect (Emergency assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification, (available by subscription), $515; Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, $500; Convenience Package (HomeLink Universal Transceiver, Anti-Theft system with alarm, $345; Entune Premium JBL Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, including Entune Multimedia Bundle (7-inch high resolution touch screen with split-screen display, AM/FM/CD player, MP3/WMA Playback Capability, Ten JBL GreenEdge speakers in eight locations, auxiliary audio jack, USB, 2.0 port with iPad connectivity and control, Advanced Voice Recognition, Hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology, Siri Eyes free,Entune App Suite, HD Radio, HD radio predictive traffic and Doppler weather overlay, AM/FM Cache radio, Sirius XM satellite, Sirius XM all-access trial, Gracenote album art cover, $710 and Advanced Technology Package (pre-collision system, Lane Departure Alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beam), $750 and power tilt/slide Moonroof, $915.

Trim levels in the 2017 Camry include the base LE and XLE and SE. As always, our test vehicle was top-of-the-line. Pricing ranges from roughly $27,94-$34,999. Anything under $35,000 with all this standard equipment-and highest tech options-is still below average price range for vehicles today.

The SE trim level offers a little sportier sedan, but doesn’t seem as appealing. In general, the Toyota Camry, as popular as it’s been, isn’t the newest or coolest sedan out there. But it is reliable, comfortable and a well-rounded choice for a midsize family sedan. As with all Toyota products, fuel economy is better than average, will last as long as you want it to, and offers a lot for the money.

Available in over 10 colors for 2017, our test XLE came in the very stunning Cosmic Gray Mica, with sparkles and a deep rich tone. One would mistake it for black. The interior, a black leather-trim, has heated seats, 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar, dual zone auto climate control, tire pressure monitor system and backup camera. We’re all so accustomed to these goodies, it’s hard to come down.

Without nick-picking, it’s difficult to find too much to complain about in the 2017 Camry Hybrid. A generally nice vehicle, although not as snazzy as some, driving it over the long haul would satisfy most sedan shoppers. For that reason, we give it a passing grade.


MSRP: Total vehicle price $34,710, destination $835
Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive System, 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder DOHC, 16-valve w/VVT, 199 lb.-ft.torque, 200 hp.
Transmission: Electronic-Continuous-Variable, EV Eco modes, FWD
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Height: 57.9 in.
Width: 71.7 in.
Length: 190.9 in.
Pricing: $26,790-$30.140
Wheels: 17×7.0
Tires: P215/55R17
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.0 gal.
EPA fuel economy: 38/40 mpg.
Curb weight: 3,585 lbs.
Warranty: 3 yrs/36,000-miles Basic; 5 yrs./60,000-miles Drivetrain; 2 yrs/25,000-miles free maintenance; 8 yrs/100,000-miles hybrid component

2017 Toyota 86 2-Door Coupe

Susan Frissell

Had the Toyota 86 previously, a Scion vehicle) been around in the 1990s, it would have made a huge hit. Going up against the Ford Mustang, Mazda RX-9, and the like, it would have appealed to not only young males, but women alike.

According to Toyota, the Toyota 86 should appeal to two different groups for 2017: Young males who are looking for a base level sports car they can customize and the empty nesters who are nostalgic for their sports-car youth.

Our two-door coupe 86 came equipped well, with a MSRP of $26,975. Introduced as this year’s model, the Toyota 86 received a few tweaks to go with its new name. An iteration of the Scion FR-S, the 86 shares a lot with Subaru’s cousin, the BRZ. Toyota has also added the 860 Special Edition to appeal to the more financially-able Boomer set. With a production run of one month, the Special Edition will offer 860 Supernova Orange models with a black stripe, and the 860 Halo White model.

Currently, Toyota does not intend to offer this edition after 2017.

If one opts for the special edition, there are some extras, including heated front seats in black leather with orange stitching, smaller but thicker steering wheel (black with orange stitching), heated side mirrors, leather around the shifter and hand brake, a push-button start, and a dual-zone climate control.

Engine output is increased in the manual by five horse (205 hp.), and torque (156 lb.-ft.), at 6,400 RPM. The 860 has a stiffer body with retuned suspension, new rear anti-roll bar and softer springs.

Starting at $30,000 for six-speed manual, one can also opt for the six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and rev-management technology at $30,760. Toyota is estimating about 60 percent of sales will be the manual transmission.

Each special edition includes a 4.2-inch multi-information display with g-force meter and stopwatch, horsepower and torque curves, engine coolant and oil temps, and miles-per-gallon.

New for its intro as a Toyota offering, the 86 has a redesigned front and rear fascia, 17-inch black chrome alloy wheels, LED fog lights and restyled fender vents. This is a great little coupe and handles well, with a pretty decent ride, considering its low to the ground.

As expected, safety technology is top-notch and includes stability control, traction control, ABS, brake assist, Electronic brake force distribution, smart stop technology, hill-start assist control, VSC track mode, and advanced air bags, side curtain air bags and seat mounted side airbags. Standard rearview camera is also included.

Power side mirrors, Automatic Projector-Beam LED Headlights, LED taillights and DRL’s are also standard. The 7-inch Pioneer Touch-Screen Display is small, and is complete with AM/FM/HD radio with 8 speakers, AUX/USB port with pod connectivity, hands-free phone capability music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology, aha app. Of course, there is no more CD player, assuming most consumers will be utilizing a iPhone for their own tunes.

The rear seat is very small (think 5-year-old or small bags), and folds down for cargo capability. A/C and window defoggers are standard, as are tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and carpeted floor mats.

Our test Toyota 86 did not come with any options. There are accessories one can opt for, including one optional display audio system with navigation and iTunes, tagging, Pandora internet radio. Other available accessories include wheel locks, carpeted trunk, cabin floor mats, ashtray kit, mud guards, lowering springs, forged wheels, thicker rear sway bar, TRD exhaust system, TRD air filter, rear spoiler.

The Toyota 86 is a fun, discretionary-income coupe, with a simple, yet quality interior. Seats are comfortable, although somewhat hard, but fit well. The styling is ‘classic’ coupe, yet up-to-date, handling is nimble and pricing just about right.

If there are any dislikes, one would be the small rear seating. Some may think “What’s the point,” but perhaps along with insurance advantages (?), there is room for items, especially when you’ve got a passenger along.

The 86 doesn’t have a lot of pickup/torque, but it’s adequate for most purposes and won’t get you in trouble. We would have liked to try the manual transmission as the automatic is not terribly refined. Don’t expect a lot of power, but then that’s not Toyota’s focus. However, Toyota has upped the torque and horsepower for 2017, by five each (205, 156 lb.-ft.). This writer isn’t a fan of the paddle shifters, but perhaps for drivers wanting to get the most out of the engine, this may satisfy.

We enjoyed our days in the Toyota 86 and even in some late winter Chicago snow, it handled well. We especially liked the Hot Lava color!


MSRP: $26,975, total vehicle price $27,840, destination $865
Engine: 2.0-liter, 4 cylinder Boxer DOHC 16-valve, 200 hp.,
Transmission: six-speed sequential automatic w/paddle shifters, Dynamic Rev Management and Controllers
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Length: 166.7 in.
Width: 60.6 in.
Height: 50.6 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gal.
EPA fuel economy: 28/24/21 mpg.
Tires: 215/45WR17
Wheels: 17×7 aluminum
Classification: Minicompact
Factory cashback: $500
Warranty: 3 yrs./36,000-miles basic; 5 yrs./unlimited mileage corrosion; 5 yrs./0,000-miles drivetrain; 2 yrs./25,000-miles maintenance; 2 yrs./25,000-miles roadside assistance.

2017 Lexus CT 200h Hybrid

Susan Frissell

Although some have named Lexus CT 200H a “good value,” we’re not sure we are in agreement. At $30,000 it may be; at a total vehicle price of $41795, it wouldn’t make our list. A premium-compact vehicle, the 200h gets notice due to its high fuel economy ratings (42), sports handling and pricing. It’s also been called “Best in Segment” with a driver-friendly cabin and superb ergonomics.

The ride in the Lexus CT 200h is smooth, yet bottoms out when navigating rough roads. Seating is comfortable and body-fitting. The driver’s seat is a 10-way multi-adjustable power seat so drivers of all sizes and shapes will most likely find a comfortable driving position.

Our test 200H came equipped with several options, making the total vehicle price climb into the $40,000+ range. Included among those options were the F Sport luxury package for Navigation (F Sport 17-inch alloy wheels, Sport Tuned suspension mesh grille, rear spoiler with cutouts, black roof, F Sport Exterior fender and rear badges, perforated leather trimmed steering wheel, perforated leather trimmed shift know, F Sport smooth leather seats, Aluminum sport pedals-accelerator, brake, footrest, Metal Tone instrument panel trim, black headliner, rain-sensing wipers, HomeLink garage door opener, rear mirror with memory and automatic reverse tilt, heated front seats, 4-way power front passenger seat, driver seat memory), $3,325.

The F Sport LED headlamps/flog lamps/driving lamp option was $1,265, and the Navigation System option, including backup camera, premium audio system, remote touch controller, Lexus Enform service connect, remote destinations, Lexus Enform App Suite, was priced at $3,480. And the final option on our test vehicle, the Pre-collision System Dynamic Radar Cruise Control ($1,500). Without these options, of course, the 200h hybrid carries a more reasonable price point.

The F Sport packaging adds a little panache to this little hatchback, such as a more aggressive front fascia, a sport-tuned suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and black roof. Compliments came from friends as a nice package-hatchback with some extra room-and good looks, but when hearing the sticker price, said ‘no way.’ And although it’s hard not to say good things about any Lexus product, we wonder how necessary this compact is in the lineup.

If looking for a fun-to-drive, easy to maneuver and always reliable hatchback, the 200h CT offers great fuel economy, handles well for a hybrid and has a very smooth hybrid powertrain. However, for a hatchback configuration, the CT has poor visibility, small cargo space (14.3 cubic feet) for a hatchback design and lacks sufficient power when attempting to pass, merge or climb hills. The rear seats do fold (6/40), making for added space.

The Lexus CT 200h comes into 2017 with few changes. The CT 200h does get four new exterior colors, including our test vehicle color, Atomic Silver. Does silver never die? Other than black and the popular gunmetal/gray, silver is ever popular. The other new colors include Caviar, which replaces the Obsidian-base model only, Autumn Shimmer (replaces Fire Agate Pearl)-base model, and Blue Vortex Metallic (replacing Ultra Blue Masonic).

Safety equipment on the Lexus CT 200H is plentiful and expected, including ABS, with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control (TRAC), and Electronic Throttle-Control System (ETCS); Smart Stop Technology, Curtain airbags, supplemental restraint system, passenger knee airbags, front side impact airbags, side curtain airbags, supplemental restraint system and Safety Connect with Automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assist button (SOS),and enhanced roadside assistance (1-yr. trial), and LED running lights.

Perhaps more than other manufacturers, Lexus does offer some standard equipment on the CT 200h, such as carpeted floor mats, Lexus personalized settings, Tunneau cover, XM Satellite radio, USB input/Miniplug auxiliary input for MP3 player, tilt/telescoping steering column, 4-Mode drive mode select, SmartAccess with Push-Button Start/stop, and audio controls on the steering wheel.

The 2017 CT 200h offers a smooth ride, is easy to navigate and with the F Sport suspension, deals well with most road surfaces. It is a fun car to drive, although not a challenging or performance-oriented one. Apart from the out-going Prius, the CT’s rear suspension is a independent double wishbone rear suspension.

The CT offers only one transmission: the electronic continuously variable (eCVT), paired with an Atkinson cycle, 1.8-liter I-4 /electric motor backed by nickel-metal hybrid battery. This is reflected in good fuel economy (43/40), but less than the current generation Prius.

Key competitors of the Lexus CT 200h include Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, Acura ILX and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, to name a few. The hybrid powertrain in the Lexus CT 200h is shared with its cousin, the last-generation Prius and larger Prius V.


MSRP: 31,250; total vehicle price $41,795, destination $975
Engine: 1.8-liter in-line 4-cyl DOHC w/VVT-4, Electric Drive Motor with Lexus Hybrid Drive, 134 hp., 142 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: ECVT (Electronically-Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission
One trim level, hatchback; F-Sport option
Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Length: 171.3 in.
Width: 69.5 in.
Height: 57.3 in.
Curb Weight: 3,130 lbs.
Tires: 215/45R17
Wheels: 17-inch aluminum alloy
Fuel Economy: 43/40/42 mpg. combined
Fuel Tank capacity: 11.9 gal., 511 range in miles
Warranty: Basic: 4 yr/50,000-miles; drivetrain: 6 yr/70,000-miles; Hybrid component: 8 yr/100,000-miles

2017 Toyota Corolla iM 5-door Hatchback

Susan Frissell

The Toyota iM-formerly the Scion iM is a great little hatchback. As everyone knows, any Corolla product is a winner, with great fuel economy, comfortable ride and pep, this is one of the greatest vehicles every introduced.

The questions remains: Why did Toyota build the iM as a Scion when they knew the Scion nameplate would be leaving the lineup. After 10 years, Toyota no longer saw a need for the Scion brand, having penetrated other markets aimed at younger buyers.

The practical hatchback, although maybe small for some consumer’s tastes, is the blend of comfort, room and totability. We prefer it over the average SUV of today. With its long list of amenities, and now more upscale materials, the iM is the perfect daily driver.

Our test iM came equipped with the 7-speed CVTI-8 automatic transmission, with sport mode. The jury remains out for some on the CVT transmission; we find it at times annoying when trying to take off from a standstill. Its habit of hesitating can be unnerving.

Toyota Corolla iM dash

Our test Corolla iM Hatchback did not come with any options, so it’s MSRP at $19,490 seemed more than reasonable. How many good vehicles can you purchase for just over $20,000? Not many in today’s market.
A new edition to the Toyota lineup, the iM and its stablemate the iA, started out their lives as Scion models. In 2016, they became part of Toyota’s brood. A compact four-door hatchback, the iM is larger than Toyota’s Yaris subcompact hatch. Competition in this category is plentiful and includes some of the more well-known compact cars such as Ford Focus, Chevy Cruse, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, Honda Civic and Kia Forte5, to name a few.

Powered by Toyota’s 1.8-liter inline-four cylinder engine, the iM is powered by 137 horsepower (126 lb.ft. torque). The Scion iM was rated at 28/37 mpg. for the automatic; 27/36 mpg. with six-speed manual. The Corolla iM hatch features a 60/40 split-folding rear seats, great for gear, dogs, or toting anything a sedan can’t accommodate.

For some who favored the popular Toyota Matrix (now discontinued), the iM hatch might be a choice. The cabin is cozy, well-appointed and just plain comfortable. We looked forward to going places during our week with the iM. The engine is quiet, the interior is quiet, and driving on local roads or highway is stress free.

If you’re looking for a more sporty vehicle, the Mazda3 will probably better fit that bill. The Focus is also got better handling and agility. But for those who are die-hard Toyota owners, the iM will be a nice addition to the fleet. For those who follow European/American twins vehicles, the Corolla iM is based on the Auris hatchback, sole in several European countries.

It’s hard to beat Toyota iM’s overall value; The ride comfort, fuel economy and high-tech features make it stand out. Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, side-mounted and rear airbags are equipment not seen in compact cars of years past. One can feel very safe in the iM, despite its smaller stature. We prefer it to bigger SUV’s.

Toyota Corolla iM wheel

The handling, acceleration and snug rear seat may be drawbacks for some consumers. We found the sound system, despite its six speakers, to be not very good. It was difficult finding stations that were clear and consistent. We didn’t take advantage of the multimedia system, but hear mumblings that it wasn’t the best.

Power-folding side mirrors and backup camera are standard; both nice features.

MSRP: $19,490; total vehicle price $20,355; destination $865
Engine: 1.8-liter -cylinder DOHC, 16-valve, 137 hp., 126 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: 7=speed CVTI-8 automatic transmission, FWD, Compact
Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Length: 170.5 in.
Width: 69.3 in.
Height: 55.3 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.0 gal
EPA Fuel Economy: 28/27 mpg. automatic
Curb Weight: 3,031 lbs.
Warranty: 3 yrs/36,000-miles basic; 5 yrs/60,000-miles drivetrain; 2 yrs/25,000-miles free maintenance

2017 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

Susan Frissell

It is always a wonderment to us how the Mitsubishi vehicles continue to remain in the U.S., with all the competition. Although, sales figures demonstrate a good year in 2016, and already February 2017 sales of the Outlander (up 72.8 percent), and Mirage/Mirage G4 (up 145 percent) have increased in volume.

For 2016, Mitsubishi launched the Mirage G4, a new plug-in Outlander version and announced the Outlander PHEV was going to be available in all 50 states. Since 2014, sales have increased every year, suggesting there is still a buyer for this brand. With improvements and a new game plan, Mitsubishi is still appealing to some.

However, the 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer still maintains a dated, almost cheap-looking interior, as it shows its age. Appealing perhaps to ‘money-conscious” buyers, the Lancer seems old-fashioned, when compared to such competition as the redesigned Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus and Honda Civic.

Updated over the years-particularly, since 2014-the Lancer is the oldest four-door sedan sold in the U.S. In its 11th year, the Lancer is available in four trim levels: ES 2.0, ES 2.4 AWC, SE 2.4 AWC and SEL 2.4 AWC. All but the entry-level ES 2.0 model offer all-wheel-drive as standard. Very few changes are on board for the 2017 model year.

Our test car, the top-of-the-line SEL 2.4 AWC came equipped better than most, and carried a MSRP of $22.095; still a reasonable price for a compact sedan. Our test Lancer SEL came equipped with one option, the SEL Sun and Sounds Package (power glass sunroof, 710w Rockford Fosgate Premium Audio System w/9 speakers, $1,500). With destination charges ($835), the SEL carried a total MSRP of $24,430.

Maintaining its claim of “value for the money,” the Lancer has been updated, somewhat. Still, the car is noisy and unrefined, compared to the competition, has a bare-bones interior and so-so fuel economy (23/30/26 mpg. in the 2.4 SEL AWC). The knobs on the audio system are extremely small, making it difficult, we suspect, for the average male to grasp them. Everything feels ‘basic,’ and nowhere near high-tech. Which is ok for us, but for the average techie, this car won’t appeal.

The Mitsubishi Lancer has always maintained a ‘square’ sedan look. As more and more compacts, and all car lines, become etched, with creasing and aerodynamic styling, the Lancer compact just looks more dated. The Lancer’s front end changed somewhat, with grille openings split. Rather than moving ahead in time, though, the Lancer seems to bring back some of its original styling (2007).

The Lancer’s interior is less than inspiring; the center console, new for 2016, is small; the fit and finish and materials are dated. For 2016, the interior black trim and upgraded upholstery was new, but they didn’t really bring the car into the 21st century.

On the other hand, the Lancer’s interior is fairly roomy. The seats, although rather stiff, are comfortable. Road and tire noise, though are present, and most rugged streets aren’t solidly manipulated. The engine is loud and the hard plastic inside just isn’t attractive.

The Lancer offers a base front-wheel-drive ES model, with a 2.0-liter, inline-4 engine, teamed with the 5-speed manual gearbox. An optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available. Moving into the other trim lines (ES, SE, SEL), Mitsubishi’s 2.4-liter inline-4 with 168 hp. Is the standard engine. Paired with CVT and electronically variable all-wheel-drive, this is a better choice and worth the extra bucks. The same system used in Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport SUV, the 2.4-liter is adequate for most driving situations.

The Lancer performs better on the road and in highway driving. It feels secure and sporty, although a little noisier than competitive compacts. Steering is responsive in the Lancer, but again, it doesn’t stand out when compared to its rivals. Safety wise, the Lancer is equipped with the latest in technology, including fog lights, LED running lights, ABS with electronic braking distribution and brake assist, traction control logic, active stability control, side curtain airbags, driver’s side knee airbag, advanced dual-stage front airbags. Lancer has received the IIHAS top rating of “Good” in front offset, side impact and rear impact testing, as well as roof strength testing.

For 2017, the Lancer receives the rearview camera. The 6.1 Touch panel display is small, but adequate. Auto air conditioning climate control is easy to use but not very showy. The Lancer also offers the FUSE hands-free Link System with Bluetooth technology and USB port. Keyless entry with panic alarm is also standard.

Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

Conscious money savers may opt for the Lancer ES 2.4 or SE 2.4; while the more sports-minded will choose the SEL 2.4 AWC. We suspect the manual transmission might add a little to the car’s sportiness and show off its sport suspension. But as we know, manual drivers are few and far between these days.
Will buyers choose the Lancer over competitors such as Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza? Remains to be seen. As with all categories today, it’s a hard choice.

MSRP: $22,095, total vehicle price $24,430, destination $835
Engine: 2.4-liter MIVED-DOHC 16-valve, 4-cylinder, 168 hp., 167 lb. ft. torque,
Transmission: CVT, , AWC 4WD system, AWC-drive mode selector (2WD/4WD Auto/4WDLock)
Wheelbase: 103.7 in.
Height: 58.3 in.
Width: 69.4 in.
Length: 182.1 in.
Curb Weight: 3,142 lbs.
Wheels: 18-inch alloy, two-tone
Tires: P215/45R18
Fuel tank capacity: 14.5 gal.
EPA fuel economy: 23/30/26 mpg.
Warranty: basic: 5 yr/60,000-miles; roadside assistance: standard; Anti-corrosion: 7 yr/100,000-miles; Powertrain: 10 yr/100,000-miles, limited

The 109th Chicago Auto Show: February 2017

CHICAGO – The 2017 Chicago Auto Show was officially underway February 11 for the public through Monday, Feb. 20.. The 109th edition of the largest automotive exhibition in North America was held, as always, at McCormick Place.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined 2017 Chicago Auto Show Chairman Mike McGrath and General Manager Dave Sloan on stage to cut the ribbon to open the show.

The auto show plays an important role in the City of Chicago. And Ford still operates its Explorer plant at Torrance Avenue in the city.

Attendees had nearly 1,000 vehicles from approximately 40 exhibitors to preview. Chicago Auto Show attendees were among the first in the world to see the latest cars, trucks and SUVs that made their global debut during the show’s Media Preview. Those vehicles included:

• BraunAbility Chrysler Pacifica
• Chevrolet Redline – Camaro, Colorado, Cruze, Equinox, Malibu, Silverado, SS, Trax, Traverse
• Dodge Durango SRT
• Ford Expedition
• Hyundai Elantra GT
• Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Limited Edition
• Mopar ‘17 Dodge Challenger
• Nissan Midnight Edition – Altima, Maxima, Murano, Rogue, Pathfinder and Sentra
• Nissan NV Cargo X concept
• Nissan TITAN and TITAN XD King Cab
• Ram 1500 Copper Sport
• Ram 2500/3500 Night
• Subaru Legacy
• Toyota Sequoia TRD Sport
• Toyota Tundra TRD Sport
• Volkswagen Atlas Weekend Edition concept

For the first time in its history, The Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) appointed its first FEMALE president, Jill Ciminella. Jill opened the MAMA sponsored breakfast on Thursday February 9 to welcome all media. Following the MAMA Breakfast, the Media previewed several vehicle introductions from the automotive manufacturers Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Dodge, Ford, Mitsubishi, Chrysler, Chevrolet and Mopar.

The media also previewed a new event: The Concept & Technology Event, an opportunity to get a look at many of the concepts, brand-new vehicles and innovative technologies that will be on display at the Chicago Auto Show.

The Economic Club of Chicago (ECC) Luncheon, a cornerstone event of the Media Preview, presented speaker General Motors President Dan Ammann.

On Day 2 of the Chicago Auto Show media preview, Mopar, the service, parts and customer care brand of FCA US LLC, continued its 80th anniversary celebration with a media breakfast and exclusive vehicle reveal led by Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global.

In addition, Fifth Third Bank hosted a special financial literacy program for more than 250 Chicago area students. Following, the National Road Safety Foundation presented the Drive Safe Chicago award to a local student who garnered the most votes for his or her distracted driving public service announcement.

And finally, Word of Mouth Marketing Association for the fifth consecutive year hosted the Driving Engagement Award ceremony to recognize an automotive manufacturer with the most engaging social media campaign of the year.

As always, the Chicago Auto Show gala took place on Feb. 10. Eighteen Chicago-area charities benefited from more than $2.5 million raised at the black-tie gala. Now in its 26th year, First Look for Charity has become one of Chicago’s most anticipated charitable events. More than 10,000 attendees were in attendance, treated to hors d’oeuvres, champagne, wine, beer and soft drinks. All in attendance had a chance to win a 2017 Lexus NX or a 201 Acura TLX.

This year’s 109th Chicago Auto Show was a huge success. We hope you didn’t miss it.

2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring

Susan Frissell

Refined for 2017, the Mazda6 midsize sedan gets a few interior tweaks, a significant upgrade in its safety technology and improvements in driving dynamics and comfort. This year’s trim levels include the Sport ($21,945 M, $22995, A), Touring ($24,195 M, $25,245 A), and Grand Touring ($30,695), and for those who want to hike it up a notch, Mazda offers a new top-level Grand Touring Premium Package that comes with some of the features of the redesigned 2016 CX-9 SUV’s Signature trim level.

Redesigned in 2014, the Mazda6 has increased in popularity. In 2016, the 6 received a few minor tweaks, and for 2017, the side mirrors have been slightly restyled. Sporty and stylish, the Mazda6 offers a lot for the money. Our test car came in the newly offered Machine Gray Metallic, first seen on the CX-9.

The Mazda6 among many goodies, offers sleek exterior styling, higher safety ratings, handling like a performance sedan and added safety technology. Our Mazda6 had a tendency to pull somewhat to the left; we couldn’t determine whether this was due to a low tire or perhaps the lane departure equipment.

This year’s overall design isn’t changed for 2017, but materials have been upgraded noticeably and some features added. The steering wheel design is new (also seen on the CX-9), and the Grand Touring Premium Package adds Nappa leather seats in black or off-white with piping to contrast. Sharp. In addition, new satin-finish metal trim has been added (much like the Nissan Maxima trim). One can expect a heated steering wheel and rear seats in the premium edition.

Some of the new packages for 2017 on the Mazda6 include the following:
*Steering wheel design with unique “Chidori” stitch
*Black headliner
*Bright finish on the glovebox handle
*Bright finish power seat switches
*Door sash Matte-type finish
*Unified driving position memory seat

The GT trim level gets standard Mazda Radar Cruise Control with close proximity warning, auto dimming rearview mirrors with Homelink, Bose eleven speaker sound system with Centerpoint and Audio Pilot 2, and full color heads-up Active Driving Display
Refinement and upgrades to all Mazda6 models have been added, including a weather strip with molded shape. Drivers will notice the added headliner noise absorption material, as the cabin is much quieter. Mazda has also changed the thickness of the front door glass, as well as adding noise-absorption material under the body.

Improvements in door seals has also made the 2017 Mazda6 competitive. It also lends a more solid feel to the sedan. Competition in this category includes such cars as Ford Fusion, Hundai Sonata, Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord and VW Passat.

Front driver B-pillars have been restyled with the garnish gap decreased. This makes for better visibility. Other updates to safety include the Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring Distance Recognition, new Lane-keep Assist, and heads-up monitor, as well as Traffic-sign recognition.

Mazda’s clever Active Driving Display (or Heads Up in the past) uses a clear reflective screen that pops up from the top of the dash. It has been upgraded to full-color with higher brightness for 2017. The optional seat memory now also stores this display’s angle, brightness and content settings.

The 184-hp, naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder SkyActiv-G engine is the same as last year, and is teamed with the six-speed automatic or manual transmission. New G-Vectoring Control software enhances chassis performance through use of small amounts of engine torque in response to steering wheel input. This shifts the load to the front or rear, increasing grip and stability, improving ride control and limiting understeer.

According to Mazda, this system also helps the driver to better maintain the intended line in any situation. Driving in rain, snow or slippery conditions is also improved through sharper handling and stability.

As with all Mazda products, the 2017 Mazda6 has an extensive list of active safety technologies. The i-ActivSense system gets new functions for 2017, and as in years past, the Mazda6 is again an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick Plus; ratings of ‘good’ in crash tests, and a ‘superior’ score for optional crash prevention technology.

A new Forward Sensing Camera has been combined with the milliwave radar-based system, adding pedestrian detection to the front collision avoidance system with automatic emergency braking. Also new is a Traffic Sign Recognition system that can identify the speed limit, no-entry and stop signs, and alert the driver. Pretty amazing.

There’s a lot to like in the new 2017 Mazda6For 2017, but as with all vehicles we test drive, we find a few minor annoyances. We’d like to see the Mazda6 with a more powerful engine. Are they thinking turbo in the future? The multimedia system seems a tad dated and bulky, and when driving the touch-screen is disabled.

MSRP: $30,695; total vehicle price $34,530; destination $835
Engine: 2.5-liter, SKYACTIV-G, 4-cylinder, 184 hp., 185 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: six-speed SKYACTIV-Drive, FWD
Wheelbase: 111.4 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Length: 191.5 in.
Height: 57.1 in.
Weight: 3,305 lbs.
Fuel tank capacity: 16.4 gal.
Tires: P225/45R19 All-season
Wheels: 19-inch alloy
Warranty: Bumper-to-bumper 36 mths/36,000-miles; powertrain 60 mths/60,000-miles; Roadside Assistance, 36 mths/36,000-miles

2017 Kia Soul Turbo Exclaim(!)

Susan Frissell

One of our favorites in the Kia lineup, the Soul is a boxy compact hatchback? SUV? Station wagon? The Soul has been categorized in various ways, and has room for five people. Front-wheel-drive, with a choice of three four-cylinder engines, the Soul remains a very popular choice among all age groups.

Competitors abound, including the Mini Countryman, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, the VW GTI, Ford Fiesta, Focus ST, Hyundai Veloster Turbo, Mazda CX-3 and Fiat 500X. All appealing in their own way, but none as ‘unusual’ as the Soul. And can anyone match the Soul ads? Doubtful.

Our test Soul, the top-of-the-line Exclaim (!) trim level, comes equipped with a new 201-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that works with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Along with the Soul’s new drivetrain are 18-inch alloy wheels, power-adjustable front passenger seat, automatic a/c, push-button start, larger front brakes, two USB charge ports and a leather-wrapped square bottom steering wheel.

Standard features on the 2017 Soul include six-speed manual transmission, FWD, A/C, front bucket seats and 60/40 split-folding back seat, power windows/locks/side mirrors, Bluetooth. Also standard-and required equipment includes front airbags, ABS, and electronic stability system.

Soul offers several available features, as well, including the turbocharged, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that came in our test model. Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (on the ! model), and Panoramic moonroof are also available. Heated front seats and ventilated seats, if you must; along with a Navigation system with 8-inch screen. Our Exclaim had the backup camera, keyless entry and push-button start. Also available are Forward Collision Warning, blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning system. One doesn’t want for much.

With the available features, of course, comes a higher cost. Our test Exclaim, with just one option: carpeted floor mats, $120, had a total vehicle price of $23,620. Still reasonable, considering today’s average price of a vehicle at over $34,000.

Although we liked the performance of the Turbo engine, we dread the pause when navigating corners or picking up from a light. The pause gets somewhat better when driving the vehicle for a while, but with many turbo engines, this is an annoying feature. The transmission could be a little jerky at times, and we noticed a rattle in the rear seating area.

The interior quality and many upscale features in the 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim were noticeable. Since it first entered the market in 2010, the Soul has gotten better and better. The ride is noticeably better; smoother and more solid. The added weight helps this.

The way the Soul is designed makes for good visibility. If you’re looking for all-wheel-drive, the Soul will let you down; although it’s assumed people choose certain cars for certain reasons. The Soul is an affordable, fun-to-drive vehicle; not a SUV. Attractive, particularly, to value-minded shoppers.

The Turbo version is easily recognizable with a red exterior accent line, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and 18-inch wheels. The car looks a little racier, with a boxy, almost athletic stance. The 1.6-liter Turbocharged inline four offers 201 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. torque. Pretty good pickup for a little hatchback.

Kia doesn’t pretend to believe the Soul is a sport compact. The best seller in its category, it is a small crossover, and remains popular for what it is. Kia says buyers are asking for more power and all-wheel-drive; perhaps they have visions of taking the Soul off-road since it easily accommodates gear, bikes and the like. The Turbo engine is standard on the Exclaim version, satisfying some.

According to Kia, the suspension on the Turbo version is the same as the others in the lineup, however, the springs and dampers are tuned slightly differently. The Exclaim’s 18-inch all-season tires are the same as those on the Soul Plus (+), however, the front brake rotors on the Exclaim are somewhat larger (12.0-inch diameter).

By the same token, Kia didn’t include Paddle shifters on the Turbo version; no loss, as far as this writer is concerned. Again, one can get the Paddle shifters on other, more sportier vehicles out there. We liked driving in the Sport mode, as it added a feeling of performance. Shifting seemed more responsive, and lag a little less likely.

You can’t beat the space inside the Soul, due mostly to its squared-off styling. Interior space, an airy and spacious cabin, and good visibility all around make this a great car to drive in traffic. Headroom is more than sufficient and when folding the rear seating, you’ve got space for any manner of items.

We always welcome the Kia Soul in the fleet. One of our favorites, the Soul is a welcome addition to any stable. Pricing is also very fair, starting at $23,500 ($1,350 increase over last year) for the Soul Turbo !. buyers can expect plenty of standard features, and new technology such as Anroid Auto/Apple CarPlay. If you choose to load it up with a moonroof, Nav, blind-spot detection, and a high-end Harman/Kardon audio system, you’ll come in around $27,620.
Pricing ranges from $16,100-$22,800, with three trim levels available.


MSRP: $22,650; total vehicle price $23,620; destination $850
Engine: 1.6-liter Turbo Gas Direct Injection, 4-cylinder, 201 hp., 195 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Length: 163 in.
Width: 70.9 in.
Height: 63.5 in.
Wheels: 18-inch alloy aluminum
Tires: P235/45HR18
EPA fuel economy: 31 mpg highway
Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.2 gal.
Curb weight: 3,232 lbs.
Warranty: 60 mths/60,000-miles Bumper-to-bumper; 120 mths/100,000-miles Powertrain; 60 mths/60,000-miles roadside assistance
NHTSA ratings: 5 star

‘Toyota Walk In My Boots’ Community Outreach Project

Chicago, IL – While Toyota presents new vehicles at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show, it is also donating $15,000 to The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division/Greater Chicagoland, to provide support for families in crisis.
Through its “Toyota Walk In My Boots” community outreach project to help Chicago area homeless families, new winter boots and socks will be given to residents of The Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Lodge, a homeless haven for families in Chicago, located on 800 W. Lawrence.
The Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Lodge is a haven for women and men with children, along with married couples with children suddenly homeless because of eviction, disasters such as a fire or flood, loss of utilities, domestic violence, being stranded while traveling or other crises. The average stay is 63 days, but some stay longer, depending on the time needed to locate permanent living arrangements. The Booth Lodge also provides food, clothing, and housing and job search assistance, as well as, tutoring and after school activities for the children.
When: Saturday, February 11, 2017; Media check-in, 10:45 a.m.; Press Conference, 11:00 a.m.

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Susan Frissell

Our 2016 Mazda CX-5 GT all-wheel-drive in Crystal White Pearl ($200) was the perfect car to transport four less-than-radical, but motivated women to the Million Women’s March in D.C. Never someone who ever protested when she could during the 1960s unrest, I found myself eager to try and make a difference for our country. To say the least, it was enlightening.

The CX-5 CUV handled very well on the open road. It was quiet, smooth and even. We encountered a strange phenomenon though, when returning through Illinois: The Mazda Radar Cruise Control notified the driver that it wasn’t operating. A fellow auto journalist thought perhaps it had to do with a section of the road/area where radar detectors are illegal.

Our CX-5 is the perfect blend of comfort, good looks and high tech. Equipped with several options, our test car was the Grand Touring version with the GT package (LED headlights, Adaptive front lighting, LED daytime running lights, LED foglights, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Control, LED combination taillights, SmartCity Brake Support, Auto Dim Mirror w/Homelink ($1,155).

The additional options included cargo mat ($60), Rear bumper guard (4100), Retractable Cargo Cover ($200), Roof Rack Side Rails ($275), Door Sill Trim Plates ($125) and GT HACTIVESENSE Package with Mazda Radar Cruise Control and Smart Brake support ($1,500).

At $34,385-with the many options-the CX-5 is right about where all other CUV’s are in this price range. Powered by Mazda’s SKYACTIV engine, 2.5-liter, inline 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valve, it’s adequate, yet not powerful. We thought at first, it was a little noisy, but after we were on the road for some time, it didn’t seem loud at all.

Partial to Mazda products, the CX-5 is a lot of car for the money. We expect its reliability to be above average. The CX-5’s sporty driving feel gives you the feeling of security as you round corners. We averaged a little 25 mpg. on highway driving of speeds upwards of 70 mph.

New for 2016, the CX-5 receives a refresh, including minor styling tweaks, improved materials inside and a revised suspension tuning. Sound insulation helps noise levels and an updated infotainment interface brings it up to date. Some of the new options for 2016 include LED headlights, adaptive cruise, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning. A lot of high tech for a mid-level CUV.

Bluetooth is now standard across the Mazda line. A 2016.5 midyear udate (after January 2016) includes a standard rearview camera (except on the manual-transmission Sport version), standard heated seats for Touring trim, and a standard nav for both the Touring and Grand Touring versions.

Standard interior features include six-way power driver seat, bucket front seats, height adjustable passenger seat, driver seat power adjustable lumbar support, split-folding rear seatback, one-touch power windows, heated mirrors, external temperature display, trip computer, Tacometer, keyless ignition, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, audio/cruise controls on steering wheel, 4-months satellite radio service.

In-car entertainment includes 4-months satellite radio service, nine speakers, Bose premium brand stereo/speakers, auxiliary audio input/USB with external control, speed sensitive volume control, AM/FM/CD/MP3.

We didn’t have an opportunity to use the power moonroof but liked having it available. We had a hard time figuring out the Navigation system, which befuddled this writer. For some reason, unless we were in that particular state, it didn’t allow us to program in any directions ahead of time. Finally, on the return trip, we managed to get it working. Not sure what that was about.

The intermittent rear wiper worked better than some. It at least covers most of the rear window. We thought it odd, though, that you had to operate the rear liftgate door manually. At least we were unable to locate any button on the fob that would have assisted. Nor could we get it to open by waving our foot underneath the rear end.

Although some of the newest high-tech features don’t get the use they intend by this driver, I especially appreciated the blindspot monitoring in the side mirrors. Particularly helpful when being followed by those drivers who insist on cruising in your blindspot.

BrakeAssist requires some getting used to, but helpful when driving in a lot of traffic. Tire pressure monitoring also helpful, particularly for those who don’t’ keep very good track of tire pressure.

Just a few cons: The stereo system could have better sound. Realistically, though, it’s not a Lexus and is fine for most purposes. We remember the days when BOSE used to be king of the hill in stereo sound/equipment. IN addition, acceleration could be stronger, although expected with a 4-cylinder.


MSRP: $29,870; total vehicle price $34,385; delivery $900.
Engine: 2.5-liter, inline 4, 16 valve, DOHC, 185 ft lbs. torque, 184 hp.
Transmission: 6-speed Shiftable Automatic, All-Wheel-Drive, 4-wheel independent suspension
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length: 179.3 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 67.3 in.
Trim levels: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring
EPA Fuel Economy: 26/33 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 15.3 gal.
Tires: P225/55R19 all-season
Wheels: alloy
Curb Weight: 3,589 lbs.
Towing: 2,000 lbs.
Warranty: 3 yr/36,000-mile basic; 3 yr/36,000-mile Roadside assistance; 5 yr/60,000-mile Drivetrain

2016 Mazda CX-5 Interior