2017 RAV4 Hybrid Limited AWD SUV





Susan Frissell

Our 2017 Toyota RAV4 Electric Storm Blue was the talk of residents in my office building this week. They stood and looked it over, trying to decide if it was, indeed “blue,” or what exactly, was the color. AS with most press vehicles I park in front, my fellow office renters love to see what I am driving next.

This writer is beginning to become a convert for hybrid vehicles; at least in the Toyota lineup. The last few I’ve driven have become strong contenders in my next ‘to buy’ list. The 2017 RAV4 is sharp looking, with a few more angles and a redesigned up-to-date look.

The angled headlamps and creased bodywork give it a different look that stands out some. This is a very practical SUV, competing with a lot of other good choices, namely, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Jeep Cherokee, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, etc.

We did not experience any difficulty hopping onto the highway from the ramp. This hybrid performs and you forget it has but 194 horse under the hood. Our Electric Storm Blue stood out and the interior, in our words, decked out with a classy two-tone black/tan leather seats reminiscent of the 1970s Mercury Cougar offering. We weren’t sure the Blue matched with this interior seat color scheme. It’s different.

As expected when opting for a Hybrid vehicle, the RAV4 has a MSRP of $34,030. Our test vehicle, the Limited edition came equipped with a few extras, including a Tonneau cover ($90), carpet floor mats/cargo mat ($224), Mudguards ($129), and Body side moulding ($209). The Advanced Technology Package ($1,435), includes Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, Entune, Premium JBL Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, which includes the Entune Multimedia Bundle, 7-in. high resolution touch-screen with split screen display, AM/FM, 11 JBL GreenEdge speakers, including subwoofer, auxiliary audio jack and USB 2.0 port with iPod 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 Radio with 3-month complimentary access trial, Gracenote Album Cover Art and Integrated Backup Camera Display with projected path tonneau cover.

One of the first small SUV’s on the market in the mid-90s, the RAV4 is a favorite with female drivers. Now in its fourth generation, this style has been with us since 2012. A small car-based SUV with five seats (no third row), the RAV has a reputation for practicality, dependability, comfort and is very easy to maneuver. Having sold some 286,809 units, the RAV is a close second in sales to Honda’s CR-V.

As with all Toyota products, the 2017 RAV offers lots of safety equipment, including Toyota Safety Sense-P, forward-collision warning (which we felt today when trailing a little too close to the car in front of us), lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise and automatic high-beam headlights. The RAV comes in a top-of-the-line Platinum trim for 2017. New to the lineup, the Platinum carries a MSRP of $35,690 front front-wheel-drive; adding $1400 when opting for all-wheel-drive.

The Platinum model includes a monochromatic exterior and luxury features like hated steering wheel, 360-degree-view camera and power liftgate. Worth paying more for? We’re not sure. Standard equipment on the RAV4 Limited is quite plentiful.

The RAV is a spacious and comfortable SUV. One won’t tire of driving this in all kinds of conditions, road surfaces. It isn’t the heaviest SUV and can feel light when hitting a pothole or making a sharp turn.

Of course, rear seats fold flat, into the floor, making towing your stuff effortless. Even with the hybrid battery pack, you’re only giving up two cubic feet of cargo space.


MSRP: $34,030; total vehicle price $37,057; destination. $940
Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive System, 2.5-liter DOHC 4-cylinder w/VVT-1, 194 hp w/ECVT
Transmission: AWD intelligence, ECO, EV and Sport Modes
Wheelbase: 104.7 in.
Height: 65.9 in.
Width: 72.6 in.
Length: 183.5 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.8 gal.
503.2 miles on hybrid
Warranty: 8 yr/100,000-miles hybrid component; 2 yr/25,000-mile free maintenance; 3 yr/36,000-mile basic
Tires: P22/65R17 all-season
Wheels: 18-inch alloy

(Photography George Straton)

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage SE

Susan Frissell

The first time in a long time we drove a re-designed Mitsubishi Mirage and we found it enjoyable. For a little commuter car, this Mirage fits the bill. We even found it handy when we needed to load a bicycle to take to our destination point to begin a Sunday ride. The bike didn’t fit all the way in, but it was a lot more convenient than a sedan with a backseat that doesn’t collapse.

There are a lot of likes about the Mirage, including the practical high-utility design, and of course, the great fuel economy. The maneuverability and parking ease, and the ease of driving. Our press car was the entry-level manual so it was easy to drive. mirage2

Handling is mediocre, but about expected in a small sub-compact. Trying to navigate highway driving is an effort, and highway acceleration is sluggish. Noise and vibration are there, but not as much as we expected.

One of the lowest-priced new cars on the U.S. market, the Mirage is probably the most fuel-efficient of the sub-compacts; a lot of car for the money.

For Mitsubishi in the U.S., the Mirage is made in Thailand, and hopes to make some inroads here among all the options a consumer could select. Sales seem to be somewhat decent, but probably not enough to save the brand here in the U.S. In fact, our local Mitsubishi dealership closed last month. Which isn’t a commentary, necessarily, about the brand. There is just too much to choose from.

Although the Mirage isn’t all that rewarding to drive, it does have some redeeming qualities. Don’t expect it to be totally quiet inside, although it didn’t bother our driving to hear a little noise-and-vibration; the kind that makes small cars low on the desirability scale in the past.

An economy car, the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage may be a great value for budget-conscious buyers, and it is an economy car. The economy cars, although not that popular in the U.S., do happen to make sense in other parts of the world. Competition includes such cars as the Ford Fiesta, Smart Fortwo, Nissan Sentra, Kia Rio and Chevrolet Spark. All a little costlier, but not by much. Again, it really depends what kind of driving you’re going to be doing in the Mirage.

Mirage interior

Mirage interior

The Mirage is powered by a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine, with 78 horsepower (up from 74 hp last year), due to new variable valve timing and a roller-type camshaft. This engine provides exceptionally good fuel efficiency, however, as one might assume, a 3-cylinder offers a very modest performance. Performance isn’t noticed as much when driving under 40 mph or so, but when attempting to attack highway-merging and driving, acceleration is especially sluggish, and missing to make any fast moves. The five-speed manual transmission costs less but actually has lower fuel-economy ratings, and for any comfort, one needs to drive in fifth gear.

According to Mitsubishi, improvements to the Mirage have been made to handling for the 2017 model, along with improved spring rates and optimized damping, stiffening the suspension, and upgrading the brake system with bigger front discs and rear drums.

With standard 14-inch wheels and tires, one may want to opt for the 15-inch upgrade (standard on the SE and GT models). Upgraded seat upholstery, a new steering wheel and some upgraded trims and switchgear also come on the 2017 Mirage. Hard plastic surfaces make up the dash and although the interior isn’t anything to write home about, it’s functional. Think economy car.

One of the smallest five-door hatchbacks sold in the U.S., the is a combo of minicar and subcompact class. While much larger than a Fortwo, the Mirage actually does have backseat space that fits two adults, and cargo when lowered.

Looks aren’t everything and the Mirage isn’t a handsome offering. However, it’s a little cute box that functions as needed, offers great fuel economy and gets you most places. Styling changes for 2017 include a new front and rear bumper, lower-body treatment and updated grille. Headlights have been changed, as have foglamps and the new 14-and 15-inch alloy wheels and new rear spoiler are a redesign.

The Mirage is offered in ES, SE and GT trim levels. Our base ES included A/C, keyless entry, steel wheels and four-speaker, 140-watt sound system. Bluetooth compatibility is optional on the base model. If consumers opt upwards, they can have a new infotainment system display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, alloy wheels, automatic climate control, rearview camera, cruise, steering wheel audio controls and push-button start. Our test car did have the back-up camera.

Safety has been a bit of a shortcoming of the Mirage, with its ‘poor’ rating in the small overlap frontal test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) particularly worrisome. The Mirage’s safety set includes seven airbags—driver and passenger front and side bags, side-curtain bags over the front and rear windows, plus a knee airbag for the driver. And while the Mirage is very inexpensive, it still includes stability control, traction control, and all the typical anti-lock braking systems.

Hill assist is also a standard feature on the Mirage, power windows and push start. ABS, tire pressure monitoring system and side curtain airbags.
There were no options on our test Mirage ES, and final vehicle pricing was $15,630. Pretty decent in this time of high auto prices.


MSRP: $14,795; total vehicle price $15,630, destination $835
Engine: 1.2-liter, MIVEC DOHC 12-valve, 3-cylinder, 78 hp., 74 ft.-lb. torque
Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD
Wheelbase: 96.5 in.
Length: 149.4 in.
Width: 65.6 in.
Height: 59.4 in.
Curb weight: 2,040 lbs.
EPA fuel economy: 41/36 mpg.
Hatchback, Sub-compact
Wheels: aluminum alloy 14-inch
Fuel tank capacity: 9.2 gal.
Warranty: 10 yrs/100,000-mile powertrain; 7 yrs/100,000-mile anti-corrosion; 5 yrs/60,000-mile new vehicle limited; 5 yrs/unlimited roadside assistance

2017 Lexus LX 570 Luxury SUV

Susan Frissell

Redesigned for 2017, the LX 570 is fresh on the market; the definition of a “perfect” vehicle, this road cruiser is the dream of many a customer. Stretching out to global auto markets, Lexus plans to sell the LX 570 in China, Japan, Korea, France, Germany and Russia. Reaching a large class of people, the LX 570 luxury SUV offers multiple functions, operations, systems and better fuel economy. 2017-lexus-lx-570-side

Environmentally friendly, luxurious and new on all fronts, the 2017 LX 570 looks up-to-date, inside and out. You name it, the LX 570 offers it-to all markets. Seats are comfortable with cool and warm air, depending on the season, and music lovers will appreciate the 19 speaker entertainment system.

Competing with such vehicles as Range Rover, Land Rover, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz GX also redesigned), Audi Q7 and Cadillac Escalade. This updated Lexus has a new interior, updated nav, Bluetooth, an electronically-controlled transmission, and full-time 4-wheel drive. A weather-resistant SUV, the LX 570 comes equipped with several air bags, front knee bags, carries seven passengers, and alerts the driver through pre-collision warning system, traction control, intuitive parking assist, satellite radio and glowing indicators and intensive LED light bults. For comfort, expect a heated steering wheel, USB connectivity, and small LCD lights at the rear of the front seats.lexuslx570int

Originally launched in 1995, the Lexus LX 570, a takeoff on the Toyota Land Cruiser, the second generation came in 2007, as a 2008 model. That model was then refreshed in 2012. With a full spare tire, the Lexus LX 570 gets a 20-inch alloy wheel and tire. These are massive and provide good road feel, yet a very comfortable, quiet ride.

No question driver and passengers alike will be protected in the best fashion possible. Safety is a key factor in the Lexus and airbags abound for all, as well as stronger seatbelts, fire alarm devices, GPS tracker, ABS and emergency braking.

Lexus’ 5.7-liter V8 engine is under the hood, matched with the eight-speed automatic transmission. Full-time 4×4 all-wheel-drive, as noted above, prepares for any kind of driving; with TORSEN limited-slip center differential. lexus-lx

Expect the standard price of the 2017 Lexus LX 570 to initially begin at $84,000, and go upward from there. A high cost for any luxury SUV generation. We don’t expect a vehicle of this caliber, however, to be towing many boats, or being the ‘rugged’ SUV many favor.

In fact, we found the braking in the 2017 LX 570 to be quirky and sensitive and took a while to get used to. Not something we wanted to have to deal with on a daily basis. The steering is heavy and do know, this is one big vehicle to drive around; and/or park.

Our LX 570 came equipped with the optional entertainment system with rear-seat DVD. This is a classy cabin and lends itself well to long roadtrips. The 12.3 inch touchscreen sits high and is easy to read. We didn’t try the park assist but expect it would probably be a helpful option; particularly for the small diminutive females we see driving this vehicle around Chicago. Adaptive cruise is also a favorite option, and handy during Chicago-area highway driving.

Who buys these over-size behemoth vehicles? Silly question, I suppose. Our area is loaded with Range Rover products; one looking just like the next, as do its drivers! It has always been a wonderment to this writer the popularity of the Navigator and Cadillac Escalade. Other than ‘cult’ cars, the appeal doesn’t translate over all markets.

We can’t help but wonder, when a consumer opts for a car of this sophistication, do they all know how to operate all these new options? They are formidable and take some time for non-technos to memorize and appreciate the value of their worth.


MSRP: expected to be $84,000; up from there
Engine: V-8, 5.7-liter, 383 hp., 403 lb. ft. torque, 4-WD
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Length: 199.4 in.
Width: 78 in.
Height: 75.2 in.
Fuel tank capacity: 24.6 gallons
EPA Fuel Economy: 13/18 mpg.
Curb Weight: 6,000 lbs.
Towing capacity: 7,000-lbs.
Wheels: 20×8.5 in., 5-spoke alloy
Tires: 28/50R20 mud/snow-rated
Warranty: 4 yr./50,000 miles

2017 Toyota Tundra 4×4 Limited

usc60tot105a021001Susan Frissell

The Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup best known for its durability. This second-generation Tundra was introduced as a 2007 model and updated for 2014. For 2016, Tundra gets a small exterior update, some have a larger fuel tank (38 gal, against standard 26.4 gal), and an updated infotainment system.

For 2017, the Tundra receives new paint colors. Toyota discontinued Radiant Red. Our Inferno and Quicksand colors are available on the SR4 and Limited models. Now available on the SR models are Barcelona Red Metallic, Super White and Black. Now standard on the Tundra is also a tow hitch.

The Limited and TRD Pro Tundras come with Toyota’s premium audio system and app suite, together with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Opt for the Platinum and 1794 Edition versions and you can expect a JBL premium audio system, as well as standard Blind Spot Warning System. On the Limited, you get standard front bucket seats.

The only choice of engine in the Tundra is Toyota’s V8; either the 4.6-liter or the 5.7-liter V8. Our test Tundra 4×4 came equipped with the 5.7-liter, a powerful, well-executed engine. The base 4.6-liter V8 is rated at 310 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque, and is in the SR5 4×2, double cab. Standard on certain versions, the 5.7-liter V8 generates 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet, and is the engine on the SR 4×2 regular cab with the long bed, and the Limited 4×2 double, as well as the Platinum 4×2 CrewMax.

Rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are both available; our test version came with the 4×4, part-time 4-wheel-drive with electronically controlled transfer case. The CrewMax ($49,580) models are fitted with a 66.7-inch bed, four door and backseat bench. This is standard on the Platinum and 1794 Edition trim levels. The largest trucks, however, do not have lockable storage within the cargo bed, a damped tailgate operation or steps or handrails.

Tundra doesn’t offer as many configurations as other trucks on the market; although, when trying to configure what you’d want in a truck, one can get overwhelmed by all the choices. Just starting out, consumers can opt for the Tundra entry-level SR ($32,190) model, go up from there to the SR5 ($34,000), TRD Pro (off-road), Limited ($41,720), and Platinum. When going for broke, consumers can choose the all-but-the-kitchen-sink model, the 1794 Edition (named for a Texas ranch where the factory is).

Although we’re located in a large city and the surrounding suburbs, driving a truck is great fun. People don’t ogle you as much as in years past since it is a more common site. If your suburb village allows you to park a pickup in the driveway, you’re in.

Basic standard safety equipment is on par, and includes eight airbags, however, the latest in technology (i.e., active safety features, adaptive cruise, collision warnings), isn’t available. Crash test scores are about average (four stars) for the Tundra; some versions receiving only a three star rollover rating. tundra

Our Tundra Limited came with leather seating, 20-inch alloy wheels, automatic dual zone and climate control and rear backup camera. We enjoyed driving the Tundra and didn’t think the added off-road package made the ride any worse. This is a very comfortable and well-equipped truck, and when driving on the highway, is smooth and quiet.

Our Tundra Ltd came equipped with the larger fuel tank (38 gal), although in the few short days of driving, we never had to fill up. Although at only an average 15 mpg., driving the Tundra on a regular basis might drain the pocketbook.

The 6.5 doubled-walled bed came with rail caps, a deck rail system with four adjustable tie-down cleats. The power horizontal rear window is nice and the dogs loved it!

The driver’s seat is 10-way power, with a 4-way power adjustable passenger seat. Our Limited was also equipped with the tow package (rover hitch, 4.30 axle ratio, engine/transmission fluid coolers, TOWHAUL mode, and heavy-duty battery and alternator.

Options on our test Tundra included the TRD Off-Road Package (Upgrade standard wheels to 18-inch split, 5-spoke TRD Off-road package alloy wheels with black accents and all-terrain P27/65R18 tires; Trail-Tuned Bilstein Shock Absorbers, engine skid plate, fuel tank skid plate, front tow hooks, and bed side TRD Off-road decal, $45). The color-Inferno-was a bright orange-ish-copper so popular this year. We loved it.

Receiving a major refresh in 2014, the 2017 Toyota Tundra is largely carryover from the 2016 model. The off-road oriented TRD Pro model was new for the 2015 model year, and includes 18-inch TRD Off-Road alloy wheels, trail-tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, engine skid plates, fuel tank skid plates, front tow hooks on rear-drive variants, and a TRD Off-Road decal. The 4.0-liter V-6 was dropped from the Tundra line starting with the 2014 model, making the Tundra an all-V-8 lineup. The base 4.6-liter V-8 makes 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque. The 4.6-liter engine is standard on the SR and SR5 trims.

Limited and TRD Pro Tundras come with a Toyota premium audio system and an app suite together with the Entune infotainment system. The Platinum and 1794 Edition variants come standard with a JBL premium audio system. Blind spot warning now part of the Limited Premium package and comes standard on the 1794 Edition and Platinum grades. The Limited trim receives standard power front bucket seats for 2017.


MSRP: $42,330; total vehicle price $43,570; destination $1,195
Engine: 5.7-liter I-FORCE V8 E85 Flex Fuel DOHC 32 valve with Dual and VVT-1, 381 hp., 401 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with sequential shift, 4W demand part-time 4WD with electronic controlled transfer case, A-TRAC and Auto LSD
Wheelbase: 145.7 in.
Width: 76.0-79.9 in.
Height: 75.8 in.-76.0 in.
Length: 228.9 in.
Tires: P275/55R20
Wheels: 20-inch alloy
Warranty: 36 mths/36,000-mile Bumper-to-Bumper; 60 mths/60,000-mile Powertrain; 24mths/unlimited Roadside Assistance; 24 mths/25,000-mile Free Scheduled Maintenance

Weekend Fun: Mecum Auto Auction at Schaumburg Convention Center

imag0307We had the pleasure of attending the first day at the annual Mecum auction held in Schaumburg yesterday. Lots of bidders and about 800 cars to go on the block. As a colleague and I deducted, this auction is very much for the dealers and private auto sales folks to enjoy and benefit from. Many oldies were up for auction, probably some that came out of estates (90s Cadillac models), and collector cars worth more in nostalgia than price.

With their new affiliation with Dodge, Mecum shows in several parts of the country. We understand the Mecum auction in Indianapolis at the end of May every year is the one to attend, with many cars up for sale.

Thanks to Dodge who hosted the media at the Schaumburg Convention Center, we enjoyed admiring the cars for sale, listening to the auctioneer move the prices upward, and just people-watching.

The gates open at 8:00 A.M. Thursday, Friday, Saturday (October 6-8), the auctioning beginning at 1:00 P.M. on Thursday, and 10:00 A.M. on Friday and Saturday. Be sure to take a look at the Wall Art gallery, beginning at 8:30 A.M. on Friday and Saturday.

1958 Jaguar

1958 Jaguar

Could we have bought a car or two? You bet!! I’m sorry now but can’t handle the 3 I’ve got!!
Go on over to the Schaumburg Convention Center on Thoreau Dr. to take part in the energy and fun at Mecum, You won’t regret it!imag0303

Important info:

Where: Schaumburg Convention Center, 1551 Thoreau Dr., Schaumburg, IL 60173

When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, October 6-8. See above for times

How much? Adults $30 general admission; two days: $60. Children under 12, FREE

Friday Oct 7: Fifty-percent discount to all those seeking Admission and Bidding Registration if wearing Blackhawk-themed attire.

Parking: Free with shuttle, from Firestone Tire at 1755 E. Golf Rd.

2016 Toyota Sienna XLE Premium 7-Passenger Minivan



sienna2Susan Frissell

Having driven the 2015 Toyota Sienna (see review on website), we had a good idea about what this minivan offers. Probably the second most popular minivan on the road (only to Honda’s Odyssey), the Sienna is a beautiful ‘boat,’ complete with all the amenities one needs when navigating around-town and on the road.

There isn’t anything better than a minivan when you’re road-tripping. Comfortable, quiet, flexible and complete with all the space one needs. Oh, yeah, and the audio/video equipment for entertainment, the seating choices and versatility can’t be beat.

For 2016, Toyota made a few changes in their ever-popular family-hauler, including a more modern style, new powertrain, projector beam headlights and 19-inch alloy wheels. We especially liked the dual moonroof and 180-degree backup camera. The all-wheel-drive would be especially appreciated during those winter months of unpredictable snow/ice.

What’s new for 2016 on the Sienna: an updated and improved interior and the Siri Eyes Free System for the iPhone users. Certain models also have the Scout GPS Link app which displays smartphone nav on the central display. ]

We particularly like the Sienna’s versatile second row with slide-back Captain’s chairs. The touch-screen interface is fairly easy to operate and cargo volume is 150 cu. Ft., plenty to haul any manner of items. The all-wheel-drive we suspect will be handy during those icy/snowy months in Chicago.
The second row is versatile and the third row folds very easily. This was appreciated many times when last minute carrying of larger items was needed.

Carrying over 5,000 lbs of weight, the Toyota V6 engine worked effortlessly. Paired with Toyota’s 6-speed automatic transmission, the Sienna is easy to drive and maneuver.There are many (16?) trim levels of this minivan, and at all price points. The vehicle ranges from $29,800-up over $46,000. That seems like a lot to pay for a minivan, but when one considers the versatility and how long this particular hauler will remain in the household, one makes allowances. The catch of course, is that many consumers will have to have the latest available in options and technology. Once you get used to that, it’s hard to go backwards.Opting for a base model, however, features are sparse.


SRP: $40,815; total vehicle price $42,761; destination $900
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve, Dual VVT-1 V6, 266 hp.,
Transmission: 6-speed Electronically Controlled Auto Overdrive w/Intelligence (ECT-1)
Length: 200.2 in.
Width: 78.1 in.
Height: 68.9 in.
Tires: 235/55TR18; 23/50VR 19
Wheels: 19 in. alloy
Trailer tow: 3,500 lbs.
Weight: 5,995 lbs.
Warranty: 24 mths/25,000 maintenance; 36/36,000 basic; 2 mth/limited distance roadside assistance; 60/unlimited corrosion perforation; 60/60,000 powertrain

Mazda MX-5 Miata’s One-Millenth Tour

Susan Frissell

On its 18-stop tour, the one-millionth MX-5 Miata is coming through the Chicago area. On Saturday September 3, the MX-5 will be displayed at C.J. Wilson Countryside dealership in Countryside, IL. (See the complete tour list below).one-millionth-mazda-mx-5-produced

The 18-stop tour began at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Monterey Motorsports Reunion from August 18-21. The car will travel the country, ending at the same venue October 1-2 for Miatas at Mazda Raceway. Mazda expects thousands of loyal MX-5 Miata owners, along with some ‘influential people’ throughout the MX-5’s history and development, to be in attendance.

At each stop-along the way-the first 240 owners and fans will have the opportunity to sign the one-millionth MX-5. The first 400 attendees will receive a commemorative “Millionth Miata Celebration Tour” T-shirt at each tour stop. The locations on the tour were chosen based on MX-5 sales history, as well as overwhelmingly successful owners; clubs that expressed an interest in the tour.

One of the biggest Miata clubs in the country, Chicago’s Windy City Miata Club will mostly likely be out in full force. The club boasts 310 members (2015) and 211 Miatas.miata2

The one-millionth MX-5 Miata was built last April. To celebrate this historic milestone, Mazda has been taking the vehicle on a worldwide appreciation tour to thank fans and owners for their loyalty toward making the MX-5 Miata the best-selling roadster of all time.

According to Robert Davis, Senior VP, U.S. Operations, Mazda North American Operations, “Last year was the ‘Year of the Miata’ with the launch of the all-new 2016 MX-5, but even a year into the sales of the fourth-generation roadster, that momentum has continued.

Davis notes, “From winning the 2016 World Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year, to the introduction of the all-new 2017 MX-5 RF, to our one-millionth Miata milestone, the MX-5 continues to symbolize the innovation and spirit that propels Mazda. With the Millionth Miata Celebration, we’re excited to give back to those who, like us, continue to believe that driving matters.”

For the entirety of the Millionth Miata Celebration Tour, the one-millionth car, which is a right-hand-drive Japanese-specification soft top equipped with a 1.5-liter SKYACTIV-G engine, will be traveling with the 15th Miata ever built: A Classic Red 1990 model that made its world debut at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. This 27-year-old classic is owned by Mazda North American Operations and is part of the company’s Heritage Collection.

For more information and updates on the Tour, go to InsideMazda.MazdaUSA.com. You can also track the one-millionth MX-5, and follow conversation on Social Media.

Date City Location
August 18-21 Monterey, California Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

August 25 Boston, Massachusetts Quirk Mazda
August 27 New York, New York Wayne Mazda
August 28 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Young Mazda
September 2 Cleveland, Ohio Classic Mazda
September 3 Countryside, Il CJ Wilson Countryside
September 6 Indianapolis, Indiana Tom Roush Mazda
September 7 Columbus, Ohio Germain Mazda
September 8 Charlotte, North Carolina Mazda of South Charlotte
September 9 Atlanta, Georgia Mall of Georgia Mazda
September 10 Jacksonville, Florida Duval Mazda at the Avenues
September 17 Daytona Beach, Florida Daytona Mazda
September 23 Houston, Texas Grandsport Speedway
“MX-5 Experience”
September 24 Austin, Texas Roger Beasley Mazda
September 25 Dallas, Texas Globe Life Stadium
September 27 Phoenix, Arizona Earnhardt Mazda
September 28 Los Angeles, California Galpin Mazda
October 1-2 Monterey, California Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Miatas at Mazda Raceway

2016 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E AWD

Susan Frissell

Known always for safety, the 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 is one of the better choices for a small luxury crossover SUV, in terms of the latest in safety developments. Carrying over from 2015, the XC60 has few changes for 2016, and in fact, has dropped some: The fold-down front passenger seat is no longer.

Pros for the SC60 T6 include strong and efficient turbocharged four-cylinder engines; great crash test scores; supportive seats; generous cargo space.t6

It’s been hard for family vehicles to be anything but boring (think minivans, I guess), although we don’t necessarily think so. However, Volvo offers a nice alternative in the XC60 SUV, with sleek looks, a stylish and upscale cabin, as well as a solid vehicle. Introduced in 2010, the XC60 has it all, albeit at a fairly robust price. Compared with some of the competition, though, the XC60 still comes in less than Audi 5 or Mercedes GLC-Class.

With no shortage of competitors, the XC60 also competes with the Acura RDX, BMW X3, and Lexus NX 200t, the new Jaguar F-Pace, among others.

As with all good comes a little disappointment. And so it is with the Volvo XC60. We found the handling less than stellar, discovered we couldn’t take our eyes off the road for fear it would drift off. Power and performance are there in the 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder Turbo-charged, super-charged engine. Paired with Volvo’s all-wheel-drive via a six-speed automatic transmission.

2016 Volvo XC60 T6 interior

2016 Volvo XC60 T6 interior

We felt the Volvo turn off and on; Volvo’s automatic stop-start system that shuts down the engine to save fuel when coming to a stop. Much like a hybrid, the turbo engine feels less like a turbo. Horsepower is at 302, and torque at 295, making it a strong performer when you need it. We had no trouble taking off and passing when indicated. Midway through the model year, Volvo offered the 2.0-liter Turbo engine with AWD, rated at 23 mpg. combined.

The early build of the XC60 T6 AWD models (sans the Drive-E), have a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine, producing 300 hp and 325 lb-ft. torque

Our test Volvo XC was the T6 Drive-E, AWD with several pricy options. The Platinum package, at $4,400 came with power tailgate with programmable setting, Active dual Xenon headlights and washers, Auto-dimming rearview mirrors, and Rear Park assist camera. Other options included the Convenience Package with HomeLink, garage door opener, cargo cover, grocery bag holder, 12V power outlet in cargo area, power retractable exterior mirrors, Electric folding rear headrests, Accent lighting, Harmen Kardon Premium Sound System, Adaptive Cruise Control with brake assist, Pedestrian, Cyclist Detection, distance alert, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Alert Control, Active High Beams, Road Sign Information.
The other option was the Climate Package and Child Booster Seat ($1,550) and included heated front seats, Dual Two-stage child booster seats, power child locks, heated windshield washer nozzles, interior air quality system, heated steering wheel and heated windshield. We could actually see the heating coils in the windshield under certain light.

Contour seats and charcoal head rests ($600), Metallic paint ($60), Linear Walnut Wood Inlay ($400), and 19-inch LESATH D/C wheel ($750) all brought our test XC60 up to $52,605.

Twenty-inch wheels come on the T6 AWD R-Design edition. Our AWD Drive-E version come equipped with 18-inch all-season tires, and 18-inch alloy wheels; with the option on this car, the wheels were 19-inch.

A five-passenger SUV, the XC60 offers plenty of interior space, all the features you could want, and excellence in safety. Of course. If you elect to get into the XC60 FWD Drive-E T5 and T6 versions, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most impressive EPA fuel economy (26 mpg combined). You sacrifice a few mpg’s with the AWD models, but mileage still averages around 22 mpg.

A small crossover in classification, the XC60 is available in many versions; something like 16 choices! Trim levels correspond to engine and drivetrain, including the T5 Drive-E, T5 AWD, T6 Drive-E, T6 AWD and T6 AWD R-Design. You can also move up to the XC60’s big brother, the XC80, if you want more room. All versions of the T6 have a Platinum trim level ( and in our test vehicle, an optional package).xc60

The Premier package for the T5 Drive-E and T5 AWD adds a panoramic sunroof, rear privacy glass, leather upholstery, configurable digital gauges, a navigation system and an auto-dimming mirror.
The T6 Platinum trim adds a power liftgate, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, a premium 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, interior accent lighting and Volvo’s Technology and Convenience packages (explained below).

Volvo’s Technology package, standard on Platinum models and an option on all other trims, adds adaptive cruise control, an upgraded forward collision mitigation system, driver alertness and lane departure warning systems and automatic high beam headlight control.

Of course, all XC60s offer standard traction and stability control, ABS, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, whiplash-protection front seats, along with the standard City Safety system-a low-speed forward collision warning and mitigation system with automatic braking. The XC60 received a five-star rating in government crash tests, and a “superior” rating for its frontal crash prevention technology.

As with all Volvo products, the seats are very comfortable and supportive. Switches and controls are intuitive. The audio system pad may seem somewhat dated, but is simple to operate. We liked the dial-around nav system and although a tad laborious, is simple to figure out.

The 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E delivers respectable acceleration and very good fuel economy. The turbocharged engine offers plenty of power, but takes a little getting used to when shutting on/off, if you’ve never driven a hybrid vehicle. The ride is smooth, takes all manner of roads with little effort, is quiet, yet firm.

You’ll know the XC60 is a Volvo-by look and feel. But that’s not a bad thing. It still feels like a Scandanavian vehicle, with looks, comfort and class.


MSRP: $43,350; total vehicle price $52,605; destination $995
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Super and Turbo-Charged, Direct-Injection, 302 hp., 295 lb. ft. torque, 2100 RPM
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic Geartronic, w/Advanced Quick Shift, AWD, instant traction
Wheelbase: 109.2 in.
Width: 74 in.
Length: 183 in.
Height: 67 in.
Tires: P235/60HR18, all-season, standard
Wheels: 19-inch LESATH D/C
EPA Fuel economy: 19/27 mpg., 22 mpg avg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.5 gal.
Warranty: 4 years, 50,000-miles Basic and Drivetrain; roadside assistance 4 yrs/unlimited mileage; Corrosion 12 yrs/unlimited mileage; Maintenance 3 yrs/36,000-miles

2016 Toyota Prius Four Touring

prius2Susan Frissell

Others have said it before this writer: This is the best Prius ever. Coming from someone who had little use for hybrid vehicles (give me a good V-8 any day), my week in the beautiful Hypersonic Red 2016 Prius made me a believer. So much so, in fact, I’ve seriously considered replacing my 13 year-old Infiniti with this little do-it-all hybrid.

It’s fair to say that two years ago when driving a 2014 Prius back and forth from Chicago to Vermont, I was pretty impressed with all this car can do. We packed it full of ‘stuff’ to bring back/forth and it never missed a beat; averaging somewhere around 58 mpg. Who could argue with those numbers?

I appreciated all that the 2016 improved Prius offers; I enjoyed driving it, riding in it, maneuvering it, on and on. The new restyled look is up-to-date, edgy and less like a boring hybrid shape. The color added to first impressions, and the ride is practically flawless. The driver’s seat is one of the most comfortable this writer has ever encountered. Soft, yet supportive, and the 8-way power-adjusted driver seat with lumbar made it possible to get just the right angle/fit.

2016 Prius Interior

2016 Prius Interior

Am I gushing? I guess so. But I was surprised at how much I resonated with the Prius. For the first time in my life, I have no idea which car I would buy at this time. Many choices, of course. In the past, I always knew exactly what vehicle I was going to purchase next.

Our 2016 Prius Four Touring press car came equipped with a few options, including the Special Hypersonic Red color ($395), Cargo net ($49), Door Edge Guards ($125), Wheel locks ($65), Rear Bumper Applique ($69), and Body Side Molding ($289). All these options brought the car‘s total price close to $32,000, but consumers can buy the Prius for quite a bit less.

As one would assume, much is standard on the Prius, including rain-sensitive/intermittent wipers, Auto on/off Bi-LED headlights, Heated power outside mirrors, 7-inch high-res display premium audio with navigation, Entune, App Suite, backup camera, AM/FM/CD, SXM, Bluetooth, fold-down rear seating, Ql-compatible Wireless Smartphone Chrg, Tilt/Telescoping steering wheel with controls, 3-Door Smart Key, cargo area tonneau cover, tire repair kit, and power doors/locks/mirrors.

Of course, the latest in safety which earns the Prius a 4-5 star rating from the NHTS including vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS, Electric Brake-Force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart-Stop Technology. While driving, apparently we came a little too close to the car in front of us and up popped a warning: BRAKES!. A little alarming at first, but I suppose a good idea, especially for texters!

Several airbags are standard fair, including knee bags, active headrests and side curtain airbags.

When first introduced, the Prius was a hybrid. Period. The second generation offered much more, with higher technology, as-promised miles-per-gallon that couldn’t be beat. Now, 12 years later, hybrids aren’t as sought after. With cheaper gasoline prices, and many other types of vehicles offered, the standard hybrid had to keep up and offer more.

The redesigned Prius has a combination of both space and efficiency, and no one can dismiss its achievable fuel economy of 50 mpg, at high and low speeds. Some have said it lacks ‘fun,’ but I think this 2016 Prius has much more to it than previous models. I so enjoyed driving it that I had to pinch myself.

Braking seemed somewhat vague; hence, the reason for the “BRAKES” on the windshield. Improved road manners can be attributed to Toyota’s TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture). Enabling a lower center of gravity and sophisticated suspension, both improving ride and handling, the Prius feels more like a ‘sedan.’ One you’d want to get into each morning.

The ride is noticeably better. The rear suspension gets an independent trailing-arm arrangement, replacing the previous torsion-beam axle. The ride is better controlled, and impacts are soaked up more soundly. The steering isn’t terribly communicative, but then it’s a hybrid, not a performance vehicle. Turns are easily executed, and the Prius is just easy to drive.

Commuters will benefit from the Prius’s superb interior space and upgrades. As mentioned earlier, when driving the Prius from Chicago to Vermont and back, the Prius excelled in availability of room for all matter of objects. Beyond the liftgate is a low, flat cargo floor; the 60/40-split rear seats fold easily the expand the available space to 66 cubic feet; much like a crossover. Cyclists can easily fit their bike in the rear space.

Competition is considerable, compared to the Prius’ first few years on the market, and includes the Ford C-Max ($25,045-$32,645), Prius V ($27,510-$31,770), Lexus CT ($32,000), Chevy Volt (33,995-$38,445), Prius C ($29,394-$25,330). As you can see from the pricing, they all fall into the same price range.

MSRP: $30,000; total vehicle price $31, 827; destination $835
Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive System, AT-PZEV, 1.8-liter DOHC, 16v, VVT, 1-4 cylinder, EV/ECO/POWER modes, 121 hp., torque, 105; FWD. Gas/Electric
Class: Hatchback, 5-passenger
Transmission: CVA
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Width: 69.3 in.
Height: 58.1 in.
Length: 178.7 in.
Weight: 3,075 lbs.
Tires: P215/45R17 all-season
Wheels: 17-inch alloy
Warranty: Roadside: unlimited; Full: 36 mths/36,000-miles; maintenance: 25,000 miles; Corrosion; unlimited miles/24 months; Powertrain, 60 mths/60,000-miles
EPA fuel economy: 54/50 mpg.

2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

lexnx200Susan Frissell

Wearing the new Lexus design, the 2016 NX 200t F Sport is a head-turner. Edgy and modern, the NX is a much more relaxed drive than the Lexus RX; at least for this writer. Over all these years the ever-popular RX has gotten ever more larger, almost too much for some. While there is little to criticize when in a Lexus vehicle, one has to admit the styling needed updating. Dull and square, the new look is high-tech and appealing.

As expected in every Lexus product, the cabin is as up-to-date as would allow, construction is top-notch and there is generous room in the back seat. The cabin is quiet on the road, and the engine quiet and smooth, for the most part. We did experience once, that lag in the turbo.
Don’t plan on carrying several passengers or cargo in the NX. Capacity is smaller than some CUV’s in this category. We couldn’t warm up to the Remote Touch interface, and discovered trying to navigate radio stations isn’t the easiest task while driving.

For 2016, the NX 200t offers broader smartphone connectivity through Lexus’ Enform products, but otherwise remains unchanged since its introduction.

Lexus NX interior

Lexus NX interior

The NX model is an all-new compact luxury crossover, which while it joins a fairly crowded category, seems to be gaining popularity. Competing with such CUV’s as Mercedes-Benz GLK, BMW X3, Audi Q5, Acura RDX and Volvo XC60, the Lexus NX features even bolder styling than its competition. Loaded with all kinds of tech equipment, the NX is a sexy, sporty CUV.

As always, our test vehicles generally come in the top of the line configuration. Nice for us, but boy, it spoils! Our test NX 200t came equipped in the F Sport trim level. The sportiest of the NX lineup, the F Sport rides a little harder and feels performance-oriented with its tuned suspension. The Premium F Sport package includes heated front seats, power tilt/slide moonroof, memory power/tile/telescoping steering column, power 10-2ay driver’s seat, w/lumbar support, leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters.

One would assume any driver could find a comfortable nitch in the Lexus 10-way power adjustable seat, but this driver couldn’t seem to get it just right. When the seat back kept me close enough to the steering wheel, I felt the back of the seat hitting my head.

We played around with the various Eco/Normal/Sport choices for ride level. We didn’t notice much difference, and defaulted back to Eco. Fuel economy hovers around 22-24 mpg in town, with 28 mpg on highway driving. Should buyers need better numbers, they can opt for the hybrid version, NXN 300h.
The other options on our $46,000 NX 200t F Sport included Qi Compatible Wireless Charger, $220, Electrochromatic inside rear view mirror, Lexus Homelink Garage Door Opener, $125, LED headlamps w/o auto high beams, $1,160, Navigation Package (Remote Touch Interface, Lexus Enform Remote/Destination/App Suite, 10-speaker Lexus Premium Sound System, $1,875, Electronic outer mirrors with Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Reverse Tilt, Heated memory, $660, Pre-Collision System w/Speed Cruise Control, $900, Premium F Sport Package, $2,045, Heated Perforated Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel with paddle shifters, $150. Over $7,000 of options on this baby!

Sharing a few parts from the Toyota bin, the NX is all new with some RAV4 borrowed items. Lexus’ first attempt at competing in the CUV market segment, the NX has been well received. Five inches shorter than the RX SUV, the NX falls into the compact, rather than the midsize category.

Lexus offers two engines in the NX, including the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 235 horse power, and the 2.5-liter gas/electric hybrid, 4-cylinder with 194 hp. (NX 300h). Lexus has gone out on a design limb to attempt to attract a younger buyer to the NX CUV. Much more bold than Lexus designs have ever dared to be, the NX does stand out.

One would assume the NX, particularly in the F Sport version is a “sporty” CUV, but the 2.0-liter Turbocharged 4-cylinder isn’t the sportiest of engines. The least powerful engine in its class, the 2.0-liter falls short of any sporty feeling or power. Consider its competition: the Mercedes GLK 350’s 6-cylinder, 302-horsepower, the V6, 273 hp. Acura RDX, Volvo XC60 T6’s turbocharged 6-cylinder with 302 horse, and Audi Q5’s supercharged V6 engine with 272 hp.

The 6-speed automatic transmission in the NX doesn’t have a sporty dual clutch, either which makes the NX less of a sporty offering than its competitors. Fuel economy was most likely a consideration, and the NX is the leader here, at 22/28 mpg. We suspect, too, that Lexus loyalists will opt for the NX, not for its sportiness, or lack thereof, but rather, because it is a Lexus.

The NX 300h has an issue that may send shoppers elsewhere: pricing. Lexus announced that the split between gas and hybrid models will be 90 percent gas and 10 percent hybrids, and while the automaker hasn’t yet announced pricing, the Lexus officials that we spoke to explained that the primary reason for the huge imbalance is the hybrid model’s relatively high MSRP.

No question Lexus excels at interior design and quality of materials, comfort, resale, generous legroom, and high technology. Most auto enthusiasts know you can’t go wrong with a Lexus product. Base and F Sport versions are available, and the hybrid.

While all Lexus infotainment systems are top notch, we weren’t crazy about the remote touch controller. Difficult to use, and operates with just a light tap, made changing channels and sources not much fun. We prefer the joystick to the touchpad. Perhaps it’s just familiarity with one system or another. Some drivers, I’m sure, would prefer the touchscreen.


MSRP: $38,365; total vehicle price $46,440, delivery $940
Engine: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 16 valve, DOHC, Dual VVT, 235 hp., 258 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel-Drive
Wheelbase: 104 in.
Height: 64.8 in.
Weight: Curb, 4,050 lbs.
Length: 182.3 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 15.9 gal.
Width: 73.6 in.
Tires: 235/60R18
Wheels: 18×7.5 in. split 5-spoke alloy w/machined finish
Warranty: 7 yrs/70,000-miles drivetrain, 4 yr/50,000-miles base