2017 Kia Sorento EX AWD

Susan Frissell

The 2017 Kia Sedona is a vehicle that has improved quite a bit over the last few years. A good size SUV, the Sedona has a responsive 2.0T engine, tighter feel, quieter ride and several features.

Our 2017 Kia Sorento test car was equipped with Kia’s turbocharged 2.0-liter, inline 4-cylinder, with 240 horse and 260 lb. ft. torque. The 2.4-liter inline 4, with 185-horsepower, is standard, and a 3.3-liter, V-6 engine with 290 hp. Is also available. All three powertrains include a 6-speed automatic transmission and can be equipped with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Our test Sorento came with the All-wheel-drive, which proved to be a blessing during the Chicago winter week of test-driving.kia_sorento_2016_5xyphda16gg010333_32155_173605786

Sorento received a full redesign for 2016, including new sheet metal, new body structure and the addition of the available turbo inline 4 engine. Gains were also made in interior room, as well as a much more comfortable and accommodating cabin. Ride quality also took a large leap forward, making this a nice road vehicle.

Even with a new design, the Sorento didn’t look that different, but minor updates have made this a handsome SUV, and just the right size. Available for 2017 are several trim levels: LX, EX, SX and SXL. Our test EX version (and only the second trim level) with AWD came at what we thought was a pretty steep price, including many options that may or may not be necessary to the average SUV shopper.

All has changed for the 2017 Kia Sorento. With more stylish looks, all the trim and sheet metal have been updated. The redesign is noticeable, with ties to its other stablemates; whether you like the new look, or not, it’s keeping up with design cues out there. The interior is a noticeable upgrade; classier and very comfortable. A squarer look and design than the Santa Fe, the Sorento offers a third-row seat.

The 2017 Sorento has added about three inches to its length and wheelbase, making for a smoother ride. Competing more with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, than the 2015 model, the new Sorento responds more powerfully and responsively. The suspension is firm, but not rough or harsh, noise level is improved, with a lighter feel.

The Sorento is available in the LX and EX models, most of the market. The EX can be ordered with the turbocharged inline 4-cylinder or V-6 engine. The SX and SXL trim levels are offered only with the V-6. The entry level Sorento L is the base 2.4-liter engine and front-wheel-drive model. Still keeping with Kia’s wish to offer an affordable SUV.

The SX and SXL models come equipped with the Infinity 10-speaker audio system, and upper level trim models getting a full nav system with live traffic. Most trim levels come with the full lineup of UVO eServices capability, Yelp and Pandora apps.

We drove the Sorento and 2017 Santa Fe Sport Ultimate 2.0T back-to-back, equipped with the same engine and similar amenities. Both great SUV’s, although the Santa Fe has the better looks. We could be happy with either over the long haul. Similarly equipped, we would probably opt for the Santa Fe; comparing the two exact vehicles we drove in the fleet. The styling appeals more.

Were there some dislikes in the 2017 Sorento? The back bench seats felt short for those with long legs. The active-safety features are not widely available, and if one thinks of the Kia as a lesser vehicle to the Santa Fe stablemate, perhaps that explains it. Ford/Mercury? Apparently, consumers aren’t able to pair a third-row seat Sorento with the turbo engine, either.

Seats have been upgraded to better accommodate tall and short drivers, alike. Leather seat trim is standard on the EX AWD; front seats are heated, power adjusted driver seat with power lumbar support, power passenger seat, tilt and telescopic steering column, steering wheel controls and paddle shifters are standard. The second row windows came equipped with shades, as with our Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate trim level. kiasorentoint

Our test Sorento had several options including a Cargo mat ($95), carpeted floor mats ($130), cargo net ($50), cargo cover ($150), Auto dimming mirror with HomeLink, Compass ($350), interior lighting ($450), illuminated scuff plates ($250), side step bars ($495), tow hitch ($395), EX Advanced Touring Package (chrome roof rails, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning system, advanced smart cruise control, electronic parking brake, LED interior lighting, Panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, $2,500); EX Premium Package (power folding side mirrors, passenger auto up/down safety windows, 4.2-in. color TFT LCD meter cluster, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, 110 volt inverter, Smart Hands Free power liftgate, $1,600).
A lot of options and we thought, at premium pricing. So much for a lot for your money.

MSRP: $33,300; total vehicle price $39,765; destination $895
Engine: 2.0-liter, Turbo Gas Direct Injection, 4-cylinder, 185 hp., 178 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: six-speed automatic, with Sportmatic, AWD (test car)
Wheelbase: 109.4 in.
Height: 66.3 in.
Width: 64.3 in.
Length: 187.4 in.
Curb weight: 3,704 lbs.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.8 gal.
EPA Fuel Economy: 19/25/22 mpg.
Tires: P235/65HR17
Wheels: aluminum, 17×7
Warranty: 10 yr/100,000-mile limited powertrain; 6 yr/60,000-mile limited basic; 5 yr/60,000-mile roadside assistance

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0 T Ultimate AWD

Susan Frissell

In a world where it seems every vehicle on the road is a sport-utility/crossover, the choices abound, some too big, some too small. By too small, we mean less cargo space than some sedans, and too big, meaning, who wants to wield this behemoth around town on a daily basis. Not this writer.santafeext

Enter, Hyundai’s Santa Fe, a popular crossover since it’s inception. I can remember when the Santa Fe first hit the car scene, a colleague found an ad of the Santa Fe, cut it out and tacked it on her memo board in her cubicle. She took a picture of her own face and placed in the ad, in the driver’s seat. She knew exactly what she was going to buy when the time came!

Since that time, there are so many more SUV’s on the road. How does one decide? In various ways, I suppose. Brand loyalty, hearsay, looks, options, best deal for the money?

Our test car this week, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate AWD might be just the right size. For some reason, to this writer it seemed not as large as the current model. Clearly, it’s size has been increased since the beginning. The 2017 version seems easier to handle and more accommodating to the average-sized driver.bluesf

The Santa Fe is larger than a compact crossover, yet smaller than a three-row crossover. A five passenger crossover, the new Santa Fe competes with many other offerings, including Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Journey/Durango, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer/Flex, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander.

The Santa Fe is available in three trim levels: Sport (FWD: $25,350; AWD: $27,100); Sport 2.0T ($31,700/$33,450); and Sport 2.0T Ultimate ($35,500/$38,280). Larger than a Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester or others, the Santa Fe seems more useful. If you desire a longer version (adding 5K), there is the Santa Fe (sans Sport), adding a third row, closer in size to the Highlander and Pilot.
Starting in the mid-twenty thousand range and topping out here with the $41K is quite a span, and paying over $40,000 for the Santa Fe, as nice as it is (fully loaded), seems extreme. The Ultimate trim, on our test car, is without want, comfortable and handsome, but $41,000? That’s how it is in carland today.

Santa Fe Interior

Santa Fe Interior

Sure to be named a Top Safety Pick Plus from IIHS, the new Santa Fe is equipped with all new safety technology, including forward collision prevention, adaptive LED headlights, lane departure (disabled automatically, and part of the Ultimate Tech Package, $1,550).

Hyundai’s 2.0 Turbo 4-cylinder engine provides plenty of power and response, however, has that lag, at times. Te EPA rating, though, is at a combined 19/24/21 mpg. in the all-wheel-drive version. The Santa Fe does run on unleaded, so perhaps there is some savings there.santafe3

Among the amenities are heated-and ventilated-seats; ten-way power for the driver, leather seating surface/shift knob/steering wheel, heated steering wheel and rear seats. Automatic on/off headlights, LED Daytime Running Lights, fog lights, HID headlights, hands-free Smart liftgate with auto open, heated dual power side mirrors w/turn signal indicators, Panoramic sunroof, RR parking sensors, premium lower door trim and door sills.

Manual rear side window shades are standard on the Sport Ultimate, as are multi-view camera system, split-folding rear seating, Integrated Memory System for driver seat and power-height adjustable driver and passenger seats.

The ride is much better in the 2017 Santa Fe. We found it harsh in previous models. Bumps are handled well, without any jarring or stiffness.

Memory seating is standard on the top-of-the-line Santa Fe; great for multiple drivers. Rear-seat passengers can also adjust their seating, making long trips much more enjoyable. The 2017 Santa Fe takes bragging rights for its cargo capacity: larger than any compact crossover (35.4/71.5 cubic feet). The spare tire can be found underneath the vehicle, freeing up space in the rear cargo floor.

Our test car came equipped with a few options, including the Ultimate Tech Package (Smart Cruise Control with Stop/start, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Parking Brake with auto hold, Dynamic Bending Light, High Beam Assist, Auto-Leveling Headlights, $1,550); carpeted floor mats ($125), Cargo mat ($95), Cargo Cover ($190) and Roof Rack Cross Rails ($250). Perhaps consumers can try and negotiate some of these later options (carpets, etc). At this level of a vehicle, one would think the carpets/mats would be standard.

New for 2017 is the latest tech Android Auto (simpler). The infotainment is a touchscreen that is easily operated. Touchscreen Navigation (8-inch), AM/FMHD radio/Sirius XM, CD/MP3 w/Infinity Premium Audio with QuantumLogic Surround Sound and Clari-Fi Music Restoration, Interior light dimming, Homelink and compass, Hyundai Blue Link. Hyundai also provides a full tank of gas! Make sure you get this goodie!

The nav and map system is great. The Google maps very helpful, and we had to get used to the surround view camera, but then found it very helpful.

As with all Hyundai and Kia products, we highly recommend the new 2017 Santa Fe, in any trim level. With its best-in-the-market warranty, reliability and good looks, choosing to own any of their products is a win.


MSRP: $38,250; final vehicle price $41,355; destination $895
Engine: 2.0-L Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection, 4-cylinder, 240 horsepower, 260-lb.ft. torque
Transmission: six-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC, Active Cornering Control, AWD w/AWD Lock, Drive Mode Select
Wheelbase: 106. 3 in.
Length: 185.0 in.
Width: 74.0 in.
Curb Weight: 3,949 (FWD)/4,107 (AWD)
Height: 66.1 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.4 gal.
EPA fuel Economy: 20/27/23 FWD; 19/24/21 AWD
Warranty: 10 yr./100,000-miles powertrain; 5 yr./60,000-mile new vehicle limited; 7 yr./unlimited anti-perforation; 5 yr./unlimited 24-hour roadside assistance
As with all Hyundai and Kia products, we highly recommend the new 2017 Santa Fe, in any trim level. With its best-in-the-market warranty, reliability and good looks, choosing to own any of their products is a win.

2017 Lexus RC 350 2-Door Coupe

Susan Frissell

lexusrccoupeOne of our favorite Lexus models, the RC 350 coupe looks as good as it feels. By feels we mean you have a sense you’re driving a ‘sports’ car, with body-fitting seats and a growl that begets power. The only problem this test-drive Lexus presented was remaining in the fleet during the Chicago winter weather! I should have known the tires on this tester would still be summer tires. But I ventured out in the snow anyway, one blustery night.

Not a good idea. I managed to get onto the expressway after dinner and head north, not pushing the accelerator any higher than 30 mph. It was a slippery ride home.

Needless to say, I parked the RC in the lot and left it until pick up on Tuesday. I wasn’t taking any chances putting a dent in this beauty. Had this been part of my stable, it sure would have sat out the icy, snowy winter months, protected in a nice warm garage. Hard to know how it would have handled with winter tires, but I would guess, much better.

A distinctive looking Lexus, the 2017 RC 350 we tested came in Atomic Silver; not the best of colors for this beauty. We have a neighbor who owns one in the Red and it is stunning. We especially like the RC’s plushy, sport interior and comfortable, Recaro-like seats. The RC 350 does have rear seats, although not terribly fitting for most adults. If you’re wanting to carry luggage or ‘stuff,’ the rear seats fold and split, offering decent cargo space.

Lexus RC 350 interior

Lexus RC 350 interior

All-wheel-drive is available on the RC 350 and we recommend it if you’re planning to make this vehicle a year-round driver. We also would like to see one equipped with the optional F Sport package. We especially like the F Sport on the IS 250 compact sedan.

As all Lexus models do, the RC 350 comes equipped with just about all you’ll need in a Coupe, including the usual high-tech safety features, such as 8 airbags, driver and passenger front, knee and side (8) and side curtain (2). Anti-lock braking with electronic-brakeforce distribution and brake assist, stability control, LED headlights and LED running lights, location specific tire pressure monitoring system, forward collision warning/adaptive cruise, and Back-up camera.

Dual Chrome Exhaust adds to the look and sound of this Coupe. The driver’s seat is of course, 10-way power, with 2-way lumbar; passenger, 8-way power. Heated seats are available in the Premium package. Other options include park assist, a sunroof, navigation, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and Mark Levinson audio system, with 17 speakers, and leather seating.

The Toyota/Lexus Entune system is excellent, complete with a stolen vehicle locator. The RC still has the Remote Touch control pad and some off-center, oddly stacked components. Seems dated, but we’re used to it now.

Lexus RC 350 wheel

Lexus RC 350 wheel

Competition for the Lexus RC 350 includes such established luxury sport coupes as the BMW 4-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A5. Offered in several trim levels: 200t, 300 AWD (both added in 2016), 350 AWD, each model offers the F Sport option.

Are there some dislikes about the Lexus RC350? Just a few. Some may have to adjust to the RC design, but we think it’s beautiful; one has to become accustomed to the car’s newish front end. It took some time, but we think it’s edgy and like it on the other Lexus models.

A manual gearbox is not offered on the RC 350; seemingly odd, however, it’s a ‘luxury’ sport coupe. Mileage isn’t remarkable, but then would you really expect it in a vehicle like this? When comparing with other Lexus models, one may be surprised at the 19/28, average 22 mpg return. Actually, I get close to 30 mpg in my 2003 Corvette.

The RC 350 may not feel as responsive as a purist would expect, but it has some punch. It’s more growly (?) than expected. Some reviewers would like to see a lighter weight coupe, with a more powerful engine. Points are given, however, for exterior design, steering/handling, seat comfort and interior design.

For 2017, the RC 300 AWD and 200t offer triple-beam LED headlamps and standard Scout GPS Link (smartphone app displaying directions on center screen for cars without nav), while the RC 350 has standard performance dampers.

The base RC 200t brags best fuel economy and a starting price of $40,000. Not having driven the RC 300 or the 200t, we can’t speak to them in comparison to the RC 350. Compared with the 350s 306 horse V-8, the RC 300 pairs the Lexus 255 horsepower V-6 with a six-speed automatic trans. We found the RC 350 nicely balanced and can only imagine what adding the F Sport package might be like.

The RC’s interior is Lexus top-of-the-line and the seats are large enough for most body types. They are wide and of top quality. Pricing for the RC starts in the lower $40,000s, rising to the mid-$60,000-range (RC F)

It won’t disappoint.


MSRP: $43,010; total vehicle price $48,289; destination $975
Engine: 3.5-liter V8, 24-valve, DOHC, direct-and-port injection, VVT, 306 hp., 277 lb,-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed electronic autom.-inc Multi-mode and intelligence (ECT-i) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Wheelbase: 107.5 in.
Height: 54.9in.
Curb Weight: 3737 lbs.
Length: 184.8 in.
Width: 62.2 in.
Tires: P265/35YR19, rear; P235/40YR19, front
Wheels: 19×19, rear, 19×8, front aluminum-alloy, split-five spoke design (summer tires, option $795)
Options: Windshield Dalbac? And Headlamp….??($220); illuminated door sills ($449), moonroof ($1100), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control w/Pre-Collision System ($500), Premium Package: includes Blind-spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Driver/Passenger Heated/Ventilated Seats ($1,240).
Warranty: 4 yr/50,000-mile Basic; 6 yr/unlimited Corrosion; 6 yr/70,000-mile Drivetrain, 1 yr/10,000-mile maintenance, 4 yr/unlimited roadside assistance.
EPA fuel economy: 22/32 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.4 gal.

2017 Toyota Corolla XSE

2017-toyota-corolla-inline2-photo-667222-s-originalSusan Frissell

The year 2017 marks the Toyota Corolla’s 50th Anniversary. Do buyers care? Maybe. But they know the merits of the successful Corolla and sing its praises when thinking ‘buy for life.’ The bestselling car nameplate of all time, the Corolla is historically a reliable, practical and affordable car. This writer has known a handful of first-time Corolla buyers who are still driving that 20-year old model.

It would be interesting to interview those die-hard Corolla owners to determine how much styling changes matter. If it does, perhaps the refresh for 2017 that also includes some newly available safety features to the Corolla’s eleventh generation compact will appeal. And if you’re so motivated, you may purchase a special-edition 50th Anniversary Corolla, loaded and featuring a few visual standouts.

For 2017, the Corolla lineup changes somewhat: the sporty S trim (we favored) is no longer, and replaced by the SE and XSE trim levels. Moving closer to its big sister’s offerings, the Corolla resembles the Camry in some ways. A XLE trim gets added to the Corolla lineup, and the L and LE models remain untouched.2017-toyota-corolla-xse-cvt-automatic-natl-angular-front-exterior-view_100572150_t

New safety features for 2017 include a backup camera on all trim levels, darkened headlights on the XSE model, along with a larger wheel and rear lip spoiler. Looking at the 2017 Corolla head on you notice the reshaped grille. Somewhat resembling the Lexus update last year, the front end also gets different headlights, and taillights.

Competition is aplenty for the compact segment, and two of the better-looking competitors-Mazda3 and new Honda Civic-outshine the updated Corolla. Hard to compete. Depends, as always, what consumers are looking for: Something that looks updated or is sure to be dependable.

New safety features abound on the Corolla and include the Toyota Safety Sense P package; available on any trim level that includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and assist and automatic high-beam headlights. This stand-alone package demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to ‘standard safety suites’ on all their vehicles by the end of 2017.

Hopefully, no one really thinks about a powerful engine when sitting behind the wheel of a compact car. While the Corolla’s engine is peppy and adequate, performance is lacking. The1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is teamed with either the six-speed manual version, or a four-speed automatic, or CVT automatic.

Corolla’s mid-cycle refresh offers better safety equipment, great value, more leg room for rear passengers, standard LED headlights and Toyota’s easily-operated Entune system. This is a vehicle that will get you anywhere, on time and in good stead. Not necessarily true for all vehicle purchases, the Corolla will give you good years of service, will most often start first time, every time, and for a reasonable price.

The average public today simply cannot afford to purchase a new vehicle. Most, at an average price of over $30,000 today is a huge purchase for many earnest workers.

We truly enjoyed our time in the Corolla this week. So easy to drive, maneuver and park. There’s little to dislike. As with most mid-cycle refreshes, pricing shouldn’t change much compared to the outgoing Corolla, which today starts at $18,135 for a base Corolla L with a manual transmission and reaches up to $23,960 for a Corolla S Premium with a CVT, but the new trim designations will surely see some variations in how much content you get for how much money.

The most efficient Corolla, the LE Eco, manages fuel economy upwards of 42 mpg on the highway. The rest of the lineup isn’t far behind: between 27 mpg city, 36 highway, and 31 combined and 29/37/32 mpg, depending on configuration.

When highway driving, we found the wind noise to be fairly noticeable. The ride is even and predictable and braking adequate. There isn’t much one can say that’s negative when considering this ever-popular compact car. It would be a great second car to keep on hand for quick trips to-and-fro in town. Some days it’s just preferable to drive an ‘easy’ car. Headroom can be tight for a tall driver

The Corolla could, of course, use a little more power and while the new look isn’t dramatically different, it’s a little more up-to-date. If consumers want to stand out a little in their Corolla, they can opt for the 50th Anniversary Edition, of which only 8,000 will be sold, and in three colors only. They also feature a 17-inch alloy wheel, special floor mats and badges, contrast stitching in Black Cherry color hues on a black interior, and dash and door accents. If you need to add on, two options available are a power moonroof and Entune Premium Audio System with navigation and app suite.

The Anniversary edition does stand out some, with a bit of an wedge-look design, angled front shapes and tilted upward window line at each rear door. Opt for the XSE model and you’ll add a blacked-out grille with fog lamps, aggressive air dam and integrated rear spoiler.


MSRP: $22,680; total vehicle price $24,416, destination $865
Engine: 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, dual VVT-1, 135 hp., 128 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: CVT, FWD
Wheelbase: 106. 3in.
Height: 57.3 in.
Width: 69.9 in.
Length: 183.1 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gal.
EPA Fuel Economy: 28/35 mpg., avg. 31 mpg.
Tires: P215/45R17
Curb Weight: 2,885 lbs
Wheels: 17-in Machined Alloy with Black Painted Accents
Warranty: 3 yr/36,000-miles Basic; 5 yr/unlimited corrosion; 5 yrs/60,000-miles drivetrain; 4 yrs/25,000-miles maintenance; 2 yrs/unlimited roadside assistance

2017 Lexus GX460 Luxury SUV

Susan Frissell

Seemingly a friendlier SUV to drive than its big brother, the LX 570, the 2017 GX 460 V8 and 301 horsepower competes with models such as the Land Rover LR4, Mercedes-Benz GLE Class, Lincoln MKX, BMW X6 and Jaguar F-Pace.gxexterioer

New for 2017 on the GX 460 seems sure-footed on slightly snowy roads, visibility is very good and the ride is comfortable, while high. One can get used to having this overall view of the road; it feels a little safer. As expected, the cabin is very quiet, and for those wanting to tow something, the capacity is 6,500 pounds. Although, we can’t imagine wanting to risk chipping the paint on this luxury boat.

The 2017 GX 460 offers available second-row Captain’s chairs, and a new Sport Design Package, including unique exterior styling cures and gray 18-inch aluminum wheels. The GX 460 is available in two trim levels: Base 4×4, $51,280 and Luxury 4×4, $62,980.

2017 LX 460 interior

2017 LX 460 interior

Notable features on the 2017 GX 460 include the Captain’s chairs, the hourglass style grille, seating for six or seven, available blind-spot warning system, and available Collision mitigation system available, as well as standard full-time 4WD with low range.

Standard features on the 2017 GX 460 are many, as expected in any Lexus product. A moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a nine-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, HD Radio, satellite radio, two USB ports, voice command activation, proximity key access, push-button start, a rearview camera, and an infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, are all standard. Optional equipment includes tri-zone climate control, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system, smartphone app connectivity, navigation, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, parking sensors, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic braking, and a wide-view front and side camera system.

Our Luxury GX 460 came equipped with the new Sport Design Package which includes 18-inch split six-spoke alloy wheels with Gunmetal metallic finish, a very handsome offering. Also included in the package are unique lower grille surround, unique front tip garnish, contoured side mirror covers with chrome, rear valance, deep red taillight graphic, and chrome exhaust tips ($1625).

The other option on our test GX was the Driver Support Package with Mark Levinson premium Audio, pre-collision system w/Driver Attention Monitor, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Intelligent High-Beam Headlamps, Wide-view front and side monitor, CRAWL Control, Mark Levinson Premium Audio Surround Sound Audio, $4,340. gx460

The 2017 GX seats of three rows is leatherette upholstery. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and 10-way power front seats are also standard. Optional seating upgrades include leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, second-row captain’s chairs, a wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, and a power-folding third row. Our Luxury edition GX had all of the above.

We found the GX’s front seats more comfortable than those in the Lexus GS 570. They provide enough comfort for daily driving. We did not experience them over the long haul. The second-row seats are, however, more rigid and harder than expected from a Lexus product. The optional Captain’s chairs might possibly improve second-row comfort somewhat. Passenger room is not a problem in the front two rows, but the third row is tight.

The outer seats in the second row have complete LATCH setups, while the middle seat has only a top tether anchor. All the tether anchors are easily located and marked. The lower anchors are too deep in the seat, but we found it easy enough to maneuver.

Though possibly somewhat dated, the GX’s standard infotainment system is easy to use and figure out for most. Basic functions are controlled by buttons and knobs that surround the screen and are clearly labeled and easy to reach.

Some of the features we didn’t like about the GX 460 include the body roll at low speeds, lack of real comfort in second-row seating, a small third row, and the small amount of cargo space behind the third row. The question remains how many consumers purchase a SUV like the GX 460 with a third row in mind.
Certainly, it’s perceived as an ‘extra,’ just in case. But how often a third row of seats is used remains a mystery to this writer. This is a luxury vehicle, after all, and anyone with small children opts for that minivan.

As with all Lexus products, the GX 460 is a beautifully executed vehicle. Those purchasing one don’t expect great fuel economy, so that goes without saying. A vehicle weighing 5,100-some pounds isn’t expected to provide more than an average 16 MPG. One must think Hybrid.


MSRP: $62,980; total vehicle price $69,920; destination $975
Engine: 4.6-liter V8, 32-valve, DOHC, VVT-1, 301 hp., 329 lb. ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with O/D and auto-manual. Full-time 4WD w/Torsen, Limited Slip Center Differential
Wheelbase: 110 in.
Height: 74.2 in.
Length: 192.1 in.
Width: 74.2 in.
Tires: 285/60R18 mud and snow
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Fuel Tank Capacity: 23.0 gal.
Towing: 6,500 lbs.
Curb Weight: 5,130 lbs
EPA Fuel economy: 15/18 mpg., 16 avg.
Warranty: 48 mths/50,000-miles bumper-to-bumper; 72 mths/70,000-miles powertrain; 48 mths/unlimited miles Roadside Assistance; 12 mths/10,000-miles free scheduled maintenance.

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.