2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD

Susan Frissell
womenwithwheels.com

Introduced at this year’s New York International Auto Show, the 2017 Lexus IS350 sedan takes on a look a little bit more individual. While it must be difficult to design a four-door sedan today that stands apart, Lexus gave it a shot with their controversial front end grille. for them.

What we liked were quite a few things, including the smooth powertrain, unparalleled quality, ride and handling. Are its looks ‘individual”? We’re not just sure. The IS350 feels a little heavy at times, but solid and the new look is a nice departure from the rather boring ES350.

Competing with the big boys-Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Lexus has a niche a little different: the “executive sedan” market. The tried-and-true Lexus owner doesn’t very easily leave the brand and in this fact, Lexus has built an empire. Hard to beat the Lexus commitment to customer satisfaction-from day one-to unmatched reliability.

In its own ‘niche,’ the IS350 is still powered by the naturally aspirated V6 engine, while others have gone to turbo fours or sixes. It seems to work for Lexus, and with 306 horse, is pretty satisfying.

While a total vehicle price of $49,578 seemed high to us, that’s the price you’ll pay when playing in this field. Starting just over $41,000, the IS350 we drove had a few big ticket options, including the F Sport Package. Adding the sportiness we like to the IS350, the F Sport Package includes an F Sport front bumper and spindle grille, 18-inch F Sport Split 5-spoke wheels, FR 225/40R18, RR 235/35R18 summer tires on the outside, while inside the car is equipped with the TFT instrument cluster, heated and ventilated front F Sport seats, perforated leather steering wheel with F Sport logo, shift knob, Black headliner, aluminum pedals, back-up monitor, Silver performance trim, F Sport suspension, ($3,155).

Additional options on our test IS350 included Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Heated outside rearview mirror ($600); AVS Navigation system/Mark Levinson Audio System, Audio 5.1 surround, 15 speakers, 835 watts, 10.25 inch display, Remote touch interface, Lexus Enform Destinations, App Suite, Voice Command, Lexus Insider, Electrochromatic Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror ($2,835), Body Side Moldings ($199), and Illuminated Door Sills ($425). All high-end options.

Our 2017 IS 350 came in a handsome Atomic Silver color, almost resembling a light gold. Although not a color that particularly stood out, still, it was handsome in this sedan.

The driver controls the stereo and navigation-among other functions-with the click-mouse device. Although it seems a little dated, we’re used to it now. One would expect, though, a more up-to-date system with Android and Apple devices. Hard to beat the sound emanating from this Mark Levinson, 15 speaker system. Concert hall quality.

The brake assist warned us a few times about following too close. A good example of paying attention when behind the wheel. The IS350 cabin is small by comparison, although we find this part of the IS’ charm. It feels more agile and sporty. There isn’t much space to store items, however, such as a phone, extra keys, etc. The center console provides two cupholders, the USB cable hookup, but not a convenient phone holder apparatus.

The design on the 2017 IS is third-generation, and a tad more distinctive, especially with that front grille. A bit edgier, the new look more more up-to-date. Opinions will vary when eyeing the IS’ backend, with its downward sweep. You’ll like it or not. We like it.

Although there may not really be anything to notice in the IS’ cabin, it’s pure Lexus and we especially liked the F Sport red seating. While when first introduced, the center analogue clock was hip (started by Infiniti), it now feels dated, and perhaps a little out of place in high-tech times.

All functions are easily operated, and although it seems as though there are numerous buttons, we are accustomed to them, and find it intuitive. The seats are very comfortable and hug the driver well. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts effortlessly. The 3.5-liter, V6 engine with 306 horse is more than adequate to move the IS’ almost 4,000 pounds.

Perhaps the weight of the IS is why this sedan feels heavy. At times it feels a little clunky, but not ponderous. Maybe just dated? Not a bad thing because at the same time, it makes the IS feel solid. We always fall into driving the IS very quickly and comfortably and find that it would be a preferred daily driver if having to make a choice.

The IS’ weight doesn’t seem to affect its performance, either. Claiming a 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, the IS350 does a fairly good job of getting out front and center. The 3.5 V-6 engine is smooth and quiet. Although we don’t care much for the paddle shifters, the F Sport mode feels more itself in Sport+ mode.

Can one think of this IS as a ‘sport’ or performance car? Probably not. It’s more of a luxury, or nearly so, sedan. If you want to stay with Lexus and be sporty, aim for the RC. We don’t really match it with the BMW or Audi sedans.

Most buy Lexus brands for their dependability, and after-sales service/attention. They haven’t always-at least until just recently-been competitive in terms of styling and pizazz. More so, a little dull, yet great cars. Ride quality is better than average, as expected, and the cabin is for the most part Lexus quiet; some road noise when highway driving. The IS takes rougher road surfaces well and remains on point; adaptive damping taking up most of the slack.

Safety equipment abounds, with eight airbags (including knee bags for front seat occupants), ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot sensor, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, auto emergency braking, forward collision detection, brake assist and driver attention detection. The IS scores a “5,” the highest rating possible.

There isn’t much to complain about in the ES350. We wonder, though, if the lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert, rather than a vibration, are not always caught or heeded. This is a matter of getting used to these features, we thin. The only complaint here is that both lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert are too polite – a little more information as to what’s going on would be helpful.

What can one really say that is negative about a Lexus product? The Lexus experience is legendary, and owners buy again and again, as well as hold onto their cars for years. For those who claim the IS feels a little old, this fact matters none to Lexus followers. As it gets closer to the competition, it still maintains what makes it a Lexus. And many are just fine with that.

SPECS

MSRP: $41,370; total vehicle price $49,579, destination $995
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 24-valve, dual overhead cam, Direct injection, VVT-I, 277 lb.-ft. torque, 306 hp.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, AWD
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
Length: 184.3 in.
Width: 71.3 in.
Height: 56.3 in.
EPA Fuel Economy: 19/26/21 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.4 gal.
Curb weight: 3,737 lbs.
Trunk space: 10.8 cu.ft.
Warranty: 4 years/50,000-miles basic; 72 mth/unlimited corrosion perforation
6 yr./70,000-miles powertrain; 12-mth servicing intervals

2017 Toyota Yaris iA Sedan

Susan Frissell
WWW.womenwithwheels.com

The 2017 Yaris iA-a new addition to the Toyota lineup, coming over from Scion in 2016. A Scion product in its other life, the iA sedan comes into 2017 mostly unchanged. Other than the Toyota badge, the iA offers a few new color choices.

There is only one trim level from which to choose in this relatively fun car to drive. While nothing special, the Yaris iA will provide great fuel economy, a solid ride and ease of handling and parking.

The Yaris iA offers several features at a reasonable price. How many vehicles today fall in under the $20,000 ceiling? It handles well, has a plain, yet upscale feeling interior, and free maintenance and roadside assistance for two years, or 25,000-miles.

While this econo-box has many good qualities, it’s not a standout. Rear passenger room is limited and a tall driver might find the front seating a tad tight. When navigating hills or on-ramps, the Yaris iA struggles a bit, but then again, it is not competing with sedans of bigger status.

Competitors in the subcompact category include the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent. The iA is based on the Mazda2-not sold in the U.S. Our test Yaris iA came equipped with the six-speed manual transmission that was fun to drive. Buyers can opt for the six-speed automatic transmission, without sacrificing fuel economy too noticeably.

Our Yaris iA came equipped with standard safety features, including Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Low-Speed Pre-Collision System, ABS, Electronic Brake Force and Brake Assist. Impressive for a subcompact vehicle. Several airbags, including side and side curtain airbags abound.

Also standard are a tire pressure monitoring system, Integrated rearview backup camera, remote keyless entry and push-button start. Cruise control, power door locks, mirrors and windows are also standard. A/C, rear window defogger and 60/40 split-fold flat rear seating are also included.

Yaris is Toyota’s smallest sedan, just below the ever-popular Corolla. Following Scion’s ‘monospec’ policy, the Yaris iA has no optional packages or individual features. It is what it is and you get just that, which must surely make it easier for Toyota.

A fun car to drive, the Yaris iA resembles Mazda in that regard. Easy to handle with some surprising pep, it is quieter than most subcompacts. The interior is comfortable, though legroom might be a problem from six-footers. The tilt-telescoping steering wheel helps that.

The sound system, an AM/FM/HD radio has nine speakers, AUX, two USB ports, and streaming via Bluetooth, voice recognition, connected service suite with Pandora, AHA and Stitcher radio. The 7-inch touchscreen displays audio and operates with a multi-function commander control.

SPECS

MSRP: $15,950; total vehicle price $16,815, delivery $865
Engine: 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine DOHC
Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission w/OD, FWD
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Height: 58.5 in.
Width: 66.7 in.
Length: 171.7 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 11.6 gal.
Tires: 185/60R16
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
EPA Fuel Economy: 30/34/39 mpg.
Curb weight: 2,385 lbs.
Warranty: 36 mth/36,000-mile Bumper-Bumper

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe LTD Ultimate AWD

Susan Frissell
womenwithwheels.com

The all-new, redesigned 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe keeps getting better, bigger and more costly. Our test “Limited Ultimate” edition came in just over $44,000; a high total vehicle price, we think, for a ‘reasonably priced’ Hyundai vehicle. But then, we sound out of touch harping about high-priced vehicles since in 2017, they’re all priced high.

With crossover vehicles and SUV’s being the most sought-after categories in Autoland, all manufacturers are trying to hit the mark. Checking all the boxes, Hyundai tries to deliver a large, well-equipped SUV in the 2017 Santa Fe that smacks of near-luxury.

For consumers seeking a spacious, three-row SUV, the Santa Fe offers a winning recipe, including up-to-date technology, a long list of standard equipment and handsome styling. The Santa Fe’s cabin is friendly, and comfortable; one can haul a fair amount of cargo, with Hyundai’s 3.3-liter V6 engine, there seems to be plenty of power.

Introduced at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, the Santa Fe gets larger, and better with each iteration.

The Santa Fe is available in several trim levels: SE ($30,800 FWD/32,550 AWD); Limited ($34,950 FWD, $36,700 AWD); Ultimate ((38,700 FWD, $40,450 AWD); and Limited Ultimate ($39,400 FWD, $41,150 AWD). Options include HID Headlights with dynamic bending light, Electronic parking brake, Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Auto Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection and High Beam Assist.

Our test Santa Fe Limited Ultimate came with a couple of options, including the Ultimate Tech Package (Smart Cruise Control w/Stop/Start, Automatic Emergency Braking w/Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Parking Brake, High Intensity Discharge Headlights (HID), Dynamic Bending Light and High Beam Assist, $2,100; and Carpeted Floor Mats, $150.

There are many larger SUV’s to choose from and the 2017 Santa Fe most closely matches up to the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Mazda CX-9. A tad shorter in length than these three vehicles, the Santa Fe’s wheelbase is also a little shorter. However, storage space in the Santa Fe measures up to 80 cu. Ft. when folded flat.

We tested out the cargo space when hauling several car loads of stuff to a locker-including a good size sofa. The couch fit all the way in the Santa Fe, with room to spare and the back door easily closed.

Back-up Camera in the Santa Fe

If we owned a Santa Fe-or any SUV for that matter, it would strictly be to tote around the four dogs that take up residence in our home. Even then, they much prefer riding on the seats in the upright position, as opposed to when the seating is flat. Better control.

So, like most SUV owners, the seats probably would remain in the upward position most of the time.

The second-row seating in the Santa Fe is bucket seating. Supportive, yet only accommodating two passengers, Buyers can opt for a bench, if preferred. The third row seats are not terribly small, and passengers can even manage their own climate control.

Our Limited Ultimate Santa Fe is of course, the top-of-the-line Santa Fe, the interior is well done. Seating is comfortable and fits all body styles. Appointments are upscale and soft, controls easily reached and extra space to spare, both in the console and doors. We found the Santa Fe easy to maneuver and park, and offering a comfortable ride on most road surfaces. However, we did notice when taking bumps, the rear suspension took it hard.

The interior in our 2017 Santa Fe felt like top notch. Leather trim, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and 12-speaker Infinity sound system, as well as heated/ventilated front seats were all upgrades.

Handsome 19-inch alloy wheels suit the 19-inch tires that provide for the most part, a quiet ride and handling experience. Our optional Tech Package at $2,100 is probably worth it when wanting the latest in technology, if you’re into that kind of thing. We find that many times when in top-of-the-line press vehicles, we don’t even get to all the fancy stuff. But assume that those who are high tech will like them and learn how to use them.

Our test Santa Fe came with AWD; also available with FWD, paired with the same six-speed automatic transmission. Having driven the Santa Fe alone, it’s hard to know if when loaded up, it would perform similarly. Even when full of ‘stuff,’ it handled well.

What makes a consumer select one manufacturer/style/vehicle over another? It is a difficult choice today, given there are so many to consider. Perhaps one of the better, more desirable three-row SUV’s on the market today, the Santa Fe remains ever popular. It feels refined, void of many glaring weaknesses, and although not ‘perfect,’ we think it wears well over time.


SPECS

MSRP: $41,150; total vehicle price $44,295, delivery $895
Engine: 3.3-liter V6, GDI, 290 hp., 252 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/SHIFTRONIC
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 19 city, 22 highway, 17 combined, AWD; 17/23/20 FWD
Tires: 235/56R19
Wheels: 19-inch alloy
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
Width: 74.2 in.
Height: 66.9 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.8 gal.
Curb weight: 4,017/4,169 lbs.
Warranty: 5 yr/50,000-mile New Vehicle; 10 yr/100,000-mile powertrain; 7 yr/unlimited-mileage anti-perforation; 5 yr/unlimited mileage roadside assistance

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Susan Frissell
womenwithwheels.com

Just a few years ago, when asked what car to buy-as automotive writers often are-I would answer: “I have two words for you: Hyundai Elantra.” Since then, of course, there are many more great midsize cars on the market; namely, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Mazda3, etc.

We have always been partial to the Elantra, a simple, yet, capable little 4-cylinder passenger vehicle. It’s no secret in our family, that my over-the-top enthusiasm during those years convinced my ‘very American car” sister to purchase a Kia Soul. Now she has two in the fleet!

2017 Elantra Sedan

Long ago when small, basic commuter cars were just “ok,” there wasn’t as much to choose from. Today is a different story. And although pricing doesn’t reflect the days of yore, the cars are good bets. Along with the basic equipment, many of these near-entry level sedans and coupes have heated seats, a sunroof, top-of-the-line sound systems and great warranties.

For 2017, the Elantra Limited is new; the sixth generation for Elantra. Hyundai has paid special attention to stiffness, quietness, economy, and fun-to-drive characteristics. Our test Limited edition Elantra carries a MSRP of just $22,350, however, with several options, the total vehicle price hovered just under $28,000. Ouch.

Those opting for a Elantra aren’t-in our estimation-the same buyers who go after a Ford Focus ST or the Alfa 4C, so they don’t expect pizazz. No matter. For the average drive-commuter-the Elantra fits the bill. Our week spend in the 2017 Elantra Limited was pleasurable and comfortable. It’s just a great little car to drive, well, everywhere!

2017 ELANTRA SEDAN

The Elantra is quiet inside; the interior basic, yet comfortable. Our Limited trim level came with leather heated surfaces and heated front seats. Hyundai uses SoyFoam as padding in their seats, so don’t expect the supple leather of a Mercedes. The good news, it is durable. Not fancy, just practical, the Elantra interior, with a limited number of colors and different surface textures. The hard plastic on the doors isn’t the best, but expected at this level.

The “new” look of the Elantra isn’t drastic, but noticeable. The front end has a ‘snub nose’ look, Hyundai’s hexagonal grille and vertically stacked LED fog lights. The rear taillights have been slightly redesigned, and the edge of the trunk carries a simulated spoiler. Resembling many of their competitors (think Cruze, Dart), the Elantra looks up-to-date.

Our test Elantra Limited came with several options, including the Tech Package (Navigation System, AVN 4.0 w/Touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Infinity Premium Audio System w/8 speakers, Center channel and Subwoofer, Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology, 4.2-inch color TFT color instrument cluster display, power sunroof, heated front and rear seats, Auto-dimming rearview mirror w/HomeLink and Compass, $2,500); the Ultimate Package (HID Headlights w/dynamic Bending Light, Automatic Emergency Braking w/pedestrian detection, Smart Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist System, Integrated memory System for Driver’s Seat and Outside Mirrors ($1,900); carpeted floor mats ($125), cargo tray ($100), and Rear bumper protector ($70).

2017 Hyundai Elantra Ltd interior

The Ultimate Package includes of course, all the latest in safety technology, such as land keeping, backup camera, forward collsion warning. We’re still adjusting to all these modern safety features, and still find that looking back and behind when in reverse is a long-held habit. The heated rear seats are a nice touch for passengers, but only if you are often toting more than one passenger.

Powertrains are also new for 2017 in the Elantra: Two, infact: the SE and Limited trim editions get the 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder, with 147 horse and 132 lb-ft torque. Complemented with Hyundai’s six-speed automatic transmission, combined fuel economy is 33 mpg. We prefer keeping the tranny in sport mode, as Eco is a tad sluggish.

The Elantra Eco model gets Hyundai’s 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, with 128 horse and 156 lb.-ft. torque. Mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Eco brings in about 35 mpg.

Lighter in weight than the 2016 Elantra, Hyunda has added more high-strength steel, and a redesigned suspension, with bigger rear bushings. The Elantra takes most bumps and various road surfaces with ease, but the ride is different front to back seating areas. Over all, the Elantra is a quiet four-door sedan, with just a small amount of body roll.

Value remains the touchstone of Hyundai’s vehicles, however, one can opt for a less expensive Elantra model. As is the case with our test vehicles, they are often top-of-the-line, so higher pricing is expected. These days, the public isn’t just shopping for Hyundai and Kia’s long warranty. Rather, their innovation, list of goodies and dependability have become sought after qualities of the Hyundai brand.

SPECS

MSRP: $22,350; total vehicle price $27,880, destination $835
Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I4, FWD ,147 hp @ 6,200 rpm; 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC
Curb Weight: 2,811 lbs-2,976 lbs
Wheelbase:106.3 in.
Height: 57 in.
Width: 71 in.
Length: 180 in.
Fuel Economy: 28/37/32 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Observed Fuel Economy: 30.5 mpg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 14 gal.
Wheels: 17-inch
Tires: 225/45 R17
Warranty: 5 yrs/60,000-miles New Vehicle, 10 yrs/100,000-miles Powertrain, 7-yrs/Unlimited mileage Anti-perforation, 5-yrs/unlimited Roadside Assistance

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited-Platinum AWD

Susan Frissell
womenwithwheels.com

Yet another category in which consumers find themselves making big decisions. The SUV midsize field is growing and getting better all the time, including such notables as Ford Edge, Buick Enclave, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango and Ford Flex. Even Toyota’s own 4Runner could be a contender in this category of about 19 competitors.

Not unlike other automobile categories, the midsize SUV is big and demands that consumers do their homework before stepping into the showroom. Better prices than featured on the window stickers can be had, it just takes some time and patience. Toyota’s vehicles remain at the top of the heap and in demand, but the good news is there is competition.

For 2017, the Toyota Highlander becomes a more versatile entry. Two new trims have been added, and an eighth seat! The features added are impressive and will likely appeal to all, as well as a more spacious cabin. Looking at the car from the outside, it’s clear the Highlander has taken a different path. Much more handsome and a little bit more square, it’s a beautiful, comfortable road cruiser.

Our test Highlander was the Hybrid version so we can only attest to its prowess, comfortability and fuel economy. We think most will be impressed, though, with safety features, reliability and
Passenger-friendly features for all. However, expect to pay for these stand-outs, as the Highlander is up there for ‘most expensive than most’ midsize sport-utes.

Toyota has added two new trim levels for 2017: LE and XLE. And as mentioned before, now the seat count is up to eight. More versatile and affordable for 2017, the newly redesigned Highlander offers two additional new trims, as well.

Arguably, one of the finest SUV’s out there, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid ranks high among auto buffs and consumers, alike. A great SUV-Hybrid for families, the Highlander is a great road vehicle, with all the comforts. Performing well in crash tests, offering all safety features as standard equipment, and such goodies as adaptive cruise control, pedestrian and vehicle detection and pre-collision system, you can’t beat it.

Our test Highlander Hybrid came in a beautiful Toasted Walnut Pearl, drew ‘ooos’ and ‘ahhhs’ from friends and family alike. I only wish I could have taken a road trip in it. The new standard eight-seat configuration is different and handy, and fuel economy is very competitive.

Expect excellent acceleration and top notch navigation of highway ramps, as well as no trouble keeping up with traffic. For a large SUV, it drives effortlessly. If you choose the Hybrid version, expect great fuel economy-without any drop in power-and better horsepower than its gasoline cousin.

As with all Toyota products, dependability and reliability are not a worry. The 2017 model has been updated even more so, yet, still recognizable as the popular Highlander Our Liimited Platinum version had all the bells and whistles.With AWD, and of course, Hybrid, minor changes are noticeable. The 2017 Highlander sports a little more squared off front end, but we think. more handsome look.

Our test version, the Hybrid Limited-Platinum AWD (top of the line) hovered just over $49,000, so not a cheap venture. However, we can imagine owning this vehicle for years to come, without much need to trade up.

The average SUV in this category runs around $30,000; however, the Highlander is one of the most expensive, starting at $36,270; only the Buick Enclave comes in higher. However, one can’t dismiss the Hybrid powertrain (added cost), and the fact that it is a Toyota product, the Highlander is first-rate, and hard to beat, we might add.

If we had to look at any ‘cons’ of the Highlander, they might include lack of any gasoline savings. However, we maintain, if you’re driving a sport ute vehicle, are you thinking that much about fuel economy?

Secondly, the Highlander’s third-row seat isn’t as roomy as some of its competitors. Again, we maintain, how often is that third-row seat occupied? And, for our nit-pics, we point out the distance between the touchscreen and controls: A long reach, and not easy to do while operating the vehicle.

For every con, though, there are always pros, and the Highlander clocks in with many, including a size that is just about right for most families. The high-tech features, such as accident-avoidance appeal to many. And, with all Toyota products, you have a quiet, easy-to-maneuver vehicle.

The Smoked Chrome auto on/off headlights and foglights are impressive. LED DRL’s are a longtime safety feature, and the chrometic roof rails match the wheels. We appreciate the folding heated power side mirrors-with puddle lamps, no less-when parking in over-crowded spaces. We shopped while in the Highlander so appreciated the easily-operated liftgate for groceries.

The Entune system, with a powerful, great-sounding JBL speakers is a feature one didn’t expect in an SUV vehicle in years past. The sound was very good, and at times, this writer couldn’t differentiate between sound from the Highlander’s system and one outside the vehicle. Touchscreen Nav, AM/FM/CD/MO3/USB/AUX and HD, SXM are all standard. Bluetooth phone, Music/App Suite and five USB ports will please those who are high-tech. The Birdseye view camera has a split screen so that drivers can keep an eye on what’s behind and on the side of the car. A perimeter scan helps tremendously when maneuvering in tight areas.

Our test Highlander came with two options: Body Side Molding ($209), and carpet floor mats, cargo mat ($225). The Platinum Package was included and offers: Panoramic Moon Roof, heated steering wheel, perforated leather heated second row outboard seats, rain sensing windshield wipers, Birds-eye view monitor, Drak Chrometic 19inch wheels.

SPECS

MSRP: $47,880; total vehicle price $49,254
Engine: Hybrid system, hp: 306, torque: 215 lb.-ft., V6
Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable, electronic on-demand AWD
Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
Length: 192.5 in.
Width: 75.8 in.
Height: 68.1 in.
Wheels: 19-inch chrometec
Tires: P245/55R19
Hybrid Versions:
LE: $36,370
XLE: $41,330
Limited: $44,760
Limited Platinum: $47,880
Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs.
Warranty: 3 yrs/36 months basic,

2017 Kia Forte S: Kiss a Kia

Susan Frissell
womenwithwheels.com

It’s hard to be first in this category, what with year-after-year winners such as Toyota Corolla. But Kia has a strong contender in the 2017 redesigned Forte 4-door sedan.
We had the pleasure of spending the week in the 2017 Kia Forte S, with its updated, sharp detailing and dramatic roofline. Although it may not necessarily stand out among the Corollas, Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza, Mazda3, or very distinctive Honda Civic, the Forte is a great little commuter.

Handsomer and with more detail, the 2017 Kia Forte is a well-equipped compact sedan. Complete with different body styles, Forte has revised its powertrains, driving personality and value features. More extroverted, this nimble runner is available in the entry-level LX, intermediate S model and top-of-the-line EX trim.

The Kia Forte is available in several versions, including the sedan, Forte Koup-or two-door coupe, and Forte5, a five-door hatchback. We love that the hatchback and ‘wagon’ versions from different manufacturers are making a comeback. Practical and comfortable, these versions are needed.

The Forte sedan may have the best design of all the choices. When last redesigned, the Forte gained some more width and length, but not height. However, this gives the sedan an elongated roofline and better looks in the sedan department. For 2017, the Forte gets a new front bumper, a “tiger nose” grille, that closely resembles the Optima sedan frontend, sitting somewhat lower and blending into the headlamps. The taillights have also been redesigned, with optional LED lights.

Really, all compact sedans today look very similar, Virtually every small sedan has adopted the same shape to reduce aerodynamic drag, and increase fuel-economy. God Bless any compact car going up against the likes of Honda, Toyota, and forever brands like Ford. It would be hard to overtake these year-after-year winners, but for a little less cash, consumers can opt for the Forte, and expect satisfaction in fuel economy, a pleasant driving experience and ease of operation. Dependability can also be added to the list.

The interior of the 2017 Forte is simple, with easy to understand and operate controls. It is sporty, clean and comfortable. One can expect all the infotainment goodies of today’s vehicles, gauges and a full set of features for the money. The base Forte LX includes keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows/locks, rearview camera, steering-wheel audio controls and Bluetooth.
In addition, new heated-leather-front seats are standard in the 2017 Forte EX, as well as dual-zone climate control, rear vents, and push-button start. The Forte’s interior is ‘simple,’ by comparison, and easy to manage. We just found this little compact to be effortless to drive, park and navigate. Even hitting speeds of 80 mph on the expressway felt breezy.

Which brings us to the Kia Forte’s powertrain, a choice of the 2.0-liter inline-4 and 2.0-liter iron-block, 4-cylinder (LX and S); the EX models come with a 2.0-liter 4, aluminum block and direct injection. Paired with each engine is Kia’s 6-speed automatic transmission, with available 6-speed manual transmission as standard on the base LX. Fuel economy has improved for 2017 (25/34), but not outstanding.

The 2.0-liter engine is smooth, even and responsive, and the Forte suspension easily manages most road surfaces. The sedan handles well, but don’t expect refinement. Remember, this is a compact car, not a large family sedan. For tall drivers, the Forte may feel a tad cramped. Seats are comfortable, but not necessarily form-fitting, and bolstering is inadequate.

To Kia’s credit, though, the Forte has come a long way. Materials, trim and details have improved significantly, making it competitive. Plastics are of a little higher grade, there is a handle center console and upholstery and trim have been upgraded. Stitching in the Forte S lends a sporty look.

New-active safety features have been added to the 2017 Kia Forte, and include autonomous emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, front collision warning, lane change assist, and dynamic bending lights. Part of option packages on the EX, and possibly the S model is expected.

Our test Forte S model did not come with any pricing so pricing listed here is approximate: LX, $18,495, S, $20,195, EX, $22,195. Additionally installed equipment on our test car included the S Technology package: Supervision Meter Cluster 4.2-in. Color LCD, Push-button start with smart key, auto-up/down front windows, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning system, blind spot detection, lane departure warning system, lane keep assist system, rear cross traffic/alert, outside mirrors with LED turn signals (and auto folding upon locking car), front door handle pocket lights, fog lights, LED tall lights and smart trunk.

SPECS

MSRP: $20,195
Engine: 2.0-liter Multi-Point Injection, 4-cylinder engine, 164 hp., 151 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Height: 56.3 in.
Length: 179.5 in.
Width: 61.5 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gal.
Fuel economy: 25/34 mpg.
Tires: P195/65HR15
Wheels: 15×6
Warranty: 10 yr./100-,000-mile limited powertrain; 5 yr./80,000-mile limited basic; 6 yr./80,000-mile roadside assistance.

Kia Forte S interior

2018 Chevrolet Equinox SUV: Finding New Roads

Susan Frissell
www.womenwithwheels.com

Greenville, N.C.-Ashville, S.C., March 23, 2017

Chevrolet seems to be leading the way with its variant lineup, say automotive and consumer media groups. The most awarded car company three years in a row, Chevrolet’s Bolt EV won Motor Trend Magazine’s 2017 Car of the Year.

With new offerings in all categories, new design, safety, performance and fuel efficiency updates, Chevrolet would appear to be offering all things to all people. Regardless of what vehicle you might be interested in, you’ll find it in Chevy’s current lineup.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox
Orange Burst Metallic

And so, it is with the next-generation Chevy Equinox compact SUV. The media were on hand in the beautiful hills of North, and South Carolina in March to test-drive the 2018 Equinox. Completely redesigned, the new sculpted exterior and luxurious interior make the Equinox more than competitive in this very busy category.

Since bringing the Equinox to market, Chevrolet has sold two million units at over 3,000 dealerships. As the 2018 Equinox moves into 2017, there will be two additional engines added to the lineup, a Midnight Edition-available now, and a Redline Edition (coming later in the year).

Such advance features include available Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Surround Vision-using cameras on all sides to provide a 360-degree birds-eye view, and hands-free liftgate, to name a few. Would-be SUV owners will want for little or nothing when taking on the 2018 Equinox. Every angle is covered, including the availability of three turbo engine selections (1.6-liter turbo-diesel, due Summer 2017, 1.5-liter standard turbo, and 2.0-liter-available Summer 2017).

Paired with GM’s 9-speed automatic transmission, efficiency is the name of the game, at an expected 26/32 mpg. with FWD and 24/30 mpg. with AWD. While the Equinox performed just about flawlessly, don’t expect to feel a surge of power off the start line. But no matter. Rather, the increase is gradual and satisfying, performing quietly and smoothly. Highway driving in the new 2018 Equinox is calm and pleasing.

The 2018 compact Chevrolet Equinox has trimmed down, by 400 pounds; as we learned from Chevrolet engineers, was no small feat. A 10-percent weight reduction, while making for more acceptable fuel economy, in no way makes for a “light-weight” vehicle. Instead, the newly redesigned Equinox, feels sturdy and substantial. Chevy utilized lightweight and durable high-strength steel combined with an optimized form.

The new styling is expressive and tweaked with ‘styling echoes,’ similar to its family members the Volt, Cruze and Malibu. It’s clear they are all related, with a curvy body and tapered front end. This is one attractive SUV.

At first look, from the rear, one might think RAV4, but then, don’t most compact SUV’s today resemble one another. Perhaps it is a compliment. The 2018 Equinox has great lines, sultry and sexy, with just the right curves. The Chevrolet Equinox will surprise though, and in fact, took second place (out of seven models), in 2015’s $28,000 Compact SUV Challenge; and even with its previous model design.

While the 2018 version is shorter (by four inches), it has larger interior space. And other improvements include the new touch-screen that tilts upward and is larger. Is it classier? Well, maybe. But for the most part, Chevy seems to want to reuse the same type of button. If you look hard enough, you’ll find areas where money has been saved. But most of the interior is a vast improvement over the previous models.

For instance, the ‘hard’ plastic is history. The dash and doors seem much improved and upgraded.
The loaded Premier trim level includes all the bells and whistles of modern technology, for those who must have it, and include wireless smartphone charging pad, two USB ports in the dashboard, and two under the center armrest, with an additional two, for charging only, in the backseat. There is also a 12-volt and 120-volt household outlets.

The vehicles we drove for the 2-day introduction were all the Premier 1.5T edition, both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive. Due to severe, unexpected weather before we arrived in Greenville, SC, half the fleet was ruined by hail storms. We gathered in Greenville, S.C. and headed over the Blue Ridge Parkway and through local towns toward Asheville, N.C. Our weather was a breezy 60-degrees, partly sunny and spring-like.

Chevrolet arranged with Roadtrippers.com to offer four different routes, all with beautiful views and lots to see, culturally, historically and geographically. Various road surfaces were available to drive and picturesque scenery was all around. It’s hard to take a bad picture in the Carolinas and we obliged with great backdrops for the new Equinox.

Most impressive are the interior upgrades in the 2018 Equinox, including some handsome color combos for the seats and dash, fold-flat loading rear seats that tilt forward when seatbacks are lowered, an optional alert seat and rear seat reminder, in addition to heated and available ventilated front and rear seating. The seats were comfortable and fit all sizes, making this a comfortable road vehicle. We especially liked the rear vents that are tied to the climate control system, with driver open and shut capability.

The first time we felt that vibration in the driver’s seat, it jarred us, but it does get one’s attention when crossing over into another lane. When there are other sounds in the cabin-radio, children-one feels the alert and doesn’t miss the sound.

Our test vehicles, in the Premier trim level were well-equipped; the all-wheel-drive models topped out at $39,045 and the front-wheel-drive at $34,940. Similarly well-equipped, the option costs were high: $3,715 on the all-wheel-drive Premier version and $5,255 on the front-wheel-drive Premier 1.5-liter.

The Premier 1.5-l AWD model’s options included the Chevrolet MyLink Nav system, Bose Premium 7-speaker system, HD radio, power sunroof, and 19-inch wheels ($3,320), and a special Cajun Red Tintcoat color ($395). The 1.5-l FWD Premier version came equipped with the Sun, Sound, Navigation Package (as above, $3,320), a Confidence and Convenience II Package with adjustable passenger front seat, and 8-way power w/2 way power lumbar, ventilated driver seat, ventilated passenger seat, heated rear outboard positions, seat, heated steering wheel, low speed forward auto braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, following distance indicator, haptic seat, surround vision, and headlamps, intellibeam auto high beam control, $1,895, and front license plate bracket, $40.

Standard equipment on the Premier trim level included ABS, Stabilitrak-stability control system with traction control, tire pressure monitor, dual-stage frontal, driver and right front passenger with passenger sensing system, thorax side-impact seat mounted, driver and right front passenger, head curtain and side front and rear outboard airbags, keyless start/open, teen driver, rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert and side blind zone alert.

Also standard are lane keep assist with lane departure warning, low speed forward auto braking, surround vision and forward collision alert. A lot of new technology and safety features not offered as standard equipment in years past.

Additional highlights in the all-newly redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Equinox include such things as standard projector-beam headlamps and LED daytime running lamps, and LED taillamps on higher level models; new available durable denim-style seat fabric, Surround Vision, switchable all-wheel-drive system that disconnects from rear axle when needed, first all-turbocharged multi-engine propulsion system lineup, segment exclusive turbo-diesel, new nine-speed automatic transmission, and new ‘kneeling’ rear seat features that tilt the bottom cushions to enable a flat load floor.

Connectivity technologies are also an upgrade and include a 7-and 8-inch diagonal MyLink infotainment system that support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi. In an attempt to use our OnStar device, we weren’t always successful in engaging it. This has been a problem in the past for this writer. Though it may seem obsolete due to phones, OnStar can still provide services not available through other devices, such as collision alert.

The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox should do well, even with all its competition.

Chevrolet.com/2018Equinox

SPECS

Engine: 1.5-liter Turbocharged i-4 DOHC VVT Direct Injection, 170 hp., 203 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 107.3 in.
Width: 72.6 in.
Length: 183.1 in.
Height: 65.4 in.
Curb weight: 3,375 lbs., 1.5-liter FWD; 3,540 lbs., 1.5-liter AWD
Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.9 gal., (FWD); 15.6 gal. (AWD)
EPA Fuel economy: 26/32 mpg., FWD; 24/30 mpg., AWD
Wheels: 17, 18 and 19-inch aluminum
Tires:
Warranty: 3 yrs/36,000-miles bumper-to-bumper; 5 yrs/60,000-miles powertrain limited; roadside assistance, courtesy transportation. Chevrolet Complete Care: two maintenance visits, oil, filter change, 4-wheel rotation, 27-point inspection.
Built: Ingersoll, Ontario and other North American facilities
EPA Vehicle Class: Small SUV

The Equinox interior with optional Panoramic roof

Best of 2017 Chicago Auto Show Results-Consumer Picks

CHICAGO- For the twelfth consecutive year at Chicago’s Auto Show, consumers voted for their favorite vehicles in five categories in Show’s “Best of Show” balloting. Chicago’s show is the only major auto show that polls attendees favorite vehicles and exhibits.

Winners in five categories of the voting over the 10-day public run of the Chicago Auto Show include the following:

• Best All-New Production Vehicle: 2018 Ford Mustang
• Best Concept Vehicle: LEGO Batmobile from Chevrolet
• Best Green Vehicle: 2018 BMW 530e
• Best Exhibit: Chevrolet
• Vehicle I’d most like to have in my driveway: 2018 Chevrolet Corvette

Consumers are “are one enormous focus group that we can leverage to analyze data and assess trends,” said Chicago Auto Show General Manager Dave Sloan. “Best of Show voting has become a benchmark measure of what the public deems the most exciting, impressive and innovative on the show floor.”

Each of the first four winners beat out seven other vehicles, and the final eight were selected by a jury of automotive experts. In the fifth category, “Vehicle I’d most like to have in my driveway.”
Entries included any of the hundreds of vehicles on the show floor.

2017 Ford GT

According to the results, voters considered the 2018 Ford Mustang the “Best All-New Production Vehicle.” Coming in a close second to the Mustang was the Porsche Panamera. Also taking away a considerable amount of votes, coming in third place, was the Chicago Auto Show world introduction Ford Expedition.

Another favorite of voters included the LEGO Batmobile from Chevrolet as Best Concept. Concept cars were scarce at this year’s show, but many found the 350,000 brick Batmobile fun. Second choice in Best Concept voting was the Mazda MX-5 Speedster.

Best Green Vehicle went to the all-new 2018 BMW 530e, a unique hybrid-electric sedan with a battery range of roughly 20 miles and more than 250 horsepower. Runner-up went to the Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid, close behind.

Chevrolet took top honors as Best Exhibit, for the second time in a row. Their display consisted of four 20 feet high, transparent screens, LED lighting and music surrounding a 73 foot long centerpiece screen. Four turntables around the exhibit highlighted Chicago world introduction Redline vehicles.

The second most popular exhibit was the Jeep display, and third, Ford.

The tightest rate, though, is always which vehicle gets chosen as the “Vehicle I’d most like to have in my driveway.” As always, Chevrolet Corvette and Ford GT remained tied, up to the last day. On the final day, the Corvette won!!!! Fans were ecstatic!

Our local media group, the Midwest Automotive Media Association also votes for their favorites, and Best of Show. The winner will be presented at this year’s Spring rally at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE Sedan

Susan Frissell
Womenwithwheels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPECS

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

2017 Toyota 86 2-Door Coupe

Susan Frissell
womenwithwheels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPECS

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