The 109th Chicago Auto Show: February 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring

Susan Frissell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Kia Soul Turbo Exclaim(!)

Susan Frissell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

‘Toyota Walk In My Boots’ Community Outreach Project

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

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Susan Frissell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2016 Mazda CX-5 Interior

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.