Category Archives: Test Drive Reviews

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 GT AWC

Susan Frissell

Every new iteration of this Mitsubish favorite is better and better. As is the case with the 2016 Outlander Sport GT, equipped with Mitsubishi’s 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Interior features and quality have improved, although, somewhat dated, and the standard three-row seating fits family needs; although one has to be agile and/or small to access it. Optional advanced safety technologies are also available to make Outlander compatible with its many rivals in the SUV marketplace. It remains to be seen what happens next for Mitsubishi after a recent statement that at Mitsubishi Motors in Tokyo employees allegedly improperly manipulated fuel-economy data to inflate mileage results on at least 625,000 vehicles.

The company also said it had violated Japanese law by deploying an improper fuel-economy testing method in some vehicles in Japan since 2002. It remains unclear at this time whether this affected fuel-economy information was provided to customers. An investigation will follow.

New for 2016 is the revised exterior styling-which is handsome, and standard LED headlights for the GT trim level. A revised navigation interface and more user-friendly folding arrangement in the second-row seating. Also new this year is a SEL midgrade trim level offering.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Cons? They all have them and the Outlander is no exception. Performance is wanting, and if one wants higher level features, he/she must opt for the GT Model. We could not warm up to the Rockford-Fosgate sound system. In spite of its 710-watt premium sound system with 9 speakers, the sound was good but not so the operation of the radio choices. This writer could not get the menu right so wasn’t able to determine song titles or performers. A minor point you might think, but it drove us crazy. We also could not locate the nav system, so assumed there wasn’t one; hard to believe in a GT trim level.

However, Mitsubishi gets credit for staying in the marketplace. Many times, the threat to leave the U.S. market looms. After just two years on the market, the Outlander received an upgrade and redesign; commendable. Considering the Outlander from a distance is favorable; it’s a good looking little SUV.

Our test vehicle was the GT version, with the 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine. If under serious consideration, we would most likely opt for the 6-cylinder. According to Mitsubishi, they also made improvements to the ride and handling, both which aren’t bad, but not A-plus. We found the car wandering on highway drives and felt as though it was a lightweight. The ride is quiet and smooth, and the car easy to handle, however, there is some road noise.

A seven-passenger SUV, the Outlander is available in four different levels: ES, SE, SEL and GT. The V-6 engine is only available in the GT, as is AWD. Mitsubishi offers a lengthy warranty, standard third-row seating and many standard features. Rival crossovers include the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester (standard AWD) and Kia Sorento. It’s hard to make headway in the Honda or Subaru market these days; both the CR-V and Forester and Outback are widely popular.

The Nissan Rogue also offers a third-row in the same price range.

The ES comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights and taillights, heated mirrors, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, cruise control, automatic climate control, tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding second-row seat that slides and reclines, 50/50-split third-row seat, Mitsubishi’s “Fuse” voice-command system (for phone and audio controls), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with CD player (becoming more rare), and USB port.

The SE adds foglights, body-color side mirrors with integrated turn signals, keyless ignition and entry, a color trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, a rearview camera and an upgraded audio system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display and HD radio.

Added to the SEL are black roof rails, gloss-black interior trim, leather upholstery and a power driver seat. Many options are also available. Power folding mirrors are also included in two different packages, and our GT test vehicle came equipped with them. This is a great feature and another peace-of-mind invention.
When opting for the SEL Touring package, one gets a 7-inch touchscreen with nav., upgraded. Pricing for the Outlander ranges from $22,95-$30,995.

The GT comes standard with most options except the touchscreen navigation system and the advanced safety technologies (adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and lane-departure warning), all of which are included in the optional GT Touring package. Exclusive standard features on the GT include LED headlights, silver roof rails, chrome exterior beltline accents, shift paddles and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is offered with two available engines. The ES, SE and SEL get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque that is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). ES models are front-wheel-drive only, while the SE and SEL can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive. In Edmunds performance testing, an all-wheel-drive SEL accelerated to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, a slower time than many rivals.

Not sure why our test GT vehicle came equipped with the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and not the 3.0-liter V6. As said earlier, the six would be a big improvement. Our test vehicle was the six-speed automatic with shift paddles, and standard AWD.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Interior

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Interior

Standard safety features on the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander are comparable to other vehicles in this price range and include antilock disc brakes, traction/stability control, hill-start assist, driver knee airbag, side curtain airbags-first/second row, and front-seat side airbags. Consumers can opt for electronic safety features including lane-departure warning and forward collision mitigation.

The Outlander is in general an agreeable crossover. Where there isn’t anything to really dislike about it, there isn’t anything that makes it special. But then, that goes with the territory. How can any manufacturer compete in today’s over-crowded SUV category.


MSRP: $27,395; total vehicle price $28,345; options: Wheel locks, $55; destination $895
Engine: 2.4-liter MIVEC DOHC 16-valve, 4-cylinder, 166 hp., 162 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with O/D, AWC, Sportronic steering wheel paddle shifters
Wheelbase: 105 in.
Length: 184.8 in.
Width: 71.3 in.
Height: 66.1 in.
Fuel tank capacity: 16.6 gal.
Wheels: 18-inch two-tone alloy
Tires: 22/555R18 all-season
EPA fuel economy: 24/29 mpg.
Towing capacity: 1,500 lbs.
Warranty: 10 yr/100,000-mile powertrain; 7 yr/100,000-mile corrosive perforation; 5 yr/60,000-mile new vehicle limited; 5 yr/unlimited roadside assistance.


2016 Toyota Highlander XLE V6 AWD

untitledSusan Frissell

At long last, the 2016 Toyota Highlander gets a look that matters. The old design seemed to just blend into the crowd, forsaking any distinguishing features. Now, with its new curves and shape, the 2016 Highlander is a better looking vehicle. Returning with just one ‘factual’ update is the now standard towing package (heavy-duty radiator, 200-watt fan coupling, bigger alternator, transmission fluid cooler), on all V6 trim levels.

With all the sport-utes on the road, big and small, it’s near impossible to stand out in the crowd. Competing with the likes of the Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder, the Highlander is available in several versions, including Hybrid (in Limited trim only): LE ($29,990), LE V6 ($31,515), LE Plus V6 ($33,895), XLE ($36,815) and Limited ($40,415), Limited Platinum.

The Highlander is not an inexpensive vehicle, and similar to its competitors, somewhat resembles a minivan. Seating eight, this is a large vehicle, with a flexible second row of seating and easily accessible third row. While it is an easy vehicle to drive and handle, it falls to those who are seeking a lot of extra room.

Some have called the redesigned 2016 Highlander “bland.” While we might agree that description better describes the last generation Highlander, we happen to think the 2016 design is much improved. The interior is updated with new materials and a much busier dash design.

Although equipped with a V-6 engine, horsepower is lacking and power just adequate. Our test vehicle was the XLE trim level, equipped with three options, including Rear-seat Blueray, DVD Entertainment System w/9-inch display, RCA Jacks, Remote and two wireless headphones ($1,810); Seating for 7; 2nd row Captain’s Chairs; leather-trimmed second-row Captain’s Chairs with folding side table w/two cupholders ($275), and Carpet floor mats and cargo mat ($225).toy

Our Highlander XLE came in Shoreline Blue Pearl, a striking color choice. As expected in vehicles of this caliber, the Highlander comes equipped with all of the amenities one would want. Such new technology as enhanced vehicle stability control, ABS, Electronic brake=force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology, Adaptive Cruise control, 8 airbags, Smart Key immobilizer/alarm and protector child seating and door locks.

Our XLE version came equipped with a power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade, leather seating (8-way driver, 4-way passenger, adjustable power liftgate, side-window sunshades, back-up camera, 8-inch display and Toyota’s Entune premium sound system/App suite, navigation, Homelink, AM/FM/CM/MP3/USB/Aux, HD and SXM.

Tires are available in either 18-0r-19-inch size, and the Highlander sports a rear spoiler, LED running lights, and power sunroof. Cloth, premium cloth or leather upholstery is available, heated and ventilated seats with power-adjustable front seats. A telescoping tilt-steering wheel and cruise are standard, and on higher level trim vehicles, Toyota throws in 3-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED ambient cabin lighting, driver seat memory setting, and rear parking sensors.

As with all Toyota products, one can depend on long-term driving and years of ownership. The Highlander is a comfortable and accommodating city and highway driving vehicle. It aims to please and continues to lead the market.


MSRP: $38,275; total vehicle price $41,485; destination $900
Engine: 3.5-liter, DOHC V6, Dual VVT-1, 248 lb-ft torque, 270 hp.
Transmission: six-speed electronic automatic w/OD, ECT-I sequential shift mode, snow mode, FWD
Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
Height: 68.1 in.
Length: 191.1 in.
Curb Weight: 4,135 lbs.
Width: 64.4 in.
Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs.
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Tires: P245/60R-18
EAP class: small SUV, 2WD
EPA fuel economy: 18/24 mpg., avg. 20 mpg.
Class: Midsize crossover



2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Susan Frissell

Mazda keeps getting better and better. One can never doubt the sportiness of their vehicles, and I have yet to meet a serious driver who doesn’t like the Miata MX-5. The redesigned and refined sport-utes from Mazda are no exception.

We test-drove the CX-3 on a roadtrip and enjoyed it, but felt it too small for our needs. Sporty and agile, the CX-3 is quite a bit smaller than the CX-5 which offers a more engaging driving experience. A roomier SUV with comfortable seating and desirable features, the CX-5 is more practical.

Our test vehicle, the Grand Touring AWD version, came in over $33,000 and equipped with Mazda’s optional engine, the 2.5-liter. At only 184 horsepower, we found it wanting. Delivering 30 mph on the highway, the CX-5’s 2.5-liter is quieter than some, but just not enough horsepower to suit.

Acceleration is weak, although better than with the standard 2.0-liter engine. Amenities and materials seemed more upscale than in years past, and we had no trouble learning all the bells and whistles. The CX-5 even comes equipped with a CD player, a plus for this driver.

For 2016, the Mazda CX-5 gets a few minor styling improvements, revised suspension tuning, added sound insulation and an update to the infotainment interface. Mazda threw in a few new options, as well, such as LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning. While we find the lane departure warning system more than annoying, we know it’s a safety feature that may come in handy during those long road trips.

Mazda has also increased cabin storage, enlarged the handy door pockets, and Bluetooth is standard.
There are several trim levels available, in manual and automatic: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring versions, and in January, Mazda introduced a midyear update that includes a standard rearview camera on all but the manual Sport trim level, standard heated seats on the Touring trim and standard navigation for Touring and Grand Touring versions.

As more and more CUV’s join the already crowded market niche, the CX-5 is one of the best looking among the bunch. Others may offer a little bit better fuel economy (think: VW, Toyota), we enjoy Mazda’s sporty feel and off-road look.

Visibility is good in the CX-5, the cabin is cozy and quiet and it’s fun-to-drive. This writer has been rejecting SUV’s since their inception, mostly due to preferring a ‘performance’ sedan, but as life-and 4 dogs dictate-I may have to make a concession. Maybe I’ll miss my Miata less!!

Among the many choices in this market niche are the Honda CR-V (a favorite over time), Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Jeep Cherokee and Subaru Forester. All good choices, and worthy contenders. Which is why this decision is so tough.

The base Sport (standard 2.0-liter engine and manual transmission) sports standard17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and an iPod /USB interface.untitled

A Sport version is also available with Mazda’s 2.5-liter engine and automatic. Standard features include a 7-inch touchscreen, multifunction control knob, HD radio, Pandora Internet radio, automatic crash notification, SMS text message reading and audio system voice controls. For the 2016.5 model, a rearview camera is also standard, but optional on the earlier 2016 version. This is confusing since we thought all vehicles for 2016 came equipped with standard rearview cameras.

The Touring version adds such amenities as foglights, keyless ignition and entry, blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, a six-way power driver seat, a height-adjustable passenger seat, a 40/20/40-split folding rear seat, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system.

Our Grand Touring trim level adds19-inch , automatic headlights, automatic windshield wipers, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, heated front seats and leather upholstery. Our test model came with a few options, including cargo mat ($60), rear bumper guard ($100), roof rack, side rails ($275), door sill trim plates ($125), GT-I ACTIVSENSE package (Mazda radar cruise control, smart brake support, lane departure warning, high=beam control, $1,500), and Grand Touring tech package (Nav system, LED headlights, Adaptive front lighting, LED daytime running lights, LED foglights, LED combination taillights, Smart city brake support, Auto Dim Mirror w/Homelink, $1,505. A long, expensive list of goodies.

Mazda CX-5 interior

Mazda CX-5 interior

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is a nice looking CUV and turns heads with it’s styling, and touring stance. It’s sporty look and athletic curves are sure to please and help it stand out in this market. It is a comfortable daily-driver and we recommend it highly.


MSRP: $29,470; total vehicle price $33,935, destination $900
Engine: 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G, 184 hp., 185 lb-ft torque
Transmission: SKYACTIVE drive 6-speed Sport mode, AWD
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Height: 67.3 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Weight: 3,212 lbs.
Fuel Tank: 14.8 gal.
Length: 179.3 in.
Towing: 2,000 lbs.
Tires: P225/55 R19 all-season
Wheels: 19-inch alloy
Warranty: 36 mth/36-mile bumper-to-bumper, 24-hour Roadside Assistance, 60-mths/60,000-miles powertrain

2016 Lexus RX 350

lexSusan Frissell

2016-lexus-r-450h-inline2-photo-661881-s-originalLaunched in 1998, the RX 350 is one of the longest running sport-utility vehicles available. Loved by many, the RX keeps working at getting better. But ‘better’ isn’t necessarily what all drivers want. The RX does most things well however, we weren’t as starry-eyed about the 2016 “improvements” as some. Still versatile, still comfortable and full of luxurious amenities, the RX just doesn’t do anything for us.

Word has it that Lexus was trying to make the RX more like the competition, which sounds paradoxical since most other SUV’s are wanna-bees when it comes to the Lexus. Nevertheless, it seems Lexus for 2016 was aiming at a vehicle more sporty, edgy and attractive to younger buyers.

The RX’s new front end won’t appeal to just everyone; in fact, listening in on conversations regarding same, many don’t like it. Designed with many more angles and edginess, the 2016 RX-like its stablemates, The 8-speed gearbox does help improve fuel economy, and for a vehicle this size, 20/28 mpg for the front-wheel-drive version is commendable. The all-wheel-drive version delivers 19/26 mpg.

You will recognize the 2016 RX 350 right away; mostly because of its new grille-so large you can’t miss it, but also due to the many angles and curves. The high beams, low beams, and taillights are LEDs; and LED driving lights and rear turn signals can be added as an option. Our test car had the available 20-inch wheels, which are available in two designs, including one that offers a choice of four different inset color treatments. They are handsome. This year’s RX has been increased by 1.4 inches in length, and 1.9 inches in width. It is noticeably larger.

The interior is as plush as always, with added features and updates. Quality has been updated and new color treatments havfe been added, including dark brown and red. The display is a whopping 12-inch screen. On the base RX, the rotary controller with the mouse remote touch unit is standard. We got used to this over the years and prefer it to having to reach up to a knob.

As with many vehicles today, drivers have a choice of Eco, Normal and Sport modes of driving experience. The RX adds a Sport+ mode on the F Sport and EV mode on the RX 450h.
For those opting for a hybrid version of the RX, the powertrain is a combination of a 3.5-liter V-6 and an electric motor.

On the AWD hybrid models, Lexus adds a second electric motor to power the rear wheels. Fuel economy is estimated at 31/30 mpg. on the rear-wheel-drive version; the hybrid all-wheel-drive at 30/28 mpg.
Standard in all RX350 models, not just the F Sport. The eight-speed gearbox helps improve fuel economy to 20/28 mpg for the front-driver, while the all-wheel-drive version is expected to return 19/26 mpg.

The V-6’s 295 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque are respectable, but the RX really provides no incentive to hurry. The RX retains its heavily boosted steering and plush ride that will be instantly familiar to current owners. Alas, the soft ride comes at a cost of plentiful body motions over lumpy pavement and generous lean in corners.

Our choice in the RX would be the F Sport (available since 2013), although not near as ‘sporty’ as we would like; think performance. The Lexus is just too luxurious to be competitively sporty. For that we would direct you over to BMW or Audi showrooms.

One of the added features to the 2016 F Sport is adaptive varialbe dampers. The drive-mode knob has also been switched to Sport+, offering a firmer suspension. Other F Sport additions include enhanced lateral support in seats, unique grille treatment, 20-inch wheels, and packages containing more equipment.

The power liftgate is a new feature for 2016. One needs to just wave her hand at the logo on the hatch and wa-la. Our favorite feature is the Mark Levinson audio system (with Clari-Fi technology). Our test vehicle came equipped with quite a few options, including Blind Spot Monitor w/rear-cross traffic alert and panoramic view monitor ($1,300), Lexus Safety System and Adaptive front lighting system headlamps ($1,050), Heated and ventilated front seats ($640), Panorama moonroof ($1,600), Nav system with 8-inch multimedia display, Lexus Enform Destinations 1-yr. Subscription, Lexus EnformApp suite ($1,750), and the Luxury Package (semi-anline leather-trim seats, power-folding Electrochromic heated outside mirrors, wood and leather heated steering wheel and shift knob, 20-inch alloy wheels, w/color inserts, rear door seat /steering/mirror memory, illuminated scuff plates, Sapele wood w/aluminum trim, LED ambient illumination, rain-sensing wipers ($4,610). That is a lot of costly options.

Those who aren’t interested in the slightly crisper driving experience of the F Sport—those legions of repeat buyers, perhaps—might well want to know about the newly available features on the latest RX. The power liftgate can be opened simply by waving a hand—or an elbow—at the Lexus logo on the hatch. The Mark Levinson audio system adds so-called Clari-Fi technology that claims to restore much of the sound quality lost in compressed digital music (like that on your smartphone). The RX also bolsters its roster of electronic driver aids with the addition of lane-keep assist, automatic high-beams, and pedestrian detection for the forward-collision warning/automated-braking system. Blind-spot warning now comes with rear cross-traffic alert, and a new 360-degree-view monitor is optional.

No question, as each year goes by, Lexus adds more to its now famous RX 350 SUV. They have upped the ante with luxury equipment, making the cabin ultra deluxe, and a list of standard features to rival all others. Although still ultra-luxurious, this writer didn’t enjoy driving the fourth generation RX as much sa past iterations. We found it offered a harder ride, was big and lumbering, compared with smaller SUV’s.The jury is out regarding the controversial front end; many don’t like it.

Hard to miss with a Lexus model, no matter the choice. You know you’re getting the best of the best and great resale. Reliability is always a sure thing.

Competition for the LX350 is stiff and includes Porsche Macan5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lincoln MKX, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Audi !5, among others. Still leading the pack though, the RX 350 is-and remains-ever popular.


MSRP: $43,300; total vehicle price $55,690; destination $940
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC Four Cam 24-valve, V6 with Variable Valve Timing, 295 hp., 267 lb. ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/manual shift mode, continuously variable automatic
Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
Width: 74.6 in.
Height: 67.7 in.
Length: 192.5 in.
Wheels: 20-inch alloy
Tires: P235/65VR18
EPA fuel tank capacity: 19.2 gal.
EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg.
Weight: 4,250-4,750 lbs.
Pricing: $41,000-$55,000

2016 Scion iA Sedan

iaSusan Frissell

Having just spent the last week in the 2016 Scion iA, the edict comes down from Toyota: They are killing the Scion brand. Spun off as a separate lineup of vehicles in 2003, Scion will now slip off into oblivion to that great automobile place in the sky. Another foreign-car fighter bites the dust. Scion sales dwindled in 2015, to 56,817 units (a drop of 3 percent).

The Scion iA, introduced last year isn’t a bad little sedan; but not a compact entry that will be sorely missed. We attended the launch for the Scion iA and iM a year or so ago and thought the two new entries somewhat noteworthy, but also more contestants in an already crowded market.

Toyota North American CEO Jim Lentz stated this isn’t a step backward for Scion; rather a “leap forward for Toyota.” Scion, according to Lentz, was an ‘entry point for cost-conscious, young buyers.” A platform for allowing Toyota dealers to attract and engage young customers, the Scion brand was kind of an experiment, including all that was new and high tech.

The average age of the Scion buyer was 36 years; 70 percent of those buyers who had never purchased a Toyota. Not necessarily on an upward climb, Scion may have succumbed to plunging gasoline prices, crushing sales of small cars.

The sad part-for this writer-is that anything that ISN’T a sport-utility-vehicle is headed for oblivion. What with Fiat Chrysler just announcing they may kill the compact Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans, only to bring out additional SUV’s. Not only are cars idolized as they once were, but now the “car” as we know it, may be history.

Despite Scion’s struggles, their products did seem innovative when first out. The FR-S sports car, along with the iA and iM, so it’s said, will live on as Toyota models. Whether the public supports it or not, automotive manufacturers might want to make available a sports car; something fun, not only practical.

Our Scion iA, a base model selling at just over $17,000 (including destination) was well-equipped, yet not fancy. Cloth interior, the basic AM/FM/ HD Radio with six speakers and the only available power plant, a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder, 16-valve. Six-speed automatic and manual transmissions are available and fuel economy is a respectable 31/41 mpg.; average 37 mpg.

The Scion iA comes well-equipped for an entry-level sedan and includes the usual Halogen headlamps, 7-inch color touch screen display, Ports w/iPod connectivity, Am/FM/HD, Bluetooth wireless, voice recognition, connected service suite, Pandora , keyless entry, push-button stop/start, A/C, 60/40 split rear seat, carpeted floor mats, and a large host of safety technology.

Competition for the Scion iA is Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic and Spark, SmartforTwo, Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent. Some with a little more style, but fewer standard features. Acceleration seems a tad sluggish in the iA, the upholstery what you’d expect in this level of vehicle, but the iA takes most road surfaces well, gets you from point A to point B, and provides a good value. It feels like a solid little sedan when on the road.


MSRP: $16,800; total vehicle price $17,570; destination $4770

Engine: 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder DOHC, 16-valve, 106 hp., 103

Transmission: six-speed automatic w/sport mode

Wheelbase: 101.2 in.

Height: 58.5 in.

Width: 58.9 in.

Weight: 2,385 lbs.

Length: 171.7 in.

Wheels: 16-inch 16×5.5 in.

Tires: 185/60R16

Warranty: 3 yr/36,000-mile basic; 2 yr/25,000-mile free maintenance; 5 yr/60,000-mile drivetrain

2016 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0 T

Susan Frissell,

The 2016 Hyundai Sonata is available in several trim levels, including SE, Eco, Sport, Sport 2.0 T and Limited 2.0 T editions. The entry-level SE model available in two versions: SE. From there one can opt for the Sport trim level, and Limited edition. Something for everyone.son

The 2016 Sonata resembles the 2015 redesign-more bland than we would like; perhaps a needed change, to reflect the new “Fluidic Sculpture” design that closely resembles the updated Genesis. The Sonata is sleeker, with improved aerodynamics and is packed with a lot of great features. Cabin roominess abounds, from front to rear seating areas. It looks bigger on the outside and feels bigger inside. The interior feels more upscale; again mimicking the updated Genesis.

The biggest change in the 2016 Sonata has to do with the base infotainment system. The touchscreen has gone from a 5-inch to 7-inch, while adding additional features already included with the 8-inch optional screen. Hyundai has added Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Smartphone functionality. A new version of Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system now features remote ignition, automatic emergency contact notification in the event of an accident. All destination search powered by Google (w/navigation).

The entry-level engine in the Sonata is Hyundai’s 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, with 185 horsepower. The choice of the turbocharged engine adds horsepower and quickness, but we found it to be wanting. Not as quick as expected, the 2.0-liter turbo had more 4-cylinder whine than we like. 16int

The Sonata has always been a favorite and no doubt, a great value all around. For some reason, this drive elicited some different-and unexpected feelings in this writer. While a great daily driver, we thought the sedan felt ‘light,’ less than agile underfoot, especially on wet pavement, and not as solid as some sedans.
While this impression in no way takes away from all that is the Hyundai Sonata, we felt as though other choices might be more in tune with our driving needs and choices.

Even now, no other manufacturer can beat Hyundai’s 100,000-mile warranty, more than fair pricing and vehicles that offer a lot more for the money. These are easy cars to drive and maintain, requiring very little.
Our test model was the Sport 2.0 T Limited edition, complete with several options. We especially like the new flat-bottom steering wheel, sport-tuned suspension, blind-spot warning, rear-cross traffic alert system, among up-to-date safety technology, giving it the highest possible safety rating. The center console is straight forward with old-fashioned buttons. We like the compass located in the rearview mirror and all the legroom.20-2015-hyundai-sonata-fd-1

The Sport version also has a more aggressive bumper, side chrome molding, side rocker extensions, unique rear fascia and quad exhaust outlets. As expected, the Sport version gets such goodies as Xenon headlights, sport seats with accent stitching, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, and sport-tuned steering and suspension.

Adding a few additional items to the Sport 2.0 T limited, you get the panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise, automatic high beam headlight control, rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning system, auto pre-collision, auto engine start/stop, driver memory settings, heated steering wheel, rear window sunshade, ventilated front seat and nine-speaker premium audio system.

As with most new vehicles, connectivity is the thing; as up-do-date as possible. All Sonata models are equipped with iPod/USB/AUX inputs, SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth for phones. While the base Sonata lacks a color infotainment display, a five-inch color touchscreen is one model level up with a vibrant eight-inch color display optional. Hyundai is also offering Apple CarPlay integration with certain headunits (late availability) and a 400-watt Infinity premium audio system with next-generation Blue Link telematics.

Among those features standard in the Premium package, the 2.0 T limited version adds a six-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, LED taillights, leather upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror and wood grain trim.
Our limited edition Sonata came equipped with adaptive cruise control system, adaptive high-beam headlights, lane-departure warning system, rear parking assist sensors. All of this requires a different grill, front-end; the one with a big black plastic panel. Perhaps not as attractive as the other model.

Competition in the Midsize sedan marketplace includes Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Mazda6, and Subaru Legacy. Although it can be a tad difficult to name a few ‘cons’ to the 2016 Sonata, we found that the new styling is more common place. When the Sonata first entered the marketplace in 2005, it stood out. To some it was too different, but we liked it.

Our second ‘con’ we mentioned before: we didn’t find the turbo quick enough. On one occasion, the car quickly corrected itself after a sharp turn on slick pavement. While this was a good thing, the car felt light.

The ‘pros’ are many-and obvious: pricing, car for the money, long warranties, fuel efficiency, and for those concerned about the environment, the ECO edition. As stated above, the new Sonata’s generous interior space is a plus, particularly when carrying that fifth passenger. And our Limited edition 2.0 T even came equipped with a CD player, slowly becoming an obsolete feature.

Disappointing engine performance and bland design put the 2016 Sonata a few steps back in our driving log. Nevertheless, it continues to remain an excellent value, and a great car to drive over the long term.


Pricing: starts at $26,887
Engine: 2.0-liter, Turbocharged, I-4, 240 hp., 260 lb. ft. torque
Transmission: six-speed automatic w/Shiftronic lock and Shiftronic manual shift mode, FWD
Wheelbase: 110.4 in.
Length: 191.1 in.
Width: 63.5 in.
Height: 58.1 in.

2016 Toyota 4Runner TRD PRO

Susan Frissell

After driving the 4-Runner 4×4 TRD Pro for the good part of a week, we finally discovered the rear wiper. It was hard to imagine there wouldn’t be one; the stalk indicated there was one. Perhaps it had something to do with the rear window, which operates from the console with an up/down switch. After accidentally lowering the rear window, the wiper appeared??

The 2016 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is a tough-looking SUV, large at over 4,000 pounds, riding high. Who is this particular package is aimed at? Seriously off-roaders who prefer to do it in a SUV rather than a truck, of course.

We couldn’t help think the 4Runner TRD edition seemed dated. A “throwback” of sorts, this cumbersome SUV, does, believe it or not, appeal to some consumers. One can trace the evolution and popularity of the sport-utility-vehicle: from trucks to weekend get-away transportation, to ever-popular sport utes.

Not a vehicle for the ‘common’ crowd, the 4Runner TRD performs best, we’re sure, out West, traversing dunes, back roads and off-road trails. Needless to say, this isn’t terrain this writer covered while driving the 4Runner TRD. We did however drive it through Chicago snow and ice.

We could imagine the 4Runner TRD going on and on, just about forever, never needing much in the way of upkeep, ever faithful. Not a daily driver, this ‘truck-like’ SUV willing to perform for those outdoor types, yet resting during the week.

And, that’s the way most would prefer to use it. Although one could drive the 4Runner TRD every day, as we did, there are many other vehicles that more closely fit the bill, providing more refinement and comfort.

The 4Runner TRD version is almost sinister looking and a little retro (think: the Toyota emblem up front). Kind of silly, but kind of cool looking with its black wheels. Our test vehicle in “Attitude Black Metallic” came with black interior, as well as the TRD stamped aluminum front skid plates, TRD shift knob, TRD Pro floor mats and “TOYOTA” front grille with badging.

Although equipped with the latest brake technology (EBD, Brake Assist, Smart Stop Technology, Crawl Control), we discovered the 4Runner doing some creeping forward when stopped at lights. Without realizing it, we ended up right on the bumper of the car ahead of us. Didn’t sense it. More foot power seemed to be needed when braking the 4Runner TRD.

Other available trim levels in the 4Runner include SRS, Trail and Limited.

2016 4Runner TRD in Attitude Black

2016 4Runner TRD in Attitude Black

With most fleet vehicles, a road-test is what takes place, while writers play with new technology, think about ride/feel and what makes a particular vehicle stand out. With a vehicle like the 4Runner TRD, an off-road test would be in order. Which may mean setting aside a day or two to drive; and of course, to locate the terrain that shows off the vehicle’s attributes. Utilizing such features as the 4Runner’s transfer case to shift into low range gear isn’t something this writer experimented with on Chicago road surfaces.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed driving the 4runner TRD and appreciated some of the ‘normal’ vehicle attributes, such as Keyless entry, safety equipment, AM/FM/CD 6.1 inch /Navigation/App Suite/ Bluetooth, heated front seats.


MSRP: $41,110; total vehicle price $42,540, destination $885
Engine: 4.0-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 w/Dual Independent VVT-I, 270 hp., 278 lb-ft. torque
Transmission: 5-speed auto w/ ECT-I, 4-wheel-drive
Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
Length: 191.3 in.
Width: 75.8 in.
Height: 72 in.
Wheels: 17-inch, TRD alloy
Tires: P265/70R17
Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs.
Curb Weight: 4,750 lbs.
EPA fuel economy: 17/22 mpg.
Fuel tank capacity: 23 gal.
Warranty: 3 yrs/36,000-miles basic

2016 IS 200t F-Sport Package 4-door sedan


This is one Lexus product we don’t mind driving whenever it’s available. Probably our favorite Lexus product, the IS2005 is way fun.

Sounds silly, I know, but with so many vehicles available today, the differences in them begin to disappear. Especially partial to performance vehicles, Lexus doesn’t necessarily fit this category. But the IS200t drives and acts a little like a performance car, and we welcome that.

Revamped in 2014, the IS took on a little bit of an edgy look, resembling Lexus’ NX trim versions. It’s about time, we thought. While this sedan is not large by any stretch of the imagination, it is agile, and fun to drive.

In the entry-level IS 250, Toyota plunked the 2.5-liter V6 engine. Adding a turbo engine and/or the 3.5-liter V6, coupled with Lexus’ F-Sport package, made the IS a real contender. Handling was much improved, and the car’s all-around feel felt, well, less Lexus-like.

The new powerplant in the IS is now a 2.0-liter twin-scroll Turbocharged inline 4-cylinder with VVT and 241 horse. Our test vehicle, although carrying a near-luxury price tag of $37,325 quickly become a lot more pricey once a few ‘special’ options were added.

Our test IS 200t came equipped with a lot of standard features, as expected, and an added couple of options: Blind Spot Monitor cross-traffic alert heated outside mirror ($600), F-Sport package ($3,545), Navigation system/Mark Levinson Audio System, 5.1 surround 17-speakers, 835 watts, remote touch interface, Lexus Enform Destinations, App Suite, Voice Command, Lexus Insider, Electrochromic auto–dimming rearview mirror ($2,645), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control w/Pre-collision System ($500), Preium Paint ($595), F-Sport perforated leather heated steering wheel with paddle shifters ($150). Yikes.

Hard to give up a few of these goodies; namely, the Mark Levinson stereo. We had so much fun throwing in sound tracks form The Imitation Game and The Danish Girl, and ramping up the volume. The F-Sport package, in this writer’s opinion, is also a must.

So be ready to shell out some big bucks for this compact-ish sedan. Some may not have warmed up to the new styling out of Lexus; we like it and believe it was time to do something different; read: less bland.

Competing with the likes of Mercedes C300, BMW 328i, Infiniti and Acura, the IS 200 may fall somewhat short, but in some ways, we’re talking apples/oranges.

Lexus’ 200t’ model name also sits on the Lexus NX small crossover, Lighter than the crossover, the IS 200t benefits with the same engine. Not a record-breaker but top speed is claimed to be 148 mph. The car seems to hold the corners well, and although somewhat ‘light,’ navigates normal roadways with a little understeer, Once all four tires are on the pavement, the IS 200t appears confident
The consensus was to definately opt for the special paint: Ultrasonic Blue Mica. At the ‘premium’ price of $595, it is a real gift to yourself, but stands out.

The IS 200t’s interior isn’t award-winning, but comfortable. This is a tight fitting cabin, however. It somehow feels good as the driver has the feeling of being ‘tucked in.’ Not a lot of room for movement, however. Stats state seating is 2/3! There is a regular rear seat, but not recommended for long trips.

Now that we are accustomed to the ‘joystick’ that navigates your display, audio, we kind of like it. There are, of course, various versions of these controls throughout autoland. Some better than others.


MSRP: $37,325, total vehicle price $46,300, destination $940
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder inline, Variable Valve Timing Intelligent Wide, 241 horsepower, 258 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/ECT-i
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
Height: 56.3 in.
Width: 71.3 in.
Length: 183.7 in.
Curb Weight: 3,583 lbs.
EPA fuel economy: 22/33 mpg.
Fuel tank capacity: 17.4 gal.
Tires: 225/45R17 all-season
Wheels: 17-inch aluminum
Warranty: 4 yr./50,000-miles basic; 6 yr/70,000-miles drivetrain

2016 Scion tC Coupe

Susan Frissell

The Scion tC is one coupe option from the youth-oriented manufacturer; the FR-S being the other. While they offer a different type of vehicle and driving experience, they have similarities. Offering a smoother, more composed-less sporty-ride, the 2016 tC is a lot of car for the

The tC manual version starts at a very reasonable $19,385; the six-speed automatic at $20,535. Our test tC came without any options, making the total vehicle price a pleasing $21,330. This writer did a double-take at the Monroney. Since when have I had a window sticker in my hand with such a reasonable price?

For those drivers wanting to customize their tC, they will find aftermarket appearance and performance upgrades through the dealer.

The 2016 Scion tC is a great value. Equipped with about all a driver needs.Loaded with safety features, the tC is also equipped with up-to-date technology, including Bluetooth, Hands-free phone capability, AUX/USB port w/Pod connectivity, Aha apps, Smart Key w/push-button start, music streaming, etc.

Power windows, locks and mirrors are standard, as well as steering wheel audio controls, and a sunroof! New for 2016, the Display Audio System is standard equipment. The driver seat is manually adjusted, and can be set for height. The driver’s side window is one-touch automatic up/down. Seating surfaces are trimmed in leather and although stiff, are supportive.

The tC’s three-spoke steering wheel is tilt/telescopic and has audio controls. Cruise, A/C and 60/40 split reclining fold-fit rear seats are also standard. The rear seats recline somewhat. Don’t expect heated seats in this coupe, but then it’s an entry-level vehicle.

In addition to supportive seating, the tC is an easy coupe to maneuver, takes most road surfaces well and doesn’t feel as cramped as say, the FR-S. The 2.4-liter, inline 4 engine in the tC is smooth, runs well, but somewhat under-powered for our taste. While the FR-S rides low to the ground, as expected, the tC sits higher.

The updated styling of sharp angles and added creases in the corners make the tC look inviting, and new. This hatchback is a front-wheel-drive vehicle, and we had no trouble maneuvering in Chicago’s snow. Equipped with stability control, traction control and ABS, the tC performed well.

Drivers will appreciate the oft-forgotten rear window wiper. Why more hatchbacks don’t come equipped with this needed piece of equipment is beyond us. Projector beam headlamps and LED accent lights provide much needed light, and the panoramic glass moonroof is a nice addition.

Perhaps not as agile as the FR-S (nor is it supposed to be), the tC fits that spot that says ‘a reasonably priced entry-level, great-looking coupe., A great first car purchase for young drivers, the Scion tC is well-equipped and appointed.


MSRP: $20,535; total vehicle price $21,330; destination $795
Engine: 2.5-liter, 4-cyl DOHC 16 valve, VVT-1, 179 hp., 173 lb. ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed Sequential auto transmission w/paddle shifters, Dynamic Rev Management and controllers
Wheelbase: 106.3in.
Length: 176.6 in.
Width: 61.4 in.
Height: 55.7 in.
EPA Fuel Economy: 23/31 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.5 gal.
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Tires: 225/45R18
Curb weight: 3,082 lbs.
Warranty: 3 yr./36,000-mile basic

2016 Kia Optima SX Limited

Susan Frissell

I ran into an acquaintance yesterday who not only remembered my name-when I could not recall hers-but also remembered that when we had a discussion about what cars to buy, she recalled right away that I recommended the Kia brand. Funny how some things don’t change; and this writer’s recommendation of the Kia vehicles hasn’t waned.

This week we spent some time in the redesigned Kia Optima. Our model, the SX Limited (MSRP $35,790). In a beautiful royal blue, the 2016 Kia Optima adds more interior features, is available in five trim levels and is still reasonably priced.

The entry-level LX model begins at $21,840 and goes up from there: EX ($24,340), SX T ($27,700), SXL ($35,790 and the Limited ($35,500. Our SX Limited version carried an MSRP of $36,600, putting it in the category of luxury sedan pricing (think Infiniti Q60, Lexus IS, etc). Good company, but for a lot less.

2016 Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima

For 2016, the Optima increases trunk space to 15.9 cubic feet, providing a wider opening. Rear seats are split-folding and make it possible to tote a lot more stuff. While we prefer the original styling of the Optima, the 2016 look is more conventional and ‘common,’ should we say. Still a handsome sedan, the Optima is one of our favorites.

There is a lot to like about the 2016 Kia Optima; namely the Panoramic sunroof, large 8-inch display screen, and such features as Supervision Meter Cluster, 10-way power seat, heated rear seats, LED fog lights, power-folding side mirrors, heated steering wheel, MP3 audio ready system, push-button start, and very cool diamond-quilted Nappa leather seat trim.

Larger, taller, wider, the 2016 Optima has a quiet, composed ride. We found the engine somewhat wanting, but adequate for most driving situations. There was no lack of get-up-and-go when navigating the highway ramp. Drive-abikiality isn’t the most solid. This writer has a tendency to compare with performance sedans, which isn’t accurate. We did think though, when navigating slippery streets, the Optima acted as though it might not hold the road. One thing we found is that the driver cannot look away and expect the car to hold the road. Doing so for seconds at a time, this writer experience a lot of wander.

The Optima is equipped with the UVO eServices system which includes 911 Connect, a service that automatically dials out to emergency responders following a collision and an air bag deployment. New features for UVO eServices include Speed Alert, Curfew Alert, Geo-Fencing, and Driving Score. Also new, and taking a little getting used to is a reversing camera blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, and an Advanced Smart Cruise Control system with forward-collision warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking are available as options.

The 2016 Optima is the first Kia to offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay technology. Also new is the 360-degree around-view monitoring system, and the optional Infinity premium surround-sound system that uses the Clari-Fi music restoration and QuantumLogic soundstage signal distribution technologies to deliver. The ‘high-fildelty’
sound is evident; you’ll find yourself looking around the cabin!


MSRP: $36,600
Engine: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 247 horsepower, 260 lb.ft. torque, FWD
Transmission: six-speed automatic with Sportmatic, drive mode select system (normal, sport, eco), paddleshifters
Wheelbase: 110.4 in.
Length: 191.1 in.
Width: 63.5 in.
Curb weight: 3,219 lbs.
Height: 57.7 in.
EPA Fuel economy: 24/35 mpg.
Fuel tank capacity: 18.5 gal.
Wheels: alloy
Tires: P205/65HR16
Warranty: 5 yr./60,000-mile Basic; 5 yr./60,000-mile, Corrosion; 10 yr./100,000-mile,Drivetrain; 5 yr./60,000-mile, roadside assistance