Monthly Archives: June 2013

New 2014 Mazda3 Unveiled

NEW YORK (June 26, 2013) – The all-new 2014 Mazda3 compact five-door had it’s worldwide reveal during an event in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. After weeks of media speculation and numerous “leaked” images of enthusiast renderings, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) pulled the sheet off the highly-anticipated redesign and confirmed the car will be on sale this fall.

The all-new Mazda3-which will go on sale this fall-is engineered by SKYACTIV®[1]technologies – a proprietary suite of fuel-efficient, performance-driven components and manufacturing philosophies – as well as the handsome styling of the KODO design language.

According to Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO, MNAO, the Mazda3 is the brand’s best-selling and most recognizable name plate, with more than 3.5 million vehicles sold globally. The redesign for 2014 shows just how much attention to detail and care we put into this important vehicle.” “SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY and KODO claim that with even more technologies and materials to be introduced with the 2014 Mazda3, SKYACTIV technology outperforms itself.

“ On the heels of the launch of the 2013 CX-5 compact crossover SUV last fall and the 2014 Mazda6 early this year, this is an exciting time for Mazda, and we’re only getting started,” remarked O’Sullivan.

Lower and leaner than its predecessor, this third generation Mazda3 shares almost nothing with its older siblings, and is all new from the ground up. The 2014 Mazda3 sits on a wheelbase of 106.3 inches (2.4 inches longer than the previous generation), yet the five-door is 1.8 inches shorter in length at 175.6 inches. With a height of 57.3 inches and a width of 70.7 inches, the Mazda3 reduces its ceiling by 0.6 inches and gains 1.6 inches in the hips while retaining similar headroom space and offering rear legroom at 35.8 inches. The rear seatbacks are nearly 2.0 inches taller for added passenger comfort. Front and rear shoulder room also has increased to 57.2 and 54.4 inches, respectively. This efficient use of space is wrapped in the increasingly striking dimensions of KODO, Mazda’s “Soul of Motion” approach to designs that exude emotional proportions and refined strength.

The 2014 Mazda3 comes equipped with either the standard 16-inch full-cover steel wheels or higher trim-equipped 16-inch and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.The Mazda3’s cab rearward posture and raked profile further emphasize agility and speed.

The all-new Mazda3 sports a dynamic five-point grille, expansive sheet metal cresting over sleekly slanted headlamps, wide-stance muscular fenders and taut character lines flowing from panel to panel. Its rear-end is chiseled and  features “provoking” taillights, giving the new car a look unlike any other. Yet such style is not without purpose as the five-door and sedan models achieve best-in-class coefficient of drag, when equipped with i-ELOOP and an active grille shutter. Mounted in front of the radiator, this new feature automatically opens and closes in accordance with driving conditions. This function improves the car’s aerodynamic performance while contributing to real-world gains in fuel economy.

The new Mazda3 will be available in eight colors, including the premium metallic finish Soul Red Metallic. Two all-new Mazda hues will also be introduced: Titanium Flash Mica and Deep Crystal Blue Mica.

The new look includes the driver-oriented cockpit, pedals that have been laid out symmetrically to the left and right of the driver’s center-line with a hinged organ-type accelerator pedal as standard for added safety and comfort. Each control and function is specifically designed to appeal to the senses and placed with intuitive utility in mind. The less time spent focusing on adjusting knobs and tapping touch-screen commands, the more time a driver is engaged with the actual act of driving, being alert to what is on the road ahead and, therefore, being able to react quickly, accurately and safely.

The base of the A-pillars have been repositioned 3.9 inches rearward to afford greater range of vision for both the driver and front passenger. The outside mirrors also are mounted onto the doors instead of the base of the A-pillar to expand the scope of visibility when looking over mirrors from the driver’s seat.

All-new for Mazda vehicles and being launched with the 2014 Mazda3 will be a next-generation human-machine interface (HMI) system. Based on the heads-up cockpit concept, the new HMI system aims to help drivers maintain proper posture, concentrate on the road and drive more safely, even while handling larger amounts of information. The information used is divided into groups, and an innovative screen layout is employed to let the driver safely balance the primary job of driving with other peripheral information.

The 2014 Mazda3 also is the first vehicle to feature Mazda’s all-new Active Driving Display, a clear pop-up panel that displays vehicle speed, navigation directions and other important driving information, and is vertically mounted behind the meter hood. This feature not only places necessary information comfortably in the driver’s line-of-sight but also directs the display beyond the instrument panel, more in line with where a driver’s eyes are naturally focused. The Active Driving Display panel will automatically fold back into a hidden position when the ignition is shut off.

The redesigned meter cluster features a centrally positioned analog gauge flanked by a pair of wing-shaped digital displays. The dial face for the center gauge is characterized by three-dimensional metallic numerals. Its red-ring border pulses as soon as the driver’s door is opened, a nod to the vehicle’s inescapable sporty DNA. From the gauge clusters extends a decorative dash panel finished in satin chrome with piano black trim pieces adorning select areas of the center console and front door inserts.

The seat architecture has been redesigned with added focus on comfort and space, while at the same time reducing weight. For example, the front seat backs were further sculpted to provide rear seat passengers more knee room than the previous generation Mazda3, and shoulder room for all passengers increased as well. Additionally, the driver’s seat cushion was made larger, while still optimizing the seat back to create a more natural seating position with ample lateral support, a welcome adjustment for those prone to long drives.

Available in cloth (Black, Sand), leatherette (Black) and leather (Black, Almond) seat materials, the multitude of exterior and interior color combinations and accents further showcases the attention made to the finer touch points and to the varying degree of consumer preferences.

Mazda’s infotainment system gets an overhaul as well, including adapting to new smartphones, tablets and other updated technology. So that consumers can continue to be connected in real time, Mazda has developed its new operating system to be intuitive and less distracting, and includes connection via Bluetooth, complete with the newest features.In addition to the current music access points via standard AM/FM radio, CD and USB/auxiliary port connections and premium content such as Sirius® Satellite Radio, new features such as internet-based apps Aha by HARMAN™ will be available. An optional Bose® premium audio system with Centerpoint® 2 virtual surround sound playback will bring the harmonies and vocals to life for even the most discerning of audiophiles.

The system also can read email and short messages aloud while the vehicle is in motion using text-to-voice technology. Short Message Service (SMS) messages can be received and shown on the touch screen monitor. The system can then articulate the messages as well as allow users to send replies using fixed phrases. A new speech recognition system also allows users to repeat and shuffle audio tracks, as well as search and select folders. When connected with a smartphone, Twitter® and Facebook updates can be read by the system with audio responses available using the Shout function. The system also allows users to search the internet for locations and map directions. An SD card-based navigation system is optional.


For the North American market, the 2014 Mazda3 will be offered with two engine choices: the currently-offered SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine and a new SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter gasoline engine, as fitted to the CX-5 and 2014 Mazda6. Globally, the Mazda3 offers the widest SKYACTIV powertrain line-up in order to meet local market demands, and will be available withSKYACTIV-G 1.5- to 2.5-liter-sized gasoline engines, aSKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean diesel engine and as a hybrid electric vehicle (Japan only).

Both engines feature a new high-tumble-port 4-2-1 exhaust system that increases engine output. The SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 150 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. As compared to the outgoing MZR 2.5-liter engine, the torque output on the SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter engine at low- to mid-range speeds is increased by 10 to 15 percent, and its weight is reduced by 10 percent. The SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter produces a peak of 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm, both figures are increases of more than 10 percent over the MZR engine.

The 2014 Mazda3 will be available with a choice of theSKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual andSKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic transmissions. SKYACTIV-MT offers the short, crisp shift pattern reminiscent of the MX-5 Miata. SKYACTIV-Drive achieves a direct shift feel and quick gear changes that contribute to quick acceleration, while maximizing the best features of a direct-shift gearbox and a conventional torque-converter system.

Mazda’s unique i-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system employs a capacitor to store electricity generated when the vehicle decelerates. Brake energy regeneration systems improve fuel economy by reducing the inherent parasitic drag of the alternator when possible, to maximize the efficiency of the vehicle under all modes of operation. Unlike other battery-based systems, i-ELOOP, its name derived from “Intelligent Energy Loop,” is the world’s first capacitor-based system to power all of a vehicle’s electrical components.

The added combination of theSKYACTIV-Body andSKYACTIV-Chassis enhances theJinba Ittai spirit by offering high-performance, lightweight materials for added strength and safety. Carefully engineered load-transfer ensures a firm grip on the road that the driver can sense. The SKYACTIV-Body provides increased rigidity of 30 percent compared to the previous model while reducing weight as well.

Straight line stability, tire grip and ride comfort have been greatly improved by tuning the suspension system’s springs, dampers and stabilizers. Mazda’s new mechatronic column-type electric power assist steering system is compact and lightweight, with a gearing ratio of 14.0:1. The brake response also was improved to be even more responsive, allowing for excellent vehicle control and feel as well as a braking distance amongst the best in the segment. Such improvements also reduce rolling resistance, all improving fuel economy.

A new lightweight material that exhibits a high level of noise absorption is introduced on the dash insulator and floor mats, and insulating material also is positioned for maximum effectiveness behind the instrument panel. These measures achieve a level of cabin quietness that is highly competitive within the compact car class, and fully comparable in a class-above vehicle.

The 2014 Mazda3 introduces several all-new safety systems under the umbrella known asi-ACTIVSENSE. These technologies use sensing devices such as milliwave radars and cameras to support the driver in recognizing hazards, avoiding collisions and minimizing damage, should accidents occur. While these systems will not eliminate accidents, their intent is to minimize them and reduce the severity of a crash.

The features available under i-ACTIVSENSE for North America are:

  • · High Beam Control (HBC) – The system automatically switches the headlamps between high and low beams.
  • · Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) – This safety confirmation system detects objects located in blind-spot areas to the sides and rear of the vehicle and issues a visual alert within the outside mirrors for the driver to see. Should the turn signal be on for the direction in which the “blind” object is located, audible beeps will alert the driver.
  • · Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) – This system monitors the lane markings on the road and issues a warning to the driver when it predicts that the vehicle is going to depart from its lane.
  • · Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW) – This system monitors the vehicle ahead and issues both audible and visual alerts to help the driver take evasive action when it determines a high risk of collision to exist. FOW operates when traveling between speeds of 9 and 92 mph.
  • · Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) – When traveling at speeds of less than 19 mph, SCBS helps prevent or minimize a collision with a vehicle. Should the imbedded laser sensor detect an object, and the system calculates there may be a high risk for collision, the brake pedal travel is reduced in order to hasten braking. Should the driver fail to perform an avoidance maneuver, the system will activate an automatic braking function.
  • · Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC) – The system determines the difference in speed and distance to the vehicle in front and will automatically adjust the cruising speed in order to maintain a safe distance.

For more information on Mazda vehicles, including photography and B-roll, please visit the online Mazda media center


2013 MazdaSpeed3 Hatchback

mazdaspeed3Reviewed by Susan Frissell

The five-seat Mazdaspeed3 is the high-performance version of the compact Mazda3, equipped with Mazda’s 263-horsepower, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 280 pounds-feet of torque. Historically one of the best values in performance cars, the Mazdaspeed3 competes with the Volkswagen GTI and Subaru Impreza WRX.

The base Mazda3 is a sedan, or four-door hatchback, and the Mazdaspeed3 available only as a hatchback. The Speed3 sports the Mazda smiling grille, anchored by a lower air dam and flared front fenders. The hood has a functional wide scoop to funnel air through the car’s high-mounted turbo intercooler. Exterior features consist of a standard rear spoiler, standard fog lights, dual tailpipes, and unique 18-inch alloy wheels. Available bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are also an option.

Matching the Mazdaspeed3’s gunmetal wheels are side mirrors and rear lower valance with black finish. One of the standard features we enjoyed is the rain-sensing, intermittent wipers which came in very handy on a recent drive into storm territory.

Interior-wise, the Mazdaspeed3 shares its overall design with the regular Mazda3. However, to give it the sporty feel, the Mazdaspeed3 has red accent stitching on the shift boot, steering wheel and seat fabric. Interior features include: standard leather- and cloth-trimmed sport seats, LED turbo-boost gauge between the speedometer and tachometer, 60/40-split folding backseat, available 5.8-inch touch-screen navigation system, and available HD Radio. SiriusXM Satellite Radio (with free 4-month subscription) is standard and features a 265-watt Bose audio system with good sound.

Standard for 2013 is a USB port and technology package that features a touch-screen navigation system, text message playback and voice-activated reply, as well as Pandora integration.

Front-wheel drive remains the sole driveline, and the car is fitted with a standard six-speed manual transmission.

Standard safety features on the Mazdaspeed3 include four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, Electronic stability system with traction control, and front-seat side-impact and side curtain airbags.

The MazdaSpeed3 is a fun and engaging hatchback. But drivers be mindful, this is a car with a lot of power and agility. Drivers who aren’t adept at handling sports-themed vehicles could get into trouble. This car is fast and twitchy.


MSRP: $24,200

Engine: 2.3-liter, MZR DISI turbocharged 4-cylinder, 263 hp., 280 lb. ft. torque

Transmission: Close ratio 6-speed manual, Limited-slip differential

Wheelbase: 103.9 in.

Height: 57.5 in.

Width: 69.7 in.

Length: 177.6 in.

Tires: 225/40R 18 884 High Performance Y-speed rated

Wheels: Gun metal finish 18-in. aluminum-alloy

EPA fuel economy: 18/25 mpg.

Warranty: 3 yr./30,000-mile Bumper-to-bumper; 5 yr./60,000-mile limited powertrain; 3 yr./30,000-mile 24/7 Road Assistance

2014 Kia Sorento SX AWD

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

The Sorento has transformed itself in the last several years from a body-on-frame SUV to a car-based, friendly midsize vehicle. With the changes incorporated for 2014, Sorento has redesigned itself. The 2014 version sports the Kia kidney grille and new sheet metal on the tailgate. New taillamps are also noticeable, along with vertical foglights.

2014sorento_BannerWhat is really new for 2014 is Sorento’s is the reworked chassis: Keeping just 20 percent of its former parts (while dropping curb weight 250 pounds), Sorento has been given a new suspension, subframes, along with new welding and bracing. All these changes translate to a much improved interior.

Several versions of the Sorento, including the EX, LX, SX and SXL trims. Equipped with a standard 4-cylinder engine, our Sorento was powered by the optional V-6 engine with 290 horsepower, plenty of power to move the some 3500 pounds of vehicle.

We have driven the Sorento models equipped with the 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder (191 horse) and while not a bad engine at all, it feels a tad mediocre when trying to maneuver the Sorento. Our SX came equipped with the 3.3-liter, V-6, standard on the EX, SX and Limited. The Sorento in general, offers more standard features than other SUV/CUV’s, provides a very comfortable quiet ride. Edmund’s has named it their “top pick.”

Safety features abound in this midsize SUV and include the usual: dual front advanced airbags, front seat=mounted airbags, side curtain airbags (first/second row), front active headrests, ABS, traction control, Electronic Stability Control, Hill-start Assist Control and Tire Pressure Monitoring System.

The Sorento’s interior is nicely laid out, easy to live in day-to-day and all technology is easily reached and learnable. Our SX came equipped with an 8-inch navigation system display screen, Infinity Surround-Sound Audio System, SiriusXM Satellite radio, a CD player, USB/iDevice integration and six-speakers.  UVP eServices Telematics with rear camera display is also included. The audio system provides great sound, ease of operation and of course, Bluetooth streaming telephone technology.

In addition to improving its system, Kia has integrated some smartphone apps, including the ability to download destinations to the car after locating them on your iPhone , recover your lost car in a parking lot, use your phone’s data connection to run vehicle diagnostics/heath checks. The system will also call 911 for you if the airbags deploy.

Although perhaps not as customizable as some systems (think the new Cadillac LCD system), Kia’s includes most required bells and whistles.

sorentointThis writer found herself recommending the Sorento recently at a gathering when asked about a replacement for her Santa Fe (which, by the way, she has enjoyed thoroughly over the last 8 years). The Sorento is a very maneuverable vehicle for its size, with excellent turning radius.

Our test Sorento SX donned the leather seating-ventilated and heated, no less-push button start and leather-wrapped steering whel and gearshift knob. The Sorento’s second row seating is 40/20/40 split, folding and works easily to accommodate larger loads. A third row is available.

The tile/telescoping steering wheel and  large seats fit those drivers who are tall and wide. The Sorento felt large to this writer, having been used to the CUV versions of sport-utes. Blind-spot detection is helpful here and we could imagine driving the Sorento on long road trips.

A feature we enjoyed is the panoramic roof and power sun shade. Both front and rear passengers can enjoy the open air, akin to being in a convertible. Well, not exactly, but kind of! Drivers can enjoy the best of both worlds: room and sun. All-wheel-drive is optional, and our SX version came equipped with AWD.

While the SX is a top-of-the-line version of the Sorento, pricing upwards of $37,000 seems steep. Competition includes the Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX9, Nissan Murano. At 184 inches, Sorento isn’t as long as some in its class; namely, Dodge Durango (15 inches longer), Honda Pilot (7 inches longer) , or Dodge Journey (6 inches longer).

As with all the Kia vehicles, we highly recommend them. It is hard to beat the quality, pricing and amenities available in this lineup. With of course, one of the best warranties in the business. Ditto for Hyundai.


Engine: 3.3-liter DOHC 6-cylinder CVVT V-6, 290 horsepower, 252 lb, ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/Sportmatic

Width: 74.2 in.

Length: 184.4 in.

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Height: 66.9 in.

EPA Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.4 gal.

Maximum towing capacity: 1,650 lbs.

Curb weight: 3,594 lbs.

Tires: 235/55R19

Wheels: 19-inch alloy (17-inch standard)

EPA fuel economy: 18/24 mpg., average 20 mpg.

Warranty: 10 yr.,/100,000-mile limited drivetrain; 5 yr./100,000-mile rust; 5 yr./60,000-mile roadside assistance; 5 yr./60,000-mile limited basic.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X2-Trendsetting SUV Version 3.5

georgeDrive…He Said

George Stratton


Evolution of the “Original SUV” Timeline

1974 – the  Jeep Cherokee / Wagoneer SJ, that descendant of the Willys Overland Jeepster wagon, introduced “Sports Utility [Vehicle]” in advertising. Then in the care of American Motors Corporation.

1985 – American Motors sketched a successor to the smaller Jeep Cherokee XJ line., using this new method called “Computer Aided Design.”

1987 -  Lee Iacocca’s “New” Chrysler Corporation  rescued the fabled Jeep brand. Having hedged all bets on a revamp of the successful “mini-van” the new owner was content with Jeep capitalizing on the perennially successful CJ off-roader.

1991 – Along came the Explorer mid-size SUV. From Ford.

1992 – the launch of the Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ proved that Americans could have both their utility and their luxury.

Mid-2000s – several worthy premiums had shoved the Grand Cherokee off the top of the SUV hill. As in BMW X5 and VW Touareg.

Late 2010 – A third generation of Grand Cherokee debuted just as the ink was drying on the paper signed by Sergio Marchionne, of Italian automaker FIAT,’ to acquire a majority stake of Chrysler from shareholders /  taxpayers. The sweater-clad Chairman of the Board looked the proud-papa. The new Grand Cherokee vaulted back up to the top of the SUV hill.

It was on a recent “Drive…He Said” excursion into Arizona’s Sonoran Desert that we tried out a refreshed 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo.

Two-Wheel Drive Survives [Packed] Desert Sand

That our GC Laredo tester was the 4×2 [read “Rear-Drive”] version, created some consternation about driving beyond the asphalt. Turned out to be misapprehension. Computer-managed traction + stability control system in conjunction with some meaty Michelin Latitude tires on 18″-inch wheels and 8.6″-inches of ground clearance made mince meat out of the packed desert dry gullies. It was all possible without the “Trail Rated” emblem reserved for GCs with Quadra-Trac II / Quadra-Drive II all-wheel drive. Undelivered -  yet hoped for during low 90° temps – were some goose bumps induced by the automatic-climate control in unison with dark tinted glass aft of the front row.

Eight Gears = Less Pain at the Pump

How does a combined 21 miles-per-gallon in a mid-size SUV with 6200-pund tow capacity grab ya? Chrysler is now making enough ZF 8HP 8-speed automatic transmissions in Kokomo, Indiana to supply all Grand Cherokees. In the Laredo the engine is aluminum-alloy 3.6-liter V6 DOHC running on 87 octane unleaded.  290-horsepressure and 260-pound-feet of spin happen without direct injection, reducing noise pollution. Helm-mounted paddle shifters help lock out higher gears, useful in light off-roading and mountain passing. Chrysler-Fiat,  how about pumping a “5.7L HemiV8 soundtrack” into the Pentastar GC‘s?

So the Grand Cherokee “makes-do” with a version of the quasi-ladder frame used for the three-row Dodge Durango. This sucker is as stiff as rigor mortis.  Remarkably it’s no heavier than a uni-body BMW X5. Segue from a Volkswagen Touareg  into the Jeep GC and sense the improved ride compliance. The fully independent suspension (front double wishbone/ rear four-links)  holds body sway at bay whether rocking over dunes or making last-minute lane transitions. Brake dive is modest while the four-wheel disc binders could stand a firmer pedal. A low-effort steering wheel, good for suburban mall hops, is complemented by less inert steering feedback and fewer turns to lock.

Wearing Sunday’s Best

Jeep has done well to offer the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee within the range of average new car pricing in the United States. Our white Laredo 4×2 tester went through the checkout at $31,000. It even includes the new TFT 7″-inch “Dynamic” Gauge Cluster. Where driver chooses between English or Metric, analog and digital and calls up all sorts of data including engine coolant temps and oil pressure readings. At this price we couldn’t care about the missing the panoramic moonroof or the 8.4″ U-Connect touch infotainment/ navigation interface. Because Bluetooth pairing is a snap, the USB interface reads even older I-Pods, and the music was listenable as long as restraint was shown with the volume. If anything the standard 5″-inch touch screen with digitized analog radio tuner and large compass readout imparts simple elegance. You know, some of us do have “Smart Phones” with GPS navigation apps.

2014jeepIs your brood of the average American size? That’s two of you adults and those pesky 1.5 kids. Once those 1.5 kids become full fledged 6 footers, they’ll have no reason to gripe in the second row of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, what with 39″-inches of room to spare for the noggins and over 38″ to stretch the legs. Gear can be gulped to the tune of 36-cubic-feet in the cargo bay. Folding the split second-row seat backs will suck up 63-cu-ft. The 24.6 gallon fuel tank would normally imply few pit stops. If it were not for the eight cup and bottle holders.

Alright, not even a swig of the Single Malt would stop a Scotsman from cringing at the GC Laredo’s faded plaid design of the cloth seating. Some hard plastic pieces “below-the-belt”  exhibited greater gaps and sharper edges than desired. The glove-box door included.

None of which can undo the fact that the Grand Cherokee inner environment  is remarkably placid as in “What drivetrain whine and  wind / road noise?

Dust laden as the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4×2 was after an afternoon of fun in the Sonoran sands, we were still presentable enough for the evening mass at the desert oasis of St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox monastery outside Florence, Arizona. Located where the cactus ends and the olive groves begin.