Monthly Archives: April 2014

2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 4×4 Crewmax

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

Having spent some time in the newly redesigned Tundra a few months ago in Tennessee, it was clear to see why this truck competes with the best of them. The 1794 edition test vehicle we drove then-and this week-is a luxury truck. And yes, there is such a beast. Driving the Tail of the Dragon road in Tennessee was great fun, and not as challenging as some might expect. Although my passenger was a little uncomfortable taking those turns in a truck. “Remember, Susan, you’re not driving your Vette.” It handled just fine.

In case you’re wondering, the 2014 Tundra is available in 15 different models. Seating five, the Tundra is a fairly comfortable ride on the highway and off. One is hard-pressed to imagine he/she is riding in a “truck.” A 21st century truck, however. Quite different than in days past. Trucks aren’t just for cowboys (or cowgirls) anymore. They are now mainstream, and for good reason.

Options on our 1794 crewmax included Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert($470), running boards ($345), 20-inch chrome clad wheels, with P275/55R20 tires ($220), bedliner ($365). While all helpful extras, if one is looking for save a little cash, these could be eliminated.


As with all vehicles today, the 2014 Tundra truck has the latest in safety equipment, including vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology. Rear backup camera and parking sonar, trailer sway control, driver/passenger front advanced airbag system, seat side and knee airbags, roll-sensing curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system.

For those unfamiliar with trucks in general, 21st century trucks in particular, the Tundra is a pleasant surprise. It isn’t hard to imagine driving this truck everyday, in general traffic. Today’s trucks are no longer just for ‘work,’ or kept on the farm. These vehicles are widely popular. Going head-to-head with the likes of Dodge Ram, Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado, Toyota’s Tundra has caught up.

This luxury hauler introduces a new edition for 2014: the 1794. This top-tier truck is named after the founding year of the JLC Ranch that once sat on the land where Toyota’s San Antonio plant sits. The 1794 has every intention of moving into the high luxury area in trucks. The 5.7-liter V8 engine is more than capable, although steering is a tad numb.

Tundra interior

Tundra interior

This is a truck that can tow 10,000 pounds and accommodate boaters and campers with a plenty of ability to a camper or boat. Rear seating is roomy and cushions plush. Riding for long distances back there wouldn’t be a burden. There may not be many cowboys driving the 1794, but if there were, we think it might be tough enough. The full-width rear sliding window is a nice touch and stands out. Drivers large and small can handle the Tundra, but the seats lack lateral support.

The Tundra’s interior is “plush” for a truck. The 1794 sports saddle brown leather trim, heated/cooled/power front seats, a good-sized console able to hold a laptop, purse and all other manner of goodies.


MSRP: $47,320 total vehicle price $49,715; delivery $995, front engine

Engine: 5.7-liter FORCE V8, DOHC 32-valve, 381 hp., 401 lb.ft. torque

Transmission: six-speed automatic with sequential shift, 4W Demand part-time 4WD w/electronic controlled transfer case, A-TRAC and Auto LSD

Wheelbase: 145.7 in.

Height: 75.8 in.

Width: 79.9 in.

Length: 228.9 in.

Weight: 5,480-5,899 lbs.

EPA fuel economy: 13/18 combined 15 mpg.

Tires: P275/55R20

Wheels: 20-inch alloy

Towing: 10,000-lbs

Fuel Tank Capacity: 26.4 gal.

Warranty: Basic: 3 yr./36,000-miles; Free Maintenance: 2 yr./25,000-miles; Drivetrain: 5 yr./60,000-miles; Roadside Assistance: 2 yr./25,000-miles; Ruse: 5 yr./Unlimited

2014 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

It may not thrill other automotive writers, but for me, a week in a brand new minivan is a treat. Ok, I admit it, I’m a nerd. You can’t beat them though, and I for one, hope the manufacturers do not discontinue these all-purpose vehicles. Once again, thanks to Lee Iacoca for inventing the minivan; a vehicle for all ages and lifestyles.

Our all-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna XLE test vehicle performed well on most fronts. Unchanged for 2014, Sienna does get a tow prep package as standard equipment. In addition, the SE trim Sienna now offers an stand-alone optional blind spot monitoring system.

2014 Sienna XLE

2014 Sienna XLE

Some call the minivan a ‘box on wheels.’ We prefer to think of it as the most space-efficient vehicle on the market. Moving people and cargo are what it does best and you cannot beat the square roomy shape that offers room enough to carry all manner of things.

Those minivans left in the marketplace include the Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan, and the re-introduced Kia Sedona. All competitive, offering a spacious interior teamed with luxury. Today’s minivan is a car of a different color; by that we mean, this is one upgraded ride. From leather to a choice of suspension tuning, minivans of 2014, are a house on wheels: complete with every kind of option one can hope for. Backup cameras, blind spot monitors, navigation systems and the latest in technology, drivers want for little.

Able to carry up to eight passengers, the Sienna is available in all-wheel-drive, front-wheel-drive, and four trim levels: L, LE, SE and XLE. The LE and XLE versions are available in seven and eight-passenger configurations, while the L and Limited are seven-passenger vehicles. The SE is an eight-passenger. All trim levels offer front-wheel-drive, while LE, XLE and Limited have a choice of all-wheel or front-wheel-drive.

The higher the trim level goes, the more luxury you can expect. The entry-level models wear 17-inch wheels, have manual sliding rear doors, a telescoping steering wheel, cruise and basic sound system. Moving into the LE gets you roof rails, power-sliding rear doors, power liftgate, heated outside mirrors, overhead-mounted consoles, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), Bluetooth phone/audio and six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.

Appealing to the sportier driver, Sienna offers the SE version. Equipped similarly to the LE version, the SE has been a tad more aggressively styled, sports 19-inch alloy wheels, unique front fascia, lower-body skirting and tinted head and taillights. A firmer suspension has been added, along with revised power steering to make the SE feel like a performer. Leatherette/cloth upholstery compliments a unique IP.

Sienna interior

Sienna interior

Our test vehicle, the XLE all-wheel-drive version, is equipped with many more luxury features, such as automatic headlights, sunroof, acoustic windshield, blind spot monitoring system, leather seating, premium IP, heated front seats, four-way power front passenger seat and poser-opening rear quarter windows. Our test XLE came equipped with just over $3200 worth of options: Blind Spot Monitor ($500), XLE Navigation Package, $1735 (Entune app Suite, Smart Key System on a all doors with push button start and remoter illuminated entry, chrome-accented outside door handles with Touch-Sensor Lock/unlock feature, rear parking assist sonar, display navigation with Entune including 6.1-inch High resolution touch-screen with split-screen capability and integrated with MP3/WMA Playback capability, 6 speakers, SiriusXM/Radio capability , HD radio with iTunes, Tagging, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity and control hand-free phone capability, phone book access, advance voice recognition and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology.

Also included in our XLE options were cargo net ($49), first aid kit ($29), Roof rack cross bars ($185), XM Satellite radio ($449), Carpet floor mats, door sill protector ($330).

As one would expect, opting for the Limited edition brings even more goodies such as 18-inch wheels, satin chrome grill and second row lounge-style seating. Leather-and-wood steering wheel and the upgraded 10-speaker JBL surround sound audio system are standard on the Limited. This writer wasn’t enamored with the sound system in our XLE. Speakers leave something to be desired and moving around the FM/AM/SAT choices is laborious.

Families can opt for a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with its large two-split display screen. Toyota’s Entune smartphone app integration will appeal to the technies among buyers.

Each Sienna trim level is equipped with Toyota’s 3.5-liter v6 engine, with 266 horsepower, enough to navigate most driving situations. This writer surprised herself when driving on 65 from Indianapolis to Chicago. All of a sudden the Sienna’s needle hit 85 mph; a smooth, cruising speed. Surprised when I glanced down at the speedo, I was impressed with the smoothness of the 3.5 engine. Testing by Edmunds’ clocked the Limited at 7.5 seconds from zero to 60 mph.

Fuel economy is estimated at 18/25 mpg, with an average of 21 mpg. Not bad for a heavy, large vehicle. But the, one doesn’t really buy a minivan for the fuel economy. Or do they?

Safety equipment, as expected, includes ABS, driver-side knee airbag, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and stability and traction control. Blind spot monitoring, rearview camera, energy absorbing collapsible steering column.

The Sienna’s seats are comfortable, yet not as form-fitting as some drivers would like. Operating controls isn’t the easiest reach, nor is the display screen easy to read. Our test XLE came equipped with second rear captain’s chairs. While legroom is maximized with this seating arrangement, it makes sense when traveling, but not so around town. That is, unless the passengers are adults. One advantage is the open floor area surrounding the seats: Great for small cargo—and pets!

Sienna XLE interior

Sienna XLE interior

The Sienna is one of the better minivans available. Its peppy acceleration and ease of cruisablity makes it a natural on long road trips. Providing decent fuel economy, tons of amenities and competent handling, the Sienna offers much.

Competitors include Chrysler Town & Country, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, and Nissan Quest and Dodge Grand Caravan. Our personal choice is the Caravan, having owned one years ago.


MSRP: $36, 185; total vehicle price $40,322; destination $860

Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve, vvt-1 V6, 266 hp., 245 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed electronically-controlled automatic OD w/Intelligence (ECT-1) active torque control AWD system

Wheelbase: 119.3 in.

Height: 68.9 in.

Width: 78.1 in.

Weight: 4,310-4,415-4480-4,465 lbs.

Length: 200.2 in.

EPA fuel economy: 18/25 mpg.

Fuel tank capacity: 20 gal.

Tires: P235/55R18 inch

Wheels: 18-inch 10-spoke alloy

Towing capacity: 3,500 lbs.

Warranty: Basic: 3 yr./36,000-miles; Free Maintenance: 2 yr./25,000-miles; Drivetrain: 5 yr./60,000-miles; Roadside Assistance: 2 yr./25,000-miles; Ruse: 5 yr./Unlimited


2014 Lexus LS 4-Door Sedan

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

When it comes to luxury, it’s hard to top Lexus, although while driving the 2014 LS, I couldn’t help but think of luxo-boats of the past (think: Buick). This is not a criticism, rather a feeling I experienced while driving the LS460. Updates to the 2014 Lexus LS460 flagship include the Siri Eyes Free compatibility for updated iPhones, improved trunk access, as well as some minor trim changes.

A high-end sedan, the LS460 leaves little to be desired. One can easily get spoiled driving a vehicle of this caliber, loaded with a plush leather interior, wood trim, massaging, reclining seats, passenger ottoman. Don’t expect to hear what’s going on outside the vehicle. You’re in a sealed chamber, meditation chamber. The only noise you’ll hear is coming from the Marc Levinson 19-speaker audio system. Owners can expect nothing but top-notch treatment from Lexus dealerships, but then, you won’t be visiting much due to Lexus’ reputation for reliability.

2014 Lexus LS460

2014 Lexus LS460

Although one can choose from some seven LS models, there is just one engine: the 5.7-liter V8 with 386 horsepower. Quiet and capable, the V8 doesn’t offer the fuel economy and power of some competitors (European turbocharged V8 engines). A heavy vehicle, the LS lumbers along like big cars do, but not as precise in steering and handling as other vehicles in its class. This writer went back/forth between ECO/Comfort and SportS mode hoping for a little more ‘performance’ car feel when in Sport mode. Not so. The difference was hardly noticeable.

A full-size luxury car, the LS is available in standard and extended (L) wheelbase, with rear and all-wheel-drive. Five-passenger seating is expected and can happen with the rear console up. Leg and head room are plentiful. One can also opt for the LS hybrid 600 h L version.

Standard equipment on the LS is plentiful and includes 18-inch wheels, LED foglamps, daytime running lights, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, adaptive automatic xenon headlights, front/rear parking sensors, rearview camera, power door closers, sunroof, adjustable drive settings, keyless entry, 12-way power front seats with 4-way lumber support, 10-way passenger seat with lumbar, leather, power/tilt/telescoping steering wheel in leather/wood combination and folding rear seat.

Our Lexus LS460 came equipped with close to $15,000 worth of options, taking our test car over the $90,000 mark. Those options included Adaptive Variable Air Suspension w/variable gear ration steering, comfort, sports and Drive Modes ($2,120), Blind Spot Monitor w/Rear Cross Traffic Alert ($500), LED headlamps w/intelligent high beams and washers ($1,450), Semi-Aniline Leather Trim Interior and Alcantara Headliner Upgrade ($550), Mark Levinson 19-speaker w/single CD/DVD player ($1,580), Pre-Collision System w/all-s[peed dynamic radar cruise control ($1,500), Ultra Luxury Package climate-comfort front and outboard rear seats, 4-zone climate control, including rear overhead ducts, Climate Concierge, power rr and rr-door sunshades, power-adjustable outboard rr seats with memory, 2-way power lumbar support and lumbar massage, power-adjustable outboard rear butterfly headrests, wood-trimmed climate and audio controls in rear-center armrest, rr-seat air purifier, cool box and rr seat-mounted side airbags (SRS), power trunk open/close ($6,870), heated wood steering wheel w/leather center pad ($110).

As expected, the LS has the latest electronic features including Lexus RemoteTouch interface, 12.3-inch display screen, navigation, Bluetooth and audio connectivity, Lexus Safety Connect ER communication system, Lexus Enform, suite with smartphone-integrated apps, and Siri Eyes Free interface. The standard sound system has 10 speakers, CD player and HD radio, iTunes tagging, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB audio interface.

Our test LS came equipped with the optional 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. We weren’t as impressed as we should have been with this upgraded system.

2014 Lexus LS460 interior

2014 Lexus LS460 interior

The LS 460 RWD is priced at $72, 140 (the AWD $75,081). From there it goes: Sport RWD, $80,490/Sport AWD $82,945; 460 L RWD, $78,440/460 L AWD, $81,925; and 600 h L, 5.0-liter, 438 hp., $120,060. Fuel economy goes up with the hybrid version: 19/23/20 mpg.

Pros and cons exist with the LS, as with all vehicles. We liked the powerful V8 engine and fairly good fuel economy, the comfort on long driving trips, spacious spa-like rear seating and interior styling. The cons include the somewhat clumsy-although easily operated-console controller and the Levinson stereo. The latter’s quality not as good as expected.

Consumers can opt for various option packages, from the All Weather package (headlamp washers, wiper de-icer), the Ultra Luxury Package (four-zone climate control, six-way heated/cooled power seats, massage functions, rear-seat side airbags, rear audio controls), the Comfort Package (power closing trunk, heated/ventilated seats, power rear sunshade). Our test vehicle came equipped with them all; hence, the $90,000 price tag!

As with all things Lexus, the flagship LS is the quietest sedan on the road, equipped with more features than most. While hard to fault, the LS seems somewhat dated; not in technology but in style and the lack of power the V8 offers. In comparison to other competitors, of course.

Competitors to the LS include the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Jaguar XJ, and Audi A8.

Lexus LS460 interior

Lexus LS460 interior

MSRP: $75,085; total vehicle price $90,675; destination $910

Engine: 4.8-liter V8, 380 hp., four-cam, 32-valve, electronically-controlled intake valve timing dual fuel injection system

Transmission: 8-speed sequential automatic, full-time all-wheel-drive w/limited slip center differential

Wheelbase: 116.9 in.

Height: 58.1 in.

Length: 200.0 in.

Width: 73.89 in.

Tires: 235/50R18 V-rated, full-size spare

Wheels; 18-in.aluminum

EPA fuel economy: 16/24 mpg; 18 avg.

Weight: 4,233 lbs.-5,159 lbs.

Warranty: Basic: 4 yr./50,0000-miles; Free Maintenance: 1 yr./10,000-miles; Drivetrain: 6 yr./70,000-miles; Roadside Assistance: 4 yr./Unlimited; Rust: 6 yr./Unlimited

Category: full-size luxury sedan


Cadillac Dealers Support the Avon Walk For Breast Cancer Chicago

cadlogoChicagoland Cadillac dealers will be supporting the 12th annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer again this year. For the fourth year in a row, dealers will donate $25 for every new-car test drive taken at one of the 16 area dealerships on Saturday April 12 and Saturday April 26, 2014. For those interested in test-driving a beautiful new Cadillac model, you just have to provide your name and Avon Walk Participant number (if you are the walker), or the walker’s number whose fundraising goal you would like to support. With a donation on the walker’s behalf, Cadillac will donate $25 to the fundraisers account.

This is a wonderful opportunity to not only support ‘the cause,’ but also to get yourself into one of Cadillac’s 12 beautiful new models. All it takes is a couple of hours out of your Saturday afternoon-hopefully, a sunny one-to support the Avon Walk and luxuriate in Cadillac’s CTS Coupe and Sedan, CTS-V Coupe/Sedan, ELR Coupe, XTS sedan, ATS Sedan, CTS Sedan, CTS sport wagon,, CTS-V wagon, SRX, Escalade and Escalade ESV.

Potential test drivers need to provide the dealer with the name and Avon Walk participant number of the walker whose fundraising goal they will be supporting and a donation will be made directly to the walker’s Avon Walk fundraising account. Drivers can also make a general donation to the 2014 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Chicago.

For more information, go to

Participating dealerships include Arnie Bauer Cadillac (Matteson), Bill Jacobs Cadillac (Joliet), Cadillac of Naperville (Naperville), David Bruce Auto Center (Bourbonnais), Ettleson Cadillac (Hodgkins), Frank Shirley Cadillac (Oak Lawn),  Gary Lang Cadillac (McHenry), Grossinger Autoplex (Lincolnwood), Grossinger City Autoplex (Chicago), Heritage Cadillac (Lombard), Napleton Cadillac (Calumet city), Schepel Cadillac (Merrillville), Steve Foley (Northbrook), DeKalb Cadillac (Sycamore), Tony Rizza Cadillac (Tinley Park) and Weil Cadillac (Libertyville).