Monthly Archives: January 2016

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 Mazda6 I Grand Touring Sedan

Susan Frissell,

The 2016 Mazda6 I Grand Touring midsize sedan is a quiet player in this segment. Whether it is due to lack of advertising or just plain runner-up status, the Mazda6 isn’t as well known. Consumers will be impressed, however, if they just step into the Mazda showroom and request a test drive.

Partial to the Mazda brand, this writer believes the Mazda6 has a lot to offer. For 2016, the sedan has a few updates, including LED lights to replace xenon lighting, revised GT trim and front/rear styling, a larger 7-inch touchscreen on the Sport models, sport mode option for all automatics, and all versions get Electronic Parking Brake, upgraded dash trim, center console and armrest.

The driver’s seat has several settings which took us a little time to get used to. Stiffer than other sedan seating, the Mazda6 seating is sporty and attractive. At first startup-on a very cold morning-the 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine sounded noisy, but after kicking into gear and cruising along Chicago streets, it quieted.

Performance out of this 2.4-liter engine is adequate for this 3,200 pound sedan, but not outstanding. A six engine or turbo might make the Mazda6 a little more attractive. Competing with the likes of Kia Optima, Toyota Camry, Buick Regal-just to name a few-isn’t easy, as all of the above offer a lot for the money.

The Mazda6’s ride is stiffer than much of its competition; offers a more ‘athletic’ stance, but when navigating bumps, potholes, is quite a bit more noticeable. This is a sedan for those who prefer a performance vehicle. Which is what the Mazda brand sells.

For those with a more refined taste, there are plenty of choices, including Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Subaru, some of which also offer other engine choices (6-cylinder, turbocharged)

The Mazda6 is available in several trim levels, including i Sport (manual and automatic), i Touring (manual, automatic) and Grand Touring (automatic only). One engine is available, Mazda’s 2.5-liter, 6-cylinder (six-speed manual or 6-speed automatic). Positives regarding the 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring include a smooth and responsive powertrain, quick acceleration, attractive, well-laid-out interior and upgraded materials.

The Mazda6 comes equipped with all the desirable standard features, even on the base manual-transmission, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a 60/40-split rear seat, a multi-information display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with an iPod /USB interface and an auxiliary audio jack. If equipped with the optional automatic transmission, the Sport also includes a 7-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera and audio upgrades (voice commands, HD radio, Internet radio apps, text message display function and automatic emergency notification).mazda6

Of course, more equipment is added as one moves into the Touring and Grand Touring editions. On the Grand Touring model, additional equipment includes adaptive cruise control, frontal collision warning system with automatic braking, automatic transmission, sunroof, upgraded 11-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio. Consumers must opt for this package if they want to add the Touring Technology package (which adds front end styling: LED head and taillights.

Our test Grand Touring sedan came equipped with the optional GT Technology package (adaptive cruise, frontal collision system, automatic braking, lane departure warning sytem, automatic high-beam control, energy capture system (i-Eloop). Also optional are rear parking sensors.

The Mazda6 offers a firmer ride than many of its competitors, but this is a sporty sedan. Front-wheel-drive, the Mazda6 also has the usual in safety: ABS, traction/stability control, plenty of airbags, all accounting for its 5-star safety rating.

Standard safety features on the Mazda 6 include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Standard on all trims other than the manual-transmission Sport are a rearview camera and automatic emergency notification (in the event of a crash), while rear parking sensors are optional across the board. The Touring and Grand Touring trims additionally include blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring.

The GT Technology package for the Grand Touring also bundles a forward collision warning system (which uses radar to detect your closing distance on vehicles ahead and then provides visual and audible alerts) with a lane departure warning system.6

Combined EPA rating is 32 mpg., which is commendable in a midsize sedan. As with all Mazda products, the driving feel possesses a “light-on-its-feet” character, in handling and feel. This may not be the kind of road/driving experience every consumer likes, and in fact, we were thinking maybe some of the competition might be preferable (namely, the Buick Regal). Steering, however, remains precise, serving up the sporty Mazda feel.


MSRP: $30, 195

Engine: 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, 184 hp., 185 lb.-ft torque, DOHC

Transmission: 6-speed sport Automatic


Length: 192 in.

Width: 72 in.

Height: 57 in.

Tires: P225/45R19 all-season

Wheels: 19-in alloy

EPA fuel economy: 28/40 mpg., avg. 32 mpg.

Curb weight: 3,250 lbs.

Warranty: 3 yr/36,000-miles; 5 yr/60,000-miles

Road America Offers Motor Coach Service to Chicago Auto Show

ELKHART LAKE, Wis., January 20, 2016 – Road America will again offer a ‘road trip’ to the Chicago Auto Show in February. Leave the driving to a deluxe motor coach-the Auto Show Express-Wisconsin residents too, can join in the fun.

Operating on Tuesday, February 16 and Wednesday, February 17, the motor coach will offer convenient round-trip service from five locations located along Interstate 43 including Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Cedarburg, Milwaukee and Racine.

For just $50 each, riders get admission to the Chicago Auto Show and the round-trip. Express bus service will depart from the following pick up points for the trip to Chicago between 6 and 11 a.m. Return trips from McCormick Place to Wisconsin will depart from McCormick Place at 4 p.m. So this year, spend less time sitting in traffic, and more time enjoying the Chicago Auto Show on behalf of your friends at Road America. untitled

Pick-up locations:
• 6:15 am Departure from Holiday Inn Manitowoc Parking Lot (BACK WEST LOT, near I-43) (Exit 149)
• 6:50 am Departure from Sheboygan Park & Ride, adjacent to Home Depot, West of I-43 (Exit 123)
• 7:35 am Departure from Cedarburg Park & Ride (Exit 89), East side of the interstate
• 8:20 am Departure College Avenue Park & Ride, Milwaukee (Exit 319), SW Lot, West of Interstate
• 8:45 am Departure Racine Park & Ride at Hwy 11 (Exit 335)

For more information on the Road America Auto Show Express, and to reserve your spot, visit or call 800/365-7223. Small coolers are allowed on board. No carry-ins at the show allowed and all bags are subject to search. Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted. Visit for floor plan, list of displays and more show information.

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

Julia Landauer signs with Bill McAnally Racing

The Driving Range: Dani Ben-Ari

“Survivor: alum Julia Landauer is out to see how long she can last as a professional racer after signing on to be part of Bill McAnally Racing’s 4-car NASCAR K&N Pro Series lineup. She only lasted 19-days on the show.

benJulia, 24, who actually drove in a few NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model races for the team in 2009, will now compete alongside defending K&N West champion Chris Eggleston, 16-year-0ld Riley Herbst and 15-year-old Todd Gilliland. Todd is the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland. The team, which has won six K&N West titles, plans to run all four drivers in the K&N West Series along with select K&N Pro Series East events.

Landauer, who describes herself as “competitive, passionate, intelligent and driven,” not only was the 1st female champ in the 31-year history of the Skip Barber series (winning it at the age of 14). She also made history again becoming the 1st woman to win a NASCAR Limited Late Model championship at Motor Mile Speedway this past September. Julia began the night only 2-points ahead of second place, then managed to drive her #70 Intellidact/Computing System Innovations LPP racecar to 3rd place, snagging the title by 10 points.

Note: Landauer was also the 1st woman to win a race in the Limited division at Motor Mile, was the 1st woman to qualify on pole in that division, and the 1st female to ever lead the championship points in that division

Maria Teresa de Filippis. first female to race in F1 dies at 89

The Driving Range: Dan Ben-Ari

Several Maserati 250s taken at 1957 British Grand Prix

Several Maserati 250s taken at 1957 British Grand Prix

F1 racing pioneer Maria Teresa de Filippis, passed away last Friday (Jan. 8) at the age of 89. Born November 11,1926, in Naples, Italy, de Fillipis began her racing career at the age of 22, winning her 1st race, a Fiat 500, on a 10 km drive between Salerno and Cava de’ Tirreni, despite teasing from her brothers that she would never “be able to drive fast.” From there she went on to drive in the Italian sports car championship, finishing 2nd in the 1954 season, and gaining the attention of Maserati, which brought her in as the works driver.

She participated in a variety of car racing events, including hill climbing and endurance racing, before becoming the 1st woman to drive in Formula One. She finished 2nd in an event supporting the 1956 Naples Grand Prix, driving a Maserati 200S.

Although she failed to qualify for both the Monaco Grand Prix in 1958 and 1958, de Fliipis did make 3 Grand Prix starts for the Maserati team in 1958, although she scored no points. In fact, her best finish was 10th at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, after 9 cars ahead of her crashed out.

She later retired from F1 after her Porsche team boss Jean Behra died while driving in the sports car support race for the 1959 German Grand Prix at AVUS on August 1, 1959. Maria Teresa was supposed to drive at that event and was devastated by deaths of several friends during her time in the sport and especially that of Behra. She left the circuit to get married and raise a family in 1960, and did not participate in anything to do with motor racing until 1979, when she joined the International Club of Former F1 Grand Prix Drivers. She became Vice-President in 1997, and later became a founding member of the Maserati Club in 2004, serving as its chairperson.

Since de Fillipis retired from the track, only 4 other women started an F1 race. The 1st was another Italian, Lella Lombardi, who competed in 3 seasons, from 1974 to 1976. She signed up in 17 races and started 12, having her best result in 1975 Spanish Grand Prix where Lombardi finished in 6th. The race, however was stopped before 3/4 of the scheduled race distance was reached resulting in only 1/2 points being awarded. Yet it was enough to make her the only woman to score points towards the World Championship.

Next came England’s Divina Galica who attempted, but failed to qualify for the British Grand Prix, along with Lombardi (who also failed).

In 1980, Desiré Wilson of South Africa tried to qualify for the British Grand Prix. Although she did not succeed, Wilson became the only woman to win a F1 race of any kind when she won at Brands Hatch in the British Aurora F1 series on April 7. In recognition of this achievement, Wilson has a grandstand at Brands Hatch named after her.

The last woman to try to compete in a Formula One Grand Prix was Italian Giovanna Amati in 1992. She tried to qualify for 3 races, but failed each time. She was replaced by Damon Hill, who also failed to classify the car in the following races.

U.S. Auto Sales Setting Records

Source: Motor Authority, 2015

Coming off a record year, the automotive industry set new records in the overall market. Light vehicle sales hit 17,470 units in the U.S., up 5.7 percent. BMW took the top selling luxury brand spot in the U.S. for 2015 (346,023 units), followed by Lexus (344,601) and thirdly, Mercedes-Benz (343,088). Surprisingly, Audi didn’t suffer too much given the VW snafu, and in December along, sold 20,399 units; their best December ever. YTD sales for Audi were 202,202 units, up 11.1 percent.

Luxury car sales in the United States in 2015

1) BMW – 346,023 – up 1.8 percent
2) Lexus – 344,601 – up 10.7 percent
3) Mercedes-Benz – 343,088 – up 3.8 percent
4) Audi – 202,202 – up 11.1 percent
5) Acura – 177,165 – up 5.6 percent
6) Cadillac – 175,267 – up 2.6 percent
7) Infiniti – 133,498 – up 13.8 percent
8) Lincoln – 101,227 – up 7.1 percent
9) Land Rover – 70,582 – up 37 percent
10) Volvo – 70,047 – up 24.3 percent
11) Porsche – 51,756 – up 10.1 percent
12) Jaguar – 14,466 – down 8 percent
13) Maserati – 11,697 – down 9.6 percent
14) Bentley – 2,686 – down 10.6 percent
15) Rolls-Royce – 1,140 – up 2.6 percent