Monthly Archives: February 2018

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE

Susan Frissell,Publisher

Some may find the new Toyota C-HR compact SUV quirky and without a market, but we thought it handled well, provided a quiet, smooth ride and offers something a tad different from the business-as-usual SUV’s out there today. We enjoyed our week in the all-new Toyota product.

Competing with several more vehicles than we expected, the C-HR will win points for being a Toyota-in many shoppers minds, that is. Competitors include the obvious Nissan Juke, and Kia Soul. Perhaps the not so obvious include the Chevrolet Trax and Fiat 500X. Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX3 and Nissan Rogue Sport, are also on the list, as well as the Honda HR-V.

A lot of choices in the friendly-size category these days, although this writer isn’t just sure how anyone opting for this style SUV would do so when opting for more space. True, one does sit up higher, which is a big appeal for shoppers, women especially.

Seating for five makes the C-HR, a subcompact crossover, plausable, and may attract plenty of would-be RAV4 buyers. The price is right (starting at $22,500), and no doubt, one can easily drive and park this smaller SUV with much ease. The C-HR came to be when Scion was still imagining desirable vehicles, and thought they needed to contribute a compact SUV. Now badged a Toyota, the new C-HR has become the manufacturer’s most affordable SUV.

Although some may think the new C-HR doesn’t offer as much as some of its competition, we disagree. We believe it offers just enough. Not one who appreciates all the high-tech features in today’s automobiles, we’re happy to have just some basics. And that is not to say the C-HR only offers the ‘basics.’

The C-HR’s powertrain, with a 2.-0-liter, 4-cylinder, 144 horsepower and 139 lb. ft. torque, seems just right, unless you’re expecting more. We found it adequate for most driving. Matched with Toyota’s CVT transmission, the ride is sure and steady, with just enough acceleration to power this compact SUV. Noise and vibration levels, we found, weren’t near as noticeable as expected they might be. This was a surprise, and when it happens, almost always a surprise since today’s cars are so quiet.

The moment we climbed into the C-HR, we found it comfortable, quieter-than-expected and easy to maneuver. My sister owns two Kia Soul’s and the C-HR feels similar. Rear seat room for passengers is adequate with plenty of legroom. Unless someone is hovering over six feet tall, most can be accommodated in the backseat. Rear-seat legroom is commendable and we kind of like that high-placed rear door handle!

Some criticism has been thrown at the ‘weird’ shape of the C-HR. We liked it right out of the box. We didn’t receive any negative comments from riders or spectators, but other writers have reported some. Actually, it’s kind of refreshing to have a vehicle available that doesn’t resemble every other car on the block. Ok, for some, it may look disproportioned with its big rear-end and bulging fenders. Perhaps like some designs, it takes time to become acclimated to it, but personally, I would rather drive something that’s different. We think of it as “distinctive.”

By comparison, the C-HR’s tech offerings seem inadequate, but as mentioned above, for us Baby Boomers, not having so much to keep track of is refreshing. The C-HR’s seven-inch screen is standard, devoid of Satellite radio, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, or any kind of navigation. The radio is very small, placed high, and when going back/forth locating radio stations, one has to use an awkward button, seeking available channels.

The backup camera is located on the rearview mirror, smaller than most, and even though this vehicle seems to be directed at young drivers, there is only one USB charging port. Not that one can’t update a sound system, but drivers today have come to expect these kind of amenities.

Safety features on the C-HR are the standard faire, and include adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, pre-collision braking, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and automatic high beams. No blind-spot monitor or AWD offering. Fuel economy isn’t stellar, but acceptable at 27/31 mpg. We didn’t test mileage on the highway, but averaged around 29 mpg. around town. Rivals like the Mazda3 (34 mpg. highway) or Honda HR-V (33 mpg.) do offer a little better efficiency, but the C-HR weighs somewhat more, as well; around 3.300 lbs.

Helping out with a slanted rear-end window is a rear wiper blade, handy during inclement weather. The C-HR is available in two trim levels: XLE ($22,500) and XLE Premium ($24,350).

Our test Toyota C-HR carried a MSRP of $22,500 (total vehicle price $24,318, delivery $995) and included three options, including carpeted floormats and cargo mat ($194), mudguards ($129) and R-Code Color Keyed Body w/White Roof and Mirrors ($500). We liked the two-tone color arrangement, although the body called “Radiant Green” is really turquoise!


Engine: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder DOHC, 16-valve, 144 hp., 139 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: CVT w/OD, intelligence and Shift Mode, 8-speed, FWD
Wheelbase: 103.9 in.
Length: 171.2 in.
Width: 70.7 in.
Height: 61.6 in.
Tires: P225/50VR18
Wheels: Aluminum 18×7
Gas Tank capacity: 13.2 gal.
Curb weight: 3,300 lbs.
Warranty: Basic: 3 yrs/36,000-miles; Drivetrain: 5 yrs/60,000-miles; Maintenance: 2 yrs/25,000-miles; Corrosion: 5 yrs/unlimited mileage; Roadside Assistance: 2 yrs/25,000-miles

The 2018 Toyota Camry XSE: Rethinking the Sedan

Susan Frissell

I suppose like any sedan today, Toyota’s new-and smart-Camry strives to offer something a little different. As with the ever-popular (at least before the days of SUV’s), Honda Accord, these tride and true sedans have brought much to their brand.

Our week in the redesigned 2018 Toyota Camry XSE afforded some challenges as we navigated the snowy streets of Chicago. Having recently relocated to Indianapolis, I was back for the preview days of the Chicago Auto Show. Having arrived before the ‘big snow,’ I was fortunate to be settled and able to attend Thursday’s preview.

Unlike several of my colleagues who-we heard later-had made the decision to hop a plane, or take to the highways BEFORE the snow landed, my colleague George and I kept remarking how sparse the show floor seemed. Void of many of our fellow journalists, bloggers and writers, it seemed too that automotive execs and product specialists, usually in abundance, were also missing.

It made, however, for a great walk-around as we leisurely snapped photos, climbed in and out of vehicles and chatted with the few manufacturer reps in attendance.

As do most large cities that are familiar and well-prepared for what nature casts upon them, getting around Chicago wasn’t anymore difficult than usual; just somewhat slower. The 2018 Camry handled the streets well, and there were never any moments that I didn’t feel safe.

The redesigned Camry XSE we drove is available in several trim levels, including the L, 2.5 LE, automatic ($23,495), 2.5 SE, automatic ($25,200), 2.5 LE Hybrid, automatic ($27,800) and the 2.5 XLE, automatic ($28,450). Our test Camry carried a total vehicle price of $37,813. Right around today’s average price for a vehicle ($36,495). Considerable.
The L trim comes standard with remote keyless entry, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and a USB port. Add 17-inch alloy wheels, power driver’s seat, anti-theft system, and 60/40 split-fold rear seat, and you’ve got what most drivers need.

Moving up to the SE version with its different front-end design, one can get 18-inch black-finished wheels, rear spoiler, SofTex sport front seats, and dual zone automatic climate control. Three USB ports, heads-up display, panoramic roof and 7-inch color display are all standard.

As expected, there are more goodies on the XLE version, including full LED headlights, a bright metallic front grille, 18-inch chrome-finished alloy wheels, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and upgraded Tiger Eye wood or textured metal interior trim.

The XLE V6 and XSE come with a larger 8-inch touchscreen, featuring easy-to-read fonts and icons and pinch-to-zoom for maps, as well as buttons on the side of the screen to help navigate. This larger touchscreen also comes with a 9-speaker JBL premium audio system and RemoteConnect with Wi-Fi connectivity.

The grills vary among trim level: The LE and XLE sharing a look, and the SE and XSE, the same but different grille. We prefer the SE and XSE grille; although, like its cousin the Lexus, it takes a little getting used to.

The vents are large, and the upper grille seems as thoaugh it’s separate and apart from the rest of the front end. As you distance yourself, the look makes more sense and grows on you, after a while. The look is contemporary and sets the 2018 version apart from its predecessor.

We especially like the two-tone paint version of the Camry. Displayed on the auto show floor in black/white, it will easily catch a passerby’s eye with its roof and top half of the C-pillar in black. Resembling, on purpose, a sports car, this trim is something different to offer; especially in a sedan, resembling a coupe.

The Camry’s cabin gets a needed update, placing it more in the ‘luxury’ category. It is quiet and comfy, with upgraded materials. As with many vehicles today, though, there is a lot going on up front. A well-lit dash and all kinds of high-tech features, these new vehicles can intimidate the average driver.

This writer needed tech help to figure out the GPS offering. Unless you want to pay extra for the usual GPS system, the standard offering if a system that once your phone is synced. This is something I hadn’t realized, as I’m far from up-to-date on all things technical. My ‘teacher’ was in disbelief that I don’t carry my phone everywhere, nor do I find it necessary to connect it to the car’s system. I know….I know….

The standard infotainment system is Bluetooth connectivity, Siri EyesFree and Google voice controls for Android users, but does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. My daily driver runs with Android Auto, so I’m a tad more familiar with it. I had to download the App Scout GPS and Entune to get the Camry’s GPS system working. Not a difficult maneuver, or so I found.

The Camry comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It’s part of Entune 3.0, which comes with a host of apps, including iHeartRadio, Pandora, Yelp, NPR One, and Slacker radio. Also available are real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, and sports scores, and stock updates.

In terms of performance, the 2018 Camry’s base engine is the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, with 203 horse. Opting for the XSE version ups the engine horsepower to 206. The XSE and XLE come standard with the I4 engine, but are available with a 301-horsepower 3.5-liter V6; the engine in our test XSE. Power is there for the taking; no need to fear when navigating the ramp on 94. The 8-speed transmission shifts right into place without any fanfare.

As mentioned, the dash and controls seem somewhat confusing at first, but do maintain a Toyota pattern. The stereo works with volume and tuning knobs, and climate control is easily determined. There is plenty of legroom in the rear seating area and passengers can expect to be comfortable on longer trips.

Front seating is spacious, and seats are supportive and comfortable. Although several sedans have added a few inches to their trunk space, the 2018 Camry trunk is at 15.1-cublic-feet, about average.

As with all new vehicles today, safety equipment abounds. The 2018 Camry has a tire pressure monitoring system, and Toyota Safety Sense P, a suite of high-tech safety features provided as standard, including forward-collision avoidance, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise. The LATCH child-seat anchoring system is also standard. All these features are part of why Toyota, and Camry, stand out.

Camry also comes with a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and intelligent clearance sonar for detecting objects while parking at low speeds. The sonar engages the available 360-degree camera. The camera turns on as your moving into a parking space, allowing you to determine how close you are to the vehicle in front of you. We felt there were enough beepers going off: Waiting in line at McDonalds, coming too close to the vehicle in front, etc. We chose to turn some of them off.

Our XSE came equipped with Toyota’s V6 engine, but its biggest competition-the Honda Accord-no longer offers a six-cylinder, choosing instead to put turbo 4-cylinder’s under the hood. Not sure why Toyota stayed with the six; perhaps to be one of the few to still offer it.
With highway driving, the V-6 engine averaged around 28.7 mpg. Some have reported as high as 30 mpg., perhaps depending on what mode you choose. 22/32 mpg. are predicted.

The Camry allows for a change of modes, including Normal, Sport, and Eco. Most of our driving happened in Eco, although we like Sport for around town driving. The 2018 drives very sporty, a surprise to us, but a good surprise. Solid acceleration, responsive steering and good solid tires on the ground make this new, redesigned Camry a much better car. It’s clearly come out of sleeping mode!

We liked the Panormaic Roof, covering both front and back areas. This is a luxury, as many buyers, we guess, would forego it.

Performance tires don’t hurt, and we’re becoming fond of those black-finished rims. For those who seek the more comfortable ride, opting for the LE and XLE trim levels might appeal better. We like a car to hug the road and provide feedback. Of course, not every driver does, and might actually regard same as negative.

The only real complaints we might have had include a noise coming from the back seat area, sounding like it might be the door. Also, the raising/lowering of the front driver’s window is louder than we’d like. In all fairness, it may have had something to do with the weather: Days of ice around the casing.

Options on our XSE included Driver Assist Package, Bird’s Eye View Camera ($1,050), special color: Ruby Flair Pearl ($395), Carpet, Trunk Mat Set ($224), Illuminated Door Sill and Enhancements ($299). The Driver Assist Package includes a 360-degree camera, parking sensors, JBL Premium audio system, etc. Our back-up camera was foggy most of our test drive, due, of course, to inclement weather and ice.

Toyota seems to be competing in the BMW 3-Series range with this sporty trim level, although not sure any BMW enthusiasts would consider a Toyota product. Nevertheless, this Camry looks sporty, sexy and sculpted. We love the lines-Lexus-like, and the 19-inch wheels paried with black-finished wheels. The curvy hood and flared fenders are head turners, along with the XSE’s rear diffuser and quad exhaust tips.
A much more desirable car than in years past, this new Camry competes better with the Nissan Maxima, we think. Also a sports sedan, we favor the Maxima. But then, we’re partial to Nissan products.

Our test 2018 Camry XSE total vehicle price came in at $37,813; MSRP of $34,950. The other stats look like this:

Engine: 3.5-liter V6, DOHC 24VDirect Injection w/Dual VVT-i, 301 hp., 267 lb. ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic-inc., Paddle Shifters, Direct Shift and Speed, Sequential Shift Mode, Sport Tuned Suspension
Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive
Wheels: 19-inch, machined finished alloy
Tires: P235/40VR19
Wheelbase: 111.2 in.
Length: 192.7 in.
Height: 56.9 in.
Curb Weight:
Width: 62.2 in.
Warranty: Basic: 36,000-miles/3 yrs.; Corrosion: 5 yrs./unlimited; Drivetrain: 5 yr/60,000-miles; Maintenance: 2 yrs/25,000-miles; Roadside Assistance: 2 yrs/unlimited

Danica Goes Out in GoDaddy Green

Dani Ben-Ari

Danica Patrick 35, will seek to go out in style as she one again dons her familiar GoDaddy green at the Daytona 500 on February 18, at Daytona International Speedway.

This time, however, the car which will compete for Premieum Motorsports will sport #7 instead of the notable #10 she drove for Stewart Haas in NASCAR. In addition, the new car’s first half has been christened the “Danica Double,” and will have a white ‘7’ painted on the door and “Go Daddy” in black letters on the hood.

The “Danica Double” logo commemorates her 2018 schedule of crown-jewel races — the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 on May 27. This will mark Patrick’s 7th Daytona 500 start. She won the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500, finishing a career best of 8th that year.

Patrick announced her retirement from full-time racing during a press conference last November at Homestead Miami Speedway after losing her seat with Stewart-Haas. The team let her go following the loss of her sponsorship by Nature’s Bakery, and has already announced that they have replaced her with Aric Almirola for the 2019 season.

Danica Patrick originally shot to fame first on the IndyCar circuit where she was named the 2005 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and the circuit’s most popular driver from 2005-2010. She also won the 2008 Indy Japan 300 in 2008.

Later, Danica transitioned to NASCAR, where she achieved 7 Top Ten finishes (the most by a woman in the Cup Series), during her five years in the sport. Her best year in NASCAR however, came last year when she finished 24th overall. Still, despite having competed in more than 365 races in all competitions, and earning 14 Top 10 finishes, seven podium finishes and five pole-position wins over the years, winning has been elusive.

As a result, her novelty has worn off with both sponsors and fans. We will be glad to see her return, though. She’s one of the best drivers the sport has seen.