Monthly Archives: December 2018

IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Honors: 2019 Best of the Best

Susan Frissell, editor

IIHS has chosen it’s ‘best of the best’ vehicles for the year 2019. Last year, only 12 vehicles initially qualified for the top category. Another 27 qualified as IIHS Top Safety Pick Winners.

As automakers continue to make needed changes and improvements, it becomes a little easier to name new cars the “best.” Qualifications by IIHS have been tightened for 2019, including an increase in crash-test standards. As expected, many major brands were in the top running, including Subaru, Kia and Hyundai.

Stricter standards require automakers to get at least a “good” rating in a passenger-side crash test which assess the vehicle’s performance when the front-right corner smashes into something. Also required in the Top Safety Pick list are “good” headlights. Most of the vehicles to qualify must have the optional upgrade packages that have better functioning headlights.

The IIHS has found that many vehicles available do not provide sufficient nighttime illumination due to poor manufacturing, inadequate design and outdated regulations. Insufficient illumination has been the reason no pickups and some popular SUV’s have not been on the list.

The Top Safety Picks include:

Small cars: Honda Insight, Hyundai Elantra (after 9/18), Kia Forte, Kia Niro hybrid, Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid, Subaru Crosstrek, Subaru Impreza 4-dr. sedan, Subaru Impreza wagon, Subaru WRX;

Midsize cars: Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry, Genesis G70, Lexus ES;

Large cars: Toyota Avalon (after 9/2018), BMW 5 series, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4-door sedan;

Small SUVs: Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-5;

Small cars: Hyundai Elantra GT, Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid (after 8/18), Kia Soul, Nissan Kicks, Toyota Corolla 4-door hatchback;

Midsize cars: Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Audi A3, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4-door sedan;

Large cars: Kia Cadenza

Small SUVs: BMW X2, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester;

Midsize SUVs: Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder (after 8/18), Toyota Highlander;

Minivans: Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey.

There were, of course, those brands that did not make the list in any category. Those included General Motors, Ford Motor, Tesla, Volvo, Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep, Ram and Dodge.

Next on IIHS’ list will be coming up with measures to assess each vehicle’s performance on pedestrian safety, amid heightened awareness of the pedestrian safety crisis. On that list will be some kind of emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

(USA Today, December 19, 2018)

2019 Toyota Tundra 4×4 Limited Double Cab

>Susan Frissell, Editor

Still a popular pickup, the Toyota Tundra appears to be aging and not in full step with say, the Ford F-150. However, even with all its worthy competitors, the Tundra still sells well and is a ‘luxury’ truck of immense size.

Toyota’s first attempt at a full-size half-ton truck, the Tundra’s competition is plenty, and includes GMC Sierra, Ram 1500, Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado. While the Tundra still sports the 5.7-liter V8 powertrain, the competition has adopted more efficient engines, such as diesel and turbocharged V-6’s. This, of course, affects fuel economy and even at 18 mpg on the highway, the Tundra isn’t measuring up.

But for some, this fact is refreshing. No push-start engine button, no turbocharger whine, or other things that to some, just don’t ‘feel’ like a truck. After all, a truck is supposed to be rugged, but maybe with a few amenities. And, we suppose there are those buyers who wouldn’t buy any truck that isn’t “American.”

Held up against the other trucks out there, the Tundra doesn’t look much different, or dated. A little more simple, perhaps. Frontend updates and some additional safety equipment have been added for 2019.

Modern conveniences such as rear-backup camera w/touchscreen, six airbags, tire pressure monitor, pre-collision system with pedestrian protection, Dynamic Radar cruise control, Lane Departure with Alert, with sway warning system and automatic high beams, abound; along with all the up-to-date safety features.

Our test Tundra, Limited edition, came with leather-trimmed and heated 10-way power-adjusted passenger front bucket seats. The sound system is also up-to-date with Entune Premium Audio with navigation, App Suite, 7.0-touch screen w/backup camera, AM/FM/CD, Phone, Music, Siri Eyes, 3-month free Sirius XM. And, of course, a full tank of gas!

Trim levels consist of the SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, TRDPro and the 1794 edition. Pricing falls between $31,420-$50,430. Oh, and a full—size spare is standard.

We had both the opportunity to drive the Tundra Limited around town as well as the distance from Indy to Chicago. It handled well on the highway, quietly and with little sway, which is more obvious when driving in-town. Getting used to the great-sized mirrors took some time, particularly, when navigating narrow streets. Thanks to the help of backup cameras and rear-parking assist and blind spot monitor available on the optional Limited Premium Package ($1,065).

Last refreshed in 2014, the Tundra was offered in 2018 as Double Cab and the larger CrewMax. Customers had the choice of 5.6-ft., 6.5-ft. or 8.1-ft. cargo bed, 4.6 V8 or 5.7-L V8 engines, 2 or 4-wheel, with 6-speed transmission.

Frissell Fido Four Friendly Rating

I had hoped the truck would be a pleasurable ride for the Fab Four but instead, they cowardly climbed into the rear seats-with help, of course, as none of them could jump that high. We then tried out, or tried to, the bed, again too high for them to navigate the jump alone. Once Lucy (Chihuahua) and Gypsy (Whippet), the two “Wild Childs” were up in the bed, they became afraid-very afraid. Maybe it would just take a little time, but they both wanted off that bed, immediately.

Too bad, I’ve often considered getting a truck, thinking it would suit them-dogs-just fine. Guess I’ll be rethinking that idea. Too much work for me. A simple command for my dogs isn’t going to get them to jump up into a truck! Spoiled??

The horizontal rear window is power with privacy glass. So the pups can watch the road-backwards.

If you’re wondering about room, though, the rear seats offer plenty of space for dogs, even four! My pups are small and medium, but any dog would fit. And it’s a comfortable ride. Room in the rear seating is generous, with a 60/40 split seat. The front seating is a 40/20/40 split-fold down front bench.

Although it’s never a good idea to ride in a truck with dogs in the bed, people do it. It’s dangerous, even if they are crated. And, some breeds may be better suited for bed riding; think Labs or Aussies. The 6.5-ft. double-walled bed has rail caps and is sturdy and accommodating for other cargo. A deck rail system is equipped with four adjustable tie-down cleats to hold things in place.


MSRP: $43,735; delivery, $1,395
Total vehicle price: $48,610
Options: Running boards ($345); Limited Premium Package ($1,065 includes front/rear parking assist, Sonar, Blind Spot Monitor, rear Cross traffic Alert (upgrades in color-keyed rear bumper), Power Windows with Driver and Front Passenger Auto up/down, Anti-Theft system with alarm, Glass Breakage sensor, Engine immobilizer); TRD Off-Road Package ($70, includes upgrades standard wheels to 18 split 5-spoke TRD off-road package alloy wheels and P275/65R18 tires, includes Trail Tuned Bilstein Shock Absorbers, Engine skid plate, front tow hooks (4×2 models), standard on 4×4 models. LED headlights, LED fog lights (on 5RS and Limited models and 1794 edition models), TRD Off-road floor mats(on 5RS and Limited Models), and Bedside TRD Off-Road Decals).
Pricing: $31,420-$50,430
Engine: 5.7-liter V8, dual-independent VVT, 381 hp., 401 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/sequential shift 4-WD Demand, Part-time 4WD w/Electronic Controlled Transfer Case, A-TRAC and Auto LSD
Wheelbase: 145.7 in.
Height: 76.0 in.
Length: 228.9 in.
Width: 79.9 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 38 gal. (larger fuel tank)
EPA fuel economy: 13/15/18
Bed Length: 78.7 in.
Bed depth: 22.2 in.
Tires: P275/55R20
Wheels: 20-inch alloy
Curb Weight: 5,240 lbs
Tow rate: 10,500 lbs.

2018 Lexus RX 350L Luxury

Susan Frissell
Editor, WWW

Equipped nicely and without want, the 2018 Lexus RX 350L has grown in size and feels much larger than the original RX. And women like driving this? It seemed large to this writer. But, the ever-popular Lexus RX still reigns and is sought after, despite its high price tag.
Our 2018 LX Luxury edition came at a cost of $61,660 total vehicle price, with a couple of options. To be sure, there isn’t anything wanting, and the options add up to high numbers.

For instance, options included were Blind Spot Monitor with Rear-Cross Traffic Braking and Intuitive Park Assist ($1,065), Cold Weather Package (windshield deicer, headlamp cleaner, $200), Triple Beam LED Auto Leveling Headlamps w/washers, cornering large LED front turn signal lamps and rear combination lamps, $1515; 12.3-inch Navigation System Mark Levinson 15-speaker Premium Audio Package, Lexus Enform Destinations (1-year trial), subscription, Lexus Enform App Suite, $3,200.

I guess one can expect to pay upwards of $50,000 today for a premium, large SUV. And because Lexus tops the market, it may be a fair ask. We enjoyed driving the RX but found it too large for our taste. Are consumers really wanting a much larger SUV these days? Guess so.

Our test Lexus RX came equipped with all that’s expected, including a powerful V6 engine, Full-Time Active Control All-Wheel-Drive, ABS, Brakeforce Distribution/Brake Assist, Rain-sensing wipers, Lane Departure alert w/steering assist and lane keep assist, Theft Deterent system, Scout GPS Link, Rear Door Sunshades, 12-way power semi leather-trimmed front seats, heated wood steering wheel, Aluminum roof rails, LED ambient illumination, power back door, power tilt/slide moonroof, Push button stop/start, and 4.2 Multi-information Display with Lexus personalized setting, among other goodies.

We thought the driver’s seat sat tall, although adjustable. It felt as though we were steering a large ship, and noticed at times, it didn’t always hold the road as well as expected. It’s hard to fault a Lexus product, and often there isn’t much that’s negative to note. However, we didn’t enjoy driving the RX as much as other Lexus products.

Seats are large and accommodating for all body types. Controls are fairly intuitive and don’t’ take a large learning curve, which is staying a lot for this writer. Skipping some of the extras (options), buyers can expect pricing to hover around the low $50,000-mark, but discounts do exist.

The RX is a refined third-row luxury SUV based on the Toyota Highlander/Kluger, and offered since 1998. A hybrid version is also available. It’s, as expected, quite and smooth. However, we noticed more wind noise than expected this time around. A fault of this particular press car, or are they getting sloppy? We also noticed when taking corners, the RX felt heavy. And third-row seating isn’t always what you think it’s going to be; meaning, adults will be snug.

Frissell Fido Friendly Rating

The Frissell 4 rode back/forth to Chicago from Indy. Huddled In the adequately covered back seat, mostly sleeping. Space is plenty and the Chihuahuas took to curling up on the floor, which offers a wide space between front/back seating areas. Height proved an issue for the little ones, as well as our 12-year old Whippet, meaning, they were air-lifted in/out of the RX. If time hadn’t been tight, a great picture of them all looking into the front seat from the back would have been taken.

Generally, the 4 behave quite well. If I owned the RX would I allow them to travel in it? Not sure. Would like to think the RX would be the one car that would be kept pristine. Generally, good choices for toting dogs, SUV’s closely follow the smartest car on the road, the Minivan.

Fuel economy isn’t stunning, but this is a heavy vehicle at over 4,000 pounds. So averaging 23-25 mpg. On the highway was about standard. We weren’t complaining.

We’ve noticed a return of the Heads-Up display in vehicles. Is this due to the aging population of drivers? I do have a 2003 Corvette that has a Heads-Up display, and although in the past, I regarded it as ‘silly,’ I’ve begun to rely on it. The color heads-up display in the RX ($600) may not be needed by all drivers, but like all special options, once you become accustomed, you rely on it.

Competition for the RX 350 includes Acura MDX, and Infiniti QX60, among others. Leather seats are not standard on the RX, a surprise at this pricing point.


MSRP: $54,085; total vehicle price $61,660; destination $995.
Pricing: $43,470-$50,520
Engine: 3.5-liter, 290 hp., 24-valve V6 with Variable Valve Timing
Transmission: 8-speed automatic Drive Mode Select, Full-time Torque control AWD
Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
Width: 74.6 in.
Length: 192.5 in.
Curb Weight: 4,222 lbs.
EPA fuel economy: 18/25 mpg. , 21 mpg./ avg.
Wheels: 20-inch supper chrome alloy wheels with color inserts
Tires: 18-inch
Fuel Tank Capacity: 19.2 gal.
MPS: 17/20 mpg
Competition: Lincoln MKT, Infiniti Q60, Acura MDX
Warranty: 4 yr./50,000-miles basic coverage; 5 yrs./70,000-miles powertrain; 6 years/unlimited mileage corrosion perforation coverage