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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.

The Time of Auto Shows

Susan Frissell

As the auto show season kicks off for 2018, there will be lots of shows to attend. Wherever you reside and whichever show you partake of, be on the look out for several new models on the horizon.

Heading the major auto show circuit was the Los Angeles show, which took palace in early December. The Los Angeles show has grown in the last 20 years to a respectable, place-to-be and be-seen auto show. Followed by the now famous North American International Auto Show, out of the Motor City, Detroit in early January.

And, if you’re in or around Chicago, be sure to take in the other ‘biggie,’ the Chicago Auto Show-the nation’s largest consumer show-beginning February 10-19.

Some of the new offerings you’ll see include the following:

*2018 Jeep Wrangler-a new redesign, the Wrangler will be available with three engine choices, including a hybrid and diesel version, and far updated technology. In two-and-four-door versions, the Wrangler’s new look has been a long time coming, making this ever-popular jeep feel more like a daily driver.

*2019 BMW i8 Roadster-This plug-in, hybrid sports coupe will get a soft top, offer a 18-mile range, and a 369-hp. powertrain.

*2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-A four-door sport coupe, the CLS gets a redesign, new inline six-cylinder engine and hybrid system.

*2019 Subaru Ascent-yet, another crossover on the market! This three-row family SUV is the largest offered by Subaru. Standard AWD, all new 2.4-liter turbo-charged Boxer engine, CVT transmission, and 260-hp. Expect to be able to tow your boat, too, with capacity up to 5,000 pounds.

2019 Subaru Ascent

*2019 Lincoln Nautillus-a funny name for this crossover; formerly known as the MKX. This new Lincoln will have semi-autonomous technology, enabling drivers to stop-and-go”non-driving.” Making it more high tech, the Nautillus will have precollision braking (“evasive steer assist”).

2019 Lincoln Nautillus

*2019 Infiniti QX50-The brand’s successful midsize crossover will be the first to show off Infiniti’s new platform, and include the new variable-compression-ratio engine (2-liter, 4-cylinder VC Turbo). This AWD SUV offers 268 hp. and fuel economy of 26 mpg.

*2019 Porsche Panamera Turbo SE-Hybrid Sport Turismo-one of our favorites, the Panamera adds a ‘wagon’ model complete with 680-hp. twin-turbo V8, 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds. Different than other Panamera offerings, this new beauty is not only practical, but handsome, and starts at $188,400.

*2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Convertible-long awaited, the Vette ZR1 gets a drop-top (additional $4,000). At 755-hp., this baby will fly topless and no doubt, be much sought-after. Adding about 60 pounds to the ZR1’s weight, this version will still hit 0-60 in under three seconds, and reach speeds of over 210 mph. At $123,995, you can bet owners will be sleeping in the garge with this monster.

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Convertible

*2018 Hyundai Kona-Again, another Hyundai crossover vehicle added to the fleet, fulfilling their promise of adding many new crossovers. As an entry-level, the Kona is available with AWD and a turbo 4-cylinder, 175 hp. engine.

*2018 Nissan Kicks-Funny name for this entry-level crossover. Following in Nissan’s successful Rogue series footsteps, the Kicks uses the same engine (1.6-liter 4-cylinder borrowed from Versa, and estimated 33 mpg.).

2018 Nissan Kicks SUV

*2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross-Now with three models to offer, Mitsubishi introduces a new crossover with an old name. Complete with tech offerings for the
Millenials, this crossover offers an available turbo 4-cylinder, 152 hp. engine.

If you can believe what you read, rumors suggest some other possible models appearing in 2018-19-20, which although remain to be seen have certainly been explored. Among those possible up-and-comers are the 2019 Toyota Supra, 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, the 2018 Ford Mustang GT460, the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and the 2019 Ford Ranger Truck and 2020 Ford Bronco.

If you missed any of the above auto shows, perhaps you can make it to New York in April for the ever-popular New York Auto Show.

The 104th Indianapolis Auto Show

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Whether or not you are in the market for a new car, or like us, you’re a car lover, you’ve got the annual Indianapolis Auto Show right in town. Beginning the day after Christmas, December 26 and running through January 1, this should be on your to-do list.

The 104th annual Indianapolis Auto Show returns to the Indiana Convention Center on Tuesday and thousand of lookers are expected to attend. Twenty-one automotive manufactureres from around the globe will be there to introduce their new and improved 2018-19 models. Expect to see 400-some cars and trucks on display at Indy’s Convention Center on Capitol St.

This year’s show highlights include specialty cars, auto product specialists, as well as interactive games. Bring the kids as there is plenty to see and do.

Also on hand will be the Indiana Blood Center, taking donations through their blood mobile.
Show hours:
Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 – 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 1, 2018 – 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Adults: $7.00
Children: 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult
Active Duty Police and Fire personnel, Military, active guard and reserve, all free

For more information about the 2018 Indianapolis Auto Show, visit the website at

What better place to spend the day during these frigid cold temps?

Hope to see you there!

GM first to offer Marketplace App

DETROIT December 2017 — General Motors is launching a new in-vehicle app named Marketplace that will allow drivers to pay for goods such as gasoline or coffee and schedule service through their infotainment systems.

Free technology-the industry’s first-is expected to expand quickly. Beginning with about 12 offerings, the App has such popular offerings as Dunkin’ Donuts, and TGI Fridays. In addition, dealership services (think oil changes), are onboard. Those big names who have signed up for Marketplace include the likes of Shell, Wingstop, ExxonMobil,, Parkopedia, Applebee’s, IHOP and Starbucks is expected to be added in early 2018.

With the intention of ‘improving how GM’s customers interact with the vehicle and the dealership network, Marketplace, states Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president of global connected customer experience, “will have “secure connections, and is not meant to be an in-vehicle digital billboard.” Marketplace, adds, Chamorro, is designed to work while people are driving.

A matter of discussion among car companies for years, in-vehicle marketplaces and app-based services will now be able to complete financial transactions. Currently, GM is remotely sending Marketplace wirelessly to all 2017 and 2018 model-year vehicles equipped with the automaker’s new MyLink infotainment system. According to GM, owners must agree to the update; a data plan is not required.

Being able to pick up Dunkin’ Donuts, for instance, will require the driver to open an account or profile with the franchise. Marketplace uses recent and favorite foods and settings from the profiles to customize the offerings for the driver.

“Shared mobility” is moving quickly and will present rapid change in the global auto industry. Connected, and self-driving vehicles are the future. Deals and membership rewards are currently available from gas stations, and dealership services (scheduling oil changes or other maintenance) will be coming as early as next year. Those drivers who choose can be alerted to the need for services, and to schedule them.

Also featured with Marketplace is a “Shop” section dedicated to offers specific to GM vehicles, such as purchasing Wi-Fi data, discounts for an oil change or deals on GM accessories. All in all, customer convenience will be largely increased. And, as GM hopes, so will client retention.

GM expects the number of Marketplace-capable vehicles in the Unites States to increase from about 1.9 million today to about 4 million by the end of next year.
(Article reported by Mike Wayland on Twitter)

Brittany Force captures NHRA Top Fuel championship

Dani Ben-Ari

These days, when you think about “fast” women, the first name that should come to mind is Brittany Force after she became the NHRA’s 2nd female Top Fuel season champion during the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomoma November 12, 2017, when she beat Shawn Langdon with a 3.668-second pass at 330.07 mph. It may have only been her 4th victory of the 2017 season (after winning 3 of the season’s final 5 events) but it was enough to put her in the record books. . The only other woman to earn the coveted title was Shirley Muldowney who won it 3-times between 1977-82.

Brittany Force’s prowess behind the wheel seems to come naturally. After all, she is the daughter of 16-time Funny Car champ John Force, and sister of renowned drivers Ashley and Courtney Force. Still, the 31-year old former schoolteacher from Cal State Fullerton has proven she is a “force to be reckoned with” in her own right. Debuting in 2013, she became the first John Force Racing driver to pilot Top Fuel, and just 3-years set a new NHRA Top Fuel drag racing record with a run of 3.676 seconds over 1,000 feet at Heartland Park Topeka, Kansas on May 20, 2016. She also became the first woman to win the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals that same year.

“I can’t believe we are here, it seems like a dream,” Force commented after the race. “The reason we are here is because of that Monster* team and all the support I have and all the sponsors. Everyone at JFR and that is the reason we are here. We struggled, we had our ups and downs, but we pulled it together when it mattered most. I give all of it up to my crew chiefs, Alan Johnson and Brian Husen; they are the ones that made this possible. They always had my back and they kept pushing me.”

It should also be mentioned that Brittany’s victory wasn’t the only one celebrated by the Force Family that day. He brother-in-law, Robert Hight (married to her other sister Adria) took his second Funny Car title, after, pulling away from defending champion Ron Capps during the elimination races, then surviving a huge accident in the semifinals when his Chevy burst into flames at the end of its 1,000-foot sprint.

In addition to sponsoring Force, Monster Energy Drinks will continue as the title sponsor for the NASCAR Championship series in 2018. The company also supports individual drivers in other race car drivers worldwide, including current Stewart Haas’s No. 41 car driven by Kurt Busch; the No. 54 Xfinity Series car of Joe Gibbs Racing/Kyle Busch Motorsports, and Mercedes F1 drivers 4-time champ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, to name a few

Hyundai Offers New “Brand Promise” with Shopper Assurance

Susan Frissell

This last October Hyundai introduced a new type of “brand promise” to better serve their customers. An industry-first nationwide program called Shopper Assurance streamlines and modernizes the car-buying experience. Many car buyers become frustrated trying to negotiate that infamous car purchase and are looking for new and easier ways to buy a car.

To summarize, Shopper Assurance focuses on four elements, assisting in the process:

*Transparent Pricing: participating dealers post the fair market pricing (MSRP minus incentives and any dealer offered discounts), on dealer websites. This way, customers know what the market pricing is which can help to reduce the time it takes to negotiate a price and eliminate frustration of all the advertised incentives.

*Flexible Test Drive: Customers are given the option to conduct a test drive for any new vehicle on their own terms through Hyundai Drive. This platform allows a test drive to be scheduled by contacting the dealer on their website, by phone or by using a custom-built app (in available markets). The selected test-drive vehicle can be at a location of the customer’s choosing, such as their home, their office or a coffee shop.

*Streamlined Purchase: Reduces the time customers spend at the dealer by allowing car buyers to complete most of the paperwork online prior to visiting the dealership for a vehicle in the dealer’s inventory, including applying for financing, obtaining credit approvals, calculating payment estimates and valuing trade-ins.

*Three-Day Money Back Guarantee: Any customer not satisfied with their purchase is given a three-day buy-back period to return the car for a full refund, contingent upon a dealer inspection and the vehicle having fewer than 300 miles since the purchase/lease date.

Hoping to offer ‘peace of mind,’ and a better car-buying experience, Hyundai is the first to take steps toward taking the dread out of car buying; the experience many consumers hate, right up there with going to the dentist.

Hyundai likes to think of themselves as a progressive car manufacturer, as well as synonymous with “redefining the car ownership experience. Shopper Assurance is the next step in that tradition and is car buying made simple. Hyundai claims to have done their homework as research shows that 84 percent of people would visit a dealership that offered all four features above over one that did not. There is little questions that this is the future of car buying. Hyundai is committed to creating a “flexible, efficient and better way to purchase a car in partnership with our dealer body.”

As Hyundai tells it, their customers want convenience and simplicity when it comes to buying a car. According to Andrew DiFeo, Chairman, Hyundai National Dealer Council and dealer principal of St. Agustine , “Shopper Assurance is going to give our dealers the tools we need to exceed the expectations of today’s shopper.”
“With a strong lineup of new cars and CUVs, we expect that Shopper Assurance will give us a competitive advantage and help turn prospects into buyers. We are creating a modern purchasing process where transparency and convenience are paramount,” notes DiFeo.

Shopper Assurance is available for any new model in the Hyundai lineup and will initially launch in dealerships in four markets: Miami, Orlando, Dallas and Houston. It will be live nationwide by early 2018.

For more details on Hyundai Shopper Assurance and to find participating dealers, please visit

2017 Toyota Prius Two Eco

/>Susan Frissell

It’s been a little bit since spending a week in the Toyota Prius. While I’ve never been crazy about its looks, I think I like the previous iteration better than the 2017 update. But, I suspect, when aiming for the purchase or lease of a Toyota Prius, or any other hybrid, one isn’t necessarily thinking about its style.

In talking with other automotive press, it’s no secret many have never favored the Prius. On the up side, though, most are astonished how good a car this is, and that they walk away feeling positive about what it offers; not to mention the over 50 miles-per-gallon fact.

Each time I have the pleasure of test-driving the Prius, I 100 percent understand what makes this buyer tick. This is one of the easiest vehicles to maneuver; not only is it agile, it is quiet and comfortable, has a great turning radius and most importantly, one does not climb out of it feeling tired.

The last time I test drove a Prius, I packed it up and drove to Vermont. Unbelievable how many things I toted in this vehicle. As much, or more than any SUV (note: even more cargo than what I packed into a $84,000 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser).

2017 Toyota Prius Two Eco interior

The pros one notices when driving the Prius Two Eco include the improved ride for 2017, its efficiency, lots of storage (in spite of a battery), and comfort. As with all vehicles on the market, one can find cons, and the Prius has a few, including the exterior design (need we say it again), an underwhelming interior trim, and while obvious, it’s no racer.

The cabin is quiet, even when running on gasoline, and the amount of high-tech safety equipment is impressive.

One has to admit though, that each year, the Prius vehicle gets better. The ‘gold standard’ of hybrids, the Prius has been unmistakable since its inception in 2004. Always with a focus on efficiency first and foremost, the Prius didn’t have much competition in its early years (Honda Insight). That isn’t the case now-a-days-all manufacturers want to get in on the market, which includes Lexus CT, Ford C-Max, the new Hyundai Ioniq, Chevy Cruze Diesel and Kia Niro, to name a few.

Not much has changed, looks-wise for 2017, as the Prius was overhauled in 2016. Those changes included switching the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack for lighter, industry-standard lithium-ion cells in most models, a multilink rear suspension (to improve the ride), and, of course, the questionable exterior redesign.

Entune Premium audio system with navigation and access to the app suite is the sound system, along with 4.2-inch color dual Multi-info display. While small, it’s adequate. Also standard is the Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging capability. The steering wheel is draped in soft-touch synthetic leather, with audio control buttons. A CD-player, auxiliary jack, Bluetooth compatibility and USB Port are standard. On those models at trim level Three and above, Entune’s premium version is standard, adding navigation, Toyota’s App Suite, and a Qi compatible wireless charging pad.

Perhaps what needs to happen next to Prius is a more inviting, upscale interior, and a few exterior tweaks. We did like the Prius’ fabric-trimmed seats. We found it fun and different, yet worried that such a light color would no doubt show all the dirt. Our driver’s seat was 8-way adjustable, with 4-way adjustable passenger seat. The split rear fold-down seats are practical and allowed for stashing tons of cargo, to the ceiling.

The Prius Prime, introduced this year, is an all-new model in the lineup. This plug-in version has an all-new drivetrain, longer EV range and quicker recharge time, along with better looks, fuel economy and more high-tech interior.

There are seven trim levels in the Prius lineup, some of which include the Two ($24,685), Two Eco (our test vehicle, starting at $26,030), the Prius Three ($27,735), Three Touring ($28,115), Four ($29,135), and Four Touring $30,015.

It was especially entertaining watching all that comes up on the display. At one time, while driving with my foot on the brake (and accelerator!), I was reminded by the dash monitor. Amusing. Even little vehicles have a sense of humor.


MSRP: $25,185; total vehicle price $28,544; destination $865
Engine: 1.8-liter DOCH 16valve, VVT,i-4 4-cylinder
Transmission: Hybrid Synergy Drive System, AT-PZEV
Length: 178.7 in.
Height: 58.1 in.
Width: 69.3 in.
EPA fuel Economy: 58/53 mpg.
Wheels: 15-inch alloy with covers
Tires: P195/65R15
Warranty: 25 yrs/25,000-miles Complete Scheduled Maintenance, 3 yrs/36,000-miles limited, 8 yrs/100,000-miles hybrid component, 5 yrs/unlimited miles corrosion protection, 2 yrs/unlimited roadside assistance, 5 yrs/60,000-miles powertrain

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL S-AWC

Susan Frissell

Our test 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL SUV came equipped with all that is new in technology today, and for a total vehicle price of $32,390, this SUV is one of the best deals on the market. It may take some buyers a fair nudge to walk into the Mitsubishi showroom, but remembering the reputation Mitsu engines have had in the past might be a motivator.

Granted, the car as a whole, while a nice enough SUV, may not appeal to many who go after brand names and quality construction. The SUV seemed a little lighter weight (with a tinny sound?), but is an improvement over previous models. All around, the 2017 Outlander is an attractive SUV, and in Diamond White Pearl, a handsome ride.

2017 Mitsu Outlander SELinterior

Options on our test SEL included the SEL Touring Package, including multi-view camera system, forward-collision mitigation adaptive cruise control, Lane Departure Warning, Auto high beam, LED headlights, heated steering wheel, Blind Spot Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist ($4,000). Other standard safety features include Active Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, Electric Parking Brake, Traction Control Logic and Stability Control, as well as ABS.

The Outlander is available in four trim levels: ES, SE, SEL, and GT. The ES trim which comes with the 2.4-liter engine is the entry level vehicle. When opting for the SE and SEL trim levels, expect more features, but with the same engine. Top of the lineup belongs to the GT S-AWC, equipped with the larger V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. All versions-except top-of-the-line GT S-AWC, come equipped with optional front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. The GT S-AWC is only available with all-wheel drive.

A three-row crossover SUV, the Outlander seats up to seven people and can be configured in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It can be optioned with one of two engines: a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder (166 hp., 224 lb-ft torque), or a 3.0-liter V-6 engine (224 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque). The lower trim levels and smaller engine are equipped with a CVT transmission; the 3.0-liter engine with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. After several delays, a PH EV version arrived this summer.

NHTSA gave the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander a 5-star rating overall, in the all-wheel-drive version, and a 4-star rating in the front-wheel-drive version.

The Outlander SEL comes equipped with the 710 Rockford Forgate Premium Audio System, with nine speakers (including a good size speaker in the trunk). Of course, all is power, including windows, doors and mirrors. The outside mirrors fold in when out of the vehicle. We think this is a feature that should be standard in all vehicles today, given the size of the mirrors. Rearview camera is also standard, and needed with today’s larger vehicles.

Other features expected, and standard on the Outlander SEL include fog lights, heated and power adjustable side view mirrors, Shark fin antenna and silver roof rails.

The Outlander features a 7.0-inch Smartphone Link Display, audio system with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Inside, the Outlander has a standard cloth fabric interior with a 60/40 split-folding second-row seat and a 50/50 split-folding third-row seat. The center stack features a standard multimedia system that includes a 6.1-inch display, Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio, and a USB port. It can be upgraded with a 7-inch display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, along with the Rockford Fosgate premium audio system.

Standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather wrapped steering wheel, power windows/locks, cruise control, and remote keyless entry. Leather-trim upholstery, a FAST-Key passive entry system, push-button start, a heated steering wheel, and power/heated front seats are available as well.

Some of the new updates for 2017 include updated technology, including support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a suite of updated safety technology.

Those things appealing to many buyers include decent fuel efficiency, a relatively quiet cabin, lots of interior space and comfortable seating. Styling also gets an A for 2017. What they may not appreciate are build quality-the SUV has a flimsy, tinny feel to it. When adding passengers, the vehicle feels loaded down and the engine strains. This 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is too small an engine for this SUV. And, with many 7-passenger SUV’s, the third row is small.

The Outlander received a front-end facelift, matching the other Mitsubishi models with the “Dynamic Shield” concept. It gets plenty of outside chrome accents and gloss-black surfaces. Silver garnishes at the front, sides, and rear contrast the black-clad underbody trim. It is a much updated and needed redo.

Key competitors for the Mitsubishi Outlander include Honda CRV, Nissan Rogue, Didge Journey, Kia Sorento and Toyota RAV4.


MSRP: $27,495, total vehicle price $32,390, options $4,000
Engine: 2.4L, MVEC SOHC 16-valve, 4-cylinder, 166 hp.
Transmission: CVT w/OD (available six-speed in GT trim model)
Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
Length: 184.8 in.
Width: 71.3 in.
Curb Weight: 3,373 lbs.
EPA Fuel Economy: 24/29 mpg., avg. 26 mpg.
Tires: 225/55R18
Wheels: 18-inch two-tone, alloy, wheel arch moldings
Tow Capacity: 1,500 lbs.
Warranty: 10 yr./100,000 miles powertrain, 5 yr./60,000-miles new vehicle limited, 7 yr./100,000-miles corrosion perforation, 5 yr./unlimited Roadside Assistance.