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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vehicles available do not provide sufficient nighttime illumination due to poor manufacturing, inadequate design and outdated regulations.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

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE: Fun in the City

Susan Frissell
Editor, WWW

I, for one, am delighted that the ‘hatchback’ version of the Corolla is here. And dare I saw it, I’m also excited about the comeback of Toyota’s station wagon.’ Of course, it will never be referred to again as a ‘station wagon,’ but the iteration in 2019, is unmistakably, that category of automobile. Too bad Toyota isn’t introducing it here in the U.S.; well, not yet, anyway.

After one week in the newly introduced Corolla Hatchback XSE, our report is favorable. I chauffeured a few friends over the weekend, all of whom liked the Corolla hatchback offering right away. So much so, they headed for the internet and began googling the specs and cost. I have yet to see one on the road, but know they are out there.

One can hardly go wrong putting themselves in a Corolla. Why, I have a neighbor who just last year traded in her old Corolla. It had to be 25 years old, the infamous racing green color, with millions of miles on it. To my surprise, she bought a Volvo SUV. Quite a change, but I think she felt she deserved it after all those years!

The 2019 Corolla Hatchback is available in three trim levels: SE ($19,900), SE AT ($21,090) and XSE AT ($24,090 for manual and $25,010 for CVT-equipped). Our XSE version came in the now popular blue car category; one Toyota calls “Blue Flame.” Liked by all, it turned heads wherever we were in downtown Chicago. Our Hatchback was a prototype model, equipped with the 2.0-liter DynamicForce 4-cylinder automatic. At 168 horsepower, it will get you onto the highway safely, and better than some. It’s quiet, as expected.

The new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback handles well and drives better with its upgraded technology. Although don’t expect the rocket-like experience of say, the VW GTI! The Corolla is equipped with a large supply of standard safety features for an entry-level four-door hatchback. While not a fan of CVT transmissions (an extra at $1,100), I might as well get used to them, but the lag when taking off isn’t always pleasurable.

Trim options available on the Corolla Hatchback are limited, but we think that is a good thing. Too many choices confuse buyers and in this category one expects the basics, and yet, receives a little more. The SE trim level will offer a Preferred Package for CVT models that includes an upgraded multimedia system with Toyota Connected Services and blind spot warning for $1,400. The XSE Preferred Package also is only available on CVT models and for $1,600 it adds a JBL eight-speaker stereo system, a wireless charging pad and dynamic navigation. An adaptive front lighting system also is available on the Toyota Corolla XSE for $415.

Competition for the new Hatchback includes Hyundai Veloster (R-SPEC), the 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback-starting at just about the same price but with a manual transmission, the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback ($22,195 starting), and the redesigned 2019 VW Jetta (base trim level $20,645). The latter two vehicles don’t match Toyota’s safety equipment, or other goodies.

Of course, the Corolla’s CVT transmission aids in fuel economy. The manual SE model gets 28/37/31 mpg city/highway, and improves to 32/42/36 mpg with the CVT. In the XSE version, the gas mileage is listed at 30/38/33 mpg. As far as the Corolla’s manual version, the numbers fall a tad behind some of the competitors. We averaged about 34-35 mpg in highway driving, in our automatic.

This is a top-notch, all around vehicle in its segment. The Corolla is peppier, and the interior refinements make this a great value. We-and a passenger-especially liked the Bi-LED combo headlights with auto on/off feature and adaptive front lighting system. It lights the way well, especially when on dark roads. Slyly pointing the way forward, the projected path camera is a welcome feature when doing some nighttime driving.

The seats are comfortable, and our XSE version came equipped with the two-tone leather, a sharp light “Cool Gray.” Legroom is decent in the front seating area, but those in back, if blessed with long legs, might find it a tad cramped. The rear seats are 60/40 split fold-down so space is increased for carrying bikes, packages, etc. Oh, and dogs!

The steering wheel is tilt/telescopic leather, 3-spoke with system controls and paddle shifters. We did not engage the paddle shifters. The leather-trimmed front seats were both heated; the driver’s seat featuring a 8-way power adjustable feature, and the passenger seat a manually adjusted front seat.

The electronics included a 7-inch multi-information display, with Entune 3.0, Auto Plus with App Suite, six speakers and 8-inch touch screen, AM/FM/HD radio and CD player. This writer couldn’t determine if there was a GPS system. A prototype model, we weren’t familiar with the set-up. Nor could we determine where the CD was located (which was listed). As a colleague often reminds me, consulting the manual is the first thing to do. One was not included in our test car.

Additional features on our test Corolla Hatchback Prototype included the Smart Key System on front doors, push-button start, remote keyless entry, LED DRL with On-0ff features, LED fog lights, LED combo tailgates, Black front grille with chrome grille surround, color-keyed power outside mirrors with turn signal and Blind Spot Monitor, Acoustic noise-reducing front windshield, Dual zone A/C, and Integrated backup camera with projected path. All four windows are power with auto up/down.

The redesigned 2019 Corolla hatchback arrived on dealership lots in the U.S. earlier this year and is noticeably ‘changed.’ As an update, it rides on a lighter, more agile platform, which it also shares in some version on the Prius hybrid, RAV4 and Avalon. In addition, fuel economy is markedly improved.

Frissell Fido Friendly Rating

The Frissell Fido Four didn’t get a chance to ride in the Corolla Hatchback, but had they, rear seats would have been collapsed to accommodate all four more leisurely. Although the fit would have been made, the space wouldn’t have been anymore generous than their everyday sedan; in fact, the sedan they ride in on most days is probably more generous.

When thinking about buying a vehicle “fit for a dog” (king?), one’s money is probably better spent (or so friends tell me) on a large SUV (think GMC Terrain, Toyota Highlander, etc), or a minivan than on a compact hatchback. What most pet owners know-or should know-is that transporting a dog in a car without a harness is dangerous. Should a sudden stop be made, any dog, particularly a small dog, will fly through the car, much like a projectile. The best option no matter the wheels, is to crate your dog(s).

All dogs are different in their preferences and when riding in a vehicle, this becomes clear. Most prefer standing, but two of mine, like sitting-or sleeping (Chihuahuas). The Whippets prefer stretching their heads out the window, grabbing plenty of fresh air. This doesn’t accommodate seat belt wear very easily. Truth be told, we don’t seatbelt the dogs like we should. Rather, their leashes are tied to the seatbelts.

Why do dogs love riding in cars? According to Kevin Behan of Natural Dog Training, it may be because they feel as though they are on a hunt. While this could certainly be accurate for the
Whippets, I’m not sure about the Chihuahuas; although Lucille is a different story. She is a hunter by nature.

Apparently, a dog is induced by the synchronized physical movement of a car into a state of emotional suspension; therefore, a dog feels as if it is part of the group that is on the hunt. How much sensory input (energy) can this feeling of weightlessness sustain seems to be determined by the temperament of a dog. They will respond in different ways. For some dogs the feeling can be very strong and when their emotional capacity is exceeded, may strike out at things going past (don’t quote me on this!)

Most of us assume that hunting for a dog means stalking, chasing and killing prey to obtain food. In the animal mind, however, a hunt is a “state of emotional suspension;” the animal projecting itself into its prey. If the prey acts like ‘prey,’ the predator mirrors it by feel with equal and opposite movement in order to counterbalance.

What’s ahead for the Corolla

Expect new changes in the Corolla design coming for the year 2020. Toyota isn’t saying much about the up- and-coming redesigned 2020 Corolla sedan; its 12th generation to go on sale in the U.S. Is there a compact sedan that’s lasted this long? And still gets good ratings. The current design dates back to 2014 and although has had a few tweaks here and there, will welcome a total redo. Particularly, with all the competition today. We can certainly say that about the redesigned-long overdue-Camry. Finally, it’s got some style.

Next week will bring the debut of the redesigned 2020 Corolla which Toyota will emphasize for its ‘global nature’ as a compact sedan. Most likely seen for the first time in the U.S. will be at the L.A. Auto Show in California later this month, with its initial debut at the Guangzhou auto show in China.


Engine: 2.0-liter DynamicForce 4-cylinder DOHC, 66—rpm
16-valve, Dual injection with dual VVT-1, 168 hp., 151 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: Dynamic shift, CVT with physical first launch gear. Drivetrain FWD, suspension independent MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear.
Wheelbase: 103.9 in.
Length: 169.9 in.
Width: 69.9 in.
Curb weight: 3,060 lbs.
Height: 57.1 in.
Tank Capacity: 13.2 gal.
EPA Fuel Economy: 28/37 mpg.
Wheels: 18-inch machine finished alloy
Tires: P225/40R18 in.
Sound system: Entune 3.0 Auto Plus with App Suite, 6 spkrs, 8-inch Touchscreen AM/FM/HD Radio, CD player
Bi-LED combo headlights with auto on/off feature and adaptive front lighting system
LED DRL w/on-off features
LED fog lights
LED combo taillights
Black front grille with chrome grille surround
Color-keyed power outside mirrors with turn signal and blind spot monitor
Acoustic noise-reducing front windshield
Dual zone A/C
Integrated backup camera with projected path
Power windows with 4-window auto up/down
Smart key system on FR doors and trunk with push-button start remote keyless entry
Aux port, USB media port 2 usb charge ports advanced voice recognition
7-inch multi-information display
Leather-trimmed heated front seats with 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, manually adjusted front passenger seat
60/40-split fold-down rear seats
Tilt/telescopic leather e-spoke steering wheel with system controls and paddle shifters
Interior cool gray
Exterior: Blue Flame
Warranty: Full. Basic: 3 yrs./36,000-miles; Powertrain: 5 yrs.

The Guinness Book of World Records’ best-selling two-seat sports car: 2019 Mazda MX-5 (Miata) RF

Susan Frissell
Editor, WWW

This is not a point one can argue. Anyone who has owned-or even driven a Miata (as we grew up referring to them), knows, this is, indeed, the best little two-seat sportscar out there.

As those in my generation have mused, when growing up in the 1960s, many ached for those British MG’s, Triumphs and of course, the iconic Jaguar XKE. Who could not love these beauties and aspire to owning one.

The bad news, as all know, was that they were not at all dependable. The old joke was “if you owned a Jaguar, you had two. One was always in the shop.”

No matter. We still coveted them. And in Mazda’s wisdom, they knew it too. So, when the little sportster made it over to the U.S. in 1989 as a 1990 model, we were hooked. And as time passed, there were more than one iteration of this little bugger: Our test car for the week, the MX-5 RF edition.

Some debate the value of hardtop vs. soft top. We think both are desirable and perhaps for different driving times. It’s convenient to have a hardtop during cooler months, and when navigating highways, having a quieter cabin is a luxury.

But when temps are upwards of 80 degrees, and the sun is bright in the sky, there’s nothing like the ease and convenience of a soft top. And the Miata’s is so easy to drop at a moment’s notice.

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF is for those purists, and those willing to pay an extra $3,000 for the hardtop. Our test 2019 MX-5 RF carried a MSRP of $33,335 and a total price of $36,005. While this may seem like a high price tag lot to many, it’s money well-spent, or so our reasoning goes.

One will have this Miata for years, and with little upkeep. The styling never goes out of fashion, and once a convertible driver, always a convertible driver.

Having assembled more than one million Miatas over the years, those who haven’t spent seat time in the MX-5 have no business criticizing. When Mazda introduced the RF some 18 months ago, adding a retractable roof to the fourth-generation MX-5. They must have known, as the NC model by the end of its life accounted for more than half of the MX-5 sales.

Some owners do make their MX-5 an all-season car. Power windows, cruise control and air conditioning make it all the more practical. The manual soft top can easily be unlatched, thrown over the driver’s shoulder and in five seconds, you’ve gone topless. The soft top is now easier to open and close, but don’t expect much more head room than before. The RF feels even closer inside. In fact, the driver who delivered the MX-5 RF last week was over six feet tall. How he managed that space for 4 hours is amusing.

The MX-5 has been given a bump-at last-in horsepower for the 2019 model year. You can now get your kicks with the 181horsepower engine at 7,000 rpm (17 percent improved). Torque is at 15 lb.ft. at 4,000 rpm.

Roomy trunk space

The RF roof more resembles the targa top. It makes for a quieter cabin, although the newest ragtop iteration is a much better quality soft top. A car buff can argue that while today’s vehicles are easier to drive, they lack the feel of the road. Not so with the Miata, and perhaps that is its number one appeal.

Mazda boasts that the RF hardtop opens and closes in 13 seconds. The switch is located on the dash, easy to see and use. The RF is available in Grand Touring and Club levels. New for 2019 are a standard tilt/telescoping steering column, standard rearview camera, Metallic black wheels, Newly available Smart City Brake and New Traffic Sign Recognition. New packages for 2019 include the New Club i-ACTIVSENSE Package which includes Smart City Brake Support and Lane-Departure Warning, New GT-S package which includes a limited-slip rear differential (our test RF came with this option), Bilstein dampers, shock tower brace and a black roof on the six-speed manual transmission only.

Performance highlights on our RF included a sport-tuned exhaust system, Sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers on manual transmission models, Limited-slip differential on manual transmission models, and shock tower brace on MT only.

The Bose 9-speaker audio system with headrest speakers was a nice upgrade and the sound takes off in this little roadster. Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, along with Adaptive Front-Lighting System are standard highlights with Mazda’s Advanced Keyless Entry. Pushbutton start is also standard.

The 4.6-inch full-color TFT display is easy to read and works fairly simply. However, the controls are located on the center console so setting down your arm/elbow there-a natural driving position-inadvertently turns the channel when you don’t intend to.

This RF offers so many up-to-date features, it would take a page to list them all. Be assured, you’re getting what you pay for. Just to name a few: power automatic door locks, power windows, one-touchdown, clear wind blocker, tire pressure monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning system, heated power side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated front seats, etc.

No rides for the Frissell Fido Four this time. although someone before us did give a pooch a ride. The Chi’s would easily fit in the front seat; a squeeze for the Whippets. I once transported all four Fidos in my 2003 Corvette-all in the passenger seat! They weren’t happy.


Engine: 2.0L SKYACTIV Inline-NE-Four Cylinder, 181 HP., 7,000 RPM, 151 LB-FT. Torque, 4,000 RPM
Transmission: Rear-Wheel-Drive, Six-Speed Manual
Type of Vehicle: retractable hardtop sports car
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires: P205/45R17
Price: As Tested: $33,335; Total price: 36,005; Destination: $$895
Standard Features:Power-retractable hard top, 17-inch alloy wheels, sport suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, limited slip differential, strut tower bar, advanced blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-t… Read More
Options: Machine Grey Metallic paint AND Auburn Napa interior ($600), GT-S package: Limited Slip Differential, front shock, tower brace black roof ($750), Interior package for M/T, alloy pedals, Red engine oil cap, WMX logo ($425)
Weight: 2,453 LBS
Fuel Economy 26/34/29 MPG

The Automobile Changed American Life

Susan Frissell, editor

Among all the talk these days about driverless cars, we’re reminded of when and where the automobile came. From the establishment of the first automobile company by brothers Charles E. and J. frank Duryea in 1896, to superhighways and green-and-white signs to guide travelers, the advent of the automobile has transformed American life.

In 1996, the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI celebrated 100 years of the Automobile in American Life in an exhibition that included more than 100 cars and thousands of artifacts to illustrate how the automobile evolved from the 19th century novelty into a mainstay of American culture.

One of the most influential industries in America, the automobile industry is responsible for the existence of such phenomenons as fast food restaurants to motels, to gas stations, Drive-in movies, campgrounds and gas pumps are all a part of the American scene.

Significant events in the auto industry include such happenings as a massive oil strike at Spindletop Beaumont, Texas (1901), the introduction of the Model T (1908) by Ford, the first U.S. transcontinental automobile trip (1903), and President Eisenhower signing the Interstate Highway Act in 1956. When considering the automobile, one also thinks of certain people connected with it, including Harvey Firestone, Walter Reuther, Ransom E. Olds, and Ralph Nader. The list goes on and on. Milestones abound when summarizing the U.S. auto industry, beginning in 1896, right up to the present.

Of course, a lot of innovations have come to pass since the early days, including electric and hybrid cars, and of course, Elan Musk’s Tesla endeavor.
How has the automobile transformed American life? In ways we might not realize. I suspect, including these ten:

1) The car made in Detroit changed the nation. Detroit was the first city to have a large number of cars made and driven. Mass production led to good paying jobs, making it possible for people who worked in the car factories to own cars and drive them to work. As the industry grew, the city grew, making it necessary for developments to accommodate cars. This set the pattern for other growing urban centers. One need only consider Los Angeles, a city where few cars have ever been made, but where most people own one.

2) Development of the interstate highway system. The nation’s largest public works program, the building of the interstate highway system linked communities, but also cut others apart by using straight lines as the shortest distance between places. In some places, there are still remnants of what was once important (such as on Route 66) but have fallen away as interstate stops became growth areas. Because of car traffic, and a highway system, the expansion of the national parks system was possible, which gave people more places to go.

3) Suburbanization. Because of automobiles, communities could be built that were neither urban nor rural, but had some of the advantages of both.

4) Growth of the drive-in lifestyle. Beginning with movies and fast food, drive-ins have evolved to include banks, dry cleaners and even weddings and funerals.

5) Changing the purpose of the streets. Once an extension of front yards, streets enabled people to walk and vendors to sell their goods from carts. At one time, transportation was a secondary use; now it is reversed.

6) Architecture of American homes. The elimination of the front porch can be dated back to the rise of automobiles in the late 1920s. Porches became smaller and have now practically disappeared. As garages took over in popularity, the backyard became more of a focal point for relaxation.

7) Decline of railroads and streetcars. With the increase in popularity of the automobile came the decline of trains, trolleys and inter-urbans as a means of transportation, even before the growth of air travel. In cars, travelers could go where they wanted, when they wanted, rather than having to adhere to a fixed route and time.

8) Breakdown of rural isolation. Those living in outlying areas of cities embraced the automobile as a means of maintaining their rural lifestyle. The car provided a link between towns and cities.

9) Becoming the engine that drives an economy. Because of the automobile, oil, rubber and a whole host of industry activities exist. Motels, restaurants and service businesses grew up on trade from drivers. Advertising has also been affected as witnessed by the billboard. Billboards were not just posted along railroad track routes.

10) Defining the work of the 20th century. Standardization of parts and assembly necessary for mass production of the automobile led to an abundance of high-wage, low-skilled jobs. These jobs made it possible for workers to live a comfortable lifestyle; especially for immigrants who didn’t speak English and/or people who were untrained but willing to work. In the 21st century, workers began moving into a situation similar to the one that existed at the beginning of the industrial evolution: the best paying jobs go to the more skilled workers.

The Latest Report on Vehicle Recalls

Washington D.C.–According to Jack Gillis’ latest report, there are 70 million vehicles on the road with open recalls. I know I’ve heard many people say they don’t bother to take their vehicle to the dealer when receiving a notice. Of course, it is voluntary, but if it’s at no expense to the owner, why wouldn’t you?

In the last 10 years, Gillis reports, over 280 million vehicles have been recalled – more than the 270 million vehicles currently on the road. With recall completion rates in the 70-75% level[i] that leaves over 70 million vehicles on the road with open recalls.

With 70 million vehicles driving around with open recalls it poses a large highway safety danger. “While these open recalls present a clear hazard to the occupants of these vehicles, they are also a hazard to the rest of the driving public,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Executive Director and author of The Car Book.

Of course, this high number of open recalls means that a significant number of owners are “turning-in” used cars with an open recall or those vehicles may be recalled by the manufacturer while waiting to be resold. And the sale of used vehicles keeps going up, as the cost of new cars increases. In addition, warns Gillis, “Some car dealerships are violating state laws that prohibit them from selling unsafe vehicles, particularly when they are subject to a safety recall.”

The result: a significant number of used vehicles are likely to be sold with open recalls. While the subsequent owner can have any recall addressed at no charge for 15 years from when the recall was issued, they may not know about the recalls or fail to check their particular vehicle. They may also experience lengthy delays in being able to obtain repairs, due to severe shortages of repair parts, or the manufacturer’s failure to provide a remedy.

One of the government’s most important auto safety functions, notes Gillis, the automobile recall program can be fully effective only if recall completion rates are dramatically increased. “It’s simply not enough to announce a recall, the car companies, car dealers, and government must do everything possible to remedy those recalls,” said Gillis. “Under federal law, car dealers can’t sell new cars with open recalls, and under state laws, car dealers are not allowed to sell recalled used cars either. But those laws are not being adequately enforced. With today’s communication technology, social media, and information databases, there is no excuse not to significantly increase compliance with safety recalls,” added Gillis. The entire auto industry, all levels of government, and individual consumers each have an important role to play in ensuring that safety recalls are performed, maintains Gills. The huge rental car industry must acknowledge and respect the importance of recalls, so too should the rest of the automotive use and retail industry.

The actions needed to Protect the American Public from Defective Recalled Vehicles include:

1. State attorneys general should enforce existing state laws that prohibit car dealers from knowingly, negligently, or deceptively selling unrepaired recalled used cars.
2. In addition, Congress and the President should enact federal legislation, enforceable by NHTSA, to prohibit car dealers from selling recalled used cars.
3. Require fleet operators to remedy open recalls upon notice and prior to returning vehicles to service.
4. Recalled taxis and ride service vehicles must be remedied upon notice and prior to returning vehicles to service.
5. Auto auction companies must remedy recalls during their refurbishing process and prior to the transfer of the vehicle.
6. Require car companies to send out notices (by e- and postal mail) every two months until the recall is resolved or vehicle has been removed from service.
7. Require DMVs and state inspection programs to include VIN-specific recall notices on registration renewals and inspections to alert the owners that their vehicles have unrepaired recalls.
8. The government (NHTSA) must initiate an effective public education campaign to get vehicle owners to sign up for recall notifications.
9. New and used car dealers must register owners for recall notices on as part of the selling paperwork. Insurance companies should provide a recall report before providing insurance.
10. Manufacturers must provide loaner cars for owners of recalled vehicles when there are significant delays in obtaining recall repair parts.

2019 Mazda CX-3 SUV, AWD

Girls Auto Clinic is ready to ‘ratchet up’ locations nationwide!

Susan Frissell, PhD

Patrice Banks, of #sheCANic fame has been hinting she has some exciting news to announce. She hopes you’ll be as excited as she is. I know we are, having watched her progress. Who says ‘girls’ don’t want to know more about cars? We’ve known this for some time.

Some of you may know that Patrice has been on a “bold mission to educate and empower women” through their cars. It has been her goal “to reach every woman driver and to change the face of the automotive industry to support its number one customer – women!”

According to Banks, the success of her flagship Girls Auto Clinic Repair Center in Philadelphia and the #sheCANic movement has been powered in part by the incredible support she’s been given, her team, and her business. “People are inspired by our story,” she says, “of an auto airhead turned auto mechanic who opened the nation’s first auto repair garage to employ women mechanics, offer a nail salon & lounge, and host car care workshops.” The question everyone asks now is “When is Girls Auto Clinic coming to my city” and the answer is SOON!”

Banks is so excited to announce that she is launching a crowdfund campaign on August 15th to grow the #sheCANic movement and expand Girls Auto Clinic Repair Center locations across the country! They are asking for the public’s help to get the news out there, and to support her Girls Auto Clinic.

So check out her pre-launch page and keep in touch for her exciting news to come. Jump on the bandwagon and be a part of this exciting movement around girls and their cars!

Dr. Beasley’s Detailing Prescription

We received a sample of the Dr. Beasley’s Glass Serum Kit, complete with a 1 oz. Glass Serum bottle, 2 oz Glass Coating Prep, 1 Foam Block Applicator and 2 Suede Cloths. They also threw in a 1 bottle of AdvanceCoat: Glass. As Dr. Beasley’s president states, “the proof is in the results.” We found it to be somewhat superior to other products on the market; namely, RainX, and easy to use.

The packaging on this new high-tech formulation is handsome and speaks well of the product. You’re not using any low-end ingredients. Indorsed by professionals, automotive manufacturers and enthusiasts alike, Dr. Beasley’s has a popular line of products including a matte paint car line, wheel care, polishes, and ceramic coatings. The Dr.’s products stand out and serve the modern automobiles’ needs well. When I think of the products we used in the past, I shutter at their possible side effects; of which I probably never even considered. Dr. Beasleys Car Care Products, based in Chicago, is new to this automotive writer.

We waited for some much-needed rain here in Indy to ‘test drive’ the nano coating serum recently. As the label tells the buyer, Dr. Beasley’s products are handcrafted with over 30 years of detailing knowledge and passion. Easy to apply and with quick results, we found that the rain beaded right off the windshield. We haven’t applied the Serum to side windows yet, but will give that a try, also.

A big part of president Jim Lafeber’s motivation to create the Dr. Beasley’s line was his dissatisfaction with how previous products he was using at his Chicago detailing business, Simon’s Shine Shop, were affecting his customer’s vehicles’ health. Jim utilized his chemistry background to formulate detailing solutions of his own. He took in-house products to market under the Dr. Beasley’s name, gaining notability for their matte paint car line. They also formulate, manufacture and package the car care products within their Chicago, IL facility.

The “proof is in the results,” says Mr. Lafeber. “Our formulas are crafted with pharmaceutical grade ingredients.” Working to continually enhance their products, Dr. Beasley’s promises ‘high-quality” results.The Glass Serum Kit comes with instructions. (See for yourself at Read about their products and order some for yourself).
Your car will love you for it!

Dr. Beasley’s won us over, not only after first use, but upon learning that Jim named his car care line after his Alaskan Malamute, Beasley. Applying the Glass Serum to all three cars, we promptly tossed our other inferior products in the garbage. I also applied it to windshield of my brother-in-law’s 2010 Kia Soul, after a three-hour detailing project. He’ll have to convice himself it’s really raining the next time he drives when it’s wet!!

Try Dr. Beasley’s. We think you’ll agree.

Hey, Jim, how about a picture of Beasley (the Malamute) on your box? Mr. Tito’s “dog” vodka isn’t the only star out there!