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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.

2017 Kia Cadenza

>Susan Frissell

We had no official Monroney on the new 2017 Kia Cadenza. Our model, the Limited is purported to start at $45,290. We knew it had to be ‘up there,’ given its ‘rich’ feel. The color-Pluto Brown—was exceptional and a real looker. The styling, different for 2017, is better than the previous Cadenza iteration. However, we think it’s a tad stodgy. Hey, but nice car.

A full-size sedan, the Kia Cadenza fits, we’re not sure, in the lineup. With Optima, Azera (Hyundai), etc, it would almost seem superfluous. Quiet and almost Lexus-like, the 2017 Cadenza Limited is quiet, smooth and comfortable. Why, my passenger told me I looked very comfortable driving the Cadenza. Almost as if I wasn’t even driving! Easy.

No longer the go-to family car, the large sedans still can command a place in the market. Trust me, after you reach a certain age, two-door coupes no longer apply. Having a generous four-door sedan is Heaven.

The 2017 Kia Cadenza is second-generation-only! Seems as though it’s been around longer, doesn’t it? Driving the Cadenza feels so much more, well, sophisticated. Why, with both heated and ventilated seats, what more could you ask for? Kia has done a lot right in the new 2017 Cadenza; a market we even considered unneeded a few years back. So many choices? From one manufacturer.

Perhaps appealing to all ages, the Cadenza provides a lot of cars in one: Highway cruiser, around-town shopper, easy to park and maneuver. The lines are taut and conventional; hardly daring, but will wear well with time. The interior is upscale, with very attractive leather seating, generous space and the upscale technology.

Lots of competition exists in this large sedan category; namely, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, and perhaps, the Dodge Charger. Or the Fiat Chrysler 300. Chevrolet Impala, all new and redesigned could also be considered, along with Hyundai’s Azera and Nissan Maxima. Rear-wheel-drive is attractive to many consumers-this writer included-so there is still a market. And, one can probably get a great deal now on ANY sedan; as long as it’s not a SUV.

Kia sold about 28,000 Cadenza’s in its first generation; apparently, enough to continue its existence. The second generation, though, is much more luxurious, and in our mind, desirable. It would really be hard to make a choice today.

Although the new Cadenza won’t ‘define’ any segment, it is a nice sedan. It represents the best of the family sedan; reasonable, but no cheap, by any means. It surely offers a lot of space, high-end features, smooth ride and quiet that would be hard to match. We are assuming dependability, also.

The 2017 Kia Cadenza is clearly a different vehicle; if only in looks alone. Complete with several eye-catching features such as multi-element headlights, a new concave grille with one of two inserts (depending on the model), Z-shaped LED lights and a totally different profile. It lies somewhere between the sporty Optima and the Kia 900.

The dash is two-layered with gauges and infotainment screen split. We kept hitting the radio buttons when we wanted the climate controls, and vica versa. Bummer. Otherwise, it’s fairly simple to master. The Cadenza is complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a great Harman/Kardon audio system that we made sure to have one each time we entered the vehicle. We often had the benefit of the brake assist warning; apparently getting too close to the car in front of us! The cruise control and blind spot warnings also let us know they were around. We’re getting accustomed to the flash in the side mirrors, letting us know a car is approaching.

Just taking a glimpse into the rear seat announces all the available room. Man, long-legged driers would be happy. There is ample headroom, legroom and because the floor is mostly flat-not much of a hump-the middle-seat passenger can relax in comfort.

Equipped with Kia’s 3.3-liter V6 engine, this four-door sedan has 290 horse with 253 lb. ft. of torque; plenty of get-up-and-go for the road. Kia matches this V6 with a new 8-speed automatic transmission, making its debut in the 2017 Cadenza. Kia’s new shock absorbers us what is known at Kia as Amplitude Selective Damping. Apparently, they adjust to different conditions. Combined with an internal Hydraulic Rebound stopper, the structure is stiffer so that the the ride is smoother over harsh surfaces. We found the Cadenza to be the ultimate daily driver, taking all roads effortlessly.

Kia doesn’t bill the Cadenza as a sport sedan, despite shift paddles on the steering wheel and selectable driving mode function that includes “Sport.” Drive it however you want, it’s a great sedan on the highway, or through town.

As with all new vehicles today, you can expect the highest in technology. The Technology model starts at $39,890, and the fully-loaded Cadenza (like our test vehicle) commands $45,290. Yikes. Apparently, this pricing is highly competitive. We’ll never see it, but it’s great to be able to spend a week in the new Cadenza and enjoy its capability.

We liked the 2017 Kia Cadenza, much more than expected. Probably out of our price range, though, it’s not a contender, but would certainly consider it.


MSRP: $45,290
Engine 3.3-liter, V6, 290 horse, 253 lb. ft. torque
Transmission: eight-speed shiftable automatic, FWD
Wheelbase: 112.4 in.
Length: 195.7 in.
Width: 73.6 in.
Height: 57.9 in.
Curb Weight: 3,770 lbs.
Fuel Tank capacity: 18.5 GAL.
EPA Fuel Economy: 20 /28 MPG.
Tires: P245/40R19
Wheels: 19-inch diameter
Warranty: 5 yr/60,00-miles basic, 5 yr./60,000-miles roadside assistance, 5 yrs/100,000-miles rust, 10 yr./100,000-miles powertrain, 10 yrs./100,000-miles drivetrain.

2017 Hyundai Tucson Night SUV AWD

Susan Frissell

Our 2017 Hyundai Tucson Night came in Caribbean Blue, a real looker, with black cladding and black wheels. We rather liked it. All-new and slightly larger for 2016, the Tucson was restyled (sheetmetal), and now gets better fuel economy, handles much sharper and offers more interior space.

What may be most noticeable in the 2017 Hyundai Tucson is the ride. One almost feels as though she is floating over bumps, with little or no jarring and a much more pleasant ride.

One thing that always stood out in the early Tucson models was how hard it rode. Not anymore. This compact crossover is one of Hyundai’s most popular vehicles, competing with lots of others including the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Trax, and of course, Honda CR-V.

The 2017 Hyundai Tucson comes standard with a direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder, pumping out 164 horsepower, with 151 pound-feet of torque, and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Three driving modes (Eco, Regular, Sport) are standard; we stayed mostly in Eco, but went back/forth with Sport mode.

Our test Tucson Night came equipped with the optional turbocharged direct-injection
1.6-liter (175 horsepower, 195 pound-feet torque), and Hyundai’s 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Not terribly peppy, the turbocharged 1.6-liter performed well, with few hesitations, and smoothness. The 2.0-liter engine is rated at 23/31 mpg., and 26 mpg combined with FWD. The 1.6-liter turbo is rated 25/30/27 mpg when equipped with 19-inch wheels (like ours). When opting for the 17-inch tire, the 1.6-liter gets 26/33/29 mpg.
Hyundai has built in more high-strength steel in this year’s redesign of the Tucson, thus safety ratings are expected to be better. As with all vehicles today, the Tucson has six airbags and standard rearview camera.

Available in four model choices, the Tucson can be had in SE, ECO, Sport and Limited. The SE trim level is equipped with the 2.0-liter engine; the Limited model with the Ultimate package includes ventilated leather seats and a panoramic roof.

The 2017 Tucson now has a sculpted style, bringing it more into the fray of upscale small SUV’s. The design is the best yet, and with the 19-inch black wheels and black cladding, this is one sharp SUV.

You won’t mistake the hexagonal grille of the Hyundai; much like the infamous Lexus grille. Geometric headlights stand out, as well, and the rear is also Hyundai. The new horizontal lines in the fascia are noticeable and updated. The look is ‘upscale.’

For the most part, Tucson’s cabin is quiet, certainly by comparison to older models. The dashboard and console are simple, yet handsome. Controls are well-placed, easy to handle, however, the screen in our test Tucson is very small-3.5-inch LCD information display. Our Night test Tucson didn’t come with the Nav system. Bluetooth, AM/FM/CD/MP3 Audio system with iPod/USB/Aux input jacks, Sirius Radio are all included.

We especially liked the Panoramic sunroof, which is assumed comes with the Night edition. The only option on our test Tucson was the carpeted floor mats ($125). Otherwise, for just over $30,000, one gets a lot of vehicle.

All the safety equipment one expects is standard, including Electronic Stability Control, ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, Downhill Brake Control and Hillstart Assist Control, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, side airbags and rollover sensors.

The cabin is serenely quiet, and roomy with four adults, but there isn’t as much cargo space as in some other compact crossovers, for example the CR-V, RAV4 and Escape. The split 60/40 rear seats create 62 cubic feet of cargo space when they’re folded, and 30 cubic feet then they’re up. To accommodate taller items, the cargo floor can be lowered with a lever by two inches. The liftgate on the Sport and Limited opens with the key fob.
Driving Impression

We got a few hundred miles of seat time in a Limited with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, and the power is adequate in most situations, but the response is sluggish under hard acceleration. Surprisingly, the three different driving modes don’t have much effect on performance. In any mode, the shifts by the 7-speed dual clutch transmission shifts are almost imperceptible.


MSRP: $29,300; total vehicle price $30,220; destination $895
Engine: 1.6-liter i-4 turbo, 175 hp., 195 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 7-speed automatic shift, manual with OD
Wheelbase: 105.1in.
Length: 176.2 in.
Height: 64.8 in.
Gross weight: 4,784 lbs., curb weight: 3,686 lbs.
Width: 72.8 in.
Towing capacity: 1,000 lbs.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 16.4 gal.
EPA Fuel Economy: 25/30 mpg.
Tires: 245/45R19
Wheels: 19-inch Rays Black Finish alloy
Warranty: 5 yrs/60,000-miles new vehicle; 10 yrs/100,000-miles powertrain; 7 yrs./unlimited mileage Anti-perforation; 5 yrs/unlimited mileage roadside assistance

2017 Lexus ES350

Susan Frissell

As is the case with most, if not all Lexus products, it’s just hard to go wrong with whatever model you choose; particularly, the ES350. Not a sedan we have been very excited about in the past-notwindstanding all its good points-the new 2017 styling finally hits the mark. Just driving it this morning, I was thinking to myself, “I could drive this every day and be very satisfied.”

Consumers will be well-satisfied once at least giving the competition a test drive, including the Acura TLX, Buick Lacrosse and Genesis G80. Die-hard Lexus buyers won’t have to question themselves. As many do, they just trade in the old one for a new model: Always the same ES, never dissatisfied. Some are just creatures of habit!

While there are a number of pros to the 2017 ES350, we found a few small frustrations, such as the optional remote touch interface, less than “exciting” handling, and a trunk that is smaller than most. We prefer a performance sedan, yet, the ES350 appeals, probably, to a great many more drivers; especially when in it on a daily basis.

On the other hand, there are ‘pros’ worth noting, and not a surprise to ES350 groupies, such as a quiet and well-equipped cabin, enthusiastic and quiet V6 engine and powertrain, and an expected Lexus-like tops in ride quality. Lexus’ 3.5-liter, V6 engine has been a great engine, dependable and trouble-free, and acceleration is impressive.

Legroom in the ES350 is generous and will be appreciated by those with long legs. The advanced electronic safety systems on the ES are standard equipment, and the interior is upscale and well laid out. The luxury version of the Toyota Camry, the ES350’s looks do vary some, and the new styling on the Camry is probably a tad more attractive.

We resonated with the updated interior design, soft materials and top stitching. The stitching design has crossed manufacturer lines and we like it, in general. It not only adds a luxo-touch, but it is also sporty. And perhaps a little European? Many don’t appreciate the Lexus mouse-like remote touch interface, but we’re accustomed to it now and find it fairly easy to manipulate, even though easier done when not behind the wheel.

Standard features on the ES350 include four wheel ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist. Safety features also include dual front airbags, dual front knee airbags, front/rear seat-curtain airbags, Supplemental Restraint System, and 3-point safety belts for all passengers. Vehicle Stability Control with traction, Smart Stop Technology, Pre Collision System w/pedestrian detection, high-speed dynamic radar cruise, lane departure alert with steering assist, and intelligent high-beam headlamps are also standard.

One of the optional packages on our test 2017 Lexus ES350 included the Premium Package (Lexus Memory System for driver’s seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel, wood interior trim, remote keyless entry-linked memory, $730). Other options included the Blind Spot Monitor w/Rear Cross Traffic Alert ($500), 18-inch wheels with High Gloss Finish ($880), Navigation System/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package (Lexus Enform Destinations, Lexus Enform App Suite ($2,590), Intuitive Parking Assist ($500), Wood/Leather-trimmed steering wheel ($300), carpet trunk mat ($105), Illuminated Door Sill ($379), and Body Side Moldings ($199). A lot of options at high prices. While one could do without many of them, try finding a ES350 equipped with less.

The 2017 Lexus ES350 is a desirable sedan that many consumers opt to drive, year after year. And though there are others now in this category just as nice, it would be difficult, if not impossible to convince any long-time ES owners to defect to the other side. Admitted, we hated giving it up after the week.


MSRP: $38,900; total vehicle price $46,058, destination $975
Engine: 3.5-liter, 24-valve, V-6, all-aluminum construction, Dal VVT-I, 288 hp.,
Transmission: six-speed shiftable automatic
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
Height: 56.3 in.
Length: 184.3 in.
Width: 71.3 in.
Wheels: 17-in. aluminum alloy, split 10-spoke
Tires: 215/56R17 all-season
EPA fuel economy: 21/30 mpg., avg. 24 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.4 gal.
Curb weight: 3,593 lbs.
Warranty: 4 yr/50,000-miles basic; 6 yr/70,000-miles powertrain

2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD

Susan Frissell

Introduced at this year’s New York International Auto Show, the 2017 Lexus IS350 sedan takes on a look a little bit more individual. While it must be difficult to design a four-door sedan today that stands apart, Lexus gave it a shot with their controversial front end grille. for them.

What we liked were quite a few things, including the smooth powertrain, unparalleled quality, ride and handling. Are its looks ‘individual”? We’re not just sure. The IS350 feels a little heavy at times, but solid and the new look is a nice departure from the rather boring ES350.

Competing with the big boys-Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Lexus has a niche a little different: the “executive sedan” market. The tried-and-true Lexus owner doesn’t very easily leave the brand and in this fact, Lexus has built an empire. Hard to beat the Lexus commitment to customer satisfaction-from day one-to unmatched reliability.

In its own ‘niche,’ the IS350 is still powered by the naturally aspirated V6 engine, while others have gone to turbo fours or sixes. It seems to work for Lexus, and with 306 horse, is pretty satisfying.

While a total vehicle price of $49,578 seemed high to us, that’s the price you’ll pay when playing in this field. Starting just over $41,000, the IS350 we drove had a few big ticket options, including the F Sport Package. Adding the sportiness we like to the IS350, the F Sport Package includes an F Sport front bumper and spindle grille, 18-inch F Sport Split 5-spoke wheels, FR 225/40R18, RR 235/35R18 summer tires on the outside, while inside the car is equipped with the TFT instrument cluster, heated and ventilated front F Sport seats, perforated leather steering wheel with F Sport logo, shift knob, Black headliner, aluminum pedals, back-up monitor, Silver performance trim, F Sport suspension, ($3,155).

Additional options on our test IS350 included Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Heated outside rearview mirror ($600); AVS Navigation system/Mark Levinson Audio System, Audio 5.1 surround, 15 speakers, 835 watts, 10.25 inch display, Remote touch interface, Lexus Enform Destinations, App Suite, Voice Command, Lexus Insider, Electrochromatic Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror ($2,835), Body Side Moldings ($199), and Illuminated Door Sills ($425). All high-end options.

Our 2017 IS 350 came in a handsome Atomic Silver color, almost resembling a light gold. Although not a color that particularly stood out, still, it was handsome in this sedan.

The driver controls the stereo and navigation-among other functions-with the click-mouse device. Although it seems a little dated, we’re used to it now. One would expect, though, a more up-to-date system with Android and Apple devices. Hard to beat the sound emanating from this Mark Levinson, 15 speaker system. Concert hall quality.

The brake assist warned us a few times about following too close. A good example of paying attention when behind the wheel. The IS350 cabin is small by comparison, although we find this part of the IS’ charm. It feels more agile and sporty. There isn’t much space to store items, however, such as a phone, extra keys, etc. The center console provides two cupholders, the USB cable hookup, but not a convenient phone holder apparatus.

The design on the 2017 IS is third-generation, and a tad more distinctive, especially with that front grille. A bit edgier, the new look more more up-to-date. Opinions will vary when eyeing the IS’ backend, with its downward sweep. You’ll like it or not. We like it.

Although there may not really be anything to notice in the IS’ cabin, it’s pure Lexus and we especially liked the F Sport red seating. While when first introduced, the center analogue clock was hip (started by Infiniti), it now feels dated, and perhaps a little out of place in high-tech times.

All functions are easily operated, and although it seems as though there are numerous buttons, we are accustomed to them, and find it intuitive. The seats are very comfortable and hug the driver well. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts effortlessly. The 3.5-liter, V6 engine with 306 horse is more than adequate to move the IS’ almost 4,000 pounds.

Perhaps the weight of the IS is why this sedan feels heavy. At times it feels a little clunky, but not ponderous. Maybe just dated? Not a bad thing because at the same time, it makes the IS feel solid. We always fall into driving the IS very quickly and comfortably and find that it would be a preferred daily driver if having to make a choice.

The IS’ weight doesn’t seem to affect its performance, either. Claiming a 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, the IS350 does a fairly good job of getting out front and center. The 3.5 V-6 engine is smooth and quiet. Although we don’t care much for the paddle shifters, the F Sport mode feels more itself in Sport+ mode.

Can one think of this IS as a ‘sport’ or performance car? Probably not. It’s more of a luxury, or nearly so, sedan. If you want to stay with Lexus and be sporty, aim for the RC. We don’t really match it with the BMW or Audi sedans.

Most buy Lexus brands for their dependability, and after-sales service/attention. They haven’t always-at least until just recently-been competitive in terms of styling and pizazz. More so, a little dull, yet great cars. Ride quality is better than average, as expected, and the cabin is for the most part Lexus quiet; some road noise when highway driving. The IS takes rougher road surfaces well and remains on point; adaptive damping taking up most of the slack.

Safety equipment abounds, with eight airbags (including knee bags for front seat occupants), ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot sensor, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, auto emergency braking, forward collision detection, brake assist and driver attention detection. The IS scores a “5,” the highest rating possible.

There isn’t much to complain about in the ES350. We wonder, though, if the lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert, rather than a vibration, are not always caught or heeded. This is a matter of getting used to these features, we thin. The only complaint here is that both lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert are too polite – a little more information as to what’s going on would be helpful.

What can one really say that is negative about a Lexus product? The Lexus experience is legendary, and owners buy again and again, as well as hold onto their cars for years. For those who claim the IS feels a little old, this fact matters none to Lexus followers. As it gets closer to the competition, it still maintains what makes it a Lexus. And many are just fine with that.


MSRP: $41,370; total vehicle price $49,579, destination $995
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 24-valve, dual overhead cam, Direct injection, VVT-I, 277 lb.-ft. torque, 306 hp.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, AWD
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
Length: 184.3 in.
Width: 71.3 in.
Height: 56.3 in.
EPA Fuel Economy: 19/26/21 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.4 gal.
Curb weight: 3,737 lbs.
Trunk space: 10.8 cu.ft.
Warranty: 4 years/50,000-miles basic; 72 mth/unlimited corrosion perforation
6 yr./70,000-miles powertrain; 12-mth servicing intervals

2017 Toyota Yaris iA Sedan

Susan Frissell

The 2017 Yaris iA-a new addition to the Toyota lineup, coming over from Scion in 2016. A Scion product in its other life, the iA sedan comes into 2017 mostly unchanged. Other than the Toyota badge, the iA offers a few new color choices.

There is only one trim level from which to choose in this relatively fun car to drive. While nothing special, the Yaris iA will provide great fuel economy, a solid ride and ease of handling and parking.

The Yaris iA offers several features at a reasonable price. How many vehicles today fall in under the $20,000 ceiling? It handles well, has a plain, yet upscale feeling interior, and free maintenance and roadside assistance for two years, or 25,000-miles.

While this econo-box has many good qualities, it’s not a standout. Rear passenger room is limited and a tall driver might find the front seating a tad tight. When navigating hills or on-ramps, the Yaris iA struggles a bit, but then again, it is not competing with sedans of bigger status.

Competitors in the subcompact category include the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent. The iA is based on the Mazda2-not sold in the U.S. Our test Yaris iA came equipped with the six-speed manual transmission that was fun to drive. Buyers can opt for the six-speed automatic transmission, without sacrificing fuel economy too noticeably.

Our Yaris iA came equipped with standard safety features, including Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Low-Speed Pre-Collision System, ABS, Electronic Brake Force and Brake Assist. Impressive for a subcompact vehicle. Several airbags, including side and side curtain airbags abound.

Also standard are a tire pressure monitoring system, Integrated rearview backup camera, remote keyless entry and push-button start. Cruise control, power door locks, mirrors and windows are also standard. A/C, rear window defogger and 60/40 split-fold flat rear seating are also included.

Yaris is Toyota’s smallest sedan, just below the ever-popular Corolla. Following Scion’s ‘monospec’ policy, the Yaris iA has no optional packages or individual features. It is what it is and you get just that, which must surely make it easier for Toyota.

A fun car to drive, the Yaris iA resembles Mazda in that regard. Easy to handle with some surprising pep, it is quieter than most subcompacts. The interior is comfortable, though legroom might be a problem from six-footers. The tilt-telescoping steering wheel helps that.

The sound system, an AM/FM/HD radio has nine speakers, AUX, two USB ports, and streaming via Bluetooth, voice recognition, connected service suite with Pandora, AHA and Stitcher radio. The 7-inch touchscreen displays audio and operates with a multi-function commander control.


MSRP: $15,950; total vehicle price $16,815, delivery $865
Engine: 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine DOHC
Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission w/OD, FWD
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Height: 58.5 in.
Width: 66.7 in.
Length: 171.7 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 11.6 gal.
Tires: 185/60R16
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
EPA Fuel Economy: 30/34/39 mpg.
Curb weight: 2,385 lbs.
Warranty: 36 mth/36,000-mile Bumper-Bumper

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe LTD Ultimate AWD

Susan Frissell

The all-new, redesigned 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe keeps getting better, bigger and more costly. Our test “Limited Ultimate” edition came in just over $44,000; a high total vehicle price, we think, for a ‘reasonably priced’ Hyundai vehicle. But then, we sound out of touch harping about high-priced vehicles since in 2017, they’re all priced high.

With crossover vehicles and SUV’s being the most sought-after categories in Autoland, all manufacturers are trying to hit the mark. Checking all the boxes, Hyundai tries to deliver a large, well-equipped SUV in the 2017 Santa Fe that smacks of near-luxury.

For consumers seeking a spacious, three-row SUV, the Santa Fe offers a winning recipe, including up-to-date technology, a long list of standard equipment and handsome styling. The Santa Fe’s cabin is friendly, and comfortable; one can haul a fair amount of cargo, with Hyundai’s 3.3-liter V6 engine, there seems to be plenty of power.

Introduced at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, the Santa Fe gets larger, and better with each iteration.

The Santa Fe is available in several trim levels: SE ($30,800 FWD/32,550 AWD); Limited ($34,950 FWD, $36,700 AWD); Ultimate ((38,700 FWD, $40,450 AWD); and Limited Ultimate ($39,400 FWD, $41,150 AWD). Options include HID Headlights with dynamic bending light, Electronic parking brake, Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Auto Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection and High Beam Assist.

Our test Santa Fe Limited Ultimate came with a couple of options, including the Ultimate Tech Package (Smart Cruise Control w/Stop/Start, Automatic Emergency Braking w/Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Parking Brake, High Intensity Discharge Headlights (HID), Dynamic Bending Light and High Beam Assist, $2,100; and Carpeted Floor Mats, $150.

There are many larger SUV’s to choose from and the 2017 Santa Fe most closely matches up to the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Mazda CX-9. A tad shorter in length than these three vehicles, the Santa Fe’s wheelbase is also a little shorter. However, storage space in the Santa Fe measures up to 80 cu. Ft. when folded flat.

We tested out the cargo space when hauling several car loads of stuff to a locker-including a good size sofa. The couch fit all the way in the Santa Fe, with room to spare and the back door easily closed.

Back-up Camera in the Santa Fe

If we owned a Santa Fe-or any SUV for that matter, it would strictly be to tote around the four dogs that take up residence in our home. Even then, they much prefer riding on the seats in the upright position, as opposed to when the seating is flat. Better control.

So, like most SUV owners, the seats probably would remain in the upward position most of the time.

The second-row seating in the Santa Fe is bucket seating. Supportive, yet only accommodating two passengers, Buyers can opt for a bench, if preferred. The third row seats are not terribly small, and passengers can even manage their own climate control.

Our Limited Ultimate Santa Fe is of course, the top-of-the-line Santa Fe, the interior is well done. Seating is comfortable and fits all body styles. Appointments are upscale and soft, controls easily reached and extra space to spare, both in the console and doors. We found the Santa Fe easy to maneuver and park, and offering a comfortable ride on most road surfaces. However, we did notice when taking bumps, the rear suspension took it hard.

The interior in our 2017 Santa Fe felt like top notch. Leather trim, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and 12-speaker Infinity sound system, as well as heated/ventilated front seats were all upgrades.

Handsome 19-inch alloy wheels suit the 19-inch tires that provide for the most part, a quiet ride and handling experience. Our optional Tech Package at $2,100 is probably worth it when wanting the latest in technology, if you’re into that kind of thing. We find that many times when in top-of-the-line press vehicles, we don’t even get to all the fancy stuff. But assume that those who are high tech will like them and learn how to use them.

Our test Santa Fe came with AWD; also available with FWD, paired with the same six-speed automatic transmission. Having driven the Santa Fe alone, it’s hard to know if when loaded up, it would perform similarly. Even when full of ‘stuff,’ it handled well.

What makes a consumer select one manufacturer/style/vehicle over another? It is a difficult choice today, given there are so many to consider. Perhaps one of the better, more desirable three-row SUV’s on the market today, the Santa Fe remains ever popular. It feels refined, void of many glaring weaknesses, and although not ‘perfect,’ we think it wears well over time.


MSRP: $41,150; total vehicle price $44,295, delivery $895
Engine: 3.3-liter V6, GDI, 290 hp., 252 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/SHIFTRONIC
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 19 city, 22 highway, 17 combined, AWD; 17/23/20 FWD
Tires: 235/56R19
Wheels: 19-inch alloy
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
Width: 74.2 in.
Height: 66.9 in.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.8 gal.
Curb weight: 4,017/4,169 lbs.
Warranty: 5 yr/50,000-mile New Vehicle; 10 yr/100,000-mile powertrain; 7 yr/unlimited-mileage anti-perforation; 5 yr/unlimited mileage roadside assistance