Archive for December, 2010

2010 Chrysler Sebring

Any visitor to a warm climate in the United States is bound to see an abundance of Chrysler Sebring Convertibles

2010 chrysler sebring 2010 chrysler sebring

2010 chrysler sebring

in the local mix of vehicles, since the 4-seater has been one of the most popular ragtop choices on the U.S. market for many years.

With the next-generation Sebring, Chrysler seeks to increase that popularity in less favorable climes with the


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addition of an optional power retractable hardtop, to deliver a sedan-like driving experience in adverse weather conditions while maintaining all the attributes of a convertible for sunny days.

We drove the new 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible on the Pacific Coast Highway and along twisty canyon roads north of Malibu, California, to experience top-down driving fun but also to test the stiffer platform on which the 2008 Sebring rides. The new version is two and a half times stiffer in torsional rigidity and one and a half times stiffer in bending than the model it replaces.

Offered in three trim levels, the first Sebring we drove was the top-of-the-line Limited, powered by a 258-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 mated to a new 6-speed automatic transmission

Category › Car Reviews

Title › 2010 Chrysler Sebring

with AutoStick manual shift mode. Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg city and 26 mpg highway based on the new 2008 EPA standards.

The Sebring Limited Convertible with the power retractable hardtop and V6 engine was fun to drive in the dappled light of the California canyons. Sure it’s no sports car, but the 6-speed automatic and the robust 3.5-liter V6 work well together, delivering strong power when needed.

The Sebring Convertible is all about a fun, open-top touring car with enough room and storage for more than two occupants. The AutoStick manual shift feature allows the driver to choose the correct gear and hold it when circumstances require. The smooth transmission delivers quick upshifts or downshifts whether in fully automatic or manual mode.

Chrysler added extra reinforcements in the rear bulkhead and in the sill areas to stiffen the chassis, including adhesive-bonded high-strength steel tubes in each sill and two sets of braces bolted to the underbody. The result is a virtually shake-free ride—an accomplishment, given the extra stress and torsion placed upon a chassis long enough to accommodate the bigger passenger cabin—and one without a fixed roof or pillars to provide stiffness.

We didn’t drive the base Sebring Convertible powered by a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder World Engine with a 4-speed automatic. However, based on the driving experience of the Touring with the 2.7-liter V6, we recommend choosing the V6 version. The 2.4-liter is rated at 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway based on the 2008 EPA standards, and has a 15 percent power increase over the 4-cylinder offered in the previous model.

2010 chrysler sebring

2010 chrysler sebring roadtest

Available on all three versions—Limited, Touring and Base—the steel body-color power retractable hardtop is fully automated. There are no latches to release manually, and it stows completely under a hard tonneau cover in a total time of only 30 seconds.

The 2008 Sebring Convertible joins the redesigned 2007 Sebring Sedan and carries the overall design and style of the Sedan, which includes a number of elements from other Chrysler products. The Convertible is actually nearly the same as the sedan from the A-pillars (the sloping sides of the windshield) forward.

Inside, the new design carries over the wing-shaped theme from the grille, with a wing shape to the upper dash pad, emphasized by the standard two-tone interior. Materials contribute an upscale look and feel with soft-touch surfaces and gloss finishes, including a pebble grain texture for the dash cover.

2010 chrysler sebring

2010 chrysler sebring review

A three-bezel instrument cluster provides information to the driver, with a large speedometer and information display in the center flanked by two smaller pods housing the tachometer and other gauges. The center stack incorporates an analog clock, climate control functions and the entertainment system, including the optional MyGIG multimedia navigation audio, entertainment and communication system.

The addition of the power-retractable hardtop option for the 2008 Sebring Convertible is sure to make it a better all-weather vehicle and create additional interest for this popular model. Improvements such as the standard hard tonneau cover, fully automatic top operation, styling updates and interior refinement combine to make the Sebring a strong consideration in the four-seat convertible segment.

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2011 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

Cadillac continues to show that it can compete with Europe’s best. Its all-new CTS Sport Wagon ranks right up there

2011 cadillac cts sport wagon

2011 cadillac cts sport wagon

with the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3-Series wagon. I really like the way it looks — so different from its competitors. The angular rear lines are attractive and create a nice profile. The interior is equally nice; I thought


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the center console was integrated smartly into the dash. While passenger space is plentiful, headroom was tight in the rear seats for adults around 6 feet tall. On the road, I was able to achieve 18 mpg in mixed driving, but was slightly disappointed in the V6 engine’s power delivery. Overall, I was pleased with the CTS Sport Wagon, and pleased that Cadillac is delivering high-end products to the auto marketplace again.

–Joe Chulick

This is one hot wagon! If you want your utility vehicle to drive like a sports car, forget the crossovers. The 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon is the way to go. The already handsome CTS form seems to look even better as a wagon, and its unique

Category › Car Reviews

Title › 2011 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

rear end sets the Sport Wagon apart from anything else on the road. Our tester was powered by GM’s excellent direct-injection 3.6-liter V6 engine, which puts out 304 horsepower. Other notable features included 19-inch polished aluminum wheels, sport suspension, steering-wheel shift controls and upgraded brakes. The suspension, steering and brakes all have the same excellent feel that the sedan has, despite the extra weight of the larger cargo area. In fact, the Sport Wagon feels more like a sport sedan than any crossover that I have ever driven.

–Mike Meredith

2011 cadillac cts sport wagon

2011 cadillac cts sport wagon

Cadillac shows that a wagon can be cool. Its all-new CTS Sport Wagon looks great, with sleek lines, sharp angles and big rear fender flares. Inside, it is stylish with quality materials. However, I found the front seats to be uncomfortable. The cargo area is well thought out, with movable tie-downs, an adjustable barrier between it and the passenger area, a ski pass-through and a cargo net. Rear seats are a bit cramped but usable; fold them down to create a surprisingly large flat surface for hauling larger items. Like the CTS sedan, the Sport Wagon has nice power with excellent handling. Fuel economy was not terribly impressive, though. With the performance of the CTS sedan and plenty of cargo-carrying ability, the CTS Sport Wagon makes a great alternative to the traditional SUV or sedan.

–Perry Stern


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2011 Buick LaCrosse

General Motors calls the 2010 LaCrosse the second chapter in Buick’s renaissance. The Enclave midsize crossover utility vehicle was the

2011 buick lacrosse 2011 buick lacrosse

2011 buick lacrosse

first. It brought a younger buyer into the brand, and Buick is hoping the LaCrosse can do the same. It certainly has the looks inside and out to appeal to a wider audience, but is the LaCrosse enough to help


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GM survive? Well, after a day behind the wheel, we think the LaCrosse’s brand of luxury stacks up nicely with the likes of the Lexus ES 350. Now, all younger luxury customers need to do is rediscover Buick. That might be easier said than done.

The 2010 Buick LaCrosse is offered in CX, CXL and CXS trim levels. Front-wheel drive is standard; the CXL is offered with all-wheel drive (AWD). Notable standard features of the CX include cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, XM Satellite Radio and 17-inch steel wheels. The CXL adds leather heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lamps and 18-inch alloy wheels. The CXS trim gets heated and ventilated leather seats and chrome-plated 18-inch wheels. The CXS

Category › Car Reviews

Title › 2011 Buick LaCrosse

can be ordered with a Touring package that includes real-time suspension damping and 19-inch wheels.

Standard safety equipment includes dual threshold front airbags, side-curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control and GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability control.

There are three engines to choose from here, two of which are new to the LaCrosse. For the first time, CX and CXL trims are offered with an updated version of GM’s Ecotec 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. Previously offered in other GM vehicles, the engine now features direct-injection technology that improves both power and fuel efficiency. Output is 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. A new 3.0-liter V6, which is a version of the 3.6-liter V6 that had been offered in the last model, also has direct injection and produces 255 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque. The top engine, offered only in the CXS, is a 3.6-liter V6 that adds direct injection as well, increasing horsepower from 240 to 280 and torque from 225 to 259 lb-ft. All engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate.

2011 buick lacrosse

2011 buick lacrosse reviw

This CXL’s available all-wheel-drive system can send 85 percent of the power to the rear wheels. It also comes with an electronic limited-slip differential to apportion the power between the rear wheels for optimal traction.

Now this is more like it. The LaCrosse interior was designed in China, where Buicks are status symbols and owners often have chauffeurs. As a result, the LaCrosse has one of the best cabins in the General Motors lineup. It is attractively designed, carefully assembled and has an abundance of soft-touch surfaces. Standard “ice blue” ambient lighting adds a quality touch and helps illuminate various controls at night.

Like most sedans today, the LaCrosse’s coupe like rear pillars limit the size of the trunk opening. The trunk is spacious, though, with 13.3 cubic feet of cargo room. That space can be enhanced by standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Buick also includes a rear-seat pass-through, so the car can accommodate four passengers carrying long cargo, such as skis.

2011 buick lacrosse

2011 buick lacrosse road test

The CXS is the closest to a sports sedan, especially when equipped with the Touring package, which comes with real-time damping and 19-inch wheels. While the CXS Touring may turn more willingly than the others, the wheels and low-profile tires tend to slap over pavement joints and highway tar strips. If you live in an area with rough roads, try the Touring suspension before you buy. On any version, the brakes are strong and easy to modulate, and the steering is light and a bit slow, but with decent road feel.

All engines come with a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate. The CXS has a Sport mode that allows for manual shifting and also changes shift points, steering resistance and suspension firmness. Even in Sport mode, however, the CXS doesn’t feel particularly sporty.

Kirk Bell

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2011 BMW 3-Series

BMW fans can only be thankful that BMW didn’t botch the styling of its new, early 2006 3-Series sedan by

2011 bmw 3 series 2011 bmw 3 series

2011 bmw 3 series

tacking on a bulky rear end and adding bizarre styling touches that it has given new-generation models in the past few years. The compact, iconic 3-Series 4-door replaces the 1999-2005 version. The 3-Series long has been the automaker’s top seller


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and is widely considered the standard for small sporty sedans, although models such as the new Audi A3 are a definite threat.

The long-awaited new sedan is the fifth generation 3-Series model. Some folks won’t be jazzed by its heftier appearance, but it’s faster, larger and roomier, with more standard features and prices that remain reasonable.

The heritage of the 3-Series goes back to the small, sporty 1600 and 2002 four-seaters that arrived herein the late 1960s. The first 3-Series was sent to America in 1977, and when it comes to sportiness or prestige, nothing has been able to touch a 3-Series sedan.

The 3-Series currently is sold only as a rear-wheel-drive sedan. A station wagon version arrives this fall with all-wheel drive—a feature that also will be offered for the sedan. Coupe and convertible 3-Series versions debut next year as 2007 models and carry their current design until then.

Category › Car Reviews

Title › 2011 BMW 3-Series

A sizzling hot rod M3 version will be offered in 2007.

The new 3-Series sedan technically remains a compact car, although it’s 2.2 inches longer, 3 inches wider and nearly an inch taller, with a wider track and a wheelbase increased by 1.4 inches.

The redesigned model is more tightly built than its predecessor, which was pretty good in that regard. The main benefit of the 2006 up sizing is more rear leg room. Two tall adults fit comfortably in back, which was never the case with earlier 3-Series cars. However, the center of the rear seat is stiff, so it’s best to fold down the center rear armrest and use the cup-holders that pop from its leading edge.

2011 bmw 3 series Road Test

2011 bmw 3 series

The front seat area offers decent room for tall occupants, but there isn’t much space to spare up there. Front doors have storage pockets, but the glove compartment is a joke and the center console cargo bin doesn’t hold much.

The new sedan is up to 88 pounds heavier, but horsepower of its butter-smooth new 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine has been upped from 184 to 215 in the base $30,300 trim level and from 225 to 255 in the higher-line 330i version, which lists at $36,300. The new sedan is fast with either engine, which delivers an estimated 20-21 mpg in the city and 29-30 on the highway.

For instance, starting my test car’s engine called for inserting a small plastic fob in a dashboard slot and pushing a button to start the engine. I also had to push the button to stop the engine and then pull out the fob.

2011 bmw 3 series Review

2011 bmw 3 series

Why not just start and stop the engine by turning a regular ignition key? If memory serves, you started the engines of really old Fords with a dashboard button. The standard transmission is a slick 6-speed manual, which allows the most driving fun—or at least the most driving involvement.

The new car has nearly perfect 50-50 weight distribution and was a kick to drive even without the manual gearbox. All that thanks to a superb chassis and BMW’s legendary intuitive steering which was rather heavy, but not objectionably so. The ride occasionally got choppy even on fairly smooth freeways, despite the improved standard suspension. It might have been worse with the Sport Package’s firmer suspension and wider tires, which have narrower sidewalls that don’t absorb road shocks very well.

BMW’s infamous, overly complicated iDrive system is too much of a pain to use when driving. The new 3-Series sedan is clearly better than its predecessor. It continues to provide one of the best small sedan driving experiences, but no longer has a stranglehold on the small sports sedan market.

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2011 Audi A4

The release of the A4 in 1996 marked an important change for Audi. Better-looking and sportier than the Audi 90

2011 audi a4 2011 audi a4

2011 audi a4

it replaced, the A4 was a worthy competitor for the BMW 3-Series. More importantly, it began to draw a larger audience for what had been a struggling brand. For 2009, Audi redesigns the A4, making it larger, improving balance and


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offering an efficient new engine. The more appealing A4 will almost certainly continue to draw even more customers to Audi.

Standard equipment on 2.0T trims includes leather upholstery, automatic climate control, a tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, the usual power accessories, an 8-way power front seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a sunroof, an 180-watt AM/FM/stereo with 10 speakers, an auxiliary input jack, Sirius Satellite Radio, fog lights and P225/50R17 tires on alloy wheels. Wagons also have roof rails for a rack or other cargo carrier.

Category › Car Reviews

Title › 2011 Audi A4

Audi A4 3.2 trims add heated front seats, memory for the driver’s seat and mirrors, a 6-disc CD changer, an iPod adapter, a Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, a trip computer, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and P245/45R17 tires.

A Premium Plus package is offered for the 2.0T. It includes much of the 3.2 equipment, plus 3-zone climate control, heated front seats and xenon headlights. A Prestige package for both trims adds keyless access and starting, 18-inch wheels, Audi’s Blind Spot Alert system and a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system with 14 speakers.

The redesigned A4 is offered with two engines and a choice of front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), which Audi calls quattro. While the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that Audi offered in 2008 was powerful and fuel-efficient, Audi has redesigned it for 2009. This version uses a timing chain instead of a timing belt and is both more powerful and more fuel-efficient. It produces 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, compared with the 2008 version’s 200 ponies and 207 lb-ft of torque. FWD versions come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while quattro models use a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic with Audi’s Tiptronic manual shift capability. Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings are 23/30 mpg (city/hwy) for the FWD sedan with the CVT, 22/30 for the quattro sedan with the manual, and 21/27 for the sedan or wagon with the automatic.

Audi A4 3.2 trims have a 3.2-liter V6 engine that makes 265 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque. It comes only with the 6-speed automatic transmission and quattro, and EPA fuel-economy estimates are 17/26.

Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system is rear-biased. Under normal conditions, it sends 60 percent of the power to the rear wheels and 40 percent to the front. When slip is detected, an automatic locking center differential can send most of the power to the axle with traction.

2011 audi a4

2011 audi a4 road test

Audi has been the industry standard for interior quality for years, and the 2009 A4’s cockpit is better than ever. In my opinion, the dashboard is one of the most attractive available today. The only hard plastic is the trim piece that surrounds the instrument cluster. The dash is made of a solid, soft-touch material, the armrests and center console are padded, and the trim is either aluminum or wood. The electroluminescent gauges are easy to see and read, and red lighting around the controls makes them easy to find at night.

True to its sport sedan intentions, the A4 has supportive seats that keep drivers in place during aggressive cornering. The optional sport seats provide even more support. A standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel, plenty of seat controls and good headroom and legroom make it easy to find a tailored driving position.

The 2009 A4’s increased length benefits back-seat space, which has been a problem for the A4 in the past. Two adults can fit back there unless the front-seat passengers push their seats all the way back, and three children will fit as well. Headroom is good for all but the very tall, and there is plenty of toe space under the front seats.

2011 audi a4

2011 audi a4 review

The A4’s premium qualities extend to its ride and handling characteristics. The 2009 model is 4.6 inches longer overall and 6.5 inches longer in wheelbase. Audi says the extra length allowed engineers to move the front axle 6.1 inches forward and the engine back toward the center of gravity. In addition, the new model has a 1.8-inch wider track. These changes give the A4 some much-needed stability at high speeds and better turn-in response. It feels smaller than its size and is nimble in quick changes of direction. While it still isn’t a match for the BMW 3-Series on twisty roads or a racetrack, the difference is negligible on the street.

The A4’s base engine is also its best engine. The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder provides maximum torque as low as 1500 rpm. That means the A4 2.0T is sprightly from a stop and has willing passing response. Zero to 60 mph takes only 6.5 seconds with the easy-shifting manual transmission, and as little as 6.7 seconds with the smooth and responsive automatic.

The 3.2-liter V6 comes only with the automatic transmission, and it propels the A4 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. While that’s faster than the 2.0T, it’s not much faster, and the added price and reduced fuel economy conspire to make the V6 an unwise buy. On top of that, the 3.2 is far outperformed by BMW’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6.

Kirk Bell

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2011 Acura TL

Current owners of Acura’s best-selling TL told the company they wished their cars were sportier, with more distinctive styling. In

2011 acura tl 2011 acura tl

2011 acura tl

September Acura will present them with the undeniably more distinct 2009 TL — a car that it says strikes a perfect balance between the rational and the emotional. We say the TL will continue to sell because it’s the obvious


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rational choice of the segment — packed with technology, comfortable to drive and priced right.

In traditional Acura form, the TL will be available in two trims — the TL and the TL SH-AWD. As you may have guessed, the one with the additional acronym is the higher level trim. But the base trim can hardly be called minimalist, since it has such standard features as leather seating, an eight-speaker stereo with Bluetooth compatibility and iPod connectivity, dual-zone climate control and a power moonroof.

The SH-AWD model is highlighted by Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive — one of the most advanced on the market today, offering enhanced dry weather enjoyment as well as wet weather traction. The SH-AWD version comes with

Category › Car Reviews

Title › 2011 Acura TL

18-inch wheels and tires, and also has unique sport seating, a contoured steering wheel and special stitching. Nineteen-inch wheels are also available on the SH-AWD.

Either car can be equipped with a Technology Package that includes navigation with voice recognition, an unbelievable 10-speaker audio system, a rearview camera and a rear spoiler. The technology package climate control links up with GPS and a solar sensor to determine the ideal cabin temperature and humidity, and the car will tell you if you’re headed into a snowstorm or a traffic jam.

The 2009 TL comes with a 3.5-liter 280 horsepower V6 that makes 254 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm. Despite being bigger than the 3.2-liter V6 of the previous TL, the new engine manages the same gas mileage at 18/26 mpg (city/hwy). This can be attributed to a more advanced valve-timing system and the change to electric power steering. The 3.5-liter V6 is matched with a five-speed automatic transmission, which drives the front wheels.

Acura estimates that 25 percent of buyers will opt for the SH-AWD model, which comes with a 3.7-liter V6 that bumps output to 305 horsepower, making it the most powerful production Acura ever made. The larger engine generates 273 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm, and gas mileage goes down to 17/25 mpg (city/hwy).

In the SH-AWD, the same five-speed transmission supplies rev-matched downshifts via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and is linked to a shorter final drive to help acceleration. In 2010 a manual transmission will be offered, but Acura won’t say which trim will be the recipient.

The cabin of the 2009 TL is full of multifunction buttons, rotary knobs and displays to cover an array of electronic systems. It’s the polar opposite of BMW’s all-in-one iDrive system, and it’s about as effective.

Every TL will seat five in a plush leather interior, and whether you opt for the seats of the base TL or the more supportive SH-AWD seats, your rear end will never complain. There is a neat drawer in the armrest, perfect for an mp3 player or cell phone, and there’s another compartment in the passenger footwell that’s ideal for storing such antiquated methods of music reproduction as the CD.

2011 acura tl

2011 acura tl road test

The new TL is bigger than a current RL, and it’s heavier than the previous TL. But the front-wheel-drive model is perfectly capable of transporting techies to Circuit City. And despite being more powerful than its predecessor, there is almost none of the torque steer that once plagued the TL.

The SH-AWD has more sporting pretensions. Lay into the gas and the engine elicits a surprising roar, but you aren’t exactly rocketing forward with 3,983 pounds to motivate. Acura assures us this car is faster than its predecessor, but it somehow doesn’t feel that way. The paddle shifters are fun to use, but the shift algorithm needs work to match the sportiness of six-speed offerings from the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, often taking a second to react to tugs of the paddle and sometimes misguessing the correct revs altogether.

2011 acura tl

2011 acura tl review

Twin-piston front brakes are a vast improvement in pedal feel and effort over the previous model. The SH-AWD has functional brake cooling ducts in the front bumper.

In response to customer requests, the shock absorbers have a “blow-off” function, which allows them to be taut in the twisties, but react incredibly quickly on sharp impacts. Our drive in the SH-AWD confirmed their effectiveness, striking up an impressive compromise between handling and comfort.

James Tate

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2011 Volvo C30

The new Volvo C30 hatchback coupe fits in the emerging market for small, upscale cars such as the MINI Cooper

2011 volvo c30 2011 volvo c30

2011 volvo c30

and upcoming Smart model. It’s the smallest Volvo ever sold in America except for about 70 long-forgotten P1900 sports cars made in the 1950s.

High gasoline prices are fueling that youth-oriented market, although it remains to be seen if many


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Americans will buy small, upscale cars that cost as much as larger ones — although the C30 is bigger than the MINI.

The 2008 C30 is the lowest-cost 2008 Volvo. But the automaker says the car is built to the same principles as other Volvos, starting with a solid body.

The wedge-shaped C30 is fun to drive. It’s a curvy, stylish, front-wheel-drive coupe derived from Volvo’s S40 sport sedan, although it’s 8.5 inches shorter and 320 pounds lighter.

There are two trim levels: the $22,700 1.0 and $25,700 2.0. Both have a good number of comfort, convenience and safety features.

Custom Build Program

Many younger car owners like to individualize their cars, so Volvo offers for a one-time $300 charge a “Custom Build” program with

Category › Car Reviews

Title › 2011 Volvo C30

an array of options, exterior colors and interior combinations.

Offered are 17 exterior colors and 12 interior color combinations. There are more than 30 individual options, including heated seats, keyless starting and a blind-spot warning system.

Long, Heavy Doors

Four tall adults fit in the C30′s quiet, airy interior, although a 6-footer behind the driver will have tight knee room. Occupants must get past long, heavy doors that are awkward in tight parking spots.

Front seats are supportive, but the seatback adjustment control is awkward to use. And seat belts are not easily reached when you try to pull them to a fastening position. Backlit gauges can be easily read, even if a driver is wearing sunglasses — often not the case.

2011 volvo c30

2011 volvo c30 road test

Stylish Interior

The ignition switch is easily reached on the dashboard, and the center dash stack is inspired by bentwood Scandinavian furniture. It drapes off the dashboard center and curls rearward to “float” over the front console, which contains well-placed dual cupholders.

There’s a small, deep storage bin behind the cupholders, and doors have small storage pockets.

The large sound system and climate controls are easily used. While the inside hood release is buried under the dash, at least it’s colored red to make it easier to spot.

The hatch is easy to open or shut with two fingers. However, the hatch opening is high and not conventionally shaped. The cargo area is moderately large, and the backs of the two bucket-style rear seats can be flipped forward for additional cargo space.

Strong Turbo Engine

The turbocharged 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine produces 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque from a low 1500 rpm to 5000 rpm for good response at all speeds.

A light pressure turbocharger increases power and prevents it from coming on with an uncomfortable rush during fast acceleration.

2011 volvo c30

2011 volvo c30 Review

The engine is smooth and provides good merging and passing. It lets the 149-mph C30 do 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds with the standard, slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission and in 6.6 seconds with the responsive $1,250 automatic, which has a manual shift feature.

Volvo national spokesman Dan Johnston said Volvo expects that 60 percent of initial C30 buyers will order the manual transmission, but that eventually about 80 percent of the car’s buyers will choose the automatic.

Fuel economy is an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway with the manual transmission and 19 and 27 with the automatic. Only regular-grade gasoline is needed.

Occasional Choppy Ride

The quick, nicely weighted steering has the right amount of power assist. The sure handling is enhanced by wide front and rear tracks. The 2.0 trim level with the stiffer suspension has the sharpest reflexes. The ride of a test 2.0 C30 was firm, but supple, with a long wheelbase helping smooth it out. However, the ride sometimes got choppy on poorly paved side streets.

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2010 Suzuki SX4 Sport

While fuel-conscious Americans have been snapping up subcompacts from Honda, Toyota and Nissan, their Japanese counterparts have been buying the

2010 suzuki sx4 sport 2010 suzuki sx4 sport

2010 suzuki sx4 sport

kei, or mini-car, in record numbers.

These tiny hatchbacks make subcompacts look positively spacious. But with prices starting under $9,000 and fuel economy up to 54 mpg, it’s no surprise that the segment accounts for more than 35 percent of all


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new-car sales in Japan.

What may surprise is that Suzuki has been the number-one kei brand for 33 consecutive years, only relinquishing the top spot to Daihatsu earlier this year. Although it’s unlikely Suzuki will offer a mini-car in the U.S., it does have two models geared to appeal in this part of the world — the SX4 5-door and SX4 Sport sedan.

The new SX lineup takes over for the discontinued Suzuki Aerio cars. The SX4 5-door arrived last year, and Suzuki can barely build enough to meet U.S. demand. Now joined by the SX4 Sport sedan, the two will battle smaller entrants such as the Honda Fit, Chevrolet Aveo, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa and, at same time, face off

Category › Car Reviews

Title › 2010 Suzuki SX4 Sport

against the well-established Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra.

Unlike the all-wheel-drive SX4, the SX4 Sport is front-wheel-drive only. The automaker is betting its new arrival will meet with equal success for two reasons: It’s sporty, and it has a base price of just $14,770.

More Sporty Than Sport

The 143-horsepower rating of the SX4 Sport’s all-aluminum, double-overhead-cam 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine puts it near the top in this class, but it’s the torque curve that makes things happen. The 126 lb-ft start early and the torque curve is fairly flat across a wide band. By tuning the engine for more low-end grunt, 0 to 30 mph happens in just 3.4 seconds. According to Suzuki, this bests the 2.0-liter powerplants in the Mazda3 and Nissan Sentra. Though losing the 0-60 march (a yawning 10.2 seconds), it catches both in the quarter mile at a respectable 17.6 seconds.

Shifting gears with the standard five-speed manual transmission requires a deliberate effort, but the clutch engages quickly with little pedal effort. The optional ($1,100) four-speed automatic shifts succinctly, even during hard acceleration. Steering is properly weighted with good on-center feel, and the ride is solid without feeling numb. With less road and wind noise than you expect for the class, the Sport is a pleasurable small car.

2010 suzuki sx4 sport Review

2010 suzuki sx4 sport Review

Bright, Roomy Interior

Longer and wider than the Aerio models, the SX4 Sport’s interior space is markedly improved. Even tall folks will feel at home in the front seats, where there’s ample head-, leg- and shoulder room for the six-foot-plus set, while a tilt steering wheel makes it easier to find a comfortable driving position.

The interior is one of Suzuki’s best, illustrating the automaker’s steps forward in layout and ergonomics. Glass all around is big, allowing for good visibility, while making the cabin seem bright and spacious. The deft blending of interior materials appears to be of high quality, with tight and consistent gaps between panels. The only mar is the rudimentary levers for the fuel door and trunk release poking out of a rough opening in the carpet.

2010 suzuki sx4 sport road test

2010 suzuki sx4 sport road test

Fun to Drive, But Not Too Frugal

If you want a small car that’s fun to drive for less than $15,000, the SX4 Sport is an able candidate. Unfortunately, fuel economy isn’t one of its strongest suits. With the standard five-speed manual transmission, estimated EPA fuel economy is 22 mpg city, 30 highway; with the automatic, the estimate is 23 city/31 highway. Certainly helping its cause will be its headline-grabbing 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.

With true performance versions available of the Mazda3, Civic and Sentra, and the Fit, Aveo, Versa and Yaris touting fuel economy, the Sport is staking out a narrow middle ground in a tough category. Strong on content, styling and comfort, its pricing should help keep it slotted among the best values in its class.

Larry E. Hall

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