Sunday
May202012

2012 Toyota Highlander 

By Edward R. Noble/Wheels Vehicle Test Ranch

If I could only have one vehicle, it would be a big SUV. They do about everything a busy person needs whether its runs to the hardware or taking the dogs to the beach. Families will always find a SUV with the third row seat on some of the full size SUV’s a deal maker. Toyota’s Highlander is one of the best selling big SUV’s with the third row seat as standard issue. Offering excellent reliability and priced rightly, the highlander offers a lot of reasons to consider it over its sizable competition. 

There are three model options starting with the base front-wheel drive and four-cylinder 187 horsepower engine linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. You may not think a four-cylinder engine would be enough to pull a big  4,000 pound SUV and loaded with family and vacation stuff along. But, it is well able to manage if you are not into power take-offs. The EPA is not that impressive at about 20/25 mpg with the base four-cylinder.

In the middle of the Highlander mix is the more likable 3.5 V-6 with 270 horsepower and a five speed automatic transmission gives a EPA of 17/19. . The V-6 with the optional "Hybrid Synergy" electric help will provide a notable increase in power with even better mileage 28/28 MPG.

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Saturday
May192012

Man  Up to the New, New 2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5

By  Ted Orme

I  remember being stunned by my first look at the new Beetle in, can you believe, 1998. It was a masterful blend of retro nostalgic and modern design. The  interior was clean and simple as well. But there it was: a bud vase fixed to the  dash with a daisy in it! Did the folks in Wolfsburg really want to write off an entire gender in one fell swoop?  It wasn’t the “people’s car.” It was a chick car!

Now along comes the new, new Beetle. It’s longer (7.3 inches), lower (half an inch), and wider (3.3 inches) with sleek new sheet  metal and an aggressive almost Porshe/Audi TT squat to it. Don’t expect that  kind of performance, of course, but there is enough style and power to make this a manlier bug.

And that’s what VW wants. The aging boomer nostalgia market has  probably moved up market anyway. Today’s target is younger buyers – male and female – looking for a sexier,  more-contemporary-looking ride. And with a base price of $18,995, the 2012  Beetle has tempting appeal.

 

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Saturday
May192012

1968 Mercedes-Benz 250SL

By Vern Parker

For eight years Mercedes-Benz was busily building three almost identical models designated as W113 models. The first version off the line was the 230SL. The last one was the 280SL. Sandwiched inbetween was the rarest model, a 250SL.

Early in the 21st century Bill Lightfoot took notice of the timeless beauty of those Mercedes-Benz sports cars and began a search for one that lasted for more than two years. “I wanted a nice cruiser,” he explains.

He looked at several likely candidates which all fell short of his requirements. Eventually, in November 2011, he found a 250SL in Suffolk, Va., that had recently been repainted in the original red. The quality of the respraying was first rate although Lightfoot says he would have preferred a black or silver color on the car. He quickly changed his mind about the color.

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Friday
Apr132012

2012 Subaru Impreza Solid Performer, Boring Execution

By Brian Armstead

For the 2012 model year, Subaru’s Impreza received top marks from Consumer Reports in their annual “best” survey.  And for good reason, as the Impreza is an incredibly safe, extremely reliable automobile. With Subaru’s “Symetrical” all-wheel drive system standard, it’ll go just about anywhere Mom Nature suggests you shouldn’t.

But steady as she goes is not good enough in 2012. Chevrolet andFord have strong offerings.  Mazda,Honda, Nissan and Toyota continue to build great cars.  But the real threat comes from South Korea,with Hyundai and Kia taking names and kicking major tail as they continue their march toward the top.  The Impreza, at just over $24,000 as tested, does not offer enough in the comfort and convenience departments to justify buying one over a Kia Optima or Hyundai Sonata.    

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Friday
Apr132012

Best in Class 2012 Ford Focus SE

By Ted Orme

With gas prices staying ugly, I’ve made it a point over the past year to drive several small, high gas mileage cars from Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Subaru, Hyundai, Kia, VW, Fiat, Chevrolet and my latest ride, the 2012 Ford Focus SE sedan. What most surprised this veteran car guy with vivid memories of on-the-blink Vegas, Pintos, Le Cars, early Beetles and the like is you can’t go wrong in this modern class of compact and subcompact vehicles. Way gone is the “tin can” feel of old. Today, there are simply no losers. In fact, it’s tough to pick a winner…but Ford is definitely in the running.

 Redesigned for 2012, the Focus is a quantum leap forward in every way over its predecessor. It’s sharply styled and finely finished, inside and out, with a level of refinement and comfort that I never thought I’d see in a small car – maybe best in class. Most Focus shoppers will likely first be drawn to its EPA rating of 26 mpg city/36 mph highway for the SE sedan fitted with a 5-speed manual transmission that I tested. But they will get so much more.

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