Category: Drive Time Written by Marcus Amick
Opting for a midsize sedan has gotten a whole lot easier
If there’s one car segment that has emerged out of the auto industry’s shakeup as a shining example that things are a lot a brighter, it’s the affordable midsize sedan.
Driven by a desire for more fuel efficient vehicles and the fact that a lot of us never needed those big four door sedans, carmakers have been putting more energy into midsize automobiles – and it shows.
Yep, gone are the days when the idea of a midsize car immediately made you think − “uhh, rental.”
From striking designs to cool technology features, every automaker is pushing to up the ante for their line-up with a new and improved midsize car or model.
Thank goodness — considering that most of us who grew up dreaming of owning that two- hundred grand luxury ride have finally come to the realization that we’ll probably never be able to afford it.
Sure, I doubt there’s a car in the segment that’ll make you forget about that Bentley you’ve been Googling if you were to hit the Mega Millions. Still, I know of a few that will at least make reality easier to swallow and broaden your scope on the segment.
In fact, you might already be running up enough on that monthly tab playing the lottery to put yourself behind the wheel of one.
I know you’re probably thinking, “Who does this guy think he is telling me how to spend my hard earned cash.” But I’m betting you’ll admit (even if it’s just to yourself) it’s food for thought the next time you’re standing in a lottery line, once you get a sense of what you can get for the money now in the midsize segment.
THE ‘ULTIMATE’ ALTIMA
Take for example, the all new 2013 Nissan Altima.
With a starting price of $21,500, the new model is by far the best one yet when it comes to looks and performance.
Exterior design cues include a tapered roofline, a wider stance and sweeping accents that give the sedan a much more sportier look than the previous model.
New interior design elements include NASA-inspired seats, which have been proven to increase blood flow and lower fatigue when driving. Available technology features include touch screen navigation, blind spot warning and segment firsts — lane departure warning and moving object detection, which detects items around the vehicle.
The 2013 Altima also features a Smartphone integration features that allows for hands-free text messaging in the vehicle.
Benchmarked against vehicles like the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4, the new Altima is available in two engine options - a redesigned 2.5L 4-cylinder and refined 3.5-liter V6, which has a starting price a little over $25,000.
If you’re thinking “green,” the new Chevrolet Malibu Eco might be your midsize vehicle of choice.
Well, green enough - without the feeling often associated with environmentally friendly vehicles that leaving you thinking you have to sacrifice wanting a nice looking car for fuel efficiency.
Priced under $30,000 for the model tested which included nearly $2,000 in options, the Malibu Eco features a 2.4L 4 cylinder engine with an electric motor generator with eAssist. The system captures up to 15kW of power that would be normally lost during braking and uses it to recharge the lithium-ion battery.
The eAssist system also shuts down fuel delivery in certain deceleration conditions, further improving fuel economy.
Estimated fuel economy is 25 city/37 highway for a combined fuel economy of 29 mpg. During my test drive I got roughly 300 miles on a tank of gas with a lot of those miles logged driving in the city.
Even more impressive is that with 182 horsepower and 182 lb.-ft. of torque you never feel that you don’t have enough power when behind the wheel.
The new design of the Malibu which has a coupe like look picks up a few of the muscular styling cues from the Camaro most noticeable in the rear.
Technology features include Chevrolet’s new MyLink infotainment platform that adds a new level of Bluetooth connectivity with enhanced voice recognition, which is a breath of fresh air considering how with so many systems you have to repeat basic voice commands.
When it comes to being unique, nothing quite makes the statement that the Volkswagen Passat makes when it comes to midsize sedans.
True to the legacy of VW, the Passat packs a lot of the brand’s classic design elements along with a lot of new features in some very affordable packages.
The new model, the largest Passat ever, comes in three models 2.5L, the 2.0L TDI Diesel and 3.6 Liter V6.
The 2.5L model with manual transmission and 170 horsepower has a starting price right under $20,000. It comes standard with automatic dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel audio controls and VW’s no-charge three-year/36,000 mile scheduled Carefree Maintenance Program.
The up-level SE model starts at $23,725 and includes additional equipment such as 17-inch alloy wheels, 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats, touchscreen premium VIII radio, and a multi-Function leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel model offers three trim levels and starts under $26,000, delivering 43 mpg highway, with a range of nearly 800 miles.
Other affordable sedans on the market sure to change your view of the midsize segment include the Hyundai Sonata (still one of my personal favorites), the Toyota Camry (a longtime leader in the segment) and the Kia Optima. The all new Ford Fusion, which make its street debut soon, is also expected to help redefine the midsize market.
Of course, deciding which car in the segment best suits you is a matter of preference considering each has its own unique appeal. Though, I’m sure every carmaker mentioned can ramble off more than a few selling points in hopes of convincing you that there particular model is a better pick.
Either way, it’s a win- win for consumers with so many options in the segment, which makes it easier to own a nice car instead of just staring at one on a computer screen.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 June 2012 12:16
Category: Drive Time Written by Michigan Chronicle
When it comes to staying connected, IBM, American Honda Motor Co. and Pacific Gas and Electric Company are pioneering a new frontier – in the green that is.
The three companies have teamed up for a new pilot project that will allow communication between electric vehicles (EVs) and the power grid as plug-in vehicle counts continue to grow to an expected 2.9 million worldwide by 2017.
The project aims to demonstrate and test an EV’s ability to receive and respond to charge instructions based on the grid condition and the vehicle’s battery state.
With visibility into charging patterns, energy providers will have the ability to more effectively manage charging during peak hours and create consumer-friendly programs to encourage electric vehicle adoption.
So what does all that really mean?
In a nutshell, if this EV thing really takes off like a lot of people expect, we’ll need to make sure there’s enough power to go around.
The joint Honda project has the potential to ease the infrastructure and consumer concerns associated with the mass adoption of EVs, by adding another layer of agility to the EV charging process.
The idea is to help make charging seamless for consumers, while ensuring the electricity source is reliable and the infrastructure is stable.
For example, once plugged into a charge post, a Honda Fit EV will initiate a charge request via the vehicles telematics system, an integrated telecommunication application that is often used for navigation.
The request is then sent to IBM’s electric vehicle enablement platform where vehicle data such as battery state and grid data received from PG&E, is combined to create a charging schedule, which is then communicated back to the vehicle in seconds.
Using this aggregated data, the vehicle has the intelligence to charge to the level that is needed while factoring any current grid constraints.
Sounds a lot like a scene from the movie “Tron,” right?
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 June 2012 12:14
Category: Drive Time Written by Michigan Chronicle
Chris Paul named spokesperson for campaign
The Jeep brand and USA Basketball have teamed up in a partnership naming the Jeep Wrangler “the Official Vehicle of USA Basketball” to support the men’s and women’s national teams.
As part of the partnership, Jeep also rolled out a uniquely designed special edition model, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Altitude Edition, which will be featured in the campaign.
“Each member of the USA Basketball team embodies inner strength, passion, a drive to win and a true sense of dedication they use to not only represent their team, but also their country,” said Mike Manley, president and CEO, Jeep Brand, Chrysler Group LLC. “The Jeep brand is proud to be on the same team as these talented men and women. Both symbolize American pride, a strong history, a humble spirit, integrity, courage and leadership.”
“We are proud to have the Jeep brand’s support of USA Basketball as we prepare to represent our country both on and off the court this summer,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball chairman. “The defining characteristics of these two American brands make the affiliation feel natural, and the strategic buildup of USA Basketball-themed events, along with the comprehensive advertising and marketing campaign, will put the Jeep brand top of mind with sports fans around the world.”
Chris Paul, the 2012 USA Basketball finalist and 2008 team member, has been named as the official spokesman for this partnership. He will be featured in the Jeep brand’s advertising campaign and appear in a series of video vignettes that will give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at various facets of the partnership with USA Basketball.
“Like all Jeep brand vehicles, Chris Paul defines the meaning of true athleticism and capability. We greatly admire his philanthropic efforts and dedication to giving back to the community. His altruistic nature, compassion and drive perfectly aligns with the Jeep brand values and makes him a great fit for this initiative,” said Manley.
“The Jeep brand has always been associated with the American spirit and as a member of the 2012 USA Men’s Basketball National Team, I am proud to serve as spokesman for Jeep’s partnership with USA Basketball,” stated Chris Paul.
Kim Adams House, head of Jeep brand advertising, said the new partnership with USA Basketball benefits both organizations: “We share a common DNA and that is very clearly two American icons working together in the pursuit of greatness.”
The Jeep brand debuted the advertising and marketing campaign for the partnership with what USA Basketball called “Power Within” on Saturday, April 28.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 May 2012 12:01
Category: Drive Time Written by Marcus Amick
The 2013 Ford Escape…
Wait, I need to get this off my chest first.
For years, I’ve been a fan of the Escape.
Actually, I’ve been a big fan of the SUV, primarily because the design always stood out as unique as one of the first vehicles of its kind in the segment when introduced in 2000.
That and the fact that when a lot of other vehicles in the segment started looking the same, the Escape maintained its classic “SUV/truck-like” appeal. So, you can only imagine what I was thinking when I saw the all new 2013 model unveiled.
Yeah, call me old school I guess, but I’ve always found the boxy styling of the Escape kind of cool in a sea of vehicles in the segment that seem to all look alike after a while.
ALL THINGS MUST CHANGE
….Okay, time to move on because like everything else that’s been around for a while, the Escape needed to evolve as we move further away from the era of the big gas guzzling SUVs − even if there are some things about the vehiciles that some of us hate to see go.
It makes me wonder if we’re fastly approaching a generation that will have no idea what a traditional SUV is as crossovers become more of the mainstay. Scary, huh?
That said, the Escape still packs a lot of those capabilities that have made it one of America’s best-selling vehicles in the segment like towing capability and cargo space.
It’s the overall design of the 2013 model that throws you for loop considering that it’s such a drastic departure from the previous one with Ford hoping it will help lure a new market of women to the vehicle. So much so, that the new Escape could have easily been launched as a completely different vehicle.
Some of the key exterior design elements include a the three-dimensional hood, a trapezoidal grille and the sweeping windshield angle, all of which makes the new model nearly 10 percent more “aerodynamic” than the outgoing one, says Ford.
LOADS OF TECHNOLOGY
Available in three engine options including two EcoBoost engines, a lot of the thought has gone into improving the fuel efficiency of the Escape and the vehicle’s overall performance capabilities.
The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which pumps out 240 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, has an mpg of 30 hwy/22 city. The 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, which makes its American debut in the new Escape with 178 horsepower and 184 lb-ft., has an mpg rating of 33 hwy/23 city.
The standard engine is an updated 2.5-liter with 168 horsepower and 170 lb-ft. of torque gets 31 mpg hwy/22 mpg city.
Ford engineers went to great lengths to make the new Escape much more fuel efficient going as far to design grille slats that stay open when extra engine cooling air is required, but automatically opens when cruising on the highway to improve fuel efficiency.
Improvements for cargo include rear seats that fold flat easier and a two-position load floor, which allows customers to choose among maximum luggage volume or flat load floor.
The trailer tow rating for the new Escape is 3,500 pounds, the same as the outgoing V6 model with less pain at the pump.
Make no mistake about it, the 2013 Escape is all about more content with Ford touting that the new model has eleven features that no other vehicle in the segment offers like the much-talked about lift-gate with motion-sensing that opens and closes the hatch with the kick of a foot.
The available intelligent all-wheel-drive system on the all-new Ford Escape can send up to 100 percent of the vehicle’s power to the front or rear wheels to better grip the road.
In fact, it’s all of the technology packed into the new Escape from convenience features to improved performance capabilities that tend to draw you in to the vehicle.
The upgraded SYNC with MyFord Touch features a new look, making phone, navigation, entertainment and climate controls even easier to use.
The new Escape is also available with Ford’s Parallel parking system with active park assist and the sensor-based BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert that displays an alert in the side mirror when a vehicle is detected entering a blind spot.
The 2013 model also features a new audio system that engineers tuned by listening to everything from classical piano to rock to rap.
HOW MUCH IS COOL WORTH?
Trouble is, once you start packing in a lot of those cool features in the top-of-the line Titanium model priced at around $37,000, the idea of the new Escape starts to seem a bit extreme for the segment even with all of the luxury amenities.
The new Escape becomes much more palatable in the SE model with a base price of $23,295.
Still, after enticing you with all those extras and you realize the cost, the new Escape makes you think about checking out a few competitors with an “aerodynamic” look if shopping for a practical vehicle in the segment whether you’ve been a fan of the vehicle or not.
Then again, maybe it’s just that I really haven’t gotten over the idea that no matter how much you like something, everything is subject to change.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 May 2012 12:03
Category: Drive Time Written by Michigan Chronicle
The new 2013 Ford Taurus SHO has a starring role in the new movie “Think Like a Man,” based on Steve Harvey’s bestselling book, which opens in theaters April 20.
The new 2013 Taurus, now available at dealerships, will be part of a scene that features Meagan Good’s character, Mya, and Romany Malco’s character, Zeke, as they get ready to head out for an evening on the town.
Movie-goers will be able to watch Zeke use the upgraded MyFord Touch entertainment system to set the mood for the date in addition to showing off the power of the Taurus SHO, which features a 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine.
“This marks not only the first time the new Taurus SHO will appear in a major motion picture, but also a first when it comes to the MyFord Touch entertainment system being spotlighted in a film,” said Crystal Worthem, Ford manager, Brand Content & Alliances. “This movie integration is a great opportunity for us to showcase the new 2013 Ford Taurus SHO to an audience that has traditionally been a purchaser and enthusiast of the Ford Taurus brand.”
The film follows interconnected and diverse men whose lovelives are shaken up after the ladies they are pursuing buy Harvey’s book and start taking his advice to heart. When the band of brothers realizes they have been betrayed by one of their own, they conspire using the book’s insider information to turn the tables and teach the women a lesson of their own.
“The Taurus SHO was an ideal match for us because our film showcases progressive and professional guys showing their smarts and savvy while attempting to navigate the dating world,” said Will Packer, film producer. “The 2013 Taurus and its features were an organic fit for these characters.”
The film is directed by Tim Story and executive-produced by Steve Harvey, Rushion McDonald, Rob Hardy and Glenn S. Gainor.
As part of promotional efforts tied to the film, Ford launched a co-branded 30-second promotional spot airing on TNT and TBS in addition to co-branded radio spots that will run on the “Michael Baisden Show.” In addition to the TV and radio efforts, Ford has a number of social media activities tied to the film.
“The Ford brand has been integrated into a wide number of films in the past, and this happened to be an amazing opportunity for us to partner with Screen Gems on a movie that made perfect sense for the Taurus brand,” said Worthem.
“Of course, the opportunity to be associated with a film that involves one of our Ford partners, comedian Steve Harvey, made this integration an even more natural fit for us.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 12:48
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