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#184 of 203 Hyundai Sonata V6
Nov 01, 2006 (10:01 am)
After driving that Milan, and being a little disappointed, I wanted to try another vanilla sedan, but this time I wanted to see if a potent V6 might change my mind about my overall impression of the car.
The V6 engine is plenty powerful, with room to spare. I didn't even have to use all the throttle to get pushed back into my seat.
The leather was only decent but the heaters came in handy. Took a little while to warm up, though.
The interior is very roomy, but not quite up to the standards of the best in this class. I didn't like the yellowish green lighting on the dash. And the top of the center console isn't well designed, it just cuts into the upper dash.
The middle seat in the back was uncomfortable, specifically the arm rest does not make a very good back rest. Those are nit-picks for a family of four, though, and those four each have plenty of room.
Little things like the hinges for the trunk and the strut that holds up the hood are unexpected for this price class ($22k as tested no-haggle price). Dual exhaust tips and 5 spoke alloys dress up the exterior nicely as well.
Perfectly fine...for a rental car.
What's missing here is a little personality. Light steering, a soft ride (quieter than the Milan's), and comfort don't really add up to a lot of fun. This sedan pays the family car bills, but doesn't deliver when the enthusiast wants to make a spirited run.
A peppy V6 alone is not enough, Hyundai needs a sports package with quicker steering and a bit more starch in the suspension to appeal to drivers like me.
#185 of 203 Have a Few to Post
Nov 16, 2006 (3:00 am)
Just wanted to let you know that I have a few reviews coming up for you:
2005 Nissan Frontier
2005 Pontiac GTO 6MT
2006 Toyota X-Runner
#186 of 203 Malibu Lt V6 - Revisited
Nov 16, 2006 (8:32 am)
We just spent 4 days in Arizona and had a Malibu LT V6 as a rental car. While my earlier review was generally positive, it's funny what spending more time with a car reveals.
The seats are lumpy, awful really. The ergonomics are all inconsistent, I kept having to try 2-3 times to get it right. This is something you don't notice on a short test drive.
The V6 is actually not bad, torquey for sure, but it sounded raspy at the high end.
The steering was WAY too light, and it wandered all over the road. I-10 between Phoenix and Tucon has a speed limit of 75 but at 80mph this thing felt unstable. Maybe the alignment was off.
Very cheap interior.
I did like a few things - the low-end torque of the V6, the rear leg room, and the remote trunk release on the key fob actually popped the trunk. We got 27mpg, too.
But overall the Malibu is way, way behind the Hyundai Sonata. Light years. Maybe 2 generations' worth of improvements for Chevy to catch up to Hyundai.
#187 of 203 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L
Nov 16, 2006 (8:36 am)
The people we stayed with while in Arizona had an Odyssey EX-L. I got to drive it a couple of time, and rode in it plenty, for several days. So I got a good feel for living with one.
First off, the space is nice, the storage nooks and crannies, the power, the ergonomics, the luggage space. All A+.
But...it was loud, both road and wind noise intrudes. The ride was rougher than I expected. It handled well but this is a van and it just felt unnatural pushing it, so basically that didn't matter to me.
The other complaint was the seats. The leather is hard and it just didn't accomodate well, oddly. To be fair the front row wasn't too bad, it was the 2nd row seats that just didn't feel right. But even the driver's seat lacked side support and the lumbar adjustment just felt like a lump in my back.
It had only 6000 miles so maybe it wasn't broken in yet, but the seats need improvement.
The trip computer lacked some features even our cheap rental Malibu had, like MPG readout. Or maybe I couldn't figure out how to display that (please correct me if you know otherwise).
They spent over $30k for this van and it just didn't feel that "rich", I guess is the word I'm looking for. We spent a week in a Subaru Tribeca and it just felt a lot more expensive.
Another comparison is a Sienna that we got to ride in. I was similarly impressed with the space and storage, but the ride was much quieter and smoother, too. That friend paid $23k and it just seemed like a much better value for the money. He also got 8 real seats. The 8th seat in the Ody is a bad joke.
I do find it odd that usually handling is a top criteria for me, yet here is mattered little. I guess it's the context. A van should be a good trip car, with long legs, so a quiet and smooth ride win out over extra feedback and tighter handling. It might have been the straight roads and the 75 mph speed limits the contributed to these opinions.
I want to try a Sienna with the 3.5l engine, that may just be the ticket for our family car. I'll always have the Miata as my toy, so I won't miss the handling too much.
#188 of 203 PT Cruiser Touring Edition - Convertible
Dec 06, 2006 (3:09 pm)
I know, I know, I said I'd never go back to FWD, but the kids are growing up and the Miata isn't going to cut it much longer. I need a true 4 seat convertible.
The PT Cruiser seem to fit the bill. The back seat is surprisingly roomy, with enough leg room for adults. It easily beats the New Beetle and the Mini Cooper among the small and potentially sporty 4 seaters for space and practicality. The trunk is even useable.
It's also the cheapest one. MSRP of the test car was over $26k, but street prices are closer to $20k, with some even lower if you're willing to take the non-turbo base engine and shift yourself. I've seen prices dip as low as $16k, though I imagine that's a very lightly equipped model.
I drove a 180 hp turbo model with an automatic. Touring Edition, they call it, a mid-line model with a light pressure turbo that supposedly has less lag, coupled to an auto tranny.
First impression is the same cheap interior from the PT Cruiser wagon. I like some retro touches such as the exterior paint carrying over to the inside, but a lot of the plastics look like they definitely came from the lowest bidder. And bid low they did.
A lot of the plastics are hard, shiny, and hollow. You see mold parts and exposed screw heads in the door jambs that look unsightly and scream cheap.
The seat is set too high for my comfort, seeming more like a bar stool than a bucket seat. It was not adjustable for height, either. The cloth seemed durable but not very plush, perhaps OK when exposure to UVA rays is a concern.
The steering wheel is huge and overboosted. I get the retro theme but they didn't have to go this far.
Off we go, and immediately the mid-range punch of the turbo is quite satisfying. Problem is, the engine just drones, the note simply grinds on your nerves. Punch it and you feel a slight lag, not too bad, plus the tranny actually shifts pretty smoothly. It's not fast, but not at all lacking, either, plus there is the GT model if you want more power (just get the manual).
The ride is set on the soft side, OK for a 'vert I guess. There is plenty of lean, but this car isn't about pushing the limits, it's about a slow cruise. It was too cold to put the top down, but it is a power top, and this one was a nice cloth, fully lined, too. I still heard some wind noise creep through, but the engine drone was more prominent.
The one thing that might be the deal killer here, even if you do like the interior, are the blind spots. I actually think this car has the worst visibility in the entire auto industry. If you change lanes, pray that noone is there, because you just can't see. The mirrors help some, but you'll have to take chances every time you change lanes. For a city commute like mine, this crosses the PT off my list.
So my search for a Miata replacement continues. I hop back in my car and feel relief when I sit back in a true bucket seat. Then I drive off and remember how fun sporty handling can be. Why can't I have that and take the kids, too?
#189 of 203 2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS
Feb 01, 2007 (7:46 pm)
I drove a 2007 Elantra GLS from St. Louis to Springfield, IL and back this week, courtesy of Hertz. It was "quicksilver" with a gray interior, and as fully loaded as an Elantra GLS can come: 4-speed automatic with the Preferred Sunroof Package (A/C, sunroof, 6-speaker 172-watt CD stereo with aux input, illuminated vanity mirrors, fog lamps, cruise control, and a few other odds and ends). The car was nearly new with only 1100 miles on the odo.
The one word I think best describes the 2007 Elantra is "smooth." The ride is very smooth and quiet for a compact car (although mid-sized in interior volume). Bumps came through as muted "thumm"s if they were heard at all. The engine was quiet up to 80 mph (2700 rpm), which is as fast as I took it. Very little road noise or wind noise intrudes, although driving in a stiff cross wind I did notice a little wind noise. The electric-assisted steering felt smooth also, yet with enough effort dialed in so as not to feel detached from the road. Almost every handle or cubby cover is damped--except the ash tray, it lost its dampers in the transition from the old model.
The other word that describes the Elantra is "solid." The 49% increase in chassis rigidity compared to the 2006 Elantra is evident in what you don't hear--no hint of a squeak or rattle. The doors feel light, but close with a solid "thunk". The interior materials seem substantial, although some feel a little TOO substantial--the 2007 Elantra continues the auto industry's cost-cutting trend by using hard plastics in liberal amounts. The upper dash is padded, and there are cushy spots for outboard and inboard elbows, but that's about it. The hard plastics look OK and it's not like you are touching them all the time; you just know they're there.
Otherwise, I thought the interior was well-executed. The curvaceous dash is much more modern than the previous-generation Elantras, with four large rectangular air vents, blue-and-white traditional gauges, stereo with a huge blue display (in fact ALL the interior lighting except the overhead lights is a striking blue), and a pop-top storage compartment above the stereo. The wheel is a thick plastic three-spoke tiltable job with "metallic" trim and, new for the Elantra, wheel-mounted cruise controls. (A leather-covered, telescopic wheel with audio controls is standard on the higher trims.) IMO the Elantra has the best-looking dash of any of the current Hyundai sedans--including the Azera.
The driving position was quite good, although a step backwards from the previous Elantra. The old Elantra had two seat height adjustments and a lumbar adjustment that let you dial in a "just right" position. The 2007 Elantra has a single lever-type height adjuster and no lumbar adjustment. Seat comfort was fine for my two two-hour jaunts, but not quite as fine as in the old Elantras. At least Hyundai retained the large dead pedal and padded center armrest--even bigger for 2007. I checked out the back seat with the front set for my 5'10" frame and found LOTS of room back there. My feet fit comfortably under the front seat and my legs didn't come close to touching the seatback. It looks like a nice place for two adults to spend some time, with a center armrest and good thigh support, but I wouldn't want to squeeze three back there for any length of time. The seat fabric is a rather bland medium gray cloth that feels good to the touch but won't win any points for style. The trunk is a good size--just over 14 cubic feet, and it expands through the 60/40 folding back seat. Besides the center armrest, a welcome improvement over the old Elantra is three adjustable (shingle-type) headrests in back.
I logged 220 miles in two days, about 90% highway, mostly between 67-70 mph. It was cold, with temperatures during most of the trip in the 'teens, and a stiff head wind on the first day. The car held the road well even with its 15" steel wheels (16" alloys are standard on higher trims) and required few steering adjustments. Highway cruising was quite pleasant--smooth and quiet. The radio offers decent sound but won't be mistaken for audiophile-quality. I was impressed by its range--I was picking up St. Louis FM stations from south Springfield, over 100 miles away. Its controls were easy to use. (This was an early-build unit without the now-standard XM radio.) The heater is powerful, just as on the old Elantras. I was toasty warm (no coat on) with the thermostat set just into the "red" zone and the fan on 1.
I got a chance to try out the car's handling as I was returning to St. Louis and running a little later for my flight than I wanted. (This is when I topped 80 briefly. ) I was surprised how well the car responded to quick lane changes. It actually felt more responsive than my '04 Elantra GT with its "sport-tuned" suspension. I thought, "This thing is fun to drive!" It's not as precise as, say, a Mazda3, but offers a good blend of ride and handling. I'll have to check out the SE with its 16" wheels and see if there is any shift in the ride/handling equation.
I decided to check the fuel economy so I filled up as carefully as I could at the same station going and coming back, and averaged 30 mpg for the trip. Given the newness of the engine, the cold weather and wind, and the bouts of city driving, it's about what I expected. EPA is 28/36, and I think with a few more miles on the car and warmer weather, it would have no trouble hitting the EPA highway mark on a trip like this--as long as I don't run it to 80 too often.
Overall I was favorably impressed by the new Elantra, even in its pedestrian GLS trim. It moves you and yours down the road comfortably and smoothly, offers lots of standard safety features (ABS with 4-wheel discs, 6 airbags, active front head restraints etc.), has a modicum of fun dialed into the steering and powertrain (peppy enough even with 138 hp and a 4-speed slushbox), and has very good fuel economy for a car with a mid-sized cabin. It also has a couple of traits common to Hyundais: the long-term warranty, and the price that undercuts competition by hundreds of bucks or more.
Get those dual height adjusters and lumbar support back in there, and it would be almost perfect.
Feb 05, 2007 (10:26 am)
Wife got an offer from Saturn to test drive an Aura, $25 gift card. So she sent me, as she knows I'll go.
Went to get in and banged my head. Whoops. Those sleek door lines really eat in to head room. Interior is a bit plasticky, some seams are pretty bad. Overall it looks OK, but no better than the Mercury Milan I drove a while back.
I decided to drive the Outlook instead, as it's on my list and a sedan isn't. Plus I don't want to hit my head every time I get in a vehicle.
Outlook is impressive, but there are some potentially deal-killing flaws. More on those later...
It's very sturdy, substantial. HUGE space inside, wow. Comfy front row, kudos to the design team. The control stalks are a bit fussy, but there's plenty of storage and the seats are nice and high.
4 power outlets. Yee haw. One for the GPS, one for the cell phone, and nicely hidden. Another in the back for the kids to watch a DVD. A 4th in the cargo area. Amen, brother.
It drives big, but well. Smooth ride, much better than the Pilot, quieter than the Odyssey even. Handling? Didn't push too hard, but it leaned a lot and didn't seem eager to play. Steering felt just right, though I felt some torque steer tugging as this was a FWD model (I asked for something under $30k to test).
So, what did I not like? Wide pillars block the view to the sides, you can't see behind you at all due to the high windows, and the seats in the 2nd and 3rd rows are just uncomfortable. The lack of comfort is puzzling since the 1st row felt great. The cushions are just too low to the ground, no thigh support, and the middle seat is stiff and basically unliveable even for a short period.
So you have 8 seats but only 4 of them are comfortable. Sheesh. I can seat 4 comfortably in my Forester, and this thing felt three times as big.
I think I could live with the dynamics, but Saturn lost a sale in the visibility and seat comfort categories. Backup sensors are only offered on the higher end models, add that plus AWD and we're talking 38k or so. And Saturn won't deal (for now).
#191 of 203 Pontiac G6 Hardtop Convertible
Feb 05, 2007 (10:29 am)
The same dealer has a Pontiac (and GMC) showroom so I took a peek at the GMC Acadia and G6 convertible.
The Acadia had the same flaws as the Outlook - poor visibility and lame seats. Leather didn't help. Price is higher and the design felt a bit more masculine. Oh well, I tried.
So then I looked at the G6, the one with the nifty folding hard top. I went mostly for a test-fit, to see if I thought my kids would fit back there, as this would be a drop-top to replace the Miata, not the Forester.
Any how, surprise, but space in the back seat ain't bad. I think the kids would fit there just fine, at least if it wasn't a long trip.
Another great feature - no B-pillar means visibility was fantastic. Best I've ever seen (literally) in a convertible. You can change lanes with confidence because you see everything. Even to the rear, backup and see it all. Perhaps this was accentuated by the contrast to the PT Cruiser convertible, which was like driving blind-folded.
The interior is pure G6, a little cheesy but not bad. I could do without the chrome. It has the 3500 pushrod engine, a little coarse but plenty peppy, so the 3.9l is unnecessary.
Torque steer was an issue, so the 3.9l might only make that worse. I chirped the tires from a dead stop without meaning too, perhaps short gearing caused that. The tug on the wheel reminded me too much of our old 626, though. It didn't really want to go where you pointed it.
The most concern, though, came from a loud rattle from the top, right above my head. The seams looked OK, and they sealed wind noise well, but there was some cowl shake over bumps. Not good when the vehicle is brand new.
The salesman said he sells many of them and had never heard that rattle. But of course you'd expect him to say that, he's trying to make a sale.
Cargo space is pretty bad, and horrible if you leave space for the top. Forget about even a carry-on bag, unless it's soft and not very tall.
For some reason, though, I liked it more than I thought I would. I think I liked the idea of having a drop-top that functions well as a coupe. This didn't seem like a particularly great one, but it was a functional package - good power, looks, 4 reasonable seats, and you can see out of the thing.
Ride was decent, handling seemed OK. Steering a little soft, again I didn't get to push it much. Brakes were good, I had to do a hard stop at a short yellow light.
I think that if I do get a 4 seat convertible, I will look for one with a folding hard top. The G6 could use a bit of polishing, but this is not bad for a v1.0. One thing they should fix right away is that all the hinges in the trunk seem too exposed, vulnerable. Maybe that was causing the creaking noise?
I may go try an Eos, now that the segment is heating up. Plus Chrysler will hop on the bandwagon this summer with a new Sebring.
Apr 12, 2007 (11:12 am)
I enjoyed the space in the Outlook enough that I'm looking at other similar crossovers, and the Mazda CX9 is about as close as it comes. With the new 3.5l Duratec Ford engine and an Aisin-sourced 6 speed automatic transmission, plus room for the whole family, I had to check one out.
I started in the 3rd row and worked my way forward. In the CX9, the 3rd row has impressive leg room, even for adults. My head did rub on the headline, but I'm 6' tall (on a good day) so anyone up to 5'9" shouldn't have that problem. And the seats themselves are actually comfy. There is even a 110 volt outlet there, which is better than a 12 volt plug, I suppose.
The 2nd row also slides well forward and out of the way, so access is pretty easy as well. The seat tracks and mechanism feel a lot sturdier than the Outlook's, which seemed poorly designed to me.
The 2nd row itself is comfortable for the 2 outboard passengers. The middle one gets a hump that I wouldn't want to be in for more than 5 minutes. The seat tracks that aid 3rd row access hurt you here, because the floor is uneven and littered with tracks that go all the way up to the front row.
Overall, 6 passengers will be very comfortable as long as the 2 in the very back aren't tall.
Now to the driver's seat. Two-tone leather highlights a pretty generic looking center console, with red/blue lights on the gauges appearing a bit harsh for my tastes. Power seats with 3 position memory and a tilt/telescope steering wheel ensure you can find the right position.
The catch, though, is the protrusion from the center console, a hard plastic styling element that occupies the space where my knee wants to be. In any position, my knee rested on that hard plastic. What were they thinking? It seems unnecessary, and at the very minimum Mazda could have padded that surface.
Another miscue - the heated seats are on/off only. Those two settings translate to BAKE and USELESS. How 'bout a low/high, or several settings with temperature settings? I was getting burned so I had to turn them off.
Visibility is a bit of an issue, it's big and changing lanes requires some faith. You occupy a lot of space so you'll rely on some friendly motorists to let you in most of the time (good luck with that).
At least models with the GPS have a backup camera to aid in parking, something that should be mandatory for large vehicles like this. This feature wasn't as useful as the ones I've seen on luxury makes like Infiniti, which has lines telling you where you're heading.
The GPS itself disappointed me. Even though the screen is well placed, close to the driver, and big enough, it was dim in the evening mode, even after I adjusted the contrast and brightness.
GPS functionality also could be better. I was in the DC metropolitan area, but when I went to enter a city and typed in "WASH" I still had to hit enter before I saw Washington, DC.
My Garmin shows a short list as soon as what you type in is unique enough, saving you one step every time. Even worse, my Garmin has a much brighter screen, and this is a last generation cheapie (StreetPilot c320).
Sadly, the factory GPS is a downgrade from my $350 portable unit, and that's not good. Plus if you pass on the GPS you don't that backup camera that is so useful.
The 20" rims have been talked about a lot, I felt the ride was only slightly stiff, and only over bumps and uneven pavement. Given this is a family vehicle, I'd suggest people try the 18" rims as well, as they likely ride a bit better.
The handling was good, especially for a vehicle this size. The amount of lean is moderate and well controlled. The steering felt just right, and the engine was more than adequate, though I didn't push it.
The 6 speed automatic really impressed me, shifting smoothly and almost imperceptably. A gear indicator in the dash tells you what gear you're in, and in the suburbs it never went beyond 4th gear, so it was doing its best to keep the engine churning and keep things fun. Zoom Zoom, I guess.
Manual shift mode was disappointing, though. You hit the lever to shift and .... and ... and it shifts. There's a good 2 second delay there. I'm spoiled because I drove a Boxster and it would shift RIGHT NOW when you hit it. Mazda's was so slow to respond I can't imagine I'd even bother to use that feature. No big deal, the auto mode was smooth and smart, so it's just not necessary.
I took a peek at the undercarriage, and saw a donut spare plus an exhaust system that seemed a bit vulnerable. That's OK, though, as this is a replacement for the MPV and few if any will ever venture off road.
It does make a good first and last impression, with a keyless entry fob that powers the lift gate open, and keyless go. It was a bit confusing because I could not lock the door using the button on the door, it would unlock the driver's door each time. Something I'd get used to, I'm sure.
So overall, an impressive interior package and a solid powertrain. Sadly, they missed on a few important details - the GPS screen, the heated seats, and a protruding center console.
Pricing is competitive with the Outlook, nearly $40 grand for the model I drove. It's nice, but I have to wonder if enough people will really stretch their budget this far.
Mazda is very close to the ideal family vehicle, and a little polish would go a long way to putting this good effort at the front of the pack.
#193 of 203 2008 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT spec.B
May 26, 2007 (2:58 pm)
Drove a new 2008 spec.B today. While certainly a very desirable ride, I came away with somewhat mixed feelings.
Maybe it's because I'm so used to my '06 WRX Limited wagon, but I was not that impressed with the power. Granted it was a brand new vehicle, and I didn't want to abuse it, but it just seemed a bit sluggish to me. Also, I love the "tossability" of my WRX, and I didn't get that same feeling with the spec.Beven with it's upgrade suspension. Again I didn't really press the vehicle, but even so I expected more of a "fun" feeling while driving. Might it be a tad too refined?
The 6-speed tranny is really geared tall. From my limited time with the car, I would say that 6th gear is for 60 mph and above. At 60 the tach was reading ~ 2,100 rpm in 6th gear. So for any quick bursts of speed, dropping 2 or 3 gears is the way to go, as there's virtually no power available at 60 mph in 6th gear.
Also, this car needs a gear indicator read-out on the tach, like the SportShift 5EAT (and the Acura TSX 6-speed!). It's very easy to forget what gear you're in with a close-ratio 6-speed. Heck, my 5-speed WRX also needs one, as it's not unusual to find myself cruising in 4th and thinking that I'm in 5th gear! With a 6-speed, this will be even worse.
The last negative is that it has an annoying up-shift light.
On the positive side, it's much more refined and quieter than my WRX, which I expected. The front seat was also very comfortable, again more so than my WRX's front seat. The standard NAVI will take some getting used to, so I can't really comment on that, other than to say I wish it had live traffic read-outs.
The rear seat was reasonable in terms of comfort and space, again much better than my WRX, but again to be expected. The trunk was also very roomy.
I would like to spend more time in another one (without the salesman riding shotgun). I did play with the SI Drive, but not enough to get a real real sense about it
My wish list for this car:
3.0 H-6 turbo with ~ 300 hp.
Gear indicator in tach
Real-time traffic for NAVI
MyGiG-like HD for storing music