2012 Toyota Hybrid XLE

2012 Camry Hybrid

Toyota’s Camry Hybrid mid-size sedan has been available since 2006, and is currently available in its second generation configuration as a 2012 model.  Such a car was delivered to my house last week for testing, and it was loaded to the tune of $34,547.00, M.S.R.P.  The base price of $27,400.00 for the XLE model had as additions the blind spot monitor ($500), safety connect package ($450), leather package ($1,160), premium navigation/electronic package ($2,600), moon roof ($915), and wheel locks ($67).  It came in “cosmic gray mica” paint and the leather seating was a light gray in color.  It’s a five passenger sedan with a decent sized rear passenger compartment and a 13.1 cubic foot trunk.  It comfortably seats five adults.

I drove the Camry quite a bit this last week, both to Ft. Collins and to Denver, and gradually grew pretty accustomed to the CVT transmission setup in the car.  CVT stands for continuously variable transmission (no shifts), and it is coupled to a gasoline 4 cylinder, 2.5 liter motor with 156 horsepower and 156 lb. ft. of torque.  Two electric motor/generators are on board to add in 141 more horsepower and 199 lb. ft. of torque.  Combined power rating is 200 horsepower, and as I mentioned, it was pretty suitable for driving the somewhat big sedan.  I liked the ride and handling better than last Camry I had, and styling is great front and rear, OK from the side.

Fuel economy for the hybrid has been improved for 2012, by some estimates a full 12 mpg. Ratings for the car I drove were 40City and 38Highway. The current mileage compilation for the car is displayed on a dial; not digitally. When the car was picked up I notated 38 mpg for the miles I drove it. Overall, not that bad.

I mentioned earlier the packages on board with this Camry – it was equipped like a full blown luxo sedan. Good JBL stereo, 7″ touchscreen for nav and backup, fancier dash materials for 2012, perforated leather seat inserts, blind spot monitor, satellite radio, 17″ alloys, and Bluetooth.

There is a reason the Camry is America’s best selling car, and I experienced it this week with the Hybrid. This Hybrid model with its increased economy will be chipping into Prius sales, as I see it… and into the competition’s.

“American Pie” 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco

2013 Malibu Eco

Don McLean’s magnum opus (best work), “American Pie”, was written and performed in 1971, thereafter becoming the No. 1 U. S. hit and staying in that position for four weeks during 1972.  When asked, years later, what “American Pie” means, McLean responded that it “means I never have to work again.”  The song’s lyrics bring out McLean’s life story through the idealized 50’s and on to bleaker 60’s – and two deaths; Buddy Holly’s (1959) and America’s innocence (JFK assassination in 1963).  Several deaths, more accurately, because Richie Valens and The Big Bopper died along with Holly, and John Kennedy’s brother Bobby was assassinated in 1968, as was Martin Luther King that same year.  With the overhang of Viet Nam and the college campus unrest, even the glorious Apollo 14 moon landing in February of 1971 failed to lift America’s, or McLean’s, spirits.

“American Pie” contains lyrics that are dissected even to this day; lyrics such as “I can’t remember if I cried, when I read about his widowed bride, but something touched me deep inside, the day the music died”.  He’s referring to, of course, Buddy Holly’s death on February 3rd, 1959, in a plane crash in Iowa.  And that also accounts for the lyrics “but February made me shiver” in the first verse.  Analysts are less certain, however, of what McLean meant by “the three men I admire most; the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost”.  The three performers that perished on that plane?  JFK, Bobby, and MLK?

One thing is certain, though, and it’s that “Drove my Chevy to the levee” is in every chorus, and that the levee (in the song) was dry in every instance.  I was in Florida last week driving a 2013 Chevy (Malibu Eco) to the levee; several levees, in fact.  They sure weren’t dry, as the Miami area received ten inches of rain in the two days I was driving around with my latest test car.  Earthen levees protect Broward and Dade counties in South Florida from waters that come out of Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida, the seventh largest freshwater lake in America that serves as the headwaters to the Everglades.  Approximately 1.5 billion gallons of fresh water ooze out of southwest Florida into the ocean each day – wouldn’t that be nice to have in Weld County?

I didn’t just drive the Chevy to the levee last week; I also attended two Marlins/Rockies games and drove the car to Everglades City on the Gulf of Mexico.  The Chevy Malibu Eco proved to be quality transportation, and is the only 2013 Malibu currently for sale.  Two more powerful four cylinder Malibu’s will be available in a few months, one with a turbocharger.  The Eco is electrically assisted, with a 15 kilowatt motor-generator providing the assist.  One might call it a “hybrid hybrid”, because the car cannot get by on electric power alone.  Transition from electric power to gasoline (2.4 liter L4, 182hp with a six speed automatic) is not as smooth as a Chevy Volt, but this car is bigger than a Volt and much less expensive.  Mine was metallic black with black leather interior and listed for $28,632.00, as equipped.  Pretty much all luxury options were present, with the exception of navigation system (it has OnStar, though) and a moon roof.

Wheelbase is shorter than last year’s Malibu at 107.8”, but length is about the same at 191.5”.  Mileage estimates are 25city/37highway, and the tank holds 15.8 gallons.  The trunk is a battery-restricted 14.3 cu. ft., but I had no particular problems with my luggage.  Ride and handling are suitable.

I had no quibbles with the styling of the 2008/2012 Chevy Malibu (I own one), but do not think this 2013 model suffered a setback in this department.  It is a beautiful mid-size automobile, and provided a nice ride to the levee, even though the levee was very wet.  The Marlins rained on the Rockies’ parade, as well, winning both contests.2013 Malibu in Everglades

“Little Things” 2012 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD Wagon

Volvo XC70

    Bobby Goldsboro is a well-known singer-songwriter to me, but I didn’t know he was THIS well-known.  THIS man had eleven top-40 U. S. Billboard Hot 100 hits, and twelve on the country charts.  The Florida native that once played guitar for Roy Orbison broke onto the scene by himself in 1964 with his first big hit, “See the Funny Little Clown”.  His biggest hit of all was brought out in 1968, and it was a honey, named “Honey”, his first country hit that reached number one, both here and in Australia.  Bobby remained a country music fixture well into the 1980’s.

I graduated from high school during the year of 1965 and spent it driving around listening to radio station KOMA in Oklahoma City, where I heard Bobby’s top single that year, “Little Things”.  Little things are what I enjoyed about the test car for this past week, the 2012 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD station wagon.  Not overwhelming with regards to power or styling, the little (little?) wagon just kind of grows on you while you tool around from place to place.  The Volvo has a window sticker that totals $49,070.00 with about $10,000.00 worth of optional equipment.  Thus, it has navigation system, great satellite stereo, Bluetooth, tilt/tele, heated seats front and rear, backup camera, turning headlamps, leather throughout, roof rack, moon roof, power tailgate, 18” alloy wheels, blind spot alert, park assist, pushbutton start, ground lighting at the doors, and dual zone climate control.

Power is supplied for the Volvo by an in-line 6 cylinder, 3.0 liter, turbocharged alloy engine with 300 hp and 325 lb. ft. of torque.  A six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission backs it up and is coupled to an all-wheel drive system. EPA mileage estimates are 17city/23highway, but I got 24.1 mpg on a round trip to Denver. Wheelbase is 110.8” and overall length is 190.5”, with the weight coming in at 4,152 lbs.

The Volvo I drove came in Twilight Bronze metallic, and coupled with the charcoal cladding all over the wagon, it was an appealing look.  Inside the leather seating was chocolate brown, but a lot of almond-colored trim was on hand to give it a splendid look.  I counted five colors on the dashboard – the two already mentioned, plus gray, silver, and woodgrain.  Dual exhaust finishers peeked out from under the rear bumper, and the roof rack had a massive, functional, look.

While in Denver, I loaded the vehicle with five, big hungry holiday diners, and the ride was suitable with all on board.  The acceleration of the XC70 is great, reportedly zero to sixty in about seven seconds.  And I understand the top speed is 130 mph.

What “little things” did I like?  -The stitching on those yummy brown leather seats.  -The tall taillights affixed at the rear corners of the car.  -The cross mounted in-line six providing additional protection in case of a head-on.  -The multifunction stalks on each side of the steering wheel.  -The Zephyrus 18” alloy wheels.  -Rear headrests that flop down at the flip of a switch (on the dashboard) for visibility.  -The Xenon headlamps that peek around the corner.  I could go on and on.

I give the Volvo a thumbs up for the enjoyable week that I had the car.  It could provide years of enjoyment for someone, just like Bobby Goldsboro did.

2012 Mercedes Benz C350 Coupe

M-B 350C

I left the hyphen out of the brand name of the car I drove last week because that is what Janis Joplin did when she wrote, and titled as such, her final song in 1970.  Her lyrics read “Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?”  In the hit, she also made requests for a color TV and a “night on the town”, but seemed to emphasize her desire for the car with two verses that alluded to the brand.  Mercedes-Benz, the car, has a hyphen, but it’s pretty evident what Joplin wanted when she recorded the tracks on October 1st of that year.  They were the last ever recorded by her, because she died on October 4th, 1970, at age 27.  In 1971 she became one of only two artists in rock and roll history with a posthumous number one U. S. singles hit.  It was her only such hit, “Me and Bobby McGee”, and Otis Redding was the other artist with “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”.

The Mercedes-Benz brought to me last week was the rear-wheel drive C350 Coupe with a 3.5 liter, 302 horsepower V-6.  Engine torque was 273 lb. ft., and a seven speed automatic transmission was bolted to the power plant.  At our altitude, zero to sixty acceleration time is 6.5 seconds, and at sea level that number is reduced one half second.  Top speed is reportedly 155 mph.  Handling and manners on the highway were superb – in fact, I liked this car out on the road like no other.  It had upgraded Bridgestone 225/40R18 Blizzak LM60’s on 18” ten spoke AMG alloy wheels – part of the “Advanced Agility Package” on the car that added $1,400 to the M.S.R.P.  Other add-ons included backup camera, service package, keyless entry, lighting package, lane tracking radar, and nav/radio/Sirius stereo (including weather radio) that together put $5,090 onto the sticker.  Those items plus freight brought the total to $49,735.00, and the car came standard with a large panoramic moon roof.  Wheelbase on this car was 108.7”, length – 180.7”, width – 69.7” and the weight was 3,497 lbs.

Mercedes likes to say that the interior of the C350 has a “lounge atmosphere”, and it IS nice.  Access to the back seat on this two-door is OK, and all four passengers get to sit in a full almond leather bucket seat.  The dashboard has a little retro look to it, with the navigation screen incorporated in the center.  With the radio on, a needle is moved back and forth for tuning it, like one in an old pickup or something.  It’s kind of cute.  The trunk holds 12.4 cu. ft. of cargo and the trunk lid has a good looking spoiler attached.

Styling of the Coupe is top notch, with big BI-Xenon headlamps that include the active curve illumination feature.  The car has sport body styling fascia down the side and dual exhausts with chrome finishers at the rear.  It has the B-pillars on the side of the car with back windows that don’t roll down.  That’s pretty much the standard nowadays, but I remember the first time that I saw such a car (a ’73 Pontiac Grand Am), I wasn’t so forgiving.

Back to Janis Joplin; another hit of hers that comes to mind is “Piece of My Heart”, from 1968.  She at that time was a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company.  Moments ago someone other than myself drove off in the Mercedes C350, and I think the car took a little “piece of my heart” with it.