2013 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 4WD Pickup


    The Toyota Tundra full-size pickup, available since model year 2000, is a capable replacement to the old Toyota T100, and is available with three engine choices.  They are the 4 liter V-6 and two V-8s, with the largest one putting out 381 horsepower and 401 lb. ft. of torque.  It’s what’s called the iForce 5.7 liter DOHC aluminum V-8 with (i)ntelligent variable valve timing and flex fuel capability.  It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with console-mounted shifter, and such were the drive train specifications of my test vehicle this past week.

The Tundra that I drove was the Limited CrewMax with an M.S.R.P. of $46,518, including options and freight.  Base price of this model is $43,895, and options on it were the TRD off-road package, running boards, bedliner, full width power sliding rear glass, and remote start.  It was part-time four wheel drive with electric control and trailering equipment.  The interior was leather and seated five, a JBL stereo with satellite radio was on hand, and Bluetooth connectivity was present.  No touchscreen for the radio was in the pickup and a navigation system was not installed. Tundra Interior

      The “standard” bed that comes with this CrewMax is 78.7” long, wheelbase is 145.7”, length is 228.9”, width is 79.9”, height is 75.8”, and the truck weighs 5,375 lbs.  Towing capacity is 10,200 lbs., but apparently that is a lowball figure because Toyota towed the space shuttle Endeavour across the #405 freeway in California last year with the Tundra – weight of the space orbiter, 292,000 lbs.  My wife Ruth and I flew to Florida to watch that Endeavour launch from Cape Kennedy in February of 2010.  The mission was STS-130 to the International Space Station and of course it was quite a thrill.

Styling of the Limited was upgraded to include chrome door handles, chrome outside mirrors, TRD and Limited badging, five-spoke brushed finish alloy wheels, BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A 275/65R18 white letter tires, and the running boards.  All the full-size pickups from GM, Dodge, Nissan, and Ford are good-looking, as is the Tundra.

Ride, cab noise, guidance, and visibility were all acceptable in this vehicle.  The gas tank holds 26.4 gallons, and the EPA ratings on the previously described engine was 13 city, 18 highway, and 15 overall.  I observed 15 miles per gallons during my time with the Toyota.

Toyota sold over 100,000 Tundras last year, a 22% increase for them over 2011 sales.  The big American manufacturers sold substantially more than that, with total pickup sales in the U.S. (all sizes) at 2 million.  Nonetheless, when shopping for a full-sized pickup, I see no reason to rule out a Toyota Tundra.


2013 Volkswagen Passat SE FWD Sedan

Passat I

The Volkswagen automobile manufacturing company, founded in 1937 by the German Labor Front, involved production of an inexpensive car for the German common man, and included state-sponsored financing (“five marks a week you must put aside, if in your own car you want to ride”).  Until then Germans could typically only afford motorcycles, but with the advent of this new Volkswagen factory, hundreds of thousands could afford this new “Beetle”, designed by Ferdinand Porsche.  Volkswagen automobiles started crossing the Atlantic after World War II, and sales in the United States peaked in 1970, when the company enjoyed 7% market share.

The 2013 Volkswagen Passat, built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a mid-size family sedan that has been produced since 1973.  It’s Volkswagen’s biggest sedan, and comes with a choice of 4 and 6 cylinder gas engines and a diesel 2 liter offering.  The V-6 is a 3.6 liter (280 hp/265 lb. ft.) with EPA mileage ratings of 20 city, 28 highway, and 23 mpg overall.  The Passat gas tank holds 18.5 gallons, and zero to 60 acceleration of the 3.6 is reportedly 6.4 seconds.  That’s seems pretty fast for such an entry, but my recent test of the Passat in Phoenix made a believer out of me.

Passat TaillightWhile in Arizona I drove the V-6 SE Passat, which featured V-Tex leatherette seating for five including supportive heated front buckets, 60/40 fold-down rear seat, power driver seat/mirrors/locks/windows (with pinch protection), cruise control, tilt/telescope leather steering wheel, satellite touchscreen radio, power tilt/slide sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity, console-mounted emergency brake, and Fender brand premium stereo.  While putting 400 miles on the Volkswagen, I stayed comfortable and cool in the SE, and as mentioned, passing and getting away from stoplights was a snap.

Ride of the SE was particularly satisfying, with guidance and wind noise acceptable, as well.  The car was painted Candy white, and had ten spoke alloy “Bristol” 18” wheels fitted with Hankook Optimo H426, 235/45R18 all season radials.  The windows didn’t roll down entirely out of sight, but I still was successful in getting a nice photograph of the Volkswagen.  The trunk lid was light and easy to handle, with 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space under it.  Halogen fog lights were up front, as were daytime running lights and a bold three-bar chrome grill and iconic “VW” round emblem.  The SE look was pretty much all-American, even though it was styled in Germany.

M.S.R.P. of the press car was $30,030, including freight.  The Passat was named 2012 Motor Trend car of the year, and my experience with it confirmed what the magazine editors discovered during their test.   Passat Painting


2014 GMC Acadia Denali AWD SUV

2014 GMC Acadia II

I recently had an opportunity to test drive the new 2014 GMC Acadia, courtesy of Weld County Garage in Greeley.  The Acadia name is derived from a French area of northeastern North America that includes parts of Canada and Maine.  The vehicle was the Denali, GMC’s finest, another name of a North American destination – specifically, the highest mountain peak in America.  It is located in Alaska, and has a National Park that carries its name.

GMC  has been building the Acadia since 2006, and introduced an extensively updated version for the 2013 model year.  The 2014 I drove also had two new standard items, forward collision alert and lane departure warning.  The M.S.R.P. of the Acadia was $52,835, and it included 20” chrome-clad aluminum wheels ($600), a navigation/entertainment system ($2,240), and Crystal Red Tintcoat paint ($495).  The DVD entertainment system was for the rear occupants, two of which could sit in individual bucket seats, a popular setup when children are passengers.  Thus, my test car was for seven passengers, and all second and third row seating could be folded flat, producing 116.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity.  Additionally, 4’ x 8’ material can be loaded in the Acadia.  The Cocoa Dune leather looked like chocolate soft serve ice cream, and the two front buckets were powered, heated, cooled and comfortable.  A two-panel sunroof was overhead, and the stereo was a 10-speaker Bose unit with satellite radio.  Of course the Denali had power mirrors/windows/locks and tilt/telescope steering column with leather trimmed wheel.Acadia Interior

Ride on the highway is a hallmark of the Acadia, a vehicle that weighs 4,850 lbs.  Wheelbase is 118.9”, length is 200.8”, width is 78.9”, and height is 72.6”.  The new design that was rolled out at the Chicago Auto Show earlier this year involved a new, brawnier grill, sculpted front fascia, and a redesigned liftgate.  LED daytime running lights are up front in a distinctive “necklace” design, as are projector beam fog lights.  The 20”, six-spoke chrome-clad aluminum wheels are fitted with P255/55R20 Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza all-season radials, and chrome door handles and roof rails close the deal on a beautiful vehicle. Acadia Wheel

Denali power comes from a 3.6 liter, DOHC, direct injected V-6 (288 hp/270 lb. ft.), and an automatic 6-speed automatic transmission delivers it to the all-wheel drive train.  EPA mileage ratings are 16 city/23 highway, and a 22 gallon gas tank is on hand.  Zero to 60 mpg acceleration time is reportedly 7.04 seconds.  The transmission, in typical GM fashion, is silky smooth.

My wife and I rolled over to Ft. Collins for some breakfast in the test vehicle, and once again she expressed surprise at the sumptuous GMC ride quality.  I agree, and think the Acadia Denali is a quality choice for the full-size crossover SUV shopper.   Acadia Painting

2013 Toyota RAV4 AWD Limited SUV

Toyota RAV4 I

My latest test car from the Automotive Media people was a 2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD SUV that was painted Shoreline Blue Pearl metallic and featured a black Softex (leather-like) five passenger interior.  The RAV4 is classified as a compact SUV, and is currently in its fourth generation of production, having been sold in America since 1996.

The new 2013 RAV4 was rolled out to the public earlier this year in a splashy Super Bowl ad featuring Kaley Cuoco (Big Bang) playing the part of a wish-fulfilling genie.  One Mr. Henderson, standing near his RAV4, wishes that “the spare tire was gone”, and Ms. Cuoco magically removes it from the rear of the Toyota.  The man actually was wishing for a trimmer profile, but Toyota’s message, nonetheless, is that the car has attained such with its new design.  I actually was somewhat fond of the outside spare tire on the old RAV4, which incidentally has now been placed underneath, not removed.  Other wishes granted to the Henderson’s have nothing to do with the automobile, but the talking squirrels in the commercial are hilarious.  Cost to Toyota for the Super Bowl ad – about $3.9 million.

My test car carried an M.S.R.P. of $31,964, including freight, and was the Limited all-wheel drive model.  The RAV4 can be purchased with front-wheel drive, although part of its name, RAV4, denotes four-wheel drive.  RAV stands for recreational activity vehicle, by the way, and it’s a big seller – 170,000 units per year on several occasions.  Options on the RAV4 included a technology package for $1,660, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert for $500, and running boards for $549.  The Limited had standard items such as proximity keyless operation with pushbutton start, power liftgate, moon roof, remote start, backup camera, twin RAV4 Interiorheated power buckets, Bluetooth/USB connections, roof rails, and tilt/telescope/leather steering wheel.  The technology items were satellite radio, 11-speaker JBL stereo, and a navigation system.

Power for the RAV4 is supplied by a 2.5 liter, four-cylinder DOHC engine (176 hp/172 lb. ft.) coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission.  Zero to 60 mph acceleration time is reportedly 8.4 seconds, and fuel economy ratings are 22 city/29 highway, 25 overall.  Weight of the RAV4 is 3,425 lbs., wheelbase is 104.7”, overall length is 179.9”, width is 72.6”, height is 65.4”, and the fuel tank holds 15.9 gallons.

Ruth and I took the Toyota to Denver twice, and in typical Toyota fashion, the car almost drove itself.  It rides, guides and passes other vehicles in OK fashion, and holds five adults comfortably.  With the back seat folded down, the cargo capacity is 73.6 cubic feet.

The RAV4 styling for 2013 is somewhat of an improvement over last year’s model, and despite my fondness for outside spare tires, I must say I like the rear end treatment.  A person can probably set a Subway combo lunch on the protruding taillights on each corner.  Big running board/steps are attached between the RAV4 Headlightwheels, which are 18” ten-spoke silver alloys fitted with P235/55R18 Toyo A20 all-season radials.RAV4 Wheel

If Kaley Cuoco wants to grant me a wish relative to my test RAV4, it would be a red or black paint job and more bling inside the tires.  Those things could be easily rectified for me or for a prospective buyer of America’s 19th best-selling vehicle.

2013 Hyundai Sonata FWD Hybrid Limited

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid I    The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has been on sale in America for about 18 months, and shares its drive train and some design elements with the KIA Optima Hybrid.  The two cars combine to occupy second place (in America) in hybrid sales to Toyota’s Prius.  The Hyundai has more conventional styling than a Prius, and in fact is a rather attractive sedan.  I received one for testing last week; an Onyx black unit with a gray leather interior.

The M.S.R.P. for my 2013 test unit was $32,490, freight included, and it was the top-of-the-line Limited model.  The only options on the loaded Limited were a panoramic sunroof package ($1,000), carpeted floor mats ($110), and an Ipod cable ($35).  Standard equipment on this model included heated front and rear seats, the leather (seating, steering wheel, and shift knob), 400-watt Infinity 8-speaker stereo, backup camera, navigation with 7” screen, power driver’s seat and 17” alloy wheels.  Also on hand was tilt/telescope steering column, satellite radio, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, pushbutton starter, keyless entry, Bluetooth/USB connectivity, and heated mirrors with lighted signal stripes. Sonata Emblem

The hybrid power setup in the Sonata starts with a 2.4 liter, Atkinson cycle four cylinder gas engine (159 hp/154 lb. ft.) and adds a permanent-magnet AC electric motor (47 hp/151 lb. ft.).  Combined horsepower of the drive train is thus 199 horsepower, and the car accelerates from zero to 60 in 8.4 seconds.  A six speed automatic transmission with a manual mode delivers power to the front wheel drive sedan.  EPA mileage ratings for the Sonata are 36 city/40 highway, 37 overall, and the fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of regular gasoline (range!).

As I mentioned, the Limited Hyundai is rather good-looking, with bold chrome strips on all four sides, chrome door handles, racy lighting on all corners, and two-toned gray alloy 17” wheels fitted with P215/55R17  Kumho Solus KH25 all season radials.  The Onyx black paint had some metallic in the finish, and the panoramic sun roof was evident from outside the car. Sonata Wheel

My wife and I drove around quite a bit in the Hyundai, and the ride was great.  Wind noise was minimal, and passing and accelerating from a light was a snap.  One thing that was quite balky was the gas gauge, which barely moved in a downward direction.

Weight of the Sonata is 3,645 lbs., not much for a hybrid.  The company uses a 47 KW lithium-polymer battery pack (warrantied for life), something normally found employed in a plug-in vehicle.  Thus, it is in the trunk; yet the trunk holds 16.4 cubic feet of luggage.  Wheelbase of the car is 110”, length is 189.8”, width is 72.2”, and the height is 57.7”.  With the battery in the trunk, the passenger volume is maintained at 103.8 cubic feet, like the Hyundai gas-powered sedan. Sonata Interior

At the asking price of $32,490, I feel the Sonata Hybrid deserves a hard look from a perspective hybrid car shopper.  It’s attractive, roomy, fuel efficient, and well-appointed.

“Turn Me Loose” in the KIA Forte EX FWD Sedan

2014 KIA ForteThe latest car that was delivered to my house for testing was the 2014 KIA Forte sedan that was introduced late last year.  The Forte has been around since 2008 but had extensive updates added to the vehicle for the current model year.  My test car came in Abyss blue metallic paint and included black leather seating for five inside.

As of this writing, I do not know where KIA came up with the name for this car, but wonder if they named it after the handsome Fabian, teen idol of the 50’s and 60’s.  Many readers do not know that Fabian’s full name was Fabiano Anthony Forte, or that he was referred to his record producer by Frankie Avalon, another South Philadelphia resident.  Eleven of Fabian’s songs reached the Billboard Hot 100 listing, including “Hound Dog Man”, “Tiger”, and “Turn Me Loose”, and he later got into movies including the part of Pretty Boy Floyd in “A Bullet for Pretty Boy” (1970).

Perhaps KIA’s sedan that I drove was not named after Fabian, but my research into the matter has ended.  I will say, however, that the Forte is a “pretty boy”, as are several Hyundai and KIA vehicles since the hiring of Peter Schreyer by the corporation to head their California design studio.  This year’s model is lower, wider, and longer that those of the past, with a wheelbase of 106.3” and an overall length of 179.5”.  The Forte weighs 2,950 lbs.

My test Forte carried an M.S.R.P. of $25,515, a figure that took me a little by surprise when I withdrew the monroney from the glove box.  Included was $300 for 17” alloy wheels, $2,600 for a premium package, and $2,300 for an EX technology package.  Thus, the car was equipped with sun roof, power/ventilated driver seat, heated front buckets, push button starter, proximity smart key, heated tilt/telescope steering wheel, navigation system, satellite radio, Bluetooth/USB connectivity, and power outside folding mirrors with light stripes.

The KIA was powered by a 2.0 liter (173 hp/154 lb. ft.) four cylinder, DOHC, 16 valve engine and featured a six speed automatic transmission with manual shifting mode.  Acceleration of the Forte is reportedly zero to 60 in 7.3 seconds, and fuel economy is rated 24-city and 36-highway.  My observance was of 32 mpg during my week with the car. Forte wheel

Forte interior

My wife and I drove the KIA to Denver for a visit as well as a trip from DIA to Greeley on Highway 85.  Ride was suitable, guidance was fine, and wind noise was not excessive.  At the airport parking lot and in Greeley I admired the Forte’s small, 34.8’ turning radius.  The car fetched a lot of onlookers with the superb styling I hinted at earlier as well as the well-designed 17” alloys, which were fitted with Nexen Classe Premiere P215/45R17 m/s radials.  Chrome door handles adorned the exterior of the car.

KIA is one of only three auto brands to increase sales in each of the last four years, and the Forte, with about 40,000 sold this year-to-date, is a key component of their success.  I can see why; it’s quite a “Tiger”.                Forte taillight