2014 Subaru Crosstrek XV AWD Hybrid

2014 Subaru CrossTrek XVLast week my wife and I drove a Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid to Vail, picking up our daughters in Denver on the way through.  In the past I have tested several Subarus, none with as stunning a paint job as the Touring edition that was brought to the house prior to the trip.  The color was called Plasma Green Pearl metallic, and I became pretty fond of it during the week that I tested the car.

Subaru unveiled the XV Crosstrek Hybrid at last year’s New York Auto Show, and the car was rolled out from behind screen prints of trees to quite a bit of fanfare in front of the automotive press.  It is Subaru’s first foray into the green car world, mating Subaru’s outdoor reputation with a reduced carbon footprint.  All the world can see that the Subaru is a hybrid with the distinctive badging on each front door.

The Subaru Crosstrek XV Hybrid has 8.7” of ground clearance, the same dimension as the Crosstrek 2.0i, the company’s non-hybrid offering.  The wheelbase of the XV Hybrid is 103.7”, overall length is 175.2”, and the car weighs 3,484 lbs.  Symmetrical all-wheel drive is included in this model, which carries a base price of $29,295.00.  My test car had no additional equipment with it, so with freight of $825.00, total M.S.R.P. was $30,120.00.Subaru CrossTrek Cargo Area

The Subaru I tested was the Touring model, which is top-of-the-line.  With this model, the owner gets leather upholstery, power moon roof, GPS navigation setup with 6.1” screen, XM radio, rear-vision camera, and keyless proximity access with pushbutton starter.  Also included is a 6-speaker stereo, heated buckets, power windows/locks/mirrors, tilt/telescope, and a 60/40 fold-down rear seat.  Cargo capacity behind the second row of seats is 21.5 cubic feet – that number increases to 50.2 with the back seats folded flat.  I thought the black Subaru interior was tasteful, and it is evident that the company added sound-deadening materials to the Hybrid – it was quiet and had a solid feel.SAM_3361

The styling of Subaru’s Crosstrek XV Hybrid is eye-catching, and matches that of the non-hybrid car.  Chrome-trimmed door handles are attached and the 17” five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels are aerodynamic and fitted with 225/55R17 Yokohama Geolandar G91 all-season, low-rolling-resistance tires.

Power for the Subaru is supplied by a “boxer” horizontally-opposed four cylinder, 2.0 liter gas engine with a 13.4 horsepower electric motor integrated into the drive train.  Total system power is 160 horsepower (6,000 rpm) with 163 lb. ft. of torque (2,000 rpm).  Transmission is a Lineartronic continuously variable unit with manual-mode paddle shifters.  Some shuddering occurs at a standstill when the gas engine is starting, as needed.  This is typical, and an EV mode (all-electric) is available up to 25 mph, resulting in zero emissions and zero fuel consumption.  Economy ratings are 33-highway, 29-city, and 31-combined.  The city rating is the one that stands out for the hybrid, at about 20% improvement over the conventional 2.0i Crosstrek.  Zero to 60 mph acceleration is reportedly in the 8 second range.  In the mountains, the Subaru did an excellent job through the use of the 6-speed manual mode setup in the transmission and the paddle shifters.Subaru CrossTrek Grill

Overall, driving the very appealing XV Crosstrek Hybrid was fine, with good guidance and ride (plus that quiet interior), and handling was suitable.  If I were more of an outdoorsman, perhaps I would be shopping for such a car at trade time.2014 Subaru CrossTrek Wheel

2014 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid Crossover

_DSC3364Volkswagen’s Touareg, named after a nomadic people that inhabit the Saharan interior of North Africa, has been manufactured by the company since 2002.  It is a mid-size luxury crossover made in a plant in Bratislava, Slovakia that is owned by the Volkswagen Group.  That Group owns Audi and Porsche, and the Q7 and Cayenne models marketing by those firms are SUV’s based on the Touareg platform.

The Touareg, now in its second generation offering, comes handsomely equipped with power lift gate, big panoramic moon roof, navigation with 8” display, Vienna leather seating for five, heated front and rear seats, and keyless access/pushbutton start.  Thus, the base price is $64,745.00 and coupled with freight, the total M.S.R.P. is $65,655.00.

The above listing of equipment is just part of the package, and the Touareg comes off as a very swanky mode of transportation.  Passengers in the Touareg with Ruth and I gasped at the big, glass moon roof that of course powers open from the windshield to the middle of passenger compartment.  Leather is present on the seats as well as the gear shift and heated steering wheel.  My test car had black Anthracite trim inside.SAM_3350

Outside, the Touareg was painted Tungsten silver metallic with chrome trim on the lower four doors featuring a “Hybrid” designation.  In a departure from many hybrids, the Volkswagen was equipped with large, dual, chrome exhaust finishers in the rear.  A possible reason for that is the power plant, above and beyond for a hybrid.  System power is 380 horsepower and the torque is a muscular 428 lb. ft.  It is all lined up with an eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic capability, and acceleration is reportedly is zero to sixty in 5.9 seconds.  The gas engine in the Volkswagen is a supercharged 3.0 liter V-6 and the drive system is 4Motion all-wheel drive.

Fuel economy ratings for the Touareg are modest, with the highway rating at 24 mpg and the city rating at 20 mpg.  I observed 20.9 mpg for the week that I drove the Touareg.  What Volkswagen is selling here is a performance hybrid;  it would take a high mileage application to pay for the upcharge in this vehicle.  Touareg Wheel

Touareg EngineStyling is a hallmark of this SUV, and the silver paint was striking.  The 19”, five-spoke alloy wheels were surrounded with Michelin Latitude Tour HP’s in size 265/50R19.  On the rear was a trailer hitch and towing capacity was nearly four tons.

SAM_3357    Back inside, the Touareg features an all-around camera system to allow the driver to effectively see the vehicle from above, parking lot stripes and all.  The rear camera is present, as well, and it stays on until the car is moving forward at about three miles per hour.  The navigation seemed above average and driving the Volkswagen was fine.  Ride, interior noise, handling, and guidance on pavement were good.

The Hybrid Touareg is an elegant vehicle and I enjoyed my week driving it. SAM_3359

2014 Lexus IS350C Convertible

2014 Lexus IS350C 8/14

    Lexus, Toyota’s luxury car division that has been around for 25 years, sells cars in 70 countries and is headquartered in Nagoya, Japan.  The name of the company’s product was selected from a list that included Verone, Calibre, and Alexis, among others.  Lexus was decided on, and is a combination of the words “luxury” and “elegance.

The test car I recently has in my possession certainly was elegant, and luxurious, as well.  It was the two-door convertible IS350C F Sport with metal retractable hardtop and it was painted Matador red mica with a black leather interior.  The vehicle weighs 3,872 lb. and its 182.5” length sits on a 107.5” wheelbase, putting its size on par with a 3-Series BMW.

American manufacturer Ford introduced the world’s first hardtop convertible in 1957, and today I believe there are over 40 such offerings on the market.  It (the Ford) was a smash when I was a teenager, and the size and configuration of it resulted in a redesigned trunk that would be stuffed with hardware when the top was down.SAM_3342

The Lexus, a much smaller car, actually has a little luggage space when in convertible mode, and plenty of room for four passengers.  By a little luggage space, I mean 2.4 cubic feet, a number that is 10.8 cubic feet with the top up.  I never attempted to carry luggage in the Lexus with the top down, but ostensibly it could perhaps hold a carry-on bag.

Buyers of this car are not interested in luggage, but in stylish motoring and superb performance from the F Sport IS350C.  F Sport denotes a package of performance items  including optimized steering, sport-tuned suspension, and special 18” alloy wheels.  Also included with an F Sport are aluminum sport pedals, special grill, silver metallic interior trim, and “F” fender badging.  The F Sport Lexus has heated and ventilated front seats, as well.

My test car was equipped with a high-intensity headlight/LED package ($875.00), navigation package ($3,520.00), headlamp washers ($100.00), and intuitive parking assist ($500.00).  Along with the F Sport upgrade ($2,550.00), freight ($910.00), and a base price of $46,990.00, total M.S.R.P. came to $55,445.00.  The navigation package included premium 12-speaker 270-watt audio, satellite radio, backup camera, and 7” high-resolution multimedia display screen.

Power for this rear-wheel drive two-door was supplied by a 3.5 liter V-6 with 306 horsepower (6,400 rpm) and 277 lb. ft. of torque (4,800 rpm).  Fuel economy ratings are 19-city, 27-highway, and 22 mpg, combined.  The fuel tank holds 17.2 gallons.  A six-speed automatic transmission is employed in the power train and zero to sixty mph acceleration is reportedly 5.8 seconds.  Double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension is a combination that makes the Lexus a blast to drive, regardless of where the roof is.  Driving a convertible is genuine fun on a balmy August day in Greeley, and a retractable hardtop that goes up or down in 21 seconds is a convenience.SAM_3341

I mentioned the wheels, which were ten-spoke dark graphite alloys fitted with 225/40R18 all-season radials.  Front-lip spoilers were installed on the Lexus, as well as dual chrome exhausts and light-striped outside mirrors.  I like red cars, and the IS350C styling presented a beautiful visage, in my mind.

Ride of the convertible was acceptable despite the 40-aspect tires, handling was was way above average, and guidance was great.  Wind noise was at a low level for a convertible of any sort, and visibility was suitable, certainly in three directions from the driver’s seat.

I had fun with the Lexus convertible, and would recommend it to the niche buyer looking for such a car.

2014 Nissan Rogue SL AWD Crossover

_DSC3304This past week my wife and I traveled to Illinois to visit an elderly relative, see the Cubs/Rockies games at Wrigley Field and test drive a 2014 Nissan Rogue SL all-wheel drive Crossover.  Ruth and I picked up the car at O’Hare and immediately set out for Freeport, Illinois, 100 miles west of Chicago.  Wonderful weather was on hand and responsible for taking some of the grief out of Illinois road construction, particularly on Interstate 90.  Through the windshield I would estimate that I viewed one million orange signs on the vacation.       

    The Rogue is a popular Nissan offering, and the company has sold nearly 750,000 units since the introduction of the model in 2007.  A year ago I wrote a review of the 2013, first generation Rogue, and at that time their sales were up 13% for the year.  Now I have tested a 2014 Rogue, much redesigned, and as I understand it, sales are up again this year to the tune of 14%.  That percentage also applies to the change in fuel efficiency of this new Rogue, and nicely, it is an increase in such, through the employment of a reduced drag coefficient, among other things.

My test Rogue was an SL model, which is the top offering of Nissan, with leather interior and sunroof.  It was painted Midnight Jade (green) metallic and the interior was almond leather.  M.S.R.P. of the Rogue was $32,395.00, including the base price of $29,420.00, freight of $860.00, and a couple of options.  Those included carpeted floor mats ($125.00), and an SL Premium package ($1,990.00).  The SL Premium package included the following:  power panoramic moon roof, LED headlights with auto levelizers, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and moving object detection.  Also included on this SL was 7” touch-screen display, navigation, satellite radio, around-view monitor for parking, power lift gate, and mud and snow tires all around.  They were Dunlop Grand Trek P225/60R18s, and they provided a quiet highway driving environment.

Power for the Rogue comes from a four-cylinder, 170 horsepower engine with 175 lb. ft. of torque.  The all-wheel drive vehicle has an Xtronic CVT (continuously variable) transmission with a sport mode switch and hill start assist.  Acceleration is adequate, but fuel economy is above average for this class of vehicle – 32 mpg highway, 25 mpg city, 28 mpg combined.  This is, after all, a 3,532 lb. crossover.  I observed 25.1 mpg with the Rogue in a combination of highway and city driving for a three-day weekend.  The fuel tank holds 14.5 gallons.2014 Nissan Rogue in IL (7-14)

The interior of the Nissan is tasteful, with soft surfaces in abundance and a stylish dash and console.  The front buckets are power, pushbutton start is on hand as well as tilt/telescope, folding 60/40 second row seating, backup camera and Bose 9-speaker stereo.  Luggage space behind all the seating is 39.2 cubic ft.  Ride is good, not sporty, and guidance, visibility and handling are similar in nature.

Styling for 2014 of the Nissan Rogue is an improvement over last year’s offering, and LED daytime running lights adorn the new, bolder front end.  The new car is an inch longer, 1.5 inches wider, and an inch taller than the 2013 Rogue.  Dressy chrome door handles, deep tint rear windows, and ten-spoke alloy wheels all serve to enhance the look, and devotees of the 2013 Rogue can buy what is called the Rogue Select, a carryover SUV.  In front of the Ulysses S. Grant home in Galena, Illinois, a lot of tourists were checking out the Rogue SL.

Inside, the Rogue probably holds the right number of people, whereas a seven passenger Rogue is a bit much.  I have to admit I like the Rogue.  Its evident to me why it is a top seller (#2 in Nissan’s lineup).