2015 Dodge Charger SXT AWD Sedan

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I see that AutoTrader advertisements are featuring a number of Dodge Chargers, specifically the “General Lee” of Dukes of Hazzard fame, and several white, late-model four-doors similar to my latest test car.  It was a 2015 Dodge Charger SXT all-wheel drive sedan and was painted Ivory tri-coat pearl.  Inside it was Tungsten (gray) cloth sport upholstery with the front bucket seats both powered and heated.

The General Lee was a 1969 Dodge Charger driven by the Duke cousins Bo and Luke, in the television series The Dukes of Hazard. The car is known for its special horn, its high speed chases, stunts, long jumps, and for having its doors welded shut, leaving the Dukes to climb in and out through the windows.  The car’s name is a reference to the Gen. Robert E. Lee and it bears a Confederate flag of America (representing the army which Robert E. Lee commanded) on its roof, and also has a horn that plays the first twelve notes of “Dixie”.  On average, one General Lee Charger was used up per television episode, and legend has it that between 250 and 32o automobiles were destroyed during filming of the series.  Stunt drivers were known to enjoy the long jumps, but they reportedly hated the landings.

Shortly after the “Dukes”, the Dodge Charger was nonexistent for nineteen years before its re-introduction in 2006.  That’s when it came out as a four-door, rear-wheel drive sedan with styling that was supposed to harken back to the 60’s and 70’s glory days.  All-wheel drive has been subsequently added as an option to the car, and my test Charger was equipped as such.  The SXT model I drove represented the model sixth down from the Charger SRT Hellcat, one of five V-8 hemi-powered machines, and it sits atop the four V-6 models that the company offers.

Base price of my Charger was $32,995.00, and as options it had the fancy paint ($500.00), and navigation/backup camera ($995.00), so with freight of $995.00 the total M.S.R.P was $35,485.00.  I thought it was pretty reasonable, and some omissions responsible for the decent list price included the solid roof and the cloth seating.  But it was a quite attractive automobile and handling, guidance, ride and road noise level are were satisfactory to this reviewer.

Equipment on the SXT included remote engine start, hill start assist, XM radio, 8.4″ touchscreen for audio and navigation, 276-watt stereo, and Chrysler Corporations proprietary UConnect infotainment system.  Interior space amounts to 104.7 cubic feet and trunk space is 16.5 cubic feet.  The two spaces can be blended together by virtue of the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.

Power for the Charger that I drove comes in the form of a 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 with 292 horsepower and 260 lb. ft. of torque.  A Rally group, not present on my test car, pushes horsepower to 300.  My 292-horsepower Dodge was rated at 18 mpg-city, 27 mpg-highway, and 21 mpg-combined (EPA).  Observance of mileage came in at a respectable 24.5 during a week with the car.  Attached to the Pentastar was a Torqueflite eight-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode.

The Charger was pretty sitting in the driveway, particularly up front (I backed it in the driveway at all times, driving the wife nuts), and the look is new for 2015.  Wheels were 19″ polished aluminum with graphite pockets and tires were P235/55R19 Michelin Pilot HXMXM4 mud and snow radials.  Dual chrome exhaust finishers were under the rear fascia.  It was a good ride and is to be recommended to the value- and style conscious full-sized sedan shopper.


2015 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock 4 X 4


Jeep has been building off-road and sport utility vehicles since 1941 (civilian vehicles since 1945), making it the country’s oldest SUV brand.  They were originally provided for the U. S. military during World War II, specifically light 4-wheel drives for the Army.  Willys-Overland, the manufacturer of Jeeps, provided about 640,000 units for the war effort, and the initial contract price was $648.00 each.

Thousands of Jeeps were left behind in the Philippines after the Allied victory over the Japanese, and most were converted to taxis and became the primary mode of public transportation there.  Called Jeepneys (Jeep/jitney), they were also my primary mode of transportation beyond the gate at Clark AFB while I served there in 1970.  Up front, each Jeepney had a driver and a conductor, who managed passengers and collected fares.  Air Force GI’s rode in them to their favorite bar for about 20 cents.  Jeepneys in the PhilippinesSAM_4031

Jeep, now owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, LLC, has sold the Wrangler since 1987, and the compact SUV is now in its 4th generation configuration.  Since 2007 it has been available in a 4-door “Unlimited” model with an additional 20.6” of wheelbase, but my latest test vehicle was the Wrangler Rubicon 4×4 Hard Rock two-door  Although much evolved, the Wrangler remains a knockoff of the original Army Jeep of the 1940’s.

My test Wrangler was good-looking Firecracker red clear coat paint outside with black leather seating and front buckets that were heated.  M.S.R.P. for the Jeep was $39,255.00 and included the base price, freight, connectivity group ($1,570.00), 3-piece hard top/soft top ($595.00), and Hard Rock convenience package ($4,500.00).  The Hard Rock package included power locks/windows, cruise, tilt, XM radio, fold-down 3 passenger rear seat, and Bluetooth connectivity.    Cargo capacity is 55 cubic feet with the back seat folded and 12.8 cubic feet with it erect.  SAM_4032

A nice feature of this year’s Wrangler is the new 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 with 285 (@6,350 rpm) horsepower and 260 (@ 4,200 rpm) ft. lb. of torque.  Along with the 6-speed manual transmission, it provided me with enough power and can go zero to 60 in 8.5 seconds.  Gas mileage ratings are 17/21, city and highway, 18 combined and my observation was 18.8 mpg for the week.  Ride and guidance on the road with the Jeep is better than can be expected and wind noise is acceptable.  Off-road capability is exemplary, of course, with 2-speed transfer case, ample ground clearance, and the limited-slip differential.

I mentioned the paint – also, the Jeep had 17” polished semi-gloss black 5-hole alloy wheels, BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain T/A, LT255/75R17 black-letter tires, fog lights, iconic seven-slot grill, and front tow hooks on the bumper.

When the Rubicon arrived, I was extremely excited to run around with it.  Not being a hunter or fisherman, however, I suppose ownership of such a car would be inadvisable for me.  For those that want it for those activities, I strongly suggest they take a look at buying one of these Jeeps.

2015 KIA Sedona SXL FWD Minivan

SAM_4012This last week the Drive Shop dropped off the new Sedona from KIA, a minivan which in its third generation form was just introduced in the U. S. last year.  Actually the firm calls this car a multi-purpose vehicle in order to attract more buyers to the brand, and to the model.  My test loaner was the SX Limited model painted Deep Formal blue metallic and featured a burgundy and ash Nappa leather interior with four bucket seats.

KIA is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, and is that country’s second-largest automobile manufacturer, trailing only Hyundai Motors, a one-third owner of KIA Motors Corporation.  KIA is also the oldest auto manufacturer in Korea, founded on June 9th, 1944, as a maker of bicycle parts and metal tubing.  The word KIA is roughly translated as “rising out of Asia”, and the company sold 2,907,757 vehicles worldwide in 2014.  That represented a 5.9% increase over sales from the year 2013.SAM_4026

In the styling department, there isn’t much that a manufacturer can do to set their offering apart from the pack, so I think KIA did the best they could do on this Sedona SXL.  They put ample chrome on the car (including on the door handles and the ten spoke alloy wheels), but the front end look is where exemplary work was done with the grill and lighting treatment.  At the New York Auto Show last year where the Sedona was introduced, the car was named Best New Car Design.

Ruth and I drove the Sedona to Nebraska for our test to visit relatives.  That put us out on Interstate 80 weaving around big rigs that seem to multiply on the weekend.  I surely enjoyed the Smart cruise control for the endeavor, which allowed me to keep my feet flat on the floor while darting from lane to lane with appurtenant speed discrepancies.  Other technology/safety items included on the KIA were blind spot detection/lane change assist, lane departure warning, rear camera display, forward collision warning, surround view monitor, and rear park assist.  Most of these items were included in the SXL technology package for an additional $2,700.00.  That, plus a base price of $39,700.00 and freight of $895.00, brought the total M.S.R.P. to $43,295.00.  This price is right in middle of pricing I have seen on the competitive minivans (excuse me, multi-purpose vehicle), and this was, after all, KIA’s top of the line model.

The two-toned leather buckets (4) were attractive and kept me in a comfortable attitude for my trip and the week here in Greeley.  Relatives enjoyed the second-row buckets with armrests (and footrests), and I suppose everyone was happy to jump on board and ride in the third row, although I didn’t hear much from them.  They were riding on a 60/40 split fold-in-the-floor bench, and luggage space behind it amounted to 62.1 cubic feet, with a deep well to enhance that number.  Outside, the KIA is 201.4″ long, 78.1″ wide, 68.5″ high, weighs 4,720 lbs., and can turn around in a 36.8′ circle.

Minivan power for the KIA comes in the form of a 3.3 liter, V-6 with 276 horsepower (@ 6,000 rpm) and 248 lb. ft. of torque (@ 5,200 rpm).  A six-speed Sportmatic overdrive transmission is employed and EPA fuel economy ratings are 22-highway, 17-city, and 19-combined miles per gallon.  My average for a windy drive of 650 miles was 19.9 mpg.  I thought the ride was fine, as was guidance and handling in the city.  Overall, I would rate the Sedona (a good name) right in line with its minivan competition with perhaps a little edge because it is so good-looking.

2015 Toyota Sienna Limited 3.5L AWD 7-Passenger Minivan

SAM_3984For the second time this year, I received from the Rocky Mountain Redline press fleet a Toyota Sienna minivan to test.  It was an all-wheel drive model, unlike the earlier front-wheel drive tester.  It also arrived at a more pleasant time of year, as the red model was here during a particularly frigid spell in January.  As you can see from the photo, my 2015 test van was around here for some very nice spring weather.

My Sienna was the Limited 3.5L model with several upgrades such as backup camera, audio/navigation with 7″ screen, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Toyota’s Entune Audio Plus app suite, ash-tone leather seating for seven, 2nd-row lounge-seat captains chairs, stowable third row seat, cruise control, tilt/telescope, Smart Key system with pushbutton starter, triple 12v power outlets, blind spot monitor, parking assist sonar, rear cross traffic alert, and ten cup holders.SAM_3989

Toyota’s Sienna Limited comes in five different colors and the one I drove was painted Predawn Gray Mica metallic.  Of course the vehicle was equipped with power sliding side doors (they have roll-down windows), dual moon roof openings, and a power rear lift gate.  The length of the Sienna was 200.2″ set on a 119.3″ wheelbase; weight was 4,705 lbs.  Getting in and out of the minivan is easier than a sedan and not quite at a crossover SUV level of convenience.  Visibility is great, as is ride and guidance on the SAM_3987road.  Handling is excellent for a minivan.

Minivan styling is not an attraction to such a vehicle, although I personally like the looks of all of them.  This Sienna had attractive ten-spoke machine-finished 18″ alloy wheels with P235/55R18 Bridgestone Turanza EL400 steel-belted all-season radials.  Luggage rail cross bars were up top, chrome door handles were installed, and round fog- and backup-lights dressed up the fascia, front and rear.

SAM_3988Power for the all-wheel drive Toyota minivan is produced by a 3.5 liter V-6 with 266 horsepower (@ 6,200 rpm) and 245 lb. ft. of torque (@ 4,700 rpm).  A six-speed automatic is coupled to it with the shift tower mounted on the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel.  Thus, the driver (or front passenger) can slide over to the other armrest-equipped bucket seat, if desired.  Fuel economy for the Sienna is 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.  The combined rating is 19 mpg.  I found the performance of my test Toyota to be suitable, and the company also offers an front-wheel drive setup on the Sienna, which is what I drove early this year.

M.S.R.P. for the van carried a base price of $42,780.00; freight ($885.00) , roof rack cross bars ($185.00), remote engine start ($499.00), and four-season floormat package ($475.00) brought the total to $44,824.00.  I enjoyed testing the Sienna and it seems to me to represent a good value in its segment.