2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line SEL

20160517_150234I remember the first time I laid eyes on a Volkswagen Beetle, in Grant, Nebraska in about 1963.  A young man in town named Charlie Brixius had purchased a used one (perhaps a 1959), and made quite a splash driving it up and down Main Street over and over.  We all did that back then – gas was cheap, the pace was leisurely, and that was the place to be seen.  The U-turns were made at the same intersections on the north and south end of this town of 1,000 population, and some of the guys out cruising were lucky enough to have a girl sitting in the middle of the front seat for the ride.  20160517_150306

Charlie never had a girl sitting in the middle of his front seat, because the “bug” had two bucket seats in the front of the four-passenger, rear-engined, rear-wheel drive VW.  Neither did I, as I rode a Honda 50 scooter/cycle.

Volkswagen Beetles were built from 1938 to 2003, and  over 20 million have been manufactured and sold worldwide since the inception of the car in Germany.  A man named Porsche designed the car, and along with the rear engine placement, the car was air cooled, without coolant or a radiator.

What is commonly called a “New Beetle” with coolant, a front engine, and front-wheel drive, has been marketed on and off since 1997.  Such a car is what was brought to me a week ago for testing, a 2016 Turbocharged Tornado red unit with “R-Line” equipment specified, including a spoiler, “twister” alloy wheels, extra gauges, aluminum pedal covers, and special badging.

Power for my test car was supplied by a 2.0 liter, 210 horsepower (207 lb. ft. of torque) four cylinder gas engine with an EPA mileage rating of 23/city, 31/highway, 26 combined MPG.  The transmission on hand was a six-speed manual, and it seemed sturdy and somewhat enjoyable.  For having a turbocharger, the engine had a definite grumble to it, belying the high RPM turbo operating in the power department.  Turbochargers whir at about 150,000 revolutions per minute – roughly 30 times as fast as the engine.  They are nice in Colorado, spinning faster at our altitude and mitigating power loss that can be associated with naturally-aspirated (i.e. fuel injected) engines.

Inside the Volkswagen, a Fender premium stereo was on hand as well as sunroof, heated leather buckets, Bluetooth connections, navigation, pushbutton starter and satellite radio.  The theme inside was two-toned black and gray and somewhat kicky.  Styling was great with ten spoke polished alloys and attractive black trim work low on the outside.

Acceleration of the VW was great fun, road manners were on target, and handling/guidance were similar.  It’s a pretty quiet sedan and visibility is fine.  List price was $32,270.00 for the 2016 that I drove and that included freight.  It has a niche market and doesn’t sell over 400,000 per year (in the U.S.!) like the old days, but still has a nice following and a fan in this reviewer.

 

2016 Lexus GX460 Luxury SUV

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An elegant 2016 Lexus GX-460 Luxury edition was dropped off at my house last week, and I quickly jumped in to take it to the airport to pick up my family.  Lexus is the luxury division of Toyota, and has been producing the GX series of SUV’s since 2002.  This one was painted Silver Lining metallic, a gorgeous finish.  Inside, it featured gray leather deluxe upholstery with comfortable buckets and seating for seven.  The family, consisting of the three girls just back from Disney World, oohed and ahhhd at the Lexus interior.

This GX is a big SUV, weighing 5,179 lbs. and extending out to 189.2 inches in overall length.  It’s 73.8” tall and 74.2” in width.  I mentioned the seven passenger capability, which requires a small double leather seat that folds down into the floor in the far back.  When these seats are up, there is a modest amount of luggage space, but when collapsed along with the middle row of seating, you can obtain 64.7 cubic feet of cargo space.  The back door swings out towards the curb and a hinged rear glass is incorporated into it.  All packaged up and out on the road, this vehicle rides great, and wind noise, guidance, and handling are all commensurate with a Lexus of this caliber.20160518_183452

My GX test car had a base M.S.R.P. of $61,515.00.  The entertainment system added $1,970.00, driver support package added $4,340.00, and the freight added $940.00, bringing total list price to $68,765.00.  Stereo equipment was Mark Levinson (including navigation system) with 7.1 Dolby surround sound and 17 speakers.  The GX had the blind spot monitor that I’ve grown so fond of, allowing Ruth and I to get on Highway 85 at Brighton and sale into Greeley from the south.

The 4.6 liter V-8 provided 301 horsepower (329 lb. ft. of torque) and was mated to a six speed automatic transmission with sport shift mode.  Acceleration is on target, with a zero to sixty timing that is reportedly a respectable 7.8 seconds.  Fuel economy ratings are 15/20 city-highway (17 combined), and I observed a little over 18 for the week spent with the GX.  It has full-time four-wheel drive with crawl control for four wheeling.  This car is a body-on-frame SUV with 8.1” of ground clearance, so can do more than just drive through snow.

Styling of the GX-460 has been changed since the second generation model was introduced in 2009, and personally I think they kept the styling pretty much in line with the prior series, with perhaps a little more aggressive attitude.  My GX had the roof rails, nice lighted steps on the side, ample chrome, and 18”, six-spoke Liquid Graphite alloy wheels.  The tires were Bridgestone Dueler H/T 840’s, P265/60R18 in size, with mud and snow capabilities.

Sleek, unibody “crossover” SUVs are currently the rage, and the GX460 is somewhat of a throwback.  But if the shopper wants to luxuriate with off-road and towing capabilities, the GX-460 Lexus provides an excellent option to consider.

 

 

 

2016 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid Platinum Crossover

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On May 6th, George “Elvis” Gray and I analyzed the Toyota Highlander at Pirate Radio during the Morning Show with George Gray and the Big Kahanu:

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Nautical blue metallic – Heated and ventilated leather almond buckets and captain chairs – Navigation system with 8” touchscreen – Three row seating – LED headlights – Panoramic Moonroof – JBL stereo – Pushbutton start – Power Liftgate – 3.5 liter V-6 with Hybrid Synergy Drive System – 280 net horsepower and All Wheel Drive – 28 MPG – 537 mile range – Continuously variable automatic transmission Blind spot monitor –  Backup camera –  Lane watch –  Lane departure warning and collision-mitigation – $51,385.00 – 28 mpg highway gas mileage