2015 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4×4

20150921_183023Recently I was chosen to examine the 2015 Cherokee Latitude 4 x 4 by Rocky Mountain Redline of Dacono, CO.  They graciously brought the Jeep by my house and had a copy of the window sticker along – it was $33,825.00, including freight and several options.  I’ll get into that list later, but at first glance I was surprised to see all of the black chrome trim work on the Jeep, and as the test unfolded a lot of my friends made favorable comments about the look.  A gloss black appearance was featured on the grill, the window trim, roof rails, wheels, and the fascia application.  Along with the Granite Crystal metallic clear coat paint, the vehicle therefore presented an aggressive, business-like look.

The Ohio-built Jeep Cherokee is not to be confused with the Grand Cherokee – this is a mid-size crossover that was introduced for the 2014 model year and was co-developed by Chrysler and Fiat.  It is 182″ long, 73.2″ wide, 65.7″ high, is mounted on a 106.3″ wheelbase, and has ground clearance of 8″.  Weight of the model I drove was 4,044 lbs.  As of this writing, it should not be driven on the streets of South Carolina, because it can only wade through 19″ of water.  That’s actually pretty good, but the weather in SC is pretty bad.20150921_183352

I enjoyed testing the Jeep in Colorado, and was pleased about the extra punch provided by the 3.2 liter (197.7 c.i.d.) Pentastar V-6 with 271 horsepower at 6,500 rpm.  The torque rating is 239 lb. ft. at 4,400 rpm.  Smooth acceleration was effected through the single-speed Activ Drive I four-wheel drive system and the new 9-speed, Chrysler-built transmission that adds economy to the Jeep’s EPA ratings – they are 28-highway, 20-city, and 23-combined miles per gallon.  My reading came in as expected and just a little above the combined figure.  For the four-wheel drive system, a floor dial is on hand with up to five traction control settings.  They are auto, snow, sport, sand/mud, and rock, and the management system is referred to as Selec-Terrain.

The loaded Jeep Cherokee Latitude has as options the following items: customer preferred package ($600.00) – 18″ x 7″ gloss black five-spoke wheels, black trim work and P225/60R18 Continental ProContact steel radials; safety tech group ($1,045.00) – blind spot monitor, rear park assist and multi-function power mirrors; comfort/convenience group ($1,745.00) – remote starter, power lift gate, remote entry and go, power cloth buckets and XM satellite radio; V-6 engine ($1,745.00) –  includes start/stop feature for economy plus dual exhausts ; UConnect ($600.00) – 8.4 infotainment screen with navigation capability.  All the items were in addition to a base price of $27,095.00 and a freight charge of $995.00.

The total Jeep package was impressive, with V-6 power in an advanced power train, deluxe interior with room for five people plus 25 cubic feet of cargo, acceptable fuel economy and list price, and all the amenities except leather and moon roof.  In other words, everything that you expect in a Jeep, and have since 1941.


2015 Chrysler 300S AWD Sedan

20150907_063728The Chrysler 300S, a full-size luxury offering from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, was introduced in early 2011 at the New York International Auto Show as a second-generation iteration.

The updated 2015 300 represents a nice improvement over its predecessor in terms of styling and technology.  The car is 198.6” long, weighs 4,029 lbs., and is intended to compete with popular cars like Chevrolet’s Impala, Toyota’s Avalon, and Ford’s Taurus.

I recently tested a 300S “Sport” model with Jazz Blue pearl coat paint and black leather bolstered seating.  The “S” is third from the top in the line of 300’s, and this particular model had all-wheel drive.  Power was supplied by a 3.6 liter V-6 coupled with Chrysler’s proprietary 8-speed transmission.  The car exuded a throaty exhaust note and reportedly, the acceleration is zero to sixty in under six seconds.

Relative to its technology, the 300S that I tested had the navigation and BeatsAudio sound group, including a programmable driver dash cluster and 8.4” touchscreen display in the center stack. Chrysler calls its infotainment system UConnect, and with it the driver can command by voice the navigation route request, radio settings, text message(s), telephone calls, and recorded voice memos.  Hands-free responses to incoming text messages can be pre-defined by the driver (perhaps “I’m on my way.”), and the smart system technology can be trained to better recognize the driver’s voice in three languages, if desired.  Chrysler likes to say that their UConnect system takes non-distracted driving very seriously.SAM_0769

Driving the 300S was pleasurable, with handling, ride, road noise and guidance all impressive.  A blind spot monitor, cross path detection, and backup camera system all made driving easier, as did the comfort group with its heated steering wheel and seats.  A rotary E-shift gear selector was nice, and it’s something that I have come to look forward to when I encounter it in the test cars that I analyze.

Chrysler has a hit on its hands with the 300 series sedan, have sold more than 53,000 in 2014.  I can see why it is so popular, and really enjoyed my week driving the “S” model.

2015 Chrysler 300S specs

MSRP: $39,560.00, including freight and; customer preferred package -UConnect 8.4” screen, navigation, and HD radio ($995.00).

Power: 3.6 liter (217 c.i.d.) V-6 with 300 horsepower and 264 lb. ft. of torque. 8-speed automatic transmission with E-shift plus steering wheel paddles.  All-wheel drive.

Capacities: Fuel 18.5 gallons, cargo 16.3 cu. ft., passengers 5

EPA ratings: 18 mpg-city, 27 mpg-highway, 21 mpg-combined

2015 Range Rover Supercharged LWB

2015 Range Rover LWB that I drove to Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park to test for AAA EnCompass magazine.

Indian conglomerate Tata Motors purchased iconic British automaker Jaguar Land Rover in 2008, obtaining a luxury line of cars and utility vehicles – the Land Rover brand having been around since 1947.  Land Rover started selling a bigger Range Rover SUV in 1970, and since 2013 the model has been available in its biggest version to date.  A Fuji white 2015 Range Rover Supercharged LWB (long wheelbase) was the subject of a recent test that I conducted, and it was the largest foreign non-pickup unit ever loaned to me for review.

American manufacturers produce SUV’s of this size, of course, but not with as many amenities, at such a price, or with as much power.  Power which for my test Range Rover LWB came in the form of a 5.0 liter, 510 horsepower, 32-valve, supercharged V-8, permanent four-wheel drive, two-speed transfer case, and an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. With such of a power train, acceleration from zero to 60 is reportedly 5.5 seconds, blazing for a 5,320 lb. aluminum-intensive behemoth.  The Range Rover is fast, and it’s ride, handling, guidance and visibility all go hand in hand with its drive train prowess.  Plus it can wade through 35.4” of water.SAM_0713

With regards to the amenities, they are in abundance in the Range Rover that I drove, and included four-zone climate control, front massage seats, rear climate seats that recline, beverage cooler, surround cameras, 360 degree parking control, 825-watt Meridian premium stereo, and panoramic moonroof that is controllable from the rear seats.  Also, HDD navigation, adaptive cruise control, terrain response system with five settings, rear cabin power blinds, and 21” aluminum alloy wheels were on hand.

SAM_0717People like this journalist are not often spotted in the driver’s seat, or back seat for that matter, of a vehicle such as the Range Rover.  It’s convention is often as a form of transportation for an entertainer or business owner.  In fact, Range Rover LWB sales are brisk in China, where owners enjoy riding in the back seat where all the room is.  This model represents nearly half of Sino-sales, whereas in America only 25% of Range Rover buyers opt for the 7.9” longer version.  All but a half inch of that additional exterior dimension benefits the legs of the passengers in the rear, and a lengthened back door that needs careful handling is often taken care by someone outside of the vehicle – the driver.

My rating of the Range Rover in question would be “par excellence”, in the areas of driving experience, off-road capability (reportedly), comfort, and styling.  As for the value proposition of this vehicle, I admit that it is expensive, at $118,000,00.  However, I  suspect that shoppers in this category, for the most part, are not concerned with that aspect.20150715_055242



2015 Range Rover Supercharged LWB Specs

MSRP:  $118,501.00, including all standard LWB equipment and freight.  Options include climate comfort, vision assist, driver assist, towing, and premium audio packages.  Base price is $106,995.00.

POWER: 5.0 liter (305 c.i.d.) supercharged V-8 with 510 hp (@ 6,000 rpm), 461 lb. ft. of torque (@ 2,500 rpm) and start/stop technology. Permanent all-wheel drive with eight speed automatic transmission.

CAPACITIES: Fuel 27.7 gallons, cargo 32.1 cubic feet behind rear seat (50 more with seats folded flat), passengers 5.

EPA RATINGS: 14-city, 19-highway, 16-combined miles per gallon.  Reviewer-observed MPG – 16.7 mpg.

DIMENSIONS: Wheelbase 122.8”, Length 204.7”, Width 87.4”, Height 72.4” Weight 5,320 lbs., Obstacle clearance 8.68” (11.63 off-road).

2015 Infiniti Q70L 3.7 Sedan


Infiniti is the luxury automobile division of Nissan Motor Company, and has been selling cars and light trucks in North America since 1989.  The history of the company goes all the way back to 1914, when the first “Datsun” was produced in Tokyo.  The Datsun name was subsequently changed to “Nissan”, and the company sells over 5 million vehicles each year, worldwide. The Infiniti models were rolled out concurrently with Honda’s Acura and Toyota’s Lexus lineup;  Japanese government-imposed export restraints at that time made it more profitable for auto manufacturers to send us more expensive cars.

Although at the turn of the century Infiniti nearly became extinct, the lineup has been rejuvenated and today their cars are highly thought of, one of the models SAM_4111being the 2015 Q70L, a high performance, rear-wheel drive four door sedan with V-6 power.  A Liquid Platinum silver Q70L was waiting for Ruth and I at Chicago’s O’Hare International airport recently and I had the pleasure of wringing it out for a few days in western Illinois.  Inside it had sumptuous Graphite leather seating and Japanese white ash (real) wood trim accents.  It’s a five passenger car with terrific (heated and air conditioned) bucket seats and room for three in the back – heated seating, as well.  All the occupants can be comfortable because as an “L” offering, the car has 6″ additional interior space, specifically in the rear passenger compartment.  As a loaded car it contains the things you would expect as such; heated/tilting/telescoping steering wheel, ten way power buckets, all-around parking/blind spot monitor, power moon roof, push button ignition, dual zone climate setup, Bose 2-channel, 10 speaker audio, 8” VGA color touch-screen navigation display, radar cruise control, and USB/Ipod connections.   M.S.R.P. for the Q70L that I drove was $60,605.00, which included the base car ($51,350.00), deluxe touring package ($3,900.00), technology package ($3,300.00) 20” alloy wheel package ($1,150.00), and freight of $905.00. 20150724_192608

20150727_061626 After looking over the Q70L at the airport, my wife and I headed for Galena, Illinois for the weekend.  I wanted to take U.S. 20 to check out the 330 horsepower (270 lb.ft. of torque) V-6 and seven speed automatic with manual shift mode. What a ride!  This machine has some giddyup and is a treat out on the road.  Also, when crossing rails or tar strips the car feels like a block of steel – no shudder, creaking, or shake.  Zero to 60  time is six seconds (3,957 lb. car) and the top speed, reportedly, is governor limited at about 135 mph.  Fuel mileage estimates are 18/city and 26/highway (20 gallon tank), and I averaged about 21 mpg running around northwestern Illinois.  Handling and ride are firm and compliant with real nice steering feel.  Bridgestone RE97as Potenza 245/40R20 radials are wrapped around the ten spoke polished alloys and chrome is on hand both at the lower rocker molding area and on the door handles.  It’s a good looking car.

Once again, I have fallen in love with a car and have failed to register a complaint in the review.  So before I let the big Q go, I’ll mention that the ample space in the rear passenger compartment was so enticing to my mother-in-law that it became necessary to ride all over the countryside with her on board.



2015 Lexus ES-300h FWD Sedan

20150615_153629On a recent long weekend I was able to test a new Lexus for a trip to Nebraska, and it was the ES series hybrid model that has been available since early 2012.  The car was painted Atomic Silver and had black leather five-passenger seating.  Inside it was black perforated “Semi-Aniline” (a dying process) leather throughout, courtesy of the Ultra Luxury package that was included on this ES.   This added $2,435.00 to the base price of the Lexus ($40,430.00) and included power memory heated/air conditioned front buckets, ambient lighting, bamboo trim, power tilt/telescope steering column, rear sunshades, and driver’s seat power cushion extender.

Additionally, the car had blind spot monitor ($500.00), lane departure alert with intelligent high-beam headlamps ($1,015.00), navigation package with 8″  screen ($1,795.00), power trunk closer ($400.00), intuitive parking assist ($500.00), rain-sensing wipers with de-icer ($155.00),  and heated leather trimmed/bamboo steering wheel ($450.00).  Thus the base price and freight of $925.00 pushed the total M.S.R.P. to $48,605.00.

My father and I bought a brand new 1965 Corsair Corsa for about $46,000.00 less than that figure in Grant, Nebraska fifty years ago.  I bring that up because my 50th class reunion in that town was the reason for the road trip in the Lexus.  I tooled around Grant in the ES300h, a sedan considerably more accomplished than the old Chevy was, and although the Lexus is more expensive, the Corvair was over $20,000.00 if adjusted for inflation.  The Lexus’ current price adjusted back to 1965 dollars comes to $6,500.00, and it may be that Bullock Chevy/Cadillac there in Grant sold a Caddy for about that amount.  I don’t really know, but I do know that Dad and I didn’t bother to look at such a car.20150615_153920

As a popular Lexus hybrid, the ES has an Atkinson-cycle, 2.5 liter, four cylinder gasoline engine at its heart, and two electric motor/generators to contribute power.  An Englishman named Atkinson obtained an American patent on the Atkinson-cycle engine over 120 years ago, but the design wasn’t favored until recently because its efficient fuel consumption aspect was more than offset by its lack of torque.  Well, electric motors provide instant torque, so in the hybrid automobile the Atkinson engine goes with an electric motor like love and marriage.  And in the ES300h, the total package provides 200 horsepower and runs that through a continuously-variable automatic transmission. Reportedly, top speed is 112 mph and zero to sixty acceleration takes 8.1 seconds.

Size-wise, this ES is a luxo-Camry with 111” wheelbase and a 16-foot overall length.  It’s heavier than a Camry, though, at 3,700 lbs. with its big battery.  That battery restricts the trunk to 12.1 cubic feet, and on this ES the lid powers up and down.  No restriction is evident in the back seat, however, with seating for three and a big armrest in the middle.  Riding anywhere in the ES300h is a pleasure, and I felt the ride was superb while motoring up through northeastern Colorado and into Perkins County, Nebraska.  Lexus ES300h styling is suitable for me and me and Ruth really liked the Atomic silver tone.  The front-end styling is fine and so is the rear with the exhaust tips concealed, hybrid-style.

EPA ratings for the ES300h are 40-city, 39-highway, and 40-combined miles per gallon – electric power allows drivers to save fuel in the city.  My average, driving around Greeley as well as the road trip to Nebraska, was 41.1 mpg.  It’s hard to say how much driving is necessary to make a hybrid Lexus pay off; there are other factors involved in the calculations.  With resale value and pride of ownership factored in, this hybrid Lexus looks like a pretty good deal to me.

2015 Lexus RC-F RWD 2-Door Coupe

20150608_185153In late 2014, Lexus brought out their high-performance version of the RC Coupe, the RC-F, as a 2015 model offering.  The RC-300h and RC-350, the original V-6 coupes, were upgraded to a V-8 in this new car, a 5.0 liter, 90 degree, four-cam power plant.  The RC-F is essentially a blend of three prior Lexus models – GS and IS sedans and the IS-C convertible.  What the amalgamation resulted in was what I called a “supercar” all week long during my testing of the RC-F.

In a pleasant turn of events, on several occasions nearby motorists, upon blowing their horn, were seen giving me and Ruth a “thumbs up”, as opposed to the customary shaking fist.  They must have agreed with me as far as the “supercar” characterization goes, and admittedly the Infrared paint and terrific styling makes getting around in obscurity quite difficult.  Lexus likes to say “you’ll turn heads” with the RC-F, and indeed we did.

M.S.R.P. of my test Lexus came in at a total of $74,560.00, including freight.  The base price ($62,400.00) had as options the following: 19″ hand polished alloy wheels ($1,500.00), leather interior ($800.00), navigation package ($2,840.00), the paint ($595.00), premium package ($4,400.00), and moonroof ($1,100.00).  Thus the four passenger RC-F was equipped with pretty much every imaginable interior amenity including the Mark Levinson rock-crushing, 835-watt, 17-speaker surround sound audio system.


The RC-F has a fairly smooth drag coefficient of .33, and reportedly has a top speed of 168 mph.  On the dashboard is situated a tennis-ball sized, 200 mpg speedometer and a rather large 9,000 rpm tachometer.  A rating of 467 horsepower from the throaty V-8 is at an impressive 7,100 rpm, and the torque rating is 389 lb. ft. at 4,800 rpm.   Four driving modes are available on the console-mounted knob of this car –  Sport S mode alters the powertrain for more dynamic throttle response, Sport S+ mode adds steering enhancements to help provide a higher level of responsiveness, normal mode provides the optimal balance of fuel efficiency and engine performance, and ECO mode moderates the throttle response, engine power output and climate settings for increased fuel efficiency.  My favorite was, of course, the Sport S+ mode, and even Ruth urged me to make the selection when we rode around together.  Part of the reason for our desire to drive in that mode was the active sound control that Lexus installs – at engine speeds up to 3,000 rpm, the system issues a steady tone of low and deep sounds.  And as the engine speed increases, the tone transforms into a higher-pitched note that blends with the engine’s mechanical sounds, and it really honks above 6,000 rpm.20150611_05594520150614_090048

The RC-F transmission is an eight-speed sport direct shift automatic that is smooth operating in normal and Eco modes, and more abrupt in the two sport modes.  Paddle shifters are on hand and the two-door coupe has rear wheel drive with a Torsen limited-slip differential.  Zero to sixty acceleration is reportedly 4.5 seconds. Wheelbase of the RC-F is 107.5″, overall length is 185.2″, the trunk holds 10.1 cubic feet of luggage, and the weight is 3,958 lbs.  It is the same size as Ford’s Mustang and about 200 lbs. heavier.20150614_090119

I averaged 20.3 miles per gallon with the Lexus, and provided it with its called-for premium gasoline.  The tank holds 17.4 gallons, and the EPA ratings are 16-city, 25-highway, and 19-combined miles per gallon.  Purchasers of the Lexus RC-F don’t care about the information in this paragraph, but do care about the rocket-ship performance and dynamite styling of it.  This reviewer could recommend a long look at the RC-F if that is the twin desires of their purchase.   20150611_060048





2015 Subaru BRZ Series.Blue RWD

SAM_4073Subaru and Toyota joined forces a few years ago to produce a rear-wheel drive sports car and in 2013 they introduced what Subaru named the BRZ.  Subaru provided the engine for the unit and even landed the job of producing the car for both companies.  The Subaru name (BRZ) denotes boxer engine (B), rear-wheel drive (R), and Zenith (Z), which means a point in time when something is most powerful and successful.  Toyota put out their sports car with a Scion nameplate and named it the FR-S.

I found a 2015 BRZ Series.Blue in my driveway last week courtesy of Rocky Mountain Redline, and the driver came to the door with the keys.  Actually, I didn’t need the keys in my hand when I left the neighborhood because the Subaru has “keyless access and start”, allowing you to enter and drive with the keys in your pocket.  This BRZ had the big red “STI” starter button because of its designation as a Series.Blue, a limited production model (limit, 1,000), with a lot of other special equipment on hand, as well.SAM_4065

Subaru has built 500 of these WR Blue Pearl metallic BRZ’s (they are done), and 500 Crystal White Pearl ones.  All of them have as upgrades the following items:      black STI front, side, and side-rear under spoilers for keeping the BRZ well-grounded at high speeds, red-finish brake calipers that can be seen between the spokes of the wheels, special 15-spoke black painted STI wheels, and the special red illuminated engine start/stop button.  Also, the car sports leather and Alcantara upholstery featuring blue leather seat bolsters and head restraints. The unique color continues with Blue stitching accents on the seats and the blue and black leather-wrapped steering wheel, as well as the shift lever boot and leather-wrapped parking brake handle.

Interior appointments of the Subaru included audio/navigation system, cruise control, heated front seats and mirrors, power windows, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and AM/FM/XM/CD radio.  Ruth and I drove to Denver and back in the car and the seats did not annoy, the guidance on the highway was great, and road noise was suitable for such a car.SAM_4064

The BRZ, trimmed-out as nicely as it was, still shines brightest on the road.  It is powered by a 2.0 liter, four cylinder boxer aluminum engine that provides 200 horsepower (@ 7,000 rpm) and 151 lb.-ft. of torque (@ 6,400 rpm).  The punch-counterpunch action of the boxer pistons in the Subaru cancel each other out and provide a smooth delivery of power.  Also, the horizontally opposed engine results in a lower center of gravity in the vehicle (18”), aiding the handling and cornering characteristics.  Porsche and Subaru are pretty much it when it comes to boxer automobile engines, and the design is found in some BMW and Honda motorcycles.  The motor was patented by Germany’s Karl Benz in 1896.  Fuel economy ratings on the BRZ are 22-city, 30-highway, and 25-combined miles per gallon.  The car burns premium unleaded gasoline, and the tank holds 13.2 gallons.SAM_4078

My test BRZ had a six-speed manual transmission, and what a pleasure it was to operate with a snick-snick short-throw shifter/linkage setup.  A sport-tuned suspension is installed along with a Torsen limited-slip rear differential and 4-wheel disc (11.5″) brakes.  Reportedly, the 2,800 lb. BRZ travels from zero to 60 in SAM_40636.4 seconds.  The black wheels are 17″ in diameter and are fitted with P215/45R17 Michelin Primacy HP summer radials.

M.S.R.P. for the Subaru was based at $27,695.00.  Freight and the Series.Blue package ($1,795.00) brought the total to $30,285.00.  Shoppers looking for a 2 + 2 sports car for around $30,000 with terrific styling and performance would be well-advised to look at the 2015 Subaru BRZ Series.Blue, if they can find one.


2015 Dodge Charger SXT AWD Sedan

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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.