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The Mazda CX5 is what you buy when you want a reliable Tiguan

The 2014 Mazda CX5 is kinda like a Volkswagen Tiguan, but better. It’s better because it’s bound to be more reliable, and it’s actually a joy to drive.

The Tiguan is merely okay, even with more power. And this year, the CX5 gets a new 2.5 liter engine that whips up more horsepower, so it’s not breathing so hard just to keep up.

In Touring trim, it’s got leather, navigation, Bose stereo, all for about $30,000.

Pretty great. And 27.5 miles per gallon.

2012 Hyundai Elantra Review

The symptoms of Wallet Sciatica include: back pain and an ache that extends down the leg. The cause is uneven pressure placed on a sitter’s posterior by an item in the back pocket, like a wallet, though it may be entirely psychosomatic.

The price of the 2012 Hyundai Elantra is guaranteed to not chafe your arse, but the way it leaves your wallet fat is  going to upset your sciatic nerve. It’s a good kind of pain, every twinge a reminder of the value Hyundai puts into its automobiles. There are other ways to flatten out your billfold, anyway. Saving on an automobile leaves spending money free for cigarillos, single malt and slot machines.

There is, however, an acute pain caused by the 2012 Elantra. It sets in slowly, and it doesn’t afflict everyone, but to a car enthusiast, it might as well be a giant purple bruise on the face. This is the pain of surrender. Picking the Elantra as your daily driver says that you’ve given up trying to find a car that’s entertaining, choosing the soul-crushing appliance, instead.

It’s not that the Elantra does anything wrong, but it’s just the type of car you’d expect to find on the shelf at the big-box store next to Mr. Coffees and cut-rate electronics. While a ten-dollar automatic drip coffeemaker might satisfy the masses, some real-deal aficionados opt for the labor of a French Press, and so it is with cars.

2011 Ford Edge SEL AWD Review

We dunnit again. Motofinity bought another car just to review it.

Sort of.

Actually, my wife and I replaced a higher-mileage Jeep Commander that suckled fuel pumps more forcefully than a starving newborn. It’s what you’d expect from a Hemi, but it was killing us.

We benefitted from incentives and the brain-bashing price war dealers and auto brands are locked in, and decided on a Mediterranean Blue 2011 Ford Edge SEL AWD. We were excited to finally have a safe, reliable SUV crossover to transport our young family around town, but the sweetness and light soon turned rocky…

2012 Mustang GT Review

I’m driving a mythical creature, a 2012 Mustang GT.With a solid rear axle spun by a 3.73:1 ring gear putting down the torque of a 5.0-liter V8, there’s nothing economical about this car. No fuel is burned while braking, at least, but the Brembo hardware makes short work of stops. Gasoline will soon flirt with $5 per gallon, and 18 mpg feels like hypermiling in this thing, especially with the amount of city driving I’ve been doing. The 412-hp snarl that accompanies every launch makes any concern about MPG evaporate, at least until the rent’s due and all your cash is sitting in the gas tank. But this is a Mustang GT review, not a Prius.

This ain’t no press car, either. What else should an enthusiast who is single with no kids do when looking for a car, right? This being my first live rear axle vehicle, I now understand why that can be a pejorative term. It shimmies and shakes even over slow bumps. Take off on a cold or slick surface and you’ll discover axle hop. If it weren’t for the 5 nice days Ohio has had in the spring, I’d have thought that the Mustang was severely flawed, but no, it’s just the weather that sucks. At least I’m not going to regret NOT doing this.

2012 Mustang GT ReviewWhen the weather clears, the Mustang is the polar opposite. Traction off the line is surprising, the clutch has an easily-found sweet spot, and you can break every speed limit in the United States in a little over ten seconds. It’s an idea that sounds as good to a driving enthusiast as a quick snort of heroin sounds to a junkie. The itch starts at every red light. Sure, blip the throttle and the car fluctuates back and forth. The light turns green and you try to behave but with short gears the V8 quickly ascends to its almost 7,000 rpm redline and from there the only fathomable option is to grab another gear. You quickly become engrossed in managing the cogs and before you know it you’re hitting 4th and approaching the ton mark. Panic ensues and you quickly do a mirror check for that other Five-Oh.

That ox-cart axle is great for launching this 3,600 pound car, and handling is tidy, regardless of the chassis layout. Seriously. You guys talking about how it’s heavy and bounces in turns, eat it. The Mustang GT is well-behaved and quick as snot propelled by a sneeze. You simply cannot find a car that does all that the Mustang can do for anything near its price. I got a lesson in this when I hit a corner too hot. Bracing for a bunch of sliding and protesting from the Pirellis, there was no drama as the car simply negotiated the turn. Those Brembo brakes burned off the speed with the same kind of competence, leaving me to sit at the side of the road, idling, hands shaking, stupid grin on my face. It’s not so much the power that scares the novice. It’s easy to let off the gas the car calms down. No, have a panicked slam of the Brembo’s and you’ll be pulling your face off the windshield.

This gap looks very unfinished on an otherwise pretty nice dash. What the hell, Ford?

This gap looks very unfinished on an otherwise pretty nice dash. What the hell, Ford?

The modern Mustang is nothing like the old standards we were used to. Still, one eyesore on an otherwise impressive dash can be seen near the steering column, where the faux aluminum finish ends but the plastic continues going. It’s nothing major, but it just makes you scratch your head and go “What the hell, Ford?

The rest of the interior is above Ford average, with quality plastics and thick leather. The seats have some bolstering that can keep the average person from sliding too much, but they aren’t Recaros – an option we wish was available on the standard GT. Still, we won’t complain because we’ve been in the Corvette and we’re pretty sure our Grandfathers Cadillac had more bolstering than those seats.
The car has been plagued by issues with the MT82 Getrag transmission, in the cold some Mustangs refuse to use half of their gears. The rumor is that Ford used the Getrag because of its smoothness, despite the fact that its only rated for 375 lb. ft when the Coyote throws down 390 lb. ft. To Fords point, its a slick shifting transmission compared to the TR-6060 used in the Shelby. However, I think what most Mustang owners want is a transmission that can hold the power rather than be smooth. In reality, its not that smooth of a transmission in the first place. We hope Ford fixes this issue. Otherwise they’ll be faced with a lot of lemon law’d cars, lawsuits and disgruntled owners. The only other option for owners is to throw the warranty into left field and drop an aftermarket Tremec and kissing their cost savings over the Boss or Shelby goodbye.Ford' Getrag Transmission in the new Mustang has been causing problems among the Mustang fans.

Still, this brings up a interesting point. A stock GT, is 30 horsepower and a suspension setup away from being a Boss 302. There are significant differences between the GT 5.0 and the Boss 5.0 to be sure. However, consider this build – a GT build like ours, Brembo brake package, 3.73 gears stickers for around $36 (knock off leather and save a few grand), throw in a TR-6060 ($3,000 + install), the Boss/FRPP suspension package ($1,800 + Install), Ford Racing 525 HP Super Charger, and lets say a new axle-back setup for around $600. That puts you on par for horsepower with the $50K Shelby GT500 at $45K + installation. You might say thats too much work, but what you’re getting is the same amount of horsepower as the Shelby, thats a few hundred pounds lighter than it, and mostly crucially a few hundred pounds off the nose. It’s packing more power than the Boss with a pretty close suspension set up. We already know the stock GT’s ability to keep up with an M3 is pretty good, now add 150 HP and better handling. So instead of keeping up the Teutonic bruiser, you’re watching it shrink away in the rear view and still pocketing money.
A Shelby GT500, An Super Charged SN-95 and our S-197 5.0 Mustang

Overall, color us impressed with the new Mustang GT. Obviously, we bought one. It’s a very well sorted car despite its handicaps and takes our pick as the top muscle car from the big three. It’s lighter, faster, and all around a much more enjoyable car to be in than the slower and sometimes more expensive competition from Chevy and Dodge. Oh, and an easter egg for you other 2012 owners, depress the brake and then the T/C button twice before letting off the brake and you’ll be in “Sport” mode, which dials back the traction control, stability control and firms up the steering. Be careful with this trick!

2011 Dodge Durango Review: The Driving Enthusiast’s Crossover

In front of the 2011 Dodge Durango Crew snow was swirling through the tunnels of light punched into the night by the headlamps. This has been a vengeful winter, and it seemed that some of that wrath was now being directed squarely at the Durango itself, and me by association. After all, even though the Durango is all-new, it’s still a big, heavy SUV with a tremendous thirst. Eight thumping cylinders and three rows of seats aren’t going to win you Green Car of the Year.

black Dodge Durango in front of brick wall

2011 Dodge Durango - Motofinity.com

Just because the Durango is large and in charge doesn’t mean it’s some kind of outmoded throwback, though. This new Durango replaces a lumbering dinosaur of a vehicle that was ugly and ultimately not nearly as successful as the original Durango that bowed in 1998. From the beginning, the Durango has carpetbagged its architecture from another model, and this time around, it stops borrowing the Dakota’s boxer shorts and pulls on the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s uh, briefer, underbits. The exterior is expertly styled with all of the modern Dodge cues in place, and it looks great. Inside there are three rows of seats, and the third row can even support human life, though tall folks will want to ride in the front or middle row.

That shift should be interpreted as a commitment by Dodge to avoid going bankrupt. They could have hung new front sheetmetal on the old Durango and tweaked the taillights to give a passing impression of newness. That’s essentially the story of the Chrysler 200, after all. Instead, Dodge saw the same writing on the wall as the Ford Explorer, which is why both former leviathans have sworn off full frames for a membership in the Crossover Club. Car companies are not idiot collectives (though GM can sometimes come close), and since crossovers are generating so much heat, it’s a smart place to be if you want to sell vehicles.

Even though trucks are passe, the 2011 Durango is big and heavy and inefficient, all of which should naturally leave you wondering why Dodge traded one flavor of glorified station wagon for another, sacrificing towing capacity in the process. Don’t think too hard about that, or the abysmal 15 mpg I eked out of the 2011 Durango, because I’m going to tell you why it’s fantastic.

grille and headlamp of the 2011 Dodge Durango

2011 Dodge Durango - Motofinity.com

The fact that both the 2011 Dodge Durango and I were able to share a chortle at the snow storm speaks to the fact that it drives stupendously well. Yes, it weighs a jillion pounds; so much that the normally-brawny 5.7 liter Hemi’s 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque feel peaky and overwhelmed. The new Durango actually weighs a smidge under 5,000 pounds, only slightly down from the old truck. The 2011 Durango’s more powerful engine is a liter up on the 4.7 from the second-generation, and the Multi-Displacement System gives four of the holes a break whenever possible, boosting mileage to 13 mpg city, 20 mpg highway. 2008 Durango buyers suffered with the same 13 mpg in the city, but only reached 17 mpg on the highway. The long and short of all these numbers is that nobody picks the Durango for its thrift.

rear view of 2011 dodge durango against a brick wall

2011 Dodge Durango - Motofinity.com

So it’s still just as hefty and not really any more economical than the old Durango, but it’s also blessed with perfect weight distribution, and a serene cabin that’s got just the right amount of guttural V8 anger for punctuation. The Hemi sounds so damn good that it could make three horsepower, and that would be fine. Oh, there’s also a 3.6 liter V6, the new Pentastar engine with 290 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque for better economy, though you’ll be putting your foot deeper into the throttle more often with that powerplant. Both engines are world-class mills, and if you can do without the extra thrust, go for it.

Either way, this porker actually has some sports car baked in, which is a hell of a surprise for a three-bencher that’s comfortable all the way back to the kid pen, which actually turns out to hold adults in relative comfort. The interior materials are nice where they should be, and the UConnect system that includes navigation, communication and entertainment functions is easy enough to use that I didn’t once threaten it with brass knuckles. The ergonomics are also great, with easy-to-use controls and features for rear seat passengers like an available DVD system and climate controls that make them feel like the designers thought about them.

The well-priced 2011 Durango starts just under $30,000 and comes with lots of standard equipment. There’s no shortage of available technology upgrades, but never is the Durango an annoyance to operate like a fully-loaded Ford Edge or Explorer with the confusion-fest of MyFordTouch. In fact, the Durango has it all over the new  Explorer, with a better-balanced chassis, better looks and more gratifying experience from behind the wheel. While Explorer buyers are in their MyFordTouch class, learning how to use what they just bought, you’ll be out in your Durango. It’s the driving enthusiast’s crossover.

grille and emblem of 2011 Dodge Durango

2011 Dodge Durango - Motofinity.com

Porsche 918 Spyder production starts September 18, 2013, costs €645,000

Can you wait 30 months? If you want a Porsche 918 Spyder, the company’s pending plug-in hybrid sports car, you can. The decree went forth from Stuttgart today that production of the 918 Spyder will begin on September 18, 2013 (9/18 get it?) and dealers are now officially taking orders. Continuing the numerology, just 918 units of the gasoline-electric-plug-in supercar will be built over an undisclosed time frame.

If  you have to ask how much it costs…you know the rest. But for the truly interested, it’s €645,000.  That’ll help ensure exclusivity, and as with every Porsche, buyers will be able to fatten the bottom substantially by selecting custom paints and interior finishes among other options.

The 918 Spyder debuted last year at the Geneva Motor Show with a through-the-road plug-in hybrid powertrain. The concept featured the same 3.4-liter V8 engine mounted amid-ship that powered the RS Spyder to numerous victories in the American and European Le Mans Series over the past five years. The production version will have a road going version of that V8 with a displacement over 4.0-liters pumping over 500 horsepower.  The V8 will send power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed PDK dual clutch transmission.

The hydrocarbon ingesting power unit will be supplemented by a pair of electric motors with one at each axle that put out a combined 218 horsepower. The motors will be fed by a liquid cooled lithium ion battery that propel the 918 electrically for about 16 miles. With 218 electric horsepower and that much battery available, the 918 will be able to complete most of the EU driving cycle on electrons alone which is expected to help it achieve over 78 mpg in the test.   Of course using any of that 500 hp behind the driver’s shoulder will cause that mileage number to plummet just as fast as the quarter mile time.

While waiting for their 918 Spyder, customers can also order a 911 Turbo S “Edition 918 Spyder” that features the same color and trim as the hybrid along with a badge on the glove box that bears the same build number as their 918.  Only 918 of the limited edition 530 hp 911s will be built with a starting price of €184,546 and deliveries starting in June 2011.

CES 2011: Ford rolls out the fast-charging Focus Electric


For the first time ever, Ford revealed a new production at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In what has become an annual tradition with his third appearance Ford CEO Alan Mulally showed off the new 2012 Focus Electric. The world first learned about the Focus Electric in December 2008 when the Detroit automakers had to submit their viability plans to the federal government as part of the discussions to get bailouts for General Motors and Chrysler. At the time Ford revealed plans to produce two battery electric vehicles (BEV), a commercial vehicle which is now in production as the Transit Connect Electric and a car, the upcoming Focus.

The reveal of the Focus Electric in the Las Vegas Hilton ball room yielded only one real surprise, the fast 240 volt charging capability. The Nissan Leaf which has been on sale for several weeks already supports 240 V charging but the input current is restricted so that charging power is limited to just 3.3 kilowatts, the lower limit for so-called level 2 charging equipment. Anyone that has picked up their phone or computer while the battery is charging knows that it heats up while taking in electrons. Nissan opted to go with an air-cooled lithium ion battery pack for the Leaf and which gives them limited latitude for cooling the battery during charging, thus the relatively slow charge rate.

Ford on the other hand is using a liquid cooled pack in the Focus that allows for active thermal management. As a result, Ford is allowing the Focus to charge at the maximum 6.6 kilowatts allowed by the level 2 standard. That means the Focus Electric’s 23 kilowatt-hour battery can be charged in just 3-4 hours compared to the 8-10 hours for the 24 kWh pack in the Nissan. Ford developed the battery pack in-house and will assemble them at a plant west of Detroit. The lithium cells are being supplied by South Korea’s LG Chem and are similar to those used in both the Chevrolet Volt and Hyundai Sonata hybrid.

For those that want to take advantage of the 3-4 hour charge capability, Ford has partnered with Best Buy to have its Geek Squad crews come out and install 240 V chargers for $1,499. That ‘s $500 less than the installed price for a Volt charger and as much as $1,000 less than the AeroVironment chargers being pushed by Nissan for Leaf buyers.

At the reveal Ford wasn’t talking much the Focus Electric range specs, but has previously targeted a range of about 100 miles. Real world range will likely be in the same 80-100 mile range expected for the Leaf. Propulsion comes from a 100 kW electric motor and top speed is limited to 84 mph. Visually, the EV Focus gets unique 17-inch wheels and an Aston-Martin-esque grille that is blanked off to optimize the aerodynamics. Inside, the same dual LCD instrument cluster found in the Fusion hybrid is in place but programmed with new displays tuned to the battery-only operation. Like the Leaf and Chevy Volt, Ford has also developed a smart phone app that lets owners monitor and manage battery charging so that the vehicle can be prepared when needed.

Ford is showing the Focus only as a five door hatchback in Las Vegas, but the EV should be available as a four door sedan as well.  When the new Focus was first previewed in late 2009 Ford said that the new platform has been engineered to accommodate conventional, hybrid and full electric powertrains, all of which can be built on the same assembly line. The Focus Electric goes on sale in late 2011 at a yet to be announced price.

2011 Jeep Compass: Ouch.

Mr and Mrs America, Jeep thinks you’re stupid. What other way is there to explain the spin they’re trying to put on the 2011 Compass. Sure, it’s had a Grand Cherokee-esque nose grafted on, and its interior is new, but neither of those points can obscure the fact that the Compass is an awkward piece of automotive offal that’s truly awful.

Early reports from writers that were invited out to Jeep’s event and glad-handed have tried to pussyfoot around the fact that the Compass is still awkward, overpriced and uncompetitive. Nobody should be fooled. To be fair, Jeep makes some of my favorite vehicles. The Grand Cherokee has always been great, and the updated 2011 WK2 GC is phenomenal. The Wrangler is likewise great and has a distinctive character developed over decades of continual production and generations of loyal fans.

The problem with the Compass, and to a lesser degree, the Patriot, is that it’s neither a Wrangler or Grand Cherokee. Ignore what the internet sycophants who chuckle at Frank Bacon as they quickly BECOME the archetype. Kissing ass doesn’t make you a journalist.

Let’s giveth before we taketh away, though.

2011 Lincoln MKS EcoBoost Review

When does a Ford Taurus SHO ring up an eye-popping $60,000 price tag? When it’s dressed up in Lincoln MKS drag. With a grille toothy enough to be a Kennedy, the MKS is sufficiently differentiated from the Ford that most people will be none the wiser. The 2011 Lincoln MKS proved to be a dandy way to sleep off the Black Friday shopping crush, too. With an interior done in gorgeous brown leather, metal and soft surfaces everywhere, the MKS is a rolling man cave.
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2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe Review

To my neighbors: I’m sorry. While you were spending the weekend industriously raking your yards and prettifying your homesteads at the close of daylight savings, I was driving. Can you blame me? We’ve already had our first frost. It won’t be long before the snow flies and ice crystals spread like winter mushrooms.

When the driveway is occupied by a 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe with the $2,090 performance suspension package (summer-only 19-inch tires, stiffer shocks and springs, paddle shifters) you’ve got to seize those last, gasping sunny days before the precip buries the remnants of the hostas.

And so that’s why I was out well after dark on Sunday night, bagging leaves. I wasn’t upset, though. I got the better end of the deal, because any Cadillac CTS is a great car to drive, espeicially with that up-rated suspension.

The generally unrealistic opinions of automotive journalists are nearly universally over the moon for this car. It’s great-looking, with a raked collection of sharp creases and suggested speed. Everyone went loopy when the CTS Coupe hit the auto show circuit, and its unabashed swagger does have presence. I swell with jingoistic pride when I take in the CTS Coupe. Here is a car that has talons as sharp as its rival German warbirds, and yet hails from the land where Lee Greenwood is allowed to write anthems of the proletariat.

The unanointed filthy masses that actually put cash down to purchase the cars dirt-poor autowriters prattle on about may find themselves less enraptured.

Heresy?

As delightful as the CTS Coupe is for car guys, it’s likely to aggravate the crap out of people looking for a stylish coupe that just plain works.

What could possibly be wrong with a car that looks so right? Corvette door hardware. These are sort of neat, they operate a solenoid that releases the door, but nearly everyone fumbled and swore at them. Getting out of the CTS is further cause for cursing. The interior thumb button isn’t immediately apparent, and those seconds of searching can get a runaway claustrophobic panic started.

Yes, I really am bitching about the door handles. While I’m at it, the puny back seat is a torture chamber for adults with legs, but if you wanted a CTS Taxi, you’d buy the four-door. Right. So why is it that other coupes have front seats that cooperatively tuck out of the way and don’t choke you with a sadistic seatbelt that thinks it’s a guillotine? Is this picky? Perhaps, or maybe there are just a few disappointingly-executed elements in the CTS Coupe.

Visibility also suffers thanks to that gorgeous roofline. I’m just about done.

The CTS Coupe is fairly brilliant to drive. It’s one hell of a good-handling car, egging you on through every curve. It’s got the reflexes to handle maneuvers that test its transient responses, too. Back-to-back linked turns are no problem. The CTS Coupe locks on to a line and smoothly transitions with nicely-weighted steering that’s had the friction oiled out of it. There’s some increased stiffness with the more capable suspension, but you should expect that when you select the option. The Lincoln Town Car is your ride if you want to drive a weak-kneed American luxury marque.

The brakes are capable, too, though you need to adjust to the dead travel in the pedal. I overshot a few turns because I hadn’t scrubbed off as much speed as I thought, scaring passenger and oncomings. The engine’s 304 hp from 3.6 liters is enough, but the V6 wants to rev, and I would rather have tire-boiling torque and a V8 rumble. The CTS Coupe needs an LS V8 as standard equipment.

That’s about it for gripes. With the Premium Collection trim, the CTS Coupe I drove was $51,000 and didn’t feel overpriced. The dashboard is padded and stitched. Ergonomics are easy, though there is a cluster of buttons hiding behind the steering wheel spokes on the left. The navigation system rises up like a monument to how poorly developed your sense of direction is. This is a nicely turned out interior that needs no excuses.

That’s how the CTS Coupe operates. It makes no apologies, and if you complain, it turns its handsome mug at you and says “Hey, you don’t like it, go somewhere else.” That’s the same thing I should have said to my neighbors as I got dirty looks leaving my unkempt lawn. So what if the leaves blew back on to your perfectly manicured fescue? I was driving.