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November 07, 2011

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Road Test Review

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Sedan Road Test Review - Road & Travel Magazine's 2012 Green Car Buyer's Guide

by Martha Hindes

Toyota's mainstay midsize Camry auto has about the same impact as some recent ubiquitous Macy's department store ads reminding us that just about everyone shops there. And if they haven't, they probably want to. Well, who hasn't heard of America's best selling Toyota Camry, even if the 2012 hybrid model promos haven't achieved quite the same saturation level?

The 2012 Camry Hybrid, like its earlier brethren, is based on Toyota's bread-and-butter family sedan in what's probably the hottest auto arena on the planet. That kind of competition means putting your best face forward. And Camry got some less-than-radical surgery in the design and hybrid engine technology categories for 2012 to keep it a bride instead of a bridesmaid as more hybrid competitors knock at the door.

While some fuel-stingy sedans have tightened the reins on size to cut weight and eke out a shred more mileage, Camry hasn't. Its midsize-for-five is comfortably so. And rear seat passengers can lounge during long drives without feeling crunched. Ditto that for usable trunk space, an improvement thanks to a shuffling of inner components below.

Dressing for the occasion also has won attention, with interior renovations enhancing the luxury feel, including brushed aluminum trim. A requisite power-flow display coaxes conservative driving. The upmarket XLE gets chrome touches, 17-inch rather than 16-inch wheels, and heated sideview mirrors, plus 24 additional pounds of curb weight that skims a shade off fuel economy. Options include blind spot warning, navi and Entune multimedia system. But the base LE is no slouch, with standard push button start, dual zone climate control and enhanced passive safety systems among amenities. Full Story

November 03, 2011

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan Road Test Review

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

If there's safety in numbers, Honda's compact Civic auto must certainly represent the feeling. Case in point: One Midwestern apartment complex recently had no fewer than five in various neutral shades lined up in a row in the parking lot. Add to that Honda's redone 2012 Civic Hybrid sedan, and the chances of that row of autos expanding grows exponentially.

Many of those parking lot Civics were owned by health care workers, one group that Honda cites as gravitating to the Civic for its reputation for dependability, economy and long-term value. Others include business professionals, educators, environmentalists and -- yes -- driving enthusiasts. Think fun, not funky. For despite its sometimes vilified understated demeanor, the Civic Hybrid hides a wealth of technical prowess under its skin.

As originator of the Insight, the first -- now exiting -- and highly recognizable, jellybean-shaped production hybrid to hit U.S. roadways in the 1990s in numbers great enough to count, Honda knows something about building a combined gasoline-electric powered auto. Transition to 2012 and the newest, refreshed Civic hybrid gains some significant technical advances, including a switch to a lighter weight lithion-ion battery pack and improved powertrain. Full Story

November 02, 2011

2012 Infiniti M35h Road Test Review

2012 Infiniti M35h Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

Until recently, the idea of driving a hybrid vehicle left only a few choices. Choose one and don't expect to be coddled, or forget the idea. That was before Infiniti decided "hybrid" shouldn't condemn someone to living primarily basic to be planet friendly. And before the 2012 Infiniti M35h hybrid made its debut.

What a novel idea. Take a luxury car, add on all the bells and whistles, kick out the old internal combustion engine and replace it with your own advanced technology system to boost one's driving miles by hundreds between fill-ups without losing the punch of driving fun. And wait for the disenfranchised sporty luxury car buyers to discover it's there.

Infiniti was in an ideal position to sidestep the ruts of average and move to something special. Infiniti's parent Nissan already had the plug-in electric, four-door Leaf in the wings designed for popular consumption. Nissan probably didn't need the existing midsize Altima hybrid sedan, built on borrowed technology, that wasn't gaining widespread recognition anyway so was quietly dumped this year. And while some other hybrids have upscale adds including navigation systems, high tech audio with plugins, and leather trimming for style, they mostly weren't from luxury car providers aiming to break the brass ring barrier with enough visual flash, driving dash and pampering excess -- depending on options -- to make waves.

The M35h definitely is a hybrid contender, but it's doubtful it will ever eke the most energy out of a single drop of premium fuel. We don't see it as a hybrid that forces the driver to balance every tap on the accelerator against an electronic flow chart that raps one's knuckles for falling below an arbitrary best mileage bar. Full review.

November 01, 2011

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco Road Test Review

2012 Chevrolet Eco Cruze Road Test

by Martha Hindes

If "electric" is the latest green car buzzword and "hybrid" its current category staple, whatever happened to yesterday's internal combustion engine? Past history, right? Well, no. Rather than being a fuel economy pariah, Chevrolet's 2012 Cruze Eco sedan is showing the energy elite just how it should be done.

Wearing the self-anointed crown as the "most fuel-efficient gas-powered/non-hybrid vehicle in America" in GM-speak is one thing. Living up to it is quite another. After time behind the wheel of a cheery cherry red Cruze Eco, I think that might be an understatement.

OK, so I didn't get the promised 42 highway miles to a gallon of regular. Fault the driver not the vehicle. I mean you wouldn't expect to punch the accelerator and get a "gee whiz" kind of seatback thrust if the car you're driving was designed to leave barely a shred of environmental impact. And without using an electric motor somewhere as part of its propulsion package.

I put the key in the ignition, shoved the overdrive-spiced six-speed manual tranny into gear, and expected a mild mannered response as it inched into traffic. Boy was I wrong. The Cruze just spun forward with an aggressive "own-the-road" attitude, catching me by surprise. Where did that come from? Was this a tread lightly reject in earth-tuned disguise? Full review here.


October 31, 2011

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid Road Test Review

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

Wishing never gets you anywhere, right? You'd really like to drive a hybrid car and breeze past those filling stations that rule the road when you're nearing empty. But you don't want to give up that kick-back reaction when you feel like tromping the accelerator. Or sufficient stretch room for five to relax and play with sophisticated, on-board electronics. And it would be really neat to drive all the way to work without making a sound. Not possible? Maybe you haven't met the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid.

The midsize gasoline/electric-powered, front-drive sedan from Ford isn't a newbie, by the way. It's been around since 2009 and now resides as a second generation pro, with tweaks here and tucks there for 2012 to give it more polish and panache. This isn't your mother's reject that's grown long-in-the-tooth after years of looking rather oddly off-beat as it ambles through a planet-tending restriction on fun. It's an honest-to-goodness handsome sedan that should look fitting in any executive parking spot. Full review.



October 27, 2011

2012 Toyota Prius v Hybrid Road Test Review

2012 Toyota Prius v Hatchback Road Test Review

All-New 2012 Model Morphs to Hatchback by Bob Plunkett

It only takes the blink of an eye to observe that Toyota's new fourth-generation design for the 2012 Prius hybrid electric vehicle differs from the previous version -- it's larger in a streamlined package that fashions the hood and windshield into a racked-back plane which resembles a rakish two-door GT coupe while flanks reveal the four-door configuration of a practical sedan as the roofline hikes high toward the tail to accommodate a hatchback-style rear cargo door.

This new design earns an aerodynamic rating of merely 0.29 cD (coefficient of Drag), which makes the 2012 Prius one of the slickest set of wheels on the road.

It's still pegged in the mid-size class of sedans, but the wheelbase grows 3.1 inches longer and the overall tip-to-tail measurement increases by 6.1 inches to 181.7 inches.

The passenger compartment -- long and broad and tall, thanks to the mid-size front-wheel-drive platform with wheelbase drawn to 109.4 inches -- provides ample room for five passengers on comfortable seats with a pair of buckets in front of a bench for three and room at the rear for cargo due to the hatchback roofline.

Name badge of this version acquires the alphabet letter "v" tacked on -- Prius v -- with v denoting versatility with the hatchback design.

Then numerical figures follow the v on the nameplate to describe three trim grades:  Prius v Two, Prius v Three and Prius v Five. (There's no explaining the absence of Prius v One and Prius v Four editions.) Read full review here.

October 25, 2011

Dad is Becoming Carpool King

2012 Chevrolet Traverse Dad-Mobile

National survey finds majority of fathers active in driving kids to and fro

As children across America head back to school, a new survey commissioned by Chevrolet finds that many fathers in America are taking more of an active role in before-and after-school carpooling duties, with utility vehicles the preferred choice of dads over minivans.

An online survey conducted by Harris Interactive® showed that 80 percent of fathers in the United States with children age 17 or younger take an active role in daily family life, with more than 70 percent driving their kids to school, daycare or extracurricular activities.

But in the evolution of carpooling, the study also showed that both drivers and their vehicles have changed. While moms may prefer minivans for their sliding doors, more than half (58 percent) of the dads surveyed prefer to do their business, personal and leisure shuttling in a family hauler that doesn’t question their masculinity. In fact, survey results demonstrated that fathers gave their current family vehicle a 6.4 “cool” rating on a 10-point scale. Full story.

October 21, 2011

How to Drive More Efficiently

Drive Sensibly
frustrated driverAggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money.

Fuel Economy Benefit:


Equivalent Gasoline Savings:


Observe the Speed Limit
Graph showing MPG VS speed MPG decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph
While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.29 per gallon for gas.
Observing the speed limit is also safer.

Fuel Economy Benefit:


Equivalent Gasoline Savings:


Remove Excess Weight

Excess items in trunk
Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent. The reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle's weight and affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

Fuel Economy Benefit:

1–2%/100 lbs

Equivalent Gasoline Savings:


Full story - click here.


October 20, 2011

2012 Nissan Juke Road Test Review

2012 Nissan Juke Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

The curvy crossover handles like a sporty car by Bob Plunkett

Crossing the muddy Mississippi River on the I-40 bridge at Memphis, we're scooting into Tennessee aboard Nissan's curvaceous crossover utility vehicle for the compact class that's big enough to transport five travelers in comfort and house their luggage in the rear cargo bay.

A nameplate labels our ride as the 2012 Nissan Juke, which Nissan describes it as a Sport Cross, one vehicle that crosses a nimble sports car with the body of a SUV.

Stretching more than 13 feet long and decorated with a bulbous face featuring round rally-style headlamps and curvaceous fender blisters capped by frog-eye amber running lights, Nissan's streamlined little wagon has the elevated stance and cargo capacity of a small-scale SUV with four flank doors for passengers and a liftgate at the tail for accessing the rear cargo bay.

However, the boxy parameters of a SUV have been disguised by the fluid sculptural treatment of body panels plus the raked face and a forward-tilting tail which collectively diffuse all rectangular hard corners.

And like a curve-craving sports sedan, Juke rides on the front-wheel-drive chassis of a car.

The steering system adds electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of Juke's small engine. Full review - click here.

July 08, 2011

Documentary Review: Six Degrees Could Change the World


By Sara Hoffman

Another enlightening and thought-provoking environmental film, National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the World is a methodical yet scary prediction of each increasing degree's effect on our planet. Simply navigating the Scene Selection Menu is astonishing: Our World + One Degree, Our World + two Degrees...all the way to a horrific six degrees. narrated by Alec Baldwin, the theme is that something big is happening. With every degree of global warming, irreparable damage occurs - damage that could not only ruin our environment, but the social structures that keep people sane. [Read More]