CarCorner Review: Two Parents And A Truck – 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL


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By Cathy Droz –

Little did we realize when raising our three children that we would eventually be called upon to act as Two Parents and a Truck“Two Parents and a Truck” moving company.  In the span of five years, my husband and I have moved our collective family 12 times, including four cross country adventures! And I mean cross country as in Arizona to Rochester, New York, twice.

Well, we thought we were finally done when our youngest daughter, not to be outdone by her siblings, right after Christmas, informs us that she is moving back to Phoenix from San Diego.  And, we need to drive out to San Diego on a Friday night, as she is already working in Phoenix, load the truck on Saturday morning, return to Phoenix that same day and unload the truck on Sunday morning.

That’s fine, right? We are only in our 60’s so no sweat!  Fortunately, I was test driving the Altima 20142014 Nissan Altima that weekend and looked forward to making the round trip in comfort, while saving on gas.  My husband, who is Hispanic, said how ironic that we are hopefully making the “ultima” (last) move in an Altima. Sometimes I wonder where he got his sense of humor…Given the quick turnaround, the Altima provided us the comfort we required for our (or should I say my husband’s) advanced years, as well as the remarkable fuel mileage.  He was so amazed that we could make the trip between Phoenix and San Diego with a little more than half a tank of gas.  The Altima is rated at 22/31 mpg, city/highway!  With an overall Five Star safety rating, we felt safe and secure during our San Diego trek.  Specific standard safety features include: driver and front passenger, side impact and curtain air bags, tethers and lower anchors for child safety seats, traction control system, electronic brake force distribution, and 4-wheel anti-lock braking system.

Altima Stuffed AnimalsMy husband is 6’1” and the Altima gave him all the legroom he needed, especially when we filled the back seat with our grandson’s myriad of stuffed animals.  The Altima’s interior offered all the space he needed to stretch out to ease the aches and pains he had from supervising the move.  Altima Rear SeatThe interior’s leather appointed, heated front seats with power lumbar support added so much to his, and our, enjoyment on the ride back to Phoenix.  Altima Steering WheelDual-zone temperature control and rear A/C vents kept us all cool and calm (even the stuffed animals) as the Arizona temperatures climbed on our return trip.  The features that we have come to expect are all standard here; Bose premium audio system, remote engine start system, 5” color display, hands-free Bluetooth technology, and premium interior trim. The model we tested also came with a Technology Package (an upgrade of $1,090 over the MSRP of $ 30,820.)  This package includes the Nissan navigation system (with an upgraded 7” screen), blind spot warning, lane departure warning, and moving object detection (extremely important on California’s busy freeways.)

So, we have our fingers crossed that this was the last (ultima, not Altima) move we actively participate in.  But if we do have to do it again, it would be nice to have a Nissan Altima as our command vehicle.

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CarCorner Review: An Empy Nester Getaway – 2014 Audi A6 2.0T Quattro Tiptronic


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By Cathy Droz –

When a beautiful ice silver metallic Audi A6 materialized in my driveway on delivery day, the first thing I thought was “Where can I take this that is ‘cool’ enough for such a car?” Lucky for me I already knew the perfect outing…a local Scottsdale resort for a girl’s sleepover/Spa mini-vacation! Yes, this little baby was going to feel right at home in the underground garage of the Montelucia Resort! While I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Audis before, I was a bit puzzled by the “Tiptronic” moniker. Turns out, this refers to the trademarked 8-speed automatic transmission gearbox that allows a driver to change gears from fully automatic to manual faster than you can in a car with a manual transmission. Now we know!Audi-A6-Quatro

I belong to a group called “The Empty Nesters.” We are group of couples from Moon Valley that met (through the women) over 30 years ago when our children entered kindergarten. Ten couples, thirty years, 30 children and now a total of 40 grandchildren. Can you see why we deserved a Spa weekend! Not only did we need the break, it was to celebrate Rhonda’s 60th birthday.

One thing you just have to love about the Audi is this – they use the same materials in their $45K cars as they do in their $120K autos. So, whether you choose one of their entry-level models, or the highest end of their offerings, you will find the quality materials and workmanship that Audi owners have come to expect. Case in point, the wood inlays and gauge cluster are classy, while easy to read. The simple knobs, with many on the console, are within easy reach. For me, the feature that makes the driver’s area feel the most like a cockpit is the color screen that comes up when the ignition is turned on. While this may seem high tech, the system is very user friendly, making it simple to adjust the driver controls to your liking.

Driving the Audi, staying at the Montelucia resort really made me feel I was in Europe. Something about a Spa and a bunch of women and driving a German car with no husbands around was a real getaway or fantasy.Audi-A6-Quatro_interior

If only you could take this out on the autobahn, you would be able to test the torque and acceleration of the 220-hp engine. Combined with great ABS and brake assist you would still have a very safe ride, even operating it at full throttle. The superb handling and smooth, quiet engine add to the driving experience. I could hardly hear the engine as I pulled into the resort’s parking garage. While the A6 interior is certainly classy and elegant, the storage space in the glove box and console is a bit on the petite side. That said, storage capacity shouldn’t be much of a consideration when the A6 offers so many design and handling amenities. This car came equipped with a Bose Sound System (a $650 upgrade) that is worth every penny in my opinion. The snazzy interior lights on the console certainly added to the ambiance of the interior, just as the specialized lighting in the Joya Spa at the Montelucia did. That said, this feature should be checked out before purchase, as it may be a bit much for some.

If you are buying this class of vehicle for the engineering, safety and reputation, I doubt that the gas mileage will be of much concern, but the A6 is rated at 20/29. As tested, this Audi carried an MSRP of $53,845 (a base price of $45,200). Some of the upgrades to this car were the parking system, Audi connect with online services, Audi MMi Navigation, and the sport package with 19” wheels and shift paddles. All of this luxury adds up to a classy ride, and I was sorry to drive it away from the resort and my day of escape and pampering with my girlfriends.

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CarCorner Review: I’m “Fore” The Venza – 2014 Toyota Venza Limited V6 AWD


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By Cathy Droz –

You can’t pick up a paper or see an ad on TV or the Internet without hearing the buzzword “crossover.” In the simplest of phrasing it “drives like a car with the cargo space of an SUV.” Gone are the days when one has to give up the luxury of a sedan for the practicality of an SUV. With this vehicle, you can “have it all.” Having it all is why I took the Venza to Palm Springs for a golf weekend with my husband.Toyota Venza Exterior

The sleek exterior of the Venza catches your attention immediately. Far from some of its boxier competition, the Venza looks like it is always ready to move. Small wonder, as its name is reported to be a combination of venture + Monza (Grand Prix racing location and 1975-1986 auto models). While we don’t recommend that you race these cars, they certainly seem capable of it. Our drive to Palm Springs seemed short compared to other times we’ve ventured to that area. We didn’t race, but the CUV drove so much like a luxury sedan, we may have been a little heavy footed on the gas.

The additional exterior features include panoramic glass roof, privacy glass, touch sensor lock/unlock door handles, power lift gate with jam protection, power mirrors, not to mention windshield wiper deicers. Now we didn’t need to worry about that this summer, but Palm Springs can get chilly in the mountains as we found out taking the tram 5,783 feet up for a fantastic view.

Toyota-Venza-InteriorNow for the interior luxury features…standard leather interior and simulated wood grain greet you from the start. Your comfort ranks high with Toyota; there is a dual zone climate control system, heated front seats, lumbar supports and eight-way power seat adjustments. Since we have you in the driver’s seat, you will be happy to know that this model is equipped with driver’s knee air bags, since no one wants to endure a knee replacement after a fender-bender or a strenuous golf game. Overall, the Venza boasts a Five Star safety rating, making you feel both pampered and safe.

Features that we have come to depend on are all standard here; front and rear parking assist sonar, advanced air bag systems and 60/40 one touch rear seats that fold flat. This was very important to us with our golf bags, luggage and extras we packed. No one likes putting down your bags again and again to open the cargo area. There is a smart key push button start, touchscreen and backup camera, Bluetooth phone and music streaming, navigation system and an amazing JBL audio system, all of which are extremely user-friendly. In addition, the information system can be personalized. Next they’ll have a camera in the Venza that takes “selfies” as you drive.

I would be remiss if I neglected to draw attention to the overall roominess of the interior; feel free to invite your basketball-playing friends along for a spin or a golf game. The fuel economy is what you would expect for an auto with all of the features and versatility of this one; 18/25. The MSRP for the model I tested is $39,578. That being said, you wouldn’t have to add a thing to this car to make it the perfect crossover for you.

The drive was flawless in the Venza, our hotel was welcoming, our meals fantastic…my golf game? Well, did I tell you that the drive was flawless in the Venza?

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CarCorner Review: 2015 Chrysler 200 – I Rate It A 200 Plus


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By Cathy Droz –

Who do you know that owns a Chrysler 200? I know of only one person since the car made its debut in October 2010. My daughter Melanie on the other hand, owns a Chrysler 300 and we are all familiar with that model, right? She graduated from college, moved from California to Arizona and when shopping for a new car chose the Chrysler 300. She still owns and loves it 11 years later.

I remember reviewing the 200 last year and saying it was “nice,” but I didn’t jump up and down or gush all over about it. In fact, I thought it might have a tough time competing in its model class and started calling it the 300’s baby sister.200-front

Well, here we are in the year 2014 and Chrysler has taken one of its less than exciting models and transformed it to a more stylish, comfortable and affordable sedan. The redesign, which I think is very sharp looking, shares a platform and some components with the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee, not bad DNA to start with. It is fresh inside and out with a new powertrain, restyled cabin and more convenience and safety features, such as available all-wheel drive and park assist.

This year, you can only drive away in a sedan as the convertible has been discontinued…too bad, I love convertibles, but believe the 200 looks too much like a Sebring and those are in every Hertz rental lot in town.

200-backThe 2015 exterior is pretty cool with a more defined aerodynamic style, sweeping lines and a double grille for that aggressive look, with the winged Chrysler badge stretched out for some reason. The light-pipe dramatic headlight design helps accentuate the new look. The S or sport version has a lower grille, glossy black exterior trim and dual tailpipes. The rear of the car has a built-in decklid spoiler, sloping roofline and standard LED tail lights.

The interior, always my favorite part to critique, is chic and tastefully done. Depending on the trim level selected, you might find genuine wood trim in matte finish and a bit more padding for my rear end in the passenger seat. The trim level you choose will make also make a little bit of difference when deciding if you like the look compared to others in its category like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

The backseat fits three, maybe two adult men under six feet and one petite woman. However, I can visualize this car having either two child safety seats in the second row or a skinny fifth grader in between the toddler and infant seats.200-seats

The trunk capacity is 16 cubic feet, which is good for this size sedan. The 60/40 split folding rear seat is standard and there is plenty of room for those golf clubs, stroller or picnic necessities.

200-consoleI like the pass through or the open storage area beneath the E-shifter knob for the automatic transmission. You will either love it or hate it, but the rubber surface has the skyline of Downtown Detroit embossed on it. I know they are pushing the “imported from Detroit” commercial and might make some people feel it is overdone but I like it and it looks nice.

Do you want to have confidence and control behind the wheel? The new 2015 Chrysler 200 has more advanced standard and available safety and security features than any other vehicle in its class.

Eight Airbags

Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go Functionality

Blind Spot Monitoring

Forward collision warning with active braking

Lane departure warning with lane keep assist

ParkView Rear Back up Camera

Electric Park Brake

Four channel ESC stability control

I have to admit the new 2015 Chrysler 200 looks more expensive than its counterparts and it handles better and is a more affordable than other V6 midsize sedans out there. If you are all about the bells and whistles, the infotainment system in the 200 has one of the best audio-navigation interfaces in its class. When all is said and done, this is not the 200 I drove last year, so this year I give it a 200 Plus.

MSRP – Base Price – $22,695

Drivetrain – 2.4L

Horsepower: 184-hp FWD, nine-speed Automatic

Fuel Economy – 26/35/29 mpg

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CarCorner Review: 2014 SRT Dodge Viper

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Taking A Bite Out Of The American Muscle Cars

By Cathy Droz –

When I hear the word viper I think of a very dangerous snake, and since I live in the deserts of Arizona I stay clear of trails where those poisonous reptiles might appear. Did you know that the venom of the viper contains neurotoxins?  These substances restrict prey by disabling muscle control leaving you motionless and vulnerable when they bite.

Well, now I know why they named the Dodge muscle car the VIPER.  From the moment you sit in the driver’s seat and hear the sound of the exhaust… you’ve been bitten by the need for speed and you are left paralyzed, unable to believe your good fortune.  Knowing you have the ability to pass a Corvette ZR1 on the freeway or rev your engine while at a stoplight next to a Porsche 911 Turbo is worth the bite.ViperYellowFullShot

The SRT Viper (Dodge nameplate gone) is not for everyone, not only because it is financially out of reach for many people, but the feel of a 640 horsepower engine with 600 lb-ft of torque is like breaking the sound barrier or dating that bad boy in high school.   It’s not for everyone but for some it feels so good.

The 2014 model is the fifth generation Viper and features some outstanding changes.  Obviously a New Year’s resolution, the Viper shed a good 25 pounds (wish I had) from the engine alone.  The entire vehicle weighed in about 100 pounds lighter than previous models as they changed to an all-new aluminum and carbon fiber body.  I would love to say that the shedding of pounds helped tremendously with fuel efficiency but the VIPER stands at 12 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. That really isn’t bad for a 640 horsepower sports car.

ViperCockpitViewAs to the interior of the SRT Viper, an area that I am particularly interested in, some changes have been made.  In trying to get with the times and maybe appeal to more women, the latest Viper has a significantly more comfortable, stylish and attractive interior.  I don’t want the men to get nervous here as there is a very “drive-focused, cockpit-style” layout to help owners enjoy getting the most out of their driving experience with minimal distraction.  It’s similar to that race car “cocoon” feeling or perhaps the F-35 Stealth Fighter Jet cockpit “hug.”

Additionally, the new Viper offers driver comfort in unexpected areas.  In my case, with the rapid acceleration while holding tightly on to the steering wheel, it caused me to experience white knuckles and sweaty palms.  I was grateful for the extra padding to grip and perspire on.

If you are interested in every aspect of your driving experience you will be thrilled to know that all the vital information is on a seven-inch customizable instrument cluster display. This includes full time analog tachometer readout in the center to provide performance feedback, which is the Viper philosophy.  I should get as much communication from my husband after his golf game as you get from the Viper cluster display. This reptile of a car is so high tech and performance driven you might as well wear a racing jumpsuit when cruising about town.

The Viper is offered in two forms; a “base” model and a GTS trim level.  Standard on the base model includes a nine-speaker AM/FM/CD/Sirius XM stereo system with AUX/USB inputs and an SD car reader.  Included as well is Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, U-connect infotainment system, LED daytime running lights and taillights, bi-xenon headlights, and 18 inch front wheels.   The GTS has those and additional features. Now for the “serious” Viper owners there is the TA or Track Attack and those options include race track extras and packaged in the color “Crusher Orange.”ViperTZOrange

With safety as everyone’s concern, The Viper models come equipped with front airbags in addition to traction control and federally-mandated stability control.  However, side and side-curtain airbags, which are standard fare on nearly every other new car on the market, are not available. That doesn’t worry me since there is no room for the grandchildren or the dog anyway.

The Viper isn’t for the masses but if you have $100,000 or more to spend on one of the coolest American muscle cars, I say go for it.  Not only will this get you looks on the freeway and thumbs up from every teen driving a Dodge Dart or the mommy blogger in a Caravan, but the respect of the Lamborghini enthusiast or ZR1 “vette” wanting to race you home.

The Viper is a lot of car and an adrenalin rush upon takeoff so be ready for a ride of a lifetime … you will be smitten and bitten for sure.

CarCorner Review: 2014 Fiat 500L

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What, No Panini’s In The Glove Box?

By Cathy Droz –

Fiat 500 ExteriorYou have to love the Fiat vehicle branding, you know, the commercials with beautiful Italian women flirting with nerdy guys in front of a Fiat 500 Abarth,  and the most recent ads with a scene from the days of Paul Revere yelling “the Italians are coming” featuring several of the 2014 FIAT 500L in “redcoat” red. Does it make you want to rip off the bottom of your matronly dress, cut your hair and date an Italian actor? Does it actually make you want to buy a Fiat? Yep!

Since I couldn’t picture myself as part of the TV campaign, I thought it best I test drive the new 5-door 2014 FIAT 500L and see for myself what all the yelling is about.  I’ve enjoyed testing the two-seater 500’s over the years, but felt I needed a bit more room for work, passengers, golf clubs and travel in general.  The 500L has that and yet it is still cute, economical, sturdy and affordable with the additional room and a more muscular Italian Stallion stance.

Fiat Exterior yellow and whiteThere are four models under the 500L, and even those names are unique; Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge.  I drove the Lounge model and I can see how it got its name.  The seats were comfortable, with leather trim and heated, which I tried out, but did not need in our Phoenix climate. This model has Euro Twin Clutch, 6-speed automatic transmission, dual zone automatic temperature control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear seat armrest with cup holder, Sirius XM Satellite Radio for the first year free and 16” aluminum wheels with all-season tires. What no panini’s in the glove box?

The front of the FIAT 500L has additional width compared to its FIAT little sisters, a more athletic stance with some very cool color choices and combinations. The rear has very distinct looking tail lamps with chrome exhaust and the liftgate badge with the backup camera right in the middle of the center numeral “0”. I was pleasantly surprised with the width and depth of the front windows that extended to the side view mirrors.  There were no blind spot problems considering the span of the windows and the sunroof (optional). I felt that between the glass and the sunroof; if the British or the Italians were coming, they couldn’t miss me.

When you are in a small vehicle you worry about safety, so I was very pleased with their seven standard airbags including driver and front-passenger advanced multistage airbags, driver’s knee airbag, full-length side-curtain airbags and front seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax airbags.  This and the steel cage made me feel safe when transporting people, especially children. The knee airbags are so important, especially at my age. The other standard feature that impressed me is the ParkSense and ParkView which gives you a wide-angle view of the area behind the vehicle when backing up.  I believe that should be standard on all vehicles not matter which brand or model.Fiat Interior SF bridge

Don’t let this FIAT’s size fool you, the 500L has the 60/40 split seat so you can still make trips to Lowe’s, Home Depot or take your ski’s with your vertically and safely. There is a turbo-charged powertrain engine that packs 160 horsepower and gives you an outstanding 33 highway and 25 city driving miles per gallon.  I took my 500L locally to Cave Creek and then out to Chandler for a birthday party.  I got better mileage on the highway, about 35mpg but less than 25mpg to and from my favorite coffee shop.

Since I test drive all makes and models I would say this new 500L is comparable to the Kia Soul, MINI Countryman, Nissan CubeS and the Scion XB Base model.  The L stretches 27.7 inches longer than its own brand siblings and is 5.7 inches wider and stands 5.9 inches taller. I don’t know about you, but I think the FIAT 500L is in an affordable price range starting at about $19,000 to $27,000.

All this talk about features and increase in size, let us not forget this car is fun, easy to drive, gets stares from all age groups and fits in to parking spots I normally pass by.  The visual appearance both inside and out is so exciting and you can’t stop making excuses to drive it.  I say, test drive one and forget about any of the commercials you’ve seen.  When you are in the driver’s seat, it doesn’t matter who is coming, you are the star.

CarCorner Review: 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0 XT Premium

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You Can’t See The Forester For The Trees 

By Cathy Droz –

I owned and drove a station wagon from 1979 to 1982.  It was a Chevy wagon and it held three children under the age of four in car seats that were secured with bungee cords and seat belts. I would visit my parents, who were 75 miles away, equipped with playpen (not pack and play), double stroller and two diaper bags.   I loved my wagon despite my peers who drove Miatas leaving me in their wake of dust, or the occasional smirk from someone looking at me, assuming I was destined to overpopulate humanity.Subaru Forester Full Shot

When did “station wagon” become a bad word?  Well, I know there are crossovers and SUV’s that look like a wagon and function like a wagon, but will not admit they are.  OK, Subaru, call the Forester XT Premium a sport utility or crossover activities wagon if you wish, but you should be proud to say you’ve created the station wagon for people and families with an active lifestyle.

I loved driving the 2014 fourth generation Forester and must admit, my favorite one at that. It competes with the Chevy Equinox, Toyota Rav 4, Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V as well as a few others, but for a family who is active in sports and outdoor hobbies, there is no “other.”Subaru Interior

The Forester seats five adults comfortably or two adults and three children with car seats, minus the bungee cords, in the second row. There was plenty of head room for my six-foot tall husband and leg room for three Heidi Klums in the back seat (he wished).

The 2014 kept the basic look of the Forester, but there is a new grille, smooth sculpted side sheet metal that flows into the tail lamps, like a great plastic surgeon tightening the skin, for a more appealing appearance and aerodynamics.  Subaru gave the 2014 more of a SUV look, unless you get the Turbo, where the look is a little bolder and the hood scoop seems to be gone.

The interior has not changed much, but a true Subaru groupie would not want more than a subtle improvement.  The major gains were in gas mileage. (See specs)Subaru Forester Cargo

Like all Subaru models the car handles well and is equipped with a new electric-power-assisted steering system and revised rear suspension. The ride was soft but controlled, giving me the best of both worlds. The car (station wagon) comes standard with Subaru’s highly acclaimed symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, which gave me the confidence for any kind of weather conditions.

Even though I’m past the 70’s and hauling  my own next generation, I can’t help but think the Forester would have been the best form of transportation for my family of five  and still allow us to be active and cool when the car seats were removed and the Cheerios vacuumed out.

Subaru with Bikes in SnowWhether you think the Subaru is a crossover, SUV or a station wagon, it really doesn’t matter, as long as it fits your needs.  Whether you are a biker, kayak enthusiasts or share driving with the Nanny, you will not be disappointed.  For a real adventure check out the Motor Trends YouTube review as the Forester treks through Africa looking for the rare white Rhino.  Safari in Africa or ski the slopes of Snowbowl, your Forester can do it all.  But please no bungee cords.*

*They were used in conjunction with seatbelts of the l970’s. The safety car seats were not the standards of today and as an overly protective mother I used four bungee cords. I was naive. 

Specs on Forester 2.0 XT Premium

Dual Moonroof – Power Tilt/Sliding Sunroof

Driver and Passenger Air Bag/Side and Rear Head Air Bag, Side Air Bag

4-wheel ABS – Towing – Hitch is an option

All-Wheel Drive – 4-Cylinder Engine

Turbocharged – Horsepower 250 @ 5,600

Transmission CVT w/OD – Automatic

Gas Mileage:  24 City 32 Hwy.

Pricing:  $21,8l4 to $32,995

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CarCorner Review: Volvo XC60 SUV

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Has Volvo Gone To The Dogs?

By Cathy Droz –

We all know that the Volvo is the safest car made, despite Tesla pushing for that title. However, let’s face it, Sweden gave us four things; IKEA, the Volvo, the meatballs sold in IKEA’s café and the Volvo pet cage for the XC60.

The Volvo line of cars, until recently, was considered a little boxy and vanilla.  Boy has that changed!  Just like dating, the physical attraction may not arouse your senses the minute you meet, but once you get to know that person, there is a vision of beauty and an ethereal connection.  Remember it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Cost of Test Drive Vehicle:  $42,359

Pet Cage:  Approximately $900

Fuel Economy estimates: 17/23/20

Volvo-XC60-exteriorLet’s take the Volvo XC60 SUV model as an example. The exterior has changed, you may not recognize it at all, wondering what make and model is that cool sexy car? Just look at what the XC60 has to offer; you can get front or all-wheel drive, dual zone electronic climate control, Bluetooth capability with streaming audio and, if desired, leather seating surfaces, panoramic roof, premium sound system and rear seat entertainment system with dual DVD players.  This is an SUV that will accommodate five adults on some of the most comfortable seats that car manufacturers install.

There is another feature that I had installed for my test drive and that is the steel cargo Pet Cage.  The pet cage has its own lock and latch and the pure steel cage is as sturdy as the Volvo SUV itself.   Why is that you say?  Volvo tests its accessories the way they test their cars. Volvo-pet-cageThis pet cage went through the same rigorous crash tests the cars do.  My yellow lab Doc was able to get in the SUV with just a tad of help but fit well inside the cage and enjoyed the ride.  I knew he was safe, just like the grandkids in the back seat.

Volvo owners are very loyal and typically keep their cars for years.  They are college educated with advanced degrees and include engineers, pilots, nurses, physical therapists, veterinarians, fire fighters, plastic surgeons and car insurance executives.   Why, because among this group is a combined understanding of the engineering that goes into manufacturing the Volvo, and/or experience with incidents after a major car crash when the occupants were not in a Volvo.

Check out the City Safety feature, which in itself is worth a test drive.  This is Volvo’s low speed collision avoidance system and is part of the Technology Package.  It has adaptive cruise Control with pedestrian detection and full auto brake, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control and lane departure warning. Very cool, very safe.

Volvo-interiorI have found that baby boomers and empty nesters tend to bring their pets with them on long trips, or simple jaunts to the drive thru at Dunkin Donuts or to the dog parks in town.  Our pets deserve to be as safe as our passengers.  The Volvo pet cage is optional and can be set up on the left or right side of the cargo area. The all steel cage came in three pieces and I was able to install it myself with a little help.

Whether it’s the people you love or the pets you care about, the Volvo XC60 SUV, as well as their other models, takes care of the whole household including your dog, cat, pig or hamster; and like dating, people can change their appearance to be beautiful both inside and out.

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2013 Chevy Suburban LTZ Hits The Road To See Shamu

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Click to read more about Cathy.

By Cathy Droz –

We are so fortunate here in Arizona, that if we want to get out of the heat, we hop in our car and in five hours we’re in San Diego experiencing cool breezes, crashing waves, great seafood and seeing Shamu the whale for a spritz of sea water.  You can fly over in an hour, but when Chevy provides a Suburban for your trip, the 350 miles is one of pure luxury and comfort.chevy-suburban-ltz

The 2013 Chevy Suburban LTZ is a lot of vehicle for just the two of us, but when our middle child and her family wanted to go to San Diego with us, we knew we needed a larger people hauler than our Highlander.   Picture this: four  adults, one pregnant (not me of course), three children in safety car seats, double stroller, six suitcases, beach umbrella, cooler, three briefcases with laptops, camera equipment and random hats thrown all over the luggage.  You better have room, and we had plenty of that.

To say the Chevy Suburban LTZ is a large vehicle is an understatement, but it drives like you’re in a sedan, especially when it comes to maneuvering, parking and other amenities.   It fits nine comfortably (that’s no lie) and has a towing capacity of 9,600 pounds. (Shamu weighs 1,984 pounds).  This one- ton Chevy Suburban 1500 was equipped with a FlexFuel  5.3 liter V8 engine and produced 320 horsepower with 335 foot pounds of torque.  I wasn’t expecting great fuel economy based on the weight of the vehicle, the weight inside, not to mention the air conditioning blasting and numerous hilly roads, but we experienced 14 city and 20 highway miles to the gallon, which wasn’t too bad.

mm_gal_item_c2_11.img_resize.img_stage._3The interior of the Suburban LTZ had leather upholstered seats including front bucket seats which I loved and had a four way power lumbar support with two position memory (more than I have).  The steering wheel is heated (like we need that) and the pedals are power adjustable (need that at 5’2”). It also had your choice of three levels of heating or cooling.

There were five, 12-volt power outlets; two on the dash, one inside the center console next to the USB input jack, one at the back of the console and one in the cargo area.  There were A/V input jacks at the back of the center console along with two headphone jacks.  All of this was greatly needed as three of the adults were supposedly working on the way over (slipped over on a Friday), so the use of phones, e-mail, ipads, headsets and chargers made the Suburban at one point an office and school on wheels, rather than just the Swiss Family Robinsons on their way to see Shamu.mm_gal_item_c2_0.img_resize.img_stage._3

There is a Bose Counterpoint Surround Sound audio system, which includes navigation, iPod support and Sirus XM satellite radio.  It has hands-free Bluetooth, which is standard and needed for safety. We had the Sun and Entertainment option package, which included a rear seat entertainment system, two flip down LCD screens and a power sunroof.   The LTZ had the second row of bucket seats (again unnecessarily heated) and more leg and headroom than
my 5’4” daughter, 6’2” son-in-law and the munchkins needed.

Riding in comfort and staying entertained!

Riding in comfort and staying entertained!

The movie Flipper kept the children quiet for almost two hours. Of course Flipper is not Shamu but we wanted to give the little ones a smaller mammal so they would not be scared. The good part was the adults couldn’t hear the movie and could either talk, work, sleep or yell over each other.

I noticed that not once did someone say are we there yet?  I think the Suburban LTZ was so comfortable, complete with TV, ipads and car games, that they practically moved in. What I did hear from eight-year old Jayden was, “Can I sit up front at the Shamu show? “  The answer from her parents was always the same, “No dear, you’ll get soaked.”  The sigh of disappointment overshadowed the third verse of row, row your boat by Sofia and Gabby. However, on the day of our illustrious visit to SeaWorld to see Shamu, grandma and grandpa escorted her to the front row for the splash of a lifetime.   This Suburban loaded is over $60,000; family of seven to get splashed by Shamu, priceless.

Jayden - in the Soak Zone.

Jayden – in the Soak Zone.

Jayden - hit by the water.

Jayden – hit by the water.

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Soul Man…Or Womam…Or Child – 2013 Kia Soul

Click to read more about Cathy.

Click to read more about Cathy.

By Cathy Droz –

I really am dating myself when I make reference to the movie and song “Soul Man.” I thought it would be a good play on words until my 30-year-old offspring said, “Who or what is ‘Soul Man?’” Too bad, the minute I drove the 2013 Kia Soul I started singing the song and then realized that KIA already had a signature song performed by Hamsters. And my kids think I’m out of touch?

It turns out I not only like the Soul model, I really like the Hamsters. Who would have thought in 2008 that the Korean brand KIA would bring forth such a line of cars that fit all lifestyles and pocketbooks (another word they say dates me). Genius to watch how they have turned the brand around from “KIA, what and who?” to showroom packed, record setting sales for Kia dealerships across the country.

The boxy five-seater Soul, which is a shape I am getting to like (and unfortunately resemble) as it relates to auto design, is very convenient for travel, children’s car seats and cargo of all shapes and sizes. The 2013 has a new powertrain, which has pushed it up the J.D. Power list of 2013 Kia Soul Exteriorhigher end compact cars. The exterior is charming, not too squared off, not too curved. The roofline is cool and the front end has a kind of English Bull Dog look to it. English BulldogThe cabin is functionality at its best; I could reach all the oversized knobs and understand the dash panel without pulling out a translation handbook, KIA app or asking a 10-year old. The inside is cheery and exciting, possibly Disney-like in appearance.

My passengers loved the backseats; complete with basketball player headroom and outrageous visibility due to the large panes of glass and slightly raised theater-style rear seats. My eight-year-old granddaughter, who often says “I’m going to throw up,” due to motion sickness, endured trips over 10 miles in distance at 50 miles per hour looking out the large windows. Oh, and the lighted speaker frames, that glow at night, enhanced the sound system whether playing “Soul Man” or Shakira. The 2013 I tested had a 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine, which is better on gas. The base engine has 135 horsepower, the upgrade 163 hp. You can opt for the 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. I also tested the new Eco package, which is setting new records with as much as 28 city and 32 highway miles per gallon.2013 Kia Soul Interior Cargo

The Soul includes standard equipment with a rearview camera as an option. I believe every vehicle should come standard with rearview technology. The basic wagon/crossover is priced right starting at $14,400 – $19,900. My test vehicle, with options such as Navigation with Sirius traffic, push button start with smart key, leather seat trim, heated front seats, automatic climate control, rear bumper appliqué and cargo net was $23,575.2013 Kia Soul Interior Seats

Kia has always provided an excellent warranty program, starting with a 10-year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-yr /60,000 mile limited warranty and five-year/60,000 mile roadside assistance.

I am waiting for the day they do a promotion that with every KIA purchased you get a hamster. Imagine how appealing that would be to the next generation of consumers. In the meantime consider a KIA Soul for the new driver, active lifestyle couple, starter family or super boomer.

Just so you know I’m not completely outdated… Note to my kids: In 2012, Jermaine Paul, winner of the second season of “The Voice” released “Soul Man” as a single in which he was joined by his mentor and winning coach Blake Shelton. So you see, the song, like the car, gets better with time.

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