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

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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.

For more reviews go to www.twofortheroadusa.com and www.smartfem.com.

CarCorner Review: 2013 Lexus ES 350 – Nice Spindle!

Click to read more about Cathy.

Click to read more about Cathy.

By Cathy Droz –

It is hard to believe that 20 years ago this month, Barry Bonds signed baseball’s highest single year contract ($4.7 million) and Lexus introduced to the luxury car buying public the ES series of Lexus vehicles.

At first the joke was that the ES was just a Camry with some extra fancy stuff on it, but the marketing folks at Lexus were planning for the future Lexus owners, by introducing them to the top-of-the line Toyota luxury car.2013-lexus-es-350_100391728_l

The new ES shares some of the new styling from the GS, including the spindle grille and LED tail lamps. You will see a few details unveil on the new luxury sedan such as it is slightly longer and wider than the model it replaces. The car’s 17-inch aluminum wheels have been pushed to the corners which helps high-speed stability.

This ES350 is powerful with a 268-horseposer, V-6 engine and six speed automatic transmission. There is a dial on the center console that will allow the driver to switch between eco, normal and sport driving modes. The eco mode helps save on gas and the sport mode seemed more like driving on a race track. I liked the eco mode and my husband liked the sport with quicker steering, of course.

Lexus has its own name for its modern technology; it’s called Enform. Enform allows the driver to access apps such a Pandora, Bing, Open table and Movie Tickets using a smart phone and the car’s head unit. The new available technology for safety includes blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert and lane departure assist with intelligent high-beam headlights. Between smart phones and intelligent verbiage I better do brain exercises to keep up with this stuff. I used open table to make reservations downtown before the Suns vs. Lakers game and it was so easy.

2013-lexus-es-350-4-door-sedan-gear-shift_100402992_lThe ES seats up to five adults comfortably. The rear legroom is roomer than before so your long-legged teens and friends fit just fine. Lexus, with its keyless entry, allows the driver to open the car and start the ignition without removing the key fob from purse or pocket. The mouse device on the center console controls many of the functions. If you use a mouse at your computer, this will be second nature to you. I liked the fact that the screen was shielded from the bright sun of Phoenix, yet easy to focus.

The trunk was great for golf bags, luggage, sports equipment and a nice shopping spree. There are plenty of airbags for your safety and it includes factory roadside assistance and lodging if the breakdown occurs more than 100 miles from home. Now that’s a nice feature! Do you think they set you up at a Ritz?

Prices start at $36,100 – the one I tested was $43,605. Fuel economy is 21/31 mpg city/highway.

I have to admit, Lexus doesn’t change its look that much from year to year, but the new spindle grille is a nice exterior transformation and it’s not your daughter’s Camry.

For more reviews go to www.twofortheroadusa.com.

CarCorner Review: 2012 FIAT 500 – Winning!

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By Cathy Droz –

The original FIAT “Nuova 500” was born in l957 in Corso Dante, Italy.  At the time, it was boasting a simple Italian design and affordable price.  Not much has changed for 2012…still stylish and affordable with a starting price of only $15,500.

I have chosen to review this vehicle, very much the way the FIAT manufacturers are

FIAT in the 50’s

presenting it to the public and in their showrooms.  Yes, long time, any-brand dealers are adding the FIAT to their present showrooms.  FIAT is a stand-alone brand, much like SCION, and I believe they both are courting a certain demographic.

So here is a list, I mean outstanding features and up-to-the-minute technology that will be of interest to many a social networking, fun-loving and energy conscious buyer.   There are over 500,000 ways to personalize your FIAT.  Would you like to see your car with stripes or roof graphics?  How about a bike rack or Gloss Black wheels?  There are over half a million ways to customize the 500 so you stand out on the road.  If you were lucky, like me, to receive a $250 cash allowance card from FIAT in the mail, it is to be applied to any of the hundreds of accessories when you buy your car.

Let’s start with the basics of your purchase.  There is the FIAT 500 or 500 Cabrio.  Once you decide hard top or top down you can pick the Pop, Sport or Lounge model.  Once you have decided on that, pick your exterior color (l4 to choose from).  Then your leather interior design seating, maybe cloth and move on to a variety of wheel options.  Hold on to your gelato, because there is more.  There are bike, ski, snowboard and surfboard carriers.  They have Uconnect Web, which turns the FIAT into an instant WiFi Hotspot.  There are Katzkin leather seats with embroideries, piping, two-tones, suede and many different colors.

Check out the wheels!  Gloss Black to wheels with painted pockets, they have a variety of custom styles to choose from.  Bodyside moldings are a cool finishing touch for the FIAT buyer and some of the options include the 500 logo, graphic checker designs or even a barcode reminiscent of your local Target merchandise.

The FIAT 500 is not just a pretty face; powering the FIAT is an award winning engine.  The 1.4L, 16v MultiAir engine has electrohydraulic system valves for more dynamic and direct control of air and combustion.  This increased the power by l0 percent and torque by l5 percent cylinder-by-cylinder, stroke-by-stroke. Here is the best: it delivers 38 hwy mpg!

If you are looking for quality sound, the Bose premium system is available with six high performance speakers and a subwoofer.  It uses 50 percent less energy than Bose systems with comparable quality acoustic performance.

OK Facebookers and tweeters…FIAT has a BLUE&ME (Hands free communication) system with iPod, USB and MP3 interface.  No need to take your hands off the wheel or let your eyes leave the road.

It gets better.  FIAT has introduced eco:Drive – the industry-leading interactive tool that records the way you drive and then shows you what effect your habits have on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.  Visit http://www.fiat.com/ecodrive/usa to learn more.

For me, it was a small car with lots of cool features.  I’ve driven over 500 cars in 10 years and reviewed them based on my lifestyle and environment. I can say the FIAT stood out as far as being solid and how safe I felt inside it.  The diversity and the personalization of this vehicle is what would draw me to it, but that would have been 35 years ago.  I would say a great car for the active single or couple.  I put the grandbaby in her car seat in the back and she fit fine, but I don’t think this is a family car. For more go to www.fiat.com.

Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos of Two for the Road USA are radio personalities that lend their talent to both radio,television and print.  For more reviews go to www.twofortheroadusa.com.

CarCorner Review: 2012 Toyota Scion FR-S

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

Those who know the auto industry know that Scion is Toyota’s attempt to reach new, younger buyers with what Toyota hopes to be “hip” vehicles. In the beginning, there was the original xB and the xA. The xB was described by unknown numbers of people as the Scion Toaster or Box. The xA has been described as being akin to rubber door stop.

A quick Scion synopsis…fast forward a couple years and Scion introduced the tC, a 2-door coupe that was loaded to the gills with features that seemed beyond its sticker. Fast forward a couple more years and Scion cut the lackluster xA and introduced a new xD and redesigned xB. A couple years later, a second-gen tC was launched.

Then…THEN…Toyota teamed up with the gearheads at Subaru to design a new rear wheel drive (all to date have been front wheel drive) car that many said could be the new Celica…the Scion FR-S. The FR-S uses a 2.0 liter Subaru Boxer engine that features Toyota’s DS-4 injection system featuring both direct and port injunction…a technology adopted from the Lexus IS-F. A 53 to 47 front to rear weight ratio enhances what Scion calls a “dynamically favorable ration.”

Moving to the interior, the FR-S features aggressively bolstered seats in the front. Cathy sat “front” because the 2 rear seats are not really seats but more along the lines of a package shelf. Buyers can get the FR-S in a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed auto featuring paddle shifter mounted on the steering wheel.

Scion had us drive the cars from Las Vegas to Pahrump…the cars were fine but unimpressive on the highway. Then we got to Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump and got to drive the cars on the track. On the track, the FR-S shines and since the engine comes from Subaru, we can only imagine the aftermarket options that will soon be available. Boy racers everywhere will be über-happy.

At first we thought we were too old school for the Scion, but after spending time in it, we felt we fit right in. You must check out this Scion at a dealership… the Scion showroom of Toyota is worth the drive.

Photos courtesy of www.scion.com.

CarCorner Review: 2012 Camaro ZL1 – Lots of show with plenty of go

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

It was just a few years ago that I talked about how much fun it was for me to see the pony car wars heating up again. I was of course, talking about the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger hitting the streets with plenty of muscle along with nifty retro styling that seemed to fill a need a lot of people had been looking for. As soon as they hit the street the aftermarket group came up with adds that took the cars to another level.

Now, two of the manufacturers are saying ‘why not us’ when it comes to kicking it up a notch, and so Chevy and Ford have done exactly that with the Shelby GT500, which I’ll talk about another time, and Chevy’s ZL1 Camaro. For true aficionados, you’ll remember the history of the ZL1 began with a 427 engine with some serious design modifications, and it was made for the Camaro for racing in 1969. Chevy only built 69 copies of Camaro powered by the ZL1 engine and two Corvettes.

In ’69, the ZL1 package just about doubled the price of the SS Camaro and the same holds true today. Based at just over $54,000, my test car only added the Interior Sueded Microfiber Package and 20” Bright Forged ZL badged Aluminum wheels – options that along with the gas guzzler tax brought the sticker to $57,285 with destination charges. The $600 Exposed Carbon Fiber Weave Hood Insert cost was discounted $600, so you can see, at nearly $60k; it isn’t for the faint of heart or pocketbook.

That said, I have to say, I loved the car for a lot of reasons not the least of which is the ZL1’s purely American muscle car music emanating from the exhaust. No matter how many go-fast cars that are out there today, nothing has the harmony of American muscle and I rarely had the sound system on just so I could enjoy the burbling coming from the LSA’s 6.2 Liter, 580 horsepower supercharged engine. Now I know all you Blue Oval fans out there are talking up the Shelby’s 660 plus horsepower numbers, as well you should, but most of the research I’ve done shows the ZL1 overall offers more for the money.

I say that because it seems as though the Camaro out handles and out performs the Mustang on anything but a straight shot. That’s due mainly to Chevy’s magnetic ride control, which is way too complicated for me to even attempt to explain but suffice it to say, the car handles amazingly well for an American muscle car.

Other than extras like the ZL1 badges, the hood insert and the ZL1 Wheels wrapped in Goodyear F1 tires, the exterior is pretty much the same as other models which, in my opinion can be problematic. If I’m going to spend nearly twice the price I think I’d like it to stand out a bit more.

I only had the car for a few days, so I didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time in it to really run it through some paces. I did, however, have it long enough to know that while in the past the pony cars were pretty much straight line racers and in truth still are, the suspension on the ZL1 gives this Camaro an edge in handling that hasn’t been available on American muscle cars, other than, of course, Corvette.

There’s a whole lot more to know about this car that I can’t address in this article, but all-in-all, I can say unequivocally that the ZL1 Camaro lived up to my expectations but as I mention, it isn’t inexpensive. However, if you have the means and want a premier muscle car, it’s going to be hard to beat the ZL1.


CarCorner Review: 2012 Mini Coupe

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

It goes without saying that the new Mini Coupe makes people do a double take – from its shallow-rake windshield to the integral roof spoiler and wing that deploys from the trunk lid. My guess is the Coupe is going after “driving machine” enthusiasts in a way that the Cooper hatchback doesn’t, but I have to say that the driving dynamics and handling aren’t significantly different than the Cooper S, although the look certainly is. My test car was the John Cooper Works edition, so it wasn’t inexpensive with a base price over $31,200 and with all the goodies including navigation the final sticker was over $38,000.

At first glance, the coupe looks like the top should lift off, but when you’re up close, you see the roof blends into the rear windshield and there’s a slot in the top behind the windshield and an integrated spoiler on the deck that deploys automatically at 50 mph and drops down below 40. The problem is, the view from the rear-view mirror is pretty tight to begin with and when the spoiler pops up it distracts even more. While I’m sure it helps with airflow and will likely help with top speed, I think it’s more for show than go.

In the cockpit, you’ll find the familiar center mounted speedometer that’s huge relative to the dash, but carries a lot of information including navigation fuel and audio information. You’ll also see the familiar toggle switches that you either love or hate. I kind of like them but then again, I am a bit of a dinosaur and remember toggles from back in the days. The seats are firm, which one would expect and get a bit tiring after a while, not something I’d want to spend several hours on the road in.

But the Mini is all about fun and to that end, it offers a lot of it. It’s not terribly fast, but it is quick and sitting an inch lower than its big brother it handles quite well, although you can get a bit of torque steer zipping around corners if you’re not careful. Powered by a 1.6 liter 208 horsepower engine, mated to a six-speed standard transmission, you can definitely have some fun and in truth, I did enjoy my week in the Mini Coupe

Bottom line, the Coupe offers sharp handling, distinctive exterior styling, which I see a lot of potential for customers having some fun with, a huge fun quotient, yet all with great fuel economy. So if you’ve looked at the Mini but felt it was a bit staid, definitely check out the Mini Coupe. At the very least, it brings a whole new visual experience to the Mini.

Photos courtesy of www.miniusa.com.

CarCorner Review: 2012 Nissan Quest 3.5 LE

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

The minivan has certainly evolved over the years, with its functionality improving and with more creative ways to stow seating and increase cargo area. But the one thing that sticks out for me, and apparently a lot of others judging by the number of comments I received, is the size. I’m not sure how it can be described with the adjective “mini” attached to it any more. The Quest is one big “mini-van.”

Redesigned for 2011, the 2012 model hasn’t changed much since last year. Trims range from the base S model to the top-of-the-line LE, which is what my tester was. The Quest is available in front-wheel drive only. There’s also only one power train setup: a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission of which the jury is still out on as far as I’m concerned.

The LE is loaded with pretty much all the bells and whistles including full power automatic sliding doors and hatch, power seats, fold flat second row captain’s chairs that slide and recline and come out when necessary for cargo area, navigation, a rear-passenger entertainment system, wood trim accents and leather seating, just to name a few. The interior does have touches of Infiniti luxury and the console even teases us with a bit of the piano dash set up that makes the ergonomics easy to use. Ironically, the only options are the floor mats. Strange isn’t it, a $41,500 base price that doesn’t include floor mats…oh well c’est la vie. The test car came in at $42,365 with destination charges. Long and short of it, the Quest LE is one very nicely appointed mini-van with lots of comfort features and pretty good looks.

Driving the Quest was not unpleasant by any means, although I am not a fan of the aforementioned CVT. But other than that, it handles well, has pretty decent acceleration and handles road conditions fairly well. I have to admit that reviewing mini-vans is a challenge for me as I have absolutely no need for one, so knowing just how functional they are in the real world is a bit of a question. I will say that moving the center captain’s chairs was no big deal and the power controlled third row is a piece of cake. That said, I don’t know how easy it is to remove the center row to add to cargo space but at least they can come out.

Summing it all up, I would say without a doubt, if you’re in the market for a “mini” van, definitely put the Quest on your list of must-drives. It is one of the best looking ones out there, if not the most functional, and of course balancing form and function is always the challenge. So if form is important, the Quest may just fill the bill.

CarCorner Review: 2012 Audi TTS 2.0 Quattro Roadster

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

Introduced more than a decade ago, the Audi TT features an intriguing design, and the second-generation 2012 Audi TTS adds some substance to the style, with more power under the hood and sharper handling in the curves.

Offered as either a 2+2 coupe or a roadster, the TTS returns largely unchanged from last year. It uses the same turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder as the standard TT, but the use of an intercooler and a larger turbo helps kick output up to 265 horsepower verses the TT’s 211 hp. The TTS also rides slightly lower and benefits from a sportier suspension and standard all-wheel drive. As a result, the TTS brings much more of a fun quotient to the dance than the TT.

The all-wheel drive quattro system has been customized specifically to the TTS for faster response time. Unique body treatments, 19-inch wheels and black brake calipers provide the visual differentiation from the TT. Safety features include front, side and knee airbags, run-flat tires with pressure monitoring and 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and stability control.

2012 Audi TTS 2.0 Quattro RoadsterStandard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, summer performance tires, an automatic retractable rear spoiler, adjustable drive settings that alter suspension firmness, steering assist and the exhaust note, automatic xenon headlamps, LED running lights, automatic wipers, cruise control, automatic climate control, eight-way power sport front seats with four-way power lumbar adjustment, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker sound system with CD player and auxiliary audio jack.

The TTS roadster adds an electrically powered convertible top, a power-operated wind deflector and a trunk pass-through with ski bag. The optional navigation system brings with it real-time traffic and a choice of either a six-CD changer or an iPod/MP3 player interface. Heated seats are a stand-alone option. My test car came with the NavSystem, Phantom Black Pearl paint and heated front seats bringing the base price of $50,000 to $53,870 with destination charges.

The 2012 TTS features a tastefully designed interior that makes use of top-notch materials. The navigation system’s dash-mounted controller placement isn’t as intuitive as some, but most other controls are straightforward and within easy reach. The seats are both comfortable and supportive, and although the roadster can accommodate only 8.8 cubic feet, it does feature the aforementioned pass-through with removable ski bag for longer objects.

The roadster’s folding cloth top might seem a bit outdated compared to the retractable hardtops found on some of its rivals but I for one appreciate the cloth top and it maintains the TT’s clean lines and folds flat into the rear bodywork. The multi-layer headliner and glass window also manage to keep the cabin quiet and well-insulated.

The 2012 Audi TTS boasts considerable performance improvements over the standard TT. The 2.0-liter isn’t the most exciting engine out there, and while its power delivery is quite broad, I was a bit disappointed with the turbo lag. The automatic dual-clutch gearbox worked well and my test car did come with Audi Launch Control, although I didn’t really have an opportunity to play with it.

The TTS zips through twisties easily and with a level of agility the TT doesn’t exhibit. That said there’s a pretty fair amount of competition in this segment so I’d suggest trying several to see which one fits your lifestyle.

CarCorner Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu ECO

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

Chevrolet’s first global midsize sedan and will be sold in countries on six continents. It sports a new design with Camaro rear styling, which I’ll reserve judgment on for the moment, and a nicer interior that offers comfort and space and with a GM estimated 37 highway mpg.

Malibu Eco has a wide stance, broad shoulders and exterior design cues that include Chevrolet’s dual-port grille, large swept-back projector HID headlamps with three-dimensional execution, larger Chevrolet bowtie badges front and rear, tail lamps inspired by the Camaro and a single hidden exhaust outlet. The look is complemented by standard 17-inch alloy wheels and low-rolling-resistance Goodyear tires. The Malibu has also taken advantage of aerodynamics with enhanced design features and utilizes fuel saving technologies making it Chevy’s most fuel efficient midsize.

Malibu Eco is among the first vehicles in the midsize segment with a standard fuel-saving, active shutter system. Located in the lower grille, the Malibu Eco’s active shutter system automatically closes airflow through the lower intake opening when air intake is least needed. When closed, the shutter system enhances aero performance by redirecting airflow around the front of the vehicle and down the sides, rather than through it. The shutter is open or closed based on engine coolant temperature and speed. For example, the shutters open when the car is traveling up a hill, pulling a trailer or in hot city driving; the shutters close at highway speeds when less engine cooling is required.

Chevrolet’s new MyLink infotainment package and OnStar are standard on the Malibu Eco. They build on the safety and security of OnStar and seamlessly integrate online services like Pandora® internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio®. MyLink integrates wireless connectivity through Bluetooth to enable hands-free use of selected smart phone apps while the device remains safely stowed.

Malibu Eco’s eAssist system is mated to an Ecotec 2.4L direct-injection, four-cylinder engine and next-generation six-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4L engine is efficient and lightweight, featuring dual-overhead cams, direct injection, continuously variable intake and exhaust timing and electronic throttle control, as well as a lightweight aluminum cylinder block and cylinder head. It is rated at an estimated 182 horsepower (134 kW) and is a variant of the same engine recognized as one of Ward’s Ten Best Engines in 2010.

Along with the Ecotec 2.4L and six-speed transmission, the eAssist system uses power stored in the air-cooled, lithium-ion battery to provide needed electrical boost in various driving scenarios, optimizing engine and transmission operation. An advanced 115V lithium-ion battery and 15-kW motor-generator unit help increase fuel economy by using regenerative braking, using electricity instead of fuel when stopped and fuel cutoff during deceleration. With eAssist technology the Eco has a highway range of 580 miles from its 15.8 gallon fuel tank.

The Malibu Eco offers style comfort and an enjoyable drive in a neat package that won’t break the bank. My test car based at $26,845 and with the leather package, paint and trim adds and destination the total came to $29,380, which isn’t too bad for what you get. If you don’t want a hybrid, the Malibu ECO may be just what you’re looking for. Try one out and see for yourself what it’s all about.

CarCorner Review: Nissan Titan CC 4X4 SV

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

The 2012 Nissan Titan comes in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and the off-road oriented PRO-4X. It offers a choice of King or Crew Cabs, but does not offer a regular cab model or an eight-foot bed. A six-foot-seven-inch bed comes standard with the King Cab and a five-foot-seven-inch bed is standard with the Crew Cab. Crew Cab models also offer a seven-foot-three-inch bed. For 2012 the Titan remains unchanged save for a new sport appearance package to SV models.

The Titan comes with 5.6-liter V-8 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The Endurance V-8 with 317 horsepower has a great exhaust note and sounds manly, but there are a lot of six cylinder power-plants that offer that and more punch, so in truth, Titan’s V-8 is anemic when compared to some of its competitors.

The Titan will tow up to 9,500 pounds in the right configuration, but that’s now a thousand pounds shy of the class leaders. Handling’s very good for a truck this size, though, and the PRO-4X iteration offers some pretty capable off-road romping. As with most full size trucks, the Titan’s fuel numbers leave a lot to be desired.

Some trucks on the market seem to be trying to soften their image but the Titan is a big brawny truck pure and simple. Its job is to haul and tow not just be a dime store cowboy or cowgirls city ride. Inside the Titan, space and comfort are good, and build quality is reasonably good, too. King Cabs have rear-hinged doors for access to a stubby rear-seat area; four-door Crew Cabs are preferred for wide, nicely positioned seats, though the step-in height in the Titan seems higher than in competitive trucks. The choice of three bed lengths keeps the Titan in the hunt for hauling a big payload, but the longest bed length of 7’ 3” unfortunately is nine inches less than you’ll need to haul the usual 4×8 sheets of plywood. The Titan is available with a factory-applied spray-in bedliner and lockable storage bins built into its bed fenders, handy features that are demanded more and more in utility vehicles.

While the Titan has the appearance of a work truck, it sports quite a few handy features. Option packages and trim levels are the main point of differentiation for the single power-train Titan, and the differences between the four models and several option packages are noticeable and not inexpensive. The base Titan starts at just a bit over $28,000 with the S Crew Cab basing at $33,560 and the SV which my tester was basing at $34,460 and the Pro-4X Crew Cab starting at $37,910. While advanced technology is not high on the list of things the Titan offers, it does offer Bluetooth phone connectivity, a DVD entertainment system and XM Satellite Radio to keep it in the 21st Century. Leather, a Rockford Fosgate audio system and heated front seats are available.

All in all the Nissan Titan is a big, brawny truck that does its job well and in relative comfort, and while it’s not necessarily the prettiest truck at the dance, it isn’t bad. So if you haven’t checked one out lately, maybe you should.

Titan photos courtesy of http://www.nissanusa.com/titan
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