CarCorner Review: The Guy Magnet Car – 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

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By Cathy Droz –

We’ve all heard the term “Girl Magnet” right?  It might be in reference to guys who drive their red Corvette or Ferrari at high speeds when passing a group of women… maybe it’s the guy who flashes his bank roll at the bar or talks about his boat in Newport Beach and his ranch in Montana.  Sometimes it’s just a guy with a charismatic personality, great sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye. You might remember or know that guy from High School, College or the workplace.  Heck you may be that guy.

Well finally, even at my age, I’ve found the perfect answer to attracting men of all ages… I doesn’t matter if you are married, single, tall, short, have the body of Megan Fox or the face of Jennifer Lopez…The answer is DRIVE an Alfa Romeo. Throw out those 5 ways to meet a man touted on twitter, and instead I suggest you take an Alfa out for the day and hope you can handle all the attention.

I can’t remember the last time  I was honked  at so much, received “thumbs up” from all ages and genders, or had  cars pulling next to me begging me to roll down my window so they could say something.  But the best were the videos men and women were taking down Scottsdale Road, on their phones, as I drove by them.  Every time I left a light, stop sign, or pulled out of a parking space the exhaust sound made everyone look… but most of all it made me feel extraordinary, it made me feel like my hard work had paid off and I deserved this Italian stallion of a machine.

Five Reasons a woman should own an Alfa Romeo

  1. Getting in and out of the car will shorten the number of squats you do at the gym
  2. The roar of the exhaust enhances your confidence level
  3. It’s an automatic so shifting in heels is not an issue
  4. Parking is easy, and for backing up, any man will help wave you in to your spot
  5. You can afford it…starting at $55,000

After driving the white Alfa through town, getting whistles and high fives from men and women alike, I stopped at a luxurious resort in Scottsdale Arizona. The out of town guests, employees and valets starting asking a million questions, all wanting to sit inside or have their photos taken with me, my friend Cathy B. and the car.  We finally settled in to have dinner at Pasta Brioni (Italian of course) in downtown Scottsdale.  Dinner was great but the Italian waiters kept looking out the window at the Alfa Romeo and complimenting us on our fine taste. As you can see by the photo, it didn’t take them long to adorn the car like a piece of jewelry on the neck of a beautiful woman.

All you really need to know about the Alfa Romeo 4C is it can go 0-60 in 4.1 seconds and reach 237 mph.  If you are looking to be economical, it gets 34 miles per gallon.  You can also save money when shopping for yourself or your home, as the “trunk” barely holds a tote for an overnight stay or in my case just my hair blower, makeup and two pair of red heels. This may seem funny, but the whole time I was driving the Alfa I felt I was living the dream, I felt a little Italian, very confident and very rich. When I returned the car I started to imagine how Cinderella must have felt when her coach turned back in to a pumpkin. The exact next day driving down the same road, no one gave me a second look, beeped their horn or wanted a photo with me. Unlike Cinderella, no prince charming will search to find the auto journalist who lost their Alfa Romeo.  That’s Okay; I experienced more than most, I had 48 hours of driving a “Guy Magnet.”

Alfa Romeo 4c and Spider Convertible – Starting at $55,000 Vehicle tested $72,295.00

I Might Suggest: Purchase a backup camera after market and if taking a trip with a friend, send your luggage ahead and carry a small purse.  Other than that ladies, go test drive one at your local Alfa Romeo dealership then buckle up for safety and lots of dates.

CarCorner Review: Super – Hero – Status…2015 Lexus NX 200t

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By Cathy Droz –

Have you noticed lately that we seem to be inundated with Superheroes? They seem to come from every angle including comics, movies, television – and have you ever been to Comic-Con? They generate millions of dollars for movie producers, toy makers and event planners. More importantly, they give each generation of youngsters and the “kid” in adults a hero they can fantasize about. I’m a Captain America fan whose character originated in 1941 with Marvel comics. It seems that every several years our superheroes are “re-invented” with up-to-date powers, and arch villains.Lexus NX - Super Hero Girl

I look at the Lexus brand to have the same rebirth; getting its start in 1989 with two stylish sedans and with every year thereafter, they grew and grew in size, style, and tantalizing details one generation after the other. The Avengers have numerous superheroes and Lexus now offers 19 different models. As Captain America is a stand out for me, so is the 2015 Lexus NX 200t, and by adding the F sport it truly goes in to Superhero, superpower mode.

I test drove the NX in Seattle a year ago, when it wasn’t even available at Lexus dealerships. I knew after testing those models around the busy streets of Seattle that they had a hit on their hands. The 2015 Lexus 200t starts under $35,000, while the F Sport that I test drove runs about $43,000. The pricing is comparable to other models in their class, much like the 2015 Audi Q3.

Lexus NX - Cargo AreaFrom the first time Lexus introduced the spindle grille I was a fan. You have to admit the aggressive bold look takes the Lexus models to another level of sporty and sexy. All superheroes wear very form-fitting attire; where you can see every move they make not to mention their muscles. The maneuverability of the Lexus NX was tight and precise, much like the spandex uniforms our heroes wear. I felt while driving the NX that every turn I took, every traffic light I stopped for, and every parking space I encountered, I was in control. I was one with the steering wheel, brakes and technology, a sort of Wonder Woman.

I also tested the super powers of the NX on the highway, the streets of downtown Phoenix and the underground parking garage of a Chandler law office. I used it for picking up kids from camp and dinner for two at the trendy Joyride restaurant; where the valets were fighting over who got to park the F Sport. I was excited to have the Lexus for my grandson’s superhero birthday party, not just for the bright blue color to match Captain America’s uniform, but I was able to get Captain America to sit inside for a quick look around, anxiously awaiting his reaction.

My impression of the interior of the 200t was “super,” much like the exterior. The race car look continues with its cockpit-like seating. Many crossovers sit high and straight while the NX seats surround the driver in a lower position, like a hug from Captain America when you need it the most. The instrument panel was a cluster of modern technology and safety features; easy to understand even without super powers.

Lexus NX ChargerThe technology delivers the standard Lexus Premium Audio system and its eight channel amplifier. Bluetooth is seamless and the Qi wireless charging tray was so futuristic even Captain America was awed. There is an integration of remote touch interface in the center console which is a first for the Lexus system replacing the old joystick type instrument, which had its haters. It took me a little bit to get the hang of it but so did learning to use a stick shift. I did “punch” in BARROS Pizza to the navigation system to get directions and it was easy to do. I arrived with the decorations, grandson and attitude in my Wonder Woman T-Shirt an hour before the 50 plus parents, kids and friends arrived.

Lexus NX Full Shot Car and KidsAs I noted earlier, I let Captain America (wink) sit inside the vehicle. He was fascinated with the mirror that appears when you flip over one of the space savers as he adjusted his mask. There are cup holders that secure the water bottle so well you can unscrew the top with one hand. He liked that because his shield is in the other hand at all times. His only complaint was he felt Lexus was missing a compartment for his shield when he wasn’t working. I thought he was always working to save people and work for the good of mankind? However, I told him I would bring it up at the next Lexus meeting and get back to him.

Whether you are a superhero or super parent, teacher, nurse, engineer or friend, you really should test drive the new Lexus NX 200t and F Sport. You just may turn in your old shield for new one.

Listed below are some superhero stats for the Lexus NX 200t and F Sport. For more information go to www.lexus.com and for additional certified reviews go to www.highheelscertified.com.

2015 Lexus NX 200t Starting at $34,480

  • 22 MPG City 28 MPG Highway
  • 2.0 Liter Turbo 16-valve
  • 235 HP, 258-lb-ft Torque
  • 6-speed Automatic Transmission
  • 8 Airbags – Driver, Front, Knee and Side – Passenger: Cushion and Side
  • Anti-Lock Braking system
  • Vehicle Theft-Deterrent System
  • Lexus Enform Safety Connect
  • Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location
  • Emergency Assist Button
  • Backup Camera
  • 8-speaker Lexus Display Audio System, HD Radio with iTunes
  • Auto Dual Zone Climate Control
  • 10-way Driver Seat – 8-way Passenger Seat, 4.2 Full Color Multi-information Display

CarCorner Review: 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0 XT Premium

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Click to read more about Cathy.

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

For more reviews, go to www.twofortheroadusa.com.

CarCorner Review: Volvo XC60 SUV

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Click to read more about Cathy.

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.

For more reviews, go to www.twofortheroadusa.com.

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.

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

Suburban photos courtesy of www.chevrolet.com.

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 Ford Escape Titanium

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Click to read more about Cathy.

Have You Driven A Ford Lately?

By Cathy Droz –

I Have! I own a 2002 Ford Thunderbird convertible and my latest test drive vehicle was the new 2013 Ford Escape Titanium model. This redesigned, four-wheel-drive, five seat crossover has a turbocharged 2.0 liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which satisfied the speed in my blood and the practicality in my DNA.

The Ford Escape is exactly that, an escape into the future, which includes remote start capability, enabling one to heat or cool their seat before getting in the vehicle and a slick parking technology package.FordEscapeOutside

The optional parking technology package will cost an additional $995, but who wouldn’t want to have someone else parallel park for you? With the active park assist you can saunter along looking for a parallel parking space and the Escape’s sensors will detect a spot that will fit this five-seat SUV. This is a much better scenario than my husband yelling, “Look, there’s another spot you drove by.” So, ignoring him completely, the chime alerted me to an empty spot, whereby I lined the Escape up and then let go of the steering wheel (difficult for control freaks). I used the accelerator and brake and put the Escape into Drive and Reverse as necessary. The system safely steered the Escape into the parking spot. I have to admit, I did it more than once, as the first time didn’t look very respectable or safe.

The exterior of the new Ford Escape has more curves on this year’s model; less of a boxy look. As a result, the front end is more aerodynamic, allowing for better fuel economy. So not only is the new body style more functional, but the new curvatures and creases give the Escape a more European look. Maybe that is what I have at my age, a more European look…

FordEscapeToeUnderLiftgateMy favorite feature is also something the folks at Ford are very proud of, and that is the power liftgate. Don’t confuse the “Ford power liftgate” with the ones you can control from your fob or push a button inside the cargo area to close. The 2013 Escape has a sensor under the rear bumper, so when you kick your foot under it, the liftgate opens. That means if your arms are full with groceries, babies, sports equipment, lumber or Tiffany jewelry for me, you have no reason to drop what you have in your hands.

Now let’s venture inside the Ford Escape. As I look at all the gadgets, including the MyFord Touch, I feel I need to take a breath and not leave the driveway until I understand all the great features. The Sync system has voice-control functions for the stereo, text-to-voice for some cell phones and Bluetooth connectivity. The Sync support was a big help for me to understand the Sync system. The Escape has a 12-volt outlet as well as an aux jack and a USB input.FordEscapeInside

Now that I am settled in, I checked with my passengers. My 30-something daughter Julia had plenty of leg room and enjoyed the second row’s reclining seatback. The child safety seat was easy to install and had two sets of lower Latch anchors. The Escape Titanium has the electronic stability system with anti-roll control, traction control and seven airbags, including side curtains for both rows. It wins all kinds of safety awards and I can see why.

The 2013 Ford Escape base model starts at $23,365, with the top of the line Titanium, which I drove, starting at $35,130. I enjoyed the drive, the parallel-park feature and power liftgate, but I’m still waiting for the Tiffany jewelry.

If you haven’t driven a Ford lately, the 2013 Ford Escape is the one to try.

For more reviews, go to www.twofortheroadusa.com.

 

CarCorner Review: 2013 Lexus ES 350 – Nice Spindle!

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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

Click to read more about Cathy and Bill.

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.
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