2017 Toyota 4Runner 4X4

Who Needs a Road?

This month’s article is the fourth answer to the question, “What type of vehicle works best for camping?” So far, we have reviewed a Crossover, a Minivan, and an AWD Wagon. This month we hit the trail with a 4×4 SUV.

For those readers who have missed my previous three articles, my goal is to look at four different types of vehicles and how they stack up to a camping adventure. All articles highlight the pros and cons of each vehicle category along with my personal camping experiences. 

Our fourth vehicle category is the 4×4 SUV and our test vehicle is the 2017 Toyota 4Runner. I would like to start by sending out a thank you to Christine Henley of Toyota for helping me to secure my test vehicle at the last moment.

This camping adventure took my son and another father-son team deep into the back hills of Livermore, California for a Boy Scout excursion. As we hit the last couple of miles, I was elated to be behind the wheel of a 4×4-drive vehicle with the confidence and capability of the 2017 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium.

Our scout camp was built in the 1940s and it doesn’t appear that the road was ever resurfaced or even well-maintained. You could almost hide a VW Beetle in some of the pot holes! Lucky for us, the 4Runner managed them with ease.

A group of four people out camping can require a lot of space to transport their equipment. The 4Runner (with slide deck) had more than enough room with 46.3 cubic feet of rear cargo space. If you are wondering what the “Slide Deck” is, well to help people load and remove items from the rear cargo area, Toyota created a “deck” that slides out above the floor, allowing for easy access and removal of your stuff. It was great when we had to load and unload our packed cooler from the back.

The 4Runner is one of the few truck-based, body-on-frame SUVs left on the market. Most have moved over to car-based frames called CUV or Crossovers. This structure allows the 4Runner to master some serious off-roading, as well as shuttling the family around town. It combines the characteristics of being refined, accommodating, and confident. One difference between an SUV and a CUV is the ride. SUVs ride like a truck, but also handle dirt-filled roads better.

Most recently redesigned for the 2014 model year, the 2017 Toyota 4Runner is stylish with a self-assured attitude. From north to south, the body is well-balanced. The front feels aggressive with its powerful grille and headlights resembling eyes that seem self-assured. The ground clearance on the 4×4 sits at 9.6-inches and you feel the height as your cruise down the road.

Inside of the 2017 4Runner, the center dash is boxed-framed with large knobs to control the radio and air systems. You’ll find off-road switches and knobs in an aircraft fashion near the dome lights.

I found the 4Runner, at least our trim level, to have a number of high-tech features, however, it left me without a push-start button. Door-mounted open buttons were nowhere to be seen, forcing me to grab for the keys each time I opened a door. The interior was comfortable, and the components were well-placed. A 110-volt plug was located in the rear compartment.

For 2017, the Toyota 4Runner comes in the following configurations: Limited (2WD and 4WD), SR5 (2WD and 4WD), SR5 Premium (2WD and 4WD), TRD Off-Road 4×4, TRD Off-Road Premium 4×4, and TRD Off-Road Pro 4×4.

All 4Runners are powered by the same power-plant, a 4.0-liter V-6 motor that generates 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque that is matted to a 5-speed automatic transmission. This combination works wells and easily transports you to your daily activities or up the next hill ridge. The 4Runner sits on top of the Tacoma chassis, but with a better suspension setup delivering an enhanced ride.

Cool Features:

  • Slide Deck
  • Bilstein custom off-road shocks (TRD PRO Series
  • Rear Liftgate Power Window

The safety features are complete with Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology (SST)®, driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System, driver and front passenger TAP, front seat-mounted side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, and front and all row (third-row airbags on all models) roll-sensing side curtain airbags (RSCA), driver and front passenger active headrests, anti-theft alarm system with an engine immobilizer, Front and Rear Parking Assist Sonar (Limited only), Hill Start Assist Control, Downhill Assist Control (SR5 and Limited 4×4 only), and Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS).

In Summary –The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is a wonderful vehicle if you’re looking for the sturdiness of a truck-based platform with, as my little scout would say, “Pro-skills” when driving off-payment. The 4Runner is blended with high-tech and off-road features that will take care of your needs. It may not ride like a car, but the buyers of the 4Runner aren’t expecting or wanting it to. They desire the independence and adept ability to master the beaten path.

This is the end of my 2017 Camping Vehicle Series. I hope you have enjoyed it.


2017 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium
Base price:                  $39,295as driven: $42,455(including destination & optional

Engine:                       4.0-liter 6-Cylinder

Horsepower:             270 hp

Torque:                       278 lb.-ft.

Transmission:            5-speed automatic

Drive:                          4-Wheel Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger (7-passenger with the optional third row seats)
Ground Clearance:    9.0-inches

Cargo space:               46.3 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4,675pounds 

EPA mileage:              City 17/Hwy 21/Comb 18 MPG

Wheel Base:                 109.8inches

Warranty:                    3 years/36,000-miles

Also consider:             Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder


2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country

All-Season Performance!

This month’s article is the third installment to the question “What type of vehicle works best for camping?” So far, we have reviewed a Crossover and a Minivan. This month we take a trip in an AWD wagon.

For those readers who missed my past two articles, my goal is to look at three or four different types of vehicles and how they stack up to a camping adventure. I  highlight the pros and cons of each vehicle category along with my personal camping experiences. 

Our third vehicle category is the wagon in the form of the very capable 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD. The category was called “station wagon” for years, but has now been shortened to just “wagon.”

I remember growing up taking trips in my parents’ Buick Estate Wagon – the biggest of the wagons. It had tons of power but not the best on handling. It was like driving a big boat. It was completely different than Volvo’s V90 Cross Country T6 AWD. The Volvo provides you with power, handling, and an array of features to boot!

The fact that the V90 Cross Country comes in AWD speaks to its capabilities. If you hit a rough uneven patch of dirt road, no sweat, the AWD eats it up and keeps you heading toward your destination. The V90 is part of Volvo’s new flagship 90 series and feels part SUV, wagon and sedan. With that said, the 90 series is available in these forms: SUV, sedan and, of course, wagons.

For me, when it comes to camping, there are four main things I need in a vehicle: cargo space for all of my camping gear (I really need to change over to light weight, compact camping stuff), seating for at least four, minor off-road capabilities, and lastly, comfort.The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD possesses all four characteristics. The cargo volume starts with over 35 cu. ft., seats five (and up to seven, but you lose the rear storage area), comes in AWD with a ground clearance of 6.0 inches, and a suspension and interior that keeps the ride enjoyable.

The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country is available in to trims: V90 T5 FWD and V90 T6 AWD. Both models come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder motor, but the T6 adds a supercharger to the turbocharger boosting the horse power from 250 to 316 hp. Both models are teamed up with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

When you first look at the V90 you get a sense of movement thanks in part to the bright red rear taillights that angle upward and forward framing the rear windowin a red glow. You have to look twice as the appearance almost resembles an SUV minus the extra high roofline. The AWD model raises the ground height and in turn the sheet metal is elevated over the wheels with black wheel arch extensions creating an off-road aggressiveness.

The interior starts with Cross Country leather upholstery seat services: a panoramic sunroof, dark walnut wood inlays, and a large 9-inch command touch screen in the center dash that directs you to the navigation, radio, phone and other areas. The leather seats felt firm and comfortable. The center

command screen wasn’t as friendly as I would like, but at the same time had cool features including temperature information for your current city location. There is plenty of room for your phone, cups and two USB ports. The driver’s dash displays your navigation, temperature and time in convenient eye view. A con would be the interior height is much lower than that of a SUV or Minivan, so avoid stacking your gear too high.

Cool Features:

  • Temperature and weather information
  • Convenient rear air vents
  • 9-inch touch screen

The definition of the word Safety must have the word Volvo in it as Volvo has a reputation for being at the fore-front of security. The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD is loaded with safety features including the following: City Safe low speed collision system; pedestrian, cyclist, and large animal detection system; pilot assist semi-autonomous drive system; driver adaptive front passenger dual-stage airbag system; Multiple-Threshold Front Airbags (SRS), side curtain airbags; lane departure assist system, and more.

In Summary –The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD has earned the AWD wagon category and V90 itself, a favorable position on my list, for great vehicles to take camping. Besides camping, the Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD is great for all trips from the family beach outing, to the friend’s getaway, to the snowy ski slopes. The V90 has great styling, performance, power and technology. It’s on my list…

Stay tuned for the next camping special review!


2017 Volvo V90 Cross CountryT6 AWD
Base price:                  $55,300as driven: $64,640(including destination & optional

Engine:                       2.0-liter 4-Cylinder supercharged and turbocharged

Horsepower:               316 hp

Torque:                       295 lb.-ft.

Transmission:           8-speed automatic

Drive:                         AWD-Wheel Drive

Seating:                      7-passenger
Turning radius:        37.4 feet

Cargo space:             35 to 71.3 cubic feet

Curb weight:             4,982pounds  

EPA mileage:            City 21/Hwy 31/Comb 25 MPG

Wheel Base:                115.8inches

Warranty:                  4 years/50,000-miles

Also consider:           Audi A4 Allroad


2018 Honda Odyssey

A Sports Car Minivan!

Hello Again. This month’s article is the second part to the question “What type of vehicle works best for camping?” For those readers who missed the first article in August 2017 (2017 Kia Sorento Crossover), my goal is to look at three different types of vehicles and how they stack up to a camping adventure, and highlight the pros and cons of each vehicle category along with my personal camping experiences. 

Our second vehicle category is the minivan and, in particular, the 2018 Honda Odyssey. These days it’s almost unfair to call the current “minivans” mini. When the first minivan arrived in 1984 in the form of the Chrysler minivan, it was only 175.9-inches long compared to a full-size Dodge van stretching 212-inches. The 2018 Honda Odyssey is 203.2-inches long, which is almost as large as what was considered a “full-size” van.

People may also be thinking, “Take a minivan camping? Its purpose is to take the family to school sporting events.” I can personally tell you a minivan can be that perfect camping vehicle. You have two wide doors to get people and things in and out. There is plenty of storage for your camping gear in the back, especially if you lower the third row of seats flat like the Honda Odyssey allows. The overall height is lower than an SUV or truck, so the lifting is a little easier as well.The 2018 Honda Odyssey’s cargo room ranges from 32.8 cu ft. (behind the 3rd row seat), 88.8 cu ft. (behind the 2nd row seat), 144.9 cu ft. (behind the 1st row seat), and 172.6 cu ft. of passenger volume. That’s a lot of room!

For 2018, the Honda Odyssey is completely redesigned. The Odyssey has been the best-selling minivan in America for the past seven years. This fifth-generation Odyssey raises the bar for performance, cabin quietness, family-friendly interior space, comfort and connectivity in the minivan segment. It is available in the following trim levels: LX ($29,900), EX ($33,860), EX-L ($37,360), Touring ($44,510), and the Elite ($46,670).

Offering customers greater value than ever before, the 2018 Honda Odyssey development team substantially increased comfort and convenience features such as standard Honda Sensing® technology, new Display Audio system with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, and new Magic Slide 2nd-row seats™ in EX and above trims, for example. The line-topping Odyssey Touring and Elite models round out the Odyssey lineup with a long list of available new premium features and technologies, including CabinWatch™ day/night video monitor, CabinTalk™ in-car PA system, 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi, new Rear Entertainment System (RES) with Blu-ray and streaming video, hands-free power tailgate, heated steering wheel, LED accent lighting, and more.

The 3.5-liter engine is new and packs 280 horses under the hood. Now here’s the real kicker: all models except for the Touring and Elite mate the 3.5-liter to a 9-speed automatic transmission with Paddle shifters. If that wasn’t enough, the Touring and Elite both include a 10-speed auto transmission with Paddle shifters! And if you were wondering, yes it accelerates like a performance vehicle, while mastering corners with exhilaration.The styling on the Odyssey feels more like an SUV than a minivan from many angles. The front end is an intentional clone of the brand’s Pilot crossover and Civic with active grille shutters to improve aerodynamic efficiency on the highway. The hood and sides are carved with deep sporty swoops and “lightning bolt” chrome belt lines.

Inside, Honda has added many soft-touch materials creating a more expensive look and feel. In the center of the dash is a large screen that is the main control center. All of the side windows had shade screens helping to keep the sun out and the shade in. Honda worked hard to make the cabin as outside, noise-free as possible – maybe too quiet as I didn’t hear the ambulance until it was about 30-feet away. The only caveat is that the second row of seats does not fold flat or tilt forward. In fact, you must remove them if you want a fully-flat rear cargo area and they weigh around 70 lbs. each. 

My Elite trim included the new CabinWatch and CabinTalk features that allow you to watch the kids in the back two rows and speak to them through the rear speakers or headphones if they are listening to the DVD entertainment system. Other cool interior features include: built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Smartphone-inspired infotainment system, CabinControl App, built-in vacuum cleaner, wireless smart phone charger and digital gauge cluster.

The cargo area is well-suited to carry your camping gear including: a tent, three large plastic totes, a medium size cooler, fishing poles, three folding chairs, two medium-sized bags of clothes, a box of wood, three sleeping bags, three pillows, small cooler and a bag of sheets and blankets and other small items. In the front center console was a 110-volt power plug.

Cool Features:

  • CabinWatch and CabinTalk
  • Standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can access popular smartphone features including: maps, text messages and music
  • 110-volt power inverter plug
  • Rear Blue Ray DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones and remote
  • Built-in Vacuum cleaner
  • Wireless Smart phone charger
  • Built-in WiFi system

The 2018 Honda Odyssey is loaded with safety features including the following: Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) Body Structure, Dual-Stage, Multiple-Threshold Front Airbags (SRS), Front Side Airbags, Three-Row Side Curtain Airbags with Rollover Sensor, Driver’s and Front Passenger’s Knee Airbags, Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System, Smart Entry with Walk-Away Auto Lock and more. Some of these items are optional safety features for purchase.

In Summary – The 2018 Honda Odyssey is a premier minivan at a premier price. The Honda team managed to equip the Touring and Elite models with almost every new high-tech feature available. If they could change the second-row seats to fold in half and flip up, the vehicle would be almost perfect. The power and performance was sports car-like. The new styling is fun and racy. As for camping, I have found that minivans are the most convenient way to comfortably load up passengers and your cargo. My suggestion is to head over to a Honda dealer if your family is looking for the multi-person people-mover that almost has it all.

Stay tuned for the 4-11 as I am in search of a Pickup to complete our final comparison!


2018 Honda Odyssey Elite 
Base price:                  $46,670 as driven: $47,610(including destination & optional

Engine:                       3.5-liter V6

Horsepower:             280 hp

Torque:                       262 lb.-ft.

Transmission:            10-speed automatic

Drive:                          FWD-Wheel Drive

Seating:                       8-passenger
Turning radius:         39.64feet

Cargo space:              32.8 to 155.7 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4,593 pounds

EPA mileage:             City 19/Hwy 28/Comb 22 MPG

Wheel Base:                118.1inches

Warranty:                   3 years/36,000-miles

Also consider:            Chrysler Town & Country, Ford Transit Connect, Kia

                                      Sedona, Toyota Sienna


2017 Hyundai Veloster

Three Doors…And Good to Go!

Two-doors, three-doors, four-doors, five-doors; who’s counting? Hyundai is and their magic number is three when it comes to the 2017 Veloster and three is the perfect number! If the Veloster came in two-doors you would probably end up paying more for car insurance as two-door vehicles are considered sport cars. If it was equipped with four-doors, well, you would be driving a sedan. Let’s face it, with a name like Veloster it better lean more towards the sporty side than the practical direction.

The Veloster entered the market in 2011 to replace the aging Hyundai Tiburon. With its quirkiness of having three-doors adding to its unique appeal, the Veloster has created a category with no direct competitors. The underpinnings are provided by the last-generation Elantra. The styling is part hatchback and part coupe. The only changes for 2017 are the addition of HD Radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.The 2017 Hyundai Veloster comes in the following configurations: Base ($18,100), Value Edition ($21,350), Turbo R-Spec ($21,600), and Turbo ($22,600). The three-door styling is distinctive with a door on the driver’s side and two “full-size” doors on the passenger side. Saturn used to offer a third-door but it was very small. The Veloster’s rear passenger door allows for easy entries and exits.

The styling of the 2017 Veloster screams “let’s have fun.” It’s lower stance and height, sharply angled roof line, hard and soft body strokes, and rear wheels pushed as far back as possible create the image of a bottle rocket lit and ready to fly. Add in the panoramic sunroof (part of the Tech package for Turbo – a $2700 package) and the Veloster looks pronounced from the outside and inside.

The interior of the Veloster has received mixed reviews. The front seats are comfortable yet, for me, personally, the lumbar support was a little too-inflated and I couldn’t find a way to tone it down. The back seats have nice legroom, but the sloping roof steals away some desired headroom. Yes, we pay for a sporty design!The rear seats hold two people separated by cup holders and a minor pocket for unsecured storage.  The front dash has two 12v plugs but only one USB port. The Tech package for Turbo includes a 110 outlet.  The center of the dash lays out the vents and controls in a “V” shape accentuating the Veloster name.

The Veloster engines are shared with the Hyundai Accent and range in horsepower from 138 HP to 201 HP on the turbo version. Now the zippy look has the horses to back up the sporty flare. All models come standard with a six-speed manual Transmission or a 6-speedEcoShift® Dual Clutch transmission, except the Turbo R-Spec which is manual only. The Turbo is also available with a 7-speedEcoShift® Dual Clutch transmission for an extra $1,200.

Cool Features:

  • Three-door design
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • 110-volt power inverter plug (requires the Tech package for Turbo)

The 2017 Hyundai Veloster comes well-equipped with safety features including the following: Vehicle Stability Management System, Electronic Stability Control, 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, driver and front passenger side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, rearview camera, driver’s blind spot mirror.

In Summary –The 2017 Hyundai Veloster is a fun-to-drive little sports car, especially when equipped with the turbo engine. The styling is amusing and clever as well as sporty. The rear seats fit adults, but might be considered more child-appropriate. The turbo 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers the power while the unique sport-tuned steering and suspension completesthe aggressive package. If you are looking for a vehicle that doesn’t conform with norm, then jump into the 2017 Veloster and experience an entertaining ride!


2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Base price:                  $22,600 as driven: $26,260(including destination & optional

Engine:                       1.6-liter 4-Cylinder Turbo

Horsepower:              201 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque:                       195 lb.-ft. @ 1750 ~ 4500 rpm

Transmission:            6-speed manual

Drive:                          Front-Wheel Drive

Seating:                       4-passenger
Turning radius:         34.12feet

Cargo space:              15.5 cubic feet

Curb weight:              2,877 pounds

Fuel capacity:             13.2 gallons

EPA mileage:              City 25/Hwy 33/Comb 28 MPG

Wheel Base:                  104.3inches

Warranty:                    10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:             Fiat 500 Abarth, Mini Hardtop, Nissan Juke, Volkswagen


2017 Kia Sorento Camping Wars – SUV/Crossover

With summer upon us, I have found that one of the primary questions around the water cooler is “What are you and your family going to do this summer?” This year, the trophied response was “camping,” followed by my co-water-cooler friends asking me “What type of vehicle works best for camping?”

This question gave me the inspiration for this article, which will be the first of three that will highlight the pros and cons of three vehicle categories along with my personal camping experiences of each. That said, what are our choices outside of renting an RV?

The three most common vehicles, are an SUV (Crossover), a Minivan, and a Truck, where the first two choices offer the security of an enclosed area for your stuff. The pickup’s attributes include a large bed for your outdoor wilderness provisions and perhaps, more off-road capabilities.I enjoy and began the sport of camping several years ago, thanks to “the bug” that I caught from an old girlfriend’s family. They would pack up the tents, coolers, hot dogs and family to recreate their home in the woods for two weeks every year. After joining them for a couple of days, I found that I was hooked and started buying supplies.

In the beginning, there was enough room in my 1966 Mustang for camping gear for two people. Now, however, with the addition of kids and equipment, I need a canyon of cargo space. When my daughter, Cayla, and I started a tradition of camping adventures, my cabinets began multiplying with the essentials needed. The space grew from one half cabinet to two large ones.

A request went out into the universe, and the 2017 Kia Sorento SXL AWD Crossover was delivered. At first glance, I was happy to see that the Kia came with AWD in case a dusty trail crossed our path. The 2017 Sorento comes in four trim levels: L, LX, EX, SX, and SXL and range in price starting at $25,400 to $45,700. All except the L is available in both FWD and AWD.

There are three engine choices that vary on the trim level. They include: 2.4-liter I-4 with 185 hp/178 lb. ft. torque, and a 6-speed automatic transmission, 2.0-liter turbo I-4 with 240 hp, and 260 lb. ft. torque and a 6-speed automatic, and a 3.3-liter V6 with 290 hp and 252 lb. ft. torque, and 6-speed automatic.

Some new features of the 2017 Sorento include and again are based on trim level: Telematics Audio with head unit Android Auto™ , Apple CarPlay®, Advanced Technology Package, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Paddle shifters, and Dynamic Bending Headlamps.

The styling on the Sorento is both sophisticated and attractive. The lines are modern and clean with just enough contour to create the presence of an elegant and bold silhouette. From the front, the signature Kia grille is met with a bank of quad running lights below the headlights to help illuminate your way. My trim, the SXL, embodied a full-length sunroof that furnished a panoramic view of the sky. The roof line flowed downward into the tailgate.

The interior was comfortable with plenty of amenities and legroom. The wood trim touches created an upscale feel and the entire vehicle felt solid. The dash was a mixture of soft touch points and a 7-in LCD display panel. Our model included front ventilated and heated 10-way power seats trimmed in Nappa leather. The two rapid USB charging ports kept our phones fully charged while out exploring. In the back, there’s a third row of seats for two extra passengers.

The cargo area allowed: a tent, three large plastic totes, a medium size cooler, fishing poles, three folding chairs, two medium-sized bags of clothes, a box of wood and other supplies. The backseat alongside of my 9-year old son, Chase, embraced three sleeping bags, three pillows, small cooler and a bag of sheets and blankets. At the back of the center console was a 110-volt power inverter plug which worked perfectly for Chase’s portable DVD player.

Cool Features:

  • Panoramic Sunroof
  • Standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can access popular smartphone features including: maps, text messages and music
  • 110-volt power inverter plug

The 2017 Kia Sorento comes well-equipped with safety features including the following: Vehicle Stability Management System, Electronic Stability Control, 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Hillstart Assist Control, driver and front passenger advanced airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, roof-mounted side-curtain airbags with rollover sensors, rearview camera, driver’s blind spot mirror. Some of these items are optional safety features for purchase.

In Summary – The 2017 Kia Sorento is a wonderful representative for the SUV/Crossover class. It delivered plenty of power without sputtering over hills with its 3.3-liter V6 motor. We loaded the Sorento up with our camping gear and our vehicle took it without hesitation. I must admit that it would have been difficult but not impossible, to create room for one more person due to my efforts to be overly-prepared and overly-stocked.

We never did feel uncomfortable in the 2017 Sorento, and in fact, we left and returned in a very relaxed state. The verdict – an SUV/Crossover definitely wins over my 1966 Ford Mustang and all sedans as well. Having the enclosed space for our stuff adds a level of security while traveling. Properly organizing and packing your supplies optimizes the amount of people and cargo you can transport. The raised height of an SUV/Crossover improves visibility when driving, and…

Stay tuned for the 4-11 on how an SUV/Crossover compares against a Minivan and Pickup!


2017 Kia Sorento SXL AWD 
Base price:                  $45,700 as driven: $46,595(including destination & optional

Engine:                       3.3-liter V6

Horsepower:               290 hp

Torque:                       252 lb.-ft.

Transmission:            6-speed automatic

Drive:                          AWD-Wheel Drive

Seating:                       7-passenger
Turning radius:         18.6 feet

Cargo space:              154.2 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4,211 pounds

EPA mileage:             City 17/Hwy 23/Comb 19 MPG

Wheel Base:                109.4inches

Warranty:                   10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Jeep Cherokee, Mitsubishi  



2017 Hyundai Ioniq: Electrifying!

“Going Green” is on everyone’s lips these days, and choosing to live environmentally is responsible. Sound decisions can help protect our environment for generations to come. This eco decision-making follows some adults into their car purchasing habits as they purchase cars for the future: hybrids or all-electric vehicles.

For 2017, Hyundai introduces the Ioniq:  hybrid, plug-in hybrid or an all-electric vehicle. Hyundai claims “dibs” as the first manufacturer to add a battery-electric model that does not have an engine. The 2017 Ioniq Hybrid made its debut in Blue, SEL, and Limited trim levels, while the Electric and Plug-in Hybrid versions offer Base and Limited trims. My test vehicle was the all-electric version so this review will focus on this particular model.The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq is a small hatchback that is all about the green. With at least a 12-hour 110-volt charge you will get a range of approximately 110 to 125 miles. It can be an easy drive for routine commuting or trips in town.

We took a trip up to Calistoga which was about 88 miles from door step to hotel step and were fortunate enough to get an extra charge on the way to Raymond Vineyards. They have great wines, but don’t drink and drive (just saying)!An issue occurred, however, when the hotel was not able to allow us to plug-in and recharge overnight. The next morning, this forced us to go in search of a plug-in station. Obviously, I did not plan this trip out very well, and this highlights the need to plan properly when driving an all-electric vehicle.

In designing the exterior of Ioniq, Hyundai concentrated on its future-motivated character and the appeal to make a Hybrid look like a hybrid that isn’t something fun and sporty. The fluid exterior lines help emphasize its aerodynamic body and surface volume. The sporty, hatchback-inspired profile is motivated by aerodynamics and creates an energetic feel. These attributes come together to boost aerodynamics further, which, when combined with various other smart efficiency solutions, produce an industry-leading 0.24 drag coefficient.

The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq will seat five, but only two adults comfortably fit in the back. The interior is clean, comfortable and is standard with cloth upholstery and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a power driver’s seat with lumbar support and memory settings are also available. There is an array of storage pockets in the front and Hyundai claims that the Ioniq delivers more trunk space than its competitors. The Ioniq’s front seats are adjustable, and there is plenty of space for adults of average height. However, those with longer legs may be cramped in the back seat. Additionally, the seating fabric is pedestrian, and the seats could use more thigh support.Cool Features:

  • Mobile Device Wireless Charging pocket
  • Standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allows you to access popular smartphone features including: maps, text messages and music
  • You can get a tax credit because of its environmental impact
  • According to the E.P.A. the Electric vehicle is the most efficient car you can buy in the United States

The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq comes to you packed with safety features including the following: Vehicle Stability Management System, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control System,4-wheel, 4-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, Hillstart Assist Control, driver and front passenger advanced airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side-impact airbags, roof-mounted side-curtain airbags with rollover sensors, driver’s knee airbag, rearview camera, driver’s blind spot mirror. Optional safety features are available as well.

In Summary – The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq brings the environmentally-friendly and ecologically-responsible together with the sport and style of a handsome hatchback. In mapping out your trips, you will find that the Ioniq will take you farther than to the mall—with a range of approximately 125 miles, the Ioniq would be a great commuter vehicle. I would also recommend having a 220-volt outlet installed for faster charging times. So, if you are searching for an eco-enjoyable and “to the nines” dressed vehicle, then the Ioniq should be on your list. It will pleasantly surprise you!


2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric


Base price:                $32,500 as driven: $36,885(including destination & optional

Engine:                      88 kW Electric Motor

Horsepower:             118 Horsepower Equivalent

Torque:                      215 lb.-ft.

Transmission:           Single-speed Reduction Gear

Drive:                         Front-Wheel Drive

Seating:                     5-passenger

Cargo space:             23 cubic feet

Curb weight:            3,164 pounds  

EPA mileage:           City 150/Hwy 122/Comb 136 MPGe

Wheel Base:              106.3 inches

Warranty:                 10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:           Chevrolet Bolt EV, Nissan LEAF, Toyota Prius, Volkswagen e-Golf


2017Mazda 6 The Sporty Family Sedan!

The battle of the mid-size car has grown not only in participants, but also in its threads of complexity. As time has flown by, the physical size of the mid-size vehicles gained in inches, and technology of the elite is now embedded common elements. Their ride and performance match the sporty elegance styled into flowing metal, chrome and plastics. The mid-size sedans are not your grandparents’ boring vehicle, but are now found in the driveways of all generations – even your grandparents’! The 2017 Mazda 6 is a proud member of this elite club and remains one of the best family sedan choices.

The 2017 Mazda6 is available in not one, not two, but three trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. Prices start at MSRP $22,780 and work its way to $31,530. The Mazda 6 experienced its last major styling change in 2013, and has stayed about the same, including the 2017 model. Fitted with muscular front fenders, an arched coupe-like roofline and a flashy rear end, the lines are beautiful and clearly parade the Mazda design flare.

To make your power options an easy choice, all the trim levels come with the same 4-cylinder SKYACTIV gas engine mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. The power generator is a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder with 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Not the highest HP’s however weighing in at just around 3,200 pounds, it’s clearly enough to enjoy the ride. With the automatic transmission, you’ll enjoy EPA scores of 26/38/31 mpg (city/highway/combined).

I was impressed with the interior space and trunk room in the Mazda 6. The folding rear seats add to the convenience and flexibility of its use. The seats in my Grand Touring model looked amazing in white with dark gray trim beads and were very comfortable all the way around. Like with most sedans they claim to seat 5 but 4 adults are definitely more comfortable. Some cool “optional” features, you’ll enjoy include: rear heated seats, paddle shifters, heads up display, driving “Sport” mode, and multiple electronic connections.

Cool Features:

  • Rain Sensing Wipers
  • Lane Departure Warning System
  • Heads Up Display

The 2017 Mazda is well-equipped with safety features including (some are available as standard, optional, or not available on certain trims): dual front advanced airbags, driver and front-passage side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, ABS brakes with Brake Assist System, Electronic Stability Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, rear camera, driver’s blind spot mirror, blind spot monitoring system, Cross Traffic Alert, and more. Other optional safety features include: Smart Brake Support with Collision Warning system, Lane Departure Warning System, and Lane Keep Assist System on the Grand Touring trim.

In Summary – The 2017 Mazda 6 knows how to combine the practical family sedan without making you feel you are driving a boring one. The Mazda 6 delivers a fun-to-drive experience while looking sharp and sporty. It’s loaded with fun and useful tech features and drives with confidence. If you are looking for a stylish mid-size family sedan then check out the Mazda 6.


2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring

Base price:                  $30,695 as driven: $34,530 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine

Horsepower:             184hp @ 5700RPM

Torque:                       185 @ 3250 RPM

Transmission:            6-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          Front-Wheel Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           36.7 feet

Cargo space:              14.8 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3,305 pounds

Fuel capacity:             16.4 gallons     

EPA mileage:              City 27/Hwy 35

Wheel Base:                 111.4inches

Warranty:                    3 years/36,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:              Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan  

                                        Altima, Toyota Camry

2017 Hyundai Elantra

Sporty& fun!

How the times are changing. We have seen the progression in design, quality and performance improve over the years for many Asian automotive manufacturers from Japan to Korea. One of the lines that has taken the largest leap, especially in the past ten years has been Hyundai—namely the Hyundai Elantra.

The Elantra, now in its 6th generation, first entered the market in October of 1990. It was a simple car that lacked in quality, styling and performance and it stayed that way for the next three generations, until the magical 5th rendition in 2010. Swooping lines began flowing across the apex points forming a dynamic and aggressive profile. Then, in 2015, Hyundai engineers and designers launched a more mature version that softened the angles.

The 2017 Elantra sedan is a total redesign and is available in five trim levels: SE ($17,150) Eco ($20,650), Sport ($21,650) and Limited ($22,370). Most of the 2017 Elantras come with a new 2.0-liter 1-4 with 147hp (26 mpg City and 36 mpg Highway) and 132 lb.-ft. of torque mated to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The Eco model is powered by a 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder (28 mpg City and 37 mpg Highway) with 128hp and 156 lb.-ft.of torque and is paired to a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission.

The Elantra Sport is the newest trim in the lineup and was my test model. It is a blast to drive. It was designed to target the Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen Jetta GLI. The Sport is powered by a 1.6-liter turbo 4 rated around 200hp and 190 lb.-ft. mated to either a 6- speed manual (22/30 mpg) or a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic (26/33 mpg). To add to the fun, the Elantra Sport sits on a performance-oriented suspension.

As noted above, the new styling for 2017 appears more conservative than the swooping lines of the exiting model. Is it better? Well, that depends on what you are looking for, however, the 2016, with its curvy attitude might be considered more exciting and sporty. With that said, the 2017 overall appearance is very nice.  The changes are apparent, starting with the new, large grille.

The interior is comfortable and spacious with subtle sporty-trim touches inside – especially on the Sport trim. The seats were comfortable with the back suited for more for two or three passengers.

An amazing option for this price group is front and rear heated seats. The infotainment system is controlled through the touchscreen and large clear buttons are available to operate the audio functions including knobs for volume and tuning. Climate controls are laid out smartly displaying temperature and other custom settings on the dual-zone system.

Steering and handling have both improved over last year’s model with a new rear suspension design, but, are not as engaging as the Honda Civic and Mazda3.

Cool Features:

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Segment First Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection
  • Frontand rear heated seats

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is well-equipped with safety features including: dual front advanced airbags, driver and front-passage side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, ABS brakes with Brake Assist System, Electronic Stability Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, rear camera, drivers blind spot mirror, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist (avail. on some models), and more. Optional safety features are Forward Collision Warning system, Lane Departure Warning system, and Smart Cruise Control on the Limited trim.

In Summary – The 2017 Hyundai Elantra is a fun vehicle to drive. In Hyundai’s typical style, you’ll find many technology features that you would expect from a more expensive model. This, plus Hyundai’s 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and assistance programs make the Elantra an excellent value.


2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport


Base price:                  $21,650as driven: $25,010(including destination & optional

Engine:                       1.6-liter Turbo GDI 4-cylinder engine

Horsepower:               201hp @ 6000RPM and 43hp

Torque:                       195 @ 1500 RPM

Transmission             6-Speedmanual

Drive:                          Front-wheel Drive

Seating:                       4-passenger

Turning circle:           17.4 feet

Cargo space:              14.4 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3,042 pounds

Fuel capacity              14 gallons        

EPA mileage:              City 22/Hwy 30

Wheel Base:                  106.3 inches

Warranty:                    10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:               Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla,

                                       Volkswagen Jetta


2017 Kia Niro: Crossover Value!

It seems that every automotive manufacturer is unveiling a new Crossover in their lineup, with Jaguar recently joining them. While it used to be the goal to have one crossover in your stable, now to be in the show you must have one in every size category. Even the junior mint sizes need to be fully equipped with all of the latest gadgets. One of the new entries in the subcompact field is the stunning, all-new, 2017 Kia Niro.

The Kia Niro began hitting dealerships in early 2017 and is available in five trim levels – FE, LX, EX, Touring, and a limited production Launch Edition.

The Niro FE, has a starting MSRP of $22,890 and 50-MPG (combined), and is equipped with an extensive list of standard features, including: 16-inch wheels, 6-way front seats, power windows, keyless entry, cruise control, 7-inch touchscreen display with rearview camera, UVO3 with Apple CarPlayTM3, Android AutoTM4 and a six-speaker audio system with steering-wheel-mounted controls.

Next up is the $23,200 LX trim, which adds Smart Key with push button start, roof rails and LED rear combination lamps. Among the extras added to EX, priced at $25,700, are: heated combination cloth and leather seating, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, heated power folding mirrors, front fog lamps, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Lane Change Assist (LCA) and driver assistance features.

The Launch Edition is available in Snow White Pearl or Aurora Black Pearl exterior colors. Drivers are offered an exclusive look via the unique Hyper Gray 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tires, unique metallic color grille, 10-way driver’s seat, 8-inch touchscreen navigation system, 8-speaker Harman Kardon® 6 premium audio—all for $28,000.

Touring trim, at $29,650, is equipped with an amazing array of additional features, including: power tilt/slide sunroof, front and rear park assist, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, 10-way power driver’s seat with memory and 8-speaker Harman Kardon® premium audio.

The Niro is a front-wheel drive crossover that provides 6.3 inches of ground clearance. Its SUV styling cues are in full force including simulated front and rear skid plates and gray plastic lower body and wheel arch trim. Thanks to the increased ground clearance, the driver and passenger do experience an elevated seating height–one of the trademarks of an SUV/Crossover.

The 2017 Niro is dressed with the sporty Kia grille and headlights that look like raised eyebrows. The outline of the body projects a shadow of a boxed figure with smoothed sporty edges.

One of the best features of the Niro in this time of rising gas prices and threats of a new 50-cent gas tax, is the combined 50 miles per gallon. The Niro was engineered from the ground up as a hybrid as it delivers the mpgs, and creates that green statement buzz.

The Niro combines an Atkinson-cycle, direct-injected 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor and lithium-polymer battery pack that generates 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. It might not sound like much, however, that’s what it takes to get 50+ mpg. Honestly, it still had good get-up-and-go. The Niro bypasses the usual CVT in favor of a 6-speed dual clutch transmission with a Sport-Drive mode.

The interior was comfortable in its two-tone trim. Like most Kias, it was loaded with high-tech features including: push button start, front heated and cooled seats, navigation with an 8-inch screen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smart phone integration, SiriusXM satellite radio and more. The stitching and trim around the air vents are colored in blue indicating a hybrid. The cargo space ranges from 19.4 cu-ft. to 54.5 cu-ft. with the second seats down.


Cool Features:

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Push-button start
  • Front heated and cooled seats

The 2017 Kia Niro is well-equipped with safety features including: dual front advanced airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, rollover sensor, ABS brakes with Brake Assist System, Electronic Stability Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, rear camera, blind spot detection and lane change assist available on EX-and-up trims, and more. Optional safety features are Forward Collision Warning system, Lane Departure Warning system, Smart Cruise Control, and Front and Rear Park Assist system.

In Summary – The 2017 Kia Niro is a fun little crossover that is only missing an AWD version. It is equipped with plenty of room, a fair amount of power, and solid steering and handling. The style is young, and cute with a touch of sophistication. Standard features and optional features mimic those on more upscale vehicles. Kia has introduced a test-worthy little crossover offering that’s worthy of your time.


2017 Kia Niro Touring


Base price:                  $29,650as driven: $30,545 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor

Horsepower:             104hp @ 5,700 RPM and 43hp

Torque:                       109 @ 2,200 RPM

Transmission:            6-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          Front-wheel Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           17.4 feet

Cargo space:              19.4 cubic feet

Curb weight:              3,106 pounds

Fuel capacity:             11.9 gallons     

EPA mileage:              City 51/Hwy 46

Wheel Base:                 106.3 inches

Warranty:                    10 years/100,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:              Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Toyota   



2017 Volvo S90: A Lesson in Elegance!

Around 25 years ago, my parents gave me their old Volvo 240. At the time, my daughter, Cayla, was born and we needed to replace one of our coupes with a four door sedan. I can’t say much about the 240’s shape – it was rectangle and boxy, but, it drove well, was considered one of the safest cars in its price range, and was reliable. With a new baby on board, safety was the ticket. Well, the years have passed way too quickly. My daughter is now 27-years old and Volvo today produces vehicles that continue to be leaders in safety. They are still reliable, and drive well. The biggest difference is that the styling is outstanding and the all-new 2017 Volvo S90 is proof that safe vehicles can also be beautiful!

The 2017 Volvo S90 sedan replaces the outgoing S80 in the Swedish-made product line; however, this isn’t a simple upgrade or minor change with a new name. This is a start-from-scratch; a fully re-engineered effort that delivers what I would consider to be the best Volvo ever. The S90 is the fully-reconceived flagship sedan that is built on a new platform launched last year on the XC90 crossover. It includes a new engine, a beautiful new design concept and not a single carry-over part from its previous model.

Under the permission of its new owners, China’s Geely Holding, Volvo has been allowed to completely rethink and redesign its largest sedan as well as its company’s overall design theme. Instead of chasing after the German sport sedans specification list, Volvo was encouraged to express itself by conceiving an elegant design, spacious and beautifully crafted interior, and a driving and performance experience that is second to none.

The 2017 Volvo S90 is produced in Sweden and available in four configurations: T5 Momentum ($46,950), T5 Inscription ($49,650), T6 AWD Momentum ($52,950), T6 AWD Inscription ($55,450). The T5 models are equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged generating 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The upgraded T6 2.0-liter 4-cylinder adds a belt-driven supercharger to pump more forced air into the turbo stream. This increases the horsepower to 316 and the torque to 295 lb.-ft. My test car was the S90 T6 AWD Inscription and I can tell you, it performs like a rocket.

The exterior is carved with the smooth outline of a coupe and elegance is infused into the curves and swoops of its shiny steel skin. The profile boasts bold and luxurious authority as it stands tall on its 19-inch wheels. The T-shaped headlights are themed as Thor’s Hammer and are laid in concert with the classically long Volvo hood, uniquely- shaped side glass and the scalloped grille. Sensors and cameras are place on all four poles creating a 360-degree aerial view when the transmission is requested to backup. I must admit, I have driven other cars that have this 360-degree view option and the Volvos for some reason take the items parallel to it (cars, bushes, etc.) and stretches them with giant height proportions which created an uneasy sensation when backing up.

The interior is truly worthy of praise. With plenty of room for four adult passengers and a smaller rider (in the center of the back seat), all will enjoy the blending of a living room couch, while having form-hugging seats that will keep you in place during the curviest of roads. Beautiful wood trim is decorated throughout the cabin. Every element of the interior is designed as a work-of-art, from the shifter to the speaker covers. The nine-inch center screen works in part like a tablet as you swipe from page to page to engage your adjustments. I am a guy who enjoys gadgets, but, I must admit, the screen replaced most of the typical control buttons, and attempting to drive and swipe at the same time was very distracting. I would prefer to have buttons which I can quickly access for the common functions.

The T6 trims are engineered with air suspension delivering a comfortable smooth ride or as Volvo coins it “a relaxed confidence.” The suspension loads up evenly and unloads out of a corner with the grace of a ballerina. Passengers will be pleased as there isn’t much bobbing or bouncing over imperfections in the road and the ride is extremely quiet, thanks to its active noise cancellation technology.

Cool Features:

  • Volvo’s Pilot Assist
  • 360 Aerial View in Reverse
  • Rear seats temperature control and heated seats

As we know, Volvo is known for being a leader in vehicle safety and the 2017 Volvo S90 is bursting at the seams with safety features. The S90 will be the first automobile with semi-autonomous driving technology standard across the line. The Pilot Assist system blends active cruise control with forward collision warning and lane-keep assist. This system lets the driver remove his or her hands from the steering wheel sporadically, for up to 15 seconds each time. Blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert systems are optional. There is also a Large Animal Detection system that tracks the movement of creatures like moose and deer, warning the driver, as it takes evasive action as necessary.

In Summary –The 2017 Volvo S90 is comparable to German sedans in comfort, performance and safety, but, at a much better price. It’s better-equipped than many luxury sedans and is loaded with technical features. The styling of the S90 hits the mark and creates a new standard for Volvo. The S90 is a beautiful and luxurious vehicle both inside and out.


2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription


Base price:                  $52,950as driven: $66,105 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       2.0-liter 4-cylinder Super and Turbo charged engine

Horsepower:               316 @ 5,700 RPM

Torque:                       295 @ 2,200 RPM

Transmission             8-Speedautomatic

Drive:                          AWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle            36.7 feet

Cargo space:              13.5 cubic feet

Curb weight:              4222 pounds

Fuel capacity:             15.9 gallons     

EPA mileage:             City 22/Hwy 31

Wheel Base:                115.8 inches

Warranty:                   4 years/50,000-miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            Cadillac CT6, Lexus GS, Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class