Don Adair's Seat Time

TUESDAY, SEPT. 16, 2014

North Idaho couple sells it all, hits the road

In October, Coeur d’Alene residents Jay and Jeanie Froehlich will put it all behind them and hit the road. The Froelichs, both in their early 50s, say they’re not retiring. They’re escaping. Their escape vehicle: A 20-foot, 2015 Lance four-seasons travel trailer. “It’s exciting, to...

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SUNDAY, AUG. 17, 2014

At the moment, the K900 is available only with a 420-hp V-8, with a 311-horsepower V-6 expected soon. Both incorporate direct injection and variable valve timing and match up with an eight-speed automatic transmission.  (Kia)

K900: Kia’s $60,000 flagship

Now and again a car comes along that challenges the established order and makes us rethink the idea of car. Kia’s new $60,000 K900 flagship is one of them. Positioned to compete with flagship models from brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus, it undercuts the...

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SATURDAY, AUG. 9, 2014

The compact crossover has remained resolutely compact; it exists in a no-man’s-land between large hatchbacks like the Nissan Juke and almost-midsize crossovers like Honda’s CR-V. (Hyundai)

Hyundai Tucson is a tidy package

By the terms of the unwritten rules of the automotive world, every car must grow larger with each succeeding generation. Larger, roomier, more powerful. It’s the automaker’s mantra. While Hyundai complies in nearly every case, its 2014 Tucson goes against the grain. The compact crossover...

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SATURDAY, AUG. 2, 2014

ts DNA dates to the late-‘70s, but the 2014 E Class wagon is fresh and vital. Fully made-over in 2010, the entire E Class family receives sweeping mid-cycle updates this year. A handsome new front end debuts, along with a batch of new safety technologies, an auto stop-start system and a new diesel engine. (Mercedes-Benz)

Mercedes-Benz E350: The not-so-retro wagon

Few things in life are as retro as a station wagon. Regardless, few cars are less retro than Mercedes-Benz's E350 Station Wagon. Once the wagon-of-choice for the well-heeled, Mercedes-Benz’s venerable mid-sizer has survived the wagon-killing onslaught of the SUV and its domesticated, sedan-based spawn, the...

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SUNDAY, JULY 20, 2014

Customers asked for a roomier cabin, so the 2014 Highlander is three inches longer and a half-inch wider. A redesigned rear suspension makes room for a third passenger in the third row, boosting capacity to eight, and increases behind-the-seats cargo capacity by 34 percent. 
 (Toyota)

2014 Highlander: Toyota delivers

Now might be a good time for Toyota to revive the old “You asked for it, you got it” slogan. Buyer input played a large role in this year’s make-over of the midsize Highlander crossover. Customers asked for a roomier cabin, so the 2014 Highlander...

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SATURDAY, JULY 12, 2014

SATURDAY, JULY 5, 2014

This year, Volkswagen’s compact Jetta sedan enjoys the benefits of a trickle-down product strategy. New to Jetta is a turbocharged, 1.8-liter engine that arrived earlier on such models as Passat, Beetle and CC.

It’s stronger, lighter and more efficient than the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine it replaces. (Volkswagen)

VW Jetta: Trickle-down theory at work

Mention “trickle down” in a political crowd and watch the sparks fly. It’s a different ballgame in the car world, though. This year, Volkswagen’s compact Jetta sedan enjoys the benefits of a trickle-down product strategy. New to Jetta is a turbocharged, 1.8-liter engine that arrived...

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SATURDAY, JUNE 28, 2014

The Charger’s  waspish waist and muscular flanks carry more than a hint of the Viper’s menace. Its powerful and protuberant grill is as blatant as a Mac truck’s. (Dodge)

Dodge Charger: Exuberant, economical muscle 

Retiring types should not become auto writers. We drive too many cars that draw too much attention. Your basic Camry, Escape and Passat may go unnoticed, but the double-take cars — the ‘Vettes, the Bentleys, the Plasma Purple Mitsubishi Mirages — can drive a shy...

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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25, 2014

The Fiesta ST rides 15 millimeters lower than standard trims and gets a sport-tuned suspension, a quicker steering ratio and more powerful brakes.  (Ford)

Ford Fiesta ST: Euro-flavored fun 

There’s no good reason to want Ford’s new Fiesta ST. Fun is its own good reason. The ST is a sharply focused, sport-tuned subcompact built by Ford in Spain. It debuted in Europe in 1976 and had a three-year US run, from 1978-80. In 2010,...

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MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2014

As it enters its twelfth generation, the plus-sized SUV has evolved into a well-rounded rig, with virtues that extend beyond its massive people- and load-carrying capacity. (Chevrolet)

Updated Suburban wears refinement well

For much of its 80-year lifespan, the Chevrolet Suburban was a blunt instrument. Heavy, inefficient and crude, it possessed a logging camp’s rustic charms. But as it enters its twelfth generation, the plus-sized SUV has evolved into a well-rounded rig, with virtues that extend beyond...

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MONDAY, JUNE 9, 2014

This year, the Crosstrek, already one of the more fuel-efficient crossovers, gets a hybrid variant The hybrid inherits most features of the up-level Limited trim and offers a modest fuel-efficiency bump.

Regular trims are powered by a four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. It can be paired with a five-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The same engine powers the hybrid, with the addition of an electric motor that adds 13 horsepower and 48 lb-ft. It is available only with the CVT. (Subaru)

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid: Subaru's green-car bid

In just its second year of sales, Subaru’s XV Crosstrek has become the company’s third most-popular vehicle. It trails only Forester and Outback in the sibling sales race and easily outsells the compact Impreza it’s based on. Following the trail blazed in 1994 by the...

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SUNDAY, JUNE 1, 2014

BMW’s new diesel not only sports sterling efficiency numbers (32 mpg city/45 mpg city/37 mpg combined), but does so in lively fashion. The 0-60 mph sprint comes up in the low-7-second range, about average for the sport-sedan class and quicker than the base, 180-hp/200 lb-ft 320i ($33,675; 24/36/28). (BMW)

BMW 328d: Strong dose of diesel

The EPA reckons you can drive your new BMW 3 Series diesel 678 highway miles between fuel stops. According to my highly non-scientific reckoning, that’s probably about right. The 2014 BMW 328d ($38,225) runs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine that compensates for its meager...

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WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2014

SATURDAY, MAY 24, 2014

Honda has proven remarkably surefooted as it tweaked its five-passenger crossover to meet demand and fend off the competition. Relying on solid engineering, efficient powertrains and a stream of passenger-friendly innovations, the CR-V’s tenders have kept it fresh and relevant. (Honda)

Honda CR-V: Pint-size colossus

Honda’s CR-V made its US debut in 1997. For most of the intervening years, it has stood like a pint-sized colossus over the compact crossover class, piling up a succession of sales titles. Honda has proven remarkably surefooted as it tweaked its five-passenger crossover to...

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SATURDAY, MAY 17, 2014

Thanks to Kia and its corporate parent Hyundai, the family sedan segment is awash in technology that a short time ago was the exclusive domain of the luxury segments.

Kia was among the first to understand that buyers of compact and midsize family sedans would spring for amenities common among larger cars. Hence the availability of such options as heated steering wheels, high-end leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats and ventilated front seats. (Kia)

Kia Optima: Midsize rule-breaker

Though it has to yet find the sales chart’s upper reaches, Kia’s Optima has changed the rules of the midsize sedan market. Thanks to Kia and its corporate parent Hyundai, the family sedan segment is awash in technology that a short time ago was the...

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SATURDAY, MAY 10, 2014

The Civic is available in sedan (from $19,180, including destination), and coupe ($18,980) body styles, and in gasoline, gas/electric hybrid and natural gas formats. The sedan can be had in fuel-efficient HF ($20,730), Hybrid ($25,425) and Natural Gas ($27,430) trims. The hot-shoe Si is available as a coupe ($23,580) or sedan ($23,780). (Honda)

Honda Civic: Growing its game

Last year, for what seems like the umpteenth year in a row, Honda’s Civic was the third-best-selling passenger car in the US and its best-selling compact. This means that more than 350,000 Americans bought a car known for its reliability, not its flash. I find...

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SATURDAY, MAY 3, 2014

The midsize, seven-passenger Santa Fe (not to be confused with the smaller Santa Fe Sport), shines brightly in a segment that includes such luminaries as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango and Nissan Pathfinder.

Its 290-horsepower V-6 is one of the most powerful engines in the class and its cabin is among the segment’s most attractive and best equipped. Under everyday conditions, ride and handling are very good. (Hyundai)

Santa Fe: Hyundai’s standout crossover

If you still don’t believe Hyundai is the real deal, it might be time to check out the Santa Fe crossover. The midsize, seven-passenger Santa Fe (not to be confused with the smaller Santa Fe Sport), shines brightly in a segment that includes such luminaries...

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SATURDAY, APRIL 26, 2014

The Soul is a little longer and wider this year, so its already-roomy cabin grows roomier still. A stiff new chassis and suspension upgrades calm what was once a jittery ride.  (Kia)

Kia Soul: Growing up painlessly

I suspect that on some level toddlers know growing up isn’t going to be much fun. As in, “What’s going to happen when people realize my adorable personality is just a collection of annoying quirks?” What’s true for kids also holds for cars. There should...

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MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2014

Park it among a crowd of slope-roofed, slippery-sided competitors, and Honda’s Pilot plays the role of grizzled old-timer.

Upright and boxy, it looks like the crossover that time forgot. (Honda)

Honda Pilot: Old-timer scores heavily

Park it among a crowd of slope-roofed, slippery-sided competitors, and Honda’s Pilot plays the role of grizzled old-timer. Upright and boxy, it looks like the crossover that time forgot. There’s a method behind that madness, though. That old-school styling obscures one of the segment’s roomiest,...

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SUNDAY, APRIL 13, 2014

The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicle sold in America. With its base price of $13,790, including destination, the subcompact hatchback is also one of the country’s least expensive cars. (Mitsubishi)

Mitsubishi Mirage: Value champ

The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicle sold in America. With its base price of $13,790, including destination, the subcompact hatchback is also one of the country’s least expensive cars. Only Chevy’s Spark ($12,995) and the Nissan Versa sedan ($12,800) better its...

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SATURDAY, APRIL 5, 2014

Lexus debuted the third-generation RX in 2012 and offers it today in three trims; standard ($40,670), F Sport ($48,360) and 450h hybrid ($47,320).  (Lexus)

RX 350 F Sport: Crossover kingpin

Set your Wayback Machine to March 1998, and you’ll witness the first flash of a coming boom. Today, high-end crossovers lurk at every stoplight. But for a brief moment 15 years ago, there was just one, the Lexus RX 300. Its leather-and-fine-audio aesthetic opened new...

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SATURDAY, MARCH 29, 2014

To sweeten the pot until the next-generation 2015 Ridgeline arrives, Honda gives us the new, top-of-the-line Special Edition (SE) trim ($38,335). The SE incorporates the stepped upgrades built into the Ridgeline’s five-trim strategy and adds navigation with voice recognition; Bluetooth phone connectivity; and a handful of cosmetic upgrades. (Honda)

Honda Ridgeline: Right-sized trucklet 28 

Just as the first robin announces spring, the arrival of a Special Edition Honda foreshadows the arrival of an all-new model. Honda’s short-bed Ridgeline pickup ($30,405, including destination) is due for its first full makeover since debuting in 2006. To sweeten the pot until the...

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SUNDAY, MARCH 23, 2014

A heavyweight among compact crossovers, the all-new 2014 Cherokee has a stable, big-car feel on the road. (Jeep)

Jeep Cherokee: Old name, new crossover

Jeep goes retro this year, dusting off the fabled Cherokee nameplate and affixing it to an all-new compact crossover. The recipient, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee (from $23,990, including destination), doesn’t possess its namesake’s off-road cred, but a properly equipped Cherokee goes places most other compact...

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SUNDAY, MARCH 16, 2014

For 2014, Toyota squared off the Tundra’s rounded edges, elevated its hood line and fitted a larger, brighter grille.


 
 (Toyota)

Toyota Tundra: Work ready. Or not.

Toyota’s redesigned 2014 Tundra pickup family adds a premium trim called the 1794 Edition. It is, says Toyota, a “tribute to the ranch, founded in 1794, on which the Tundra plant is located in San Antonio.” With its embossed “saddle-brown” leather upholstery, ultra-suede cabin trim...

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SATURDAY, MARCH 8, 2014

For 2014, Equus's exterior styling is updated and the instrument panel and controls are all-new. The suspension has been modified and the standard-features list grows. (Hyundai)

Hyundai Equus: Aiming for the top

Quickly, now: Name the first five luxury sedans that spring to mind. Done? Good. I’m guessing the Hyundai Equus was not among them. I’ll also guess that in five year’s time, it could well be. The Equus is a $62,000, full-size, rear-drive sedan, with its...

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Don Adair's Seat Time

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