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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos Don Adair

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

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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SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 2014

The Rogue loses an inch in overall length, but its wheelbase grows by a half-inch and height is up by 1.2 inches. By reducing the front and rear overhangs, Nissan increases overall cabin space and boosts behind-the-seats cargo capacity by 10 cubic feet, from 29 to 39 cf. (Nissan)

Nissan Rogue: Smart choice

There is no shortage of choice in the compact crossover segment. Virtually every maker of any size fields a small crossover, ranging from the barebones to the ultra-luxurious, each with its own unique value proposition. For its part, the fully made-over 2014 Nissan Rogue hangs…

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SATURDAY, FEB. 22, 2014

From behind the wheel, the Q7 feels exactly like the large, powerful rig it is. It’s a road-going machine, designed to cover large distances and rugged conditions. Because it’s an Audi, ride and handling is a sizable cut above the norm.  (Audi)

Audi Q7 a rare combination 

Audi’s Q7 is a big, meaty slice of German engineering, a seven-passenger crossover with a lust for the open road. Though it hasn’t had a significant makeover in its seven-year existence, the Q7 offers fully modern levels of comfort, safety and luxury. Three engine choices…

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TUESDAY, FEB. 18, 2014

Not everyone wants or needs a rig as durable, sturdy and rugged as Toyota’s venerable midsize SUV. For those who do, there are precious few alternatives.  (Toyota)

Toyota 4Runner: One of a kind

My traveling companion wasn’t sure what to make of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner. “It’s not quite as comfortable as some of the other cars you drive,” she offered. “Of course, not,” I said, trying to scrub any hint of condescension from my reply. “It’s not…

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SATURDAY, FEB. 8, 2014

Jeep’s 2014 Compass crossover earns my nod as the year’s most improved car. (Jeep)

Jeep Compass: Transmission transformation

Jeep’s 2014 Compass crossover earns my nod as the year’s most improved car. Achieving this crowning standard didn’t cost Jeep much; mainly, it meant adding a conventional six-speed automatic to the transmission mix, where in most instances it replaces last year’s continuously variable transmission (CVT).…

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SATURDAY, JAN. 25, 2014

Honda is back in the midsize sedan hybrid game, with the 2014 Accord Hybrid ($29,945, including destination). It’s based on a four-cylinder powertrain and marries sterling EPA numbers -- 50 mpg city/45 mpg highway/47 mpg combined -- with convincing performance (Honda)

2014 Accord Hybrid: Second-chance sensation

I once hailed the Honda Accord Hybrid as the car that would bring hybrid technology into the mainstream. He shoots. He misses. That car, the original Accord Hybrid, circa 2005-07, had everything going for the one that mattered -- fuel efficiency. Apparently wanting it both…

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SATURDAY, JAN. 11, 2014

Built on a new platform and featuring a new powertrain, updated cabin tech and more, the MDX is as fresh as the day it debuted in 2001 -- and far more modern.
 (Acura)

Acura MDX: Hitting its stride

This should be a very good year for Acura’s MDX. Fully made over, the 7-passenger crossover went on sale last year and enters 2014 already smashing its own sales records. Built on a new platform and featuring a new powertrain, updated cabin tech and more,…

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SATURDAY, JAN. 4, 2014

The Lancer sedan is a frugal, well-built and agreeable five-passenger sedan, with crisp styling, excellent rear-seat legroom and a healthy standard-features list. (Mitsubishi)

Mitsubishi Lancer: AWD on a budget

Should you be shopping for a compact, all-wheel-drive sedan, you have a choice of two -- Subaru’s Impreza and the Mitsubishi Lancer. As the entry-level Subie, the Impreza’s bona fides are well established. But Mitsubishi is an enigma in the U.S. After partnering here with…

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SATURDAY, DEC. 28, 2013

 (Honda)

Honda Odyssey: The modern minivan 

Minivans may have been last century’s big news, but you wouldn’t know it from behind the wheel of the 2014 Honda Odyssey. A mid-cycle refresh has the Odyssey feeling as fresh and contemporary as any of the crossovers that have displaced vans in the public’s…

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SATURDAY, DEC. 21, 2013

 (Buick)

Buick LaCrosse: Affordable American luxury

Sandwiched between volume-minded Chevrolet and performance-focused Cadillac in General Motor’s post-bankruptcy landscape, Buick takes the middle way. It aims to satisfy the middle-class need for affordable luxury. Since the bankruptcy, the company’s persistent focus on comfort, reliability and affordability has produced cars of the quality…

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TUESDAY, DEC. 17, 2013

 (Nissan)

Nissan Versa Note: Agreeable reality check

In the weeks before the redesigned 2014 Nissan Versa Note landed in my driveway, I’d driven a succession of not-inexpensive vehicles. The Note (from $14,800, including destination) is on the near end of the cost continuum and I admit to approaching it with a certain…

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SATURDAY, DEC. 7, 2013

 (Jeep)

Jeep Grand Cherokee: Diesel revisited

Among many updates to the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, none is more important than the return of diesel. Jeep deleted the diesel option in 2009 but restores it this year with a powerful new turbodiesel. The 3.0-liter V-6 can tow up to 7,200 pounds and,…

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MONDAY, DEC. 2, 2013

The 2014 Jetta receives a new engine, a modified suspension, new telematics and improved cabin materials. (Volkswagen)

VW Jetta, Reinvigorated

You’d never know by looking at it, but Volkswagen’s compact Jetta receives a batch of updates that make it the most desirable Jetta in recent years. For 2014: a new direct-injected turbocharged four replaces the five-cylinder engine that has powered the majority of Jettas sold;…

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SATURDAY, NOV. 23, 2013

SATURDAY, NOV. 16, 2013

The 2014 Forte can be had in sedan and hatchback body styles. (Kia)

Kia Forte: Raising expectations

I was prepared for a letdown the first time I drove the 2014 Kia Forte. It was not my fault. I’d been set up, first by an afternoon in the $285,000 Rolls-Royce Wraith and then a week in the Cadillac CTS ($39,990 base/$66,000 as-tested). Forget…

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MONDAY, NOV. 11, 2013

 (Cadillac)

CTS: Caddy alive!

Now that it has picked a fight with BMW, Cadillac has to put up or shut up. As a taxpaying GM shareholder, I’m pleased to report it’s putting up. Cadillac recently debuted the third-generation of its CTS midsize luxury sport sedan. It debuted in 2002…

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SUNDAY, NOV. 10, 2013

Rolls-Royce wheel caps are self-righting. Come to a stop and they automatically align right-side up. (Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce Wraith redefines value

Unbelievably, four days passed before someone asked the question. Halloween day, I flew to Arizona to drive the newest Rolls-Royce, the $295,000, 624-horsepower, two-door Wraith. Not until the following Tuesday did a friend ask the inevitable: “Is it worth it?” Of course, a thing is…

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Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.