Drag race with a baby seat


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

If you think four-door sedans are boring, here’s one that will change your mind in a heartbeat.
It’s the 707-horsepower Dodge Charger Hellcat, the fastest and most powerful sedan in the world — and perhaps the most ridiculous car to be unveiled in years.

After launching the Challenger Hellcat earlier this year, Dodge decided to put the same 707-horsepower engine into the four-door Charger to create the fastest, most powerful sedan in the world.

After launching the Challenger Hellcat earlier this year, Dodge decided to put the same 707-horsepower engine into the four-door Charger to create the fastest, most powerful sedan in the world.

It’s ridiculously quick, as it’s certified to do a quarter-mile drag race in 11 seconds flat. It’s ridiculously fun, giving you the ability to liquify your tires while otherworldly noises scream from under the hood. And it’s ridiculously practical, with a compliant ride and wide-opening back doors that make it easy to carry a baby seat.
“See,” you can tell your wife, “it’s a sensible family car.”
Any trace of sensibility, though, goes out the window when you press the gas pedal. This car is efficient at transforming fuel into tire smoke, but not much else. It’s rated for a not-so-bad 22 mpg on the highway and an awful 13 mpg in the city, but what did you expect? This thing’s no hybrid.
I spent a day driving the Hellcat and it’s tamer Charger cousins around Washington, D.C., including a stint on the soaking wet Summit Point racetrack on a rainy day. While Mother Nature allowed for one super-obvious insight — taking a 707-horsepower car on a wet track is downright terrifying — the drive through the countryside and suburbs that surround the nation’s capitol showed what a livable car this could be.
Most cars with this much power would be considered exotic supercars that come with some major drawbacks for everyday driving: rock-hard suspensions, limited visibility, cramped cabins and origami-like bodywork that can’t survive a three-inch speed bump.
The Charger Hellcat has no such limitations, feeling remarkably like a family car as long as you don’t push the throttle more than a fraction of an inch. Its cabin is nice and roomy, and its suspension is soft enough that it remains a great road-trip car, even though it’s so wild under the hood.
Power comes from a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8. It’s the same engine Dodge packed into the Challenger Hellcat earlier this year, and it sends all its monstrous power through a specially beefed-up eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Charger Hellcat’s interior looks as racy as its body, with supportive seats and performance-oriented electronics that let you customize its setup for launch control and track driving.

The Charger Hellcat’s interior looks as racy as its body, with supportive seats and performance-oriented electronics that let you customize its setup for launch control and track driving.

While the Hellcat is the version sure to grab all the headlines, Dodge has done a phenomenal job revamping the rest of the Charger lineup for 2015 as well. From its efficient base model ($27,995) that gets 31 mpg from a 292-horsepower V6, to the 370-horse R/T ($32,995) to the 485-horse SRT 392 ($47,385), the new Charger offers as wide a range of personalities and power plants as anything on the market. It’s also been drastically improved in terms of refinement and cabin quality.
Oh, and pricing on the Hellcat? It’s around $64,000, including the $1,700 gas-guzzler tax.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat. Base price: $63,995
Wheelbase: 120.4 in.
Length: 200.8 in.
Width: 75.0 in.
Height: 58.3 in.
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8 (707 horsepower, 650 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 13 city, 22 highway

RATINGS
Style: 7
Performance: 10
Price: 10
Handling: 6
Ride: 9
Comfort: 9
Quality: 8
Overall: 10

Video Review:
2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat
bit.ly/15charger

Why buy it? 
It’s a wild combination, offering supercar levels of power with four-door practicality. Priced under $64,000, the Charger Hellcat is an amazing horsepower-per-dollar value.

Posted in Dodge

Sedona gets all-new design

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Kia sees the writing on the wall. Buyers are moving away from minivans, thanks to their dorky mom-mobile reputations, at the same time they’re flocking toward crossover vehicles that look more like tough, muscular SUVs.
That explains why the new-for-2015 Kia Sedona gets a crossover-like nose and why Kia’s spokespeople are loathe to call it a minivan. They prefer the term “multi-purpose vehicle,” as if they’re fooling us into thinking it’s really a Hummer with sliding doors.
Whatever. The Sedona is still a minivan, and a great one at that.
While the Sedona’s heavy makeover places a big emphasis on styling, making it more in tune with the times and perhaps the best-looking van on the market, the changes are more than skin deep. Several innovations in the cabin, an overall air of quality and value-oriented pricing make it a great alternative to the Japanese vans from Honda and Toyota that are dominating the market right now.
The Kia Sedona gets a new design for 2015 that makes it look more like a crossover vehicle.

The Kia Sedona gets a new design for 2015 that makes it look more like a crossover vehicle.

Let’s start with the seats, a frequent source of bragging rights in this segment.
Kia has developed an ingenious way of folding the middle-row seats out of the way when you want to haul cargo. Instead of making you remove the bulky, cumbersome seats like most vans do, or folding them into wells in the floor like Chrysler’s products, the bucket seats in the Sedona will slide forward and lift up to stow tightly against the front seats.
And on its high-end lines, you can opt for “First Class” seating on the second row that leans back and lets you prop your feet up like a living-room recliner. It felt weirdly similar to the back seat of the new Rolls-Royce Ghost I rode in a few weeks ago.
Yes, I just compared a Kia to a Rolls. What’s the car world coming to?
In any case, Kia has been on the upswing for a long time — along with its South Korean cousin, Hyundai — and the beautifully redesigned Sedona is just the latest home run from this brand.
It feels as sturdily built and drives with the same poise as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, both of which are priced a few thousand dollars more than the comparable Sedona at the top and bottom ends of the equipment spectrum. It starts at $25,900 for the base L model and ranges up to $39,700 for the luxurious SX Limited with Nappa leather seats.

ELECTRIC SOUL
On the same day I drove the Sedona, Kia also handed me the keys to the all-new electric version of the Soul, called the Soul EV.
And it’s the best all-electric car I’ve ever driven.
Admittedly, that’s like saying it has the straightest teeth in England. Most electric cars aren’t that great, since they drive more like oversized bicycles than actual automobiles. This one, though, felt like a real car — powerful, solid and substantial.

The Kia Soul EV is one of the most spacious electric cars on the market. It has strong acceleration and the same fun-to-drive spirit as its gasoline-powered sibling.

The Kia Soul EV is one of the most spacious electric cars on the market. It has strong acceleration and the same fun-to-drive spirit as its gasoline-powered sibling.

Range is estimated at 93 miles, making it ideal for people who do a lot of city driving. It can be charged to 80 percent within 33 minutes using a high-output fast charger or five hours using a 240-volt outlet.
It has the spunky style and fun, lovable driving spirit of the gas-powered Soul, but it doesn’t burn a drop of gasoline.
Pricing starts at $26,200 after a $7,500 federal tax credit. Initially available only in California, the Soul EV is expected to be rolled out in more markets over time.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Kia Sedona. Base price: $25,900
Wheelbase: 120.5 in.
Length: 201.4 in.
Width: 89.3 in.
Height: 69.1 in.
Engine: 3.3-liter V6 (276 horsepower, 248 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 18 city, 24 highway

RATINGS
Style: 8
Performance: 7
Price: 9
Handling: 7
Ride: 8
Comfort: 9
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Video Review:
2015 Kia Sedona
bit.ly/2015sedona

Why buy it? 
The new Sedona has handsome, crossover-like styling, innovative storage solutions and a quality feel. It’s a value-oriented alternative to Honda and Toyota minivans.

Posted in Kia, Uncategorized

Suburban gets an overhaul

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

The Chevrolet Suburban turns 80 this year, making it the oldest nameplate in the automotive world, and I can’t think of a better way to mark its birthday than with an all-new design.
I just spent a week driving the 2015 Suburban, and while there are plenty of upgrades and cool doodads to like on this fresh generation, I’m even more impressed with the fact that it stays true to its roots after eight decades.
After all, some people think full-size, body-on-frame SUVs are going the way of the dinosaurs, just waiting on an asteroid of high fuel prices or government regulations to kill them off. Even legends in the SUV world like the Ford Explorer have switched to car-based crossover designs to stay relevant.
It would have been easy for the folks at General Motors to shrink the Suburban or pluck out its truck-based backbone for this new generation, but they didn’t.
And thank goodness for that.
After a complete overhaul for 2015, the Suburban’s body looks more sleek and sculpted now. It hints at the more modern, refined experience you get in this new-generation SUV.

After a complete overhaul for 2015, the Suburban’s body looks more sleek and sculpted now. It hints at the more modern, refined experience you get in this new-generation SUV.

The Suburban remains one of the few family vehicles that can truly do it all. Road trips? It feels like driving in a covered stadium. Off-roading? You can get it with four-wheel drive and hit the trails. Towing? It can pull 8,300 pounds of toys and tools from the hitch.
The only downside to that crazy level of versatility is, of course, gas mileage, but even that is improved on this new version. It’s rated for 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway, which is about 10 percent better than the outgoing Suburban.
GM’s engineers made a lot of changes to hit that fuel-economy target, including offering a new 5.3-liter V8 engine, using an aluminum hood and liftgate panels and massaging the aerodynamics to make it more slippery at highway speeds. Just like on GM’s newest trucks, the doors are inlaid into the body to help smooth the airflow and eliminate wind noise in the cabin.

The Suburban’s front cabin is dominated by a large digital touchscreen display in the center of the dash. This all-new design looks and feels more like a luxury SUV now.

The Suburban’s front cabin is dominated by a large digital touchscreen display in the center of the dash. This all-new design looks and feels more like a luxury SUV now.

As a whole, the Suburban feels noticeably more refined and modern now, starting with the passenger compartment. Tighter gaps, better construction and upscale materials make it feel more like a luxury SUV than ever before, and the sense of spaciousness — both for cargo and people — is as astonishing as ever.
While its steering, braking and acceleration all feel uninspired, very much like a pickup truck, I thought its suspension was spectacular for long trips on the highway. It felt even smoother than the pricey Cadillac Escalade I drove a few weeks earlier, probably thanks to the Caddy’s ridiculously oversized 22-inch wheels.
With the right equipment, though, a Suburban can feel remarkably like a Cadillac. You can get it with radar- and camera-based safety technology, wireless phone charging, Siri Eyes Free, a built-in WiFi hotspot, a dual-screen Blu-ray DVD player, six USB ports and six power outlets.
It’s also available with a hands-free liftgate. If you’ve got the keyless entry fob in your pocket and your hands are full, you can wave your foot under a sensor to make the rear door lift upward without having to press a button.
As a complete package, this 2015 overhaul makes the Suburban feel like a thoroughly modern SUV with a long, long life still to come.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD LTZ ($64,700). Options: Sun, Entertainment, Destination package ($2,805), white diamond tricot paint ($995), 20-inch chrome wheels ($400). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $70,395
Wheelbase: 130 in.
Length: 224.4 in.
Width: 80.5 in.
Height: 74.4 in.
Engine: 5.3-liter direct-injected V8 (355 horsepower, 383 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 16 city, 23 highway

RATINGS
Style: 9
Performance: 9
Price: 8
Handling: 7
Ride: 9
Comfort: 10
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Video Review:
2015 Chevrolet Suburban
bit.ly/15suburban

Why buy it? 
It’s a refreshing update on an old, trustworthy formula. It’s one of the most spacious vehicles on the road, with off-road and towing capability on top of its dream-car status for long highway trips.

 

Posted in Chevrolet

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