Story & photo: Chad Haire
Kia offers plenty of low cost cars, including the Spectra. It comes with only a 2.0-liter engine rated at 138 horsepower. Not much power here, but the car will move if you make good use of the base five-speed manual transmission. It's geared for the street, but this results in a high engine speed of 3,300 rpm on the freeway. Gas mileage is rated at 27-33 mpg, which I did not verify. We did note that after driving 240 miles the gas gauge read one-half, the Spectra has a 15 gallon tank, but who knows how accurate it was.
The steering feel is very light. Ride comfort is very comfortable thanks to a soft suspension, but there is a lot of sway in fast cornering. It's not a sports car. The brake pedal was firm enough. ABS brakes are $400 extra.
The interior will fit four adults. Interior quality is nothing fancy, but all controls are simple and easy to use. The outside styling looked like the Japanese Mazda-3, but that was the intent it seems. A four-door sedan version is offered.
The base price starts at $15,995. This includes air, stereo, and power everything. With ABS brakes, CD player, and sunroof, we hit $18,020. You get a ten year 100,000 mile warranty as well. Kia dealers discount more than Japanese automakers do, so the price should be less.
Volvo XC-70 Wagon
Story and photo by Chad Haire
For 2008 Volvo has introduced their new full size wagons. The XC-70 shown here is basically the same as the V-70 except it has a raised suspension and all-wheel drive for use on rugged roads where ground clearance and traction is an issue. It's sort of a wagon/SUV combo.
The XC is a sharp looking rig that gets attention on the street. The interior is nice too, with high-grade materials and workmanship. All controls are simple. I had the optional wood and leather package so it looked even better.
The engine is a 3.2 liter six that puts out 235 horsepower and 236 lb./ft. of torque. It's hooked to a six-speed automatic box. Acceleration is very brisk once the car gets moving, but at low speeds, it lags, especially from stoplights. Gas mileage is rated at 15-22, which is about what I got.
The steering is light and quick, but has no feel or feedback. The ride is smooth on the freeway, but on rough city streets, the suspension makes a lot of thumping and clumping noises I got tired of listening to. The brakes stop in a hurry, and the pedal has a nice firm feel.
The base price of $36,775 is reasonable since we get a lot of standard equipment. But with metallic paint, super sound system, leather, sunroof, heated seats, alloy wheels, and other goodies we don't need but like to have, the tab hit $44,065.
The Volkswagen GTI has a reputation for bringing German performance at a reasonable price. With its souped up four cylinder 200 horsepower turbo engine, front wheel drive, and lightweight, it's a quick one. But there are those who want more and this is why VW brings us the R-32. This replaces the small four banger with a 250 horsepower V-6, a six-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters, and all-wheel drive for maximum traction.
With all this power, we might expect the R-32 to be quicker than the GTI. It is, but not by much. On the street, a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds for the GTI and 6.2 for the R-32 is about right. This is because the R-32 gets a large weight increase due to a heavier motor, and AWD. Still, the R-32 is a blast to drive, and has far more flexibility due to more bottom end power. It works better with the automatic because of this.
Complaints? Well, the automatic gearbox has a manual shift override, but not a real one, because if the car doesn't like the gear you're in, it will take over, and up shift anyway, like it or not. And then there is the $36,000 price tag, explained by the limited production run of only five thousand units. It's nice to get BMW performance, but too bad we will have to pay BMW prices. The more available GTI will run about 30 grand.
The West Valley Moves to The Front With World's
Mercedes-Benz of Arrowhead the newest Mercedes-Benz dealership in Arizona is the first luxury brand dealership to get Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The dealership located just west of the 101 Loop at 9260 W. Bell Road boasts an exterior made of recycled foam insulation, photovoltaic solar panels on the roof that provide up to 35 percent of the electrical power during off-peak hours. Water-saving features including toilets and a carwash that uses only six gallons per car, a saving of 18 gallons for every car washed. Water will be recycled and used to irrigate the plants and there is an underground storm water system to minimize soil erosion and maximize the settling of solids. Recycled asphalt, concrete and steel were used in the construction of the dealership. Even the ceiling tiles contain 85 percent of recycled material
Owner of Mercedes-Benz of Arrowhead, Chuck Theisen has been an advocate for responsible use of natural resources for many years. "I feel this new dealership is more than a worthwhile investment, it’s an opportunity to improve the world we live in. We are excited to be able to offer our employees and the local community a state-of-the-art environmentally sustainable dealership along with the same customer service the Phoenix Motor Company has been known for the past 45 years," said Mr. Theisen. "I am passionate about doing our part in the fight against global warming and pollution, as well as in serving as a steward for the environment."
Other features include large sweeping roof extensions and canopy screens that maximize interior shading during the summer. The dealership encourages its employees to be environmentally friendly. “In addition to the outstanding sustainable facilities, we are thrilled to be able to offer our employees a range of different amenities. These include a low carbon dioxide level working environment, closed-in parking for those with electric or "0" emission vehicles, showers and lockers for employees who want to bike to work and shuttle service to public transportation,” said Jim Astuno, General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Arrowhead.
The dealership was designed and constructed by Autopilot Development Services a local Scottsdale based company, which specializes in vehicle dealership facilities. "Autopilot is very excited to be working with Mercedes-Benz of Arrowhead who embraces the fundamental principals of the United States Green Building Council’s call for new buildings to provide environmental stewardship in design, construction and technologies," said Rick Cartell, Principal of Autopilot.
Mercedes-Benz of Arrowhead is a proud partner of the Phoenix Mercedes-Benz dealership, who has been serving valley customers for 45 years. For more information call (623) 583-7200 or visit www.arrowheadmb.com .
Wilhelm Automotive Supports “Packages From Home” Program
As Designated Drop Off Locations
While these brave men and women serve our country, it is important that they know that people back home are thinking about them. These donated items bring smiles to their faces even in the most difficult times. Donations drop off after the Christmas season. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we continue to supply these needed items.
How You Can Help
2) You may also make a donation online; when making your donation, you can specify how you would like your donation to be used:
Wilhelm Automotive locations
“Community support comes naturally to our entire organization and we are proud to be involved in Packages From Home”, said Thom Gyder, President of Wilhelm Automotive. “We should not forget about our troops abroad and we thank everyone for supporting this wonderful program”.
About Wilhelm Automotive - Wilhelm Automotive is a family owned and operated award winning automotive repair and maintenance business that has been serving the valley since 1928. the company has won such honors as the distinguished WestMarc Best Business in the West Valley award and the West Valley View’s Consumer Choice Award. Wilhelm’s has always made community support a top priority by being involved with organizations such as St. Mary’s Westside Food Bank, TheaterWorks, Eve’s Place, the Cave Creek Museum and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Wilhelm currently has five locations in Tatum Ranch, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Surprise and Goodyear. Additional information can be found at our website at www.WilhelmAuto.com.
About Packages From Home
PACKAGES FROM HOME (PFH) is an Arizona not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt organization that takes pride in sending care and comfort packages to deployed American military heroes who are stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world. In many instances, these packages raise morale and save lives; they are much more than "care packages" as they exemplify the gratitude we have for our troops for their bravery and commitment to preserving freedom.
PROUDLY, we announce that PACKAGES FROM HOME (PFH) sent 123,000 boxes, and an additional 20,000 tons via parcel post to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004! In March of 2008, we begin our fifth year of supporting our troops.
Kia Sportage & Sorento
photo & story by Chad Haire
If you are looking for an SUV to do some limited off-road duties, Kia offers two good choices. The first tested was a Sportage model. The base unit starts at only $16,000. This is for a small 140 horsepower engine, and two-wheel drive.
My Sportage had the optional V-6 engine, rated at 173 horses. It did an adequate job of pulling this 3,200-pound rig, but acceleration wasn't breathtaking. Gas mileage is rated at 19 - 23 mpg, which we did not verify. The interior is well done, with nice materials and workmanship. Controls are easy to see and operate.
On the street, the Sprotage is pleasant enough. The steering has good feel, the ride is comfortable, with good brakes. I had the optional all-wheel drive. This provides better traction on wet roads. A button on the dash can be pressed that locks all four wheels for off road traction. I tried it, and it works. But keep in mind that with limited ground clearance, street tires, and no low range gearing, the 4x4 Sportage is intended for limited dirt use.
The 4x4 Sportage with V-6 includes ABS breaks, automatic gearbox, stereo, cruise control, and more for $21,195. With minor items added, the total was $22,775.
Next on my Kia test list was the Sorento. It offers more power, room and true off-road abilities. More cost too, but we will discuss this later.
Starting in 2007, the Sorento V-6 engine was bumped from a 3.5 liter with 193 horsepower to a bigger 3.8 with a whopping 262 horses. Rated gas mileage has increased from 16-22 mpg up to 17-23. This is attached to a 5-speed automatic gearbox, no manual is offered. There is plenty of power to pull this two-ton rig.
In daily driving, I found the steering to be a bit light, but very responsive. The ride is firm, yet reasonably comfortable and controlled. The brake feel could be firmer but overall performance was just fine. Quality of materials and workmanship was very good.
The base Sorento comes in two-wheel drive, but I had the optional four-wheel drive. This is a real unit designed for serious off-road use, and has low range gearing. There are limits due to ground clearance and the street tires, but the Sorento can still hit rough trails.
The only complaint we had was with the trip computer systems. It records information like direction traveled, miles driven, and distance to empty. But amazingly, it can't tell you the actual miles per gallon used, which really defeats the purpose of it being there. What were these people thinking?
Now we get to the price. The base Sorento starts at $19,995. This includes the 10-year/100,000 mile warranty that all Kia vehicles have. But the 4x4 EX includes 4-wheel drive, power everything, stereo/CD, and much more for $26,195. With optional leather, heated seats, sunroof, dual climate control, and full time 4x4 unite, we hit a jaw dropping $29,865. Gee, for this tab, they should have included satellite radio, but they don't offer it. Like the Sportage, keep in mind that discounts and rebates are plenty.
Auto Archive October 2007
Audi Q-7 SUV
story & photo by Chad Haire
It seems that every manufacturer is offering a sport utility vehicle, so it was only a matter of time before Audi brought one out. And here it is, called the Q-7. It is based on the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne platform, but with three differences.
First is the styling, and the Q-7 is a great attention getter on the street. Everyone liked it. Secondly, the Q-7 is offered with three row seating for hauling more people. Thirdly the interior is first class, with fine materials and workmanship. Many of the controls are routed through a central computer system. It seems complex to use, but is really easy once learned.
I had a nice panoramic sunroof for open air driving, but it's $1,800 more. The Q-7 has no low range gearing for serious off-road chores, but is issued in all-wheel drive. An air adjustable suspension is available for limited rocky road use.
The base engine is a 280 horse V-6. It provided enough power with just me aboard. But with a vehicle weight of 5,500 pounds and a cargo of seven passengers, you might wish for the 350 horse V-8. Gas mileage is rated at 16-20, but I got 14-16.
The Q-7 has excellent handling, steering, and braking, just like a sport sedan. But we found the ride to be stiff enough to rattle the fillings out of our teeth. I was surprised to find the tires had a whopping 49 pounds of air in them. Even more surprised to find this is what the owner's manual requires! I know the factory knows best, but I lowered the tire pressures from 49 to 32 pounds anyway, which smoothed the ride. I lost a bit of handling, but I no longer need a kidney belt. But you will need about 45-75 thousand bucks to put a Q-7 in your driveway, depending on options.
Auto Archive September 2007
story and photo by Chad Haire
The Subaru Forester looks like a car, but is listed as a car based SUV, or crossover CUV. It seats four with ease, with a nice cargo area in the back. All-wheel drive provides traction on wet roads and sand. The base 2.5-liter V-6 puts out 173 horses, and is hooked to a 4-speed automatic. Gas mileage is rated at 23-28, but I saw about 20 overall.
The interior is high quality, and all controls are well placed and easy to use. The only gripe we had was with the poorly designed shift gate that can trick the driver into putting it in third instead of drive. I can only wonder how many Forester owners are driving around in low gear, and don't know it. This needs to be changed! The ride is also stiff, but the handling, steering, and brake action work fine.
A base Subaru starts at $21,000. This includes AWD, cruise, air, power everything, and nice stereo. But the options can run up fast. With automatic gearbox, sunroof, alloy wheels, CD player, and other items, mine hit about $26,000. With the optional 230-turbocharged engine package, the tab can climb to the $30,000 mark. Which is a long way from $21,000!
Auto Archive August 2007
Infiniti G-35 Coupe
The Nissan 350-Z has always impressed us with it's nice performance and styling. But few know there is another choice from the Nissan sister division of Infiniti, called the G-35 coupe.
The G-35 shares mechanical parts from the 350-Z, but with two differences. First is the classier styling. Secondly, the chassis is stretched to allow seating for four instead of two. On the base model, the longer wheelbase results in a smoother ride. But I had the optional sport suspension package which has stiffer springs, wide alloy wheels, performance tires, and perfect brakes, this results in a ride that's stiffer than the short wheelbase 350-Z. On rough roads, the steering wheel and mirrors were shaking. Or was it just my eyeballs?
The engine is a proven 3.5 litter V-6 rated at 275 horses. A 6-speed manual gearbox is offered, but this engine pulls so strong at all speeds, the 5-speed automatic, which can also be shifted manually, is the logical choice.
The interior controls are well designed, being simple to operate, even the navigation unit. But the lack of storage containers and slots was a pain. Some of the plastic could look better.
The base price is $33,450. An extra $350 for satellite radio is worth it. But with navigation, sport suspension, and power goodies we don't really need, the tab hit $41,330. But look at it this way; it is still five to ten grand cheaper than the German Audi TT coupe for which the G-35 competes. So perhaps this is a bargain after all.
Auto Archive July 2007
BMW 750 Li
Story & photo by Chad Haire
The BMW 750 Li is another well furnished luxury sedan with an extended body. A new 4.8 liter V-8 is offered putting out 360 horsepower. It's hooked to a 6-speed automatic with standard, sports, or manual shift mode. This combo was fast, and got 17-25 mpg, with a 20 average. BMW does offer a more potent V-12 engine with 438 horsepower, but it will cost you!
Since this car is designed to fly down German highways at 150 mph cruising speeds, we expect a firmer suspension, and get it. But the ride smoothes out as speed picks up, and overall comfort is very good. Handling is incredible, and we get the most perfect brakes on the planet. A drivers machine.
The interior has excellent materials and workmanship. The leather seats are very comfortable once you find one of the billion settings. The i-Drive control system uses a single knob to operate the audio, navigation, phone, climate, and other systems. Intended to be simple, many find it too complicated to use. One person I know sold his BMW after a few months of ownership because he couldn't deal with the aggravation! In all fairness, the only problem is taking time to learn the system. Once so, it's not difficult to use. The only real areas of concern had to do with the auto-dimming mirrors, which had no disconnect switch. This caused night lane changes to be hazardous due to blacked out mirrors. The 7-Series also has the aggravating radar cruise control we disliked in the Lexus, with no override button.
One feature we liked playing with was the thermal image camera system that transmits infrared images on an interior screen. This is used during night driving, and I was able to view rocks and cactus about a mile away, and mountains over six miles further. It's billed as a safety option as it can detect large animals and other road hazards. I like it, but think it would be easier to use if the screen were above the dash instead of being in the center console.
The base 7-Series starts at $72,000. A fully loaded unit with bigger engine will hit $120,000. But if you are a real driver, who wants to go fast, safe, and efficient, that is one good reason to get the BMW.
Auto Archive June 2007 Lexus LS-460
Story & photo by Chad Haire
For years, the Lexus LS-430 was a top line luxury car. We drove several, and enjoyed them. But at the same time, it was obvious this model was getting dated, and needed an update or replacement. So the all new LS-460 is here. And what a car it is. Gone is the squared shape, with a more modern round look, and much more.
The old 4.3 278 horse V-8 is gone, replaced by a 4.6 unit cranking out 380 horsepower. It's hooked to an eight (yes, eight) speed automatic. Even with an extra 500 pounds, this new car reached 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, with real gas mileage of 20 in mixed Phoenix traffic.
The LS-460 is designed for comfort, and delivers. The cabin is very quite, and the ride is most comfortable. The steering, handling, and brake performance are not race car specs, but not mushy either. The suspension can be adjusted from soft to sport by an electronic switch. Materials and workmanship is outstanding, with comfortable seats. I had the extended wheelbase car, which gave lots of extra room in the rear.
One interesting option is the Advanced Parking System. To make a long story short, you place the vehicle in front of a parking space, program some arrows on a DVD screen, take your hand off the steering wheel, and the car parks itself, either parallel or straight back. Needed? No, but it works, even if it is technology overkill. One option I would avoid is the laser cruise control system that keeps a set distance between you and the car in front. All it does is create a big gap for others to cut in front of you, and gives a false sense of security. An override switch allowing conventional cruise isn't offered. A waste of $2,850. The base car price is listed at $61,000. With air suspension, leather climate controlled seats, rear seat goodies, DVD, and other stuff, we hit $85,720. A nice car!
Auto Archive May 2007 Toyota RAV and Honda CR-V
review and photos by Chad A. Haire
The new RAV is here. It is bigger, and seats four passengers with ease. A third row seat is optional, if a bit cramped. Cabin materials are nothing fancy, but workmanship is excellent. Instead of knobs, many of the controls are push button type. The layout worked well, so I won't complain.
The base engine is a four cylinder rated at 166 horsepower. It provided good acceleration, but I was the only one inside. For hauling more passengers and gear, which is what these vehicles are for, Toyota offers a V-6 cranking out a healthy 269 horsepower. So equipped, passing power is plenty. In normal driving, the V-6 doesn't use much more fuel then the smaller motor.
The steering feel, handling, and brake performance was very good. We did notice the ride to be a bit firm though. For the best comfort, make sure the tire pressures are not over the spec listing.
The base price of the RAV that I tested was $23,105. This included anti-lock brakes, duel climate control, stereo and CD, cruise control, and power everything. A great deal. With options like heated seats, leather trim, and other items, the tab hit $27,188. With the V-6 engine and everything else, we can reach the 30 grand mark. But this is one where you get what you pay for.
The Honda CR-V is all new for 2007, in fact only two percent of the parts are carried over from last years version. The rear body shape is now rounded off instead of squared, but otherwise the styling isn't radically different.
The base engine is almost identical to the Toyota RAV, with a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder rated at 166 horsepower. It is hooked to a 5-speed automatic only. Gas mileage is rated at 22-28 which I did not verify. But there is no V-6 engine available for hauling heavy loads as in the Toyota RAV.
The interior is properly designed, with all controls well located, and easy to use. Quality was excellent. The only gripe we had was with the cloth "fuzz hair" seats, which attract stains and food odors easily, leather is optional. The Honda has only two rows of seats, not three, but there is plenty of comfort for the intended passenger quota.
All-wheel drive is optional, but I had the base front wheel drive. The ride was a bit firm, but steering, handling, and braking performance was just fine.
The base price starts at $21,000. When loaded with AWD, leather, navigation, and other goodies, you can hit the $29,000 mark.
Auto Archive March 2007 Range Rover
story & photo Chad Haire
For 2007 the Land Rover Range Rover keeps trucking along. Not many changes for this year, but that's okay, there aren't too many needed. The base engine is still the 4.4-liter V-8 rated at 305 horsepower. Gas mileage is listed at 14-18mpg, and I got 15 overall. The supercharged version cranks out 400 horses, and is a blast to drive, but sucks more gas.
The interior is well designed, with high quality materials and workmanship. Controls can be confusing to operate without reading the owners manual, but easy afterwards. The Rover comes with a terrain response system that adjusts for mud, snow, grass, rocks and sand. Now off-road pros know that the trick to driving on sand is to lower tire pressures so you don't sink into the soft stuff. The Rover manual says you don't need to worry about doing so just put the computer in the sand mode and drive. Which is what I did, but (you guessed it) eventually I got stuck. I would say for serious sand dune blazing, buy an air pump, and adjust the tires. Ten minutes of air pumping is easier than ten hours of digging out.
My vehicle started at $76.535. With locking rear, leather pack, DVD, and wood trim, we hit $85,350. A loaded supercharged model can hit the 100 grand mark!
Auto Archive February 2007 Volkswagen Eos
Story & photos by Chad A. Haire
Looking for a nice European hardtop? Or perhaps a nice European convertible? With the new Volkswagen Eos, you get both. The Eos has a solid roof, but press a button, and the ceiling disappears into the trunk. The end result is open driving pleasure, yet hardtop security and safety. Other imported cars like the Mercedes SLK and Lexus SC-430 offer this capability, but with sky high price tags. Not here.
The base Eos starts at $29,995. This includes ABS brakes, alarm, cruise control, power everything, keyless entry, auto climate control, heated seats, and plenty more. With leather trim, upgraded stereo, navigation unit, and satellite radio, the tab hit $36,110.
The base engine is the proven 2.0-liter turbo putting out 200 horsepower. It's hooked to a perfect six-speed manual gearbox. Performance is excellent. Gas mileage is rated at 23-32 mpg, which is what I got. An automatic tranny is offered for cruising, but for real driving, stay with the six-speed.
The steering and brake operation was excellent. So was the handling, but maximum cornering ability was limited by the soft tires. Ride comfort was firm, but comfortable enough.
In terms of quality, materials, design, and appearance, Volkswagen interiors will match any car out there, regardless of price. The Eos has the same high quality, which is amazing considering its price tag. Nothing from Japan comes close. And the seats are really great for long trips, being firm yet comfortable. The only gripe was with the auto-dimming mirror, which has no off switch, so I disconnected it by sticking gum in the sensor hole.
The top is easy to operate. Simply press a lever and it raises or lowers in less then 30 seconds. Trunk space is limited of course, but we do get two rear seats. Wind noise with the top down and windows up is fine around town, but gets annoying at highway speeds after a while.
Good news! The Eos will soon be offered with a powerful 250 horsepower V-6, which will turn it into a compact powerhouse. But this will push its price near the $40,000 ceiling.
Auto Archive January 2007 Lexus GX-470
Story & photo by Chad Haire
If you want a Lexus SUV for more serious work, the GX-470 is worth a look. Want luxury? With leather and wood trim, super stereo system, and power everything, this is one smooth ride. But don't think this is a lightweight off-road. With low-speed transfer case, stability control, traction control, downhill assist, hill-start assist, and height adjustable suspension, this is one tough rig. Did I mention the body structure is solid as a rock? Just slap on some off-road tires, and embarrass some Hummer drivers.
The 4.7 liter V-8 puts out 263 horsepower. Gas mileage is rated at 15-19 mpg, which is what I got. The base price is about $47,000. Mine had the optional navigation system and other items, so it reached the $50,000 mark. Still, this is one of the best SUVs I have driven.
December 2006 Honda Civic Si
Story & photo by Chad Haire
When shopping for a car, choosing between economy or performance can be difficult, especially with the price of gas. But this vehicle offers both features, sort of like eating your cake and having it too.
Most people think of the Honda Civic, as a boring economy car, but the redesigned Si version will change that thought. Under the hood, we get a potent performance 2.0 VTEC engine cranking out a whopping 197 horsepower, hooked to a slick 6-speed short-throw gearbox. Add a limited slip differential, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS/EBD, and tuned suspension with aggressive tires, alloy wheels, and rear spoiler. For comfort on and off the racetrack, a 350-watt stereo, navigation system, climate control, power everything, XM satellite radio, sunroof, cruise control, and more. All this for only $23,5000.
The Si has a dual personality. In commuter mode, it is a nice family hauler, with reasonable ride, low wind noise, and high EPA fuel economy of 23-32 mpg. In performance mode, press the engine to its 5000-8000 rpm range, and this car takes off in a hurry, reaching second gear max speed of 58 mph in six seconds flat. And what beautiful sounds this creates from under the hood! Handling, braking, and steering feel is what we expect in a sports machine. You won't be disappointed.
The interior design was mixed. A strange space ship look, too much black plastic, and tiny radio/navigation buttons. Still, the quality is high, driving position is excellent, and controls are simple. I am told some Si models will not have the navigation unit, and sell for only $20,500. A better deal. Check with the dealer for availability.