2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD 3.6 V6

DriveApart Overview
So what’s the big news about the Chevy Equinox’s recent engine swap from an optional 3.0 liter V6 to this newer and Cadillac derived 3.6 liter 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque V6 which means this little baby crossover can now tow a healthy 3,500 pounds. That’s plenty for most people’s motorcycle towing needs and also manages to give this SUV somewhat of a hot rod status with a 0-60 time of just 6.7 seconds. Not bad for a family utility.

What We Like
The 2013 Chevy Equinox is on the larger end of the mini-SUV spectrum affording it a unique space in the market and plenty of legroom and cargo space thanks to a sliding rear seat system. This allows owners to choose how much cargo space or rear seat legroom they want. Oh yeah, did we mention the awesome new 3.6 liter V6 which makes this SUV more flight of foot than any of its similarly sized competition. Imagine a 100 horsepower added to a CR-V and you might see how cool this extra oomph is to possess.
What’s not to Like
The center stack on the dashboard has too many similarly sized, poorly marked

buttons set in a manner that makes little to no logical sense. You can master it after time and practice but if you just hop in the car it can be a little hard to figure out easily. Otherwise, the rear cargo area’s width is compromised somewhat by two cargo cubbies which can be handy for small objects but not when trying to slide in something like that elliptical machine you bought but never use.

Tow and Haul
Again, the big news here is the addition of the 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque 3.6 liter V6 which lifts manufacturer tow ratings to 3,500 pounds as opposed to 1,500 pounds with the previous 3.0 liter V6. You can also get this engine with the slightly more expensive GMC Terrain Denali which is based on the same platform. Adding the 3.6 liter V6 to our Equinox LTZ cost very little to our pocketbooks as it is just a $1,500 stand-alone option.
As far as cargo hauling inside the Equinox goes, its capacities are pretty much average for an SUV of its size and pricing. With the second row of seats in place there is 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space with that figure growing to a maximum 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. One thing Chevy has over the competition is a rear seat that slides back and forth so you can adjust how much legroom to give rear passengers as opposed to cargo volume. It’s just another way to make it easier to haul your cargo—both human and otherwise.

The Drive
Refined, serene, quiet and peaceful. That is one way to describe the driving

experience behind the wheel of this 2013 Chevy Equinox with the 3.6 liter V6 thanks to a very quiet ride and very low levels of wind, tire or engine noise at cruising speeds. Push the pace a little bit and the Equinox will take the bait, up to a point, as the steering is playful and offers more feel than most of its foes in this class. It may not corner like it’s riding on rails but no SUV does. This is an excellent vehicle for hauling your bike, your family and your stuff wherever you want to go. What more do you want?

Engine and Drivetrain
How many times can we say that we adore GM’s 3.6 liter 292 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque V6 in this application as it offers up boundless acceleration around town or even at highly illegal freeway speeds. It also makes inspiring growls and barks as you rev it out to redline, something most SUV engines aren’t prone to do. 
The six-speed automatic was seamless in operation most of the time even if occasionally it was too eager to drop too many gears when it sensed we wanted more power than we actually did. But once we got used to the touchy throttle we quite enjoyed having all this power under our feet. Literally.

Interesting Vehicle Features
According to the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) the 2013 Chevy Equinox is a “Top Safety Pick” which is impressive but not their top score which now stands at “Top Safety Pick Plus.” Currently no other midsize SUVs (the Equinox is just bigger enough than the Sportages and RAV4 to stay out of small SUV status) on the market have a “Top Safety Pick Plus” rating and no doubt getting the Equinox that rating will be high on the priority list for any impending updates.

Gas Mileage
The EPA estimates that the 2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD with the 3.6 liter V6 will return 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway. This SUV runs on regular unleaded and were pleasantly surprised to find it returning 21 miles per gallon over the course of a one week stay with us.

Interior and Exterior
Our tester was bathed in a gorgeous hue of deep red called Crystal Red Metallic which really accentuated the lines of this compact to midsize SUV very well. It kept the vehicle looking sporty and worthy of its mid-$30,000 MSRP. It just looks sharp from all angles and will no doubt appeal to more people than a GMC Terrain which looks like a tank. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
As for the interior, this is still one of the best feeling and looking interiors in the segment even with our earlier complaint about too many difficult to decipher buttons on the center stack. Everything from the fit and finish to the materials choices speaks to this SUV lasting and looking good at least through the life of your loan. But we would wager you could get a good decade out of this SUV’s interior before it started looking raggedy.

The top of the line 2013 Chevy Equinox LTZ AWD stickers starting at $32,265

and comes standard with leather seating, power adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control, power windows, locks and mirrors, a back-up camera, USB/i-Pod integration, Bluetooth, an adjustable power rear tailgate that allows you to set how high it will raise in the air (therefore avoiding crashes into your garage door), an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with Pandora, Stitcher and Bluetooth audio streaming via the easy to use ChevyMyLink system 7-inch center touch screen.

To this we added the aforementioned 3.6 liter V6 for $1,500, 18-inch chrome clad aluminum alloy wheels for $1,000, navigation for $795 and the special red paint set us back $325. These are all options well worth buying and they bring the MSRP to a reasonable $35,885.

Click here to go the DriveApart.com website and read our final thoughts and conclusion for this compact Chevy SUV. 

First Drive Impressions of 2013 Acura ILX Lineup (Autobytel)

Acura was not only the very first Japanese luxury auto brand in this country but it also has managed to bring a number of other firsts to the U.S. market over the 25 years it has been in business. Acura was the first to introduce an in-dash navigation system, third row seating in a luxury suv, the first company to build a supercar (NSX) with an aluminum monocoque body. They also brought enthusiast performance to the common man and woman with the iconic and affordable Integra.

Fast forward to 2012 and the entry level luxury car is again a hot concept in the market as older baby boomers downsize and Gen-Y is expected to start coming into some money (though we doubt anyone with mountains of college loans to pay off could afford the ILX’s $25,900 starting price on a Starbucks Barista’s salary).

Still, Acura is wise to lower the point of entry into its brand as this so often leads to customers returning to buy TL’s and MDX’s or RDX’s as their needs and wants change over time. But with a hope for 40,000 sales a year, did Acura play it a little bit too safe with the styling of this new entry level luxury model based on the Civic platform? Part of the answer to that question will depend on what you look for in a new car and your perception of what an Acura should be. The only thing we are sure of is that the ILX, for better or worse, is not the rebirth of the Integra. Maybe someday.

To Read The Rest About the Hybrid, 2.4 and 2.0 ILX Click Here to go to Autobytel

My Picks for 15 Compact Family SUVs from Best to Worst!

2012 Kia Sportage

As a rule I get to test a whole lot of compact family SUVs which to many auto journalists is looked upon as a negative experience. However, I seek out afforadble family SUVs whenever I can so that I can let you know which ones are dogs (sorry Daisy Mae) and which ones are great. No, there may be no Ferraris in my future but as long as families need affordable crossovers I will be there to road test them. 

 This may not be as glamorous as testing an expensive luxury sport coupe but in this economy not many people need help with that kind of new car purchase. Sensible, affordable, efficient and relatively compact SUVs are the vehicles that American families actually need.

Forester XT! Yummy!
The following  family SUVs may not share the exact specification, engine design, vehicle layout or MSRP but they are all undeniably mainstream.  Hence, no Lexus, Audi or Mercedes entrants on this list.

Since I spent so much time with these family favorites over my many weeklong car reviews, I learned a lot more than you can glean from one short test drive. Don’t get me wrong, test drives are important when you are buying a new car. But when I get an SUV for a week I am reviewing it in depth for families who are going to rely on it with near religious devotion for years to come.

I quickly realized that during a test drive there is no way for a person to uncover all of the annoying, inconvenient and terrifying weaknesses that can become glaringly obvious after 7 days and nights with an SUV.  Quite tellingly, I rarely feel the same way about a test SUV on both the first and final day I have it.
Ah, take the family or haul junk?

So where do I find problems? To start with, SUV interiors are afforded more  abuse and damage than Alanis Morissette heaped onto the word “ironic” in the lyrics to her 1990’s hit song of the same name. Ah yes, many SUV engineers underestimate the sweet tyranny of children. They also forget about the destructive power of a canine who doesn’t like strangers walking by the family SUV in the parking lot of a grocery store.

Also, if your SUV is going to be a chariot for your family pet then you absolutely must consider how to safely transport them in a buckled harness, crate or other similar option. Different SUVs have differing levels of pet friendliness. For more information about SUVs and pet safety check out the BarkBuckleUp.com website.

But there is more to an SUV than its interior. There’s also cargo space, passenger comfort, fuel efficiency, cost of ownership and the all-important value for dollar quotient. I can’t think of many American families who aren’t scrimping and saving nowadays, so who wants to spend too much on their next family SUV?
Now, here in an updated form is my current list of the best (and worst) compact crossover SUV Suburban crawlers for sale in 2012. And to be quite honest, the last three vehicles at the bottom of the list are the only ones that I absolutely would NEVER allow a friend to purchase. Sure, the Liberty rules off-road as I found at a Jeep event on dirt trails but as for on-road comfort it is really lacking.

My  Current Picks for Best Compact Family SUV  from Best to Worst
2012 Honda CR-V
2012 GMC Terrain
2012 Kia Sportage
2012 VW Tiguan
2012 Subaru Forester
2012 Kia Sorento
 2012 Nissan Juke
2012 Hyundai Tucson
2012 Toyota RAV4
 2012 Toyota Highlander
2012 Ford Edge
2012 Jeep Patriot
 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander
2012 Nissan Rogue
2012 Jeep Liberty
And deservedly dead last…
2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara (yes, it’s still for sale…only now with an odd quad-color leather seating design that makes the insides of this SUV look like a pimp exploded.)

Aren’t you dead yet?

2012 Honda CR-V Put to the Test by Daisy Mae the 80 Pound Dog!

The author Daisy Mae Hamel
No matter what you think about Honda and its line-up of family friendly coupes, sedans, hybrids, SUVs and trucks, there is no way any dog or lover of dogs could spend a week with the 2012 Honda CR-V and not feel confident that this company is just crazy for the four legged set? It positively screams “designed for hounds then humans” with the true accomplishment being that the 2012 CR-V is perfect for both man and his best friends.

People have accused “moi,” Daisy Mae Hamel of loving Honda’s lineup too much but really, isn’t it the other way around? Evidence can be found all around the 2012 Honda CR-V’s easy to access and very solidly built interior be it in the class leadingly low step-in height which allows “older” dogs like me to step into their owner’s vehicle with grace and dignity no matter how many years have passed by according to their “Dog-ometer.” Sorry, bad dog pun. Even we have off days.

CR-V in Suburbia!
Also, we found the CR-V’s front interior roof mounted sunglass holder and built-in rear seat monitoring mirror design to be both brilliant and chilling at the same time. Not only could my owner watch what I was doing in the leather lined rear seats of our test 2012 CR-V EX-L AWD model, but he could also then easily store their sunglasses when they got out of the SUV. That was, perhaps, my only niggle with the vehicle as I am a girl who likes a bit of privacy when riding in her harness in the second row of seats. I might meet a cute Bassett Hound.

Daisy doesn’t ride up here!
The 2012 Honda CR-V is also great for any owner who not only hauls the family dog but also has to haul lots of stuff in the cargo area. If you need more room during your travels in your 2012 CR-V all you need to do is just flip a handle in the cargo hold and the second row of seats folds flat in one fluid and mechanically brilliant motion. With those seats down, the CR-V sure felt like it was easy to load full of kibble bags and I was told that it offered around 79 cubic feet of cargo space. Too bad I don’t know what numbers mean but it sounds impressive.

Our test 2012 Honda CR-V was a top of the line EX-L model with navigation and all-wheel drive yet the sticker price barely creeped past $30,000 which is very impressive considering you also get automatic climate control, Bluetooth, power everything, leather seats, USB/iPod integration, Pandora internet radio, a power moonroof, stylish 17-inch alloy wheels, power 10-way driver’s seat, a back-up camera, tinted windows (so I can avoid the “Dog-arazzi” in LA), heated front seats and a premium AM/FM/CD 7-speaker audio system with subwoofer. Honestly, Honda threw in everything but a color matching restraint harness for me when they built this all-new CR-V.

With its easy to access cabin, wealth of solid feeling interior materials, generous features specification, newfound style and zippy Honda-style driving experience, I whole heartedly recommend the 2012 CR-V if your family is looking for a new SUV. It’s almost like Honda designed it with dogs needs in mind. Imagine that, a car company thinking beforehand about who in the family might most often be riding in the SUV? Honda must be full of geniuses. Or every other car company is run by idiots. I’ll get back to you on that last one.
Daisy Mae can be reached by clicking this link to reach her personal Dogbook Profile!

Also Check out some of Daisy Mae’s other work at her favorite website BarkBuckleUp.com!

Comparison Road Test: 2012 VW Tiguan vs. 2012 Nissan Juke

At first glance, this may seem like an odd SUV comparison to make, considering the fact that the Juke is perhaps the wildest looking vehicle of this type ever built while the 2012 VW Tiguan remains as Teutonic as ever with a restrained yet tasteful new front corporate front end easily noticeable whereas the much improved six-speed automatic now returns 2 miles per gallon more on the highway with EPA ratings of 22 city/27 highway. As the Juke was all-new last year, the vehicle needed nothing more than detail changes and our front-wheel drive manual transmission tester returned EPA figures of 25 city/31 highway. So, again, why the comparison?

This VW motor is one of the best in any vehicle at any price.

First off, both of these SUVs come standard with high revving, quick and quite addicting turbocharged 4-cylinder engines that still manage to return decent fuel economy in real life situations. Also, as Nissan and VW don’t sell these SUVs in Honda, Chevy, Ford or Toyota numbers, you won’t have to suffer the ignominy of seeing your exact same SUV always parked in the Home Depot lot every Saturday right next to you. Not that the Juke or Tiguan were meant for extreme cargo duties, although the VW has the Nissan easily licked in this department. With the Juke, you are buying a style statement to a degree so you take the small sacrifices in substance.

While both aren’t exactly overflowing with legroom in the second row, the big difference comes in how much cargo room is available in the Juke and Tiguan. The Juke, what with its cute and pert rear end design, sacrifices a cargo hold for what amounts to the inside of a teenager’s backback what with this SUV’s paltry 10.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. Fold those down and you can squeeze in about 35 cubic feet of your junk.

The Tiguan, on the other hand, gives buyers a much more useful 23.8 cubic feet behind the rear passengers growing to over 56 cubic feet when those seats fold (relatively) flat. Seriously VW, should the back seat fold with a giant lump in the middle of it because you didn’t worry about where the cupholders would go during such an occasion? Also, the Tiguan’s cargo hold feels tall and not very deep with the Jetta Sportwagen topping it as a cargo hauler for extreme duty.To read the rest click this sentence.

Consumer Road Test: 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS

Nowadays it would be very easy to say that Hyundai, as a car manufacturer, is on a very serious and very long roll when it comes to introducing very successful new models. Not only have these new vehicles been competitive but many have been called the best in their respective classes. A Hyundai? Surely this can’t be the same company that brought us the Hyundai Excel compact which is best remembered as being “not quite as bad” as the Yugo hatch that came to market around the same time.

The Value Equation

As is still always the case with most every Hyundai product, the 2012 Tucson is a terrific value for money. And just because our GLS tester was relatively inexpensive at $22,295, it definitely didn’t lack for features. Spend a few grand more for a Limited model and you can even add leather, cooler looking alloys, navigation and an upgraded premium audio system. But to our way of thinking the GLS is the smartest buy in the Tucson lineup and even the standard 6-speaker audio system does a terrific job in its attempts to sound “premium.”

Standard features on the 2012 Hyundai Tucson GLS includes power windows, door locks and mirrors, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD 6-speaker audio system, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, a 2.0 liter 176 horsepower/168 lb. feet of torque 4 cylinder, a 6-speed automatic, tinted glass, alloy wheels, keyless entry and a whole lot more. It is, in short all of the compact family SUV that most people really need.

To find out more about how we really felt about the 2012 H:yundai Tucson you can go to Yahoo! Automotive Voices by clicking here;