Affordable Luxury Sport Sedans: Nissan Maxima SR vs. Chrysler 300S vs. Acura TLX SH-AWD


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This is the true story of a comparison test between three luxury sport sedans which take very different paths to achieving their performance goals. For those with petrol in their veins, everyone should know that the aggressively styled 2017 Nissan Maxima is front-wheel drive, the 2017 Chrysler 300S is a rear driver with the only honest to goodness V8 on test here and the 2017 Acura TLX SH-AWD can send power to any slipping wheels even in dry weather conditions. Both the Acura and Maxima offer V6 engines with the Acura the only one on test which offers an admittedly impressive 4-cylinder engine in base models. .

Unlike many other all-wheel drive or other on-demand systems, SH-AWD is special for being able to send so much engine power to one or two wheels and we are sure it will inspire some attempted hooliganism with owner’s newly licensed children behind the wheel.  But isn’t this InfotainmentExperts.com? Aren’t we obsessed with tech? Well, this is a luxury sport sedan comparison where we judge and grade the tech on offer such as in the sections for Audio, Safety Tech, Technology Ease of Use and Smartphone Connectivity. We will also tell you our opinions on the exterior, interior quality and comfort, fuel efficiency, performance and finally “Is this car worth the price?”

So, with much ado about not much else let’s find out how this comparison test turned out!

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First Place: 2017 Nissan Maxima SR

While we will hold off on proclaiming it the return of the 4DSC (4 door Sports Car), we are amazed at how well the Maxima SR performed across the board be it in its fun to drive nature all the way to its impressive adjustable handling technology. There really is no place where this new Maxima, especially in the aggressive looking SR trim, trails its two competitors most especially in value for money as our vehicle stickered just over $38,000 as opposed to $43,000 and for the Chrysler and just over $45,000 for our top of the line advance trim Acura TLX SH-AWD. Admittedly our Chrysler would have matched the Acura’s price had it only been equipped with the optional all-wheel drive which for those living in snow belt states we presume is a must.

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Impressive among the tech features were Nissan’s terrific Around View Parking Monitor, a full purview of active safety tech from blind spot warning to automatic forward emergency braking, a unique sport tuned suspension enhanced by the Drive Mode Selector and Integrated Dynamics-control Module. The Drive Mode selector when put into “Sport” will sharpen the vehicle’s throttle response, enhance steering feel as well as initiating Active Sound Enhancement for the standard 300-horsepower 3.5 liter V6 which when pushed emits the most glorious staccato vibrato of any V6 out there.

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The Integrated Dynamics Control Module, in a sense, easily explains why we had so much fun driving this admittedly rather large four-door sedan on a long road trip. It has Active Trace Control which automatically optimizes your line through turns by applying the inner or outer brakes as well as Active Engine Braking which automatically “downshifts” the gearless CVT automatic during braking while readying the gearbox to power you out of a freeway off-ramp apex, should that be your desire.

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Of course, the Maxima SR also features Apple Carplay/Android Auto compatibility, heated and ventilated front Ascot leather and alcantara seats, an 11-speaker Bose Centerpoint 2 audio system that provided a terrific driving soundtrack as well as Intelligent Radar Cruise control which can bring the vehicle to a complete stop and then bring you back to your set speed.

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In addition, the 2017 Nissan Maxima was always comfortable for the passengers as well thanks to Active Ride Control which reacts automatically to bumps, potholes and road irregularities by subtly applying the brakes to keep the chassis level. Even the dog we rescued at the end of our road trip loved the 2017 Nissan Maxima SR and we think was rather disappointed when it just disappeared one day. We were too.

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Second Place: 2017 Acura TLX SH-AWD

Whereas the 2017 Acura TLX looks a bit like an ancient Japanese Shogun warrior in a neatly pressed suit of armor, the Maxima SR is much more the challengingly styled in the manner of modern Japanese Anime. But with the 2017 Acura TLX you not only get a car with a reputation for reliability as well as top notch resale values but you also get what is easily one of the most advanced all-wheel wheel drive systems out there. It’s called SH-AWD (or Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive) and it not only helps keep you on the road in slick or icy conditions but thanks to its ability to apportion torque to individual wheels it also aids dry weather cornering grip.

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Our 2017 Acura TLX SH-AWD came with a 3.5 liter 290 horsepower V6 engine attached to a slick shifting 9-speed automatic gearbox. As is the current luxury brand norm, the TLX with the V6 engine also has a new, utterly unique push button gear changer inside the cabin to annoy people who hate change just for the sake of it. Now, the Acura’s motor makes a swell noise when you rev it out to redline but that is nothing compared to the incomparable 10-speaker ELS Studio Premium Audio System which for years has been our favorite OEM audio system for perfect sound no matter what kind of music you play. Please, always order the Tech Package with an Acura to get the ELS Audio. It is that good.

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The TLX also excels in the area of advanced safety technology with our Tech and Advance Package equipped model boasting bling spot warning, front impact warning, rear cross traffic monitoring, a muti-angle back up camera, automatic rain sensing wipers, a lane keeping assist system which actively will tug on your steering wheel to keep you in your lane, a full collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation (yes, on the highway the TLX can essentially steer itself although if you take your hands off the wheel for too long it will send you a warning) and lastly a highly effective Adaptive Cruise control with low speed follow that had no problem handling terrible Southern California stop and go traffic by itself.

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We can verify that from the very big traffic jam returning from Honda Headquarters on the 405 in this test TLX. It worked flawlessly, managing to both steer and manipulate the brake and throttle without driver assist. We were, however, monitoring everything so don’t think you can take a nap on your morning commute just yet.  And with this 2017 Acura TLX SH-AWD managing to be so agile, fun to drive and oh-so very Audi Quattro-like in its buttoned-down cornering behavior, this car is every inch the premium luxury car. As such it deserves to have a special brand.

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The 2017 Acura TLX SH-AWD is the car we would buy first money no object. It is just that good. And it’s styling will appear classically timeless even a decade down the road which is not a sure thing for the Maxima or for that matter the 300S. All that the TLX might appear to be lacking when compared to the Chrysler and Nissan is Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility but frankly, the infotainment system design is excellent as is and does feature Siri Eyes Free for Apple iPhone users. That, and our personal favorite feature which is Song by Voice which allows you to use the voice activation system to have the car play a song, album, artist or playlist from your smartphone or even better, the build in music hard drive storage system. With the 2017 Acura TLX, you really can’t go wrong.

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Third Place: 2017 Chrysler 300S

There are really no losers amongst these three full-size, luxury performance sedans. All of them are enjoyable to drive, refined and offer all the roominess that a Toyota Avalon or Chevy Impala buyer seeks just with a bit more excitement. They all feature cutting edge active safety features like blind spot warning and can even attempt to autonomously stop the car to varying degrees if they detect an impending accident. Even in the center console Chrysler has engineered in an optional wireless charger right beside a couple of USB ports and something called an AUX-in jack.

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So, theoretically, if you have a phone that is capable of wireless recharging you could hop into your 2017 Chrysler 300, toss you phone into the center console armrest cubby and stream your music to the impressive enough, albeit somewhat artificially heavy in the bass department, 10-speaker Beats audio system with a 552-watt amplifier and dual voice coil subwoofer. We can attest to the facts that our test 2017 Chrysler 300S had quite a loud sound system. Almost too loud. Best left at 7/10’s. If you’d like to keep your hearing.

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Since its inception many moons ago, Chrysler’s U-Connect infotainment system has improved with leaps and bounds to the point that the 8.4 touch screen variant in our tester was easily the equal of class best. The screen is high resolution and enormous with both Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility if you choose to go that route. If you buy your 2017 Chrysler 300S with the U-Connect 8.4 with built in navigation you also get 5 years free Sirius XM Travel Link and Traffic Plus which is a great way to sell customers on the Chrysler OEM navigation rather than just using Waze.

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Our test 2017 Chrysler 300S featured dark silver chrome dash inlays contrasting with black leather sport seats nicely embroidered with a red “S” in to the backrest. If you want wood trim, shinier chrome inside and your more traditional Chrysler 300 experience then check out the 300C or top of the line 300C Platinum. But this is our issue with the 2017 Chrysler 300, because even if you select 300C Platinum you still pay more for the 5.7 liter V8 as well as what they refer to the Safety Tec Plus Group—the package that is essential to bring this car up to the active safety tech level of its newer rivals here.

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Oh, yeah, and for all in with every option hitting just over $47,000 we wish that so many interior components from the power window switches to the climate control were not just standard Fiat/Chrysler parts bin items. You do, however, tend to forget all that once you nail the throttle on the 5.7 liter 363 horsepower Hemi V8 which feels most of the time as if it has bottomless amounts of accelerative thrust on offer. Oh, yeah, and it sounds cool doing it. Just don’t tell that to the cop who just caught you doing 120 miles per hour on the freeway.

 

 

Amazingly Excellent Family Four Doors: 2016 Mazda6 iTouring v. 2015 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD


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Written by James Hamel (and the conclusion can be found by clicking here onto Examiner.com)

Not everyone lives and dies by the rule that you have three choices in the family sedan segment and they are Accord, Camry or Altima. Really, you rent an Altima you don’t buy one for your family. That car could use a mid-life refresh as badly as if it was one of Bravo’s “Real Housewives” who routinely plump, alter and tinker with their looks. You see, there are cool family sedan options and here are three of the best—the 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL, 2016 Mazda 6 Touring and the 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD.

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Exterior Styling

The latest Mazda6 has always visually tickled us in all the right spots and is more dynamic looking than Accord or the latest Camry. We’d say it’s downright handsome but once the 200C AWD walks in the door you understand the difference between that and sexy. And the Passat, well, its lines have aged very well and in burgundy it looks like a million bucks. If you want your car to look German, that is your family sedan. Still, we can’t believe Chrysler of all brands managed to bring “Sexyback” to family sedans. (1st Place: 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD 2nd Place: 2016 Mazda6, 3rd Place: 2015 VW Passat TDI)

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Interior Layout, Comfort and Materials Quality

Whereas the Passat admittedly is the king and champion when it comes to rear seat roominess (it really the only one suitable to carry five adults) and simply enormous trunk space, sometimes its generosity bordered on overkill. If your groceries rolled all the way forward in the trunk you practically have to climb in just to retrieve them from this VW’s Grand Canyon of cargo capacity. It’s perfect if you are a hoarder. We just wish the interior felt a bit less Spartan and featureless. And the cheap plastic clock on the dash has to go.

Here is where the 2016 Chrysler 200C’s interior shows up the competition and that is in the high quality feel of the leather, plastics and carpets as well as “wow your friends” features like a transmission gear selection knob that looks quite a lot like the one you find exclusively in Jaguars and Range Rovers. A stylish dual pane panoramic sunroof much like the one that really is the cherry on top of the equally sexy Kia Optima also featured in our Chrysler 200 tester and helped it to inch past the Passat and stylishly sporty feeling interior of the 2016 Mazda6 with its new and much improved infotainment system for the win. (1st Place: 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD, 2nd Place: 2016 Mazda6 Touring, 3rd Place: 2015 VW Passat TDI)

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Fuel Economy

Well first off let’s just say the 2015 VW Passat TDI simply walked away with the fuel economy win being that we put 680 miles on the odometer and never had to fill the tank once. And yes, we returned it with just under a quarter tank left. The 2016 Mazda6 with its SkyActiv technology, however, also impressed us for its efficiency given that it has an EPA estimate of 28 city/40 highway and we averaged 38.9 miles per gallon over the course of a week.

Our 200C may have recorded the lowest fuel economy numbers here but it is also the only one equipped with all-wheel drive (the other two don’t offer it) and a far more powerful 3.6 liter 295 horsepower V6 which thankfully does run on regular unleaded. Over the course of a week the 18 city/29 highway rated 200C averaged nearly 22 miles per gallon. Do note there is a more fuel efficient (36 highway) 2.4 liter 184 horsepower 4-cylinder engine available. But what is the fun in that? (1st Place: 2015 VW Passat TDI, 2nd Place: 2016 Mazda6, 3rd Place: 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD)

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Value for Money, Features and Pricing

All three sedans here have starting prices in the low $20,000 range but their as tested prices varied wildly based on how lavishly equipped they were with the latest gadgets and gizmos. But keep in mind our 2016 Mazda6 Touring stickered for just over $23,000 yet still featured dual zone climate control, 19-inch alloys, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, keyless go and push button start as well as very convincing faux cowhide seat upholstery. The 2015 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium TDI was priced just over $34,000 and given its higher feature count the 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD rang up to just over $37,000 once the Chrysler Group LLC had finished lavishing every possible option imaginable onto our test vehicle. Yes, we see that’s a big gap.

If you can live with some of the more over the top features like, oh, say the Chrysler Parallell and Perpendicular Park Assist system which can automatically parallel park and guide you into a regular parking spot for you as well should you one day be rendered utterly incompetent. It’s too bad that feature is lumped into a package with very helpful safety advances like collision advance brake assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam headlights. In fact, only the Volkswagen lacked adaptive cruise control which can automatically maintain a set speed for you on the freeway regardless of traffic. It just slows you down then speeds you up again. That used to be the preserve of Lexus models but now even family sedans boast the latest gadgetry. (1st Place: 2016 Mazda6, 2nd Place: 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI, 3rd Place: 2016 Chrysler 200)

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Do any of these Sedans Stir the Senses? (Fun to Drive)

First to go down in this fight is a car that boasts impeccable road manners and noise suppression all while managing to always feel like the faster you drive it the more nailed down you are to the road. This car is, of course, the German Engineered and Tennessee built 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI. This frugal family sedan is a pleasure at a relaxed cruise and can also manage to capably tackle windier roads if the need arises.

The only problem is that the 2016 Mazda6 Touring has the cheetah-like ability the more comfort oriented VW lacks thanks to the most buttoned down suspension tuning of any car in this test and steering that is not only communicative but never feels overly heavy during tight cornering maneuvers. The 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD’s steering felt lighter and somewhat more detached but the car made up for it with the tenacious grip during even the most insanely tight freeway onramp cornering maneuvers. Not that we would test a car in such a way but Southern California where we are based has little need for all-weather traction as a rule but the 200’s system manages to aid grip even in the dry.

As you would imagine, the Chrysler’s 3.6 liter 295 horsepower V6 offered up the most thrilling straight line experience but a funny thing happened on the way to the forum when the roads got twisty and the 200C’s weight problem compared to the Mazda6 became easier to notice. So despite only packing a 2.5 liter 185 horsepower Sky-Activ 4-cylinder, the 6 always felt like a feisty performer thanks to its enthusiastically growling engine note and the slick shift action of the six-speed manual gearbox.. And never once did we wish the Mazda had more horsepower when we took it for some blasts on our favorite back roads. Face it, Mazda knows how to make even a family sedan go “Zoom-Zoom.”

And while we are always enthusiastic about Volkswagen’s 2.0 liter 140 horsepower/236 lb. feet of torque TDI diesel motor, we always feel that particular engine makes for a more engaging drive hen equipped with the manual gearbox. Really the only car priced like the 2016 Mazda6 that will soon have an infotainment system possibly as good as the one in the Mazda will be the soon to be released 2016 Honda Accord EX four door which should feel just as rewarding to drive. (1st Place: 2015 Mazda6, 2nd Place: 2016 Chrysler 200C AWD, 3rd Place: 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI)

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BUT WHO WON? Click here to go to Examiner.com. 

All Chrysler 200C Photos by MaryAnne Wendt Founder and Editor in Chief of WhyThisRide.com

The Honda and Acura Examiner Test: 2014 Honda Accord EX-L V6 vs. 2014 Camry XLE V6 and 2014 Altima SL V6


 Is there any comparison of family sedans more necessary than one between the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima? These three battle it out constantly for family sedan sales supremacy in the United States and despite increased competition from names like Sonata, Optima, Malibu, Fusion and Passat the truth of the matter stands—none of those models sell as many units.


Fortunately for us, we have had the privilege of spending a lot of time

behind the wheel of an EX-L sedan equipped with the all-new 3.5 liter 278 horsepower/253 lb. feet of torque V6 and 6-speed automatic that affords this four door sedan a class leading EPA estimated 21 city/34 highway for fuel economy. That kind of efficiency makes you question the point of buying a 4-cylinder engine in any family sedan. But we might have also been biased by this V6 engine’s bountiful thrust and intoxicatingly tuneful growl when we routinely gunned it out to redline.

Yes, we realize that most family sedans are purchased with four-cylinder engines and rumors have been circulating that in its next redesign the Camry’s V6 will get the axe—sadly the most exciting thing about that sedan. In truth, most V6 engines are being replaced by similarly powerful (but never quite as aurally pleasing) direct injected and turbocharged 4-cylinders which seem to do better on EPA fuel economy testing cycles. In the real world, we haven’t always found that to be the case. You see, a turbo 4 will only be efficient so long as you keep the motor off-boost and in

its efficiency zone otherwise you may see efficiency levels lower than a V6. So here goes, what may be the last face-off between the 6-cylinder Accord, Camry and Altima.



To read the rest of this comparison and find out who won click here!

Autobytel Road Test of 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL


When Nissan set about overhauling its highly successful line of Altima family sedans, you would think that the company’s goal would be to hang on tightly to its usual hard-earned position as the third best-selling family sedan in the country. But as we all well know, the bread and butter family sedan segment has been turned up over onto its ear as of late what with the Camry suddenly discovering a “fun to drive” side and Hyundai, Kia and VW recently launching brilliant newcomers that brought them firmly in line with the family sedan mainstream in the form of the Sonata, Optima and Passat.

So given the depth and breadth of choice available, what is it that family sedan buyers want? Well, they demand that their next new purchase will exceed all of their expectations in areas like value, true stylishness inside and out, offering full luxury car amenities as well as a driving experience that is both soothing and athletic. Examples of this new family sedan work ethic can be seen in the recently released 2012 Kia Optima SXL Limited as well as in either the TDI or VR6 variants of the 2012 VW Passat. These aforementioned examples of the best of the best now manage to tickle our family sedan funny bones in a way we truly that we never thought possible. And looming still on the horizon is the next generation 2013 Honda Accord so you have to wonder what Nissan was hoping to accomplish with this very thorough redesign?

Well, first off in just its first month on sale the new 2013 Nissan Altima has usurped the current Accord’s long held rank as second best-selling car in this country (after Camry) thanks to a big boost in sales. And, no, after spending a week in a fully loaded 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL sedan we don’t think it was because a lot of those “early bird buyers” got a free maintenance package for two years as part of the deal. No, what we discovered during our week with the 2013 Nissan Altima was that we not only relished driving it but that it also passed the ever so elusive “snooty test.”

What is the “snooty test?” Well, in our case was performed in the parking lot of a very upscale and exclusive private Newport Beach Country Club where the response to the new sedan from the absurdly wealthy was overwhelmingly positive. People stopped and stared and wanted to pop their head inside to get a look at the vast improvement know as the interior of this sedan. In fact, we suspect more than one of these Club members saw in this Altima the perfect “financial downsize” as the mortgage on their McMansion and the Club dues are conspiring to make Audi or BMW payments impossible.

To Read the Rest of Our Altima Driving Impressions Click here to go to Autobytel!

Autobytel’s Review of 2012 Toyota Camry Ends with a Shocker! It’s, well, fun?


For Full Article Click Here to see the full free review click HERE to go to Autobytel.com!

It’s truly amazing how far automotive technology can come in such a very short period of time. Granted, new cars like the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid are the result of an overwhelming amount of cash, man hours and no doubt a fair amount of late night binge drinking in bars and restaurants near Toyota City in Japan. Although we haven’t been inside Toyota City, we imagine it must be enormous since Toyota’s U.S. HQ in Torrance is known just as “Toyota University” and we need a Scion shuttle to get us from one building to the another.

Either way, take our word for it that both places are big. Just like the announcement we are about to make to every person out there who just would never, ever buy a hybrid because of their few but seemingly ever-present driving quirks. Some consider these quirks as annoying as Richard Simmons in a glitter factory but at worst we found most vehicles of this type to merely be guilty of the sin of being “boring to drive.” Sadly, that was practically the sole defining character trait of the last generation Camry Hybrid whose utter lack of any spirit made you want to somehow make it cry. At least a Prius is visually inventive from a design perspective whereas the Camry had reached its bottom in regard to boredom.

We should have known something was up with the new 2012 Camry when Toyota held the launch party at a Hollywood movie studio and part of the vehicle presentation was a cacophony of confetti cannons and young, hip looking flash mob dancers gyrating around the new car. At least 200 of them we estimated but once you’ve seen one slacker they start to blend into one another with time. We are quite sure 178 of these “flashmobbers” had a soul patch.

After rubbing our eyes and pinching ourselves to ensure we were awake, we drove all of the new Camry models and found we were most astonished by the sea change found in the Hybrid version. This called for us to investigate further with a one week real world road test, of course, as we suspected Toyota slipped something funny in our Diet Coke at that party. So, were our impressions of the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid all a dream that day? Read on to find out if we like the Hybrid Camry as much as we anticipated or if disappointment will break our battery powered hearts.

To read detailed impressions about this Camry Hybrid go to the full free review on Autobytel.com

2012 Kia Optima SX Road Test and Review | Autobytel.com


We think rather highly of the 2012 Kia Optima, made obvious by its recent win as the Autobytel Sedan of the Year. In just one model cycle, the little South Korean underdog went from tailing most of the entire sedan pack (barring your sister’s ’84 Mitsubishi Galant) in style and sophistication to all but domanitating the entire segment.

Though the Optima itself delivers an overall rewarding experience for most economical buyers, the real crowd pleaser is the Optima SX turbo. New for 2012, the Optima SX is powered by a special 2.0 liter twin-scroll, which pumps out 274 horsepower/269 lb. feet of torque. The unit is mated to one of Kia’s own 6-speed automatics and boasts EPA estimates of 22 city /34 highway – which is an incredibly optimistic figure given how tempting it is to really work the spirited four-banger. In real-word testing, we averaged around 19 mpg.

Click here for full review!

2012 Kia Optima SX Road Test and Review | Autobytel.com