Video: 2016 BMW X5 with Night Vision and experimental Spotlight Beam Technology

So how does the Autoliv spotlight beam technology work in conjunction with Night Vision, now available on select models from Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Rolls Royce and Mercedes Benz? While the technology has yet to be made available in the U.S. market, the spotlights would no doubt prove invaluable in saving both human pedestrian lives as well as those of animals like deer, Moose and even dogs and cats. It’s truly amazing what Autoliv’s spotlight technology can pick up in the dark that the human eye cannot.

Honda and Acura Examiner names His 10 Best 2014 Models for Pets

We would have included Pickup trucks on this list but we fear that this would encourage too many idiots to leave their dogs in the pick-up bed as they sped down the highway. Just because your new F-150 has that convenient “man step” into the bed doesn’t mean you have to turn it into a “dog step.” That’s about as smart as using a gas powered weed whacker to floss your teeth.
But if you are responsible enough it is true what they say—dogs do love trucks. But the following list, however, doesn’t just talk about which models are easy to clean. These offer safety features, unique design elements and interior qualities that just struck us as very family friendly. After all, dogs are family. All of the following vehicles have been road tested for a week with a dog adopted from Boxer Rescue Los Angeles riding in the back seat wearing a safety harness.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI
Trust us, when your dog goes with you everywhere you are going to want to buy a

4-door. This economical VW hatch is about as fun as a GTI when equipped with the 6-speed manual and has seat upholstery that is the definition of “dog proof.” It’s the perfect economy car for the single person with a dog and honestly any station wagon like the Acura TSX Sportwagen or new Volvo V60 make for perfect dog cars.

2014 Scion tC
You don’t want a dog and a two door coupe, unless of course, it’s the 2011 Scion tC. We have tested many coupes in our time but none have offered as wide an entry point for your dog to hop in on either side of the car. Then, both seats return to their original position! And this is all for just about 20,000 nicely equipped! If you require a two door coupe this is your best choice.
2014 Subaru Outback 3.6R
Sturdy, faithful and loyal—the Subaru Outback is the automotive equivalent of a 13 year old Golden Retriever. Just like that breed of dog this wagon really never goes out of style. The cargo area is positively commodious, the materials are sturdy and the standard all-wheel drive affords you go anywhere capability anytime.
Since most automakers are abandoning wagons, the Outback really is your best

choice. Also, the interior feels like it was designed to take 10 years of abuse and come out the other side looking good. There is nothing flashy, just that time tested Subaru build quality. This wagon is also available4 with a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder that is deathly slow and has an obnoxiously noisy CVT automatic. Even dogs have standards and like to get to the park before sunset.

2014 Mazda CX-9 : This is the only three row SUV, or SUV for that matter, that offers a light tan leather interior option that is seemingly impervious to scuffing or paw marking after trips to the park or dog beach. Usually grey or black is a smarter interior color choice but in the CX-9 you can take your pick. All interior plastics are of very high quality (above average for a mainstream brand), the back seat is very roomy with easy to access safety buckles and most importantly it is actually very fast and fun to drive.
To learn who else made the list of best cars for your pet click here

2014 Toyota Venza XLE V6 Road Test

When approaching the front end of the 2013 Toyota Venza you could be excused for thinking something along the lines of, “my what big teeth you have!” Now we aren’t saying that the 2013 Toyota Venza XLE V6 was a wolf in granny’s clothing but we would say that when equipped with the 3.5 liter 268 horsepower/246 lb. feet of torque V6 motor which affords this crossover a bit of a growl and a certain accelerative bite.

What We Like
While the chrome grille may be a bit too large for some people’s tastes, the look of the Venza overall is stylish, pert and handsome thanks to nicely judged dimensions and a squat looking rear end. We absolutely love the 3.5 liter V6 and the smooth 6-speed automatic which are seamless and enjoyably responsive during aggressive driving maneuvers. We also love the huge center console mounted cubby hole covered over by a sliding cupholder tray which also has nooks for pens and smart phones. This is a very well laid out cabin.

What’s Not to Like
Our main gripe with the Venza came not from the driver’s seat but rather from

anyone who rode in the back on the rather firm rear bench seat where one’s ears would be assaulted by an overly aggressive amount of road and tire noise. The sound seems to emanate from the rear wheel wells and implies less than generous sound deadening back there. Passengers up front, however, have a quiet and serene driving experience. So make sure you don’t like your back seat passengers.

Tow and Haul
Unlike the more utilitarian, 7-passenger Highlander that we reviewed earlier or the workhorse known as the 4Runner, this 2013 Toyota Venza XLE V6 is rated to tow just 3,500 pounds but that should be plenty for any motorcycle haulers out there. A tow prep package costs only $220 from Toyota and includes an engine oil cooler, larger radiator fan and a heavy duty alternator. We recommend that if you plan to tow anything with your Venza that you invest in this invaluable and smartly priced option.
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating for this crossover is 5,095 pounds for this 3,870

pound vehicle which means you can haul passengers and cargo up to that weight without putting undue stress on the vehicle. This is not the same as how much towing capacity you have to pull a trailer behind your vehicle, of course. Cargo capacity behind the second row is 36.2 cubic feet growing to 70.2 cubic feet with those seats folded flat. 

The Drive
One thing that most impressed us about the Venza was the responsive and communicative steering that made parking lot maneuvers, aggressive cornering and even will make towing a much easier endeavor thanks to removing the usual SUV slop from behind the wheel. Brake pedal feel is mushy at first but gives solid bite when needed. Body roll is also kept nicely in check which is rare among most crossovers and SUVs. One might call the Venza a bit sporty. For a crossover.

Engine and Drivetrain
We never have a complaint about Toyota’s corporate 3.5 liter 268 horsepower/246 lb. feet of torque V6 motor as we think it is truly an under rated gem among many inferior competing 6-cylinder powerplants. The Toyota V6, when mated to a six-speed automatic, can be silky smooth and quiet but as you approach the redline it gives off a snarling growl which is in line with the power on hand. We’d avoid the base 4-cylinder option in this vehicle.

Interesting Vehicle Features
We especially liked the ergonomic, high mounted automatic transmission shift lever which sprouts from high in the center of the dashboard much like one used to see in old Alfa Romeo automobiles. It works well and helps drivers not need to take their eyes off the road as they are changing gears in crowded parking lots which could easily cut down on the likelihood of an accident. Why more vehicles don’t use higher mountings for their shifters is beyond us.

Gas Mileage
The Venza comes with a handy 17.7 gallon fuel tank and boasts EPA fuel economy figures with the V6 engine of 22 city/26 highway. We averaged an impressive 24.7 mile per gallon average over the course of a weeklong stay with us.

Interior and Exterior
Handsome, solidly built if just a little bit plain in an appealingly conservative

manner, this Toyota offers all of these attributes whether you are talking about the interior or the exterior. There are not many boastful or eye catching design features beyond the chrome heavy front end and the attractive rear tail lamp treatment. As for the inside, just picture a more plain Lexus RX350 interior and you will have some idea what you will find in a Venza. Wood paneling and leather rule the day but to good effect.

The 2013 Toyota Venza XLE V6 we tested was a front wheel drive model that stickered for $33,180 to which we added the aforementioned tow package ($220), a Premium Package for $1,850 (panoramic sunroof, navigation, entune and JBL audio via center screen, integrated back-up camera, USB/i-Pod connectivity, 13-speakers for the JBL audio system) as well as $900 for a full tow hitch kit and $79 for a rear bumper protector. We also spent $1819 on rear seat DVD entertainment which also includes a separate $41 charge for the wireless headphones. Hey Toyota, why not include the headphones in the price of the DVD entertainment system as they are sort of necessary for parental sanity. The total? $39,189 with destination.

The Verdict

While we really do think the 2013 Toyota Venza XLE V6 is an exemplary crossover, at this price there is also a lot of competition for your hard earned dollar—many of which exist at your local Toyota dealer. The rear seat noise in the Venza is definitely something that Toyota needs to address before this becomes our favorite towing and hauling machine in their line-up. It’s their fault really for building too many good SUVs and crossovers. 
Originally published on 

Top Ten Affordable Yet Cool Family SUVs

When it comes to picking out the best new SUV for you and your family, there are a lot of different things to consider besides sticker price and whether or not you think the car salesman you are working with was hired simply because his polyester suit matched his polyester hair. You see, there can be bad salespeople at any dealership and paying the right price for your next SUV will come down to doing your homework when the time comes and then being prepared to be doing a bit of negotiating.
But before you jump ahead to the actual process of “buying” your next 2014 SUV, you must first go out and “shop” for one first. And if you hadn’t noticed lately, there are a lot of choices out there for the average consumer. Admittedly, a new Range Rover might be nice to dream about but can you afford $110.000, a tenacious thirst for premium unleaded and the possibility that something might go wrong with the most complex SUV out there once out of warranty.
Don’t answer that if you have a house in the Hamptons, have live-in help who raise your children, or don’t have the slightest clue why 99% of a population would resent the top 1% of money earners in the populace. While there are some luxurious and upscale choices on this list, even the top level models here lack the showy ostentation that is never popular in a recession.
Otherwise, the following ten options have all been personally road tested by me for one week and each gets my seal of approval for life in bumper to bumper traffic or on the way to Saturday soccer practice. They are all solidly built, more fun to drive that most SUVs as you make your way around town, are relatively fuel efficient and offer more passenger/cargo room than you will probably ever need. But most importantly they won’t make you look like a dork in front of your kids when you pick them up in the family car. You don’t want to be the lame parent in that lame SUV, now do you?
If so, you might as well enjoy a little extra room and just buy yourself the dreaded minivan. And to many, driving a minivan is a fate worse than death. So pick one of these ten SUVs and escape once more from the grasp of the grim reaper.
2013 Kia Sportage-This compact SUV isn’t the roomiest model out there but it is definitely the coolest looking from its Euro-inspired chrome grille to utterly unique slant shape tailgate that has yet to be seen in any other SUV design. Powered by a 2.4 liter 176 horsepower 4-cylinder capable of 32 miles per gallon highway, you can also specify more power with the less efficient 2.0 liter turbo with 260 horsepower. It’s quick enough you won’t care that it’s not as efficient. The Sportage is the fraternal twin of the Hyundai Tucson but it quieter at speed and much better looking inside and out from a style perspective.
2014 GMC Terrain Denali-In 4-cylinder form the Terrain (and more sedate looking sibling Chevy Equinox) both makes for the best compact SUVs to ever come from the Big Three. They offer terrific build quality with their stylish interiors, have terrific EPA fuel economy estimates and are available with every electronic gizmo and gadget you can imagine. But we love the Denali with its romping, stomping 3.6 liter V6 engine and over 300 horsepower. Oh yeah, and the interior is nicer than even the regular Terrain.
2014 Honda CR-V-Not much is known yet about this all new CR-V which is rumored to come with an updated 200 horsepower 4-cylinder, class leading fuel economy and a new 6-speed automatic. At the very least we know that it will look extremely cool given how sexy Honda’s recently unveiled concept variant was in the metal. Expect a full report in November.
2014 Lexus RX350 F-Sport-Yes, there’s one in every other spot at your local Country Club but there is a reason why 45% of all Lexus models sold are the RX. This smooth, refined, soothing, expertly engineered and unfailingly luxurious five passenger SUV is everything the Neiman Marcus shopper needs. And in F-Sport trim with larger, smoked alloys and with a more responsive driving experience this Lexus is truly unstoppable.
2014 Audi Q5 2.0T Quattro-If you want a V6, go for the Lexus RX. If you need or want to save a little on your next compact luxury SUV check out the Audi Q5 with the venerable 2.0 liter turbocharged and direct-injected 4-cylinder that power the A4. Thanks to the amazing work of a clever new 8-speed automatic, this SUV gets great mileage and feels plenty quick.
2014 Acura MDX-If you want luxury, room for seven, the safety of one of the best full-time all-wheel drive systems and a price that is reasonable then you really only have one place to look. The MDX has been a sales hit from day one and for very, very good reason. And the all new 2014 model looks to continue that trend.
2014 VW Tiguan R-Line-With a potent 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, burly looking oversized alloy wheels, an exterior body kit, every possible option imaginable and a grippy flat bottom steering wheel, the all-new for 2014 VW Tiguan R-Line is as sporty as most SUVs get. And we love it. 
2014 Kia Sorento-Do you really want an MDX but can’t afford it? This Kia 7-passenger SUV is built in Georgia and is as close as you can get to that kind of luxury SUV but for a whole lot less depending on options. New for 2014 are some exterior styling changes, a higher quality dashboard, more premium leather seating while we still recommend the V6 model over the rather underpowered 4-cylinder engine. That hasn’t changed. 
2014 Dodge Durango-The shock of the year. All you need is the new Pentastar 3.6 liter V6 and new 8-speed automatic and you have a comfortable freeway cruiser for you and your family as well as one of the most stylishly high tech interiors in all of the SUV kingdom. Also, there’s room enough for relatives you really wish would lose your home address.
2014 GMC Acadia-This (along with its Chevy and Buick twins) amaze because they are so easy to

manage and park despite offering such tremendous amounts of interior room. Nothing out there offers a more comfortable third row seat. Except perhaps a Cadillac Escalade.

This article can be found in an earlier form on Yahoo! Voices. Check out my profile here.