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

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!

What your Car Says about Your Personality and Inherent Flaws

Okay, this article was written as a tongue in cheek commentary about how silly it is to get validation about who we are through our choice in car. But given the widespread buzz and readership among mainstream auto media, we wonder if it fact some people thought these automotive attributes were passed to owners or vice versa. Click to Convoy’s page for more!

Admit it: you judge other drivers.
Everyone judges other drivers based on their car and their driving habits (but come on – a Prius driver and a Porsche driver are going to take the roads differently), just like we’re all excellent drivers. We all know that minivans are driven by soccer moms, luxury car drivers are rude, and lifted truck drivers have something to prove, right? As much as these conclusions are widespread, they’re usually unfounded and ridiculous.  But when a car provides the opportunity for the driver to craft the ultimate expression of who he is and what his life is about (as our cars tend to be for many of us), it does open up the door to judgment.

Mazda Miata—You proudly drive the most misunderstood car in the world, and are

Photo: Jon Jon Gala

perhaps among the most misunderstood drivers out there. The Miata is one of the most engaging, fun to drive and rewarding – yet affordable – sports cars ever built and you know that. Whatever some dullard in a V8 SUV thinks you do at home in your bedroom is first off none of his business, but also nothing affirms you are secure in your masculinity and who you are than being cool with driving a Miata. You can’t have more fun for this little money anywhere. Miata owners are smart, brave and tan, generally.

Oops. That’s an AMC Gremlin

Hyundai Sonata—You are most definitely savvy about ensuring your car ownership experience is completely painless thanks to the Sonata’s ten year warranty. But you also have a heart of gold. Who else would adopt a car that looks like a monster that crawled out of the sea of Japan and started attacking the people in a local fishing village? Good thing the Sonata never did that… it just looks like it did once.


Smart ForTwo—You are a person who is truly fearless and never worry about your personal safety… or the fact that perhaps people are laughing at you. Why should you care? You are so fearlessly individual you actually like that less than 900 have been sold so far in 2013. Plus, only about 1% of the population is considered geniuses – maybe you’re one of them.

BMW X6—Not many people buy the BMW X6 but we have a clear bead on what attracts buyers to this oddly shaped SUV. We also know who buys them exclusively: super fans of Star Wars who dress up like Storm Troopers or Darth Vader at Comic Con each year. You buy the X6 because its appearance in white and black is so clearly an homage to the helmets worn by those evil characters in the films. Think about it. Ever see an X6 that wasn’t black or white? Didn’t think so.

>What are the Ten Best 2011 Cars for Families by Category?

BMW 3-Series—Unquestionably, BMW has been building the ultimate driving machine for years. However, everyone knows how expensive even the base model 3-Series has gotten, and there is a subset of the population that judges your Bavarian purchase for reasons beyond just the numbers on the trunk (which only delineate body style and model choice). To be more clear, BMW charges a lot for every option but makes it hard to tell from the outside if, in fact, the standard center dash mounted screen has navigation, or if the seats are vinyl or leather, or if your 335i is really just a lowly 320i with a (rather underpowered) 4-cylinder motor. Commoners might not know, but other BMW drivers will. And all will judge.


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 

2014 Acura RDX All-Wheel Drive with Tech Package Drive Test

The Acura RDX in its previous generation used to be a bit of the odd man out among luxury SUVs thanks to its turbocharged and rev-happy 4-cylinder engine, hot hatch levels of agility and somewhat lacking the utility of your average Lexus RX350. But for 2013 all that has changed as the RDX has now morphed into the son of MDX and now is the current sales leader for the brand thanks to a more tractable 3.5 liter 273 horsepower V6 and styling that is elegant instead of challenging. But will we like it? Read on to find out.

What We Like
If you have a family and responsibilities and routinely an SUV load of passengers

and cargo, then the 2013 Acura RDX is a definite improvement over the original. It is also a nicely proportioned shape and the size of this SUV is near perfect meaning you won’t have trouble maneuvering tight parking lots as it could easily still squeeze into many compact spots. Our favorite part, however, is the new 3.5 liter V6 which offers up such ample power that it renders rivals like the Lexus RX, Mercedes GLK, BMW X3 and Audi Q5 2.0T which feel in comparison like bears caught up in so much molasses.

What’s not to Like
To some, the unique powertrain and polarizing look of the first generation RDX are missed in this much more mainstream and in the end more appealing second generation variant. While we were fans of the last model’s turbocharged 4-cylinder, it wasn’t the most frugal motor when you kept the turbocharger on the boil but it made up for it with exceptional handling courtesy of Acura’s exemplary SH-AWD system. This second generation borrows a simpler full time all-wheel drive system as an option based on the unit used in the CR-V. Now, mainly it is just helpful in inclement weather and not on dry, twisty mountain roads. But then, aren’t those what your motorcycle are for?

Tow and Haul
Due to the lack of a specific “towing package,” even the all-wheel drive RDX

model tested here is only listed as rated for 1,500 lbs. of tow capacity. We do understand that the RDX is based on CR-V mechanicals but we think that with the beefy 3.5 liter V6 with its 273 horsepower/251 lb. feet of torque could handle hauling a lot more with the proper equipment. Seems to us like an option opportunity missed by Acura.

The Drive
Admittedly, the 2013 Acura RDX has less of a VW GTI on stilts, hot hatch vibe when you are driving it but then again this version is smoother, quicker and just might have the superior steering system. No matter, the 2013 RDX’s helm communicates nicely especially considering this is an SUV and when mated to a smooth yet controlled ride you can always trust this thing will head where you point it. Body roll is well kept in check and, yes, fun can be had with this luxury SUV if this is your daily driver.

Engine and Drivetrain
We absolutely loved the searing growl emanating from the sporty 3.5 liter V6 in

the 2013 RDX with its 273 horsepower/251 lb. feet of torque channeled through a perfectly integrated standard 6-speed automatic. Shifts were smooth and there was never any hesitation or harsh triple downshifts like you can get with some 8-speed automatics we can think of just off hand. More gears don’t neccesarily make for a better transmission just a more complicated one should it ever need repair. Seriously, how many gears do you need? Regardless, the 2013 Acura RDX always has plenty of power in reserve and never struggles like the motors in some versions of the BMW X3 and the Mercedes GLK.

Interesting Vehicle Features
When you order the Tech Package you not only get in-dash navigation but you also get a built in Zagat restaurant rating guide. So there’s no excuse when you own an RDX to eat at bad restaurants. Also, there is a voice activated system called “Song by Voice” which allows you to merely say aloud the song, artist or album you want to listen to that is on your iPod or the built in-music multi-gigabyte storage system and the car will start playing it without you having to touch a button.

Gas Mileage and Safety
The EPA rates the 2013 Acura RDX AWD at 19 city/27 highway and our led footed testers managed a still decent 22 miles per gallon but do keep in mind that Acura recommends Premium Unleaded only be used with this motor. The fuel tank is 16 gallons and the RDX was also named a “Top Safety Pick” in impact safety by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).

Interior and Exterior
The 2013 Acura RDX shares much of its appearance with the upcoming and now

larger 2014 Acura MDX SUV so it’s not hard to tell what with its signature silver shield grille which brand sells this luxury vehicle. It is not too bold nor is it overly conservative an exterior design either so while you won’t get noticed often, it is a look that fits in anywhere.

The interior of the RDX is also very cleverly designed to maximize space efficiency and ease of use. The navigation system, for instance, is controlled by a rolling center dash mounted knob that makes entering addresses much easier than in a touchscreen unit. Interior materials are first rate with the plastics and leather looking ready for a decade of abuse. Cargo capacity behind the second row is 26.1 cubic feet and when the easy to fold second row goes flat you are left with 76.9 cubic feet of cargo room.

Prices for the 2013 Acura RDX in front wheel drive form start at just $34,520 very generously equipped with leather covered powered and heated front seats, premium audio, back-up camera, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB/iPod interface and pretty much everything else you need.
Our nicely loaded all-wheel drive tester came equipped with the tech package which brings the cost to $39,620 and adds a terrifically intuitive in-dash navigation system, the amazingly crisp and clear Acura/ELS super premium audio system, xenon headlamps, a power tailgate, a built in music hard drive and voice activation for most anything you might need to do besides steer the SUV. All in all, a similarly equipped Lexus RX would cost about $10,000 more.

The Verdict
While we love how the 2013 Acura RDX AWD drives on the road we can’t say we weren’t more than just a little disappointed with this luxury SUV and its 1,500 lb. tow rating. That will really limit you as far as how many or what kind of motorcycles you can haul especially when you have to consider the weight of your trailer as well. Otherwise, this is a spacious, well built, fun to drive and relatively affordable luxury SUV option.
This review was originally posted on Check out their reviews by clicking here!

Convoy Auto Repair Lists Most Pet Friendly 2013 New Vehicles

There was a time when the family car was the preserve of only the family dog. Only he or she would be invited out to sanguine family picnics, trips to the park and the most exciting place of all—the Pet Store Parking Lot! But now even the family cat can ride along thanks to modern pet carriers and restraints. Regardless of that, these following 2013 models finished out the year as our most pet friendly as listed on the the  Convoy Auto Repair website!
  1. Most Pet Friendly Sporty Car—2013 Hyundai Veloster/Veloster Turbo: The

    reason the Veloster sport coupe is so pet friendly comes down to one simple and unique engineering feature—its highly useful third, human sized door. No dog likes to hop into the back of any sport coupe and you try restraining a cat in the back of your Porsche 911 without throwing out your back. Well, it’s impossible. We also love the fact that the Veloster boasts a very large 16 cubic foot cargo hold that is deep enough for plenty of pet supplies.

  2. Most Pet Friendly Luxury Sedan over $40,000—2013 Lexus GS350: After a week spent chauffeuring two 75 pound boxer dogs in the backseat of this Lexus GS the place looked just as it did when brand new. No wonder so many do owners looking for luxury cars turn to one place and one place only—Lexus. Looked a lot better than the light mocha colored interior of the 2013 Audi A6 these two road testing dogs tested the week after.
  3. Most Pet Friendly Entry Level Luxury Car—2013 Volvo S60: Not only is the

    interior of this lovely Scandinavian sport sedan very stylish but it adheres to the needs of pets as well with features like rear seat air conditioning vents and some of the most comfortable seats found in any automobile. There’s also Volvo’s commitment to safety with systems like City Safe which will stop the car if a pedestrian (or a large enough animal) gets in the way of the vehicle as you are driving.

  4. Most Pet Friendly Compact Family SUV—2013 Honda CR-V: Solid build

    quality, proven reliability and efficiency as well as the lowest ride height of any compact SUV(for those old and more arthritic pets who can’t jump up into tall SUVs) the 2013 Honda CR-V is the no brainer choice when it comes to affordable pet transportation. Oh yeah, and your less-furry family too.

  5. Most Pet Friendly Luxury SUV—2013 Lexus RX350: Again, sit inside a Lexus RX SUV and compare it with the albeit luxurious interiors of a Cadillac SRX, Audi Q5 or Infiniti FX35 and it is easy to see that this vehicle not only is built to withstand any wayward pet claws but will also clean up like new after one trip to the car wash. Luxury is nice but you want that luxury to be durable if you plan on bringing your pet along with you everywhere. 
  6. Most Pet Friendly Car Starting Under $15,000—2013 Chevy Spark: Sure, you can buy a base Honda Fit for just barely under $15,000 but after taxes and

    any options the price goes up considerably. That’s why we recommend the exemplary foor door 2013 Chevy Spark which is not only peppy with the manual transmission but also plenty roomy in the back even for a large breed dog. Or a really, really fat cat. Prices for the Spark start at just $12,185.

  7. Most Pet Friendly Family Sedan—2013 Honda  AccordThe first family sedan to nab the coveted new IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) Top Safety Rating Plus award, the 2013 Honda  Accord also impresses for its best in class interior quality and design, ample trunk space and the usual Honda resale value. It’s also fun to drive but your pet will no doubt favor the fact that Honda designed the greenhouse and rear seats with dogs in mind so that they could get a good view out of the road. No one wants a car sick Doberman in the back seat.
  8. Most Pet Friendly Full Size Sedan—2013 Dodge Charger: These full size

    sedans have amazing handling capabilities and are always top rated in the impact safety ratings. But this award goes to a special Dodge Charger SXT who helped this author and his 80 pound dog miraculously steer around a piano sitting in the middle of a very, very busy road.

  9. Most Pet Friendly Pick-Up Truck—2013 Toyota Tundra: In a recent test of Double Cab Pick-Up trucks (not the full size models with four doors), we found that pets found entry and exit into the back of the Tundra to be easiest thanks to a modicum of legroom in the low footwell and also that having the seat near their owner gave even a newly adopted rescue dog a feeling of serene comfort in the back perch. Also, the back half doors have windows that roll down as well for that wind in your fur feeling. Not to mention the trailing capacity for your hooved pets and all their equipment.
  10. Most Pet Friendly “Green” Vehicle—2013 Toyota Prius V/2013 VW Golf

     TDI: One is a diesel (the VW) and the other is a hybrid (the Prius V) but both share one thing in common—they are both essentially modern day wagons with all of the space and utility that provides you. EPA estimates for the Golf  TDI are 42 city/30 highway and the Prius V promises returns of 44 city/40 highway. Both boast plenty of cargo room, tie down hooks for pet restraints and tons of SUV rivaling cargo room. But the Golf TDI with a manual transmission manages one other feat–it’s fun to drive!

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. 

James Hamel Named Automotive Spotlight Writer of the Month on Yahoo!

Check out where James Hamel got his start in freelance auto journalism at Yahoo! Voices where his work has been read by over 1.7 million people. Click here to see his main profile page!

Daisy Mae, my one time canine road tester
would have been so proud. 

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 website and read our final thoughts and conclusion for this compact Chevy SUV. 

James Hamel’s Choice for 2013 Car of the Year: Cadillac ATS Sports sedan

Although this is the first year we have put this award into place, we realized that each new model year there is always a new vehicle that comes in and truly redefines what is expected of that type of car and often times readjusts the automaker pecking order in regards to who is leading and who is floundering. We truly felt this was the case this year after having the privilege of piloting the 2013 Cadillac ATS Turbo around a wide open race track where it shamed every German out there when it came to offering a truly visceral and fun to drive experience whose suspension did nothing but flatter the driver’s skills. Our test turbo also boasted one of the finest manual transmissions we have tested recently in any sports sedan, BMW most definitely included.
We also drove the more luxury oriented ATS with the 3.6 liter 321 horsepower V6 mated exclusively to

Cadillac’s excellent 6-speed automatic which delivers imperceptible shifts whenever you need extra power. We also love this 3.6 liter V6 for its characterful engine note—too much of the luxury competition now relies on turbocharging their 6-cylinder motors and as such the driver loses out on the unique rhythm of a well-designed, high powered 6-cylinder. Again, that may have been a reference to BMW but that is up to you to decide. All we know is, BMW used to make cars that were as exciting to drive and offered as many variations to buyers as Cadillac is now doing with the 2013 ATS.

Prices start as low as $33,095 for a model with the base 2.5 liter 202 horsepower direct-injected 4-cylinder we have yet to drive but even the most basic trim model with the 2.0 turbo engine we so loved starts just over $35,000 and offers up a BMW 328i beating 272 horsepower. Both 4-cylinders are available with either 6-speed manual gearboxes or 6-speed automatic transmissions both of which impressed us greatly for their precision and overall sporty feel.
Trust us, you won’t miss out not having 7 or 8 gears with your luxury car automatic transmission. Maybe if other luxury brands focused on what mattered to real world luxury sport sedan buyers (hint: gimmicky adjustable suspension/steering systems don’t help), they too could have come up with a model like the utterly pure ATS which is nothing short of a true revolution for the Cadillac brand. Finally, Cadillac is ready to go not only toe to toe with BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, Volvo, Infiniti and Acura’s most driver focused models but it pretty much kicks the ass of most of their similarly priced offerings in the process.
Lastly, not even hallowed Audi is safely ahead anymore when it comes to interior design, materials quality, the use of realistic and expensive trim accent pieces and being the perennial class leader when it comes to crafting “special” feeling cabins. First off, Cadillac’s in-dash CUE system is a snap to learn and easily integrates all of your smartphone/navigation/Bluetooth and various other functions into one of the easiest to use touch screen systems out there. And the Leather quality mixed with the wide variety of optional hide colorings and trim contrasts made us feel like every ATS model we sat in was quite special.
This is not your grandfather’s Cadillac or even your dad’s CTS. This is Cadillac taken from the promise of

the CTS-V sub-brand and brought into the realm of affordability of most luxury sedan shoppers. The 2013 Cadillac ATS absolutely belongs on your test drive short list no matter which brands you have been loyal to previously.

This article was written by and the decision for this award was completely the work of James Hamel. A copy of this piece can be found on without my byline and proper credit given. Photos courtesy of Cadillac. 

Yahoo Contributor James Hamel Want’s To Stop Feeding The Fame Monsters ;)

Yahoo Contributor James Hamel Want’s To Stop Feeding The Fame Monsters 😉
This young lady defended me after writing an article about the ten most annoying celebrities.

The head of Facebook just might make the list now.

Made in the USA: What it means to buy American | Convoy Auto | Convoy Auto Repair

Comparison First Drive: 2014 Nissan Versa Note vs. 2013 Nissan Versa Sedan – National Honda and Acura |

Comparison First Drive: 2014 Nissan Versa Note vs. 2013 Nissan Versa Sedan – National Honda and Acura |

There are two bodystyles available for the Nissan Versa subcompact, the first of which is the 2013 Versa sedan which has the distinction of being the vehicle with the lowest base price in the country and the all-new 2014 Note five door hatchback which we recently had a chance to extensively road test around San Diego. These are our impressions of both the 2013 Nissan Versa sedan and 2014 Note hatchback models we have driven as they are based on a lot of the same basic mechanicals.

DriveApart Review: 2013 Ford F-150 Eco Boost | RideApart

DriveApart Review: 2013 Ford F-150 Eco Boost | RideApart

One of the smartest buys when it comes to towing and hauling, the iconic Ford F-150 gets better with each passing year. Click on the link to check out the article!