Just in Time! A Look at Fuel Sipping Vehicles

A Ron Amadon’s Roads Special

Saving You Money at the Pump

gas prices 001

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – With gas station signs bringing motorists bad news on seemingly every block, it is time to look at some economical new vehicles that promise to ease the burden on the march to what could be widespread $4-plus pump prices.

How does 50 mpg sound these days? That’s what I got on a long interstate trip from Maryland to northern Florida. The Prius gobbled up all that my wife and I could stuff in and proved to be a comfortable interstate cruiser.
If fuel economy is a major issue, one might consider the Prius C rated at 53 mpg city, 46 on the highway at the loss of some refinement from the plain Prius. The wagon version of Prius, the V, gets 44 city and 40 highway. It should be noted that the Camry LW Hybrid returns an EPA rated 43 city and 39 highway. My recommendation would be the plain Prius.

The Civic Hybrid got a 44 mpg rating from the EPA right across the board with the sportier but slow CRZ coupe rated at 31-28 mpg while the Honda Insight is rated at 41-44 mpg. If an Accord is more to your liking, the plug-in hybrid model is rated at 47-46 mpg city/highway. My recommendation would be the Civic.

The jazzy looking and entry level Accent will get you 37 mpg out on the highway, (these are the amended figures), and 28 mpg around town. You might shop the Kia Rio if that styling appeals. Guts-wise they are the same car. Moving upscale, the Elantra with the 6-speed automatic hits 38 mpg on the highway and 28 around town. It comes as both a coupe and sedan. The Elantra is a neat car and can be fun to drive, but my choice out of the Hyundai garage would be the Sonata with 24-35 mpg. You should also take a gander at its cousin, the Kia Optima.

Another jazzy looking car on the economy list is the Nissan Sentra. With a 6-speed manual the Sentra is rated at 27-36 mpg and with its recent restyling offers more room and lighter weight. Add the FE+ package, and economy increases by four to 40 mpg highway. Prices start at $16,000. Another fuel sipper at Nissan is the Versa good for 27 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. For those looking for a good set of wheels at a starting price of $11,990 for a bare bones model to $13,790 for a more upscale version, the Versa is worth a look. Those seeking something different might consider the Juke at 27-32 mpg with the CVT transmission. A base Juke, (sounds like some sort of musical instrument), starts at just shy of $20,000.

A most delightful and economical car from the Blue Oval is the C-Max hybrid. It is EPA rated at 47 mpg in both city and highway driving and proved to be a quiet and spacious wagonette during my weeklong test. Under ideal conditions one can achieve a driving range of 570 miles before filling up. Prices start at $25,200. Also worth a look is the Ford Fiesta rated at 28-38 mpg and a starting MSRP of $13,200.

The 2.0-liter TDI Diesel Golf will return up to 42 mpg on the highway and 37 mpg around town. Yet it should be noted that the price of diesel fuel in many locations can be higher than unleaded regular, something to be considered by economy minded shoppers. Diesel models start at $24,495. A gas powered Golf with a six-speed automatic is rated at 24-31 mpg with a base of $24,235.

Those looking for a truck with some economy in mind might consider the Toyota Tacoma with a 2.5-liter 4 rated at a combined city/highway 23 mpg. The Nissan Frontier came in at 21 mpg combined with a base price of just over $19,000.
For those looking at crossovers, the Ford Escape with the 2.5-liter 4 gets a combined rating of 32 mpg… the Lexus RX450h for upscale buyers comes in at a combined 29 mpg … the delightful Mazda CX-5 gets 29 mpg … and the Toyota Highlander, always a best seller in this category, comes in as a hybrid at 28 mpg.
And among larger vehicles, there is the Honda Pilot at 18 mpg, the Jeep Grand Cherokee at 18 – same for the Chevy Equinox.
And in the “Doubt You Will Get This but Here We Go Anyway” department, the Mustang V8 is rated at 22 mpg combined city/highway with the Corvette Z06 at 19 mpg and the Camaro V8 at 18 mpg.

Auto News for Feb. 20

Audi and Toyota have won spots on MIT’s 2013 list of the most “Disruptive Companies.” Don’t read this the wrong way, MIT is actually recognizing firms that it says have “taken risks to unsettle an existing marketplace or create a new market entirely.” Audi was cited for pushing driverless cars to “fruition with (a) laser-scanning road detector that fits in a vehicle’s front grill.” Toyota made the list for “expanding its dominance of the hybrid car market with its new plug in version of the Prius.”

There will be lots of new cars, some 30 of them, coming to Mercedes dealers in this country over the next seven years. That is what the President and CEO of MB in the U.S. told members of the International Motor Press Association. Steve Cannon said Mercedes will “enter other segments to bring new buyers to the brand.” Coming this fall will be a new S-Class and the entry level CLA.

The National Safety Council said in a preliminary report that about 36,200 motor vehicle fatalities occurred in 2012 – the first yearly increase in eight years. The council said one reason might be an increase in total miles driven.

Ford will make heavy use of social media to introduce its 2014 Fiesta. It will also appear on American Idol, the X games and Bonnaroo. Ford is looking for 100 “agents” who will travel around talking about the new sub compact.

2014 Ford Fiesta 4dr

Garmin said total revenue fell by 16% in the fourth quarter and total revenue was off by 2% for the full year. Garmin will repurchase up to $300 million in company stock.

Auto News for Feb. 19


Auto News for Feb. 19

I do wish there were some brighter news to discuss off the top this morning, but it is hard to ignore the sharp increase in gas prices.

Triple A reported that prices are up 43 cents over the past month to a national average of $3.73 a gallon. Price increases have occurred for 32 straight days. Why? Oil firms cite the changeover to summer fuel, some refineries offline for maintenance and increasing demand. Some experts believe the pace of rising prices will ease somewhat in the weeks ahead while some consumers are concerned that we seem to be on a march toward $5 a gallon.

Motorists are paying $4.29 a gallon on average in the Los Angeles area. Yet KCBS in L-A reported that one station in the city was charging $5.19 a gallon for regular unleaded. For a 20 gallon fill up, that would set you back $103.80. Here in the greater Washington area, it is not hard to find stations charging $4 a gallon across the board.

Elsewhere …

Maserati’s sport utility will not be manufactured in Michigan as originally planned. The Detroit News reported it will be built at a Fiat plant in Italy that the company said has greater capacity. The Levante sport ute will be based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Robb Report has named the seventh generation Porsche 911 Carrera S as its Car of the Year. By the way, not only is Michael Jordan 50 years old, but so is the 911.

Said Chairman Luca di Montezemolo, “We are all enormously proud of ending the year with these kind of results despite the unfavorable economic backdrop in many European nations.” His comment came as Ferrari reported its best year ever with all main economic indicators exceeding the previous records set in 2008. Ferrari sold more than 2,000 vehicles here in the U.S. for the first time.

Chrysler is recalling more than 3,600 model year 2003 and 2004 Vipers. The company cited a possible air bag defect.

The Los Angeles Times says the car most frequently registered to women in SOCAL was the VW Beetle followed by the Nissan Rogue. A total of 76% of men registering a car had just taken possession of a Corvette followed by the Ram pickup.



Auto News for Feb. 18

Chevy SS

It is déjà vu all over again. Chevy has unveiled a V8 powered, rear wheel drive high performance sedan, the Chevrolet SS. It sports a 6.3 liter V8 also used in the 2013 Corvette, with 415 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque with an estimated 0-60 run in about five seconds. The SS uses a MacPhereson strut front suspension with a multilink independent rear suspension and standard Brembo brakes. Weight distribution is said to be an even 50-50. Standard equipment will include a color in dash touch screen, Bose nine speaker sound system, electronic stability control, forward collision alert, and lane departure warning along with side blind zone alert. There was no word on price. Look for the SS in showrooms in the fourth quarter.


A battery cable connector could fail causing a car to stall. And that is why BMW is recalling almost 570,000 cars. The 1, 3, and Z4 are the models named in the recall.

A 1964 AMC Rambler classic that was owned by company chief George Romney is up for sale on eBay. A California man has put the car on the market. The new buyer will not only get the car but Romney’s initial registration papers.

And speaking of classics, the 21st Palos Verdes Concors d’Elegance in California will recognize the centennial of Aston Martin, the 60th anniversary of the Corvette, and the 50th anniversary of the Loewy Avanti. Other classics will include models from Rolls Royce, Bentley, Duesenberg, along with the coachwork of Raymond Dietrich. The show opens on September 15th.


Saturday Road Test

Jan 2013 pics 002Accord

2013 Honda Accord & Civic

Honda Doing What Honda Does Best

DAMASCUS, MD – Honda stumbled in 2012 when it showed off the new Civic. In short, the car just did not measure up to previous Honda standards in the use of interior materials and it had an exterior that was little changed.

Auto writers moaned about it, (myself included), but sales were brisk to say the least. The Civic was the top selling car in Canada. Here at home, Civic was the third best-selling car, and was the fifth best-selling vehicle.

Yet Honda decided to address the critics and turn the 2013 Civic into a more appealing contender in the hot compact car market.

The exterior has a more sporty appearance, the interior has a higher quality appearing materials, added soundproofing contributes to a quiet ride, the small steering wheel adds a sporty touch, and as before, the two tiered instrument panel puts the digital speedometer right in the driver’s sight line. It was a snap to find that “just right” driving position with a height adjustable seat that also provided good side support when sporty driving was on the menu. Ventilation and audio controls were an easy reach away and simple to operate given the test car did not have navigation.

Civic interior

In fact, the only real beef I had to with the 4-door EX sedan was the need for maybe 10-20 more horsepower.

The 1.8-liter 140 horsepower four gave its all in the rev happy Honda tradition, with 128 lb-ft of torque in cahoots with a 5-speed automatic transmission. While the tranny was quick with the downshifts, a few more Clydesdales under the hood would not hurt matters.

Still I got the sense that for many Civic owners there is enough grunt here and in fairness it should be pointed out that the little four settles down nicely out on the interstates.

I got 30.7 miles per gallon during my week of testing with the Eco button turned off to extract the maximum amount of power. The test car was EPA rated at 28-39 mpg with a combined city/highway rating of 32 mpg.

Like the Accord, handling was better than one might expect in this segment, and the ride was fine on all surfaces, the Civic handling the first potholes of the season with aplomb.

What really set this 2013 Civic apart from the pack in my mind was refinement. The doors closed with a solid thud, all the controls had a high quality feel, and in the value department, the standard equipment list was lengthy.

In addition to the 160-watt 6 speaker system the EX added on Bluetooth, USB audio interface, SMS Text Messaging, Pandora interface, a rear view camera, automatic climate control, 60/40 split rear seats, and power moon roof.

Not bad for a list price of $21,605 including delivery for a car that as a history of dependability. It was a nice one year recovery that now makes the Civic a must drive for compact car shoppers. Now if my Red Sox could only have a similar one year turnaround

 2013 Accord – Ninth Generation

Accord 1

Lady Luck brought me the redesigned Accord of choice for those who like to drive – a V6 coupe with a slick six-speed manual transmission.

Available in four trim levels, the tested top of the line EX-L had a long list of standard features include Bluetooth hands free link, USB iPod integration, rearview camera and leather seats.

Additional standard equipment included an excellent dual zone climate control, Pandora internet radio integration, and SMS text messaging. A nifty feature was Honda’s LaneWatch that displays blind spot pictures on the right side rear view mirror and the center stack mounted 8” screen when the right turn signal is engaged.

Quiet, refined, and powerful the 3.5 liter six bangs out 278 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque for your dining and dancing pleasure. And what a pleasure it was.

The stubby shift lever fell readily to hand and moved through the gears like a red hot knife through margarine. (Does anyone buy butter anymore?)

The rev happy six took just under six seconds to reach the mile a minute mark.

Economy wise, the coupe is EPA rated at 17-26 mpg with an overall 21 mpg and that was in line with my week of testing. It drinks regular fuel.

Honda did a nice job matching a smooth ride with good handling. You really notice it on twisting back roads, where it is not a race car but still good fun. The reworked front suspension now has struts in place of the double-wishbone set up that Honda clung to for years.  Plus, there was adequate feedback to the driver despite the move to electrically assisted steering.

Inside, there is plenty of room in all directions for the driver and passenger. Being a coupe, the rear seats are for kids only.

Honda cut down on the clutter of buttons in the center stack with climate controls now divorced from the 270-watt 7 speaker audio system. The controls all had a high class feel to them.

Accord 2

It was a great interstate cruiser able to conquer hundreds of miles a day without punishing the operator or those along for the ride. Yours truly would not think twice about heading out toward the Pacific in the tested coupe.

With zero options, the test car listed for $32,820 including transportation. The base price for a navi-less V6 coupe is $30,350 and a stick shift four cylinder couple can be had for $23,250 base.

Canadian auto writers just voted the Accord as its car of the year and after a week behind the wheel I can sure see why.

Auto News for Feb. 15

Did you know that effective Sept. 1, 2014 all new vehicles must have a black box event recorder installed? And that 92% of new vehicles already have the devices that record detailed information about drivers that can be made available to insurance companies, police, and others? A group of private, consumer rights, civil liberties and others are pressuring the government to make sure that owners have the right to lock and unlock the connector to the box to ensure that “data is (the) property of the vehicle owner.” The information came in a press release from AUTOcyb – a maker of such locks.

General Motors has posted a profit of $4.9 billion for 2012, but that compares with $7.6 billion a year earlier. Like Ford, GM was weighed down by losses in Europe. Officials think Europe will hit break even status by the middle of this decade. That $4.9 billion marks the third consecutive yearly profit for the automaker.

Fiat/Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne met with Wall St. bankers last week, according to the Detroit News. He was seeking funding to acquire the remaining stock in Chrysler that Fiat doesn’t own. The shares are owned by a trust run by the United Auto Workers Union.

Warren Buffet is doing more than buying ketchup. His Berkshire Hathaway company has bought another 10-million shares in GM upping its holdings to 25-million shares. The Detroit Free Press reports that disclosure came in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ram Truck, still Dodge truck to most of us, pledged a charity donation of $1-million if 10-million on line people viewed its Super Bowl farmer video. Eighteen million watched the two minute spot and Ram Truck will donate the million to the National Future Farmers of America. It took less than a week to achieve the viewing goal.

The Honda Accord has been named “Car of the Year” by Canadian auto writers. The Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0 T was named Utility vehicle of the Year. Porsche’s 911 Carrera S was the best new design of the year.


Auto News for Feb. 14

JD Power says cars are becoming more dependable. In its latest study, the company said dependability is up five percent over 2012. And domestic brands are showing slightly more improvement than imports. Topping the list was Lexus for the second consecutive year, specifically the RX, the first time that a crossover or SUV has achieved that distinction.


Rounding out the top five were Porsche, Lincoln, Toyota, and Mercedes. The Ram pickup posted the greatest year-over-year improvement.

Further, the company said its research shows that the perception that all-new or redesigned models can’t be as dependable as those that have been on the market for a year or more is not accurate.

At the bottom of the JD Power list were Mitsubishi, Dodge and Land Rover.

In the hot crossover market, the Toyota RAV 4 topped the compact segment, with the Honda Crosstour the winner in the midsize division. In the large pickup category, the winner was the GMC Sierra HD.

The Detroit Free Press quotes an EPA engineer as saying if automakers achieve the government’s goal of an overall 54.5 miles per gallon it will cost the average car buyer $2,600. However, with credits that the government gives automakers for hybrids, plug-ins, and electric vehicles, the mpg on your typical 2025 midsize car will be something in the range of 40 mpg. And the EPA engineer predicted most of us will still be driving gasoline powered cars a dozen years from now.

Edmunds.com has put together a panel of judges for its Hackomotive coming up later this month. The two day event will look into the way that cars are sold in this country and recommend changes. Yours truly has long advocated a complete overhaul of the car buying process that gives the consumer a better shot at getting a fair deal. Imagine if refrigerators, for example, were sold the way cars are. It might lead to a revival of block ice sales.

Backers say it can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour on both land and water, and can make the transition in less than five seconds. What is being called the first high speed sports amphibian – the GIBBS Quadski – will be displayed at an upcoming boat show in Miami. It sports a BMW engine and transmission and a $40,000 base price.

You can now say that Ford has its head in the clouds. The Amazon Cloud Player is now available in Ford SYNC Applink equipped vehicles.

A classic Limelight Green 1970 Plymouth Hemicuda will be giving away by MyClassicGarage.com. Anyone who remembers this set of hot wheels will agree with the website that said, “This car’s a bad boy!” It should be with a 7.0-liter 426 cubic inch Hemi under the hood. Buy stock in tire makers!