Saturday Road Test – Honda’s New Gas Sipper

 If you are seeing this for the first time please tell your car buff friends about this Saturday Road Test feature, and  my five week day capsule summaries of the day’s top auto news. This is where you will find new vehicles first!


             2017 Honda Accord Hybrid

                       Place Your Bet

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Do you ignore those signs at the gas station that tell you what today’s prices are? I saw someone fill up a super-sized (10 mpg city) SUV the other day and the bill was close to $70. Talk about a Big Gulp!

 Or are you more fugal, ignoring the higher gas prices in ritzy neighborhoods, content with that secret file in the brain of stations where petrol remains in the low $2 a gallon range?

 If you answered yes to the second question and have a light foot on the accelerator, you might enjoy seeing how much you can squeeze out of a gallon behind the wheel of the Accord Hybrid – back on the scene after a year’s hiatus.


 New for this model year is a significantly reengineered second-generation two-motor hybrid, Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive powertrain. The system received numerous changes that reduced the physical size and weight of components and increased efficiency to provide more power and improved fuel efficiency as well as increased cargo capacity. The result?

 Total System Horsepower

 212 @ 6,200 rpm

 Honda claims that 212 horsepower is the most of any midsize hybrid sedan and up 16 horsepower over the 2015 Accord Hybrid.

 All this results in a refreshing burst of power when needed in suburban driving, more than what the average hybrid driver might expect. But floor it to merge on to an interstate and pickup is short of brisk, with powertrain noise intruding into the cabin.

 Once up to speed however, the Hybrid was a quiet companion on a day long trip except for long pulls up some steep mountains on Interstates 70 & 68. 

 I found the hybrid to be fun to drive on some back country roads with that low end torque so I wasn’t paying strict attention to MPG.   

 The EPA fuel economy ratings are 49/47/48 city/highway/combined. I came in at a bad boy 41 mpg.

 Again let me cite that age old slogan “your mileage may vary” something that I think that goes back to the Conestoga wagons. 

 New is the combined application of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the expanded use of LED exterior lighting and the application of the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver assistive technologies, offered as standard equipment.

 That brings Collision Mitigation Sensing system, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Forward Collision warning and Road Departure Mitigation.

 A more compact hybrid battery pack increases trunk capacity to a class-leading 13.5 cu.-ft. in the midsize hybrid sedan segment.


 Interior quality and materials were top rate and in line with the hybrid’s asking price. I am not a fan of the sliding audio volume control that has been replaced by a good old fashioned knob in some Honda models. Thankfully there were volume and station selection controls on the steering wheel.

 Welcome was lots of room for two adults in the rear seats, and the 10-way adjustable driver’s seat was fine on long rides. The one touch moonroof even got a work out given the record breaking 70 degree weather in these parts. It nicely reduced the roar present in some designs.


 Without a single option, my top-of-the-line Touring edition carried an MSRP of $36,790 with about all the equipment one could want as standard equipment.


 You get a quality built car for the money and one that promises to be worry free well after the odometer runs deep into six figures.

 It is an excellent choice for those who want to bet on the cost of gas rising again – sort of the opposite of those who are taking home luxury pickups and SUV’s with all the option boxes checked.


Auto News for Feb. 10 – Chicago Auto Show

2018 Elantra GT

2018 Elantra GT

2018 Elantra GT

 Hyundai has lots of people eager to drive its latest product this morning after unveiling of the new Elantra GT in the Windy City.

 The base engine is a 2.0-liter four with 162 horsepower. But it is the next one on the GT Sport model that should capture your attention. A 1.6-liter turbo four with an estimated 201 peak horsepower along with 195 lb-ft of torque. And catch this those of you who like to drive! Both are available with a six speed manual transmission – in this day and age! Also a seven speed dual clutch automatic is on the availability list.  No performance figures were given at the GT’s introduction

 What really happened here is that Hyundai imported the i30 that it sells in Europe. So the new model is, to use that old auto slogan, longer, lower and wider.

 What is new?

 Standard vertical LED daytime running lights

 Standard eight-inch display audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration

 Available dual-zone climate control

 Available high and low beam LED headlights

 Available wireless smartphone charging

 Amazon Alexa Blue Link remote starting

 Over half the structure is comprised of high strength steel nearly double the outgoing generation. So it is said to be stiffer, stronger and lighter.

 It will offer nearly 25 cubic feet of cargo space or more than the Civic, Cruze or Golf, the maker said. Hyundai expects the EPA to classify it as a large car considering the roomy interior.

 Optional items include an Infinity premium audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as wireless smartphone charging. An 8 inch display is added – a gain of an inch. A bird’s eye view has been added to the navigation maps.

 Safety wise the GT is available with Smart Cruise Control with stop/start capability, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep Assist, Attention Assist, High-Beam Assist, and Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert.

 The remote start will now activate the rear defroster and heated side mirrors.

  Opt for the GT Sport and the rear torsion beam suspension is switched for a fully-independent multilink setup, standard 18” alloy wheels and larger front and rear brake rotors for even more fun when the going gets twisty.

 The GT should hit showrooms this summer and based on what we know at this juncture, has the ability to change some American minds when it comes owning a hatchback.

Also at the show:

 Nissan displayed King Cab versions of its Titan and Titan 😄 pickups.

 Many manufacturers announced new trim packages for their products such as GM and Toyota.

 Ford unveiled its aluminum bodied Expedition and Dodge its three row Durango SRT SUV, both of which were examined earlier on this site.

 To mark the 80th anniversary of the Mopar Brand, Dodge will offer a limited edition 2017 Challenger in either black and blue paint or black and silver. Only 80 of them will be manufactured.


 Toyota added safety equipment to its off road champ, the Sequoia, along with some front end fresh styling. One new color is Toasted Walnut Pearl.


 Those who want to go off road in their RAV4 can soon check out a new model, the Adventure, with increased ground clearance and standard Tow Package. It will tow up to 3,500 pounds, a large increase over the standard 1,500 pounds. It will hit showrooms in September.

 So there is plenty to see at the Chicago show that comes just a few days before the Cubs report to spring training and, Windy City residents hope, another trip to the World Series.












Auto News for Feb. 9 – Rolls-Royce upcoming SUV pictured

  Ever wonder what a Rolls-Royce SUV would look like? For that matter did you ever think they would make one? Britain’s Car magazine has spy shots of the 2018 Roller SUV. Here’s a link:

 BMW design could be very interesting in the months and years ahead. That is because Bimmer has just hired the man who designed the latest Bugatti Veyron, the fastest car in the world. Jozef Kaban will make the leap from Volkswagen group and will go to work on the 3, 5, and 7 Series BMW’s according to Top Gear.


 Tesla’s California plant will be shut down for a week to prepare it for the upcoming Model 3, Tesla’s lower priced model, according to Automotive News. The car company has said production will begin in July. With tax credits, the base model will sell for under $30,000 and Tesla hopes to sell a half million of them in 2018. Given the thousands of consumers who have made refundable deposits on the car, Tesla just might do that.

 Big news out of Great Britain! The Surrey County Cricket Club and Kia have renewed their partnership for three years. (Do I cover the news here, or what?)

 Nissan reported a 15 percent drop in operating profit in its latest quarter. Like others, currency exchange losses were one reason why. Another was increased incentives to buyers.





Auto News for Feb. 8

 For the first time, I was able to open the sunroof on a test car in the month of February without cranking up the heater. It was the warmest day ever at three Washington, D.C. area airports on Tuesday, and by a wide margin according to the National Weather Service. Just about all locations recorded a high temperature in the 70’s. (Early tomorrow morning it may snow. Really, it might.)

The all-new Ford Expedition is the smartest, most capable and most adaptable Expedition ever, the ultimate full-size SUV to carry families through life’s adventures.

The all-new Ford Expedition offers more than 40 new features and driver-assist technologies, including a Wi-Fi hotspot that supports as many as 10 devices at once, SYNC® 3, and power for passengers in every row, with four 12-volt power points, six USB chargers and a 110-volt power outlet.

 The 2018 Ford Expedition will become the first SUV with an aluminum body when it hits showrooms this fall. With a redesigned steel frame, the upcoming model is 300 pounds lighter than the current Expedition. Ford said the full size SUV will come with 40 new features for the brand such as 15 cup holders, in-vehicle WiFi hotspot, sliding second row seats, and an electronic shifter dial on the center console. It will first be displayed to the public at the upcoming Chicago Auto show. A 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine will be married to a new 10-speed automatic transmission.

 Subaru’s overall vehicle lineup incurred less depreciation than any other automaker according to a new 5-year Cost to Own survey from Kelley Blue Book. This is the second time that Subaru has captured the award, the last time in 2015. The survey includes out-of-pocket expenses like fuel, insurance and vehicle depreciation. The best luxury brand was Acura.

2018 Dodge Durango SRT


 Dodge has plopped a 392 cubic inch, 475 horsepower V-8 into the Durango to create what it claims is the most powerful three row SUV on the market. 0-60 in just 4.4 seconds and the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds. The Durango SRT also has what its maker claims is best in class towing capacity at 8,600 pounds. It will go on sale in the fourth quarter.

 Rodger Daltrey’s rather unique Rolls-Royce will be auctioned off in London with proceeds going to a group that battles cancer in teenagers. The Wraith model has many one of a kind features including the group’s famous bullseye logo and a laser-etched depiction of the front man’s iconic microphone swing. “I’m certain the car will serve as the ultimate collector’s piece for any Who aficionado,” Daltrey said.



Auto News for Feb. 7 – What is a “Certified” Used Car?

  The Center for Auto Safety is among several groups that have filed suit against the Federal Trade Commission over what constitutes a “certified” used car.

 At issue is an FTC decision that would allow the sale of certified used cars without getting safety recall repairs performed. They would carry a disclaimer that said they may be “subject” to a safety recall.

 “The FTC’s Consent Orders set a de-facto standard for the auto industry that allows dealers to deceptively advertise cars with dangerous and potentially lethal safety defects that have killed and maimed people,” the center said in a press release. 

 The groups want an appellate court to review and overturn the FTC decision. As of this writing, there has been no comment from the commission.

 General Motors apparently pleased Wall Street with its earnings release this morning. Shortly after the figures came out GM shares rose 1.4 % in pre-market trading. Strong demand for GM trucks, SUV’s and crossovers resulted in a record operating profit for all of 2016. For the fourth quarter, GM reported earnings per share of $1.28, well above Wall Street’s expectations of $1.17.

 Before one can sell electric cars you need to find some electric motors. To that end, Honda and Hitachi have announced a joint venture to research, produce and sell them. These types of alliances have been popular among auto makers because it reduces development costs. Hitachi will own 51 percent of the new venture, with Honda claiming the rest.

 Toyota and Lexus received five awards as U.S. News and World Report selected its Best Cars for the Money.   Honda and its luxury line, Acura, received four awards. Chrysler’s Pacifica was named best minivan.



Auto News for Feb. 6 – Cars & the Super Bowl

 Imagine if Tom Brady made cars!


 Hyundai’s ad at the close of last night’s Super Bowl touched a few heart strings with me. Hyundai transported U.S. troops from a base overseas to the heart of the action using 360-degree immersive pods. Better yet the troops were virtually transported into a suite at the stadium where they realized they weren’t alone, but surrounded by their families whom they could see and interact with. Folks, until you have served in a remote location or war zone thousands of miles from loved ones you simply can’t realize what a neat thing that was for the automaker to do.

 Car companies that advertised on the Super Bowl saw an average 7 percent increase in site traffic on  “Advertisers spent upwards of five million dollars for a 30-second commercial during this year’s game, and the resulting boost in traffic to demonstrates the power of this significant investment,” said David Greene, data strategy manager. Alfa Romeo pages saw a staggering 1,179 percent increase in comparison to the same time period prior to the airing of their spot.


 Mazda said there will be no base price increase when its 2017 CX-9 goes on sale later this month. That means a starting price of $31,520. 

 Global sales were up at Toyota but the company said   operating profit fell 39 percent in its fiscal third quarter. It blamed the setback on unfavorable currency exchanges and higher expenses.

 Maserati is recalling about 50,000 vehicles to deal with a couple possible defects that it says could spark a fire. Certain models of Quattroporte and Ghibli from 2014-15 may have a defect in their fuel lines. And some 2014-17 Levante, Ghibli, and Quattroporte models may have a defective seat wiring harness that could result in an electrical short that could result in a fire. As always, if you have one of the named vehicles do check with your dealer.

Saturday Special – 2018 Toyota Camry – Just in time?


2018 Toyota Camry – First Look

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Toyota took a bold step when it displayed a radical redesign of what had been the nation’s   best-selling car. Perhaps it was just in time.

 As consumers take home more SUV’s, crossovers and trucks, the Camry slipped from third to tenth on the best seller list of all vehicles in January. It fell behind the Honda Civic and its stablemate, the Corolla/Im, to become the third most popular car.

 So perhaps Toyota’s change from decaf to vibrate the cup super-strong espresso came at a most opportune moment.

 The eighth generation Camry is “about to ruffle some feathers” its maker claims with its sculptured look front to back. So let’s take a look.


 Toyota said there were three primary design goals: A distinctive, low center of gravity that results in a firm wide stance; a practical-yet-emotionally styled cabin profile, and a sporty and upscale image both inside and out.

 Since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out the accompanying photos. 

Camry will again be available in four grades: LE, XLE, SE and XSE.



 Like the exterior, a complete redesign with a higher grade of soft touch and premium materials, with a “next generation” display technology – a 10 inch color head up display, a seven inch multi information display within the instrument panel, and an eight inch audio/navigation display including HAVC. How things have changed. My old Beetle just had a speedometer.

 Stuff you may not notice:

  By extending the wheelbase by two inches, as well as bringing down the roof and hood height (by approximately 1.0 and 1.6-inches, respectively), the development team lowered the center of gravity and created a wider and more composed vehicle. The range of steering column adjustment has been increased from the current vehicle, while the hood, cowl, and dashboard height have all been lowered for enhanced outward visibility.

Under the hood:

 A 3.5-liter V6 that will also find its way under the Highlander hood. No power stats yet, but it should bang out at least 280 horsepower.   

 A 2.5-liter inline four that Toyota claims is more powerful and efficient. Look for at least 178 ponies.  

Both are paired to an 8 speed automatic

 There is also a new hybrid system with the 2.5-liter tied to a CVT with a new Sport Mode setting with the SE model adding paddle shifts. The hybrid system’s battery pack has been moved from the trunk to beneath the rear seat, a move that should increase luggage space. The hybrid should deliver “Prius-like” fuel economy, the company said.


 There are ten air bags and a long list of features including Blind Spot Monitor, Pedestrian Detection and radar cruise control among other items.


The LX/XLE models check in at 192.1 inches long, while the SE/XSE are six-tenths of an inch longer. All ride on a 111.2 inch wheelbase, are 56.9 inches tall and 72.4 inches wide. That amounts to 3.1 inches longer at a minimum for 2018, with a two inch longer wheelbase. Camry is now 1.1 inches lower and not quite a half inch wider from 2016.

 Look for the new model to arrive in showrooms in late summer.


 For now we can’t really say how the new version performs. But I can say that by any standard, the exterior and interior design are more eye catching than any Camry – ever.

 As Toyota releases specs closer to the introduction date, please check out my weekday Auto News column for more on this leap into the future.