Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid ranks 6 out of 12 Affordable Large SUVs. This ranking is based on our analysis of 29 published reviews and test drives of the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.

The 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid attempts to let buyers have it all: full-size SUV capability with lower emissions and fewer trips to the gas station. Along with the conventional Tahoe, it's the U.S. News Best Car for the Money in the large SUV class.

But buyers expecting Prius-like fuel economy numbers should look elsewhere. Though the Tahoe hybrid uses cutting-edge two-mode hybrid technology to allow the Tahoe to operate on either V8 engine power or on power from two electric motors, Chevrolet's refusal to give up an ounce of capability leads to some compromises on fuel economy. The Tahoe hybrid boasts a 25% improvement in fuel economy over the conventional Tahoe in mixed driving, but buyers need to remember that the Tahoe's fuel economy numbers weren't phenomenal to begin with. The 25% improvement is nice, but this is one hybrid that isn't going to make it to 100, 50, or heck-even 30 mpg.

Still, the Tahoe Hybrid, and its corporate cousins, the GMC Yukon Hybrid and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, are unique. Though they aren't the greenest hybrids on the block, they are the most capable. All three can go off-road, tow boast and horse trailers, and offer comfortable seating for seven in luxurious and roomy cabins. Prius drivers may use less gas on their trips around town, but Tahoe hybrid drivers will be able to bring more toys and people along, and arrive in comfort and style.

General Motors, Chevrolet's parent company, has recently declared bankruptcy. While the company says that business should continue as usual, the bankruptcy could add a layer of uncertainty for GM buyers. However, those who are able to stomach the uncertainty may be able to get a great deal on a new Chevrolet. Check out What GM's Bankruptcy Means for You to answer any questions you have before buying.
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Chevrolet TrailBlazer

The Chevy TrailBlazer is the butt of many a joke, or outright Internet flame. And while many iterations of the GMT-360 platform are brand-corrosive, unholy degradations of once-proud marques, the Bowtie Brand’s version remains a working mom’s utility vehicle. As one of our Best and Brightest once told me, buying a vehicle for its engine alone is totally acceptable. With that in mind, have I got a deal for you!

Many say that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. The same logic applies here. The clean, respectable and wholly unforgettable sheetmetal of the TrailBlazer exhibits pleasant enough looks for an SUV. This older design’s split grille looks better than the other interpretations on Chevy’s latest uni-body creation. Go without the gargantuan bodyside moldings, ditch the dowdy wheels (or get the SS model) and this SUV looks pretty respectable. While curb appeal isn’t this Chevy’s forte, just like a band geek, the stuff on the inside counts more.

Or not: peek inside the TrailBlazer for all the muck that’s fit to rake. There’s been countless hours of lamenting, criticizing, and insulting this cabin’s blend of cheap materials and Neanderthal-esuqe design. And that’s why the TrailBlazer earned multiple trips to TTAC’s Ten Worst Awards.

The ergonomics are quite good, and the dash top sports a mighty fine and forgiving polymer. The TrailBlazer’s seats are enjoyable, even if their fuzzy material looked better on the rat that died to make them. But the shallow-ish cargo area is slightly compromised by a fat D-pillar, and the rear seat’s bubbly floorboard causes some initial ankle twisting until you find its sweet spot.

But it gets worse: the overlapping fascias, a cartoonishly oversized footprint where the dash meets the door panels and a ghastly monochrome gray color are nothing less than industrial design suicide.

It’s not that the TrailBlazer’s interior fails short for an SUV. Even without a third row seat (that would be absolutely useless), this rig’s guts are so inhumanely unappealing from any angle, even when shadowed by darkness night. No matter how you slice it, this interior is so screw-screwed and chop-chopped it deserves its own underground hip hop mixtape.

But then again, the TrailBlazer can hide behind that “it’s a truck, stop being an elitest” argument. Fair enough. Even the most metrosexual Euro-snob changes their tune once they hammer the throttle. That’s when the 4.2 liters of inline-six goodness truly shine. It’s so good you rarely notice there are only four (responsive) forward gears to propel the 4400lb Chevy down the interstate.

Some people movers are all about big-daddy, low-end torque. Others scream bloody murder when their multi-cam motors find their power bands. The TrailBlazer is 285 horses of “respect mah authoritay” from idle to 6000 revs. It launches out of the hole like a V8. It’s got the midrange punch of a purpose-built truck motor. And one (disturbingly short) trip to second gear’s vario-cammed-on-crack terminal velocity explains just how fast you could get your ass arrested in an old-school SUV. Sure the 6.0L V8 in the SS-iternation makes for more of a good thing, but this six-banger shines as a workingman’s BMW 3-series.

If you say a silent prayer for the TrailBlazer’s forthcoming death simply because it spells doom for this lovely motor, you’re mostly correct. Much like the larger GMT-900 platform’s admirable dynamics, the TrailBlazer points and shoots with enough accuracy to hang with the most mundane CUVs.

Yes, the steering feels numb and the brakes aren’t as expressive as a sporting sedan. And rough roads create a series of in-cabin, low frequency booms reminiscent of a THX-fettled movie theater. But my time with the TrailBlazer was surprisingly devoid of disappointments, and was occasionally impressive.

Except when the going gets rougher than your trip to Home Depot. Our TrailBlazer sported electronic AWD, yet was one wheel peel über alles when locked in rear-wheel only motivation. So leave the system in automatic mode. But the question remains: dude, where’s my Posi-traction?

Use less than half-throttle and things get easier for the TrailBlazer. Rarely did I meet a road where the Ford Explorer’s independent suspension offered a significant improvement over the cost-engineered, oxcart axle of the Chevy. In normal driving, the TrailBlazer stops, steers and corners like a CUV, but tows nearly 6000lbs thanks to that beefy five-link axle.

And there it is: another kneecapped GM product. It’s not the Fiero all over again, the TrailBlazer has all the “hard stuff” right but couldn’t win a personality contest with Jonathan Goldsmith’s help. The TrailBlazer’s got a heart of pure gold, but you have to be a compassionate (blind?) individual to spend this much coin for an SUV with such a horrid interior. But this truck deserved a better fate. Stay thirsty, my (soon to be departed) friend.
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2009 Chevrolet Traverse

It's no great secret that recent history has seen a decline in the sales and appeal of truck-based SUVs as family movers. Nonetheless, no matter how practical and easy to use a minivan is, there's just no getting around the minivan stigma for many people. Automakers have reacted to this trend with the crossover SUV, a vehicle that combines the family-focused functionality and car-based dynamics of a minivan with the outgoing appearance and personality of an SUV. With the introduction of the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse, General Motors now has four such vehicles built on the same "Lambda" platform, the others being the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook.

Having so many similar vehicles available might seem like overkill, but the quality and thoughtfulness of design that all the Lambda crossovers share has made every one of them a strong segment contender thus far. The brand-new Traverse seems poised to do just as well, if not better. To help differentiate it from the General's other crossover offerings, the Traverse shares some styling cues with the new Malibu, including the distinctive mesh front grille, vaguely circular taillights and the lines of the dual-cockpit dash that extend onto the doors. Overall, the interior styling of the Traverse's cabin, while largely similar to the Acadia's and Outlook's due to parts-sharing, offers an edgier design without losing any mass appeal.

Like those that came before it, the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse is a strong entry in the already crowded full-size crossover SUV segment. If you're looking for a solid-performing people mover that seats up to eight (and doesn't exclude adults from the third row), hauls a lot of cargo and doesn't cramp your ego, the Traverse deserves your serious attention. Those considering a GM crossover who haven't made up their minds on which one should note that, at a starting price just over $28,000, the Chevy is the least expensive in the family. So if the styling and options specific to the Traverse speak to you, this latest addition to the brood may be just the right pick. But if the Traverse or its siblings don't work for you, the Ford Flex, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander are all worthy competitors and merit a close look.

For Pricing information, see our Pricing page.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2009 Chevrolet Traverse is a large crossover SUV available in LS, LT and LTZ trim levels. Standard equipment on the LS includes 17-inch steel wheels, eight-passenger seating, split-folding second- and third-row bench seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, full power accessories, OnStar and a six-speaker CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.

The midrange LT trim level actually comes with the choice of two packages: the moderate 1LT and the more upscale 2LT. The 1LT package offers 18-inch alloy wheels, an eight-way power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear parking sensors and remote vehicle start. Select the 2LT package and get all that plus Bluetooth, tri-zone automatic climate control, a 10-speaker Bose system, rear audio system controls, seven-passenger seating featuring second-row captain's chairs, a power liftgate and a rearview camera integrated into the rearview mirror. The Traverse LTZ improves upon the 2LT with 20-inch wheels, leather seating, heated and cooled power front seats with driver memory settings, a navigation system with real-time traffic and a rearview camera.

Many of the features on upper trim levels can be added to the lower ones via optional packages. Also available are dual sunroofs and a rear-seat entertainment system. Should you wish to take advantage of the Traverse's 5,200-pound towing capacity, a trailering package is available on all trim levels and includes a heavy-duty engine cooler and trailer hitch.

For more Style information, see our Compare Styles page.

Powertrains and Performance

There is only one engine/transmission combination available for the Chevrolet Traverse -- a 3.6-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. In the LS and LT trims, which sport a single-outlet exhaust, the V6 produces 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. In the uplevel LTZ, hp jumps to 288 and torque goes to 270 lb-ft thanks to a dual-outlet exhaust and an upgrade to direct fuel injection, which allows for increased efficiency and reduced emissions when compared to the V6 used in earlier years of the Traverse's platform mates.

EPA fuel economy estimates for the front-wheel-drive Traverse are 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined. All-wheel-drive Traverse models are very similar at 16/23/19 mpg.

For more Performance Data, see our Specifications page.


Antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags for all three rows are all standard on every 2009 Chevrolet Traverse, as is one year of GM's OnStar service, including turn-by-turn navigation and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

In both frontal- and side-impact crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Traverse received a perfect five-star rating for its protection of occupants in head-on and side-impact collisions.

For more Safety information, see our Safety page.

Interior Design and Special Features

Inside the roomy cabin of the Traverse is an attractive layout in a two-tone color scheme with brushed aluminum and chrome trim. The instrument panel consists of dual gauges featuring bright white numbers on a black background that are simple and easy to read. One of our few complaints is that the audio and climate controls consist of too many small and similar-looking buttons and not enough knobs.

Depending on the configuration chosen, the Traverse seats either seven (with second-row captain's chairs) or eight (split-folding second-row bench seat) passengers in three rows. The first- and second-row seats are quite comfortable and supportive, and the split-folding third-row seat – which is often a kids-only zone in traditional SUVs -- can accommodate adults in reasonable comfort. Maximum cargo capacity is a generous 117 cubic feet with second- and third-row seats folded down, and even with all three rows of seating in use, there are still a useful 24 cubic feet of luggage space.

For more Interior Features information, see our Specifications page.

Driving Impressions

Like the other three large General Motors crossovers, the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse hits a happy medium between secure handling and a comfortable ride. And even though it is a big vehicle (4,720 pounds with front-wheel drive, 4,925 pounds with all-wheel drive), it doesn't feel nearly as large and lumbering as it should from behind the wheel. The 3.6-liter V6 feels peppy and capable. Its higher than average towing capability is a plus, too, though during a test-drive that included towing a 4,200-pound boat (1,000 pounds below the Traverse's maximum tow rating), the crossover seemed a bit overtaxed when compared to a lighter competitor. Additionally, the six-speed automatic transmission is often unwilling to downshift, which, though good for fuel economy, can be frustrating.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cars are usually not like a fine wine: They don't get better with age. Normally, if you plotted a car's year-to-year sales, you would see a downward trend as the excitement of its introduction wanes and newer competitors debut. Not so with the 2009 Mazda 3, a car that's bucked this trend and actually enjoyed greater sales as time has gone on.

While it probably hasn't improved much since its introduction in 2004, the 3 hasn't needed to. Mazda's fine little compact is an example of a car done right. The 3 is akin to a successful indie movie: a good product that slowly gains attention thanks to positive word of mouth and Oscar buzz. In the Mazda's case, years of automotive awards, critical acclaim and positive ownership experiences finally generated the type of marketplace response the 3 has always deserved. This is one of the best cars in its class, and it's nice that people are finally taking notice.

Distinguished by taut, chiseled styling and handsome details inside and out, the Mazda 3 gives the impression of a junior sport sedan -- and it has the driving experience to back it up, thanks to its nimble handling, ample road feel and relatively peppy performance. In a consumer comparison test we conducted, six regular Americans touted the 3 as the most fun economy car to drive (pitted against the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla) and felt like they were in the "most control" when behind the wheel. Our editors are in complete agreement.

With available sedan and hatchback body styles, the Mazda 3 offers a nice practical variety for shoppers. The hatchback in particular should appeal to young families or college-aged folks in need of the occasional dorm moving van. Everyone, though, should appreciate the ample amount of standard equipment that comes with both trim levels, along with the luxury features available on the s Grand Touring. Few other compact economy cars offer such things as leather upholstery, heated power seats, xenon headlights and a seven-speaker stereo.

Of all the many economy car competitors, there are relatively few that can surpass the 2009 Mazda 3. In the aforementioned consumer comparison test, all but one "guest editor" chose the Honda Civic as their choice because of its comfier ride, more spacious interior and better fuel economy. All walked away very impressed by the 3, however, and more than one commented that it would be the best for younger drivers. We agree, as the sportier Mazda is more likely to appeal to younger and single car buyers. Another choice on the sporty end of the compact-car spectrum is the Mitsubishi Lancer, which is also worth a good look.

The Mazda 3 is going to be replaced by an all-new model for 2010. But even after six years on the market, the current car is showing no signs of age. Like fine wine or a quality indie movie (or "Sideways," an indie movie about fine wine), the 3 will continue to please for a long time.

For Pricing information, see our Pricing page.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The compact 2009 Mazda 3 is available as a four-door sedan and hatchback. The sedan is available in five trim levels: i Sport, i Touring Value, s Sport, s Touring and s Grand Touring. The hatchback, or "five-door," comes in only the s trims.

The i Sport comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, a tilt/telescoping steering column, a 60/40-split rear seat with a center armrest, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a four-speaker stereo with a CD/MP3 player, an auxiliary audio jack and pre-wiring for satellite radio. Air-conditioning and an exterior temperature display are optional. The i Touring Value trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, driver-seat height adjustment and six speakers.

The s Sport sedan gets 16-inch alloy wheels (the hatchback has the 17s), but both body styles feature a bigger engine, slightly different front and rear fascias, different interior trim and electroluminescent gauges. The s Touring adds 17-inch alloys on the sedan and body sill extensions. The s Grand Touring gains auto on/off xenon headlights, automatic rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, a six-way power driver seat, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a trip computer.

Optional on the Grand Touring are a navigation system (which includes satellite radio) and a seven-speaker Bose stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer. The CD changer and a sunroof are stand-alone options on all Mazda 3s except the i Sport.

For more Style information, see our Compare Styles page.

Powertrains and Performance

The Mazda 3 i sedan uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual is standard, while a four-speed automatic with automanual override is optional. In performance testing, the 3 i with automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds. Fuel economy for a similarly equipped 3 i rates an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, which is below class leaders. Opting for the manual gearbox improves efficiency by 2 mpg.

The Mazda 3 s sedan and hatchback get a 2.3-liter four-cylinder good for 156 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual is standard, while a five-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional. The 3 s with the automatic goes from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. Fuel economy with the automatic is an estimated 22 city/28 highway and 24 combined, which is about equal for compact sedans with similar power output.

For more Performance Data, see our Specifications page.


Standard on every Mazda 3 are antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Stability and traction control are standard on the s Touring and Grand Touring models, but not available on anything else.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal-impact crash tests, the 2009 Mazda 3 scored four stars (out of five). In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the 3 received a "Good" rating (the highest out of four) in frontal-offset crash tests. The Mazda 3 has not yet been tested for side-impact safety when equipped with the now-standard side airbags and side curtain airbags.

For more Safety information, see our Safety page.

Interior Design and Special Features

Especially in s Touring and s Grand Touring forms, the Mazda 3 features a distinctive and upscale interior design that looks far richer than its price would suggest. Controls are straightforward and work with precise action, while good-quality materials and tight build tolerances further the initial sense of impressive quality. Plus, with available luxury features like heated leather seats, automatic climate control and a navigation system, one can equip this economy car like a budget luxury sport sedan.

Even taller drivers will find plenty of room in this compact car's front seat, with generous headroom and legroom aided by a telescoping steering wheel. The rear seat is a little snug for larger adults, but those of average height will find a decent amount of space. Sedans offer 11.4 cubic feet of trunk space, which is on the small side, but the hatchback boasts 17 cubes behind its rear seat and 31 when the seat is folded.

For more Interior Features information, see our Specifications page.

Driving Impressions

Consistent with its upscale interior, the Mazda 3 tends to drive like a much more expensive sport sedan. Thanks to its performance-oriented chassis tuning, the 3 rewards the driving enthusiast with quick and communicative steering, a lack of discernible body roll and lots of grip on twisty blacktop. The s trim level's 2.3-liter engine is smooth and zippy, feeling quicker than its 156 hp would suggest. The i trim's 2.0-liter engine is simply adequate and has the tendency to sound like a circular saw.

The 3's highway ride is smooth enough to please most commuters, although drivers who prefer softly sprung compacts like the Corolla might think the 3 is too firm. All told, the 2009 Mazda 3 has refined road manners that will likely surprise car shoppers expecting the unsubstantial ride quality and uninspiring handling typical of economy cars.

For more Driving Impressions, Recent Articles and Car Awards from our Editors, see our Road Tests page.
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Until recently, the only vehicles truly capable of carrying seven adults or lots of cargo were minivans, traditional full-size SUVs and passenger vans. However, a new crop of crossover SUVs (sometimes referred to as CUVs) has recently been introduced that provide the space of a large SUV, respectable fuel economy and handling, and exterior styling that doesn't immediately scream "diapers!" One of the latest seven-passenger crossovers to become available is the Mazda CX-9.

The CX-9 combines a spacious interior that can be lavishly appointed along with the sporty handling characteristics that Mazdas are known for. Though the CX-9 shares its basic architecture and engine with the Ford Edge, the Mazda CX-9 feels much better executed, with superior driving dynamics and a more athletic feel, despite its larger size.

Current Mazda CX-9

The Mazda CX-9 is available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims, all of which are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 with 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on all trims, while a six-speed automatic transmission is standard.

Safety features are well represented on the CX-9 with nearly every desirable technology standard, including antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and side curtain airbags with rollover sensors. A rear back-up camera is included as part of the optional navigation system.

To call the Sport trim a base model would be an injustice, since it is very well equipped with items like 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, power windows, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel with wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, keyless entry, privacy glass, Bluetooth and an auxiliary audio jack.

Stepping up to the Mazda CX-9 Touring trim gets you standard heated and powered front seats, leather upholstery and a second-row center armrest with additional storage. The Grand Touring model includes 20-inch alloy chrome wheels, xenon HID headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, three-position memory for the driver seat, electroluminescent gauges, blue LED indirect lighting and keyless ignition/entry. Notable options include a Bose stereo, a navigation system with a back-up camera, a towing package, a sunroof, a power rear hatch, a blind-spot warning system and a rear DVD entertainment system.

Seven-passenger seating is standard on all CX-9s. The prospect of hauling around seven people can be daunting, but this crossover SUV's roomy third row can hold actual adults (although taller ones will find their heads pinched). Access to the rear is relatively painless thanks to an easy-to-use latch that lets you slide past the second row into the back. With the second- and third rows folded flat, the CX-9 can carry 101 cubic feet of cargo.

On the road, we've found that the Mazda CX-9 is fun to drive. The carlike unibody feels solid as a rock and the four-wheel independent suspension is tuned for sporting responses, with minimal body roll and controlled ride motions. The steering is surprisingly responsive and the effort is weighted just right. If you live in tighter confines within a congested area, the nimble CX-9 could be a perfect choice. However, the CX-9's ride quality (particularly with the Grand Touring's 20-inch wheels) can border on harsh when compared to that of more supple-riding competitors.

Used Mazda CX-9 Models

The CX-9 was introduced for 2007. In its debut year, the CX-9 was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that made 263 hp and 249 lb-ft of torque. Despite being replaced by the current 3.7-liter engine for '08, the original CX-9 was hardly lacking for power, so we wouldn't discourage anyone from purchasing a used example.

In addition, the power rear hatch feature on the Grand Touring model was unavailable at launch and was a late availability option, so it may be hard to find on 2007 models. For '09, Bluetooth became standard across the board while a few other features were added to the Grand Touring trim and options packages.
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Mazda CX7 reviews. The mid-size of Mazda CX7 was all new for 2007, one of a growing segment of flavored performance utility vehicles. After a successful launch in North America in 2006, sales have expanded to include Japan and Europe in 2007. Two years later, total sales have exceeded 165,000 units (from December 2008) and the Mazda CX7 has won more than 10 global automotive awards.

The exterior design of the facelift is based on the athletic styling of the original Mazda CX7, pushing further the sports crossover SUV design, while incorporating enhancements that more clearly communicate a premium identity and give it a more refined character. The 2010 Mazda CX7 facelift’s new front end, detailing and high build quality on the outside take the original model’s advanced and emotional styling to the next level, while new materials and forms on the inside give the cabin a more premium look and feel.

The new lower front grille of the CX7 facelift has a larger five-point design that most clearly communicates the brand Mazda, and harmonises with the latest models in the line-up. The grille is framed by a sleek silver look, detailing that expresses a premium identity. It also provides a wider opening of the upper zone, which contributes to superior cooling performance, which is of particular value to the newly introduced 2.2 liters of turbocharged diesel engine. Other enhancements to the fascia include a new design for the front fog lamp bezels, which creates a strong visual flow and lends a sense of fine craftsmanship.

Inside, the 2010 Mazda CX7’s interior style is more like the cockpit of a sports coupe than an SUV, with the exception of the vast dashboard required by the steep raked windshield. Front-row accommodation in the new Mazda CX7 is good, the seats allows plenty of space and keep it in place. The story is not so good to return there is no third row and second row is smaller than most would expect from a mid-size ute, especially in the legs room and there is barely space to fit three across. Backseats can fold down flat 70 inches of cargo space, though not particularly spacious or desirable, given the slope of the roof, rakish hatch, height and load height. The cargo floor can, however, are turned at a washable surface for transporting dirty items. Mazda could learn a thing or two in the packaging of its Asian rivals, because there are few spaces for storage of small items.

With high ratings for impact protection of both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IISH), 2010 Mazda CX7 is a very safe vehicle for front seat occupants. NHTSA gives you five stars for crash protection and four for rollover protection. The occupants of the rear seats in the Mazda fee and could not, however, as the IISH gives the 2008 CX7 a “marginal” for rear crash protection.

To cope with strong demand in Europe for a cleaning operation with high efficiency of diesel fuel, the 2010 Mazda CX7 SUV facelift has a next-generation MZR-CD 2.2-liter turbo diesel, including a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system designed exclusively for the European market. The new CX-7 is powered by a 2.3 liters DISI turbo charged four-cylinder in-line engine coupled to a silky smooth six-speed automatic transmission. Like other Mazda models, the automatic transmission is equipped with a sport shift mode that allows the driver to manually select gears. 16-valve turbocharged engine good for 244 horsepower and 258 lbs.-ft of torque.

ConsumerGuide test new Mazda CX7 Grand Touring AWD and did 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds. Mazda comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder only. It’s good for 244 hp and 258 pounds feet of torque, reports Edmunds, and puts the CX7 acceleration at the top of the class. And for the first time ever, Mazda’s sports crossover SUV gets a Rear Vehicle Monitoring (RVM) system and an Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) for even more active safety.


Mazda offers three trim levels for the 2010 CX7. There is nothing on the basis of entry-level “Sport” trim which is equipped with 18 “alloy wheels, key-less entry, steering wheel audio controls and an optional power driver’s seat. An extra $ 1750 spent on the Touring model will bring a leather trimmed interior, power driver’s seat and heated front seats. The top of the line Grand Touring trim its owner with the rewards, such as automatic climate control, auto-leveling Xenon headlights, heated body-colored mirrors. There are two options available for 2008. The moon-roof and Bose package brings a power moon-roof and Bose stereo speakers 9 equipped with a six-CD changer. Springing for the Technology Package brings all of the aforementioned features plus DVD navigation, a backup camera, and a remote start function.

A line-up of seven body colours is available with the 2010 Mazda CX7 facelift (depending on market), all of them chosen to compliment the vehicle’s sporty and strong exterior. These include three new colours: Aluminium Metallic, Stormy Blue Mica and Sparkling Black Mica. Mazda has carried forward the two original model’s popular black and sand beige interior colour packages. The facelifted Mazda CX7 features newly designed 18-inch aluminium wheels and, for the first time to the line-up, new 19-inch aluminium wheels (both depending on grade), which further highlight the new Mazda CX7’s power and refinement.
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Volvo S80

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


SEE ALSO: 2007 S80 Video Feature(4 Minutes).

MODEL: 2007 Volvo S80
ENGINE: 4.4-liter V8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 311 hp @ 5950 rpm/325 lb.-ft. @ 3950 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 112.0 in.
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 191.0 x 73.0 x 59.0 in.
TIRES: P245/45R17
CARGO VOLUME: 17.0 cu. ft.
STICKER: $47,350 (base)/$49,245 (“showroom”)

Volvo is attempting to redefine its own interpretation of "Scandinavian luxury” with the introduction of the all-new S80 sedan. “All new” is a term used by many manufacturers in order to generate interest in a passé model. However, in this case, the term is valid, since the new S80 and the previous generation share nothing except their name.

True, the cars look similar, but the new S80 is more aerodynamic (but still in the Volvo mode), rides on a wheelbase that’s nearly two inches longer, yet is about the same overall length, and has a host of innovative features to have even the most dedicated techno-groupie wetting his (or her) lips.

The S80 will be available at the beginning of the year with a choice of two engines – a 4.4-liter V8 and a 3.2-liter I6. These replace the I5 that was offered previously.

Cramming an inline six transversely into the space previously occupied by a five could have been an impossible task. But Volvo’s six is only three millimeters longer than the five and, therefore, fits well.

My only compliant with the six is that its 235 horsepower seems slightly inadequate for a car that is to be “luxury.” We had a chance to drive the car over some fantastic roads east and north of Las Vegas, roads that seem designed to be test roads. The six disappointed both my co-driver and me because it didn’t deliver quite the performance we would have wanted. And this wasn’t race-car performance we were looking for; we sought the kind of drive we expected from a luxury car.

On the other hand, the 311 hp V8 (the first V8 Volvo has ever used) was a pleasure. When we wanted power to pass or climb hills, it was there with a pleasant throaty roar to the exhaust. When we didn’t need all the horses, the V8 would purr along nicely.

Both engines operate through a 6-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous 5-speed. The six is front-wheel drive, the eight all-wheel drive.

Volvo’s Four C chassis is part of the S80 DNA. This chassis (actually suspension modifications) is used on the R series of sportier cars. In the S80, it offers three different suspension settings (Comfort, Sport and Advanced) that vary the attitude of the S80 as it traverses the highways. Comfort is softish, while Advanced offers a harsher ride. We both preferred “Sport.”

Being a Volvo, the S8 is infused with numerous safety features. Chief among these is a dual-stage torso airbag that protects the driver and passenger from side impact collisions. Of course, it has all the other air bags located strategically throughout the car – front, side curtain and probably a couple of others I didn’t count.

There’s a new feature called “accident avoidance.” This alerts the driver if he has driven too close to the vehicle in front or if that vehicle has slowed or stopped. A beeper goes off, red lights appear in the heads-up display, and, most importantly, the brake calipers are moved right next to the disc to help stop the car that much more quickly.

We tried the accident avoidance in a demonstration session where we trained an elaborately constructed car-sized air bag that was on a boom attached to another Volvo. The driver of the lead car would stop the car with no warning and we had to stop our car before ramming the bag, all the while noticing the new system.

Volvo also includes WHIPS, a acronym for Whiplash Protection System. In the event of a rear collision, WHIPS moves the headrests forward and braces the seat back to reducee the impact on the driver.

There’s a tiny button at the bottom of the center stack that’s labeled “BLIS.” At first, we wondered what this was for (“what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” and all that). BLIS stands for Blindspot Indicating System. Small cameras are located inside the housing for the outside rearview mirrors. When these cameras pick up the presence of a vehicle in the S80’s blind spot, or if a vehicle is passing the S80, a light flashes on the A-pillar near the mirror. Our European-spec test cars sometimes behaved erratically, but in general this seemed like a useful option.

Also, our Euro-spec exterior mirrors were convex on both sides, so there was a strong tendency not to use them.

Dealing with the fat leather-covered wheel proved to be a surprise. There was a switch on the right side whose function we couldn’t figure. The owner’s manual didn’t help because it was in Swedish. We eventually figured out that the switch (and two more we discovered were there), controlled the navigation system (that also explained the sunglass-holder piece of equipment that appeared to be stuck in the top-of-the-dash speaker. It seemed strange that the nav system could only be controlled by the driver, since it could be a distraction.

The Personal Car Communicator (PCC) is in the key fob. Push the button and it will tell you if you locked the doors when you left the car (even if the car is in Vegas and you live in New York) as well as the usual functions. The PCC also has a heartbeat detector. Why? You may ask. Well, if the car is unlocked and the detector senses the presence of a heartbeat or pulse, then someone is in the car who probably shouldn’t be there.

The S80 will compete against vehicles like the BMW 5-Series, the E-Class Mercedes-Benz, the Cadillac CTV and the Acura RL, Lexus GS and Infiniti M. Pricewise, the Volvo is competitive. Performance-wise, at least with the V8 engine, it’s at least in the pack and often ahead of the pack.

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Volvo V50

Sharing a platform with a Ford Focus is something you’d probably want to keep under wraps; kind of like that cousin with webbed toes and twelve fingers. Fortunately, the latest Volvo V50 is actually the ritzy cousin of that much-lauded obscure object of desire (at least for Americans): the Euro Focus. As the V50/S40 accounts for a third of Volvo’s global sales, this is a good thing. But do good genetics make the V50 a good car, or does this smorgasbord of multinational automaking represent a sad swansong for Ford’s about to be divorced Swedish brand?

On first glance, the V50 looks like a size-12 V70 station wagon in a size-four dress. At second glance the V50 appears to be a micro-S80 wagon, or an XC90 that’s been stepped on. No matter how you slice it, dice it or squash it, the V50’s brand DNA is unmistakable. In a sea of four-wheeled blandness and disjointed styling, the Volvo’s sheetmetal’s is as cohesive as it is attractive; save, perhaps the rear sloping roofline. OK: that forward leaning rear window line is a bit goofy-looking. But the V50’s restrained detailing— from its tower of power rear brake lights to the retrained family face— make up for any unpleasant awkwardness.

12083_2_12.jpgVolvo has replaced the old “that’s-like-so-80s” interior with the requisite Scandinavian chic. A stylish not to say stylized console– finished in faux metal, aluminum, iPod white or optional Nordic oak (shown)– dominates the V50’s cabin. Clearly (or not so clearly), Volvo arranged this “floating” design for maximum symmetry rather than ergonomic safety. Four identically shaped dials join a phalanx of closely-grouped black buttons to translate high touch into high anxiety. What’s more, the designers rectified the paucity of interior storage is by placing a cubby behind the centre console stack. Interesting…

When you finally stop playing with the [optional] fold-up/pop-up nav system and depress or raise the door lock buttons, you suddenly realize Ford’s desire to take Volvo upmarket didn’t make it this far down the food chain. While 2008 brings forth new cup holder and armrest designs, the V50’s bean counters blew off Bluetooth and skimped where they could. Penalty box aversive drivers are advised to opt for the Dolby Pro Logic sound system. The V50 may not have the tactile satisfaction or gadgetry goodness of its German rivals, but ABBA never sounded so good.

12078_2_1.jpgOur V50 tester was powered by Volvo’s ubiquitous 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo (which also adds 17” wheels to the package). The odd-numbered mill spools-up nine more horses than before (227hp) and 236 ft-lbs of torque. Oomph's delivered with typical Volvo aplomb: power starts early, crescendos late and makes some wonderful noise in between.

Although the V50’s quick rather than pin-your- Labradors-to-the-rear-window fast– zero to 60mph takes seven seconds– the Swedish wagonette’s in-gear acceleration is plenty punchy. Whatever grunt’s underfoot is instantly yours for the taking. Besides, you gotta think the average V50 intender gladly sacrifices a bit of forward thrust for the resulting 19/27mpg mileage (front wheel-drive trim).

That said, Volvo claims that 45 percent of V50 buyers are less than 35 years old. To cater to these young (and young at heart) drivers, Volvo’s blessed the V50 with some seriously entertaining road manners.

12079_2_1.jpgWindy roads reveal crisp, linear and predictable manners; impressive grip and drama-free braking. The V50 snags the Getrag six-speed manual from the R-series instead of the tired corporate five-speed; this six cog row-box will have you snick-snick-snicking through the gears with a smile all the way to IKEA. Unfortunately, the snatchy Volvo clutch is along for the ride– without the 300hp R engine to make up for it.

No Volvo would be complete without a plethora of safety equipment and more alphabet soup than Campbell's test kitchen. The Swedish au pairs include: DSTC, ABS, EBA, EBFD, SIPS, WHIPS, IC and the acronym-less collapsible steering column. New acronyms for 2008 include EBL (Emergency Brake Lights, they flash if you stop fast) and BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) so you don’t have to look over your shoulder like everyone else.

12086_2_1.jpgIf that’s not enough, Volvo’s IDIS system “inspired by aircraft” will sense when you are in a “challenging driving situation” and will delay warning lamps and ignore phone calls (Europe only) until your driving style has returned to a civilized plod. Oh, and Volvo’s Intelligent Vehicle Architecture (VIVA) uses four different grades of steel and results in markedly improved Euro NCAP crash results vs. its corporate cousins.

In terms of performance, utility and quality, Volvo’s sprightly V50 wagon is as close to a Euro-Focus wagon as you can get stateside— only better. In fact, the V50 is only a hair away from lifestyle load-lugging perfection and about 80hp shy of pistonhead perfection (all wheel drive). If the V50 turns out to be part of Volvo’s swansong, well, at least it can carry a tune.

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Volvo V70

The V70 may be a large, comfortable estate, but it may surprise you that it's neither the safest nor the most spacious around - it's been surpassed by newer designs from rival manufacturers. But there's plenty of choice. It's available with a wide range of engines and trim levels that includes four-wheel drive versions, a high-performance R model and even Bi-Fuel power for those that want to run on alternative fuels. Another eco-friendly touch is the option of a catalytic coating on the radiator that converts ground-level ozone into oxygen as it passes through. The V70 is expensive, but that hasn't deterred buyers and for many it is the default choice when considering a big estate. You'll need sturdy pockets though - the key fob is bigger than that of any other car we've seen. The range was simplified in 2007 with a number of models discontinued. Click now to save up to 60% on Car Insurance, plus FREE RAC breakdown cover with every policy.

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Volvo XC70

The Volvo XC70 is an all-weather version of the V70 midsize wagon that boasts all-wheel drive as well as increased ground clearance and SUV-like styling cues. The latter two features are mostly for show, however, as the XC70 has never had much in the way of serious off-road hardware. What the XC70 has consistently offered is the sure-footedness of all-wheel drive, and it has become progressively more stylish and luxurious through the years, while maintaining its SUV-grade cargo space and superior reputation for safety.

The XC70 debuted as the V70 XC, a tough-looking, all-wheel-drive interpretation of the first-generation V70 wagon. It featured segment-leading safety and a cavernous cabin, along with a lively turbocharged five-cylinder engine and an appropriate amount of luxury for its premium price point. The second-generation V70 XC was a revolutionary step forward -- no longer a shoebox on stilts, its swoopy styling outside and in marked a clear departure from the squared-off Volvos of yore. This XC also had the expected array of safety and luxury features, and it received a midcycle engine upgrade that coincided with its rechristening as the separately marketed XC70.

Like its predecessor, the current generation Volvo XC70 is downright stylish all over, and it continues to offer many of the same virtues as previous versions: confidence-inspiring all-wheel drive, top-notch safety, a luxurious cockpit and enough cabin volume to satisfy all but the most haul-happy families. With the new inline six-cylinder engine, however, performance is lackluster -- other midsize wagons and a handful of crossover SUVs are both more satisfying to drive and comparably or more frugal at the pump. The XC70 is a solid family vehicle, especially for those living in colder climates. Still, there are competing models that have similarly appealing traits, as well as superior power and/or efficiency.

Current Volvo XC70

Introduced for 2008, the current Volvo XC70 technically competes in the midsize wagon segment, although its standard all-wheel drive and SUV-like features make it competitive with crossover SUVs as well. Compared to a regular V70 wagon, the XC70 stands out, thanks to increased ground clearance (2.7 inches higher than the V70) and more rugged styling details that include cladding on the lower body sides and different front and rear fascias.

Offered in only one trim level, the XC70 comes standard with plenty of convenience and upscale features. Major options include leather upholstery, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system. Under the hood is a 3.2-liter inline-6 that sends 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. Those numbers may look good on paper, but the XC70's actual acceleration performance and fuel economy are decidedly unimpressive.

Otherwise, the stylish XC70 should please any family that requires all-weather capability, carlike handling and an upscale cabin with plenty of cargo space. With the proliferation of crossover SUV offerings in recent years, however, there are numerous competing models that boast similar strengths along with better overall powertrains. We'd recommend taking a good look at what the market has to offer before you ante up for the current XC70, though those who ultimately go with the Volvo likely won't be disappointed.

Past Volvo XC70 Models

The XC70 debuted in 1998 as the "V70 Cross Country" (XC for short) an upgraded trim level for the V70 wagon. With its advanced safety features (including side airbags from its inception), capacious interior, all-wheel-drive utility and trendy SUV looks, this endearingly boxy people mover quickly became a strong seller. Powered by a turbocharged 2.4-liter five-cylinder engine, the first-generation V70 XC was rated at 190 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque -- adequate in its day, but not exactly scintillating. Many buyers probably weren't even aware that the V70 XC came standard with skid plates, one of the few examples of genuine off-road equipment on this "SUW."

In 2001, the second-generation V70 XC was introduced. Like its V70 sibling, the new V70 XC sported a sleeker shape and a new platform shared with the first-generation S80 sedan, as well as a striking interior layout largely borrowed from the S60 sedan. In 2002, Volvo changed business tactics, dropping the "V70" from the car's title and marketing it separately from the V70 line as the Volvo XC. In 2003, the "70" designation returned, giving us the first official Volvo XC70.

Second-generation cars could be equipped with a navigation system for the first time. The 2.4-liter engine was tweaked to produce 197 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque, yielding satisfactory if not thrilling performance. In 2003, the 2.4-liter mill was replaced by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that pumped out 208 hp and a healthy 236 lb-ft of torque, which made the XC70 feel rather quick. Rear-seat room was improved over the rather cramped first-generation car, though we still weren't overly impressed, and a third-row seat was available in every model year except 2007. Other available features included adjustable rear seats, four-zone climate control and a DVD entertainment system with front headrest-mounted TV screens.

Well-optioned second-generation XC70s were pricey in their day, but depreciation has helped matters somewhat. Still, the European and premium status of Volvos frequently translates to an expensive repair bill, should you run into problems. Those looking for a used Volvo XC70 should consider a certified pre-owned car or one that still has the factory warranty. If you care about performance, 2003 and later XC70s are the logical choice, as they offer a useful 26 extra lb-ft of torque as well as 11 more hp. Otherwise, you won't be missing much if you go with the 2001 or 2002 model.

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