Mitsubishi i
Mitsubishi i

I’m finally back to working on the next Weekend Driver column for UT San Diego and have a Mitsubishi i on the way. Any suggestions on where I should take it? It will need to be somewhere close, as my home base is downtown San Diego. It has a range of about 100 miles, so I don’t want to have to take an 80 mile round trip to the mountains then have nothing left in the battery for a drive.

In case you’re in the market for a fine, new car, US News and World Report is out with its top picks for new cars, online at http://usnews.com/cars-money.  The magazine says the list helps average Joes and Janes find the right car for the money. Here’s the list.

2012 BEST CARS FOR THE MONEY AWARDS

   
CATEGORY WINNER
Affordable Compact SUVs – 2 row 2012 Chevrolet Equinox
Affordable Compact SUVs – 3 row 2012 Toyota RAV4
Affordable Large Cars 2012 Ford Taurus
Affordable Large SUVs 2012 Chevrolet Suburban
Affordable Midsize Cars 2012 Ford Fusion
Affordable Midsize SUVs – 2 row 2012 Ford Edge
Affordable Midsize SUVs – 3 row 2012 Mazda CX-9
Affordable Small Cars – Compact 2012 Chevrolet Cruze
Affordable Small Cars – Subcompact 2012 Ford Fiesta
Affordable Sports Cars 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Compact Pickup Trucks 2012 Toyota Tacoma
Full Size Pickup Trucks 2012 Ram 1500
Hatchbacks 2012 Ford Fiesta
Hybrid Cars 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Hybrid SUVs 2012 Lexus RX Hybrid
Luxury Compact SUVs 2012 Audi Q5
Luxury Large SUVs 2012 Cadillac Escalade
Luxury Midsize SUVs 2012 Lexus RX 350
Minivans 2012 Mazda Mazda5
Off-Road SUVs 2012 Jeep Wrangler
Upscale Midsize Cars 2012 Buick Regal
Upscale Small Cars 2012 Volkswagen GTI
Wagons 2012 Subaru Outback
For more info, go to http://www.usnews.com/cars

I really had mixed feelings about the Hyundai Genesis Coupe.

Car ReviewHere’s a beautifully and very distinctively styled car, equipped with an eager 3.8 liter V-6 engine that puts out a V-8-like growl, six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters pushing power to the rear wheels, big brakes and sticky tires that keep the car on the road. Inside is a beautiful leather interior, comfortable seats and all kinds of creature comforts expected in higher-priced cars but included here.

My problems were most likely because I’m 6-1. The tested version of this low-slung coupe had a sunroof and was the Track edition. I like sunroofs, but they generally lower the ceiling by an inch or more. The Track trim level, available only with the 3.8 liter engine, has a suspension tuned for cornering and handling with stiffer springs and shocks plus extra goodies. Brakes are by Brembo and feature rotors almost an inch in diameter bigger than stock, as well as larger calipers.

Hyundai GenesisThe tight suspension meant every bump was felt. Around town, the cracks and potholes weren’t that big a deal, as I generally had time to react and I know where most of the crummy spots are on roads I regularly travel.

But the freeway was another story. Most of our freeways around San Diego are in pretty good shape. It was the dips on and off of bridges that nailed me every time. Dip, bridge, clunk… I hit the roof. I lowered the power drivers’ seat all the way, leaned reclined the backrest a bit more (not quite to the Italian Driving Position), but no good. It did make me a more alert driver to make sure I ducked before going on or off a bridge or change in the pavement.

This car’s been out for a couple of years and, in checking other reviews, I saw discussions of the small back-seat accommodations, but nothing on my front seat headroom issue. So maybe I’m the weird one.

So would I buy a Genesis Coupe? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recommend it. The Track edition was really a treat to drive. All that stiff suspension and the 3.6 liter V-6 makes for a lot of fun on twisty, curving roads. I drove this car over Santiago and Trabuco canyon roads in Orange County for my Weekend Driver column, and it was a blast. The car sticks to the road, pick up your foot and you’ll get engine braking in the manual mode and the quick, responsive steering lets the driver keep the car pointed in the right direction.

Hyundai does have other versions of the Genesis Coupe. The Grand Touring edition has a softer suspension but reportedly still offers great handling that will probably get you through canyon roads just fine. There’s also the tuner-ready R-Spec, which also comes with the base four-cylinder 2.0 liter turbo, as well as Base and Premium versions with the four. Prices run from $22-32k, plus options.

Exterior styling is aggressive and serious, with all the contemporary curves and folds. Rear visibility is compromised as in most cars in its class, so keep those side mirrors adjusted. The 19-inch alloy wheels have a gunmetal finish that show off the Brembo brakes. The Track model comes with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires with “summer compound,” which means they’re extra sticky. The aggressive stance is emphasized by the larger 245/50YR19 tires on the rear, with 225/40YR19 on the front.

There is a family resemblance to the last-generation Tiburon, Hyundai’s subcompact-based sport coupe that was a very different car. I happened to pull up next to one of the last generation (production ended in 2008) and they are very different cars. The Genesis puts some sport back in Hyundai’s lineup but at a different price and target buyer.

It’s been compared to the Infiniti G37, as the size and packaging are very similar. With the somewhat serviceable back seat, it’s also been compared to the US musclecars, Camaro and Mustang. But the Genesis is lighter and trimmer than its American cousins and has a different feel; although Camaro and Mustang are great handlers, it’s just different. One thing the Hyundai engineers have done is given the V-6 a great exhaust note; step on the gas and it growls almost like a V-8. What car is right for you depends on what you define as cool and your available funds.

Then there’s the value. My tested car, loaded with GPS, satellite radio and almost everything in the Hyundai parts bin, came to about $37,000, comparable with the Camaro and Mustang. The G37 would be in the mid-40s.

Good package at a good price, if that’s what you’re looking for. And if you do opt for the sunroof, make sure you check for headroom.


More Information

It’s been a wet winter, which means our local desert is ready for a show. And for all of you with all-wheel-drive SUVs, its time to exercise those transfer cases. Spring in the desert, especially in rainy years such as this one, means the usual grays and reds of the sand and hills are accented with green, yellow, fuscia-red, violet and many other colors as plants grow and bloom.

Read More ➤

This isn‘t your father‘s diesel

Just what‘s diesel about the 2010 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro Tiptronic?

It passes California emissions. It purrs like a kitten (although it was fully warmed up when I got to it). It has instant accelleration.

My quick trip in the $78,375 2010 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro Tiptronic was a real pleasure. As I mentioned, the big Audi was warmed up when I got it, so it was an instant turn of the key and the engine sprang to life. No clunking, no shaking. Just like a $70K+ example of German Engineering should.

Cruising around at low speed in the parking lot of Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway, it cruised nicely, soaking up speed bumps and taking the curves without much of a lean. Exiting on Cherry Ave., the long straightaway that fronts the speedway entrance is a good place to test accelleration.

The 3-liter turbocharged diesel took off; I didn’t feel any turbo lag, hear any diesel clunking or much of anything but the rumble of a finely-tuned engine. Accelleration pushed me back into the seat and the Tiptronic transmission smoothly ran through the gears.

On the road, the Q7 handled as expected. Corners were tight for an SUV, with little lean. The ride was firm and a bit busy, but on the smooth side for an SUV. Washboard pavement at speed produced a bit of a bounce, but well under control.

Inside, it was everything you‘d expect from a top-line SUV. Leather everything, navigation, comfort and convenience. Visibility is excellent. Of course, you hop up into the driver‘s seat, but the lift isn‘t so much.

Back at the track, I popped the hood while the engine was running. It was a bit quieter than my folks‘ ‘77 Rabbit gas engine was back in the day, and those 1.6-liter mills weren‘t known for being especially quiet. What soundproofing there is on the Audi takes care of everything, and with the windows up you are in a quiet coccoon.

In short, the EPA 17/25 MPG and clean technology makes this diesel something that Americans can love. Let‘s see if enough of them embrace and can afford it. ⚙

Vehicle Info

  • 2010 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro Tiptronic
  • Package: Prestiege Model
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Price: $78,375
  • EPA Mileage: 17 city/25 highway
  • Website

Sunrise Highway, on a cool, crisp winter weekday with no traffic at all.

That‘s where I’d like to take the 2010 Acura TSX V-6.

A smooth, luxurious cruiser with ample power and handling like a sports car is how I found this new-for-2010 update to the mid-size entry from Honda‘s upscale division. It was only a 20 minute drive, but I was very impressed with its handling, power and overall packaging on the often truck-choked and washboard pavement of the road around the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana during a recent media event.

Easy access and ample room for my 6-1 frame and size 12 shoes, with plenty of quick adjustments for a comfortable driving position. All the luxury of an Acura, which means glove-soft leather on the seats, satellite navigation and a top-line sound system, top-quality plastics and everything else. Climate control system. Quiet as they come.

Punch it on a straightaway and it takes off with a V-8-like g-force. Cornering is flat and stable, like a sports car. The bumps are soaked up for the most part.

The car debuted in 2008 with the 201-horsepower four-cylinder engine but for ‘10 is updated with the same 280 horsepower V-6 from the slightly larger TL. 20-inch wheels and semi-low-profile tires.

Following the old car company method of putting the big engine in the smaller car, Acura‘s created a big pocket rocket… probably way too much power than is necessary. Then again, for long mountain roads at speed, it can be an asset.

Vehicle Info

  • 2010 Acrua TSX V-6
  • Model: TSX V-6 w/ Technology Package
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic
  • Price: $37,950
  • EPA Mileage: 18 city/27 highway
  • Website

Holy Studebaker… the Forester has Hill Holder.

One of those features going way back to Stude is a gizmo that engages the brake when the clutch is depressed while sitting on a hill. It keeps the car from rolling backward during that frantic takeoff from stop on assent.

Imagine my surprise when I found it in a Subaru Forester, which I recently tested for a week.

My daily commute takes me over Ash Street in downtown San Diego (part of the Bullitt Hills route) and when I started up from the red light at Ninth Avenue… there it was.

Subaru has even trademarked Hill-Holder and written about it in its owner magazine.

For those of us who enjoy stick-shift driving, it’s a nice feature.

For my upcoming column, a trip out to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the folks at Nissan were nice enough to loan me a 2009 Xterra for a week. I had an enjoyable week with the Xterra, which I respect for its honesty as a genuine sport-ute, not just a giant station wagon.

Car ReviewThe Xterra’s been on the road for awhile… it hit the market in 1999 for the 2000 model year. So, it’s not a luxo-ute — if you want that, get the Murano, which actually can do quite a bit off road (see my March 2008 blog item and the column on the hills outside of Jacumba).

The Xterra is still true to its original mission… a reasonably priced, comfortable yet tough vehicle for folks who like to use it as a sport utility vehicle. The heritage is the Jeep CJ, the original Cherokee, Ford Bronco, International-Harvester Scout. My Xterra had the off-road package and it just ate up the rocks on a bumpy, rutted “road” through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It’s also something that can fit on mountain and desert trails; it’s narrow, as most of the trails, so it won’t leave lots of paint in the brush.

On the twisting, mountain roads, it wasn’t the Miata, but it was sure and comfortable. On the freeway and city streets, it was jiggly but controlled and quiet.

Conclusion? I would’t want to commute in it, since the gas mileage isn’t great. But as a second vehicle in the garage for those weekend getaways? If it works for you, sign on the dotted line.