Vehicles Archive

2016 Honda Pilot Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

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It’s Bigger, it’s Better, and it’s no longer Boxy.  For some, the more rugged appearance of the previous Pilot was a nice departure from most crossover SUVs on the road today.  For most, the sleeker styling of the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot is a long-awaited improvement.  And the changes only start there.  Almost everything else is also improved in this re-design, borrowing various enhancements from the Acura MDX that was introduced for 2014.

2016-honda-pilot-suv-side-view

Starting with the inside, it’s more spacious than before and is now among the leaders in the midsize class.  Honda added 3.5 inches to the new Pilot, helping to increase both legroom and cargo space in back.  That’s great for carseats and kids.  Thankfully, Honda didn’t change one of the best things about the Pilot: Four of the 6 rear seats have the LATCH carseat attachment system, while all six have top-tether anchors.  That makes it one of the most flexible SUVs for carseats in back.  Most trim levels seat eight, with only benches available in back, but the Elite trim is only available in a 7-passenger version with an aisle between two second row captain’s chairs.

Other improvements include a cabin that is much more refined and competitive than before, with softer materials all around.  The access to the third row is improved, so even adults can get back there more easily than before.  Cargo space behind the third row is 1.3″ longer than before, and even more spacious when you flip the stowable lid covering the deep storage area below.   If you have a lot of stuff to put behind the third row, the Pilot has more room than almost any midsize competitor.  You’d have to go to a minivan or huge full size SUV to do much better.  And there are lots more charging outlets for all those devices, too!

Safety:

Update: The 2016 Pilot earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, and a Top Safety Pick+ when equipped with the Honda Sensing Package.  In addition, it earned the top “Good” rating in each individual crash test and a “Superior” front crash protection score.  There are not yet any crash testing results from NHTSA.  This section will be updated as they are released. Given the excellent results obtained by the similar Acura MDX, I expect the new Pilot do do very well overall.

As for features, there are a full array of airbags and standard safety features, like a multi-angle backup camera and hands-free bluetooth for taking calls on the road.  Only the base LX trim lacks optional advanced safety features. On the EX and EX-L, the Honda Sensing package offers a great array of safety enhancements as an option.

Kids Left in Hot Cars: What Can We Do?

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Heatstroke_Window_Cling_MeanSun2

In recognition of National Heatstroke Prevention Day 2015, we are re-running this article in hopes of bringing awareness to the problem of children being left in hot cars. It can and *does* happen to anyone–even the best parents who think it can’t happen to them. Please take the time to share this blog article with your friends so they can understand how it happens, and so they can understand how it can happen to them too. Then head to Facebook and Twitter to participate in today’s campaign. Thanks!

As my daughter and I dodged shredded tire treads on the freeway on the way to her oboe lesson, they reminded me that warm weather is here to stay and we should be cognizant of who is in the car at all times. As temps go up outside, they can climb even faster inside and anyone who is vulnerable—child, elderly person, or pet—can succumb to heat stroke in a short amount of time. Even moderate outside temperatures can produce deadly vehicle interior temperatures and cracking a window isn’t enough to air out the car.

When a vehicle is in the sun, it starts to heat up. We’ve all felt this when we’ve sat in a car with the engine off. What happens is the sun shines through the transparent windows and heats the surfaces in the car. The radiation from the sun touches the dashboard, steering wheel, and other solid objects, as well as floating air molecules we can’t see. Conduction works to heat the interior surfaces of the vehicle up quickly and convection moves the air molecules around faster and faster, causing them to heat at a rapid rate. Even leaving the windows down a crack doesn’t help because of the conduction heating the surfaces; the surfaces heat up, which cause the air inside to heat as well. What about a cloudy day where the sun’s rays aren’t shining through the windows? Let me tell you about the worst sunburn I ever got—on a cloudy day. The radiation from the sun still comes through the clouds and can heat that vehicle up.

The SUV in the picture below was left in the sun on a very pleasant morning for about a half hour. During that time, while the outside temperature was 66º, the inside temperature rose to 128º. The vehicle was set up for my Safe Kids coalition’s press conference and rescue demonstration kicking off our Heatstroke Awareness Campaign.

SUV in sun ready for rescue

A child left in the vehicle is at serious risk for heat stroke or death. Heat stroke is when the body’s temperature rises above 104º. A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult’s and symptoms of heat stroke include red, hot, moist or dry skin, lack of sweating (their bodies have reached a point where they can’t cool down on their own anymore), headache, dizziness, confusion, and nausea. When a child’s body reaches 107º, their organs will shut down and death most likely will occur.

As much as we try to educate parents not to leave their children in vehicles, last year there were 30 children who died left in vehicles. Some of these deaths were accidental and some were intentional. It’s the accidental deaths where we can make an impact by making a few changes in our habits. But habits are hard to change and we have to be intentional in changing them. Can you imagine being this guy, who accidentally left his sleeping child in his SUV at the train station parking lot and remembered her when he got into the city? That had to have been the longest train ride back out to get her.

Time and again, a break in routine has been the reason a child has been left behind in a vehicle. The parent with the child is doing something out of the ordinary and forgets that the child is in the car or a daycare provider is overwhelmed with the number of children in the van and forgets the quiet one. From 1998-2014, 53% of children who died from heatstroke in vehicles were forgotten about by their caregivers. During that same time period, 29% were children who accidentally locked themselves in a vehicle while playing, and adults intentionally left 17% in the vehicle.

How can we address this problem and prevent it from happening again? First, we can stop blaming the victims and recognize everyone has the potential to forget their child. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem at some point for everyone who has a child and it can make your brain act in ways it normally wouldn’t. Laws may help dissuade caregivers who casually leave their children in vehicles as they run errands or get manicures, but they aren’t going to make a difference for those who forget their children. If you forget a child, you’re not going to remember them because of the threat of going to jail. Nineteen states have laws regarding unattended children in vehicles. Second, let’s be proactive, both as parents driving our children and as community members. Look in the car next to you as you get out to make sure a child, pet, or elderly person wasn’t left behind. Look in your business parking lots on broiling hot days AND teeth-chattering cold days. Safe Kids Worldwide gives us this handy acronym to help us remember to ACT to save lives:

A: Avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child alone in a car and by locking your vehicle so a child can’t get trapped inside accidentally.

C: Create reminders for yourself by putting your cellphone or wallet in the back seat next to the carseat. Also have your daycare provider call you and your significant other when the child is late or absent from daycare.

T: Take action if you see a child alone in a vehicle. This is an emergency and emergency personnel want you to call 911. Be cautious about breaking a vehicle window because you or someone else could be injured.

 

If you determine that you cannot wait for First Responders and you have to break the window yourself to get the child out immediately – break the window that is furthest away from the child. Hit the window in the corner, not in the center. The corner is the weakest point. The center is the strongest. Having a window breaking tool makes the job a lot easier. An Automatic Center Punch tool is ideal if you happen to have one. If you don’t already own a glass breaking tool you may want to consider purchasing one. They are fairly inexpensive and come in different styles and sizes.

 

 

Midlife Crisis Car or Family Truckster? Or Both?

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hellcatQ: What has 4-doors, goes 204 miles per hour and can 3-across with LATCH in the back seat?

A: It’s the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, of course.  The ultimate head-turning midlife crisis sedan that safely seats almost any family of 5.  Well, okay, maybe the updated Tesla Model S with “Ludicrous” mode is in the discussion, but who wants silent when you can let the whole downtown know you are passing through with the rumble of the massive V8?  Almost as distinctive as the original Hellcat!

 

I didn’t have time to pile in more carseats, as I was too busy revving this finely crafted machine to 115 mph on the track.  But don’t let that scare you like it did me! The back seat is pretty nice for carseats; it’s wide, has 3 full pairs of LATCH and no pesky seatbelt/LATCH crossover issues.  So, go ahead and put that rigid LATCH seat in the center, rear seat!  Sure there are deep bolsters on the rear seat cushion and seat back that can interfere with some wide carseats, but they will come in handy when you are pulling some G’s around hairpin turns with your teenagers in the back seat!  No worries in letting them drive, either.  Just hand them the black keyfob that limits output to a mere 500 horsepower.  Or enable “Valet” mode secured by your secret PIN code and your young driver will have to suffer with significant performance limitations and an inability to override traction or stability control;-)

2015-charger-gallery-srt-08But even with the red keyfob, there’s no reason to worry about the 707 horsepower or 650 lb-ft. of torque from the 6.2L supercharged HEMI V8.  This sedan stops on a dime with Brembo 15.4″ front and 13.8″ rear brakes, while Bilstein-tuned handling keeps it firmly on the road.  Of course it has plenty of airbags, a backup camera, bluetooth hands-free, lane keep assist, blindspot/cross-traffic alerts and a frontal collision warning/mitigation system.  Plus, you get a driving school course included for your $65,000 (includes destination charge and gas guzzler fee).  Don’t let the sticker shock daunt you, there’s also the very capable SRT 392 or the R/T Scat Pack with optional Technology Group for safe, suburban driving around $45,000 :-)

Sure, these are all RWD vehicles, so if you must have AWD with your midlife crisis, then consider the Grand Cherokee SRT. This one was surprisingly agile and fast on the track as well.   Not only does it do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, a top speed of 160mph and brake from 60-0 in 116 feet, but it tows 7200 lbs.!  This was a great day at the track with some awesome vehicles.  If you buy an SRT, I can only imagine the included track experience class is equally fun, so be sure to sign up.

And as for the Hellcat, did I mention the 0-60 time of around 3.5 seconds and the 11 second quarter-mile* capability?

*No children were subjected to excessive acceleration in the making of this blog

SRT

Thank you to Fiat Chrysler America, Midwest Automotive Media Association #MAMATrackSchool, CGI Motorsports (Thanks, Phil!) and Gingerman Raceway for this great event- it was a blast!

 

Volvo Concept Car: Keep Your Kid in the Console

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At the Shanghai Auto Show, Volvo revealed it’s new Flagship “Excellence” model based on the XC90. The XC90 Excellence eliminates the third row to create more luxurious and roomy seating. The reclining rear seats come with massage and ventilation. Volvo also created a lounge console concept for this model by eliminating the front passenger seat in favor of a handy console. Although still a concept, this console was designed for executives or socialites on the go: It can hold jewelry and valuables, transforms into a desk or vanity (great for productivity—maybe not so great in a crash), holds shoes, and contains a full-size screen for “infotainment.”

Volvo_XC90_Excellence_Lounge_Console volvo-xc90-lounge-console-concept-mirror

volvo-xc90-excellence-child-seat-concept-1More interesting to us, though, is the version of the console that also holds a Volvo-designed infant seat. The seat swivels so parents can easily load the child or attend to his needs while standing outside the car. The seat then locks into a rear-facing position, much like the Orbit Infant Seat. With no seatback, a parent sitting in the second row can easily interact with the child during the ride.

volvo-xc90-excellence-child-seat-concept-2The first question on everyone’s mind: What about airbags??? Airbags can be deadly to a rear-facing child in the front seat. No need to worry (much) though: This model doesn’t have a front passenger airbag. It should be noted that the rear seat is still considered the safest place for a child, but the absence of an airbag does make the front seat an acceptable option, and putting rear-facing children in the front seat is a common practice in some countries where the frontal airbag can be easily disabled.

No word yet on whether the infant seat can be replaced later with a rear-facing convertible, which would certainly make for a longer-lasting solution.

You won’t find these cars in the U.S. anytime soon—if ever. Right now the child-seat model is just a concept, and it was designed with the Chinese market in mind, specifically the segment of the market that makes use of chauffeurs (hence all the cool stuff you can do from the back seat).

What do you think? If this car were available in the U.S., would you want one?