Vehicles Archive

The UN-Minivan: 2012 Dodge Durango Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

Looking to drop the minivan mom (or dad) image?  This is your baby.  It’s the 2012 Dodge Durango R/T AWD.  Sure, it’s nicely styled looking from the back or side, especially with the 20-inch Aluminum wheels standard on R/T trim, but one look from the front lets you know that this is no glorified station wagon.  A look under the hood at the 360 horsepower, 5.7 liter HEMI V8 confirms it. There’s icing on this cake, too.  It’s got enough room to make the third row usable and leave some cargo space behind it as well. Plus, it’s a superb highway cruiser, as I learned on a last-minute road trip.

Living an Authentic Life – with a Hybrid

There is a saying that “how you do anything is how you do everything.” Actually, it’s a nice book you can buy here.  I mentioned that here in this blog last September. Back then, I was in a writing frenzy, and actually penned a second piece – but alas, it wasn’t published by the overlording editors who run this site.   Perhaps I was too critical of a certain webmaster that I happen to be married to…

But redemption has come, and I’ve been invited back.

The premise of the book is that the essence of your unique individual soul can’t help but show up in absolutely everything you do. It will always bleed through.  So, just in the first 113 words of this essay, you might guess that I mildly enjoy challenging the status quo, sharing my insights to inspire others, and often relish in borderline exhibitionist “look at me, I’m the good one” – or as some prefer to  call it, self-righteousness. And honestly, you wouldn’t be wrong. I do my best to contain it, but there is so much vitality and juiciness there, it is lifegiving and fun to play with it on occasion.  Living an authentic life and loving (or simply un-exiling) your authentic self has a habit of doing that.

How many of you pretend to be other? How much fun are you having being that?  How many shades of grey would you trade for a single burst of color? Serious questions to ponder. When you are done with this blog, take a 6 minute soul break and watch this video -  http://soulbiographies.com/an-uncontained-life/ . I subscribe to this series and get an inspiring short film in my inbox every Monday morning. It helps start the week in a nice way.

And now for the segue – what in the world does that have to do with cars, namely hybrids?

2012 Mazda CX-9 Quick Review and Video: Kids, Carseats & Safety

Here is a quick video review of the midsize crossover SUV offering from Mazda. The CX-9 is well-balanced and very nice overall. Among other SUVs in its class, I find that it ranks above average in most every category, though perhaps standing out in no particular category. There’s simply aren’t any major things most people will find objectionable about it, though I did manage to come up with my usual list of minor annoyances, if only for the sake of completeness. It’s among the larger midsize models, similar to the Honda Pilot and Buick Enclave we have reviewed. It handles pretty well for such a large vehicle, while at the same time having decent road noise and ride comfort qualities. That’s a trade-off some manufacturers never seem to balance well. The styling, both interior and exterior, are quite nice as well.

In terms of child passenger seating, the second row is just wide enough to fit three-across with careful selection of carseats.  The middle seat isn’t quite as functional as the one in the Honda Pilot, but certainly more useful than the handy removable seat in the Toyota Highlander.  The second row moves back far enough to allow for installation of a rear-facing seat and still leave some legroom in the front seats.  The only issue I had in the second row was that the seatbelt buckle stalk for the passenger side seemed to get lost easily, making it hard for my son to find in order to buckle himself in a booster.  The LATCH anchors are somewhat recessed and angled downward a bit, but shouldn’t be a problem for most carseats.  That did make installation of the rigid LATCH Clek Oobr take a few extra seconds to install!  Here’s an overview video; apologies for the windy Chicago weather on the audio!

Upcoming Midsize 3-row SUVs from the Chicago Auto Show


We’ve reviewed a number of 3-row crossover SUVs in the last year or so.  Coming soon we will also be reviewing the Mazda CX-9 and, hopefully, the Ford Explorer with inflatable seatbelts as well as the Dodge Durango.  Those models are already on showroom floors, but there are a couple more that should appear later in 2012.  The refreshed 2013 Ford Flex and the all-new 2013 Nissan Pathfinder.

The Flex gets some new styling, new power rear seating options and an active collision avoidance system in top trim levels.


The Pathfinder switches from a truck-based chassis to a unibody crossover SUV.  It touts more interior space than its predecessor and a tilt-forward second row seat that allows access to the third row without uninstalling a child safety seat.

We hope to review both of these new models later this year!

In other news, the GMC Acadia Denali gets a refresh this fall for 2013.  Said to be included is a front seat middle airbag that deploys between the driver and front seat passenger.


Finally, according to Ford reps at the auto show, the 3-row Ford C-Max Grand will not be coming to the USA in the near future.  Instead, I was told that only the 5-passenger C-Max Energi hybrid line will debut this fall.  Sad news for those looking for an alternative to the fuel-efficient Mazda5.  Also, in minivan news, it sounds like there will not be a new Kia Sedona for 2013 as some had expected.  All the other minivans are recently refreshed or re-designed, so don’t expect much on the minivan front for 2013!

2012 Kia Sorento Review: Kids, Carseats and Safety

The 2012 Kia Sorento is a carryover from the all-new crossover SUV that debuted in 2011, but there are a few nice improvements.  Mainly, Kia has added an optional ”GDI” direct fuel injection engine, increasing the power from 175HP to 191HP and increasing the fuel economy by a couple miles per gallon at the same time!  In front wheel drive trim, the new 4-cylinder engine delivers an impressive 22 city, 32 mpg highway and 25mpg overall based on EPA estimates!  The Sorento is a little roomier than its typical competition in the compact SUV class and almost as big as the smaller midsize SUVs.  Is that big enough for your family?  Read on!

I tested the EX AWD version with the Premium Package, including the third row seat, leather trim, power folding mirrors, power seats with memory, NAV with traffic, Infinity sound and a few other perks.  The downside of opting for AWD and/or the V6 engine is the lower fuel economy.  Mine was rated at 21/28/23 but managed only around 15-17mpg around town during my short time driving it.  Granted, this was for a very short number of miles in cold weather, based only on the trip computer.  Hardly scientific, I know.  If you get both the V6 and AWD, the price and fuel economy become similar to larger midsize SUVs.  For example, even with the 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder GDI engine, my AWD tester had a sticker price of $32,300.

Size is both a benefit and drawback of the Sorento.  The benefit is that the Sorento maneuvers around town and into parking spaces better than most midsize SUVs.  The price is right, too, so you get a little more space and an optional 3rd row of seating for no more money than most compact SUVs like Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V.  The drawback compared to midsize SUVs (like Buick Enclave or Honda Pilot) is that the shorter length comes right out of the legroom and cargo space in the 2nd and 3rd rows.  That means some seating compromises compared to midsize sport utes.


The second row of seating is barely larger than what you’d find in most compact cars.  There are shoulder belts and adjustable head restraints in all three seats, but no rear shoulder belts offer a height adjustment.