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Monday, May 7, 2012

For Advertising Information Contact Your Local Cars.Com On-The-Move Sales Team at 599-2329

Toyota, Chrysler see big April sales gains By Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin

soon be gone from dealer lots. Ford will lure some of those buyers to its larger F-Series trucks, but some may go to other brands.

The Associated Press

DETROIT — Toyota and Chrysler saw big U.S. sales gains in April, but they came at the expense of General Motors and Ford. When automakers finish reporting numbers on Tuesday, industry-wide sales are likely to rise only a little above April of 2011, but the annual pace is expected to match February and March. Toyota sales rose 12 percent as its inventories finally returned to pre-earthquake levels. Chrysler posted a 20-percent rise in sales. Its top sellers included the Ram pickup and Chrysler 200 midsize sedan, which benefited from big rebates of $2,000 or more, analysts said. GM sales fell 8 percent, hurt by new products and aggressive marketing from competitors. Ford sales fell 5 percent as demand for its Fiesta subcompact dropped. Many buyers opted for the Focus small car instead. GM remained optimistic about industry-wide auto sales in the U.S. It increased its full-year forecast to 14 million to 14.5 million cars and trucks, up from 13.5 million to 14 million, citing strength in manufacturing and retail businesses that could boost employment. When more people have jobs, or feel good about hiring, they’re more likely to buy big-ticket items such as cars.

Toyota is back

Toyota has fully recovered from its factory slowdowns after last year’s Japan earth-

GM stumbles

DaviD Zalubowski/The associaTeD Press

This Feb. 19 file photo shows a line of 2012 Prius sedans at a Toyota dealership in the south Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo. Toyota and Chrysler saw big U.S. sales gains in April, but they came at the expense of General Motors and Ford. Toyota said its sales rose 12 percent as its inventories finally returned to pre-earthquake levels. quake and Thailand flooding. It’s got new products in the market like the Camry midsize sedan that are starting to regain market share, said Tom Libby, lead North American forecasting analyst for the Polk research firm. GM, though, doesn’t think one month represents a permanent sales shift. Toyota, VW and Chrysler all had rel-

atively low sales in April of 2011, and some were aggressive in selling cars to large fleet buyers, says Don Johnson, GM’s U.S. sales chief. But Libby said GM will be under pressure from competitors all year as more new models come out. “We have a situation now where every manufacturer is pretty much going all-out and

does not have a lot of restrictions,” he says.

Ford slump

Ford sales were hurt on several fronts. Sales of the Fiesta subcompact dropped 44 percent. Besides losing sales to the Focus, the Fiesta is facing new competition from the Chevrolet Sonic and Toyota’s

Prius C. Sales of the Escape SUV dropped 20 percent as the company clears out old models to make room for a new version which goes on sale later this spring. Ford also is hurting from the decision to discontinue the Ranger small pickup. Ranger sales dropped 63 percent from last April, and the truck will

Buick, Cadillac and Chevy sales were down. Only GMC had an increase, and it was small at 4.5 percent. GM said sales to rental car companies dropped 25 percent for the month. Retail sales to individual buyers were flat. Sales of the Cruze compact car, a big seller since its introduction in 2010, fell almost 30 percent last month. Lower sales to rental car companies hurt the model, but analysts also noted that Toyota and Honda have full supplies of competing cars such as the Civic and Corolla. “There’s no doubt the Japanese are back in the market,” said Don Johnson, GM’s U.S. sales chief. GM is avoiding discounts to match competitors. For example, Toyota sells the aging Corolla compact for an average price of $16,917, said Alan Batey, vice president of Chevrolet. But people are paying an average price of $19,572 for the Chevy Cruze compact, he said. “You can see that we’re not getting drawn into a discounted sales position,” Batey said. GM ended April with enough vehicles in inventory to supply dealers for 79 days. That’s more than the 60 days considered optimal. The company had 121-day supply of big pickup trucks, down slightly See SALES, Page 2


Page 2 / Monday, May 7, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

Younger wheelchair users want less frumpy minivans By Terry Box The Dallas Morning News

AssociAted Press Files

Chrysler posted a 19-percent rise in sales Tuesday.

Sales From Page 1

from March. GM is building up pickup inventory as it prepares to close factories and equip them to make an all-new pickup due out in 2013.

Chrysler keeps rolling

The company’s top-selling Ram pickup saw sales jump 19 percent last month. Chrysler also was helped at the smaller end of the lineup. It sold more than 3,800 Fiat 500 mini-cars, four times the sales from a year earlier. The company is forecasting an annual selling rate for April of 14.6 million cars and trucks, on the high end of analyst predictions. At the end of Apri l, Chrysler had enough cars and trucks to supply its dealers for 59 days. That’s just below what’s considered optimal. And it’s far better than the Chrysler of old, which often had cars and trucks piled up on Detroit-area parking lots because dealers wouldn’t take them.

Gas prices ease

Gas prices appear to have peaked. After a four-month surge lifted gasoline to nearly $4 per gallon in early April, drivers, politicians and economists worried that prices might soar past all-time highs. Instead, pump prices have dropped 12 cents over the past month to a national average on Tuesday of $3.81. As gas prices climbed, buyers found few deals for small-

er, fuel-efficient cars. But as prices ease and more compacts come onto the market, buyers will find more deals, said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

Discounts falling

Automakers spent an average of $2,071 per vehicle to discount cars and trucks in April. That was down nearly 2 percent from April 2011, and the lowest level since October 2005. “This is the clearest indication yet that consumer motivation is high and that automakers feel little pressure to rely on incentives in order to keep sales churning,” says Edmunds. com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. She sees incentives at low levels until auto sales ease off the torrid pace set so far in 2012. But the easing of gas prices could bring rebates on fuelefficient vehicles, said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. When prices were higher, consumers got little in discounts from automakers except for lowinterest loans or a small number of lease deals. “As fuel prices ease in the months ahead, consumers can expect more deals as manufacturers battle for market share in an increasingly crowded segment,” he said. GM spent the most on incentives last month: an average of $3,446 per vehicle. Honda spent the least: an average of $992. Nissan’s spending on incentives fell the most.

DALLAS — Metallic-red wheelchairs with flamed fenders don’t mix well with drab mommy-mobile minivans. But Doug Eaton, among others, intends to make them blend — polishing and pumping up minivans to appeal to young disabled consumers looking for something with more sizzle. More is at stake than matters of taste. Thousands of young disabled veterans are returning home from wars in the Middle East, and the minivan remains the most practical vehicle to make wheelchair-accessible — a $20,000 process. “But they just don’t want minivans,” said Eaton, president and chief executive of Vantage Mobility International in Phoenix, Ariz. “The problem with a minivan is just that — it’s a minivan.” VMI, one of the largest producers of wheelchairaccessible vehicles, has developed a modified Honda Odyssey with flashy wheels, leather seats and even a carbon-fiber dashboard cover. “With young veterans coming back and our being in Texas, trucks are popular” wheelchair-accessible vehicles, said Laura Klaus, marketing manager of the United Access dealership in Garland, Texas, which carries vehicles from VMI, BraunAbility and Eldorado. “Minivans are not.” The limited-edition van, which VMI calls its “25th Anniversary” Odyssey, is aimed largely at Generation Y buyers who frequently prefer modified pickups to minivans — though the trucks are often more difficult to use. “Our client base is older, and they don’t mind min-

NathaN huNsiNger/Dallas MorNiNg News/MCt

Jeremy Rodriguez removes carpeting from a minivan to outfit it with durable rubber suitable for wheelchairs at United Access in Garland, Texas. ivans,” Eaton said. “But we’ve also got to deal with this shift to young veterans. We’re trying to bring a little bling to the table.” These are unusual times in the business. Like the larger auto industry, the growing wheelchairvehicle business is being shaped by two huge population groups with different interests and needs — young Gen Y-ers and aging baby boomers. The industry sells about 15,000 modified minivans annually and expects growth of 8 percent to 10 percent a year. “But we think there is an unfulfilled need of 15,000 additional minivans from people who don’t want them,” Eaton said. Front-wheel-drive minivans make great sense as wheelchair-accessible

“I don’t think there are very many people interested in minivans, to be honest. We need to develop something more like an SUV.” RichaRd May Owner of eight United Access dealerships

vehicles because their large doors offer easy access and can be fitted with extendable ramps and flexible interiors. Their floors can also be lowered 10 to 13 inches without major alterations to their powertrains.

Richard May, who owns the United Access dealership in Garland and eight others in the Midwest, said the minivan puzzle could be a long-term issue for his growing business. “I don’t think there are very many people interested in minivans, to be honest,” May said. “We need to develop something more like an SUV.” Although several companies are developing better wheelchair conversions for pickups, the minivan is likely to remain the business’s primary vehicle for years. “There are some good alternatives being developed,” said Dave Hubbard, chief executive of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. “But we hope to see the minivan around for a good long time.”


Monday, May 7, 2012 / Page 3

OnTheMOve / Tallahassee Democrat

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Page 4 / Monday, May 7, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

Auto review: 2012 Buick Verano a breath of fresh air

By Larry Printz The Virginian-Pilot

Most of us pride ourselves on being open-minded, able to accept a new experience without prejudice. So, if I told you that the new compact 2012 Buick Verano was worth a test drive, would you believe me? Most likely, no. To most folks, Buicks are soft-riding geezer-pleasers meant for cruising slowly in the left lane with a driver oblivious to the fact that their left turn signal is flashing. You’re entitled to your opinion, but it’s as outdated as a VCR. Despite the presence of such vehicles as the Autobahn-bred Buick Regal, most buyers will bypass Buick in a mistaken belief that they are still geared for the grandparent set. But the Verano — which means “summer” in Spanish — refutes that notion in a way that Buick’s previous compact — the truly dreadful Skylark, last seen 15 years ago — couldn’t. Like the Skylarks that preceded it, the Verano shares its underpinnings, mostly with the Chevrolet Cruze. But there’s much greater differentiation than in the past, and goes beyond the Verano’s attractive styling. Consider its engine. Whereas the Cruze offers a pair of four-cylinder engines, both rated at 134 horsepower, the Cruze offers just one driveline: a larger, 180-hp fourbanger matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. The bigger mill endows the sedan with greater refinement and sophistication than its cheaper sibling. There’s enough power for spirited driving, yet it doesn’t seem to affect fuel economy too greatly. In fact, the new Verano’s fuel consumption isn’t significantly different

GM/MCT

The 2012 Verano is a new compact sedan from that nearluxury nameplate, Buick. from an Acura TSX, one of its competitors. Of course, if you’re actually brave enough to step into a Buick showroom and try a Verano, you’ll find it possesses a finely tuned ride that will surprise you. For those expecting a flabby ride, you’ll be surprised at how lively the car feels. Yet it ably delivers a comfortable, quiet ride, without allowing the worst roads shocks from registering. Braking is linear, steering has a nice weight and cornering behavior is welltamed. Those who crave an ultra-firm European ride

will find the Regal more to their liking than the Verano, but most folks will find the Verano a rewarding driving experience. Safety features include 10 standard air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, and brake assist. Rear parking assist is available on some models, which sounds a chime when approaching an object, but a rear backup camera is unavailable. The car’s good manners are enhanced by a cabin filled with soft-touch surfaces and two-tone accents. It feels premium, some-

thing that couldn’t be said of any compact Skylarks of decades past. Blue ambient lighting warms the interior at night. And there’s an ample dose of technology, including Buick IntelliLink, a standard feature that uses Bluetooth or a USB port to connect a smartphone to a seven-inch LED high-resolution display radio that enables streaming stereo audio from the phone or any Bluetooth device. Other standard items include automatic climate control, electronic parking brake, steering wheel-mounted radio controls and remote starting. Options include leather seats, heated steering wheel and push-button ignition. While the interior does benefit from a sophisticated feel and roomy front seat accommodations, rear-seat legroom is limited. Trunk space is generous for the size of the vehicle. The 2012 Buick Verano won’t blow away boy racers, but for the rest of us, it will impress with its superior build quality, competitive driveline and luxury aura. And it’s delivered at a truly attractive price. As good as this vehicle is — and it’s very impressive — two questions remain. The first revolves around the Verano’s price. Like its competitors, the Audi A3, Lexus IS 250 and Acura TSX, you can buy a larger midsize car for the same money, but with fewer bells and whistles. So are buyers willing to pay several thousand dollars more for the extra pampering these entry-level luxury models offer? And secondly, will they buy one that wears the Buick nameplate? If you’re brave enough to step into a Buick showroom and try one, the answers may be yes.

MCT

BMW bats .500 with the new fuel-saving technologies in its 2012 528i xDrive sport sedan.

BMW 528i xDrive hits home run but auto-stop strikes out By Mark Phelan Detroit Free Press

BMW bats .500 with the new fuel-saving technologies in its 2012 528i xDrive sport sedan. That would get a wing of the Hall of Fame named after a baseball player, but it’s a ticket straight to the minor leagues for a $49,000-plus luxury car. The midsize sport sedan is a great car in many ways, but the poor performance of its fuel-saving auto-stop feature grievously reduces its appeal. Prices for the 2012 5-series start at $46,900 for a rearwheel drive 528i with a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. The all-wheel drive 528i xDrive raises the price to $49,200. All 5-series sedans have a fine eight-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive and auto-stop systems are the 5-series’ main changes this year. The rear drive 535i features a 300-horsepower twinturbo 3.0-liter straight-six and a base price of $52,500. The 528i’s powertrain is a wonder. The 2.0-liter engine’s 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque are more than the 2012 528i’s naturally aspirated 3.0-liter straight-six produced. It also uses less fuel and accelerates the car to 60

mph quicker; 6.2 seconds vs. 6.6 seconds. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. The engine produces less power than competitors’ V-6s, but the 528i’s power is more than adequate. The 528i xDrive’s EPA ratings are outstanding. At 22 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway and 26 in combined driving, it beats by 4 to 6 mpg the combined rating of AWD sport sedans like the Audi A6 Quattro, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti M37x, Lexus GS 350 AWD and Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic. Unfortunately, one of the major enablers of that fuel economy is BMW’s poorly executed auto-stop system. It’s by far the car’s biggest flaw. The system feels slower and more intrusive than the auto-stops on much less expensive cars like the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco and eAssist-equipped versions of the 2012 Buick Regal and LaCrosse. Auto-stop shuts the engine off when a vehicle stops moving for more than a few seconds. It’s becoming common as car companies look to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. You can disable BMW’s auto-stop, but that eliminates the system’s contribution to the EPA combined fuel economy rating — probably 3-4 percent.


Monday, May 7, 2012 / Page 5

OnTheMOve / Tallahassee Democrat

Toyota Prius C poised to meet high-mileage demand By G. Chambers Williams III McClatchy Newspapers

With just about any new consumer product, being in the right place at the right time often can mean the difference between success and failure. That’s probably going to be the case for the all-new 2012 Toyota Prius C hybrid subcompact, which went on sale in the United States on March 12, just as gasoline prices were hitting threeyear highs. Toyota sold 1,201 of the car in its first three days on the market, and has already ordered the Japanese factory to step up production to meet an apparently higher-than-expected consumer demand, fueled by the rising gas prices. EPA ratings for the C — which stands for “city” — are 53 mpg city/46 highway, with an average of 50. Prices begin at $18,950 before freight and run as high as $23,320 for the top model. There are four trim levels, but even the base model is well-equipped. Models are designated “One” through “Four.” The Two is priced at $19,900, and the Three at $21,635. I certainly enjoyed driving the little hybrid as pump prices in Texas during my test were pushing above $3.65 a gallon even at the cheapest stations. Driving the grandkids around during their spring break week in San Antonio, trying to keep them amused by taking in the sights of the Alamo City, I was still hard pressed to use all of the gas in the car’s small tank. It holds 9.5 gallons, which could allow the car to go as far as 500 miles before it runs out. Surprisingly, this little vehicle was roomy enough to hold four people quite comfortably, along with a decent amount of cargo behind the rear seat. The cargo area is accessed through a lift-up rear hatch. Toyota put the car’s nick-

MCT

The “C” in the 2012 Toyota Prius C stands for “city,” and as one would expect of a Prius designed for city use, it’s smaller in size and price than the original Prius liftback. el-metal-hydride hybrid battery and fuel tank below the rear seat, allowing the interior to have 104 cubic feet of space, including 87.4 cubic feet in the passenger compartment and 17.1 in the cargo area. There is a middle seatbelt in the back, but not really enough room to put a third person there if adults or larger children are already in the outboard seat positions. But a child safety seat can be hooked up in the middle (which is where it should always be). I even took a turn riding in the back seat, and had no problems getting in or out, or finding enough space for my legs. For most of the week, we had four people in the car — two adults and two

14-year-olds. Nobody complained about being cramped or having a poor view to the outside as we did some sightseeing. Our Prius C Four model had everything that’s available on the car, including the Alloy Wheel Package, which brought 16-inch, eight-spoke alloy wheels, along with a tiltand-slide sunroof. But even the base model comes with such standard amenities as automatic climate control; tilt-telescopic steering wheel with controls for audio, climate, driver’s info display and Bluetooth; power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote; and illuminated entry, among others. With the Bluetooth connection, I was able to hook up my

iPhone and stream my iTunes music through the great dash audio system. I also was able to leave the phone in my pocket, and whenever I would get out of the car for a while and return, my music would resume playing exactly where it left off. Another surprise was just how much power this little hybrid has. It comes with a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with 73 horsepower and 82 foot-pounds of torque, combined with a 60-horsepower electric motor. Not all of the combined power is available at the same time, but maximum output is 99 horsepower, which pushes this 2,500-pound car along quite nicely. Engine and battery power

are distributed to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission, which was smooth throughout its range. The C is the fourth model in Toyota’s newly expanded lineup of hybrid vehicles bearing the Prius name. The others include the regular compact Prius hatchback, which is now in its third generation; the Prius V, a compact wagon version that arrived last fall as a 2012 model; and a plug-in version of the regular hatchback model, which is now being rolled out on a limited basis. Toyota said that the first three days of sales for the C eclipsed the entire month of February’s sales of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf

combined. Of course, the Prius C costs a whole lot less than the plug-in hybrid Volt (base price $40,000) and allelectric Leaf ($35,000 before a federal tax credit). The C weighs 542 pounds less than the regular Prius, and is 19.1 inches shorter, at 157.3 inches. It also has a wheelbase nearly six inches shorter. Its electric power steering is tight and predictive, giving the C a sporty feel. We took it on some curvy Hill Country roads, and the car felt right at home in the tight turns. The ride was surprisingly well-cushioned, too. The 144-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack is automatically recharged by the gasoline engine and socalled regenerative braking, which uses the car’s inertia to create power as the vehicle decelerates. The C never has to be plugged in to an outside power source. The gasoline engine shuts off automatically whenever the car comes to a stop, and the vehicle can start moving again on battery power alone for a bit before the engine kicks back on. In EV mode, which can be selected by the driver, the C can drive up to a mile at speeds up to 25 mph using battery power alone. Other drive modes are Normal and Eco. Toyota says the Eco mode “reduces overall energy consumption by governing climate control and throttle to improve vehicle efficiency.” A hybrid-system monitor on the dash allows the driver to see how efficiently the car is being operated, and make adjustments to improve fuel economy. Moving up to the Two trim level brings a six-speaker audio system, variable intermittent windshield wipers, 60/40 split-folding rear seat with adjustable headrests, cruise control, anti-theft engine immobilizer, center console with armrest and storage compartment, and a cargo cover.


Page 6 / Monday, May 7, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

Intermittent issues discomfit drivers By Brad Bergholdt McClatchy-Tribune News Service

QUESTION: I have an enigma that even the auto dealer can’t fix. My 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee goes out with no problem at all. Then if I stop somewhere for 15-20 minutes, it won’t start. Sometimes it will start if I really give it a lot of gas, but it won’t run well, like a misfire. I had a diagnostic check but the mechanics at different Chrysler dealerships haven’t found the problem. The body and interior are in great shape; I would like to fix it. I am afraid to go too far from home. Whatever

you could suggest would be greatly appreciated. —Gaston Gariepe

Q: I hope you might have some suggestions for the following mystery. My 2004 Dodge Dakota, a 3.7-liter automatic with 80,000 miles, won’t idle smoothly in park or in drive with foot on the brake. This occurs in dry weather (low humidity) only. Thank you for your informative assistance. —Richard

ANSWER: Both of these intermittent problems are certainly frustrating but solvable. It’s imperative that both owners pin down the precise conditions when the

vehicles act up, and practice baiting the conditions so that they can be duplicated/presented at the time of inspection. The Jeep suffers from a hot-soak condition, possibly affecting under-hood electronic or electric components or connections. And in the case of the Dakota, it’s a very odd one — I’m leaning towards a circuit connection fault. In both cases it’s likely the on-board diagnostics system, or OBD-II, has set a trouble code, which could be hugely helpful in determining the cause. Additionally, a scan-tool snapshot of engine parameters can be taken during the no-start or

Review: Jaguar XF’s feel validates ‘alive’ allusion By Emma Jayne Williams McClatchy Newspapers

Current Jaguar ads use the phrase “As Alive as You Are” and refer to the “growl” of the engine as one of their cars’ main attractions. Sounds like typical advertising hype — until you get behind the wheel of the 2012 Jaguar XF. The feel of the vehicle as it accelerates and takes the tightest curves with ease validates the “alive” allusion. The muscular exterior, dramatic side windows and broad rear shoulders give an extra boost to the powerful feel. And the sport suspension provides a smooth ride as well as great handling, with no real compromises on either. Jaguar’s XF is powered by a choice of a 385-, 470- or 510-horsepower V-8 engine, with a six-speed automatic transmission (including paddle shifters for clutch-free manual shifting). These cars also feature Jag-

uarDrive Winter and Dynamic modes, which control every aspect of the car’s drivetrain and electronic-helper systems, to best react to road conditions and the demands of the driver. But driving around my neighborhood in the beautiful spring weather, I didn’t get to check out “Winter” mode. This is a midsize sport sedan with design details suggesting the shape of a coupe. The XF line replaced the S-type sedan, beginning with the 2008 model year. Four trims are available, ranging from $53,000-$82,000. My tester was the Portfolio model, which begins at $59,000 and comes with the base 5.0-liter V-8, with 385 horsepower and 380 footpounds of torque. It was as attractive to look at as it was fun to drive. The Portfolio starts with lots of exceptional standard equipment, including softgrain perforated-leather seating surfaces, stitched-and-

tailored leather instrument panel and door tops, knurled aluminum and ebony veneer trim, premium floor mats, and blue halo interior lighting. Both front seats were heated and cooled, with lumbar support for the driver. The driver’s seat adjusted 16 ways, making a perfect driving position easy to find. The passenger seat adjusted 12 ways for nearly equal comfort. Also included are two memory settings for the driver’s seat, outside mirrors and the tilt/telescopic steering column. Adjustable pedals helped me find a very comfortable, confident driving position. Rear passengers had a little less room, with 37.4 inches of headroom and 36.6 inches of legroom, than the front, which boasted 39 inches of headroom and 41.5 inches of legroom. Jaguar XF is rated for 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway, and has an 18-gallon fuel tank.

a runs-rough episode, providing sensor inputs, output commands, fuel and idle system correction percentages, and a host of other pertinent information. The list can be compared to a previous snapshot taken when the vehicle was running fine. Scan data is great, but one needs to remember the listed values are what the engine computer believes is happening, which isn’t always the same as the actual conditions occurring beneath the hood. Sometimes even with great diagnostic information, you still need to resort to oldschool tests and observations. Adding fuel (propane into the air intake), verifying the

strength of ignition spark, attaching and interpreting a vacuum gauge, listening for odd sounds and odors, checking exhaust emissions, killing cylinders to check for power contribution, pinching vacuum hoses, spraying water around gasket areas, wiggling connections, checking power and ground voltage quantity and stability — the list goes on and on. It sounds like a new course of action is needed in finding a repair shop. I’d insist on a five-minute pre-write-up consultation with the technician to be assigned, and inquire what diagnostic strategies are recommended. Problems like these require a top-notch

tech with the patience and skills to disassemble the haystack in a timely and efficient manner. Look for L-1 Advanced Engine Performance certification from the National Society of Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE and a state emission inspection/repair license. If the repair shop won’t take the time to consult or can’t promise the services of a particular engine performance guru, keep looking. With problems like these, I’d never simply drop the vehicle off with a basic write-up and not meeting with the tech. Gaston’s problem sounds very solvable; Richard’s will be an intriguing hunt.

Motoring Q&A: Overheating has several possible causes By Paul Brand Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

QUESTION: My daughter drives a 1998 Dodge Stratus ES with more than 120,000 miles. Recently, the engine started overh e a t i n g . A t h i g hw ay speeds, the engine operates within the normal temperature range. At city speeds, however, the engine quickly overheats. No steam appears when the engine is overheating, so I assume the radiator cap and hoses are not leaking. What tests I can do to rule out the simple problems like a worn radiator cap, malfunctioning thermostat, plugged radiator, or air in the cooling system? Your advice is greatly appreciated. ANSWER: Is the car actually overheating? True overheating occurs when the coolant reaches its boiling point, creating bubbles in the coolant that hamper

the coolant’s flow from the water pump. This leads to increasing and ultimately out-of-control coolant temperatures. Excess pressure will force open the cap and drive boiling fluid into the recovery tank. There may also be bubbling and boiling felt and heard in the upper radiator hose — be careful to wear gloves and never loosen or open the radiator cap when the coolant is hot. Here a re the “ ifs.” Overheating can occur if the radiator cap does not hold pressure in the system. Normal coolant temperatures can exceed 212 degrees, so if the cap can’t hold pressure, the coolant can boil at normal temperatures. Is the electric fan operating? The fan should come on when coolant temperature reaches a certain level or when the air conditioner is on. Test by turning on the A/C.

Are the front of the A/C condenser and the front of the radiator clear of leaves, bugs and debris? You may have to remove the upper radiator cover to check the front of the radiator. Flush from the rear forward with compressed air or water. If the thermostat is not fully opening at the proper temperature (typically 195 to 205 degrees), engine operating temperatures may be too high. Coolant coming from the thermostat outlet should be at full operating temperature. If the water pump is not pumping adequately due to a slipping belt or worn impeller, coolant will not circulate properly. And finally, if you start the engine from dead cold with the radiator cap off, does coolant bubble out of the filler neck? If so, combustion pressure may be getting into the coolant from a head gasket leak.


Monday, May 7, 2012 / Page 7

OnTheMOve / Tallahassee Democrat

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Page 8 / Monday, May 7, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

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