Volvo S80 creates a delightful driving experience

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Volvo has become known for its great seats and cutting-edge safety and nothing has changed with the all-new 2007 S80 mid-sized luxury sedan.

The seats are heavenly.

And as the competition catches up to Volvo in safety equipment, the Swedish automaker has jumped ahead with a couple of innovations. Some might consider these new features technology run amok. We disagree, at least on one.

Volkswagen Eos – hardtop down

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Steel top convertibles may not have the same panache as traditional soft top open-air machines. After all the so-called rag tops have a century of nostalgia on their side.
Cloth has been the fabric of open-air automobiles since the horseless carriage.

Toyota Camry hybrid has value and performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

A new era of hybrid vehicles has arrived in North America thanks to Toyota, the world’s leader in hybrid technology. We see 2007 as the beginning of the third chapter in U.S. hybrid history and a turning point that may make the gas engine/electric motor automobile more mainstream than most experts now envision.

Toyota goes retro with new 2007 FJ Cruiser

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The white over blue 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser spoke to us during a week’s involvement.

It deftly said, ‘buy me only if off-road driving is in your blood. If you never leave the pavement, put your cash in one of my crossover relatives, perhaps a Toyota RAV4 or even a Highlander.’

Not many new offerings in today’s “on pavement” world are created with the primary purpose of hitting the dirt trail, taking on fallen trees, climbing over instead of around rocks and fording shallow streams.

Toyota Sienna keeps competitive and offers all-wheel drive too

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The shrinking minivan segment has been boiled down to three major players and a handful of minor participants.

The market is now dominated by Chrysler/Dodge, Honda and Toyota. More than 700,000 minivans were sold by those three companies in 2006 representing about 72 percent of a market that has shrunk from 1.37 million sales in 2000 to about 970,000 last year.
Six other companies shared the remaining 270,000 sales.

Suzuki SX4 makes its move in the B-segment

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

All-wheel drive is becoming increasingly popular, now found on many vehicles including sedans and sports cars. New, sophisticated systems that drive all four wheels are better than two-wheel drive in nearly all applications.

But if you want all-wheel drive you’ll probably have to pay extra even in big, high-end sport utility vehicles and the new breed of crossover utilities.

Standard-equipment all-wheel drive is rare, usually reserved for high-dollar models.

Suzuki XL7 makes inroads in the crossover game

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We were in Atlanta earlier in the year at a press event driving a series of new cars, some with price tags approaching the ridiculous.

There were the usual stars, some sports cars, a couple of new hardtop convertibles, a handful of top-line luxury sedans. So later we thought it was interesting that one of the standout experiences of the six-hour driving smorgasbord was the 2007 Suzuki XL7.

Time tested Subaru Outback offers 2.5XT Limited for 2007

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Crossover utility vehicles are the rage with sales expected to double by the end of the decade.

They are the station wagons of the 21st Century, the new people haulers replacing truck-based sport utilities. Although they’re built on a car platform, they retain the high ride and bad-weather capability of the traditional SUV. And they usually come with a car-like ride and gas mileage closer to a sedan than a truck.