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Fall to the Road: Kia Sorrento, Mazda CX-5, Honda Crosstour

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It’s time to hit the road and feel the beauty of change. Every state in America has landmark sites that are sure to take your breath away. And with abundant year end savings offers from practically very manufacturers, now is the time to consider a new whip (urban vernacular for automobile) in which to pack up and explore the great outdoors. And just for your consideration…

2014 Sorrento EX AWD
Base: $31,700 / Tested @ $35,700
Passengers: Seven on three rows
Fuel Economy: 20 mpg combined (18 city / 24 highway)
Annual Fuel Cost: $2,600

After model year 2013's arrival, Kia began to announce great changes for the 2014 Sorrento. Visually speaking, they’re, well, sort of seen in the front and rear fascia—both of which have been enhanced. Still, no LED daytime running lights—a symbol of status in today’s culture for sure. However, at the EX trim level (as tested), as well as the even more upscale SX and Limited modelss, front LED accent lights are standard and can be manually turned on during the day for an LED DRL effect. So, okay. LED tail lights are also available on the top of the line Limited, and the just below it—SX model. But sit inside and take a drive and the changes become quite noticeable indeed.

By comparison to last year’s model, the 2014 Sorrento is considerably more quiet in the cabin. That alone can make a huge difference in the degree of personal prestige one feels when driving or riding in any vehicle. Speaking of feeling good, the new optional ventilated front seats are quite nice for a long drive on any given day. A redesigned panoramic moonroof with a power sunshade adds a nice feel good touch as well. While on the subject of touches, most of what stands to be touched in the new Sorrento is now soft to the touch. And for the eyes, the big eight-inch touch screen monitor definitely makes it easier when not controlling certain functions via the steering wheel or UVO eServices Infotainment with Voice Command. The center stack has also received a cleaner look for 2014.

The 2014 Sorrento also led the way in Kia’s introduction to sonar based Blind Spot Monitoring. And for the first time ever, Sorrento offers a power liftgate and illuminated door handles—as in more of the “feel good” niceties that most appreciate.

Under the hood, Sorrento’s new V6 engine adds14 more horses for a total of 290 within 3.3 liters at 253 lb. ft of torque, versus last year’s 3.5 liter engine with the power of 276 horses producing 248 ft. lb of torque. Drivers will love the difference in the feel of power in the 2014, over the 2013 model, which by the way is also more spacious for passengers seated on the now heated second row (in terms of legroom). Such is not the case for the optional third row seating taking Sorrento from five to seven passengers. But as you can imagine, kids will love the extra distance between adult driver and them.

2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD
Base: $27,620 / Tested @ $29,345
Passengers: Five on two rows
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg combined (25 city / 32 highway)
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,950

Have you been paying attention to Mazda lately? Suddenly, ever model in its fleet is clearly shedding any ounce of mundane in design, in order to compete its Korean and Japanese rivals---case and point, the new, head-turning Mazda6. But even before it’s debut earlier this year came the CX-5 for 2013 to cancel out the CX-7.

Boasting a far more overall sexy, well balanced stance, the new signature front fascia offers a cleaner grill and sleeker lighting encasement, all of which sweeps back and up for great aerodynamics and major improvements on styling. Despite all of that, Mazda REALLY wants you to know about the thrill of SKYACTIV technology and the advantages it delivers in terms of fuel efficiency and performance.

Mazda highlights that as of 2020, 90% of vehicles manufactured will still incorporate gasoline engine. They see a 70% waste of energy in the current age of combustion engines. So they set out to increase fuel economy and low to midrange torque by 15%, all of which is explained via video that’s plain and clear the detailed process. And they didn’t stop there. To enhance the engine, they created an accompanying SkyActiv Transmission, adding an additional 7% fuel economy on both manual and automatic transmissions. When placed up against its rivals, the style driven CX-5 shows a very compelling degree of annual savings at the pump (based on driving 15,000 miles annually) to include a $716 savings comparison for Honda’s CR-V, $993 over Hyundai’s Tucson and a $1,293 savings when compared to Toyota’s RAV4. Speaking of other vehicles in class, by comparison, CX-5 also boasts best in class rear legroom.

Behind the wheel appeal a 184 horsepower engine producing 185 lb-ft of torque. While this may not sound powerful, the CX-5 has definite spunk, coupled with the ability to hug the road, thanks to independent suspension and stability control. CX-5’s bi-xenon headlights, blind spot monitoring, and rain sensing wipers at the Grand Touring trim level are other features consumers often associate with mid-level and higher end luxury vehicles. Even text and email messages can be displayed and responded to at the touch of a button right on the 5.8-inch screen that also displays the results of the rear camera.

But let’s face it, while fuel economy is a factor, the average consumer also wants a car that others will look at and say, “Wow, that car looks good.” And the CX-5 is definitely turning heads for design, while being a blast to drive, all of which makes it a perfect representative of the new Mazda!

2013 Honda Crosstour 4WD EXLN V6
Base: $37,090 / Tested @ same
Passengers: Five on two rows
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg combined (19 city / 28 highway)
Annual Fuel Cost: $2,400

The Crosstour debuted for model year 2010, as a full size crossover SUV. For that same model year, Acura—the upside of Honda, debuted a midsize luxury utility vehicle designed at the brand’s California headquarters. On sale as the head-turning ZDX, the now discontinued Acura definitely overshadowed the somewhat similarly designed Crosstour, which in the eyes of many arrived as a hatchback Accord.

For 2013, the Crosstour has suddenly come into its own, bringing forth a refreshed front fascia that is distinctly noticeable in the nose and fog light casings. From the sidelines to the rear fascia, the built-on-the-Accord platform (just as Toyota’s Camry based, far less sleek and sexy Venza) has a look that is far more sleek and sexy, thanks to the stunning design of the current generation Accord, which also debuted for model year 2013. The bottom-line is, Crosstour now has a far more sophisticated degree of appeal, especially in black.

A new interior design adds to the excitement via rich wood grain panels on the dash, and a cleaner center stack with dual screens including Honda’s i-Mid (Intelligent Multi Information) displayed above for navigation, vehicle information, text messages, Bluetooth streaming and your own pictures. A second smaller screen displays radio stations and information below. The utility portion of Crosstour includes 60/40 rear seats that fold for more cargo space, in addition to a waterproof, removable utility box that remains hidden beneath the cargo area to provide extra storage space.

For your pocketbook, a more fuel-efficient 3.5 liter V6 engine with 278 horses under the hood yielding 252 lb-ft of torque is now harnessed by a six speed automatic transmission.

And big ups to Honda for LaneWatch! Designed to help you avoid being blind-sided on the passenger side, LaneWatch comes alive when the right turn signal is activated. A camera then displays traffic in the lane to your immediate right--the side drivers are most likely to underestimate. A full view of right lane traffic then appears on the full size i-Mid monitor.

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