Friday, March 27, 2009

2009 Mazda6 Review

2009 Mazda6

People who truly care about cars regard the phrase fun-to-drive as three of the most coveted words in the automotive universe.

And while that phrase has applied to the Mazda6 since its introduction back in 2002, a few other phrases, like comfortably spacious, smooth riding and universally handsome, didn’t apply in a way that most American shoppers found equally enticing.

For 2009, all of that has changed.

The first car in Mazda’s portfolio to be designed, engineered, developed and built in the United States, the 2009 Mazda6 is aimed squarely at the heart of the popularly priced mid-size sedan segment. In many ways, that is the most difficult segment in which to operate. One; it is the largest, most competitive segment and two; it is dominated by Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Honda Accord. Camry and Accord being two of the best selling cars the world has ever known.

And while it is indeed a large segment with plenty of room for success, most shoppers looking for a car in that category go in wearing blinders that pre-dispose them to either the Honda or the Toyota. Therefore, if you’re going to compete with those two cars, you have to offer more than rock solid reliability, safety, utility, comfort, and spaciousness.

For openers, being good looking doesn’t hurt, particularly when combined with strong value for the money. And while the vast majority of shoppers in this category don’t really care if their car is fun to drive, if you can throw that in too, you’ll definitely attract people who do.

Mazda has done all of the above for the second iteration of the Mazda6.

From its outstanding over the road dynamics, to its thoroughly modern curvaceous exterior, and sophisticated interior appointments, the 2009 Mazda6 readily embraces Mazda’s core principles of engaging driving attributes and great value for the money––while also infusing the brew with sophisticated style, thoughtful appointments, airy spaciousness, and an extensive equipment list.

In fact, Mazda6 offers several features that rival cars in the entry-level luxury class.

Attributes like blind spot monitoring, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth audio streaming, and surround audio are typically found in most manufacturers’ premium models. Because the Mazda6 product planners don’t have to mind their place in the company’s lineup beneath an Infiniti, Lexus or an Acura the way Accord, Altima and Camry’s product planners do, they can offer the kind of high-tech luxury features in their volume-oriented car typically found only in premium models.

Still, keeping an eye on affordability is paramount in this segment. To that end, the 2009 Mazda6 is offered with a choice of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower, as well as a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 272 horsepower. (By the way, that’s only two horsepower down from the 274 delivered by the high-performance Mazdaspeed6 of 2007.)

Fuel economy minded buyers who opt for the four-cylinder can choose between a six-speed manual transmission and a five-speed automatic with manual shift capabilities. The V6 is offered only with a six speed automatic transmission. However it does provide manual operation via paddle shifters for those who like to take matters into their own hands.

The really big news about the 2009 Mazda6 is that whether you choose the V6 or the inline four, all of the option packages and equipment in the Mazda6 portfolio can be had with either engine. In other words, if you decide the four-cylinder is the choice for you, you can still get every comfort and convenience featured offered for the Mazda6. You don’t have to drive a poorly equipped car just because you prefer the smaller engine.

Over the road, we found the four pulled admirably, particularly when paired with the slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. Producing 167 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 RPM, the 2.5 pulls nicely away from traffic signals and makes engaging sounds when you decide to take advantage of its accelerative abilities. Frankly, if we’d never driven the V6 engine we’d never have missed it in this car. Which is to say the four-cylinder does a more than adequate job of both motivating the Mazda6 and providing an engaging experience.

Still, there’s no replacement for displacement, and the V6 definitely ratchets things up a notch or two. Wonderfully tractable and smooth like fresh cream, the 3.7-liter is easily competitive with the best from Honda and Toyota.

As you might expect, with less weight in its nose, the four-cylinder equipped Mazda6 does offer a more agile feel when asked to change directions. But both cars nicely live up to Mazda’s reputation for sportiness. Regardless of engine choice, the Mazda6 sticks nicely in corners, offers accurate steering, strong brakes, and that nice sense of balance that makes a car tremendously enjoyable to drive.

In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a mid-sized ride that does everything the leaders in the segment do, but you’d also like a taste of personality and a shot of soul, you’ll definitely want to give the Mazda6 a chance to win your heart. We’re pretty confident you’ll come away from the experience with yet another phrase resonating in your head.

2009 Mazda6
Base Price: $19,220 (includes $670 destination)
Engine(s): 2.5-liter inline four or 3.7-liter V6
Horsepower/torque: 2.5-liter, 170@ 6000 rpm/167 foot-pounds @ 4000 rpm
3.7-liter, 272@ 6250 rpm/269 foot-pounds @ 4250 rpm
Transmissions: Inline four: six-speed manual or five-speed automatic
V6: six-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Front engine, front-wheel drive
Fuel economy: six-speed manual 20 city/29-hwy
five-speed automatic 21 city/30 hwy
six-speed automatic 17 city/ 25 hwy

Source: on wheels inc

2009 Toyota Camry Review

2009 Toyota Camry

2007 saw the debut of a completely redesigned Camry; Toyota gave it sleeker styling, along with a richer feel, which resulted in the most Lexus-like Camry yet. The 2009 Toyota Camry goes virtually unchanged, aside from some minor cosmetic bits. recognizes that the Camry has always suffered a reputation of being a bit dull. Autoblog reports, "The best thing about the Camry's half-pretty styling is the anonymity afforded by the glut of them on the road, and the car itself tries very hard to avoid offending anyone." continues with that theme, adding, "The hallmark of this sixth-generation Camry is Toyota's effort to shake the stodgy, plain reputation the car had developed in some circles." The 2009 Toyota Camry is "a departure from the upright style of previous models," Automedia says, one that "shares Toyota's shapely new sedan look with its larger stablemate Avalon and upscale cousin Lexus ES." Finally, Motor Trend weighs in, commenting, "The sexier styling addresses the major complaint voiced by current Camry owners—too vanilla."

Autoblog remarks of the Toyota, 2009 edition, "Its exterior styling is more expressive than previous Camrys; one could even get away with saying the styling was a motivating factor in the purchase of a Camry," adding that "the front end has a suggestion of feline to its face, and the hood has some well developed surface detailing that plays light nicely." Furthermore, Automedia points to the SE edition, saying that it "looks decidedly more athletic than the others."

Automedia calls the 2009 Toyota Camry's interior "more modern and stylish than before," while Automobile Magazine describes it as "intelligently designed." "Large controls are logically placed," says Edmunds of the Toyota 2009 Camry, adding, "One of the few exceptions to the hyper-practical design dictum is the stylish ice-blue backlighting for the audio and climate controls."

The 2009 Toyota Camry may not be a sport sedan, but it's certainly not slow. Three engines are offered, and the 3.5-liter V-6 is a potent source of motivation.

The 2009 Toyota Camry can be had with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower, a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 268 hp, or Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which also powers the Prius. The V-6 "is available on all trims except the base model," Edmunds reports. The Hybrid model is covered in a separate review.

Motor Trend calls the V-6 "burly" and estimates that the 2009 Toyota Camry SE with the V-6 "should be capable of reaching 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds." ConsumerGuide goes one better, saying, "In our tests a XLE V6 did 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds." Automedia reports that the "upgraded four-cylinder provides adequate power with good fuel economy." But Edmunds sums it up by advising, "A more appealing choice for those who can spend more is the smooth and vigorous V6, which transforms the Camry into one of the fastest mid-priced sedans on the road, with barely any penalty in fuel efficiency."

The four-cylinder Toyota 2009 Camry offers "a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic, while the V6 sends its power through a standard six-speed automatic," Edmunds reports. The automatic is a favorite at Motor Trend: "The new six-speed auto sets a fine example for shifting with speed and seamlessness," they proclaim. The five-speed automatic, Autoblog says, "aims for fifth gear and takes a search warrant to find a downshift," adding that "the autobox is recalcitrant, if efficient."

However, the gearing of the five-speed automatic helps provide fuel mileage with the four-cylinder equal to that of the five-speed manual. reports gas mileage is strong in the Toyota; 2009's Camry has estimated fuel economy ratings of "21/31 mpg city/highway for the four-cylinder with manual or automatic, [and] 19/28 for the V-6." That's not much of a price to pay for more than 100 extra horses.

A more sport-oriented SE version "truly delivers on its sporty promise," Motor Trend says. Other versions get lower marks. ConsumerGuide notes that "most models—SE excepted—are spoiled by marked cornering lean from their comfort-biased suspensions." thinks the "SE still rides more comfortably than the Honda Accord," while other versions are even more "compliant." Automobile Magazine observes that the 2009 Toyota Camry SE "doesn't have the sort of body control that begs you to throw it into the sweeping curves on the winding roads above Santa Barbara, but if you do so anyway, the chassis digs in and hangs on without too much protest, and the car loses grip predictably and controllably." Car and Driver is a bit harsher, stating that "the Camry's chassis engineers prioritized creamy ride quality above all, and as a consequence it's hard for us to perceive anything sporty about this car." And of the SE, Car and Driver advises, "We'd avoid this trim level, because expecting the Camry to be a sports sedan is only going to end in disappointment." However, the brakes "provide smooth and ample stopping power," according to ConsumerGuide.

The 2009 Toyota Camry has always been known as a high-quality, comfortable car, but reviews researched by find that Toyota hasn't upped the ante in terms of interior space or materials.

Automedia points out some of the measures taken to preserve interior room in the Toyota: 2009's Camry has slimmer front seatbacks and more travel for front seats. In addition, "larger footwells and a half-inch more legroom better accommodate back-seat occupants, and the rear seatbacks recline in XLE models." However, the reclining seatbacks come at the price of losing the ability to fold down the seatbacks in models so equipped, moving to admonish Toyota for taking "a major step backward to replace folding backseats in the SE and XLE with small pass-thru openings."

While rear-seat occupants enjoy a little more space, there's less room overall in this Camry; Toyota trimmed a bit of the volume compared to past versions. Motor Trend points out that "inside, passenger volume is down 0.4 to 2.1 cubic feet, but rear legroom is up half an inch," and it feels "Toyota engineers have added room where it'll be appreciated and deleted space where it won't be missed." "By the numbers, cargo and towing are what took a hit," says. "The trunk volume has decreased from 16.7 cubic feet to a maximum of 15 cubic feet in the CE and LE. The higher trim levels measure 14.5 cubic feet." Regarding the trunk, ConsumerGuide reports, "sickle-shaped lid hinges intrude and the trunk opening is too small for really bulky items." However, Edmunds commends the 2009 Toyota Camry's "nice selection of cubbies and compartments to collect whatever personal effects that may be accompanying you."

Granted, the 2009 Toyota Camry must maintain a high standard of quality in order to simply maintain the status quo for that model, but most reviewers mention a slip in build quality. ConsumerGuide says of the Camry, Toyota's "cabin materials are generally solid and serviceable, with soft-touch surfaces and inoffensive faux metal or wood trim," but adds, "Recent test examples have suffered uncharacteristic lapses in materials and workmanship." Car and Driver concurs: "Downsides to the latest Camry include some disappointing interior plastics, inconsistent fit and finish."

The 2009 Toyota Camry comes packed full of the safety features one would expect in a modern, family-oriented car, but other cars in the segment still include more.

Edmunds reports that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) "gave the Camry its highest rating of 'Good' for frontal-offset and side collision protection." In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2009 Camry Hybrid five stars, its highest rating, in both frontal and side crash safety. It scored almost as high in NHTSA's rollover avoidance test, earning four out of five stars.

Every Toyota 2009 Camry comes with "antilock brakes (with brake assist), front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag," according to Edmunds. praises the "driver's knee airbag," which is designed "to keep the occupant from sliding down and forward (submarining) in a collision."

Traction control is standard, but stability control remains optional, even on pricier, more powerful V-6 models. observes, "That it's available on any trim level is a plus. That the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Passat include it standard is a minus for the Camry and other midsize sedans." Oddly, the Camry Hybrid is the only Camry to include stability control as standard. Also, ConsumerGuide points out that the 2009 Toyota Camry has an "emergency inside trunklid release," which is a new feature required of cars so that people aren't trapped inside them.

Source: the car connection

Monday, February 9, 2009

2009 Ford F-150 FX4 Review

2009 Ford F-150 FX4

Back in the late '70s you could buy a Ford F-150 with a coil-sprung Dana 44 front axle, a Ford 9-inch rearend, and a frame that could bear weight beyond the 1/2-ton designation. This vintage of the F-150 was often heralded for its built-tough mechanicals and lauded for the over-built engineering. For 2009, Ford continues the trend with its improved F-150 that again widens the gap with class-leading payload, towing, and improved fuel economy, while narrowing the gap between the F-150 and F-250 Super Duty.

For 2009 the more aerodynamic F-150 gets a new look that shares more of a family face with other Ford newcomers like the Flex and reintroduced Taurus. It also gets a bit larger, while losing some weight and gaining capability. The Super Crew is 6 inches longer (now with a flat load floor), thanks to new front doors that are shared across the F-150 lineup. Previously the four-door regular cab shared front doors with the SuperCrew, while the Super Cab had its own longer doors. But for 2009 all F-150s have the same front door and the regular cab reverts to a two-door model, giving up the rear mini doors. This lessens manufacturing complexity, at the same time improving fit and finish and lowering wind noise.

The roof of the '09 F-150 is also 15 mm taller to accommodate the side-curtain airbags and is full of other safety features from standard Advance Trac with Roll Stability Control, a full complement of airbags, and four-channel ABS to Ford's Personal Safety System and optional reverse camera system.

The foundation of the 2009 F-150 is a new fully boxed frame that is up to 15 pounds lighter than the outgoing frame, yet gains a 10 percent improvement in torsional stiffness. Composed of hydroformed and high-strength steel side rails with through-frame crossmembers, the new frame delivers a class-leading tow rating of 11,300 pounds. Rear leaf springs have also been lengthened 6 inches for better ride and lateral control.

Other towing advances include a standard Trailer Sway Control and an optional integrated Trailer Brake Controller system, which, when ordered in tandem work together to sense and manage dangerous trailer sway, using both the F-150's braking system, as well as the trailer's braking system. And because of its integration with the F-150's electronics and braking system, it doesn't have to infer driver intent from the tow vehicle braking system like an aftermarket unit does and makes for a less cluttered dash.

Ford has also upgraded the hauling portion of the 2009 truck with a slew of available equipment, including a tailgate step and collapsible bed extender, similar to the Super Duty, as well as a new box side step for helping to access the F-150's box over the tall bedsides and a new cargo management rail system that can hold up to 600 pounds per cleat and use a number of available accessories, such as lockable boxes, that can mount to the rails. Payload numbers haven't been announced as of this writing, but Ford assures us those numbers will also be best-in-class.

The engine lineup will be familiar to any Ford truck owner, with a number of V-8 choices. The 4.2L V-6 has now been replaced by a 2V 4.6L V-8 backed by a four-speed automatic, which will get the same fuel economy as the outgoing V-6-powered truck. The middle engine will be a new 3V 4.6L V-8 and the top engine will again be the 3V 5.4L V-8, backed by Ford's new six-speed automatic transmission. A deep 4.17 first gear in the six-speed has allowed Ford to offer taller rear axle ratios across the board to improve fuel economy, while still maintaining off-the-line grunt. Unofficially, the flex-fuel 5.4L is said to make 320 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque across the F-150 lineup, and average mileage is up 1.5 mpg over the old truck. Ford will be announcing the official horsepower numbers for the rest of the engine lineup later this year.

As expected, the interior continues the Ford tradition of mixing leading-edge style with high-quality materials and is beautifully executed with even more storage than before. The serenity of the cab has been improved by 9 percent in wind noise, 5 percent in road noise, and 5 percent in NVH thanks to a new acoustic headliner, a quiet steel dash, and other sound-deadening tricks. There is also a new 8-inch screen that comes with the voice-activated navigation system that now is Sirius Travel Link and SYNC compatible. Ford's Work Solution RFID tool tagging system is also available for the professional customer.

The 2009 model will be available in no less than seven trim levels, which include XL, STX, XLT, FX4, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum with other variants rumored to be on the horizon.

Most exciting to the Four Wheeler crew is the new FX4 package that is not just a trim level, but a real off-road package, complete with an electronically activated rear locker that can even be used in 4-Hi up to 20 mph. The FX4 model also boasts a best-in-class crawl ratio of 41:1 and unlike the competition, the FX4's air dam doesn't compromise approach angle. Ford engineers also worked hard to make a more flexible suspension that sees an 8-percent improvement in the RTI. Other equipment that you get when checking the FX4 box are real skidplates that tie in to the frame, a unique transmission shift strategy in 4-Lo, special shocks, and available LT275/70R17 Goodyear A/Ts with a much more aggressive tread than Ford usually offers. We'll have driving impressions of the FX4 model in an upcoming issue of Four Wheeler.

The 2009 F-150 is a satisfying upgrade over the previous generation, especially in the interior where most of your time is spent. And with increased capability that encroaches on the F-250 Super Duty territory, Ford is essentially offering two 3/4-ton trucks-one for those who want the better ride of IFS and one for those who need the increased brawniness of a solid axle. With major competition coming from the 2009 Dodge Ram, with its lower capacities and coil-sprung rear suspension, it will be interesting to see which strategy pays off in the real world.

Source: fourwheeler

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