2013 Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 seems to be a contradiction for the Zoom Zoom company. After all, how much zoom-zoom can you get from a seven-passenger SUV?

But when you consider the growth in this segment, it’s not a place even Mazda can afford not to be, especially if you consider the need to retain customers as their needs change.

Without a player in this segment, Mazda would lose out on customers looking to move up.

So, all that being said, how true to the Mazda philosophy is the CX-9?

fog light It certainly does at least as well as could be expected: the handling — a core objective for Mazda through its history — is excellent, although I’d be remiss if I suggested the average driver would notice a huge difference between it and other competent sport-utes.

The styling, which now brings in elements of the CX-5 and Mazda6 (and coming Mazda3) is superb.

Fit and finish inside and out is of a very high order, and visibility front, side and rear is also excellent.

If there is some room to improve, it’s fuel economy. The average of my and Michael Clark’s week-and-a-bit in the CX-9 is still pushing 16 litres per 100 km.

That would be respectable a few short years ago, but today, when the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup with V-8 engine beats it, not so much.

But, as they say, watch this space. Mazda will never admit it until they’re ready, but they are no doubt now working on a Skyactiv version of the CX-9, perhaps even including a diesel option.

The Mazda CX-9 comes in two models — even if some Canadian newspapers report otherwise by using American information — a GS and a GT.

Both come with a 3.7-litre V-6 engine delivering 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift is the only available gearbox.

It is pretty hard to ignore the value the base model represents. At $33,995, you get heated seats, three-zone climate control, rear A/C display, leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, steering wheel audio controls and 5.8-inch audio display with rear-view camera. A towing package, including larger cooling fan and radiator, is also standard equipment.

You do lose access to a factory SIRIUS satellite radio system, the xenon HID headlights and access to a power moonroof.

A factory installed rear entertainment system is also optional only on the GT.

But given the still-precarious state of the economy, perhaps a little parsimony is a virtue.

So I’m opting for the GS, front-driver and adding three options: remote start, in-dash navi (at this price, a bargain) and a trailer hitch.

If you want fog lights, they’re $1,065. While that seems steep, it’s because if you don’t want fog lights you’re not paying for any of the related components.

The price includes a wiring harness, switch, the lights and two hours of labour for installation.

On some vehicles, if you don’t order the fog lights, the only things you’re not getting are the switch and the lights — you still pay for everything in between.

I’m choosing the front-driver for a couple of reasons: it, with winter tires, which you need either way, should be enough for most average Canadian drivers.

Modern Living LED Collection

Our home is a sanctuary – a place where modern families escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and feel calm, rested and in control, away from the chaos of modern life.

Philips Lighting Philippines is set to launch its 2013 Modern Living Collection, which aims to accentuate the sleek beauty of modern homes with the clean lines and pure shapes of its newest LED range. Featuring ceiling, table, and wall light options for both indoor and outdoor applications, the Modern Living Collection seeks to utilize meaningful innovations in bringing a sense of purity to modern living.

“People are now more discerning in the choices they make in design and technology. That is why Philips designs lighting solutions that are based on how people live, work, and play in their respective environments.

More than just providing ideal illumination, LED lighting can now be used to accentuate spaces, and transform home environments to become personalized havens from the hustle and bustle of modern life,” said Fabia Tetteroo-Bueno, General Manager for Philips Lighting sector.

The minimalist designs of luminaires in the Modern Living Collection are paired with the latest LED lighting technology – tunable white.With tunable white technology, you can choose your preferred white light color to match your décor and create a personalized ambiance.

The dynamic color temperature of pure white light can be tweaked easily to complement moods and occasions. A dynamic ambiance and quality lighting can now be achieved, with the touch of a button, or turn of a dial.

Part of the Philips Modern Living 2013 Collection, the Philips Ledino range of pendant and wall lights offers beautiful, diffused light shining through its elegant shell, made of premium materials – the most flattering lighting in a room.

The high-power LED has an extremely long-life of 20,000 hours,

and saves up to 80% energy compared to traditional light sources. The pendant lamp enhances the versatility of the lights with adjustable height and makes the perfect statement centerpiece for the modern home.

Sleek and smooth, the Philips Ledino Table Light takes a natural shape from its namesake, albeit with the precision engineering that presents LED color temperature at your fingertips. The ergonomic and minimalist form of the lamp is itself a design statement for the modern home.

With tunable white technology, you can choose your preferred white light color to match your décor and create a personalized ambiance. With a simple turn of a dial, modern home owners can now adjust from a warm to cooler color temperature to suit their preference.

In addition, the use of LED lighting in the collection offers energy-efficiency and a greater life cycle over traditional bulbs makes the luminaires in the 2013 Modern Living Collection convenient and cost-effective way to build an ambience at home. The use of LED lighting technology also ensures uniform light distribution, which provides greater visual comfort. More information about the program is available on the web site at hmhid.

A Gadget-Lover's Dream Chariot

The Audi A3 Sportback we tested was the 1.4-litre TFSI Attraction model which retails for $35,600 (plus on-road costs). It produces 90kW at 5000-6000 RPM, packs 200Nm of torque at 1400-4000 RPM and completes 0-100km/h in 9.3 seconds.

Our test model had a few excellent options bolted on, including Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights ($1600), a tech package, which includes the Audi MMI navigation plus system, 7-inch display, parking assist and high-resolution rear-view camera ($2990) and an assistance package, which includes the adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning system and high-beam assist ($1800).

Where to begin with the A3 Sportback? There’s so much to like.

It’s worth pointing out that, until now, the Audi A3 has been a little boring. A bit too straight. A bit too plain. Not anymore, though. With the Sportback treatment, the A3 gets some much-needed curves and some beautiful accents. As soon as you hit the unlock button on your key remote, the Sportback immediately asserts its beauty with curvy beams of light streaking from the front headlamps, while the rest of the body is bathed in soft light from the rear lights and window lamps.

Inside the car, you’re cuddled by beautiful leather seats as gadgets, controls and the big, beautiful 7-inch screen for the new Audi MMI navigation and entertainment system rises to meet your gaze: a “ta-da” party piece that sets your hair on end as the engine rumbles to life.

The MMI system really is this car’s party piece. It’s a new platform for Audi, completely overhauled for the new 2013 A3 Sportback, and the work the Germans have put into this really shows. It’s got your voice control, navigation, Bluetooth and USB audio, phone, CD and DVD services all locked up, and it’s all controlled by a four button control panel and a giant knob in the centre console.

The controls are beautifully simple to use, but shows incredible depth when you actually get into it. For example, the surface of the knob itself isn’t just a big pretty button. It’s actually a touch-sensitive surface for you to draw letters and numbers on when selecting everything from the next track in a search to a destination street on the satnav. Clever and functional.

So often, car manufacturers can throw a bunch of technology at a car and have it land in a mess of confusing interfaces, unfathomable screens and weird glitches, all wrapped up in good intentions and an apology from your dealer when it all goes wrong. Not the new Audi A3. The new A3′s gadgets, UIs and systems are all kept miraculously straight and simple so that you can actually use them quickly when they need to be accessed. No pulling over in between destinations to figure out why your car won’t switch from a Bluetooth input to a USB input quick enough, and no fights with you and your significant other because one person can’t figure out the GPS navigation. The new in-car entertainment systems are to be applauded.

But the tech-thrill ride isn’t over yet: Audi has been tinkering under the hood, and souped up the A3 with a 1.4-litre, turbo-charged engine that really gives you a kick in the chest when you take off: not something you’ll expect from a handsome German hatchback, mind. The turbo whine is electric to listen to as you use the paddles behind the wheel to shift up gears manually, and bringing your thrill ride to an end before the next red light is a set of frankly incredible brakes. They’re feisty, and stop you so fast you might be plucking your eyes out of the windscreen when you reach 0km/h. When I clambered back behind the wheel of a 2006 Mazda 3 after dropping off the Audi, I had to double check the thing even had brakes. They’re top-quality anchors, that’s for sure. Read the full story at www.hmhid.com web.

Nissan 370Z

It's low, holds driver and passenger only (and snugly) plus maybe a couple of overnight bags, has heavy steering and indifferent rear visibility, and, if pushed hard, is anything but exemplary in fuel consumption. But is quite exemplary in performance and roadholding, and even more so considering the price.

None of which should come as a surprise to anyone, since the Nissan 370Z is the latest in a long, if interrupted, line of sports cars bearing the "Z" mark. Although Nissan, then sold here as Datsun, made 1600 and 2000cc sports roadsters that are now cult collectibles during the late 1960s, it was the 240Z of 1970 that helped make the company an important player in the U.S. market.

The 240Z, powered by a 151-horsepower 2.4-liter SOHC inline six, offered style and performance rivaling that of established, and more expensive, European brands for a very reasonable price. It was a hit, and well-kept or restored exampled are collectibles today. The second generation, debuted for 1979 and called the 280ZX, was a bit larger and more comfort-oriented, even more so in the 2+2 version, but did introduce a turbo option. The third generation, sold from 1984 through 1989 and now with a 3.0-liter V6, had dual personalities. Optioned correctly, the 300ZX could be a fine and fast grand touring sports car.  Especially in 300-hp turbo form, it was a true Japanese supercar. But with a price to match, and changing market, it was discontinued here at the end of 1996.

But the original Z idea was too good to die. So model year 2003 saw its rebirth as the 350Z, and again Nissan had a winner on its hands. The 350Z was very much in the mold of the 240, updated for the day -- if not "no-frills" simple, it was also not the overly-complex and hence expensive beast which the last 300ZX became. The formula worked, and well. There was no 2+2 as that niche was taken by the related, more upscale, Infiniti G35 Coupe. There was a roadster for convertible lovers. For 2009 the sixth generation of Nissan's legend was unveiled, in the form of the 370Z.

Superficially looking like a restyle of the 350, just about everything in the 370 was changed. It was shorter, wider, and lower. And more powerful, with a 332-horsepower namesake 3.7-liter V6 replacing the 350's 306-hp 3.5. More extensive use of lightweight aluminum, in the suspension and for the hood, doors, and rear hatch, contributed to a weight decrease. Nissan was serious about keeping performance up and bloat down.

Changes to the 370Z since then have been minimal, with 2013 seeing its first freshening. Most notably, the front bumper fascia gets LED daytime running lights (DRLs), there are new wheel designs and exterior colors. As is usual for Nissan, trim levels are standard, more luxurious Touring, and the seriously sport-oriented NISMO version. My test car for the past week was a Touring Coupe with the Sport Package and Navigation package.

You're forgiven if Nissan's changes to the Z don't register. It's a fine design, and there is nothing to be gained by changing for change's sake. Vertical LED running lights in the lower front fascia and a red reflective patch at the rear between the exhausts are about it. The "RAYS" wheels of the sport package got plenty of compliments. But at heart, the 2013 (or 14) 370Z is the same sinewy, purposeful sports coupe it has always been, all muscle, no fat.

Compact Classy

Based on our initial impressions of Mazda’s latest 3, the compact—which comes in sedan and hatchback forms—is one heck of a small car. In the metal, its “Kodo” design language, which is shared with the larger Mazda 6 sedan and CX-5 crossover, is gorgeous and looks expensive. The interior is straightforward and rendered in quality materials. Oh, and it happens to drive like no sub-$20,000 car deserves to. Indeed, our biggest takeaway after driving the 2014 Mazda 3 was that it had the goods to take on the current segment leader, the Ford Focus, a task perhaps made easier by Mazda’s aggressive pricing structure. The automaker has revealed full, lineup-wide pricing for the new 3, and the least expensive variant starts at $17,740.

You’ll note that the Mazda’s base price is slightly higher than the $17,105 Ford charges for its most entry-level Focus four-door, as well as the $17,540 Volkswagen Jetta, $16,700 Kia Forte, and the $16,990 Dodge Dart. Still, the base Mazda 3 four-door costs less than Honda’s $18,955 Civic sedan, Chevrolet’s $17,995 Cruze sedan, and Hyundai’s $17,760 Elantra. The Mazda comes in four trim levels—SV, Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring—and offers two engines with Mazda’s Skyactiv fuel-economy-boosting tech. The entry-level engine is a 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and is denoted by an “i” before the trim level name; the uplevel engine option is a 184-hp 2.5-liter four, which is denoted by an “s” before the trim level name. The 2.0-liter is standard on all four trim levels, but the 2.5-liter is exclusive to the sporty versions of the Touring and Grand Touring models. Four-door and five-door hatchback body styles are available on Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring Mazda 3s, but the base i SV model is four-door-only.

The Mazda 3′s list of standard equipment is long, with even the base i SV bringing push-button starting, remote keyless entry, power door locks and windows, power-folding mirrors, air conditioning, a folding rear seat, USB and auxiliary audio input jacks, hill-start assist, and front and rear disc brakes. A six-speed manual is standard on all trims—save for the s Touring and Grand Touring, which launch with a six-speed auto but will offer a manual later—and a six-speed automatic is optional. Model-by-model pricing and features below:

Touring: $20,390 + $500 for five-door, $1050 for six-speed automatic; adds 16-inch aluminum wheels; heated outside mirrors with turn indicators; bright exterior trim; rear-seat folding armrest; keyless entry; leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and handbrake; rear spoiler, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Optional $1600 Touring Technology package adds a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, navigation, backup camera, Bose 9-speaker audio system, automatic dual-zone climate control, XM radio.

Touring: $25,390 + $500 for five-door; adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, bi-xenon headlights, piano-black grille, fog lights, LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, paddle shifters, sport mode for transmission, Active Driving Display with a head-up display, six-way power driver’s seat, leatherette seats and door-panel trim, heated front seats, and i Touring Technology package.

Grand Touring: $23,540 + $500 for five-door, $1050 for six-speed automatic; adds (in addition to i Touring) six-way power driver’s seat, leatherette seats and door-panel trim, heated front seats, sunroof. Optional $1600 Touring Technology package adds 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, navigation, backup camera, Bose 9-speaker audio system, automatic dual-zone climate control, XM radio.

Hyundai Santa Fe

The new Hyundai Santa Fe is a case in point. While the first-generation of Hyundai's maiden SUV was not exactly an oil painting, this third incarnation is truly striking. It comes across as the more masculine, beefier bigger brother of the elegant ix35, while still oozing sophistication itself. Stroll up to it with the key in your pocket, and the side mirrors unfold and puddle lights illuminate, confirming that feeling of luxury.

The Santa Fe finally gets Hyundai's latest family face, with the chrome-trimmed hexagonal front grille immediately drawing the eye. The shapely headlights feature contrasting rectangular lenses and integrated "eyebrow" DRLs, while chunky fog-lights and black cladding add an element of ruggedness. The numerous flowing lines rise as they move towards the tail, where LED indicators do duty in shapely rear light clusters, and twin-pipes exit through a faux diffuser. Overall, the Santa Fe manages to pull off the tricky task of looking handsome while still measuring well over 4.5m-long.

There are three models in the new Santa Fe range: a base spec, five-seater front-wheel drive option and two all-wheel drive seven-seater derivatives, each with unique equipment levels. I tested the mid-range 2.2 Executive AWD version.

The four-cylinder oil-burner is a little gruff at times — but not to the point of being completely unrefined — while the six-speed automatic transmission (the only option) is smooth enough to satisfy most drivers, even if it feels a tad aged. Hyundai says a combined fuel economy figure of 8.3 litres per 100km is achievable, and I reckon they're not telling fibs. I managed 8.5 with very little effort and prudent use of the "Eco Drive" button.

The interior design is quite bold yet pleasing, with the centre console instruments featuring blue back-lighting as has become customary in Hyundai vehicles. There's plenty of leather trim and classy satin/gloss finishes are dotted throughout. The mid-range Executive model has a lavish equipment level as standard, including items such as tilt and telescopic steering column adjustment, driver's seat electric lumbar support, automatic Xenon headlights (with washer), remote keyless entry, push button start, dual-zone climate control, cooled glovebox, rear passenger air-con vents, four-speaker/two-tweeter sound system, electric windows, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, and rear park assist.

Overall, the cabin is a splendid place to pass the time, with the only noticeable downside being the glaring lack of Bluetooth functionality. Oh, and if I were to nit-pick, I'd add that the tunes played each time the engine is started or switched off — somewhat reminiscent of the Microsoft Windows jingle — can become a little annoying.

What's decidedly un-irritating, though, is the fact that the Hyundai Santa Fe scored five stars in its Euro NCAP test. Active safety systems include an electronic stability program, traction control system, hill-start assist control, downhill brake control, and vehicle stability management. The Santa Fe also boasts six airbags and Isofix child seat attachment anchors. Then there's the generous five-year or 150 000km warranty and five-year or 90 000km service plan (with 15 000km intervals).

The new Hyundai Santa Fe feels distinctly upmarket. But with that upscale impression comes a premium price. The two-drive model will set you back R450k, while the mid-range derivative starts at R483k and the range-topper comes in at an eye-watering R525k. Expensive, yes, but pretty much in line with the likes of the aging Nissan Pathfinder and smaller Honda CR-V.

2013 Nissan 370Z

The car once called the Datsun Fairlady in Japan has seen more than a few changes over the years since its advent in 1970. None of those changes was more iconic than giving the Fairlady the "Z" badge for its importation into the United States. Whether a Datsun or a Nissan, the Z series cars, the 240, 260, 280, 300, 350, and now the 370Z, have kept changing with the times.

 The Nissan 370Z has been freshened for 2013. The front fascia has been redesigned to incorporate vertical LED daytime running lights. A red reflective piece has replaced a black non-transparent or reflective piece on the rear. Rounding out the cosmetic changes are new shades of red or blue, and new wheel choices.

The standard 370Z features a 3.7L dual overhead cam V6 engine producing 332 BHP and 270 ft.-lbs. of torque laid down via the real wheels through either a 6 speed manual transmission or a shiftable 7 speed automatic.

The 6-speed manual can include an optional racing inspired synchronized downshift rev matching system.

This system enables drivers of every experience level to not mismanage rapid downshifts by electronically "blipping" the throttle to match the shift point required, reducing shock on the clutch and strain upon the transmission. While a great boon to drivers who may have never really shifted on their own, or who haven't done so in perhaps decades, some drivers won't want to use it daily, so it can be turned off.

The 370Z's 7-speed automatic performs a very similar feat of engineering with its Downshift Rev Matching and Adaptive Shift Control. These technologies are designed to offer quick shifts that mimic a manual, but which can also be utilized through paddle shifters mounted on the steering column. The technical magic of the automatic not only keeps the performance on par with the manual, it shifts more efficiently around town too, returning one more mile per gallon on the city cycle, 17 to 16. In either configuration the 370Z is rated 26 mpg on the highway.

 In the earlier iterations of this car we'd be finished now. When you bought a 280Z, no matter how it was equipped it was always one name covering the variants. Now there are four Z flavors, the Coupe, rounded out with the Coupe Touring and NISMO Z, and the Z Roadster, a convertible sharing the same power train as described before.

It's the limited edition NISMO Z that puts a little bit of hooliganism into the refined 370Z formula. The NISMO offers a horsepower bump to 350 BHP, gains a viscous limited slip differential, and features improved sport suspension and braking bits, as well as unique styling, paint, and wheels. The automatic is not available on the NISMO version, making the NISMO a $6,000 premium over the manual Touring Coupe.

ES sedan offered as a hybrid

The 2013 ES 300h has an impressive government fuel economy rating of 40 miles per gallon in city driving and 39 mpg on the highway; it earned an overall five-out-of-five-stars safety rating in federal government crash tests; it's a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, with predicted reliability of above average.

And it comes with the improvements made for 2013 in the non-hybrid, sixth-generation ES. So, the 300h rides on a longer, front-wheel drive platform than the previous ES had, and it has upscale styling that makes it look more like the pricier Lexus LS 460 flagship. The ES 300h even has the striking "spindle" grille that appears on sportier Lexus cars.

The 2013 ES 300h also has 41.9 inches in the front-seat legroom and a whopping 40 inches of legroom in the back seat.

Still, the ES 300h and its gasoline-only sibling, the 2013 ES 350, remain mid-size sedans that are comfortable and refined to drive and ride in.

The 200-horsepower hybrid ES 300h has a luxury car starting retail price of $40,145.

This is $2,880 more than the starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $37,265 for a base, 2013 ES 350 with 268-horsepower V-6 and no hybrid system.

But since the ES 300h's city fuel mileage rating is roughly double the 21 mpg of the 2013 ES 350's, and the hybrid is estimated to get 8 more miles per gallon on the highway than the ES 350 does, the $2,880 difference in base price can be recouped after fewer than 45,000 miles, given today's gasoline prices.

Competitors include the 188-horsepower, 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, whose starting MSRP, including destination charge, is much lower: $36,820. The MKZ Hybrid has the top federal government fuel economy rating among luxury-branded, gasoline-electric hybrid sedans: 45/45 mpg; the ES 300h ranks second.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, which uses the same hybrid drive system as the ES 300h and has the same underlying platform, has a starting retail price of $36,350.

The base ES 300h comes with standard eight-speaker sound system, 10-way, power-adjustable front seats, unique, small "puddle"-illuminating lights under the outside mirrors that light the ground as driver and front-passenger exit, 17-inch wheels, light-emitting diode (LED) turn signals, halogen headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, power moonroof and a high-grade, vinyl NuLuxe material on the seats.

But the feeling inside the new ES is more upscale than in the previous model, in part because there's luxury-imbuing stitching atop the dashboard and the dashboard is modernized with a layout that almost looks serene. This is not an easy accomplishment, given the number of buttons and knobs and displays in today's cars.

Passengers didn't sense that this ES has only a 2.4-liter, dual cam, four-cylinder engine operating with a fuel-thrifty Atkinson cycle. The car accelerated strong and steadily and power felt more like that from a V-6, though there were no V-6 engine sounds.

Note that in the hybrid ES, exhaust pipes are hidden. In contrast, in the V-6 gas-powered ES 350, dual tailpipes are clearly visible for a sportier look.

In the test ES 300h, the 156-horsepower four cylinder was peppy _ with 156 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm _ and meshed seamlessly with the two on-board electric motors/generators and 1.6-kilowatt battery pack that helped save on gasoline.

Everything was managed expertly by electronics, and during the test drive, there was no hesitation or shuddering of the car during the transitions from electric power to engine power.

With electric power added in, total horsepower is 200.

And yes, it is true that the ES 300h hybrid system is tuned so the electric power is used more in city driving than on highways. This accounts for the slightly higher city fuel economy number than the highway number. Click on their website hmhid for more information.

2014 Kia Sorento SX

Hey, didn’t I just review one of these? Seems like it. But that was the 2013 Sorento, and this is the new 2014 model, which has brought some improvements to the table.

I reviewed the SX trim, which is the top of the line. It’s loaded to the gills and there are no options available.

Though the Sorento’s side profile remains relatively unchanged, that’s a good thing. It’s a very nice shape that I enjoyed. Nothing spectacular, but it will age well and its solid, broad-shouldered stance looks good.

Walk around to the front and you’ll see where the nipping and tucking started. The SX gets a signature sport grille and there are significantly revised Xenon HID headlights with an integrated strip of LED running lights. The fog lights below received a makeover too.

Head to the rear end and you’ll see that it got a big re-do as well. The new sculpted dual-depth liftgate looks great – especially when it’s augmented by the SX-trim-specific LED lightbar taillights. They look really good at night. The whole thing is tied together with a freshened bumper and a meaty oval exhaust outlet.

While the 2013′s wheels were nice, I loved the bigger and much more handsome machined-finish 19-inch rims on the 2014, now shod with 235/55 rubber.

Of note: though it’s instantly recognizable as a Sorento, the 2014 model sports a new chassis under the skin.

The changes for 2014 aren’t just skin deep. Under the hood lurks a new smaller-displacement but more powerful 3.3L V6. It’s rated at 290 horsepower at 6,400 rpm (an increase of 14 over last year) and 252 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm (that’s up a hair over last year too). The power gets sent through a six-speed automatic transmission to an all-wheel-drive system.

Fuel economy is rated about the same – 11.9 L/100 km in the city and 8.4 L/100 km on the highway. I managed to improve my average fuel consumption, burning 14.2 L/100 km during my week with it. This was a very typical week for us – commuting, occasional freeway driving and one quick highway run.

The Sorento’s interior is a very nice place to be. The overall styling of the dash remains similar to the previous model. Although I was disappointed to find no soft-touch plastics anywhere on the dash, the materials have wonderful visual textures and are very nice to look at. The fit and finish was excellent throughout the vehicle and there were no rattles or creaks at any time.

The leather seats – both heated and cooled (last year’s only allowed the driver to have his royal behind cooled) and both power adjustable – are very comfortable and actually provide a bit of bolstering too. There is a two-position driver side memory setting as well.

The heated steering wheel has buttons for the media system, phone, driver information system, hands-free and cruise control. Behind it is a gauge bin. The left side holds the tach, the right side the fuel and temperature gauges. The real story is what’s in the middle. It’s an extremely sharp screen – it actually took me a few minutes to realize it wasn’t a real gauge. This screen makes up a speedometer and a driver information screen in the centre. You can access your media information, navigation system, vehicle information, fuel economy and trip meter data.

2014 Audi RS7

MSRP remains unannounced for the United States, but if it follows the price difference in Germany between the S7 and RS7, it will mean a 40-percent hike to get all this fun and frolic in your driveway. The base S7 sits at $78,800, so we see the RS7 starting at a pretty exciting $105,000. Deliveries begin in Europe as of mid-November, while US and Canada units get handed over to owners by mid-February of 2014.

Audi estimates the RS7 thunders to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds in Dynamic mode. We think it'll do at least a repeatable 3.5, so we don't know who they think they're fooling in Neckarsulm. The Sportback does weigh a tick less than the Avant, too, and it has aerodynamic advantages, so it could actually be a bit quicker when drag-racing trim-for-trim. Yet the RS7 is slightly more collected about the drama going on, even if it weighs in at a not-insignificant 4,200 pounds or so.
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The only bit that's numbing about the whole RS7 experience is its electric power steering, but that whole discourse bores us to death at this point, as it's true of most any Quattro chassis (not all Audis can be of R8 V10 Plus caliber). Here we have a well-balanced 40:60 default torque split on a large and portly car with a weight distribution fore:aft of 56:44. What can you really expect? It seems as if we've learned to live with these sorts of Audi dynamic preferences, so while tasty options like the rear sport differential from the Dynamic Package can be very useful under hard driving, frankly it will rarely really help an everyday RS7 driver. (We'd still get it, though.) And the steering - for an electric setup – is at least smooth, well weighted and predictable – especially as we had the most aggressive optional Dynamic Steering aboard. Everything is naturally assisted by the eight-tenths of an inch lower stance from either the standard air suspension or optional steel-sprung sport setup.

Europeans have the base 155-mph RS7 trim of our blue car, but the optional Dynamic Package lets top speed out to 174 mph (along with other enhancements). In addition, Europeans can specify a further Dynamic Package Plus with 190-mph v-max and ceramic brake discs, but in North America, there will be no Plus option. And initially there will be no optional ceramic brake discs available at all for North America, though Audi tells us they could come over by the end of 2014. The standard compound wave design brake discs stop things just fine all day, but sometimes the pedal feel is less 'there' for us than we'd like for something with this much momentum.

In the optional 174-mph optional Dynamic Package, Americans are due to get blackened carbon-effect exterior trim, full LED lighting, sport rear locking differential, sport suspension with denser steel springs and dynamic steering. We had all of this on our white RS7 used in the video (called Suzuka Gray metallic, go figure) and, with the 21-inch optional blackened Blade wheels and ZR-rated Pirellis, the German countryside whizzed by quickly and deftly. The larger RS Audis are like that: built like brick houses. There is always going to be some understeer at the front end while scorching the curves and perhaps miscalculating approach angles and throttle inputs, but the RS7 is far beyond what Audi's RS models were capable of just five years ago. Standard torque vectoring when combined with the optional Dynamic Ride Control package pretty much maximizes what this chassis is capable of.

Who knows if we ever ticked over to the fuel-saving V4 mode of the cylinder-on-demand engineering? Who really cares? Our experience, as other like-equipped VW Group models is that you don't really notice it, and the company doesn't even show you whether you're in it or not. Our fuel needle didn't fall precipitously much over our long drive loops, so the unofficially projected 20-mpg combined city/highway efficiency could well be true.

Audi A5 3.0 TDI Clean Diesel Quattro

Its been nearly four years since we last drove the Audi A5. Time to revisit Audi’s A5 line with the 3.0 TDI Clean Diesel Quattro Coupe and see what has changed!

Not too long ago Audi refreshed the entire A5 line-up, including the Coupe, Convertible and Sportback. The facelift included updated front and rear lights, as well as a new front bumper design. The new front end includes pronounced air inlets, revamped grilles and flat fog lights.

The particular A5 we drove comes with the 3.0 TDI Clean Diesel Quattro, a variant of the 3.0 TDI that produces 245hp. This low-emissions clean diesel model made the A5 the first coupe on the market to meet the Euro 6 diesel standard. The diesel engine is paired with the 7-speed S tronic transmission and as other members of the A5 family equipped with quattro permanent all-wheel drive and the S tronic transmission also features the self-locking center differential with torque vectoring.

During normal driving, the mechanical component sends the engine’s power primarily to the rear wheels. If necessary, it redistributes the power smoothly to the front. Up to 70 percent can flow to the front axle, 85 percent to the rear axle. Torque vectoring uses targeted, minor braking interventions to make the handling even more precise.

The interior has received some minor modifications but is still very similar to the A5 we drove four years ago. In general the ergonomics, seats and controls of the navigation system, radio and other features is fine. The navigation screen could be a little bigger for our taste. The Audi A5 comes with 2 rear seats but the leg and headroom is fairly limited and a BMW 3-series coupe seems to offer more space. In the luggage compartment you find where the reduced interior space has gone, it is very deep and you can easily fit enough luggage for four people for a weekend away.

LED Work Lights New on the Audi A5 is lane assist and an update version of adaptive cruise control and a collision prevention system. These systems make long journeys all that more comfortable. We put them to the test on a long stretch of autobahn and it adapts nicely to the speed of the car in front, only keep your eyes out for traffic cutting across from other lanes because the Audi system, as do many other adaptive cruise control systems, might recognize, or chose to act, in those cases fairly late (sometimes too late).

Lane assists helps you stay in your lane, get too close to the white line on either side and it will gently steer you back to the center. In slight bends on the highway it might even steer for you completely. The system has two settings for when to react, either early or late. It is also a good system for people who don’t tend to indicate much, cross the white line without indicating and you will have to apply extra force on the wheel to cross.

Besides these systems that make the journey safer, the A5 also packs a few systems to make it more comfortable and fun. Think about bluetooth phone connectivity that allows to setup a WIFI network and fetch real time traffic info. And Digital Radio with Bang & Olufsen sound system that offers a significant upgrade over analogue radio. Sadly DAB as its called is not available in every country yet and has no reception in most tunnels.

So far the A5 3.0 TDI Clean Diesel Quattro sounds pretty good, but what if you like to have a little fun? The 3.0 TDI Clean Diesel Quattro engine provides plenty of torque with 560Nm but sadly it feels like its mostly pretty far away. Emphasis is placed on the fuel economy and low emissions, for acceleration and power you are better of with the more powerful, but more expensive petrol powered S5 or RS5.

The Audi A5 3.0 TDI Clean Diesel Quattro is the perfect car for people who are in the market for an autobahn cruiser or an Audi A4 but prefer the Coupe looks. The interior has the luxury appeal you expect from Audi, the fuel economy is impressive but if its sportiness and driving fun you are after we would opt for an Audi S5 instead! Click on their website hmhid for more information.

Four beats six in new Honda Accord

That's an advised "almost", for in light of the Camrys, Mazda6s and Kia Optimas that occupy the expanding big-bodied four- cylinder market these days, it's as biddable and fun to drive as anything in the segment, with brilliant brakes, smart, well- balanced lane-changing feeling and an engine note that's the smoothest I've experience in a family four.

It's hard to tell the upper-echelon versions of the Accord apart, for the V6 and four-cylinder NT models both have the same alloy wheels, although car geeks will note that those wheels are pewter grey on the V6NT and silver on the four, which also lacks the six's power sunroof, while from the rear the six has two pipes and the four just a single exhaust outlet.

It's no easier to split them inside.

Both NTs have leather trim, although the six offers power adjustment for the front seats, while the four-pot car requires more work from its occupants. Both models have climate control, cruise control, satellite navigation and a premium sound system with a CD player and USB input.

It is memory stick, MP3 player and iPod compatible and the volume is speed sensitive.
LED Strip lighting
You also get Bluetooth music streaming and phone connectivity, and everything that makes a noise or pictures is a cinch to master.

This brings us to the Accord's tour de force - Lanewatch. This activates a rearwards-facing side- mirror-mounted camera whenever you indicate a left turn. The picture replaces the sat-nav readout when it's activated and when you see what's coming up on your left-hand side's blind spot, you realise that it has become visible well before even the keenest driver thinks about looking in their left-hand mirror.

It's an excellent device and if you wonder why there isn't a right-hand one, there's no screen space for it and the right-side mirror is close enough anyway.

The entry-point S model, which at $45,900 is $9100 and $14,100 cheaper than its respective four and six-cylinder NT range mates, keeps the Lanewatch camera but eschews the full lane-keeping assist system and the leather and power seats, has simplified climate control and 17-inch instead of 18-inch alloy rims.

It also loses the posher cars' adaptive cruise control and their uncanny collision mitigation brake system, which alerts the driver that a collision is possible and hits the brakes when a crash is imminent. This has trickled down from $150,000-plus cars in a few short years. It still fronts up with reversing cameras, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, auto dimming headlights, vehicle stability assist and trailer stability assist, so you're not going bare bones with this fellow.

From the front, the big-bodied Accords are obviously Hondas, having adapted a larger, wider version of the company's new wide-mouthed grille and lamp arrangement. It's a pleasant face and the car's stance in S or NT form is solid and well planted.

But from the side and three- quarter rear it's a different story. The Accord adopts an uncanny similarity to BMW's latest 5-series. It's a nice problem for Honda to have.

One problem it won't have is selling its new recruit, especially in base four-cylinder S form. Priced the way it is, it undercuts the entry-point version of the smaller European Accord by $1300 and sits right in the middle of the big-four market spectrum here.

I enjoyed the V6 Accord and would say its powertrain is one of the best of its type. However, the four is so uncannily good that if I couldn't swing for the $60,000 V6, having to make do with the "mere" four-cylinder S model or its own NT version wouldn't upset me one jot.

Sentra raises segment standards

Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA), the importers and distributors of Nissan vehicles in Oman, has announced its ‘big jackpot offer’ on the recently launched Nissan Sentra.

The Sentra has created a new benchmark in the hotly contested premium compact sedan segment for itself. This game-changing model raises segment standards to new highs with its upscale styling, ‘class above’ features and globally recognised levels of safety.

The Sentra is the all-new nameplate in the Middle East’s compact sedan segment. It is however the 13th generation Nissan sedan in its model line globally.

The new Sentra is a modern and charismatic vehicle deriving its strengths through seductive design, unexpected spaciousness, class-defining features, safety and over-delivering on the basics.

The Nissan Sentra, available in 1.6lt and 1.8lt configurations, offers drivers the spaciousness and comfort of cars usually found in the larger segment, as well as technology usually associated with much more expensive cars. Positioned to give an accessible premium experience, the Nissan Sentra will appeal to the aspirational, smart and savvy compact sedan consumer.

The Sentra features a seductive design with high-end details such as LED accented headlamps and tail lamps and bespoke interior craftsmanship. The Sentra comes with classleading spaciousness and stateof- the-art convenience features like next-generation Xtronic CVT, dual zone climate control, intelligent key with push button start, rear view camera and seamless connectivity, including Bluetooth and satellite navigation.

The new Nissan Sentra places great emphasis on exterior and interior design quality with ‘class-above style’ when compared with competitive vehicles in the compact sedan segment. Externally, its well-balanced exterior proportions with characteristic lines and sculpted panels convey a ‘professional’ persona, a feel which is carried into the interior.

Comfortable seats, high quality materials and modern cabin design combined with abundant technology and features, are immediately striking as the driver or passenger enters the car. The Sentra’s lightweight body surrounds an interior offering class-leading roominess.

All passengers can spread out comfortably whether in the front or the rear

, which boasts legroom to match models in the higher midsize sedan segment. Luggage is well accommodated due to Sentra’s 510lt boot – again, much bigger than models in its class and matching those in the midsize sedan segment. Nissan Sentra focuses on class-above design standards inside and out.

Automatic dualzone climate control system with rear passenger air vents, navigation system, rearview camera, intelligent key and push engine start, and leather seats on selected models are just some of the features Sentra introduces to the segment.

However, all models benefit from the standard fitment of soft interior trims, and a wide range of safety equipment including dual airbags, ABS (antilock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), and BA (Brake Assist).

The Sentra comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Most Sentra models come with rear drum brakes, although rear discs are an option. The Nissan Sentra is a robust mainstream sedan that over delivers on fundamental driving performance, perfected over 13 generations and five decades of quality and reliability. The Sentra features refined engines and next-generation CVT transmission resulting in improved fuel efficiency.

Toyota Prius v

While there is the obvious cues to the Prius clan, the v appears to be more unique than its siblings for curbside presence — dare I say it — upscale. The front fascia is a bit of a hoodwink. What appears to be low-mount fog/driving lamps are actually the turn signals. They're easy to spot as to the intended direction of the v. The Toyota logo has grown to Texas belt buckle/old Q45 dimensions. I'm still trying to understand why an alloy wheel needs a plastic wheel cover topping, though it must be aero-specific.

A-pillars receive large spotter panes, with defroster vents. Wheel spats are found front and rear, as well as custom fit mudflaps. Rocker panels are protected with a full-length plastic covering. The rear window view is expansive, which certainly helps to counteract the massive D-pillars. The rear wiper assembly gives something that many rear wipers won't; a clean swipe that's practically 90 degrees. Large LED taillamp assemblies are hard to miss.

Apart from fluid checks, there's nothing much for any owner of things Hybrid Synergy Drive to poke at, especially the bright orange high-voltage cabling. Be aware of your two coolant reservoirs; one for engine cooling, the other for the inverter. Having lost countless pints of blood on transverse engine accessory belts replacements, I give Toyota a hearty Huzzah, for the elimination of these things from the 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle four. That's right; no drive belts. I can finally start to heal. The air intake for interior HVAC has a robust screen, ideal for catching robust bugs. Like the underside of doors and hatch. lids, the hood of the Prius v gets plenty of seam sealer for rust protection, as well as rubber seals to keep the engine bay clean.

While not a power hatch at this trim, the stock struts raise the hatch well, with a raised height in the realm of 6-foot. The cargo area cover removes easily, with the ability to store the assembly beneath the cargo floor. The floor material is sturdy; it won't cave in with heavier items. There are two large removable bins for stowing plenty of family bits. Remove those, and you find the temp spare tire, with a dense foam biscuit to hold the tools.

There's even a foam biscuit below that, to help diminish any squeaks or rattles. The cargo area is backlit, and gets a 12-volt DC powerpoint. Four chromed tie-down hooks are at the ready. The rear bumper gets a landing pad scuff protector. Second row seats fold flat, with scuff protection backing. There's also fore and aft movement, which exposes yet another usable storage cubby.

OK, I get the whole concept of synthetic materials, and will admit that baby cows are both cute, and undeniably tasty. (My email is below for your angry letters.) The synthetic leather in this Prius v looks great, though it does grip your backside in a clingy sense, as you exit the vehicle. (Your butt-cling may vary.) The seating is theatre-style, with good recline for the 60/40 rear seat, plus a truly flat rear footwell. Too bad the centre seat position backrest space is hard as a rock, thanks to the fold-down centre armrest.

Front seats get rear storage pockets. Door panels are also pocketed, with plenty of room for large bottles. The front centre console lid has an ingenious A-Ha addition; a rear lid release, to allow Junior to get his iPod/comic books/power snacks without asking the driver to become distracted. If only there was a 12-volt DC powerpoint in there, or even at the rear of the console. The console lid gets some form of Ultrasuede topper, which is already looking matted and old. Up front, there's two gloveboxes, with a dash-mount slide-out cupholder for the front passenger. More information about the program is available on the web site at www.hmhid.com.

BMW Alpina B7

The latest 7-Series is really special. Decent chassis and a great lineup of engines make the 7 a blast to hustle and a joy to cruise the freeway in. With the Alpina B7, you just turn that up a notch or two.

The interior is a little showier, the exterior styling is a touch more flamboyant and -- at least in our case -- you get purple-ish paint. That's hilarious, because with 540-hp and almost as many torques, this thing will generate enough forward momentum to force slower traffic into the right lane as if by magnetic force -- and then you've got this massive purple thing just screaming by people, at the state-mandated maximum speed, of course. For other drivers, it must be like suddenly catching sight of a purple train (see what I did there?) rolling up in the left lane.
LED Back-Up Light
There was a hiccup, though. At one point, upon application of the throttle, I heard a thump from the engine. Then the info screen flashed “Drivetrain Error, Drive Slowly.” It became impossible to maintain highway speed, so I pulled over with the car shuddering and bucking beneath me and I turned it off. I waited a few minutes and turned the car back on. All was right with the world. Weird, but if this were my $150,000 mega yacht, I'd want a pretty good explanation from Dieter and Gunther down at the dealership.

I like the way the car looks, especially the wheels, though I could probably live without the rear-deck spoiler. I love this honkin' V8. Combined with the silky eight-speed auto, the powertrain is silky like a turbine with all 538 lb-ft of torque coming on smoothly with imperceptible shifts. I found myself just loving to boot the throttle -- this beauty feels almost supercar quick. Pick a gear, any gear, and the acceleration is instant.

Back to that weight: it's really most noticeable around town where the steering is really light and the car feels a little wafty. Basically you have to call up some speed before the steering and chassis settle in. As speeds go up the car feels almost tossable. The ride isn't too bad -- less harsh than I thought it would be in the comfort setting. Normal and sport are actually fine, too. Again, better than it thought they'd be.

Along with the rest of the BMW 7-series lineup, the Alpina B7 got a bit of a freshening for the 2013 model year. There's an additional 40 hp and 22 lb-ft of torque coming from the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 and an eight-speed automatic gearbox helping to get the power to the wheels. If you happen to have access to an abandoned air strip or test track top speed is now 193 mph on the xDrive models, which is up from 175. Alpina says the long-wheelbase xDrive B7 gets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and that's kind of crazy considering this things tips the scales at over 5,000 pounds.

There are some changes on the outside like the new kidney grille, adaptive front headlights, best LED fog lights and rear light fixtures. Of course, the B7 is covered in a coat of Alpina blue metallic paint and rides on a slick set of wheels.

Like Wes, I found the drivetrain to be smooth with hammer performance everywhere in the rev band. It is quite alarming at how quick the speedometer shoots towards triple digits again considering this car's large footprint and heft. There are no peaks in the powerband and the car seems like it will build speed until you run out of nerve or when your brain tells you that you're an idiot and that you should back off. The eight-speed automatic performs imperceptible upshifts and downshifts are also immediate when you need them.

However, like all the other BMW 7-series that I have driven with the turbo V8, throttle tip-in remains my one major gripe. When I start getting into the pedal, I want/prefer more immediate response, but even in this B7 there's a lull before things get going. Sure, when this baby gets going it flies forward like it's nobody's business, but that delay at throttle tip-in just bugs me.

Linear LED fixtures

Southern California grocery chain Stater Bros has undertaken a major LED retrofit of the lighting in its frozen food cases and projects annual energy and maintenance savings of $570,000. GE Lighting supplied the Immersion solid-state lighting (SSL) products that the grocer installed in 166 stores encompassing 15,000 freezer doors retrofitted in ten weeks.

Strategic consultant TopSource LLC worked with Stater Bros to contemplate potential lighting products that could deliver the most significant energy savings for the stores. The pair chose to focus on the freezer cases as an area that could provide the most significant return on investment.

The team chose 14W GE Immersion RV40 LED systems.

The SSL products replaced previously installed 60W fluorescent fixtures. Stater Bros was able to quickly implement the project, retrofitting 20 stores per week.

While the desire for long-term savings in operational costs launched the project forward, Stater Bros was also concerned about how the LED lights performed. "Our managers tell us the new lighting really makes their products pop," said Scott Limbacher, vice president of construction and maintenance at Stater Bros. "We've received great feedback from customers and store managers."

The results of the project will likely exceed the expectations of the management team entering the project with secondary impacts tallied. The primary energy savings are very straightforward. The grocer will reduce energy usage by 28,444 kWh per store per year. That reduction equates to $510,000 per year based on 17 hours of usage per day and an electrical rate of $0.11 per kWh.

The grocer also estimates that the LEDs will deliver $60,000 savings annually in maintenance costs based on the long lifetime of the LED system. The unknown is the impact on other electrical costs. The grocer knows that the cooler LED sources will reduce the compressor cycles used to cool the cases, and that will generate additional savings.

The key vendors dominating the global LED Industrial Lighting market include Cooper Industries plc, Cree Inc., Dialight plc, Digital Lumens Inc., Emerson Electric Co., and Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.

Commenting on the report, an analyst from the Hardware team said: Globally, measures taken to control the usage and wastage of power have resulted in the adoption of LEDs for spotlight applications. Governments across the world are planning to replace street lights (that use halogen, incandescent, or fluorescent lamps) with LED lamps. Spotlight applications are common in stadiums, where heavy lighting systems are used; this is nowadays being replaced with LED lighting systems. Thus, the penetration of LEDs in spotlight applications is expected to account for considerable revenue in the Global LED Industrial Lighting market during the forecast period.

According to the report, one of the key factors driving the market is the increasing demand for power-efficient lighting in industries worldwide. Increasing concerns over the depletion of non-renewable sources of power and the need to minimize power consumption with a high demand for lighting in general are driving the demand for LEDs.

Further, the report states that the introduction of advanced LED products that have relatively longer lifespans than incandescent bulbs and CFLs is hampering the aftermarket and replacement sales of LED lamps. Click on their website hmhid for more information.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe and cabriolet

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe and cabriolet aim to combine a luxury grand tourer with high-end performance. The E550 in particular packs quite a wallop, with all the speed you could want on tap and Sport settings for the transmission and suspension to help you make the most of it. Everyday driving scenarios expose some of the E-Class' flaws, though, keeping it just outside the ranks of the pound-for-pound best cars in the world.

The 2014 E-Class coupes and convertibles are available in 350 or 550 trim levels. The E-Class cabriolets have an automatic soft-top, while the coupes come standard with a power-tilt-and-sliding panorama sunroof. All 2014 E-Class coupe and cabriolets come with 18-inch wheels.

Much is made over Mercedes' new Intelligent Drive suite of assists for the 2014 E-Class that in some ways make it a "self-driving" car. Reviews of Intelligent Drive are mixed regarding its capability, but in the end it's irrelevant to American consumers since we won't see it in the 2014 coupe and cabriolet. What we are getting are collision-prevention assist, attention assist, an Eco start-stop engine function, and new LED fog lamps and taillights as standard. Brakes in both the E350 and E550 are internally ventilated discs at the front and rear. All variants have anti-lock braking systems and brake assist as standard.

The front end is much more aggressive than before and is obviously inspired by Mercedes' AMG line. The result is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it design. We're less impressed with the rear end; then again, your mileage may vary.

Mercedes-Benz's COMAND system is standard in the 2014 E-Class, along with a media interface employing iPod and auxiliary cables. Options abound for the interior, from aluminum or wood trim to multiple color combinations for the leather, but the overall finish of the E-Class' interior materials could use some improvement.

We drove the Euro-spec E550 (known in Europe as the E500) on the Autobahn, and it is a monster. Experiencing how fast both the coupe and cabriolet reached their 150-mph-limited top speeds makes the 130-mph U.S. limit seem both unfair and sensible at the same time. As speeds increase, the E550 cabriolet's cabin gets a bit drafty but retains an impressive level of comfort, while at regular cruising speeds it's about as good as 4-seat convertibles get. Even if the E350 weren't being phased out for the 2015 model year in favor of a Biturbo-equipped V6 E400, the V8 in the E550 would make it the one to get. The big engine is popular for a reason; it seems to always have more to give, and the torque range is so sweeping that it's fun at any speed. Is a twin-turbocharged V8 overkill for an E-Class cabriolet? Absolutely. And we thank Mercedes-Benz for that.

As good as the 2014 E-Class coupe and cabriolet are,

they aren't perfect. Though the suspension feels taut in Sport mode, it just doesn't feel as planted as do some competitive offerings. If you're going to push the E550 at all, you will need to be in Sport mode; in its Comfort setting at high speed it feels like a stone skipping across the water.

Our single biggest issue with the E550 was with the transmission settings. In Eco mode you're planting your foot into the floor to get moving, and once it builds to the point where the engine feels like it's getting somewhere, it all too suddenly roars to life. Sport mode is much better, but feels far too sensitive for someone gallivanting around the Hamptons in search of organic apples.

The new Momentary mode is interesting. After a period of time between manual shift inputs, the transmission independently goes back into a fully automatic state, with driving conditions affecting the length of time before it kicks in (downhill coasting, during cornering, coming to a stop, etc.). What the 7G-Tronic needs is a good middle-ground Standard mode — not extremes or hovering computer nannies.

Charger, external power adapter mkt to grow 19%

As a result of the strong demand for various popular electronics products, the global market for external power adapters and chargers is predicted to rise by more than $1 billion, or 19 per cent, from 2012-2014. This is according to IHS Inc. that also revealed that this year, market growth will reach almost 12 per cent, picking up from the slow five per cent increase last year.

“Growth in the external power adapter market is being driven by strong end-demand for applications such as smartphones, tablets and LED lighting,” said Jonathon Eykyn, power supply and storage component analyst for IHS. “Moreover, the launch of next-generation game consoles by Microsoft and Sony later in the year will drive further growth.”

One area of growth will be the smartphone market

, which continues to expand strongly as consumers purchase the latest models from manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung. Further demand is coming from the developing markets where 3G—and in some cases, 4G networks—are being rolled out. Such developments on the whole will spur the growth of power adapters for smartphones by 40 per cent from 2012 to 2014, although growth projections for the longer term are much lower.

The adoption of smartphones will also reduce the demand for other types of mobile phones, causing the market for power adapters for non-smart phones to decline by 25 per cent during the same period.
LED Work Lights
A second growth area lies in tablets, where demand shows no signs of slowing. Apple still dominates sales, even though its market share has eroded as competing manufacturers release more products. Overall, the power adapter market for tablets is calculated to grow by $250 million from 2012-2014, with tablets fast becoming one of the largest segments for power adapters.

The third area of growth for power adapters is in video game consoles, set for robust expansion at the end of 2013 and throughout 2014 with the release of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. While Sony will continue to use an internal power supply in the new PlayStation like its previous generation of consoles, somewhat reducing the overall addressable market in the process, Microsoft will be using an external power supply—also like what it did in the past—which helps compensate for the loss of market from Sony’s decision. Even so, the power adapter market for wired games consoles is forecast to grow by 45 per cent from 2012 to 2014.

The solid growth of the market as a whole will then slow down starting next year. To prepare for what lies ahead, suppliers should identify and target the markets that will provide them with future opportunities as demand starts to slow from traditional revenue sources, IHS indicated.

The LED extravaganza featured a one-of-a-kind musical mash-up of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z.

Anthony E. Malkin of the Empire State Building (ESB) started exploring the idea of replacing the old floodlights with LEDs several years ago, while on a trip to China. “I was impressed by the skyline of Hong Kong and Shanghai,” he explains. “The Empire State Building being the iconographic feature of the New York skyline, I thought that we really needed to up our game.”

New Yorkers are used to seeing Empire State Building illuminated with different colors for events and special days during the Super Bowl or the Subway Series, St. Patrick’s Day, the Fourth of July and Valentine’s Day. But this Fourth of July collaboration with Macy’s was by far the biggest, most visible display yet.

“What is the Empire State Building at the end of the day except a giant stage? And New York City and the tri-state area is a big theater,” said Malkin.

For those who prefer to see a more subdued palette on the ESB, the schedule for lighting on the building calls for all white until the end of the month.
More information about the program is available on the web site at www.hmhid.com.

Troopers' vehicles struck

Indiana State Police Sgt. John Bowling has a request for those traveling on the state’s roadways for the July 4th holiday and extended weekend.

“We're just asking, especially during the holiday, if you're going to be celebrating, have a designated driver,” Bowling said. “And if you see emergency lights, slow down and move over.”

Bowling — the public information officer for ISP’s Pendleton District — spoke with The Star Press Wednesday only a few hours after a third Indiana State Police vehicle in less than three days was struck from behind by a suspected drunk driver.

In the latest such incident, Trooper Kyle West was sitting in his unmarked Ford Mustang state police vehicle along Interstate 69 in Delaware County when a Chevrolet Impala slammed into the rear of West’s vehicle, which had all of its emergency lights flashing.
LED Motorcycle Headlight
The driver of the Impala, Johnnie Ray Barnes, 45, Anderson, was jailed and preliminarily charged with driving while intoxicated and driving without a license.

Though Indiana law requires motorists traveling on two- or four-lane roadways to move over and/or slow down when approaching a vehicle with its emergency lights flashing, Bowling — who suffered a lower back injury after his unmarked state police vehicle was struck by a semi tractor-trailer in 2005 — said many motorists ignore this defensive driving tactic.

“Anything can happen at any time, and we need room to work safely,” Bowling said. “There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. A fight may break out or a car may decide to flee and pull out. So make sure you give us plenty of room to work for your safety and ours.”

Tuesday’s on-duty crash for West was his second since mid-April. On April 17, West was traveling northbound along Ind. 1 in Wayne County with his flashing lights and siren activated when he went to pass two vehicles on the left. Bowling said one of the vehicles, however, didn’t hear the sirens or see the lights and began turning left into a driveway, striking West’s quickly-approaching vehicle.

West — who was injured in the April 17 crash — was also taken to IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital after Tuesday’s accident. Though Bowling said West re-aggravated a previous injury, the trooper was released from the hospital late Tuesday with no life-threatening injuries.

Tuesday’s crash also occurred less than three days after two ISP vehicles were struck from behind, also by suspected drunk drivers.

Around 2:26 a.m. Sunday, Trooper Josh Graves was dispatched to a car/deer accident on southbound I-465. The trooper was pulling the dead deer from the interstate and had his patrol car, with the emergency lights operating, in the third lane protecting the disabled car that had struck the deer, when a Honda Accord driven by Fredrick Allen, 48, Muncie, struck the rear of the trooper’s car, according to a media release.

Trooper Michael McCreary responded and determined that Allen was allegedly operating while intoxicated when he struck the patrol car. Allen was secured in the front passenger seat with McCreary, behind the scene of the first crash when McCreary’s 2010 Ford Crown Victoria patrol car was struck by a GMC Yukon driven by Edwardo Frias, 28, Indianapolis.

Allen and Frias were transported to Wishard Hospital with minor injuries. Both face preliminary charges of driving while intoxicated.

Bowling said motorists have no excuse not to pull over — or, at least, slow down — when approaching emergency vehicles.

“Even on the unmarked cars, the new LED lights are so bright that you can see them from sometimes as far as a half-mile or more away,” he said. “Unfortunately, trooper cars get hit more often because of the very nature of being out there. Folks just seem to be in a bigger hurry nowadays. We just ask to please give us room to work.”
More information about the program is available on the web site at www.hmhid.com.

Audi Matrix LED headlights

Audi is now building on its lead in the domain of lighting technology with a world first: The Audi Matrix LED headlights will make their debut on the new A8, which is appearing on the market at the end of 2013. Audi, the technology leader in this field, is thus opening a new chapter in automotive lighting technology.

Audi Matrix LED technology splits up the LED high-beam headlights into numerous individual, small diodes working in conjunction with lenses or reflectors connected in series. Managed by a responsive control unit, they are activated and deactivated or dimmed individually according to the situation. This means they always supply high-precision illumination and achieve the maximum possible light yield without needing a pivoting mechanism.

In the new Audi A8, each headlight comprises 25 high-beam light-emitting diodes, arranged in groups of five per reflector. When the light switch is set to “automatic” and the high-beam headlights are on, the system is activated from 30 km/h (18.64 mph) on highways and from 60 km/h (37.28 mph) on city streets. The Audi Matrix LED headlights produce a quality of light with a special crystalline sheen. By day, too, they have a very attractive and distinctive look, which is reinforced by the new appearance of the daytime running lights.

As soon the camera in the A8 detects oncoming vehicles, the Audi Matrix LED headlights dip the relevant sections of the high-beam headlights. The system operates with such precision that it blanks out light that would shine directly onto oncoming and preceding vehicles, but continues to cast the high beams with full power on all other zones between and beside them. The closer an approaching vehicle gets, the more LEDs are deactivated or dimmed. When there is no more oncoming traffic, the high-beam headlights then resume full power, including the sections that had previously been off. The light that the driver sees is always bright, homogeneous and much more effective than that produced by competitors’ mechanical dipping systems.

Matrix LED technology offers fascinating potential in many different respects, in terms of the number of individual LEDs, their arrangement, and the size and design of the headlights. One of its safety functions in the Audi A8 involves providing what are known as marker lights: These team up with the optional night vision assistant to mark detected pedestrians. When it detects a person in the critical range in front of the car, individual LEDs flash at them rapidly three times in succession, picking out the pedestrian clearly from their surroundings and alerting both the pedestrian and the driver.

The light-emitting diodes of the Audi Matrix LED Daytime Running Lights also perform the cornering light function; they displace the emphasis of the beam in the direction of the bend. By calling on predictive route data supplied by the MMI navigation plus, they do so shortly before the steering needs to be turned. Another function in the new Audi A8 is the turn signal with dynamic display: The LEDs in the turn signals flash in blocks at 150 millisecond intervals in the direction that the driver intends to turn.

The plus points of Audi innovations include not just better light, but also more safety, high efficiency and attractive design. A wide range of customers can reap the benefits – the LED headlights, for example, are available from the compact A3 car line upward. Also the Le Mans sports cars of Audi – the Audi R18 e-tron has just retained the title at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – have been fitted with LED headlights for a number of years; on the straight, they illuminate the racetrack over a distance of about one kilometer (0.62 miles).

Audi intends to extend its lead step by step. The automotive lighting of the future will respond with even greater precision to the surroundings and interact with it in diverse ways. It will have all-electronic control and be even more attractive thanks to new dynamic functions.

Local business creates its own spark

As founder of EM Electrical Contracting, Eric Martino has carved his own path as one of the best electrical contractors in New Jersey.

After receiving his NJ Master Electrical license in 1995, Martino formed the company in 1996, and has built it up to 24 employees.

In order to be formidable in the competitive electrical industry, Martino and his technicians attend continuing education courses throughout the year to be knowledgeable about the latest technology and changes in codes.

With the rising cost of energy, EM Electrical offers their customers an option through conversion to Solar Energy and LED lighting and leading by example, they have converted their facility.

EM Electrical is an Eaton Cutler-Hammer Certified Contractor and a Certified, factory trained Kohler, Generac, GE, Briggs and Stratton generator installer and dealer.

With these credentials and a reputation for honest, efficient work, companies such as Intercar Mercedes of Newton, Lakeland Bank Sparta, Lakewood Toyota, Planet Honda in Union, McGuire Chevy, Bridgewater Audi, Thor Labs, Sparta Movie Theater Building, Royal GMC of Sussex, Pope John High School and Reverend Brown School additions and Shoprite has been trusting EM Electrical for their electrical needs.

The generator division of EM Electrical provides a complete job, which includes backing up the customer’s system with 24-hour service and maintenance contract. They are also the only generator and electrical services installer for Home Depot in the northern district.

The success of the EM Electrical has facilitated the formation of EM Signs — a modern, innovative company that creates interior or exterior signs.

EM Electrical is partnering with Morris County Technical School to offer an apprentice program. This 5-year electrical technician’s degree program allows students to gain practical, theoretical knowledge and hand on experience from EM Electrical’s years of experience in the electrical industry.

To further show their commitment to education, EM Electrical pays 50 percent of the tuition of the Morris County School of technician’s students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

The students are also offered cash towards purchasing tools and employment upon graduation.

EM Electrical also donates to the Habitat for Humanity, SCARC Foundation, Catholic Diocese, and local Police and Fire Departments and local programs. His affiliations include Sussex County Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, Sussex/Warren Electrical Contractors Association, Eaton advisory board, NJ Vocational School Training Program, Fraternal Order Police Sparta, and the Electrical Inspectors Association. More information about the program is available on the web site at www.hmhid.com.

Audi A8 2013 spy shots

At the front, it has a wider more menacing grille, and there's a new set of split taillights. You may also notice the A8 is fitted with a new set of headlights, using Matrix LED technology. They're comprised of 25 high-beam diodes, which are clustered together in groups of five and work in conjunction with reflectors.

Unlike conventional high-beam headlights, the Matrix LED array is so advanced when the A8 detects an oncoming car, the headlights can be activated, deactivated or dimmed depending on the situation and can even block out light that would otherwise shine directly onto oncoming traffic. This can all be done while still maintaining full illumination with high-beam.

Another advantages of the Matrix LED technology is that it can team up with the optional night vision assist to detect pedestrians in the dark. When a pedestrian is detected and assessed to be too close, the LED lights will flash rapidly three times to alert them of the cars presence. Additionally, the new headlights also feature a cornering function and as the lights are supplied with data from the onboard GPS so they corner before the steering wheel has been turned.

The next-generation Audi A8 will debut before the end of 2013 with so-called Matrix LED headlights, the brand has announced. Now that hid lights are available on a few compacts and the 2014 Toyota Corolla offering standard LEDs, Audi is attempting to stay ahead of the game with more advanced LEDs.

As we noted earlier this year, the Matrix LED unit features individual diodes that can be turned on or off depending on where light is needed. In the next-generation A8, these 25 high-beam LEDs can detect when oncoming traffic is approaching and dim light as the vehicle gets closer.

These Matrix LEDs do away with the need for rotating headlights to see around corners. The new Audi A8′s fancy lights can predict where to project light based on navigation-system data, so you'll always see the road ahead late at night on a rural, winding road. If the car detects a pedestrian directly in front of the car, individual LEDs flash at them, distinguishing them clearly from their surroundings and letting the driver know, Audi claims.

For the all-important "hey check out my new car!" meeting with friends, the Audi A8′s lights produce what the automaker calls a "special crystalline sheen," and the turn signals flash in blocks at 150 millisecond intervals for an extra bit of theater. Of course, Audi isn't the only luxury automaker investing in LEDs. The new 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will have up to 56 LEDs in each headlight, with plenty more inside the car and in the taillights, as well.

We're looking forward to seeing the A8′s Matrix LEDs in action, and fully expect them to trickle down to other Audis if early customers don't balk at the technology's cost. The next-generation Audi A8 will appear on the market by the end of 2013.

New Cadenza is loaded with style

Once perceived as mostly a builder of inexpensive vehicles, Kia has been successful in more recent times in launching high quality and stylish cars and crossovers that can go toe-to-toe with almost any manufacturer on more than just price point.

Such is the case with the new 2014 Cadenza, a full-size luxury vehicle that most people wouldn't have thought possible only a few years ago.

In fact, Kia must have had similar thoughts when it stopped building the Amanti, its last full-size luxury car, in 2009.

But perceptions are changing, and Kia is out to build on its momentum.

"The new Cadenza shows that Kia isn't worried about being comparison shopped against any luxury brand," said Del Vohs, a sales consultant for Tyler Kia in Niles. "It also shows the company wants to provide vehicles across all demographics."

The Cadenza has the stylish lines of an expensive luxury sedan that is certain to turn heads and win some new admirers. It has an interior to match with high quality materials, lots of room and an abundance of luxury and infotainment features.

With a strong focus on safety, the new Cadenza comes with antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, stability and traction control, hill start assist, a rearview camera, a backup warning system and a full array of airbags.

The Cadenza is powered by a 293-horsepower, 3.3L V-6 mated with a six-speed automatic with clutchless shifting.

Though the Cadenza comes with a starting price about $35,000, it comes extremely well equipped with leather upholstery, full power accessories, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, LED taillights, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel with infotainment controls and paddle shifters, heated and power-folding outside mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, a rear seat pass-through, a 10-way power driver seat and a four-way power passenger seat.

Additional standard features include heated front seats, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, the voice-activated UVO command system, an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation and a 550-watt Infinity audio system with satellite radio and USB/auxiliary input jacks.

The Premium Package adds a panoramic sunroof, adaptive headlights, a cooled driver seat, heated rear seats, Napa leather, a heated steering wheel, windshield wiper de-icers, a power rear sunshade and driver memory for the seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel.

The Technology Package further adds 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control. a blind-spot monitoring system, lane departure warning, an electronic parking brake and water-shedding side glass.

The Cadenza comes with Kia's five-year/60,000-mile warranty with roadside assistance, as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It also comes with complimentary maintenance for three years or 37,500 miles. More information about the program is available on the web site at www.hmhid.com.
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