Toyota 4Runner – an SUV standout

The compact sport-utility vehicle segment is becoming as crowded as a high school math class these days, but one of the standout students continues to be the Toyota 4Runner. Homework complete and the curve carefully considered, the Toyota 4Runner crafts an easy A.

Experience plays a big part in the lure that Toyota creates in all segments.  The Body-on-Frame construction of the 4Runner furnishes added strength and safety while reducing noise and vibration.  Body-on-Frame weaves major considerations of expense and mpg together in a way that benefits consumers.  It’s a more economical build and the mpg sacrifice, due to increased weight, still retains a 17/21 ratio in the base SR5 that retails for $34, 210. Click here to see the Body-on-Frame assembly process from Toyota.

4Runner console
Photo by Jules Stayton

Keeping up with the technology of others in its class, the 6.1-inch high-resolution touch-screen keeps the Entune Premium Audio with  Connection or Integrated Navigation and App Suite ready and waiting for instructions as the driver navigates everything from the school-year to the wilderness.  The third row seating is perfect for  extra cargo whether it be human or gear. This seven-passenger provides front and rear 12v power outlets and up to 88 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down.  An available slide-out rear cargo deck can support up to 440 lbs.; tailgating just got real.

The 4.0 Liter DOHC 24-Valve V6  Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing engine with intelligence reaps a robust 270 hp @5600 rpm and 278 lb.-ft. of torque through a 5-speed automatic transmission.  Sporting around town  eliminates the need for a 4WD option in place of the standard RWD, but still renders the hauling capacity that most soccer Moms and Dads dictate.  For those off-roaders moving up the model scale to the TRD Off-Road or Off-Road Premium pushing the limit is granted with a part-time 4WD system that includes Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) standard.  Hill Start Assist Control (HSA), Multi-terrain Select, Crawl Control (CRAWL) and locking rear-differential authorizes wheels to function independently to manufacture the true off-road experience that many 4Runner customers need and desire.

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Photo by Jules Stayton

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is a racing division backed by Toyota that has been equipping the toughest of dirt-seeking mudders for years.  The TRD Pro is easily spotted with its TRD 17-inch matte-gray alloy wheels and other standard features in-line with the goal of earth exploration like Performance air filter, brake pads, oil filter, Pro Blisten® shocks and TRD-tuned front springs to go with its personalized TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate.  TRD Pro rings in at $42,400.

Options abound in the 4Runner realm.  As the owner of a 4Runner myself, I find it to be a vehicle I would choose again.  Loyalty is a cornerstone for Toyota and I am a faithful member.  Features that I enjoy are the versatile cargo/seating options, traction control, cabin comfort, smooth ride and reliability; ours has over 160,000 miles.  The 4WD adds a bit of spring to the general handling, but essentially gives the feel that most off-roaders enjoy.

4Runner fence
Photo by Jules Stayton

No matter which SUV you choose, be sure to test-drive the Toyota 4Runner.  It shoots to the top of the class by satisfying  your need for safety, reliability, style, and versatility.

 

2017 Impreza 2.0i helps Subaru celebrate its 50th

Subaru’s Impreza 2.0i enlivens an already stacked lineup of award-winning models for the brand.  Impreza doesn’t disappoint and flaunts safety, fuel economy and style as well as lively performance via its 4-cylinder Boxer® engine.

Subaru of America conducts a year-long party approaching the 50th Anniversary, culminating in a celebration like no other in February 2018.  With the donation of “50 cars for 50 years” for a charity to be named later this year, Subaru will also release special edition models to commemorate the occasion.

Founded by American businessmen Malcolm Bricklin and Harvey Lamm on February 15th 1968, Subaru continues its successful run with current day accolades like KBB’s 2017 Best Overall Brand and 2017 Lowest Cost to Own.

Impreza rear closeup
Photo by Jules Stayton

$18,395 starts the bidding for the 2.0i sedan honors.  Premium, Sport and Limited trim packages include a 5-door option that gives a 4-inch bump in trunk width for those weekend adventures that Subaru is famous for.  A 60/40 split makes tossing the golf clubs in for a quick nine after work,  a breeze. With 100-cubic feet of passenger space, the Impreza bestows a spacious feeling in its class.

Living in the Sport sedan as I did, garnered thrills from the 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder, 152 hp, horizontally opposed Boxer® engine used in Subaru models for the last 50 years.  Click here if you would like to see live action renderings of how the Boxer® positioning lowers the center of gravity in the engine compartment to improve handling, balance and stability.  Taking the curves of your own “C” road in the Impreza will not disappoint. Click here to see why Subaru is in a class by itself with road hugging technology.

Lineartronic® Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Adaptive Control and Incline Start Assist comes standard on the 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited.  CVT is included on my Sport as an $800 option and is worth every penny as I accessed the 7-speed manual mode on more than one tour.  A 432 Watt Equivalent 8-Speaker Premium Audio system with Harman Kardon® speakers sparked pure joy.  Five-spoke 18″ rims added a beauty that rivaled the blooms of spring.  In all, including the $820 delivery and destination charge, its price tag comes in at $27, 165.

Marking time on your commute will yield a combined city/hwy mpg in the 30s.  The SUBARU STARLINK™’s Infotainment system includes Safety and Security options as well as Multimedia  and serves as the hub in a 6.5″ or 8″ display. Click on the links to see how each functions to make the Subaru an easy choice for any driver.

Weather is no issue with Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD.  Stability and drivability video versions are yours for the viewing via these links.

Impreza and science building
Photo by Jules Stayton

Lastly, one would be remiss without mentioning autonomous features when it comes to the Subaru Impreza 2.0i.  EyeSight® technology notches each unit possessing it to the highest possible IIHA Safety rating for front crash prevention.  Stereo cameras mounted where the map lights are housed produce a 3-D image of objects in their path.  Adjustments are made automatically to avoid impact.   Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Change Assist (LCA), and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) are included in EyeSight® as well.  Lane Keep Assist must be turned on.  When functional it will give an alert to prevent “drowsy driver” issues and Adaptive Cruise Control, when activated, can be set by the driver to a particular distance from the car in front for alerts to engage the pre-collision throttle management system and avoid rear end collisions while in cruise.

A 3-year/36,000 mile New Car and Wear Item Limited Warranties plus 24-hour roadside assistance are included in addition to the 5-year/60,000 mile Powertrain Limited Warranty.  A luxury for cold weather climate owners is the 5-years, unlimited mileage Rust Perforation Limited Warranty.  It’s no wonder that 97% of Subaru Impreza vehicles sold in the last 10 years are still on the road.

Marion Subaru in Marion, IL gets a special thanks for my Impreza experience this week. Sales Manager James Shimkus and his staff,  including Service Advisor Jim Gooden and Sales Associate Grant Thurmond, made for a flawless affair.

Reasons are endless when considering Subaru for your next road experience, just ask the owners who have loved them for the last 50 years.

The Subaru Impreza is built in Lafayette, IN.

…and they emerge!

daffodilPhoto by Jules Stayton

It usually begins in the dark.  In the ground, in a cave, in a den, in a climate controlled storage facility…they all have a beginning.  Entering these recesses is voluntary.  The need for rest overwhelms the otherwise normal need for homeostasis.  Most seek refuge because of weather; who wants to trudge through winter anyway?  Damage to the body can be crippling…

October beckons them come.  Their body clock says “yes”.  Eating well and joining a partner for the “put away” ceremony is tradition.  Farewell old friend.  While they anticipate this event sometimes with woe, hope springs eternal, literally.

The winter months pass as an eerie quiet dominates the landscape.  No shouts, or sprouts. No roars or screeches. No burning or peeling.  No chasing or racing.  It’s deafening.

Flowers claim bulb.  Desert tortoises claim burrow.  Bats claim cave. Bears claim den into torpor (light hibernation where they can easily be awakened so watch out!).  Cars claim climate controlled garages or storage facilities.  Prime locations reserve quickly…the inhabitant must be willing to stake a claim early on and usually return to the location year after year.

Why the big to-do?  To preserve the species silly!  Hope springs eternal for the rite of passage to see the light of day as dusk turns into dawn.  Months pass as the anticipation of “the emerge” overwhelms the system.  Fulfilling nature’s call, returning to the land of the living, whatever you’d like to call it…it’s an awakening!

cloudsPhoto by Jules Stayton

Daylight begins to overwhelm darkness.  Shadows grow longer each passing moment and the fulfillment of dreams long hoped for, become reality.

Yes! Yes! Yes!  All of this to make a point…Pulling that sweet ride out of storage on a warm April day reigns king in the heart of its owner.  Barn under tarp, garage space reserved or climate controlled storage…the reveal is breathtaking.  Joy abounds.

Weather clear, CHECK!  Battery charged, CHECK!  Fluid levels, tire pressure, CHECK! Brakes firm, CHECK!  Go slow grasshopper, let him warm up slowly.  Creep for a mile or so and then realize that the gem that you saved for, slaved for, craved, and finally possessed is waiting for you to carve a path where you are the director of the show.

Fire it up!  It’s been waiting all winter for you…

 

Teen drivers…what are they thinking?

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They want to fit in.  Like pieces in a puzzle.  Each have their special place that makes for a masterpiece. But teens, whether driving or not, have trouble focusing on where they lie in the scheme of things.  Driving adds mitigating factors to an already overloaded teen brain to challenge it in ways it’s never experienced.

The 2017 Chicago Auto Show addressed this problem in one of their Facebook Live interview segments hosted by ABC7’s traffic  reporter Roz Varon.  Facebook Live’s video included Joe Koenig from Chicago Clean Cities and from the National Safety Council, Senior Director Alex Epstein.  Even a question by yours truly made it into the interview!

The issue of autonomous vehicles came up and Alex Epstein noted the various ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) that the market is offering consumers currently like AEB, park assist, blind spot detection, lane keeping, etc.  Over 40 technologies are available right now.  NSC assists drivers with the learning curve by providing a link on their website to My Car Does What?  This should be a first stop for teens considering a spin in the family wagon, or Tesla, as the case may be these days!

I brought up the question of whether driver’s education programs would be updated to match the learning curve of new technologies in autos for young drivers.  The concept was met with some interest by Alex Epstein, but he noted that driver’s education programs are different in many states and the NSC was working with districts to include ADAS technology instruction using the aforementioned website My Car Does What?.

In Illinois for example, the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program hoped to be the best in the nation when it was first signed into law in 2007.  It cited a previous study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to justify its strict regulations and curfews for teen driving hoping to reduce teen crashes and deaths.  The State of Illinois reports that it spent over $18,750,000 on driver education statewide in 2015-2016 that impacted the fiscal year 2017.  Amendments to the law have been made since then and the statute in its current form can be found at cyberdriveillinois.com.

2015 Teen Crash causes study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety updated the information that the GDL was based upon.

With the practice driving minimum requirement of only 50 hours, we all have quite a bit to worry about when it comes to teen drivers.  This just adds to the deck of cards one is dealt when dealing with teenagers…God love them.  So, get out there America. Teach those kids what’s important when driving, all our lives may depend on it.

My love affair with the stick shift…

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I was six.  The shifter in question lived in a late 60s VW Beetle that my Dad had purchased from one of my brothers whose eye had wandered to a new mechanical love. The faded green paint, white interior, rusted floorboard and that knob on the end of a stick…I loved that car.

Being the only girl and the youngest in a family of five kids allowed me certain privileges with Dad. We ventured the streets and byways of our hometown in northern Illinois in that car and Dad taught me to shift.  He would clutch and I would shift left-handed.  I can drive in Europe thanks to him!  Timing my tiny hand with his size 11 shoe became a fun game that we “didn’t tell Mom” about.  In a house full of men, there were a lot of things we (namely me) “didn’t tell Mom” about when it came to riding in cars and on motorcycles.  That car still brings fond memories to mind as I write this blog post.  It was my first true car experience as the driver, or as close as a six-year-old could get…power like that at such a young age corrupts.

78′ Rabbit was the next VW product to drift across the driveway.  I was sixteen and wanting some independence.  Our next door neighbor was a VW mechanic so in my Dad’s eyes that sealed  the deal on another VW in our house.  Spending a whopping $800 on that orange beauty was a bargain…I paid half, Dad the other.  Funny, all that shifting left-handed did me no good as I rode shotgun on the way home from purchasing the gem. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a bit different from a Sunday drive with Dad at the helm.  A few driving lessons later on the National St. hill and he was done.  My tutelage was left to a friend who had mastered her own stick shift via the Mazda wagon of about the same year as my VW.  Manuals have peppered the landscape of my life and I currently enjoy my Subaru Legacy very much while I do some downshifting and passing on the B and C roads of life.

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While I talk of the love of a manual transmission, it makes me wonder where we will go…people like me who love to drive…when cars are more autonomous.  I’m not alone in my despair, the reality of it is here.  More and more features on today’s new rides have minds of their own.  Many are for safety, others for convenience.  Today’s cars will be on the road at least 15-20 years.  I’ve got awhile before we go completely autonomous.

One thing I do know…as long as this exists (photo below)…there will be drivers of manual transmissions. Maybe I should get into racing…looks like fun to me!

I bet Dad would have enjoyed it too!

Keep shifting my friend…

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Mine, Yours, OURS. Autos.

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(Photo by Jules Stayton)

Daybreak. A new beginning. Marking time. Opportunity for change. Consistency. Reliability. Beauty. One-of-a-kind.

I could be using the words and phrases above to describe the photo you see or a baby being born or an adventure started.   Choosing to use those nuggets of wisdom to describe the contribution of both men and women to the auto industry may seem a stretch, but bear with me…it’s a blog. Read on.

Marked by the advent of International Women’s Day this week my thoughts have wandered through the maze of opinions and stances.  As a human being first and a woman second, I believe that everyone has value no matter what their sex. All have something to contribute to making this world a better place and the way we do that is to show up and start.  Just like the dawn, start each day with purpose and drive.

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What, may you say, does any of this have to do with the auto industry?  Well, here at JulesOnWheelz, my focus has been reflecting upon what I found most interesting about the 2017 Chicago Auto Show that finished up one short month ago.  I would be remiss to ignore the panel that met during media day, February 8, 2017, at McCormick Place as it truly inspired me.

#WhatdrivesherCAS was a forum for both men and women sponsored by Women in Automotive and She Buys Cars to hear testimonial from some of the women who have chosen the auto industry as their livelihood. Speaking were Candice Crane (@CraneAutoHR) VP of Dealer Solutions for Hireology.com, Bridget Brennan (@BridgetBrennan) Female Factor Founder and CEO and author of “Why She Buys”, Kathy Gilbert CDKGlobal Director of Sales and Business Development and Jody Hall (@JodyNHall) VP of the Automotive Market for Steel Market Development Institute (@SMDI Automotive).

Facebook Live’s broadcast of the panel was filled with testimonial about how each member entered the auto industry. Outlining their struggles and successes could have come from anyone, male or female, but with Women in Automotive’s slogan being “Accelerating the role of women in the auto industry” and She Buys Cars’ “Life happens in cars. Enjoy the ride” the stage was set.

Seemingly mesmerized as I listened to the broadcast that evening, I was so engaged with the content that I found myself commenting as the blue “thumbs up” peppered the screen not realizing it was taped from earlier in the day as lunch was served. Unabashed, I continued my gawking until tape’s end. Finding myself with renewed vigor of how I could make my way in the automotive industry, the world was my oyster.  JulesOnWheelz was born.

If those panel members were looking for an inspirational talk to motivate women to move into the auto industry, I am their success story.  Passion, drive, dedication, and love power me forward in this journey.  After all, we need to feel the sand between our toes right?

Keep that thrill alive…let the dawn inspire YOU to make a fresh start each day and make your dreams come true.  There are people willing to counsel and guide if you only give them a chance to see the passion you have and the dedication you’re willing to give.

Thanks for riding along…

Jules

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Photo by Jules Stayton