Experience Total Freedom in an All-New Elantra

2017 Elantra Sedan

We love the redesigned Elantra. We love it in a way that we don’t normally love cars, let alone cars we’ve spent less than a year with. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, and it’s packed with features at a price that we still can hardly believe. Something that’s even harder to believe? All over the country, sedans like the Elantra aren’t selling nearly as well as they did just a few years ago.

So what gives? Well, as is so often the case, the most obvious answer is also the closest to the truth. Gas is cheap, and cars that sacrifice space to improve fuel economy just aren’t getting Americans excited like they did when a gallon of gas cost more than a hot dinner.

On top of that, the prices of SUVs and cars are more similar than they’ve ever been, and with the wide range of prices that different trim levels command, it isn’t hard to see a base-level SUV selling for less than a fully-loaded sedan and see the appeal of trading some extra features for more lots of space and an elevated ride-height.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Auto Sales Market Data Center, every segment of light-duty truck, SUV, and crossover has improved from last year, while every kind of car has declined since last year, including a massive 42% drop in large car sales. How can we explain this trend? Cold, hard numbers, like gas prices and sales figures, only tell part of the story.

Cars have always been associated with a sense of freedom, and we tend to feel like we need more space than we do. It gives us, and our families, room to grow. It gives us a sense that, come what may, we will be prepared. Since SUVs cost about as much as cars now, and cost about as much to fuel as cars did 10 years ago, the shift to larger vehicles is understandable.

But if freedom is what you’re looking for, consider what you’ll need to do in your car, what you’ll need to haul, and how much room you’ll really need.

Because while the Elantra can’t compete with an SUV for holding car seats, it drives better, costs less to purchase, drive, and repair, and looks awesome. It’s human to feel the need for wide open spaces. We just prefer the feel of the open road ahead of us, not necessarily the third-row seating behind us.

2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid Offers Distinct Advantages

2016-hyundai-sonata-plug-in-hybrid-112-626x382The plug-in hybrid segment is crucial to the success of automakers in the U.S. market. Hybrid sales are down, gas prices are down (these two factors are probably not coincidental,) but there’s a reason car companies are improving and refreshing vehicles that aren’t selling anywhere near as well as the trucks and SUVs Americans are currently buying like hotcakes: if car companies want to meet the new, stringent federal fuel efficiency standards that go into place in 2020, they need to make their fleets greener.

Plug-in hybrids are the only cars today that automakers can be sure will boost their efficiency numbers. Most big sedans fail to even make it halfway to their emissions goals, and plug-ins are tailor-made to offset that deficiency.

The silver-lining to the plug-in trend? They can be really fun to own and drive. Hyundai recently unveiled the 2017 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, and it merges the smooth ride and near-luxury comfort of Hyundai’s flagship sedan with a 27-mile electric-only range, the best in its class and an improvement from last year’s best-in-class range.

So when you have a 27-mile kind of day ahead of you, don’t worry about finding a pump; the plug-in Sonata has you covered, and you’ll experience the go-kart like joy of electric driving as an added bonus. But when that range runs out, a plug-in hybrid does what an electric car can’t: keep moving. The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid can take you up to 590 miles on one tank, and gets exceptional gas-mileage while doing it.

So whether you believe that gas won’t stay cheap forever (it won’t,) or you simply want a heck of a car for the money, consider taking a test drive in one of our plug-in Sonatas, but be warned: once you go electric, it’s hard to go back.

In-Pocket Technology Becomes In-Car Technology

2015-hyundai-genesis-12Consumers sometimes bemoan the bells and whistles that inhabit new cars, but when you really think about it, it’s a wonder our cars aren’t more feature packed. Technology has been improved and refined at such a dramatic rate over the past decade that the complicated interface in modern center consoles looks light years behind the interface most of us carry around in our pockets to make phone calls.

Enter Android Auto, a smartphone projection interface that integrates the Android smartphone operating system into your car’s infotainment screen. If this sounds like even more buttons and apps to distract drivers, fear not: only Google approved apps with driver-safety measures in place can be ported to the center console.

We’ve been reading about Android Auto for months, but we got to put it to work for the first time last week, when we test drove the 2017 Ford Escape. We had high hopes for Google’s first dip into automotive waters, and while we left our test drive feeling we had barely scratched this new software’s surface, we were not disappointed.

The major headline with Android Auto is the fact that once you replace normal in-car navigation with Google Maps, you will never want to go back. How did the industry standard for navigation take so long to find its way into the vehicles we need navigation to use? It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure: this feature alone will lure people to cars with Android Auto.

Android Auto makes use of Android’s card-based menu, which means that your daily routine, Google calendar, and recent searches all help your car make suggestions. This might sound a little intrusive, but it’s hard for us to say the same, as we found the system to both be helpful and surprisingly accurate.

Plus, there are the Google user perks. Google Play music, for example, is a fine improvement over most radio services, and Google’s weather app is intuitive and accurate.

We have a lot more digging to do with Android Auto, but it’s very nice to see in-car technology starting to take some of the steps our in-pocket technology took years ago.

Push-Button Start: Simplifying Life

2016-hyundai-santa-fe-sport-technology-7“What’s the deal with push-button start on new cars?”

It sounds like the opening to particularly boring Seinfeld routine, but it’s a question that our customers ask us nearly every day. There may soon come a day where most people learned to drive on a push-button start vehicle, but for those of us who learned how to drive before 2008, it’s a little unusual to turn an engine without turning a key.

So, why go for a push-button start when you could stick with the more traditional ignition experience? Push button start doesn’t save you money on gas, doesn’t make the car go faster or handle better, and on some models could cost a little extra money at purchase. We still would take our push button start over the alternative any day of the week. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. Life is Complicated Enough

Because it’s a recent technology, some folks get intimidated by push button start. The fact of the matter is that it’s one of those technological innovations that makes life simpler. You don’t have to get your keys out of your pocket to unlock the door or start the car, and unless you really work at it, you aren’t able to lock your keys inside the car. Over the lifetime of your car, that convenience really adds up.

  1. Fair-weather Friend

In Southern Oregon, it gets very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. Every single second that isn’t spent fumbling for keys is a gift when you have air conditioning or heated seats waiting for you. It seems trivial, but every barrier we can break down between leaving our house and getting on the road on a cold or hot day is something to celebrate.

  1. The Space Shuttle Factor

We don’t know about you, but we don’t drive a car you could mistake for a race car. Sure, it’s fun to drive and makes us happy when we look at it, but it’s not ready for a track day. Yet when we buckle in and start it, we put our foot on the brake, push a shiny red button, and hear the engine roar to life. A car should be fun from the moment you get in until the moment you get out, and the push button option helps even the most practical of vehicles accomplish that feat.