2015 Tahoe New Car Test Drive
Hyundai Sonata gets a host of revisions for the 2009 model year. Already on our list of best commuter cars and many high-value lists, the revisions should solidify its standing. Although you can't see many of them, more than a thousand parts have been changed for the 2009 model year.
The Hyundai Sonata is a four-door, five-passenger sedan priced at the low end of the mid-size market, where it competes primarily against the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu, Kia Optima, and Ford Fusion. Despite moderate prices, every Sonata comes with a full slate of safety equipment and none is optional; it has earned the federal government's five-star crash-test rating for front and side impacts, the highest awarded.
Sonata is big inside, with so much interior volume it the EPA classifies it as a large car. It's roomier in almost every dimension than most of its mid-size competitors, many of which are larger outside, and it offers a full-size edge in creature comfort.
For 2009, the Sonata is perhaps one percent heavier and prices have gone up, some by $1500. However, the new models come with more standard equipment such as the sunroof on the Limited model, so the relative value remains high.
Instead of spending a lot outside Hyundai kept all the sheetmetal and merely updated lights and trim.
On the inside, however, they've improved the seats for 2009 and added an entirely new dashboard/console layout and introduced a voice-operated navigation option.
Under the hood each engine remains the same size but makes more power on less fuel, and the four-cylinder has been upgraded from an optional four-speed automatic to a five-speed automatic. Last but not least, the suspension has been retuned to deliver the same good ride with better precision and driver involvement.
The most-expensive Sonata will set you back less than $28,000 with navigation, but you can get a comfortable, efficient commuter like our test car for about $21,000. You'll be hard-pressed to find more room with that economy for anything near the price, and it won't have Hyundai's warranty package. The Infiniti EX35 comes standard with leather seating for 2009. Launched as a totally new vehicle for 2008, the EX35 is a crossover SUV, smaller than the Infiniti FX, and aimed more at luxury than sportiness.
That doesn't mean it's not sporty, but it isn't quite as driver-oriented as Infiniti's sports sedans or some of BMW's crossovers. The EX35 still drives like a sports sedan and has the room of a small SUV, and that's what most people want.
Inside there is room for five, but it's much more comfortable with four. The cabin boasts rich, soft-touch materials and a stylish design. All of the controls are within easy reach.
The EX35 is brimming with new technologies. The navigation package includes a hard drive with 9.3 gigabytes of storage space for music files; and an available Around View Monitor shows obstacles 360 degrees around the vehicle. Also offered is Infiniti's new Lane Departure Prevention system, which lightly applies the brakes on one side to steer the vehicle back into its lane should it start crossing lane lines.
Room up front is good, but taller drivers will want more head room, especially if they opt for the up-level Journey model with its standard sunroof. The back seat also offers decent room, but things get a bit tight with the front seats all the way back. Both rows are easy to enter and exit, thanks to the EX35's ride height, which is higher than a sedan, but not as high as most SUVs.
The EX35 hatchback design means cargo room is plentiful, though many SUVs offer more space. An industry-first power-folding second row eases the process of loading items in the back. Oddly, from the driver's seat, the second-row seats can't be folded down, but they can be brought back up, handy when pulling up to the curb to pick up passengers.
Under the hood of the Infiniti EX35 is Nissan's superb 3.5-liter V6. It makes 297 horsepower and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that has a manual shiftgate but no paddle shifters. Drivers will be pleased by the EX35's ready power. It is fast from a stop and offers no-worries passing response at highway speeds. Fuel economy is only adequate, though. Expect about 20 mpg in a city/highway driving mix.
From behind the wheel, the EX35 drives like a sports sedan with a slightly elevated ride height. Rear- and all-wheel drive are offered, and the AWD system is meant for on-road use. The handling is responsive, if not sports car nimble, and the brakes and steering feel natural and inspire confidence. The EX35 best differentiates itself from Infiniti's own FX with a smoother ride. Even with the available 18-inch wheels, the EX35 smoothes out the bumps without jolting passengers.
Changes for 2009 are minimal. Leather seating is now standard on the base model, while some items that were previously standard on the up-level Journey are now optional. In general, options and packages have been simplified.
With its carlike handling, powerful engine, and useful cargo room, the Infiniti EX35 is a fine alternative to larger, more cumbersome SUVs. The smooth ride and rich, classy interior add to the appeal. If you want a sporty, comfortable vehicle that drives like a car but has the cargo room of a wagon or SUV, make sure to put the EX35 on your shopping list. The 2009 Infiniti FX is the second generation of this performance crossover SUV from Nissan's luxury division. The FX is all-new for the 2009 model year, with new styling, new engines, new transmissions.
The V6 model is still called the FX35, but the V8 model has been renamed FX50 in recognition of its 5-liter engine. (The FX50 replaces the previous FX45.) Both engines have significantly changed, both get new seven-speed automatic transmissions, and many pieces large and small are new.
Emphasizing polarizing looks over box-shaped utility the FX offers the same front seating room as most midsize sedans with a broad back seat with the same legroom as a Honda Civic. Big pieces of cargo will require folding down the back seats, but the V8 version will tow a small boat or pair of personal watercraft. This is not a car with high sales volume so there is some exclusivity, and with the eye-catching looks if there's another around you will notice it.
High style is maintained inside as well, especially on the V8 and premium-packaged V6 cabins; nicely stitched leather, wonderfully stained Maple wood, fine details, and matte-finish surfaces a nice respite from excessive chrome-plated plastic. The interior was the opposite of the mixed opinions on outside style as virtually every observer approved.
Features are good and fair for the price point. Some features, including the Around View monitor, are not available elsewhere at any price, at least not for the next 15 minutes or so. And these things are loaded. If it isn't standard, it's probably available. Standard features include moonroof, bi-xenon headlamps, power hatch closure, XM radio, while smart cruise control, voice-recognition navigation with real-time traffic, rear-seat entertainment systems, and a host of electronics are also available.
Primary competition for the FX line comes from the BMW X6, which by nature of its newness and more sweeping roofline may receive more styling attention and delivers slightly higher performance benchmarks than the FX, but doesn't necessarily drive better and costs thousands more. So if you're looking at the X6 and it seems costly, step over here to the Infiniti showroom and check out the bionic cheetah. You might even prefer it.
Based on the same platform as the Nissan 300ZX and Infiniti G37 sports cars, the Infiniti FX is a rear-wheel-drive based vehicle. (The FX has nothing in common with the Nissan Murano, which is a front-wheel-drive vehicle built on an entirely different platform.) The FX goes like stink and offers sporty handling along with some cargo capacity. The 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe is new inside and out, with more power, more fuel efficiency and more refinement than before. All told, the 2015 Tahoe's makeover is thoughtfully planned and nicely executed.
While chassis dimensions don't change, there are updates to the foundation. A stronger body structure uses more high-strength steel and the rear track has been expanded slightly, contributing to a smoother ride and quieter cabin.
Third-generation magnetic ride control automatically adjusts shock absorbers to road surfaces and driving demands in milliseconds, affording a blend of comfort and control we find remarkable in a vehicle this size. It's limited to the top of the line LTZ trim level, but trim levels with conventional spring and damping systems have been retuned and deliver better dynamics than the previous generation.
The sheetmetal has been reshaped from stem to stern, and while it takes an experienced eye to distinguish the 2015 Tahoe from the previous generation, the styling is crisp, with sharp angles and a strong character line running from front to rear just below the greenhouse. The front doors are unique to the Tahoe, no more sharing with the Silverado, and the B-pillar has been moved forward, enlarging the rear door opening for easier ingress.
The 2015 Tahoe's interior is all new, with two welcome new options: a power liftgate and power-folding rear seatbacks. For 2015, GM made a substantial investment in noise suppression, with triple seals around the doors, acoustical laminate windows, and lots of sound-insulation throughout. The payoff is a big ute with luxo sedan interior noises levels.
Like the Suburban, the 2015 Tahoe is limited to a single engine, a 5.3-liter V8, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. That displacement is familiar, but this is a much different 5.3-liter V8: all aluminum, new block, new cylinder heads, new crankshaft, new pistons, higher compression ratio, direct fuel injection. More power: 355 horsepower versus 320 hp in the previous version, 383 pound-feet of torque. That torque provides the pulling power to achieve a towing capacity of 8400 pounds with four-wheel drive, 8600 pounds with 2WD.
And there's improved fuel efficiency to go with the increased thrust: 16/22 mpg City/Highway with 4WD, 16/23 mpg with rear-wheel drive.
Tahoe shares the Suburban's solid body-on-frame construction, and while it weighs a couple hundred pounds less than the big guy, at 5683 pounds with four-wheel drive it's no wraith. Curb weights on the 2015 models are up by as much as 100 pounds, depending on equipment, and while the Suburban takes up even more room, a vehicle that's 204 inches long and 74.4 inches high still casts a lot of shade in a parking lot.
The Tahoe is 14.4 inches shorter than the Suburban, on a 116-inch wheelbase, versus the Suburban's 130-inch wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels).
We found the 2015 Tahoe behaves very well on the road. Don't expect car-like driveability; it's a non-sequitur with vehicles in this size class. But the responses are prompt, an active safety plus for a vehicle that's likely to be loaded with kids. And it's a smooth operator in terms of ride quality.
The 2009 Hyundai Sonata comes in three trim levels. A 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine comes standard (168 hp in PZEV states at no extra cost), a 249-hp V6 is optional. The four-cylinder is available with a five-speed manual or a five-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission ($1200); the latter is standard on V6s.
Sonata GLS ($18,120) is the base model. It comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, cruise control, power heated outside mirrors, power windows, central locking with keyless remote, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, XM Satellite Radio, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 folding rear seat, and 215/60R16 tires on 16-inch steel wheels. The four-cylinder automatic ($19,320) is similarly equipped, while the V6 automatic ($21,570) adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, solar control glass and chrome dual exhaust tips. The Popular Equipment Package ($650) adds automatic headlights, chrome window belt moldings, upgraded interior accents, power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support, steering wheel audio controls and a trip computer. The same package is available with a power tilt-and-slide sunroof ($1,550).
Sonata SE ($21,720) and SE V6 ($23,170) come with leather-bolster/cloth-center seats, five-speed automatic, larger disc brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with 215/55VR17 all season performance tires, firmer suspension, eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, leather-wrapped shift knob, tilt-and-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, solar control glass, fog lights, automatic headlights, chrome window moldings, rear spoiler, and a trip computer. The Premium Package ($1,650) for SE adds an upgraded AM/FM/XM/6CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, subwoofer and component amplifier; power tilt-and-slide sunroof; and an electrochromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink and a compass.
The Limited ($23,970) adds leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, automatic climate control with filtration, the top-line audio system, electrochromic auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink and compass, door sill trim and a sunroof. A chrome grille, chrome-accented exterior door handles, and bodyside moldings identify Limited from the outside. Wheels and tires are the same size as those on the SE, but use a different tread pattern. The Limited V6 ($25,670) is similarly equipped. A new voice-activated navigation system is available ($1250).
Safety features on all Sonatas include dual-stage front-seat airbags; front-seat side-impact airbags for torso protection; and full-coverage side curtain airbags designed to provide head protection. Antilock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with traction control also come standard, as does a tire-pressure monitor. The 2009 Infiniti EX35 is offered in two trim levels, base and Journey, each with rear- or all-wheel drive. Every EX35 is powered by a 297-hp 3.5-liter V6. The lone transmission is a five-speed automatic with a manual shiftgate.
The EX35 ($33,800) and EX35 AWD ($35,200) come standard with automatic climate control, eight-way power driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, four-way power passenger seat, 60/40 split second-row seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry and starting, trip computer, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input jack, XM Satellite Radio, auto on/off headlights, and P225/60R17 all-season tires on aluminum wheels. New for 2009 are leather-appointed seating, RearView Monitor, rear heat and air conditioning vents, and roof rails.
The Journey ($36,000) and Journey AWD ($37,400) add a power slide/tilt glass sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, auto-dimming inside mirror with compass, heated outside mirrors, six-disc CD changer, power tilt/telescoping steering column, and wood (instead of aluminum) interior trim.
Exclusive to the Journey is the Premium Package ($1,750),which adds a memory function for the driver's seat, steering wheel and outside mirrors (with tilt-down in reverse); eight-way power front passenger's seat; driver's seat power lumbar support; xenon headlights with AFS, Bluetooth telephone connectivity; HomeLink Universal Transceiver; premium stitching on the instrument hood; and power remote rear seat.
Other options and packages have been revised and simplified. The Around View Monitor (AVM), which was part of last year's Technology Package, is now available as a stand-alone (and at no charge, when you buy the Bose stereo/Navigation package). It uses four small front, side and rear-mounted cameras to give the driver a top-down view of the outside of the vehicle and help reduce blind spots when parking.
The 11-speaker Bose audio system is now packaged with navigation ($2,000), which includes voice recognition (for climate control as well as audio and navigation), XM NavTraffic with real-time traffic information, a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for music storage, and a compact flash drive slot. The Technology Package ($2,250) includes the Lane Departure Prevention system, Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist and Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning. Options include 18-inch wheels ($500). Additionally, dealers can install roof rack crossbars ($240), a cargo organizer ($150), and various appearance and/or security items.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual front airbags; torso-protecting, seat-mounted front side airbags; head-protecting curtain side airbags; LATCH child seat anchors; active front head restraints; antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution; traction control; electronic stability control; and a rear-view monitor. The 2009 Infiniti FX comes in three models: FX35 ($40,950), FX35 AWD ($42,350); and FX50 AWD ($56,700). The AWD models come with all-wheel drive. The FX35 version uses a 303-hp V6 (EPA rated at 16/23 mpg, 16/21 mpg with AWD). The FX50 has a 390-hp V8 (14/20 mpg). All use a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Every FX comes with power leather seats, leather shifter and tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, dual-zone climate control, split-folding and reclining rear seats, moonroof, power heated folding mirrors with puddle lights, power door locks/windows, power hatch closure, automatic bi-xenon headlamps, fog lamps, rear privacy glass, dark chrome grille, Intelligent key, illuminated mirror visors with extensions, stainless logo scuff plates, HomeLink, Bose audio system (300 watts, dual subwoofers, MP3, XM), rear-view monitor, variable/fixed intermittent front/rear wipers, trip computer, and space-saver spare tire.
Infiniti FX35 comes with a 6CD changer which reverts to single CD when navigation is ordered, and 18-inch alloy wheels. FX35-specific options include 20-inch wheels with all-season tires and matte-finish roof rails. Many FX options come pre-packaged and you could outfit an FX35 closely to FX50-level amenities and features for approximately $7,850.
Infiniti FX50 adds leather upholstery, heated/cooled front seats, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and auto entry/exit, two-position driver memory, hand stained Maple trim, HDD navigation with eight-inch screen, Around View monitor, magnesium paddle shifters, aluminum pedals, cargo net and cover, iPod interface, 9.3 GB hard drive with CF card slot, Enkei 21-inch alloy wheels, polished aluminum roof rails, and an air-purifying climate control system. Available only on the FX50 are performance summer tires (no charge) and a sport package that includes sport seats with manual thigh extensions and four-way power bolsters for the driver, adaptive auto-leveling dark-tint headlamps, rear active steering, and Continuous damping Control (CDC) suspension.
Options on any FX include lane departure warning/prevention systems, adaptive headlamps, nine-inch LCD DVD rear-entertainment system, intelligent cruise control with distance control, pre-crash belts, brake assist, rain-sensing wipers, tow package, splash guards, aero kit, roof rack cross bars, stainless steel illuminated sill plates, stainless rear bumper top, and a cargo organizer.
Safety equipment includes dual-stage front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, first aid kit, stability control with traction control and antilock brakes, and tire pressure monitors. The only safety options are the pre-crash seat belts integral with the intelligent cruise control/distance control system. All 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe models come with 5.3-liter V8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive (2WD) is standard, four-wheel drive (4WD) is optional ($3000). (All prices are MSRP, which can change at any time without notice, and do not include $995 destination charge.)
Tahoe LS ($44,600) comes with tri-zone climate control, cloth upholstery, seating for nine, fold-flat second- and third-row seats, AM/FM/CD audio, satellite radio, remote vehicle starting, rear view camera, rear park assist. 4WD is optional ($47,600).
Tahoe LT ($50,000) adds leather trim to first and second row seats, heated power front seats with memory feature, Bose premium audio, Chevy MyLink infotainment system, power liftgate with programmable height, lane departure warning, forward collision alert.
Tahoe LTZ ($59,000) adds heated and cooled front seats, fog lamps, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, heated power side mirrors, power tilt/telescope steering column with memory, heated leather steering wheel, keyless entry, pushbutton start, power folding second- and third-row seatbacks, power adjustable pedals, 110-volt power outlet, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, blind spot warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert.
Safety features include front center airbag.