You mean it's been a month?

Wow, I'm really falling behind here. It's been a rough month for me, too many personal issues (not to worry, nothing life threatening), so I just haven't been writing. Not really a writer's block, more like too much stress. Anyway let me see if I can catch you all up. These will be quickies (no not that type) done alphabetically, not in the order I received them. All these models were 2010s.

Acura RDX SH-AWD w/Tech - Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that Acura builds some terrific cars? Overall I liked the RDX but sometimes I think Honda takes the technology thing too far. Maybe it's just that I'm older but I cannot get used to those multi-function mushroom buttons.

SH-AWD is Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive, and the "Tech" is exactly that, lots of technology.

The RDX is a smaller SUV (it's very close in size to a Honda CR-V) powered by a 240-hp, turbocharged, intercooled 2.3-liter 4-cylinder. The only transmission is a fine 5-speed automatic. Fuel economy is a middling 17-city/22-highway, and the price starts at $37,620 for the SH-AWD w/Tech; start adding on options and the price quickly climbs over forty-grand.

The Audi S4 is one of those cars I find myself loving when I drive and I can't stand when I'm not. Let me explain - Audi builds one helluva driving package but like Acura, I feel there is just too much dependency on tech for tech's sake and from what I've heard from mechanics they are a real bear to work on.

But all of that aside the S4 is just a blast to drive. The engine, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 pumps out 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Two transmissions are available, a 7-speed S-tronic automatic or a 6-speed manual. I drove a manual trans version. Supercharged engines are a blast because they make a ton of torque down low. That helped me beat the advertised 27-mpg highway - short shifting, getting into top gear as quickly as possible is a snap.

I never pushed the S4 anywhere near its handling limits but even so it sticks. Credit this to the AWD and some sticky tires. Stopping, as I've found for most German cars, was superb.

Funny but I really can't remember much else about the S4, just that it was a blast to drive, handled great, and had enough power to embarrass many pure sports cars. At $45,900 for the base S4 there's scant chance I'll ever be able to buy one.

I may be one of the few people my age who does not like the looks of the new Camaro, in fact I think it is one of the ugliest cars out there right now. And the inside feels claustrophobic; no matter how much headroom there was, and there was plenty of headroom, I always felt like I had to duck.

As much as I didn't like the looks of the Camaro I will commend it for its powertrain. I drove a 3.6-liter V6 automatic. This "base" engine makes 304 hp and is rated at 29-mpg highway. I came very close to that in my mostly highway commute, so I would fully expect to be able to get at least 29 on a straight highway trip.

In a bit of overkill, or maybe pandering to the new trends, the Camaro with the RS package I drove had 20" wheels and tires. Although they stick like glue the combination of short sidewalls and stiff suspension makes for a rough ride.

I will say that Chevy builds some very good cars and they are backing them up with a very good warranty - 100,000-mile/5-year powertrain warranty. The Camaro LT lists at $26,875; the RS package adds $1,450.

Sometimes I think I shouldn't test 3/4 ton pickups, their size is a waste for me, and an empty 3/4 ton is one bouncy ride (not to mention their fuel economy is not great). Maybe the coolest thing about the Dodge Ram 2500 is that it uses my rear end - really, go check out the Dodge Ram site, it clearly says it has a "Hotchkiss rear suspension."

Under the hood is the proven 6.7-liter, turbocharged Cummins diesel that produces an astounding 650 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm. Coupled with the optional 6-speed automatic transmission this baby can haul a 2,380 lb. payload or tow up to 13,250 lbs. I saw an indicated 18-mpg on the highway.

One disappointment for me was the brakes. They were supposedly anti-lock brakes but one day coming home from work in the rain as I braked to a stop the rear wheels locked up and the truck started to slide - not exactly how ABS is supposed to work.

The Ram 2500 is not cheap. The base price is $38,380 and can easily hit $50,000.

I just wrote about the 2010 Ford Flex EcoBoost and 2010 Ford Transit Connect in the Pacifica Tribune. For more on them, go to or and type in my name, Bruce Hotchkiss.

The Lexus GX460 is another one of those vehicles that I hate - until I spend some time in one. It's a big, V8 powered SUV, just the kind of vehicle I usually have little use for. Serendipitously the GX460 showed up while we were entertaining relatives from Europe. It was a perfect vehicle, roomy and comfortable.

Powered by a 4.6-liter, 310 hp V8 that drives all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The GX460 is rated at 20-mpg highway and I came close.

There's little I can say about the GX460, it's a full zoot SUV with just about everything except the kitchen sink built in. The price, $62,714 reflects this.

I don't get too many Subarus, and I definitely do not get the uber performance WRX STi, so when I got a 2010 Outback I was excited. Subies are some of my favorite cars. They always just seem to make sense.

I drove a 2.5i, the tried and true flat four cylinder that makes 170 hp. This year Subaru also offers a 3.6-liter flat six that pumps out 256 hp. The four is available with either a 6-speed manual or a CVT; the six is available only with a 5-speed automatic. All Subarus are all-wheel-drive.

Every year every Subaru model seems to get just a little bit better. This year is no different. The 2010 seemed to be just a touch more refined. I hope it isn't too refined, people tend to like their Subies rugged, able to take just about whatever you can throw into them. Gussie a Subie up too much and people might be afraid to get it dirty.

The Outback 2.5i starts at $22,995, hitting $27,995 for a Limited. The 3.6R Limited creeps over thirty grand.

I've just about finished my week in the all-new 2010 Toyota 4Runner. I can't review a Toyota without commenting on Toyota's current problems.

I can't tell you what is the cause of the "unintended acceleration" or the brake problems. I do suspect that some of the piling on is due to mass hysteria but there does seem to be a real problem as well.

The worst part of this is the way that Toyota initially handled the problems. Toyota took way too long to respond properly, first by trying to minimize the problem by saying it was just floor mats. Their response was slow, way too slow.

Okay, on to the 4Runner. The 4Runner has evolved over the years and although it remains a very competent SUV, it has become more of an urban cruiser than a crawler. Toyota has tried to answer this dilemma by introducing the Trail version that cuts some of the frills but let's face it, most 4Runner buyers, at least the original buyers, will never go off road.

I drove a SR5 2WD 4Runner, definitely not a crawler. A SR5 starts at $27,500 that gets you a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder that makes 157 hp. The only transmission available is a 4-speed automatic. The version I drove had a base price of $29,175 and is equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 that puts out 270 hp and drives through a 5-speed automatic. No manual transmission is available. Mileage doesn't vary much in 2WD so for my money I'd go with the V6 that is rated 17-city and 23-highway.

Let me go out on a limb here - If I were building my own 4Runner, and I do like the utility of the truck, I'd lose some ground clearance and add a manual transmission. I don't need to climb up into a truck and I do like to shift for myself (plus you never need to worry about unintended acceleration with a manual transmission, just push in the clutch).

The last car in the group is the Toyota Prius. I'm having second thoughts about hybrids. Most of my driving is my 35-mile each way commute, not around town driving. The Prius, like most hybrids, is designed to get great city mileage and good highway mileage. Now 48-mpg is nothing to sneeze at but I got mid-forties in a Honda Fit and it was more fun to drive.

There's nothing wrong with a Prius (except their current recall problems). It's a comfortable car and has enough room for four adults. There are four versions available from the least expensive Prius II at $22,800 to the Prius V at $28,070. I drove a Prius IV that had a rather expensive solar roof panel ($3,600) that runs a ventilation system while the Prius is shut off.

There is no downside to the Prius (okay, other than the recall debacle). It just doesn't suit me.


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