Volvo C70 convertible comes of age


By Steven Cole Smith Special to Tribune Newspapers

April 10, 2012

When Volvo introduced the C70 convertible in 1999 — the company’s first drop-top in decades — the car had the looks, but little else. Typical of a lot of convertibles from the era, the C70 suffered from some serious “cowl shake,” a tendency, when driven over rough surfaces like railroad tracks, for the car to shimmy like it had a rubber suspension.

Cowl shake does not improve with age. The last time I was in a friend’s old C70, it shook like a wet dog. Still looked great, but the car, even new, just never quite clicked.

I hadn’t driven a C70 in a couple of years, and when the 2012 model showed up, I was less interested than I should have been. Yes, it looks great — a 2011 facelift gave the C70 a sense of family with other Volvos, and no major changes were made for 2012. This one, painted “Black Sapphire Metallic,” which is pretty much just “black” despite a $550 premium, came with handsome, five-spoke alloy wheels with black accents.

The central difference between the original C70 and the new one is the top — a conventional cloth top on the original, and a complex but nicely engineered retractable steel hardtop on the latest models. With the top up, the C70 looks like any four-door coupe, with the seams very well hidden. As you’d expect, with the top up, there’s zero cowl shake, but commendably, there’s none with the top down, either. The chassis is very well braced, and the C70 feels rock-solid on the worst pavement.

This chassis stiffness also helps handling. While this is a pretty heavy car at 3,858 pounds — more than a Ford Mustang GT convertible with the V-8 engine — the Volvo is astoundingly light on its feet. Steering is absolutely spot-on, with just the right feel. The Volvo corners like a smaller, lighter car, but it still rides very well on the highway.

The C70 is still powered by a five-cylinder engine, which has gotten much smoother over the years. With turbocharging, the output is normally 227 horsepower, but the test car had the $3,900 “Inscription Package,” which ups horsepower to 250 and also adds upgraded headlights, larger 18-inch tires and wheels, a “sport” steering wheel and some additional trim items.

While 250 horsepower isn’t a lot for an ostensibly sporty roadster, it seems like enough thanks in part to the intuitive, Japan-built five-speed automatic transmission. EPA-rated fuel mileage is 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway. We got an even 23 mpg with mostly highway driving.

Inside, the leather front seats are very comfortable and supportive. The instrument panel and controls seems to be designed as much for aesthetics as function, but they aren’t hard to master. The test car had no navigation system. A $1,000 “Premier Plus” package and and a $1,000 “Climate Package” added rear parking assist, heated front seats and a few other features.

The rear seat isn’t as uncomfortable as you’d expect if you are shorter than six feet, otherwise headroom may be a problem. Getting to the rear seat, though, is a pretty awkward proposition despite the front seats moving quite far forward. Likely most customers will use the rear seat for groceries or other light cargo; with the roof up, the trunk has 12.8 cubic feet of space, but with the top down, just six feet. But that six feet is accessible only through a narrow slot, as the top folds itself into the trunk, with the rear window on top.

Looking over my original review of the C70 from 1999, there are a few interesting similarities. Both cars had a turbocharged five-cylinder engine (with 236 horsepower in 1999), and the price of both is remarkably close: $47,365 in 1999, and $47,775 in 2012.

The biggest difference: The 2012 Volvo C70 is a very attractive, competent car for the money. The 1999 model — well, not so much.

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2013 Buick Enclave

The Buick Enclave has been on the market for about five years, and because it was the first vehicle to represent the new face of Buick, the 2012 model that’s in showrooms still looks relatively fresh and contemporary from the outside. But the instrument panel and interior trims are a sore point compared to newer rival models, and so that’s exactly what GM spent the most attention on for 2013.

Buick has given the instrument panel a complete facelift and made room for the IntelliLink touch-screen interface top and center. As in Buick’s sedans, a backlit ridge wraps smoothly around from door to door atop the dash, while trims and materials have been vastly improved. The finely grained hard plastic that was throughout the old dash has been replaced with more soft-touch surfaces, and there’s more faux woodgrain.

And IntelliLink is one of the key new features of the 2013 Buick Enclave; with a colorful, high-contrast touch screen and functionality for hands-free calling and audio streaming—plus apps like Pandora—the system provides a simple, streamlined interface

GM hasn’t completely carried over the exterior, though. It gets stronger detailing for 2012, with new LED accent lighting, running lamps, and taillamps, and the grille and front end have been given a look that’s more in line with Buick’s latest cars like the Verano sedan. New wheel designs as well as sharper exterior trims and new exhaust outlets that are integrated into the rear fascia altogether give the design a little more punch from the outside—even if it is essentially the same sheetmetal.

Thankfully, not much has changed about the Enclave’s seating layout, which is one of the roomiest among three-row vehicles; and thanks in part to the long back doors, access to the third row isn’t bad. Performance won’t change much, as the Enclave continues on with the same 288-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 (with front- or all-wheel drive), but GM has recalibrated the transmission—as well as retuned the suspension.

The 2013 Enclave will go on sale later this year. Watch our walkaround of the Enclave here’ check back here for details and our first-drive impressions then; and in the meantime see our preview page on the 2013 Buick Enclave, as well as these live photos of the Enclave from the New York Auto Show.

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Buick Regal new look attracts new younger fans without disappointing loyal ones

2012 Buick Regal


Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 2:18 pm | Updated: 2:29 pm, Wed Mar 28, 2012.

Review: Buick Regal new look attracts new younger fans without disappointing loyal ones By Mary Welch For The Crier

When General Motors filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and decided to bet the franchise on four brands – Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Chevrolet – an almost universal cry could be heard. Buick? Buick? Are you kidding me?

But, a few years later, it seems like a pretty good bet. The Buck Regal is sporty and elegant at the same time. The exterior looks sophisticated and, frankly, on first glance we didn’t think it was a Buick, much less a GM car. No, we were thinking Nissan, Acura or maybe Volvo. The Buick is no longer your grandfather’s car and it is attracting a younger audience with its lean lines and smooth ride.

In fact, our Buick Regal gold mist metallic four-door sedan was showy enough for a Trader Joe’s employee to stop collecting shopping carts and admire it. Ironically, he said he always was a fan of the Regal but thought GM had stopped making them. He was genuinely happy that news of the Regal’s death were exaggerated.

Inside, the car continues to look pricier than it is. GM says its key competitors are the Acura TXS and the Volkswagen CC and the marketing folks are touting this as belonging to the entry luxury category. We won’t completely make that jump. To us, it is a premium car with ambition. With a base price of $29,500, the leather was rich, supple and fitted. The two-tone – cashmere with cocoa – interior with leather and plastic was bold design rather than subtlety elegant but that may be more of a result of budget than design.

The contoured ergonomically designed leather front seats were comfortable with side bolsters for added ease. Of course, helping this comfort is an 8-way power front heated seat with 4-way lumbar. There was plenty of room in the back of the 60/40 split folding seatback. We drove three large teenagers around Dunwoody without any grumbling from them about the ride or their comfort – even from the one sitting in the middle.

Driving this car is uncomplicated and intuitive. Every Regal is designed and built to perform. The standard Regal includes performance features like a four-link independent rear suspension and electronically controlled 6-speed automatic transmission with Driver Shift Control for a “hands on” experience. The car comes with a 6-speed automatic as well as a CXL-Turbo 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. The standard car has 182 horsepower with 172 of torque. The car gets 25 miles per gallon in the city; 36 miles per gallon on the highway.

Overall, the ride is fine. It hugged curves well but sometimes was a bit hesitant in accelerating. Aiding the experience is the Interactive Drive Control continuously adjusts the suspension to optimize Regal’s response to every inch of the road. Choose from three driving modes: Sport, for a more dynamic driving experience; Tour, for long-distance cruising; or Standard, for daily commuting.

A $2,000 option is the eAssist Technology whose aim is to save gas without sacrificing performance. The automatic start/stop technology optimizes gas consumption while regenerative braking and Regal’s Lithium-ion Battery Pack provide power to the cabin features. With driver-tuned agility that hugs turns and a new 336-watt Harman Kardon® 5.1 Matrix sound system that surrounds you, the 2012 Buick Regal envelopes you in a luxury performance all your own.

The Premium II Equipment Group also includes rear seat thorax air bags2 and HID headlamps. An optional 2.4L 4-Cylinder engine with eAssist Technology offers an impressive EPA-est. 36 hwy MPG. Features on the base include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, fog lights, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The Regal is a solid safe ride as well. In fact, it was the 2011 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It also features an antilock brake system, stabilitrak-Stability Control system with traction control, a passenger airbag sensors and a tire pressure monitoring system. And, really isn’t Onstar a most fabulous feature for getting directions, selecting a bar-b-que shack in the next town or aiding in an accident?

With a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty or four-year, 50,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty, GM is offering a car that is sporty enough for new young fans but with the comfort, ease of drive and standard and optional equipment that Buick’s long-time fans expect and deserve.

GM just may have gotten it right this time.


Karp Kia ( is a division of Karp Automotive (, a family owned and operated dealership since 1957 located in Nassau County on the South Shore of Long Island in Rockville Centre, NY between Baldwin and Lynbrook, handling all Volvo, Buick, Saab, and Kia needs.  Since its inception, Karp Automotive has made a commitment to upholding its core values of integrity and honesty.  Karp is an active member of the community sponsoring many local outreach programs, community service projects, and community development initiatives.  This has made Karp Automotive widely regarded as “the Auto Authority” and providing a superior ownership experience.  As our customers would attest, there are many places a person can purchase a vehicle, but only here will you be treated like family by family.

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Kia Rio tops Consumer Reports ratings of subcompacts

2013 Kia Rio

By     Jerry Edgerton

(MoneyWatch) Consumer Reports rates the Kia Rio the top subcompact sedan, ahead of the Hyundai Accent and Chevrolet Sonic, in its road tests released Thursday.

CR test drivers praised the redesigned Rio for its nimble handling, smooth transmission and relatively low level of noise for a subcompact. The magazine also cited the Hyundai Elantra for top MPG and the Chevrolet Sonic for comfortable ride and good handling, but ranked them just below the Rio. The full results appear in the May issue or, for subscribers, online at the Consumer Reports web site.


The overall tests showed how much subcompacts have improved recently as auto makers work to meet consumer demand and federal regulations for higher gas mileage. “Subcompact cars were once collectively known as penalty boxes for their noisiness, rudimentary interiors, uncomfortable rides and weak performance,” notes David Champion, head of the CR auto test center. “But now improved redesigns, combined with an affordable price and impressive fuel economy, make a number of subcompacts good choices for people looking to stretch their budget.”


The one redesign that failed to impress the test drivers was the 2012 Nissan Versa sedan. The Versa dropped from the top of the rankings last year to the bottom with the new model. Toyota Yaris also continued its perennially low score in these subcompact tests.

For Korean auto maker Kia, the strong Rio rating comes on top of recent sales success. Kia sales in February were up 37% over a year earlier following a 36% gain for all of 2011.



Here is closer look at what Consumer Reports had to say about the subcompacts in this road test:


–Kia Rio The Rio EX sedan, selling as a 2013 model, was priced at $17,275 with options as tested. It has a 138-horsepower, 1.6- liter, four- cylinder engine described as having decent power that registered 30 MPG in combined city and highway driving in the CR tests. Good handling, braking and lots of features for the price helped the Rio sedan top its rankings. CR also tested the hatchback version of the Rio, which finished third behind the previously-tested Honda Fit and (not yet redesigned) Nissan Versa hatchback.


–Hyundai Accent This model from Hyundai, Kia’s corporate sibling, uses the same 138-horsepower engine as the Rio but squeezes out slightly better mileage, 31 MPG in CR’s overall rating. The Accent GLS sedan ($16,050 as tested) was marked down vs. the Rio for a rougher ride over bumps and not as smooth cruising on the highway.


–Chevrolet Sonic The test drivers praise the Sonic — a new model in 2012 — for responsive handling, good brakes and a comfortable ride. But the Sonic’s 138-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine produced overall CR test mileage of just 28 MPG — not impressive in this company.


–Nissan Versa A loud whirring engine that sometimes generates offensive noise helped sour ratings for the redesigned Versa sedan. The Versa SL ($15,560 as tested) did manage 32 MPG overall with the loud 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. But the noise, just average performance and a drab interior pushed the Versa down the ratings. On the other hand, CR describes the not-yet redesigned Versa hatchback, previously tested, as “a much better all-around car.”


–Toyota Yaris “Despite being redesigned, the Yaris is still bare-bones transportation,” says the CR statement. The Yaris LE ($17,920 as tested) did get an overall 32 MPG with its 106-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. But the Yaris remained low in the ratings because of its noise, choppy ride and drab interior.


In other words, the Yaris does not live up to the much-improved comfortable features now available in its top subcompact competitors here, or in previously tested models such as the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2, which were both new as 2011 models.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Karp Kia ( is a division of Karp Automotive (, a family owned and operated dealership since 1957 located in Nassau County on the South Shore of Long Island in Rockville Centre, NY between Baldwin and Lynbrook, handling all Volvo, Buick, Saab, and Kia needs.  Since its inception, Karp Automotive has made a commitment to upholding its core values of integrity and honesty.  Karp is an active member of the community sponsoring many local outreach programs, community service projects, and community development initiatives.  This has made Karp Automotive widely regarded as “the Auto Authority” and providing a superior ownership experience.  As our customers would attest, there are many places a person can purchase a vehicle, but only here will you be treated like family by family.

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Our new 24-month leases deliver convenience, peace of mind and entertainment


Rockville Centre, March 15th –  Karp Buick in Rockville Centre, NY has announced a new initiative that supports the brand’s continued mission to redefine itself as a modern luxury automaker and leader in customer satisfaction. Experience Buick offers the security and convenience of a 24-month lease for Long Island area drivers that includes routine maintenance, an OnStar Directions and Connections plan and SiriusXM radio, all bundled into one simple monthly payment.


Buick sales have increased two years in a row with four all-new or significantly revised products introduced during the same period. Experience Buick is available on all models – the Enclave luxury crossover SUV and the LaCrosse, Regal and Verano luxury sedans.


“Long Island area drivers continue to discover the strong Buick lineup,” said David A. Karp, President for Karp Buick “The Experience Buick program will provide customers an all-inclusive worry-free driving experience that includes the security and convenience of routine maintenance.”


Also included in every Experience Buick lease is a bumper-to-bumper warranty for the duration of the lease and beyond – four years or 50,000 miles (whichever comes first.) Regularly scheduled maintenance includes services like oil changes and tire rotations.


“Programs like this are a strong strategy for raising customer retention rates,” said Doug Van Sach, DMEautomotive vice president of Strategy & Analytics and author of “The Changing Service Loyalty Landscape” white paper. “By removing cost from the decision about where to service a vehicle, Buick is creating the opportunity for us to establish a service relationship with our customers based on expertise and workmanship rather than on discounts and promotions.”


“Because the leases are all-inclusive, younger buyers, who are more price sensitive, will be inclined to return to a dealership for their service needs,” Van Sach said.


The Experience Buick lease is offered through Ally Financial.


Info:   Karp Buick is a family owned and operated dealer serving the Long Island community since 1957.  Visit for more information:




# # #



Donna Zuzzolo 516-763-8461

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2012 Buick Verano: GM figures out how to make a small luxury car right

Buick is famous for producing land yachts big enough to qualify as congressional districts, so a small car from Buick is big news, indeed.

The worrisome thing about the 2012 Buick Verano, however, had been its lineage. It’s a luxury car derived from a Chevy compact. GM had been down that road before — with disastrous results.

You may recall the ’82-’88 Cadillac Cimarron, spawned from the lowly Chevy Cavalier. Leather seats and a different grille do not a luxury car make, GM learned. Cimarron was a disaster of biblical proportions. It’s urban legend that, to this day, at least one GM product planner has a framed picture of Cimarron over his desk with the legend, “Lest we forget.”

Happily, GM hasn’t. Verano is a worthy competitor for the likes of the Acura TSX and Audi A3, not least because its source material, the Cruze, is a fine compact in its own right. Even so, Verano, though sharing its basic platform with Cruze, co-opts little else from the Chevy. Sheetmetal, cabin décor and even its drivetrain are unique.

Verano also is treated to significantly more sound-deadening insulation to achieve what Buick calls a “quiet tune” ride. It’s more than a slogan. We found Verano the quietest compact we’ve ever driven.

Metal-benders gave Verano a sort of “little Regal” look — no bad thing. Its black chrome waterfall grille, translucent blue projector beam headlamps, hood portholes, large indentations in the flanks (a nod to Buick’s classic ‘sweepspear” profile) and big 18-inch wheels ensure no one will mistake this beauty for a Cruze.

Inside, cabin trim also is unique. To give Verano a distinctly upscale feel, interior surfaces are clad in metallic and genuine wood trim while seats can be wrapped in real cowhide. Absolutely lovely.

Room is that of a compact — good up front, OK in back.

Under its hood, Verano eschews Cruze’s 1.8-liter naturally aspirated and 1.4-liter turbo fours, both making 138 hp, in favor of a more powerful 2.4-liter Ecotec four. It makes 180 hp and 171 lb.-ft. of torque through a six-speed automatic.

While Verano’s handling is good, acceleration is only adequate in this hefty, 3,300-pound compact. You’ll greet 60 mph in about 9 seconds while achieving EPA mileage ratings of 21 city/32 hwy. In 160 miles of all city driving, we registered 21 mpg, just as the EPA promised.

Those who want livelier performance will want to wait for Verano’s 2.0-liter turbo, which arrives this fall.

Among Verano’s gee-whiz features is a smart phone app allowing owners to remotely start the vehicle, lock or unlock it and even find it if it’s been mislaid. Another nice touch is the available keyless entry and push-button start system we had, although its inability to allow trunk opening was mildly irritating.

Standards include a best-in-class 10 air bags, stability control, USB input and Bluetooth capability. Available are Bose premium audio and touch-screen navigation.

The Buick Verano may not be the fastest car in the compact luxury segment, but it’s certainly the quietest and among the most luxurious.

Prices start at $23,470.

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A Kia that looks like a Jaguar – does it drive like one too?

The Optima is a thing of beauty, and you don’t get a chance to say that about a Kia very often. Sleek, smooth and classy, its looks in part a deliberate attempt to mimic the proportions of expensive rear-wheel drive luxury saloons.

The Optima, like all of its Mondeo-class competitors, has front-wheel drive, but visual tweaks and hard work mean that, badges and grille apart, it looks a bit like a Jaguar. It’s a real credit to Kia’s design chief, ex-Audi man Peter Schreyer, who has played a vital role in the company’s rise since 2006.

Once you get inside, though, the Optima is, perhaps inevitably, a lot less Jag-like. Instead of good old British wood and leather, or classy touches like Jaguar’s famous gear selector that automatically rises from the centre console when you start the engine, you get a fairly standard cabin that’s broadly comparable with its competitors.

That means it’s roomy, tasteful and well-equipped – but not too exciting. The relevant comparison here, though, is with Kia’s previous big saloon, the Magentis. In many areas, that now looks and feels not so much like the Optima’s immediate predecessor but a car two, or perhaps even three, generations older, and nowhere is the difference more obvious than in the Optima’s interior.

Compared with the Magentis’s old-school Korean detailing, the Optima’s cabin is a shrine to the principles of surprise and delight. And the big advance compared with the Magentis is also very noticeable when you get out on the road. The Optima is a reasonably tidy handler but it’s the new car’s drive-train that represents the big step forward. In other markets there are several engine options, including petrols and hybrids but UK models are all being fitted with Kia’s smooth and strong 1.7-litre diesel, at least for the time being, a sensible decision given local buyers’ preferences.

A few years ago, I’d probably have been telling you that this was another area in which comparisons with Jags, despite the Optima’s flowing looks, were out of place, but now I’m not so sure; even Jaguar has bowed to the inevitable and started offering four-cylinder diesel engines in its big cars, so some XFs won’t actually sound that different to an Optima.

One area where an Optima can’t quite match a Jag, though, is in terms of its optional automatic gearbox, which has six speeds, whereas Jaguar has started rolling out eight-speed boxes to most of its models. On the other hand, Magentis automatic were four-speeders, and the last time anyone got excited about one of those was probably around 1982.

Although the Optima is a pretty decent effort, Kia doesn’t expect it to sell in huge numbers in the UK; the Magentis had such a low profile here that the company is now effectively a new entrant in the hard-fought Mondeo class. That won’t bother the Koreans, though, because much of the buzz generated by this car’s glamorous looks will rub off on the rest of the Kia range, and they can already sell pretty much every Optima they can make to the Americans, who have gone for it in a big way. Kia seems to be pretty much unstoppable at the moment, and the Optima can only add to the momentum.


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