Top hybrid cars of 2006

Due to the fluctuating nature of gas prices, many consumers have decided to invest in a hybrid car to help save money and ensure a predictable monthly budget. Prospective car buyers in the market for a used hybrid vehicle in New Jersey may want to check out the Honda Civic Hybrid and the 2006 Lexus RX 400h, two of the best selling, most energy-efficient cars manufactured in 2006.

Honda completely redesigned the Civic Hybrid in 2006, adding supplementary safety, performance and refinement features. New standard equipment includes side curtain airbags, front-seat airbags, four-channel anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and a telescoping steering wheel.

The ’06 Civic Hybrid is powered by Honda’s integrated motor assist system, which consists of a 1.3-liter V4 gas engine combined with an electronic motor and a continuously variable transmission, according to MSN Autos.

The new powertrain is capable of producing 110 horsepower and is even more fuel efficient than the previous year’s model. Honda’s most popular hybrid gets 50 miles to the gallon in the city and on the highway.

Meanwhile, consumers who are looking to purchase a slightly more sophisticated energy-efficient vehicle may be interested in the Lexus RX 400h, which was the most popular luxury hybrid sports utility vehicle manufactured in 2006.

The super ultra low efficient vehicle-rated (SULEV) RX 400h is equipped with a new hybrid system that combines a 3.3-liter V6 engine with three electric motor-generators, according to Edmunds.com.

The hybrid SUV’s powertrain produces 268 horsepower and boasts a EPA rating of 33 miles per hour in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The RX400h can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds, an impressive number considering the fuel-efficient nature of the vehicle.

What sets the ’06 Lexus apart from other hybrids is its plethora of standard features, including “dual-zone climate control, GPS navigation, power seats, power windows, a power liftgate, rear-seat DVD, a megawatt audio system by Mark Levinson,” the news source reports. “You can run all that stuff at the same time without any fears of draining the battery.”

NYC ranked 20th best U.S. city for auto repair

Owners of used cars in New York have reason to celebrate; repair shops in your home city generally provide customers with fair quotes for auto repair. In a recent study by AutoMD.com, titled Advocacy for Repair Shop Fairness, researchers ranked New York City as the 20th best large U.S. city for auto repair.

To conduct the research, AutoMD.com had mystery shoppers stop by over 600 maintenance shops in the 50 largest U.S. cities and request a quote on a typical auto repair job – a front brake pad replacement for a 2004 Ford Focus. The top 50 list was calculated based on each city’s average repair affordability, price disparity between shops in the same city and general shop integrity.

New York City ranked 16th in repair affordability, 32nd in price disparity and 19th in shop integrity.

“Doing your research is critical to getting a fair shake at the repair shop,” said AutoMD President Shane Evangelist. “Fortunately, car owners now have access to online tools so they can compare local repair shops, establish a local market repair invoice price and make sure that they get a fair deal.”

Overall, Memphis topped AutoMD’s list, while Chicago was ranked dead last.

GM to phase out Hummer after sale falls through

General Motors said on Wednesday that it will begin to wind down its Hummer brand after the company failed to complete a deal with China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines.

The proposed deal fell through after the Chinese company failed to secure government approval of the sale, Auto Week reports. GM has agreed to accept other bids for Hummer while it phases out the brand, although industry experts doubt that any deal will be reached.

“We have … considered a number of possibilities for HUMMER along the way, and we are disappointed that the deal with Tengzhong could not be completed,” said John Smith, GM’s vice president of corporate planning and alliances.

“GM will now work closely with Hummer employees, dealers and suppliers to wind down the business in an orderly and responsible manner,” he added.

The American automaker has announced that it will honor all warranties and will provide spare parts for owners of new and used Hummer models.

Meanwhile, General Motors finalized the sale of Saab to Spyker Cars on Tuesday and is currently phasing out its Saturn and Pontiac brands.

Top used family SUVs with towing capacity

Although the weather in New York and New Jersey may paint a different picture, spring is just around the corner. Owners of trailers, campers and boats who are expectantly waiting for warmer weather will soon be relying on one thing – a capable tow vehicle.

However, some consumers don’t have a lifestyle that can accommodate a heavy duty truck. For those individuals, the 2004 Nissan Armada or the 2004 Dodge Durango may be the perfect vehicle. Both SUVs have accomplished towing capacities, but are also terrific family automobiles that won’t cost and arm and a leg.

The 2004 Armada has many similarities to a full-size truck. In fact, it actually shares the same powertrain with the Nissan Titan pickup. It comes standard with a 5.6-liter V8 and a 5-speed automatic transmission with tow-haul mode.

Available in SE, SE Off-Road and LE models, the ’04 Armada is offered with rear-wheel and four-wheel drive with low-range gearing. The Off-Road model includes skid plates, special shock absorbers, a low final-drive ratio and 17-inch wheels, according to Consumer Guide Auto. Optional features include a navigation system, satellite radio and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. It seats eight passengers, and its 2nd and 3rd row seats fold flush to the floor, making travel a breeze.

With all of its family-friendly features, the Nissan Armada tows more than 9,000 pounds, making it ideal for weekend warriors. In 2004, a brand new Armada was priced at just over $33,000.

In the same year, the Dodge Durango was completely redesigned. The 2004 Durango is 7 inches longer, 2 inches wider and more than 3 inches taller than its predecessor, according to Cars.com.

A standard Durango is equipped with a 210 horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine. However, the most popular models are powered by a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that cranks out 335 hp and 370 pound feet of torque.

Durango models with V-8 engines come with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive and have a tow/haul feature built into the transmission, which can limit gear searching while towing. While it is not quite a full-size SUV, the 2004 Dodge Durango has a towing capacity of nearly 9,000 pounds.

In 2004, a new Durango was priced at around $26,000.

Toyota’s president testifies in front of Congress, apologizes for safety recalls

On Wednesday, at a U.S. congressional hearing concerning automobile safety, Toyota Motor Company president Akio Toyoda apologized for the Japanese car makers’ numerous recalls, stating that his company’s rapid growth had “confused” the priority that it places on safety, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Quite frankly, I fear the pace at which we have grown may have been too quick,” said Toyoda, who testified in front of Congress for more than three hours. “I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced.”

Toyota’s president also said he believes that there are no problems with the electronics in his vehicles and that no cover-up was attempted to veil the automaker’s safety issues.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that Toyota has agreed to cover the cost of at-home pickup of vehicles that were involved in the recalls. In addition, the Japanese automaker will reportedly reimburse customers for supplemental expenses such as taxis or car rentals, the New York Times reports.

Honda, Subaru and Toyota ranked top three all-around automakers

On Monday, in their annual spring auto issue, Consumer Reports ranked Honda and Subaru the two best all-around automakers. Surprisingly, in spite of their numerous recalls, the non-profit magazine ranked Toyota as the third best car manufacturer, the same designation that they received last year.

David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, said that Toyota remained among the top three automakers because they continue to assemble quality vehicles, according to The New York Times.

“I think once they get through all the recalls, you’ll see that they are a very, very reliable manufacturer,” Champion stated.

Meanwhile, the Big 3 American auto companies fared no better than they did in 2009. While Ford ranked 11th among all car manufacturers, General Motors and Chrysler finished in the last two positions.

However, in the individual categories, the Chevrolet Traverse won the best family SUV and the Silverado pickup was recognized as the best truck.

The 2010 Consumer Reports rankings were based on the performance, reliability, utility and comfort of each brand.

Autographed Chrysler 300 raises $100,000 for Haiti

On Saturday, the Leake Auction House in Oklahoma City helped raise money to benefit earthquake relief efforts in Haiti by auctioning off a Chrysler 300 autographed by over 250 celebrities.

Two car aficionados, Richard Freeman, owner of Elite Motorsports, and Marty Robertson, proprietor of Evolution Custom Auto, together made the winning $100,000 bid to take home the custom piece of automotive memorabilia, according to NewsOK.com.

Leake Auction also offered to donate their $10,000 commission fee to the American Red Cross in order to do their part.

“People have really opened their hearts to help Haiti,” said the auction house’s president Richard Sevenoaks, quoted by the news source. “[We are] honored to do our part.”

The event also raised an additional $2,400 in cash donations.

The special edition Chrysler 300, which is currently one of the more popular options in the large sedan segment, was autographed by hundreds of big-name celebrities at last month’s Golden Globe awards. The American automaker donated the car last month to the Stars for a Cause foundation, a non-profit that hosts a celebrity charity event every year.

How to improve your truck’s gas mileage

With a sluggish economy and the consistently high cost of fuel, many owners of used trucks in New Jersey may be looking for ways to save money at the pump. With preventative car maintenance and some simple driving techniques, pickup truck drivers can increase their fuel economy by as much as 10 percent.

The best, and possibly most overlooked way of improving your truck’s fuel efficiency is checking and changing your oil, fuel filters and air filters on a regular basis. Clean oil can reduce friction, remove harmful substances and will ensure that your engine is running at peak performance, according to Car Junky. Routinely changing your vehicle’s fluids and filters can increase your gas mileage by more than 5 percent.

In addition, you should consistently check your tires to make certain that they are aligned and fully inflated. Low tires can decrease your truck’s mileage by as much as 3 percent.

Before putting the first drop of gasoline into your used truck, consult your owner’s manual to find out which type of fuel the manufacturer recommends for your vehicle. The majority of pickups run best with regular gasoline – filling your vehicle up with premium grade gas will not improve your truck’s performance, reliability or fuel economy.

Another underrated way to enhance your fuel efficiency is to make your truck is as aerodynamic as possible. Installing a truck bed or liner can decrease your vehicle’s drag and gas consumption, About.com reports. Also, either remove your truck’s roof rack or keep it as empty as possible unless you are actively hauling something. Unnecessary weight in your roof rack, truck bed or cargo area can significantly alter your vehicle’s fuel economy.

Finally, with spring just around the corner, remember to only use your air conditioning unless you absolutely need it. AC makes your truck use more gas – simply rolling down your window can save more money at the pump than one would think.

“Reduce the AC’s load by parking in the shade so that the truck doesn’t heat up as much during short stops,” says the news source. “Leave the windows or sunroof cracked slightly if you’ll be right back or if you’re close enough to run out and shut them if a rain shower erupts.”

By making these minor changes to your routine, you can increase your gas mileage significantly.

Tiger apologizes for extra-marital affairs

On Friday, nearly three months after crashing his Cadillac Escalade outside of his home in Windermere, Florida, golfing superstar Tiger Woods made his first public appearance, apologizing for his long history of extra-marital affairs.

In front of approximately 40 friends and select members of the media, Woods read a 14-minute prepared statement. He apologized to his fans, children who looked up to him as a role model and his wife Elin, who did not attend the press conference.

“I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated,” Woods said. “What I did was not acceptable.”

The world’s number one golfer took no questions from the media and indicated that he would not respond to future inquiries about the specifics of his past relationships.

After reading his statement, which was nationally syndicated on every major network, Woods headed back to Mississippi where he will reenter a sexual rehabilitation clinic.

As for golf, Woods suggested that he could return to the course by the end of the year, but made no promises.

“When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game,” he concluded.

Hulk Hogan settles with son’s crash victim

On Friday, professional wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan settled a lawsuit with the family of John Graziano, who was critically injured in an automobile accident caused by the television personality’s son Nick.

In 2007, the 25-year-old Graziano was a passenger in Hogan’s Toyota Supra when the 19-year-old reality TV star lost control of the vehicle, smashing into a nearby palm tree. While Nick was left with minor injuries, Graziano, who is an Iraq war veteran, sustained severe brain injuries, leaving him in a minimally-conscious state and requiring full-time care.

Last year, the younger Hogan pleaded no contest to felony reckless driving involving great bodily harm. He was eventually sentenced to eight months in prison, but only served five.

Exact terms of the financial settlement were not released, although the victim’s family said it will take millions to care for him over the years, according to the Associated Press.

“We are very happy because our goal all along was to ensure that John was provided with the appropriate care for the rest of his life,” Graziano’s family attorney Kim Kohn told Entertainment News. “And the settlement will do that.”