The Ford Escape for 2017 is a sweet surprise

Tony C. Lesesne

According to wikipedia – A crossover is a vehicle built on a car platform and combines features of SUV’s, station wagons or hatchbacks.  The crossover combines SUV design features like high interior packaging, high H-point seating, high center of gravity, high ground-clearance or all-wheel-drive capability, and add design features from cars like independent rear suspension, car-like handling, lighter weight and better fuel economy than trucks.Crossovers are offered with front wheel drive, rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations.

Now you know.

The stylish headlights, the grill; the lean stance. Those are the design cues that make the 2017 Ford Escape stand out in a crowd of competitive small crossovers. The competition is INSANE, including the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX 5, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and hyundai Tucson, Toyota Rav4, nissan Rogue. I tested this peppy, versatile turbocharged 179-hp 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder SE version.

The Escape has only 16 years of production under its belt, yet it sells more than any Ford except the F-150 pickup. The buying shift to crossovers have simply made it pretty popular.

With a towing capacity of  2,000 lb and plenty of Cargo volume, the Escape provides a choice of three four-cylinder engine options, all paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

With a zero-to-60 time of about 7.1 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 15.6 seconds, the Escape is surprisingly quick, fun to drive, and versatile. The fuel economy is around 23 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.

The Escape’s available electronic driving aids includes its lane-keeping system that warns of lane departure when the steering-wheel vibrates; if the driver wants, the steering eases the vehicle back toward the middle of the lane. Also newly available is active cruise control, which offers driver-selectable following distances.

The SE tech package includes  sync 3, a reverse sensing system, Blind spot info systems, which arrives at around $25,100, add another five grand or so  in really cool options and the sticker price is around $31, 470.00.

Dodge Charger Skat Pack is like being on the track

Muscle Cars like the Dodge Charger in the AutoFOCUS TEST DRIVE (see above window) prove a simple, basic point; muscle cars are made to be fun to drive; to get your blood pumping and your adrenaline flowing. It’s that simple. 20161208_135131I got my hands on the Dodge Charger Skat Pack and was smitten.
Right from the design, its got so much character. Look at it behind me, looking pretty, yet rough, low, wide and ready to ride. The Charger has always been a looker, going back to the early days. 65dodge_charger-ii_1_largeThe car was first to showcase a bigger, thicker muscle car…a bully with enough weight to throw around, enough power to get your attention and enough speed to leave you behind.

You can even say that the Dodge Charger has reached “Rock Star” status because it’s always been a cult figure in the automotive universe. Just ask real car fans. Well, the test drive is loaded above, so click the window and enjoy the ride.

Mazda CX-3 Touring – SWEET

Eager to capitalize on an expanding trend, Mazda added a third crossover to its lineup for 2016 called the CX-3. Smaller than the compact CX-5 and the three-row CX-9, this newest entry has a name that might suggest that it’s a high-riding version of the Mazda 3 compact. But that’s not exactly the case; the CX-3 is more closely related to the subcompact Mazda 2 hatchback. In fact, it has become the de facto replacement for the 2 in the United States, as Mazda’s smallest hatch is no longer sold here, due to the CX-3’s greater potential for sales and profitability. Plastic body cladding and optional all-wheel drive ($1250) are meant to lure SUV-leaning buyers, but the CX-3’s carlike driving experience and sharp interior design are the elements that helped it earn a comparison-test victoryagainst other small crossovers, including the Jeep Renegade and Honda HR-V.



The CX-3 is one of the most thrilling cross-overs this year, and I’m shocked that I’d be saying that considering all the ridiculous competition in its class. It’s fun, spirited, and offers race-car-like handling paired with edgy, sexy styling.

PERFORMANCE – A 146-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic with front-wheel drive provides the umph and the all-wheel drive is optional. A sport-tuned suspension and innovative weight-saving measures help deepen the drive experience. The CX-3 boasts precise and perfectly weighted steering, and a responsive powertrain to make for class-leading handling. I was able to comfortably hit 0-60 mph in a reasonably quick 7.9. seconds. The CX3 earns a competitive 29/34 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive, or 27/32 mpg with all-wheel drive.

INTERIOR – Inside, the cabin is well designed, featuring high-quality materials and modern driving aids.The mid-level Touring trim gets snazzy 18-inch wheels.

DESIGN – CX-3 shows Mazda has some real design swag like the sharply creased sheetmetal, tight proportions, and upscale detailing and the complete expensive-looking  sporty euro-cool vibe.  The high floor can make it difficult to load heavy items, and, with the seats up, its 12-cubic-foot capacity (10 with the Bose stereo) is less than you’ll find in the trunks of many compact sedans.

Grand Touring models with AWD start north of $27,000, at which point this cross over seems to make it a smart buy, especially considering it’s one of the tops in its segment


f-150-lariatIts been recognized as one of the top 10 iconic vehicles of the decade by the AutoFOCUS awards. The dynamic Ford F-150 has yet another award to once again add to its tally of accolades.

The 2017 Ford F-150 is taking home the Kelley Blue Book “Best Buy” of the Year for trucks award, marking the third year in a row F-150 has won the honor.

The 2017 Ford F-150 – the toughest, smartest, most capable F-150 ever – introduces an updated powertrain lineup with the debut of its all-new 3.5-liter EcoBoost® and Ford-built 10-speed automatic. The powertrain provides 50 lb.-ft. more peak torque, and features improvements across all three EPA fuel economy ratings – city, highway and combined – of 1 mpg over the 2016 model.img_9605

Also new for the 2017 F-150 is the return of the STX Appearance Package bundling numerous exterior and interior features that aren’t normally available to give F-150 customers a great value truck. For comfort and convenience, BLIS®with cross-traffic alert now includes trailer coverage, while SYNC® Connect with FordPass® allows drivers to lock, unlock and locate their vehicle remotely. Customers can also schedule starts and check the fuel level remotely via the FordPass smartphone platform.

Besides it incredible towing attributes, impressive content and technology and drive quality, the Ford F-150 is simply fun to drive. That adds up to a consistently recognized vehicle that continues to get better each year.

With the Honda Odyssey, its what’s inside that counts

Versatility, comfort, and interior space are top priorities for minivan shoppers. I should know, I’m one of them. The 2016 Honda Odyssey is at the top of the minivan heap food chain. Its design flair and driving joy puts it ahead of most other three-row competitors. With 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque from a 3.5-liter V-6, and a 6-speed automatic transmission, this front-wheel-drive minivan delivers strong passing, even with a full load. Odyssey manages to combine ride comfort and handling prowess better than most family-haulers.

Inside, the Odyssey is quiet and refined. Active noise cancellation and active engine mounts both eliminate vibrations from excess road noise. An available split second row allows for the two outboard seats to be moved toward the doors for adults sitting side-by-side. The second and third row can also adjust for comfort and access. There are five official LATCH connections,so you get a lot more flexibility in where child safety seats can be placed. There’s also a 650-watt sound system with hard-disk storage, the ultra-wide-screen system, theater surround sound, and a standout 16.2-inch wide-screen entertainment system, which can even split the screen in half to display two separate inputs (including HDMI).

Whether you’re a parent like me, a regular carpool driver, or a grandparent with family-hauling duties, the Odyssey can handle your needs. With both the second and third rows folded, there’s cargo floor enough for just about anything. I found that the media drawer with damped motion, a cooler compartment is so handy.  

The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick, and the Odyssey has all the safety-feature bases covered.  The base Odyssey LX includes Bluetooth hands-free calling, Honda’s intelligent Multi-Information Display, and an 8.0-inch screen, in addition to a USB audio port and 2 GB of audio storage and a USB audio port; but many of the most desirable features remain the exclusive domain of the Touring and Touring Elite models. Not only is the Odyssey safe in an accident, but also both its handling and visibility are excellent, which can both aid in accident avoidance.

Although the Odyssey isn’t tuned for performance driving, its variable-displacement power-steering system has great weighting and even a little road feedback, and it’s far better than the electric power steering systems that Honda has installed in its smaller CR-V and Civic models

The 2016 Honda Odyssey is offered in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Touring Elite trims. Many of the most desirable features remain the exclusive domain of the Touring and Touring Elite models. All Odyssey models offer standard Bluetooth as well as a rearview camera, while the LaneWatch sideview camera—which shows a camera view along the right side of the car when the right turn signal is activated—comes on all but the base LX model.

At the very top of the lineup, Touring Elite models add to a blind-spot monitor, a 650-watt sound system with hard-disk storage, theater surround sound, and HID headlights. Those in the back for long car rides will appreciate the 16.2-inch wide-screen entertainment system, which can show one source or split the screen in half to display two separate inputs (including HDMI). The top model also gets HondaLink, which allows owners to use a smartphone app to access Aha internet-based entertainment, or hear Facebook and Twitter updates via text-to-speech.

The HondaVAC system, that’s available only on the Touring Elite, was co-developed with Shop-Vac. This powerful integrated vacuum cleaner is located on the left side of the cargo compartment, with accessories and nozzles included. It’s hard-wired to the vehicle’s electrical system, so it never needs to be charged or plugged in.

EX-L trims and above include advanced safety features, including active lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems. A power tailgate is also included at this level and beyond. Heated leather seats, a cooling box, power moonroof, and a utility tray are among the additions, and the EX-L models equipped with navigation include 15 GB of hard-drive space. The navigation system has an especially clear, intuitive display, and we like the controls better than the systems in some of Honda’s other models; it has a built-in Zagat guide, a huge point-of-interest database, a high-contrast VGA display, and free FM-based traffic information.

The Odyssey achieves ratings of 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined—which rank high among its competitors including the Toyota Sienna and Kia Sedona, but slightly lower than the Nissan Quest’s 23 combined rating.  

Sure, its pricey and you can expect alot of ROI – esp[ecially is your up for a dynamic, spacious, comfortable multi-pusporse minivan, this mighht be worth a look. 

The Corolla dares to be sexy?

I’m willing to be that the designers of the The Toyota Corolla iM was thinking about all the ways they could make this car uh, shall I say a little sexy? Yes, its true, this 5 door hatchback is pretty impressive to look at, which is something Toyota has been working on and tweaking over the past few years, and with the iM, they got it right in a big way. Add to that the dynamic eye-popping colors and roominess and you’ve got a winner.

Getting right down to business, the test drive was lots of fun because of the drive quality, handling and ease of operation, not to mention the technology. It was all the more impressive due to its 27 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway in the mileage category.

The performance is driven by what’s under the hood. Underneath that hood is an 1.8 liter 4-cylinder dual overhead cam 16 valve engine producing 137 horsepower. There’s a 6 speed manual transmission, front wheel drive with Electric Power assisted steering. For better performance that engine is fuel injected with ventilated front desk brakes. If you’re looking for power in the acceleration, forget it. You’ll get a smooth, gradual increase in speed but not a rocket-burst of power and torque.

Surprisingly enough the car has head and leg room for someone as tall as me so most regular sized human beings should have no problem getting in and out of the car if that’s a concern. The hatchback has more than enough space to haul all the thing any normal family would need from a hatchback.

Inside there’s a 7 inch touchscreen and 6 speakers producing amazing sound with bluetooth connectivity. Other than the few little issues I pointed out earlier, its really  hard to find fault with the Toyota Corolla IM, but its key competitors are doing their best to up the ante, especially in the areas of materials and engine productivity include the Ford Focus, the Honda civic, The Mazda 3 and the Kia Forte 5.



img_1031He’s got the coolest, smoothest most uber-swagalicious photo of them all.  The proof is below right? He’s DeAundre Slater and the powerful image of himself, half sitting behind t
he wheel of the amazing Mazda Miata convertible, but appearing to be stepping out. Congratulations to Mr. Slater for his selection of BEST PHOTO during the 15th annual AutoFOCUS awards held last month at the Miami International Auto Show.

The annual BEST PHOTO contest is held each year during the AutoFOCUS Awards which encourages attendees to take their coolest photos at the auto display of the active sponsors of the event, which included Ford and Mazda for 2016. The “BEST PHOTO” contest is so muimg_1032ch a part of the annual AutoFOCUS Awards and really gets the attendees connected to the sponsors as well as the Auto Show itself” said Tony C. Lesesne, host of the AutoFOCUS TEST DRIVE web show that selects various winners.

DeAundre Slater with Tony Lesesne after the 15th Annual AutFOCUS Awards

“People love taking selfies and group shots around cars, and have lots of fun submitting their photos. Its not uncommon for them to actually begin to explore options for purchasing the cars once they begin to look at the details.”  Lesesne said next year’s contest will include video and will also allow social media interaction to select winners. A special thanks goes out to Ford Motor Company and Mazda of North America for being a part of this fun activity.

Click the Youtube link below to check out the AutoFOCUS coverage of the 2016 AutoFOCUS Awards and give your feedback – we can’t wait to hear from you.

5 Reasons the Lexus RC 350 kicks butt & Toyota Yaris – still relevant

By Tony C. Lesesne


  1. Great DNA! The all new Lexus RC 350 is built from the IS C floor plan, the GS A-pillar, and the IS rear architecture. That kind of DNA is well worth having, and the driver is rewarded as a result.20160702_074211
  2. POWER AND STYLE: The car is aimed at aimed power junkies who also embrace style & design. Powered by a V-6 producing 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, the RC 350 accelerates with confidence yet cruises like a large sedan with firmer seats and sporty handling. For more power and style, the F Sport includes adaptive dampers and four-wheel steering, high-friction brake pads, 19-inch wheels.2016-lexus-es-05
  3. COST IN THE SEGMENT: Finally, an affordable fixed-roof Lexus coupe at a base price of $43,715. The F Sport trim version starts at $48,800 (with rear-drive version, adaptive dampers and a sexy power sunroof option is about $1k less than the BMW 435i M sport package.  A fully loaded RC costs about $60,000, which includes a 467-hp V-8.20160702_074113-2
  4. THE FEEL:  It like you’re wearing a well-tailored suite, such as the sweet wrap around seats and sultry interior design.
  5. PERFORMANCE TECH:  You can feel the performance technology at work in the drive and handling.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      To check out the AutoFOCUS test drive, just click the URL below and enjoy the ride.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Be sure to join us for the 2016 AutoFOCUS Awards on Sunday September 11th at the Miami beach Convention Center. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite at



downloadThis time, I’m going to forget all about the stats and the numbers, and just focus on the fun I had with this car. Ok, ok, I get it, I’ve spoiled you guys with so many badass-turbo charged sports cars, luxury cars and stunning sedans that you almost forgot the fact that there is a world out there where compact cars live and thrive.
For real though, the Yaris is a very capable little car that’s surpisingly agile and handles quite well. Its great on gas, way more roomy than one would think, and let me tell you, at my height- six-feet, two inches, I need all the headroom I can get. The back seats are situated well enough to get normal sized humans back there, but don’t even try to get another tall person in those back seats. As New Yorkers say…forget about it.
     A four-speed automatic and five-speed manual are available as mates for the Yaris’s 106-hp 1.5-liter inline-four, and an SE model is available for those looking for a sportier ride. Because of the low hood line, good visibility and the standard Toyota Entune infotainment system are some of the Yaris’s best features.  The cargo space gets the job done too. There’s lots of height, and width, especially when you fold down those back seats. If you want more info, just got to the Toyota web site and check it out, or go to your nearest dealer and take one out for a test-drive.

     The Yaris subcompact hatchback is the company’s lowest-priced car sold in the U.S. It’s smaller than the Corolla compact and Camry mid-size sedans. It’s the traditional small car; no bells no whistles and no trumpets. That drives auto reviwers nuts. For me, its a geat car for getting around town, handling chores and saving gas..