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Auto Drive: Reviews of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Ford Focus

 

Electric car i-MiEV is rudimentary but affordable; three-cylinder Focus doesn't deliver on fuel savings

 

2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV    COURTESY PHOTO  

The stereotypical electric vehicle is a slow, silly-looking excuse for an automobile that can't go very far before running out of charge. Most of today's EVs avoid this image. The best-selling model is the fast, luxurious Tesla Model S, which goes several hundreds of miles at a time; most other models are simply normal cars that are fitted with a battery instead of an engine.

Then there is the 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which at first glance looks like a walking advertisement for the internal combustion engine. It's a tiny car that isn't very quick and is only rated to travel 62 miles per charge, by far the worst of any all-electric car on sale today. Its interior appointments are basic and the exterior is almost comical.

But if you're at all interested in the idea of a gas-free runabout, you may want to look further into the egg-shaped i-MiEV (pronounced EYE-meev). As long as you wouldn't need to drive long distances in this car, low operating costs and numerous state and federal incentives give it some appeal.

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Auto Drive: Reviews of the Acura TLX and Mazda CX-5

Acura TLX tries to be nice but not outstanding – and succeeds at both; Mazda offers a sportier alternative to the typical small crossover

2016 Acura TLX2016 Acura TLX. COURTESY PHOTO 

A luxury car can be a showcase for dazzling style and technology, or it can be a fairly ordinary vehicle that's simply nicer than a cheaper one. 

The 2016 Acura TLX is the latter type. This midsize sedan from Honda's premium brand was styled to avoid offense rather than to excite. It has few features that you can't also find on a fully-loaded Honda Civic. But it's a comfortable, pleasant sedan that's far more attainable than a similarly roomy BMW or Mercedes-Benz. 

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Auto Drive: Reviewing the 2016 Chevy Camaro and Kia Optima

New Camaro hides luxury driving dynamics under familiar styling; Loaded Kia Optima doesn't deliver on premium promise

2016 Chevrolet Camaro 1LT2016 Chevrolet Camaro.   COURTESY PHOTO

The redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Camaro doesn't look very different from its predecessor. The retro-styled performance coupe made a big splash when it returned to the market seven years ago, running against the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger to provide lots of power at prices that start in the $20,000s.

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Auto Drive: Toyota Tacoma skimps on driving charms; Buick Cascada favors comfort over performance

 

2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited2016 Toyota Tacoma. COURTESY PHOTO 

Toyota's small pickup trucks have a long-lasting reputation for dependability, and the Tacoma model has been the best-selling vehicle in its shrinking class for several years. So it's understandable that Toyota hasn't wanted to tinker too much with success.

But there is room for some adjustments to the Tacoma formula. Even as most new pickup trucks manage to blend capability with luxury, the redesigned 2016 Tacoma sticks to the basics – despite a price tag that hits $40,020 as tested. And while some aspects of the new Tacoma's design and character are a matter of taste, others represent ways in which the vehicle is simply compromised.

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Auto Drive: Redesigned Civic gets jolt of excitement; Volvo's aging crossover still has some strengths

Honda Civic2016 Honda Civic Touring sedan. COURTESY PHOTO

Many Honda Civic owners are determinedly loyal, gravitating toward the latest car to wear that familiar 44-year-old name. Honda hasn't always rewarded their loyalty with a best-in-class product, but the all-new 2016 model is a true standout that merits serious attention among compact economy cars.

You can't miss the changes. Long and low, the redesigned body is curvy and edgy, all the way from its chrome-clad snout to its angular-crescent-moon taillights. And while the last Civic's driving dynamics settled for mild-mannered adequacy, the 2016 model strives to seriously impress, and it succeeds.

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Comptroller advocates competition

 

Comptroller Peter Franchot spoke to a half-filled room with the Civic Federation on Nov. 9 at the County Council Building. Speaking of his role on the Maryland Board of Public Works, which he said has approved 18,000 contracts accounting for $85 billion in state spending since he rose to the position from being a delegate from Takoma Park, Franchot emphasized his independence from partisan politics as comptroller.

 

Franchot portrayed the Board of Public Works as a “court of last resort” against “machine politics,” citing his ability to stand up to the Democratic Party in Baltimore County as a champion of Dundalk Citizen groups regarding a development proposal that he voted against.

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Rain Tax Part II

 

Residents of Montgomery County pay multiple taxes justified in the name of the Chesapeake Bay, including a “bag” tax, a flash tax and water quality charge. Well-intentioned residents who genuinely would like to preserve the bay would be hard-pressed, however, to explain how all that money has made a difference.

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Montgomery Co. Positioned to Take the Lead with PACE

 

 

Commercial building owners in Montgomery County have a new opportunity, unavailable in most of the rest of the state, to retrofit their buildings with energy improvements, with no upfront costs.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is an alternative to traditional debt financing enabled last year by the Maryland General Assembly. Montgomery is one of two counties that have enacted the local ordinances required to implement PACE. Anne Arundel is the other.

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