February 2009

Viewing posts from February , 2009

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Hummer H3T Alpha

2009 Hummer H3T Alpha Photo Gallery

No argument, the 2009 Hummer H3T Alpha is one hell of a truck. We spent some time in this highly controversial vehicle and have a slew of photographs to share. Enjoy this massive photo gallery from our upcoming road test.
Photographed by Zane Merva

A hands on look at Prestone’s de-icing product threesome

February is the worst part of winter.  We’re all getting tired of the cold weather,  snow covered roads, and even worse- ice covered windshields.  We’ve all woken up or left work to find our car covered in an cement hard layer of frozen precipitation. At best you have a scraper- but even they don’t work that well.  At worst, you’re left to use your hands to clear things off the best you can.  If you’re desperate, you may even pull out an old credit card.

Prestone has the answer. They’ve rolled out a threesome of de-icing products that can protect from before, during, and after a winter storm or frigid morning. The company sent us a container of each and we put them to the ultimate test. Winter in New England.

Mother nature couldn’t have cooperated better, dishing out snow, sleet, freezing-rain, and best of all- a super cold -21degree morning. We tried out each de-icing product as directed and during conditions as recommended on the label.  The results surprised us.

We gave away a set of the same products recently. Check out our previous article to watch Prestone’s De-Icing products in action.

Prestone Ice & Frost Shield Vehicle Glass Treatment

Price: around $9.00
Overview: A glass-cleaner like spray bottle that is used the night before a storm or cold morning to prevent frost and ice buildup.
How it’s used: If you think ice, frost, or snow will build up on your windshield, spray the solution liberally over the entire glass surface beforehand.  Ice & Frost Shield will either totally prevent ice from forming or prevent it from sticking.
The results: The best product out of all three.  A moderate coating on the glass and wiper blades keeps ice at bay and blades from sticking.  Ten inches of snow was no match either. Ice & Frost Shield allowed us to easily slide the snow and slush right off the glass.  The price seems steep but a bottle goes a long way, even if you tend to over-do it.  Best of all it keeps working after you drive away by preventing refreeze.

Prestone Windshield De-Icer Spray

Price: between $2.50-$3.99
Overview: A spray can that even comes with its own scraper. Great for anything from light frost to moderate ice.
How it’s used: For light frost, spray the product on and let it melt the frost away. For ice, score the buildup with the built in scraper, apply the product and let penetrate.
The results: Light frost melts away instantly.  Heavier accumulation requires a little bit of work with the handy built in scraper.  We found the spray nozzle applies the product thick. A little goes a long way for thin frost while we had to use quite a bit more for thicker ice.  The can seems to empty pretty quickly.

Prestone De-Icer Windshield Washer Additive

Price: about $4.49
Overview: Wiper fluid additive that prevents ice from forming, can help melt light frost, and keeps dirt and salt from sticking to the windshield.
How it’s used: The entire bottle is enough additive for one wiper fluid reservoir. Pour the bottle in and top things off with wiper fluid or water.
The results: This is definitely the light-weight of the three.  It’s really good at giving wiper fluid an added kick of ice resistance. If you already use cold weather washer fluid, you’re not going to see as much of an added benefit. If you normally run plain water- this product is perfect. A downside is you use a whole bottle at a time.


We have to admit- we didn’t think Prestone’s de-icing options would work as well as they did. We came away impressed.  Each represents a darn good solution to dealing with light, moderate, and heavy ice.  When the last thing you want to do is scrape the frost or ice off your windsheild, use one of these products.

First Drive: Toyota Venza

Over the weekend we had a chance to take Toyota’s new Venza out for a spin and came away impressed.

First Impressions – 2009 Toyota Venza AWD V6

  • Tons of flexible interior storage
  • Rear cargo area is larger than you’d expect
  • Stylish but not extravagant
  • Controlled & comfortable ride
  • Drives just like a Camry- a good mix between plush and responsive
  • Interior textures look good and give softness to overly hard plastic pieces


A virtual Camry wagon. Solid and understated, the Venza should sell well but may cut into Camry sales.  We wish some of the interior pieces had a softer feel.

Specifications as tested

Engine: 3.5L VVT-i V6 (ULEV-II)
Power: 268-horsepower @ 6200rpm / 246lb-ft @4700rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with ECT-i and sequential shift
Construction: Reinforced unitized body
EPA mileage ratings: 18mpg city / 25mpg highway

Find out more, read up on the full specifications, or build one out for yourself at the Toyota Venza website

First Drive photo gallery

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot Sport

First introduced in 2007, the Jeep Patriot came on the scene as a sensible crossover for enthusiasts who loved driving a Jeep.  With new refinements for 2009 we take a fresh look at the Patriot and see just what it’s made of. A true trail rated Jeep or another me too crossover?

Specifications as-tested

MSRP: $24,015
Engine: 2.4L DOHC I4 – 172hp/165ft-lb
Transmission: CVT with Freedom Drive II 4×4
EPA fuel economy: 20-city, 21-combined, 22-highway
Observed fuel economy: 17.43 (mostly snow covered roads with 4×4 lock active)
Tested for: 7 days / 298 miles


Deep down a great vehicle but stuck ambiguously between crossover comfortable and off-road capable.


  • Excellent balance in slick road conditions
  • Unlike many crossovers, this one is actually built to go off-road
  • Classic Jeep design inside and out


  • Penny pinched interior
  • CVT accentuates loud/thrashy engine
  • Low fuel economy for the size

Driving Dynamics & Performance

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

Jeep’s Freedom Drive II 4×4 system gave our tester a distinct advantage when the weather or roads became challenging.  Wearing the Trail Rated badge, we drove the Patriot through the worst road conditions we could find.  Even uncleared roads with over 6-inches of snow were no problem.  Essentially it’s a heavy duty all-wheel-drive system with center differential locking capacity. With the FDII locked, the Patriot is extremely stable, predictable, and balanced.

With an additional 1-inch of ground clearance over non trail rated models, 17-inch wheels/tires and a locking center differential, the Patriot has to be one of the most predicable and balanced vehicles we’ve driven in snow.  If you live somewhere nicer than New England  you can opt for 2-wheel drive or Freedom Drive I.  You’ll give up some of the capability but will gain fuel economy in return.

The Patriot’s optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) provides for smooth acceleration but also brings out the worst in the 2.4L engine. Under hard acceleration the engine is loudly pegged near redline, a trait of CVT’s as a whole but badly managed in this application.

On the road we found the Patriot never liked to settle down. The suspension dampening, surely tuned for off-road performance, lacked the ability to provide a firmly planted feeling ride.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

You can’t mistake the Patriot for anything but a Jeep. Inside and out, little styling hints of the larger Wrangler catch your eye.  We particularly liked the bold front grille and classic round headlamps but disliked the bloated appearance of the rear.

Coming back to bite Chrysler in the butt these days, sub-par interior finishing looks great but has no warmth.  Plastic like this is great on a Wrangler because you don’t feel bad getting it dirty or scraping it up.  A more refined vehicle such as the Patriot deserves better.

Interestingly, the interior is all new for 2009, but nearly every single interior surface feels penny-pinched one step too far. Every switch and control operates with some level of ambiguity and lacks precision.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

Perhaps one of the Patriot’s saving graces is the technology it offers.  Our test model came with a base audio system, however a more advanced UConnect tunes system is a must have option.  The standard audio unit has the ability to play MP3 CDs and comes with an auxiliary input.

The advanced UConnect system offers a 30-gig hard drive, USB port,  Bluetooth hands-free phone, and optionally a navigation system. We’ve tested the UConnect system in other Chrysler models and came away thoroughly impressed.

We also thought Jeep did an excellent job tuning the Patriot’s electronic stability program (ESP).  In times when we pushed the 4×4 system to it’s limits, ESP kicked in and quickly brought us back in control.

Comfort & Ergonomics

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

Jeep offers a 115-volt standard outlet located under and forward of the center arm-rest. The ability to charge a laptop or cell phone without special adapters is a lifesaver.  There’s also the handy LED flashlight in the rear tailgate.

The climate control dials are oddly ambiguous and do not offer a positive feel.  A lack of a defined “click” meant we often turned the air off when we just wanted to turn it down.  Having to look away from the road to adjust the fan was a small frustration.

Rear seat space is cozy but comfortable. Second row seat backs offer rear-passengers the option to recline.  They also fold flat to offer a sizable amount of storage. Even with the second row folded up, the rear cargo area is larger than what you’d find in most crossovers of this size.

Are you a Jeep Patriot Fan?

Head on over to JeepPatriot.com to hang out with other Patriot owners/enthusiasts. They even have a thread talking about this review!

Road test photo gallery

Road Test: 2009 Jeep Patriot

Take a look at the huge set of photos we shot during our time in the 2009 Jeep Patriot Sport 4×4.