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Distracted drivers in Ohio might soon face additional $100 fine

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 12:00 AM

            The State Highway Patrol reported 13,994 crashes in 2016 that involved distracted driving, resulting in 27 deaths and 7,290 injuries. Metro Creative Graphics
The State Highway Patrol reported 13,994 crashes in 2016 that involved distracted driving, resulting in 27 deaths and 7,290 injuries. Metro Creative Graphics

Ohio motorists who can’t put down their electronic devices might soon find themselves facing additional fines.

Under House Bill 95, which passed unanimously out of a House committee May 17, drivers who are pulled over for speeding, running a stop sign or other moving violations would get a ticket for that violation, then potentially face an additional $100 fine if they also were driving distracted.

The distracted-driving enhancement would be a secondary offense, meaning law-enforcement officers could impose the additional fine only if they witness the distracted driving while the initial offense was committed.

The State Highway Patrol reported 13,994 crashes in 2016 that involved distracted driving, resulting in 27 deaths and 7,290 injuries. The number of reported distracted drivers rose 11 percent in 2015 and 5 percent in 2016.

“It is our hope that this legislation will encourage drivers to remain focused on the road and help save lives,” said Rep. Jim Hughes, R-Upper Arlington, who is sponsoring the bill along with Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati.

Élise Spriggs of State Auto wrote to lawmakers that “we see business trends that highlight the rising frequency and severity of accidents related to distracted driving.” Since 2013, she wrote, claim frequency in the industry has risen 4.4 percent, and claim loss is up 16.8 percent.

The bill would allow offenders to complete a state distracted-driving safety course in lieu of the fine. Wearing earphones or using a vehicle’s hands-free technology would not trigger the extra distracted-driving penalty.

A similar bill passed the Senate unanimously last session, but did not see a House vote. The bill has wide-ranging support, including county prosecutors, the Ohio Conference of AAA Clubs, the Ohio Insurance Institute and the Ohio Bicycle Federation.

The AAA Foundation’s 2017 Traffic Safety Culture Index found that 81 percent of drivers view texting or emailing while driving as a serious safety threat, despite nearly one in three admitting to typing messages while driving within the past month, and 40 percent reporting receiving messages. More than two-thirds of drivers reported talking on cellphones while driving in the past month.

Ric Oxender, representing the Ohio Conference of AAA Clubs, called the bill a good first step, but said, “We do have concerns with how our law-enforcement personnel can use the law effectively to cite motorists for distracted driving.”

Questions about enforcement have lingered since Ohio lawmakers in 2012 passed a law banning texting while driving.

For adults, the texting violation is a secondary offense, but it’s a primary offense for drivers younger than 18, who are prohibited from using a handheld device while driving for any reason and can face a $150 fine and license suspension.

BMW’s ultimate driving machine: 5-series gets new platform, engine

Published: Friday, July 21, 2017 @ 12:00 AM

            The entire 5-series is redesigned for the 2017 model year. BMW introduced a new platform for the 540i sedan that is lighter, slightly smaller and more fuel-efficient. BMW photo
The entire 5-series is redesigned for the 2017 model year. BMW introduced a new platform for the 540i sedan that is lighter, slightly smaller and more fuel-efficient. BMW photo

BMW’s trademark slogan is “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” It certainly is applicable to these German-built vehicles that are driver-focused. Ultimate is a big word. Undoubtedly, Bimmers have a cult-like following among purists and enthusiasts, and for good reason.

It had been quite a while since I slide behind the wheel of one of these driving machines, so I was thrilled to drive the 2017 540i sedan for a week.

The entire 5-series is redesigned for the 2017 model year. BMW introduced a new platform that is lighter, slightly smaller and more fuel-efficient. You could argue that the 5-series is the gold standard for midsize luxury cars. Any concerns about it losing that reputation from the redesign are put to rest. The change in size and dimensions is not obvious, leaving the 5-series bold and stout.

The grille is not overly aggressive, but it never has been. BMW’s grilles are so distinctive, why mess with them? The stylized hood flows well with the chiseled side panels and the chrome-framed windows. In an era where most car’s profiles are bland, the 540 is incredibly handsome with flare and style. The back end is the least stylized part of the 5-series, but still has hints of sportiness.

There’s a new engine. The base models get a four-cylinder engine that’s been met with mixed reviews. However, my tester, the 540i, gets a twin turbo inline six-cylinder with significantly more power. The 540i has 335 horsepower and 332 lbs.-ft. of torque. It’s quick off the line and the 8-speed transmission keeps the shifts under control with no noticeable turbo lag. The 540i lives up to the moniker of the ultimate driving machine as it is both refined and exhilarating at the same time.

Inside, the 540i earns high marks for comfort and quality. With the remodel and new dimensions, there’s now more than an inch of extra legroom in the back seat. As such, three adults could fit comfortably there. One of the best features of many BMW vehicles is how the interior is designed to support and focus on the driver, over the other occupants. The dashboard and instruments are angled to offer the driver better functionality.

Like many German vehicles, the infotainment system is full of technology, but is also complicated. The drive system is improved this model year and pumps the system full of cutting-edge features like gesture controls. Twirl your finger around the 10.2-inch touchscreen and the volume will increase or decrease. This doesn’t always work and can be distracting, but it’s cool. The system isn’t overly intuitive, however, so it will take some training and adjustment for the average consumer. Current BMW enthusiasts will find the new system highly improved.

Rear seats have a 40/20/40 fold-down combination, increasing usefulness and cargo area. The trunk has a cargo area of 18.7 cubic feet, which is a slight improvement over last year’s model.

There are two trims, with two different engines. The 530i has the smaller 4-cylinder engine and the 540i has the peppier powerplant. All-wheel drive is an option for either trim. While there are plenty of standard features for the 540i, BMW does nickel and dime the consumer with numerous packages and options. My tester had a reasonable base price of $58,450, but after numerous add-ons and features like advanced sound system, dynamic handling package, M-sport package, driver assistance features, Nappa leather and remote control parking, my tester had a final MSRP of $82,610.

The 2017 BMW 540i sedan has an EPA rating of 20 mpg/city and 30 mpg/highway. Getting to that 30-mpg plateau is big. The fact that BMW didn’t sacrifice performance to get there is even better. In a week’s worth of heavy-footed driving, I averaged just over 24 mpg.

Is the BMW 5-series the Ultimate Driving Machine? That’s not for me to say. But BMW certainly has created and improved the 5-series with more power, better fuel economy and luxury galore. Ultimate Driving Machine? You be the judge.

2017 BMW 540I SEDAN

  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $58,450/$82,810
  • Mileage…………………………………… 20 mpg/city; 30 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 3.0-liter 6-cylinder
  • Horsepower…………………………… 335 hp/332 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels……………. Rear-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. Dingolfing, Germany

2017 Midsize Luxury SUV Comparison: Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Range Rover or Volvo?

Published: Friday, July 14, 2017 @ 2:00 PM

In the 3-row midsize luxury SUV segment, seating for seven meets massaging seats for two. Flipping, folding, sliding second-row seats meet driver-assist and safety technologies so advanced that some of these cars can stop, go and turn all by themselves (in small doses). Your needs meet your wants, and they instantly hit it off.

But deciding that a 3-row midsize luxury SUV is the right choice for you and your family is a lot easier than deciding which of them is your very best choice. We've reviewed all of them for 2017, but we recently gathered five of them for a two-day, long-haul shakedown to discern the key differences that differentiate these comfortable, practical, aspirational family haulers.

As has become tradition, our first comparison test of the year took us from our home base in Southern California to the greater Phoenix area for an evening of spring training baseball. Our familiar 700-mile round trip includes plenty of arrow-straight highway, giving us ample time to evaluate long-term comfort and the wide range of technologies that continue to permeate these vehicles.

The objective of our comparison tests is not to name overall winners and losers, but to help shoppers like you determine which of these vehicles best meets your needs and wants. Most impressive infotainment system? Audi. Most accommodating third row? Infiniti. Best midsize luxury SUV for you? You’ll have to decide for yourself, but this comparison test will make it much easier.

In alphabetical order:

2017 Acura MDX

Shoppers flock to the MDX for its world-class reliabilty, resale strength and overall value, but new refinements for 2017 deliver a slight increase in emotional appeal.  Read more

2017 Audi Q7

Completely redesigned for 2017, Audi's tech-savvy style maven looks and feels like the future. Read more

2017 Infiniti QX60

Thanks to meaningful enhancements in 2016 and 2017, buyers who may have passed on the QX60 last time would be wise to look again. Read more

2016 Range Rover Sport

The BMW X5 couldn't make it this time, and the new Range Rover Velar and Land Rover Discovery aren't even on the road yet, so we brought along an $80,000 friend. Read more

2017 Volvo XC90

Totally reinvented just last year, Volvo's 3-row SUV is about as appealing and competitive as anything the automaker has ever produced. Read more

More Midsize Luxury SUVs

Is one of these five SUVs the best choice for you? When choosing a vehicle, looking at all of your options is key. Once you've finished poring over this comparison test, head over to our Midsize Luxury SUV Buyer's Guide.

This comparison was originally published at, a Cox Automotive company. 

Kelley Blue Book’s 10 best luxury cars

Published: Friday, July 07, 2017 @ 10:12 AM

This year’s list of luxury SUV standouts features a repeat winner, our Luxury SUV Best Buy of 2017, and three new-for-2017 entries including one that’s available for less than $30,000.

1. 2017 Infiniti QX30

Infiniti's all-new subcompact SUV is built on the same platform as the Mercedes-Benz GLA but boasts bolder styling and lower prices. It's the most affordable SUV on this list, in fact, with a starting Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price of just over $28,000. Read more

2. 2017 Lexus RX

The comfortable, roomy and easy-driving RX continues to offer proven reliability and excellent resale value, but its 2016 redesign brought with it bolder styling than ever. Read more

3. 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC

The Kelley Blue Book Luxury SUV Best Buy for 2017, Mercedes' compact SUV offers a combination of luxury, practicality and overall appeal that's unmatched in the segment. Read more

4. 2017 Cadillac Escalade

The biggest and arguably boldest entry on this list combines can’t-miss-it mass with look-at-me styling in a luxury SUV that’s equally adept at hauling boats and shuttling dignitaries. Read more

5. 2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Jaguar's first SUV doesn't just look like a Jag, it drives like one, too. But it will go places and carry things -- and appeal to a new group of buyers -- like no Jaguar before it. Read more

6. 2017 Porsche Cayenne

In addition to a driving experience worthy of the famous Porsche crest, the Cayenne also boasts a gorgeous passenger cabin that marries sport and luxury like an America’s Cup yacht.Read more

7. 2017 Volvo XC90

Totally reinvented last year, Volvo’s three-row SUV matches six-figure design and presence with a $50,000 starting sticker price and one of our favorite infotainment systems. Read more

8. 2017 Audi Q7

Totally redesigned for 2017, Audi’s popular 3-row SUV is now lighter and more efficient, and packed with up-to-the-minute technologies and design. Read more

9. 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS

The S-Class of SUVs combines seating for seven, massaging seats and Mercedes-level quiet and comfort with the ability to tow 7,500 pounds and power through snow and mud when the need or desire arises. Formerly known as the GL-Class, a new name is just one of many changes and enhancements for 2017. Read more

10. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover

Whether pulling up to the valet stand or forging its own path over mud and rocks, the Range Rover remains among the most impressive SUVs ever conceived and once again claims the top spot on our annual list of 10 Best Luxury SUVs. Read more

This story was originally published at, a Cox Automotive company. 

Kelley Blue Book’s 10 most affordable new cars

Published: Friday, June 30, 2017 @ 10:13 AM

Paying a fair price is always important, but if you really want to get the most car for your money you have to look beyond purchase price. Some cars hold their value far better than others, which can put thousands more dollars back in your pocket when you sell.

» RELATED: Kelley Blue Book’s 10 coolest cars under $25,000

Our 5-Year Cost to Own figures combine depreciation with fuel, financing and insurance costs to help you make a more informed decision when choosing a new car. Here are the 10 most affordable cars of 2017, based on a full 5-year buy-drive-sell ownership cycle.

1. 2017 Nissan Sentra

The roomy 2017 Nissan Sentra is a compact sedan that can satisfy a wide range of tastes and budgets. You can order it as you like, either bare-bones or fully loaded, and drive away in an economical small car that is also fun to drive. Read more

2. 2017 Hyundai Elantra 

As with the rest of Hyundai's lineup, the Elantra boasts stylish looks, premium amenities and a class-leading warranty that includes 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain. Read more

3. 2017 Toyota Corolla

The 2017 Toyota Corolla is destined to remain a best-seller, thanks to new styling, a simplified model lineup, improved interior, and a host of standard safety equipment that's unheard of in this class, or even in cars costing much more. Read more

4. 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage 

The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage sedan and hatchback offer a comfortable highway ride for such a small car, and the brakes bring the low-mass sedan to a stop quickly, and with a firm pedal. Fuel economy is quite good; we saw about 38 mpg during a highway commute. Read more

5. 2017 Smart Fortwo

The Fortwo may be the ultimate city car. You can park in street spaces that are too small for a minicar, and its phenomenal turning radius makes it easy to maneuver through narrow city streets. There's room for only two, but those two will enjoy the Fortwo's surprisingly roomy cabin. Read more

6. 2017 Kia Rio

You don’t have to settle just because you’re on a tight budget. Choose Kia’s 2017 Rio or Rio 5-door if you want a great-looking little car that performs well, gets great gas mileage and offers an extreme amount of value. Read more

7. 2017 Honda Fit

Whether you're a college student first starting off, an empty-nester looking to downsize, or just want an inexpensive new car with all of today's connectivity, the 2017 Honda Fit has you covered. It offers excellent front- and rear-seat room, combined with great cargo utility and a fun-to-drive character. Read more

8. 2017 Toyota Yaris iA

In the Yaris iA, Toyota now has a subcompact car capable of challenging the sportier Ford Fiesta, quirky Chevy Sonic and well-equipped Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent. Read more

9. 2017 Nissan Versa 

At a starting price of less than $13,000 including destination charges, the basic Versa S still comes with air conditioning and a 4-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity. It also offers low cost of ownership, excellent fuel economy, and a surprisingly spacious rear seat. Even when you load it up you'll have trouble breaking the $18,000 mark. Read more

10. 2017 Chevrolet Spark

With only 98 horsepower on tap, the 2017 Chevrolet Spark minicar isn’t quick, but it’s fairly peppy especially when compared to other sub-100-horsepower cars such as the 3-cylinder Mitsubishi Mirage. The Spark’s relatively long wheelbase contributes to its stability and smooth ride, as well as nimble handling. Younger buyers will appreciate the high tech, while mom and dad will like the Spark’s safety features. Read more

This story was originally published at, a Cox Automotive company.