2015 Toyota Camry: Car Seat Check

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Redesigned for 2015, the Toyota Camry has a new look that will likely cause shoppers to love it or hate it, thanks mostly to its wide-mouth grille. This midsize sedan seats five, but in our tests it only fits two child-safety seats across the backseat.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Jennifer Newman | October 24, 2014 | Comments (2)

Ford's Driving Skills for Life Makes Big Impression on My Teen

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While my 14-year-old daughter isn't old enough to drive yet, I jumped at the opportunity to take her to Ford's Driving Skills for Life, an internationally touring program that teaches teen drivers and their parents about road perils that may not be addressed in traditional driver's education programs. I figured there was no better time to start exposing her to some life-saving lessons.

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There was one lesson in particular that my daughter learned at the event, and it wasn't even a lesson the program intended to teach: Among the modules that teens rotate through in this half-day program, drivers get behind the wheel wearing "fatal-vision" goggles. They're designed to simulate the effects of impaired driving, and participants wear them while attempting to navigate at low speeds through a driving course. Since my daughter couldn't drive the course, she got into the backseat while I drove.

By Kristin Varela | October 24, 2014 | Comments (1)

Should My Kid Get the Hand-Me-Down Car?

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My son turned 12 this summer — right around the time my husband's car turned 14, which means the end is nigh (for my husband's car, of course, not my husband). It raised an interesting question: Will whatever we buy as a replacement — our next "second car" — go to my son once he's old enough to drive? If so, my son would push for a Dodge Challenger or Ford Mustang as the replacement for my husband's older car, but what should parents be thinking about when considering whether their next vehicle will become a kid's car somewhere down the line?

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It's National Teen Driver Safety Week, so we're on the case.

Related: Top 10 Used Cars for $10K

Parents first need to decide whether they will pass their current, aging car down to their teen driver or buy a new (or new to them) car for the teen.

Whatever you choose, there are good reasons to buy a brand-new car:

  • You get the newest safety features
  • There are no questions about the car's history
  • You get a full warranty
  • You can choose which features are important (to you, the parent) and which features you should skip for a teen driver (premium stereo, sport-tuned engine — I'm looking at you)

If you're getting a new car you will drive for a few years before it goes to your kid, it's easier to justify the cost. Likewise, if you're going to be driving the car first, insurance will likely be a bit lower by the time the kid gets it, after miles and years have been piled on.

By Sara Lacey | October 23, 2014 | Comments (1)

Defensive Driving Courses Teach Teens Needed Skills

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The basics taught in driver's education just scratch the surface of the driving know-how needed by teens, yet, shockingly, not every state requires teens to go through even basic driver's education before getting their driver's license. A Michelin Tire study of 1,000 teens across the country found that half didn't feel prepared when they got their driver's license.

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How do teens learn what to do if their car starts to spin, how to check their car's tire pressure and how big a difference a slight distraction can make while driving? These are the types of lessons that can be taught within the safety of a supplemental driving program.

Luckily for those of us with teens approaching driving age, or for those who already have their licenses, there are several teen driving programs around the country, ranging from free to low-cost. Here's a roundup of a few of the larger programs:

By Kristin Varela | October 22, 2014 | Comments (2)

Nissan Bumps Pathfinder Prices for 2015

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Nissan's popular seven-passenger crossover got a host of additional standard and optional features for 2015, and all trims levels get a modest price increase. Base two-wheel-drive models of the 2015 Pathfinder start at $30,395, including destination — $300 more than the 2014 version.

Related: 2015 Nissan Pathfinder: What's Changed

The 3.5-liter V-6 and an updated version of the continuously variable automatic transmission continue to 2015; no word yet if the new-for-2014 Pathfinder Hybrid model will return for 2015.

New features this year include blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert on SL and Platinum models; hill descent control for all-wheel-drive Pathfinders; a 120-volt outlet on SLs; a dual panoramic moonroof on Platinum trims and the SV model gets fog lights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated side mirrors for 2015. Also new in the SL Tech Package is the Around View Monitor camera system as well as a tow hitch and harness. The SL Premium Package also gets an upgrade with navigation and the Around View Monitor system. Nissan also added a Family Entertainment Package for 2015 with a DVD entertainment system and dual 7-inch screens in the front row's head restraints.

Pathfinder S, SV, SL and Platinum trim levels in front- or all-wheel drive return for 2015; full pricing is below:

By Jennifer Geiger | October 21, 2014 | Comments (2)

Parents As Driving Instructors: What Works?

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There will come a day when parents are the passengers and the kids are behind the wheel. Like all other aspects of parenting, it's good to remember that we are often not the first ones to teach our kids to drive, but because so few parenting books cover "Teaching Your Kid To Drive," we decided to write that chapter ourselves for National Teen Driver Safety Week.

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First off, teaching your kids about cars and safety can begin long before your child — forgive me, teen — gets behind the wheel for the first time. While they're driving, parents can discuss with their kids what's happening out on the road, what the street signs mean, why speed limits exist and how to look both ways when entering an intersection (even if you have the green light). My 12-year-old son and I recently had a conversation about what a protected left turn is. It was cool, and now he's always looking to see if there's an arrow and what color it is.

I talked to moms and dads of older teens to find out what kind of parent is the preferred driving coach and to gather tips. The panel is made up of parents whose kids have received their driving permits (so they can drive with a parent or guardian onboard) or driver's licenses.

By Sara Lacey | October 21, 2014 | Comments (0)

Hey, Parents! We're Sabotaging Our Teen Drivers

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As parents, we often subscribe to a "do as I say, not as I do" mentality. This is dangerously apparent with our teen drivers, and studies have shown that parents are unknowingly sabotaging their teen drivers by demonstrating that mentality. Because it's National Teen Driver Safety Week, let's take a look at the common mistakes parents make that may be hurting their teen drivers.

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Don't Text and Drive (But I Can): We beat teens over the head with the "never text and drive" message, yet they see us do it on a regular basis. According to a 2012 study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions, 91 percent of teens reported seeing their parents talk on cellphones while driving, and 59 percent witnessed their parents sending a text while driving.

Monkey see, monkey do. Teens mirror the behaviors they see: 90 percent of teens say they've talked on cellphones while driving, and 78 percent admitted to sending text messages while driving.

By Kristin Varela | October 20, 2014 | Comments (0)

In-Car Entertainment Systems: Yea or Nay?

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Early in my automotive journalism and parenting careers, I had this grand "no-DVDs-in-the-car" stance. (I'm pretty sure I was still making my own baby food back then, too — ha!). Then I took a couple of road trips with my two toddlers in a test car with a DVD system, and I became a convert after an "Angelina Ballerina" DVD performed wonders by diverting an in-car tantrum. My sister-in-law still likes to bring up my change in policy to get a laugh at family get-togethers.

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Now that my "babies" have entered a new stage in life, I've changed tunes yet again. My freshly blended "Brady Bunch" family is comprised of my daughters, ages 14 and 12, and my stepdaughter, age 10. Today, technology inundates practically every facet of our lives. My oldest got an iPhone when she turned 12, worked on an iPad for all her middle-school classes and is now required to have a laptop for high school. Her Spanish seminars use Google Hangouts, she Face Times with me to keep me up-to-date on all the latest teen goings-on while I'm on business trips, she choreographs dances using an app to catalog her ideas — and the list goes on and on. My other two girls listen to music, play games and watch movies on their devices when traveling overseas to visit grandparents in South Africa. Our family's weekly dinner menu and grocery list are accessible by all of us, online calendars are used to manage three kids' schedules in three different schools in three different cities — and once again, the list seemingly never ends.

I'm sure many of you can relate to the fact that having dedicated time to talk to my kids, with full attention on both sides, is a rarity. The best chance of that happening these days is in the car … without a DVD entertainment system.

By Kristin Varela | October 15, 2014 | Comments (2)

Subaru's Impreza Fits Smaller Families

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When most families think of Subaru, the cars that seem to come to mind are the Forester crossover and Outback wagon. Many don't have the Impreza, Subaru's entry-level compact, on their radar. It's got a lot to offer with its family-friendly sedan or hatchback body styles and standard all-wheel drive, plus it's more affordable then its larger siblings. For smaller families who have active lifestyles but don't need or want a larger car, take note and get to know the Impreza. Subaru recently announced that it's refreshing the 2015 Impreza with a new front end, a standard backup camera and more.

Related: 2015 Subaru Impreza Gets Some Major Updates

The Impreza competes against the likes of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. My test car was a 2014 Subaru 2.0i Sport Limited hatchback with a starting price of $23,990, including destination. It came equipped with leather seats, snazzy 17-inch alloy wheels and a moonroof. However, its most appealing feature, which none of its competitors offer, is standard all-wheel drive.

That all-wheel drive makes for sure-footed handling under all road conditions. Even on Southern California's mostly dry roads, the Impreza felt confident through the curves. However, the 2014 Impreza's 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine seemed sluggish when accelerating, and it was louder than other compact cars I've driven. For 2015, Subaru has added more sound-deadening materials, thicker window glass and tighter window seals to address the noise issue.

By Carrie Kim | October 14, 2014 | Comments (14)

2015 Audi Q3: Car Seat Check

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The all-new Audi Q3 is a subcompact crossover, a new class of cars that's growing quickly with competitors such as the BMW X1, Buick Encore, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and the Jeep Renegade. Although it's small on the outside, the Q3 made good use of its interior. With seating for five, this tiny SUV managed to easily handle all of our child-safety seats with ease.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Jennifer Newman | October 9, 2014 | Comments (0)

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