Wednesday, October 27, 2010
There's plenty of expensive cars with cool high-tech features like navigation, dual clutch automatic transmissions, turbocharged engines and awesome multi-media connections. But what if you only have about $20,000 to spend - check out this report from AOL's Translogic web show.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta and 2011 Nissan Juke both offer compelling features that any tech-head would totally get geeked out about. Price range? $16,000 - $22,000.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Two parts sports car, one part luxury convertible, the Lexus IS 350 Convertible is the one Lexus that combines the best of sport and luxury. The rear-wheel drive IS convertible is based on the IS sedan so handling is sportier than other Lexus vehicles - it feels more like a BMW 3-Series or Infiniti G37. The 300+ hp six-cylinder engine is powerful and fun, plus it has a nice, subtle exhaust note.
The interior is perhaps a slight step down from more expensive Lexus sedans but the heated and cooled seats are comfortable, materials are high quality and all the features you'd expect in a Lexus are there. The power folding hard top instantly converts the IS from an open top sports car to a smooth and quiet luxury coupe.
In the end the Lexus IS 350C is the perfect car for someone who enjoys driving and seeking out twisty roads but wants to balance that with a comfortable everyday car. The ride is firmer than a Lexus ES but a little more forgiving than that of a BMW.
The Infiniti G is a little sharper and better looking but the Volvo C70 lacks the Lexus Convertible's refinement and polish.
Monday, October 25, 2010
With 100 hp, the 2011 Mazda2 feels plenty powerful. Is it going to win at Le Mans? No, but it is a fun car to drive that provides both entertaining handling and a high quality interior. The seats are comfortable and the back seat isn't impossible to use. The 2011 Mazda2 is mechanically related to the Ford Fiesta so that good - the Fiesta is probably the best subcompact out there.
At just $16,000 for a nicely equipped Mazda2, I say ignore all the old guys that write and talk too much simply for their own pleasure. Go test drive a Mazda2, it's a well-made little car that will have you re-thinking just how much car you really need.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Thanks to eGM Car Tech for the pic of Honda's 2011 CR-Z as shown at the Detriot Auto Show. Honda says it's a sporty hybrid - that sounds like an oxymoron. Either way, here's Translogic's take on the sporty but fuel sipping CR-Z hybrid. Six-speed manual trans doesn't hurt the sport cred that's for sure. http://translogic.aolautos.com/
What do you think, can Honda have it's S2000 cake and daintily sip fuel at the Insight table too?
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
There seems to be some confusion about the Chevy Volt - here's a few facts:
The Chevrolet Volt uses a gas engine to make electricity when the batteries run down.
The 1.4 liter gasoline engine never powers the wheels.
Chevy suggests premium fuel but it will work on regular unleaded.
Fully charged, the range is 40 miles total - that's 20 miles each way.
While driving, the gasoline powered generator kicks on automatically but you really can't feel it.
It is possible for the gas engine to charge the batteries and store some electricity.
In "Mountain Mode" the car's gas engine can run and will put a little power back in the batteries.
The retail price is $41,000 - some people will qualify for an IRS tax credit - not cash back.
The Volt will not qualify for HOV status in Calif.
Many dealers have already said they will mark the car up $5,000.
The Chevrolet Volt is built in the US, including most of the battery pack.
Chevrolet will warranty the batteries for 8 years or 100,000 miles.
Not all Chevy dealers will sell the Volt - high demand areas like California will get the cars first.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Truth is, the PT Cruiser was never a super star - it's been primarily a value proposition. At one point, you could lease one for $99 per month. FIAT, Chrysler's new owners, has a lot experience with small, affordable cars that are fun so maybe they can come up with non-retro replacement for the PT.
MSN Autos has a much more in depth article on the PT Cruiser and it's long, slow demise. Soon, we'll be seeing fewer and fewer of those PT Cruisers with the wood paneling - now what will we make fun of? But we didn't always look at the retro PT with such contempt, according to the Detroit News Chrysler sold more than 1.3 million PT Cruisers. And remember, the PT was an almost instant success - just goes to show, today's superstar is tomorrow's sad story. Hey Kayne, better spend the money wisely.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The 2010 Toyota Matrix is a lot like the 2009 Toyota Matrix. That's just as well since the Matrix was redesigned in 2009. Due to increased concerns about safety, the 2010 version of the Matrix does get stability and traction control added to the standard features list. The price also jumps up about $250.
There's a lot to like about the Matrix, it's basically a Corolla wagon but with an extra dose of attitude. The mid-level Toyota Matrix S is likely the best seller as it combines value and desirable features. The standard engine is a 1.8 liter inline four cylinder but the S model comes with the more powerful 2.4 liter engine (158 hp). An eight speaker stereo with satellite radio, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power windows and keyless entry are all standard. Add a few extras like $880 alloy wheels, sport package (front and rear spoilers) and carpeted floor mats and cargo mat for an extra $200 and the price is just a hair over $22,000, base price is $19,650. The one feature you'll miss on the S is cruise control - it is not standard and well worth adding to the options list. There's also an all-wheel drive version of the Matrix.
On the road, the Matrix feels like a competent economy car - the ride is neither exceptionally smooth or excessively busy. On rough roads the Matrix feels a bit jittery but other than than it's fine. The 2.4 liter engine is powerful enough, the five speed automatic transmission helps keep the revs (and noise) down but if you really step into it there's a lot of noise. Road and wind noise are managed well.
As a versatile wagon, the Toyota Matrix works well. It's not remarkable but it does provide that extra measure of Toyota-ness that we've come to expect from cars like the Corolla. The interior is neither plush nor super-cheap but somewhere in the middle. Cargo space is OK for a compact and the wagon configuration adds a little more total volume versus the trunk on a sedan. Think of the Toyota Matrix as a nothing more than a well-built compact wagon that will likely hold its value over the years. It's no sports hatch like the Mazda3, nor it is penalty box.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Here's just a hint at how Nissan is incorporating mobile and smartphone tech into the advertising and function of the new electric Leaf. The Nissan Leaf will be on sale soon and will be the first mass produced, all electric car.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
The popular Honda Accord gets a few tweaks for 2011. Thanks to better areodynamics, revised gear ratios and improvements to engine and transmission friction the 2.4 liter version of the Accord now gets 34 mpg on the highway and 23 in the city. That puts it in better contention with Hyundia's new Sonata, a car that gets an EPA highway rating of 35 mpg.
The interior gets a mild makeover too with some primary controls being relocated to improve ergonomics. Newly available features include USB audio input, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for some models and a rear parking camera.
Finally, there's a new Honda Accord SE for 2011. It basically takes the features from the LX-P then adds leather, heated seats and power lumbar support for the driver's seat.
The revised 2011 Honda Accord goes on sale in August of 2010.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
It's clearly a stunt but Ford took the new 2011 Mustang and lapped Bristol Motor Speedway as many times as possible on just one tank of gas - the result: more than 1,450 laps or about 776 miles. Ford said they used special driving techniques to maximize fuel economy but other than that, the car is a stock 2011 Ford Mustang V6. The end result is an astonishing 48.5 miles per gallon. The Mustang's speed was kept at an average of 43.9 miles per hour. The drivers did not run the air-conditioning and avoided quick starts and stops. Keeping a steady speed also helps raise fuel economy - no matter what car you drive, these types of driving techniques can raise your mpg.
The new all aluminum V6 displaces 3.7 liters and makes 305 hp. A six-speed automatic transmission helps keep rpms low and that contributes to the Mustang's high fuel economy. Clearly Ford was feeling the sting of GM's new V6 as found in the Camaro - it too is a 300+ hp engine that delivers decent fuel economy. Ford says this engine will earn an EPA rating of more than 30 mpg highway which will top the Camaro V6's highway mpg of 29.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Let's face it, Mercury hasn't been a serious contender for years maybe even decades. Old S-55, Cougar Eliminator, 60s era Grand Marquis and others were certainly cool but like Janet Jackson said, "what have you done for me lately?" Well, nothing. And that's exactly why Oldsmobile is ready for it's big comeback. No, really.
Oldsmobile has a rich performance history with cars like the 4-4-2, the 65 Starfire with a 425 cu in V8, Achieva SCX and the powerful Quad 4 engine. Oldsmobile also got the luxury side of things right - witness the 60s Olds 98, 80s era Olds Cutlass, Oldsmobile Silhouette and the last Olds Aurora.
An American car that's equal parts performance and luxury is just what we need - but with a much lower price than brands like BMW and Cadillac.
There, I said it. Oldsmobile in '13 - the company is tan, rested and ready. So long Mercury, hello Oldsmobile.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Jeep's all new Grand Cherokee should be on sale soon and with it comes an all new V6 engine that will eventually find its way into most future Chrysler products. But even that's a loaded statement because it's still not clear that Chrysler will have much of a future. Even when the '11 Grand Cherokee debuted, the new SUV was overshadowed by FIAT and Chrysler execs showing off a FIAT 500. Too bad because the new GC is more luxurious and more capable off-road with features like air-suspension and a higher grade interior.
Jeep is the one thing Chrysler owns that still rings true with consumers, especially Americans. The name Jeep still has enough equity that it will likely be around for years to come no matter who owns it - let's just hope future Jeeps aren't rebodied FIAT Pandas. Hey FIAT, good luck with the Dodge Caliber and Dodge Avenger too.
But the new Pentastar V6 sounds promising. It's an all aluminum, DOHC w/VVT, 3.6 liter engine that's good for 280 hp - Chrysler says the new V6 is more fuel efficient too. If the new engine is as good as the 2011 Grand Cherokee looks then they'll have a winner.
Friday, June 11, 2010
If you want a hybrid - deciding which one is best for you might depend on where you live. Many hybrids get better fuel economy in city driving - that's not true of convential gas only cars.
Cars like the 2010 Toyota Prius, 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, 2010 Lexus HS250h and Mercury Milan Hybrid do better in the city while cars like the Camry Hybrid and Honda Insight are slightly better on the highway.
Here's a breakdown of which hybrids urbanites might want to check out thanks to Bunker Hill Magazine.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Old Decals work too: www.porkystruckstop.com/nostalgia.htm
Check out http://www.diecastmodelcars.com/ for a good online selection of scale model cars, old and new. Or how about some old racing movies - http://www.raresportsfilms.com/ has old racing footage, racing movies as well as football, baseball and other nostalgic sports videos.
Or if your dad is really into keeping that old or new ride clean, hit http://www.griotsgarage.com/ for stuff like special buffers, lighted tweezers, a windshield cleaner that gets the corners, motor oil colonge (yes, really) and the ultimate car washing kit. They even have thier own father's day gift guide.
If that doesn't work how about a vintage soda machine - http://www.barsandbooths.com/ and maybe a little old style, original recipe Dr Pepper to fill it - http://www.dublindrpepper.com/
Friday, June 4, 2010
Ever hear the term butterface? I never heard it before a year ago - there was this woman who worked at the office. She was blonde, drove an M3 and from about 10 yards away she looked like a teen blogger's definition of hot. This creepy guy named Glenn was all over her - I thought, no way, she's five steps over his head. Creepy, balding single guys in their 40s who spend lots of time with mother have little feel for what league they're truly a part of. Anyway, one day I saw this woman up close and was later told about butterface - everything is totally rockin' but her face. Yikes!
As the months went on ol' butterface realized even she was out of Mr. creepy, winebar stalker, pseudo-intellectual, wannabe movie expert's league and she started to ignore him. Good thing, she probably would have ended up in mother's basement.
That's just a long and draw out way to say the 2010 Jeep Patriot is sort of like a butterface - looks great, works well on paper and seems to offer a good dose of Jeep-ness for a low price. But up close and personal things start to get unattractive. The drone from the 172 hp, 2.4 liter inline four is bothersome and the CVT feels kinda clunky. Still, 172 hp isn't bad for a four banger and the Patriot is good looking when compared to the generic Honda and Toyota compact SUVs.
The Patriot doesn't have much rear seat legroom and the quality of materials inside isn't anything to get excited about but the darn thing starts at about $16,000. Opt for the Limited and your well into low $20,000 territory. For that price you'll get leather seating, 17-inch polished aluminum wheels and monochrome paint. Even in 4 wheel drive trim, the Jeep Patriot delivers best in class fuel economy - 28 mpg highway is the best you'll get in an SUV that drives all four wheels and the Patriot does have an off road mode and hill descent control for the the 4x4 version. Much has been made of the Chevy Equinox's 32 mpg on the highway but that's for the front-wheel drive version.
Yes, the Jeep Patriot may be a butterface of sorts but just like that semi-attractive woman with the M3, someone will marry her and think he won the lottery - nothing wrong with that. The Patriot is the same way, it will have plenty of takers simply because it looks like a real deal Jeep from 50 paces - the low price doesn't hurt either. But look a little closer and the flaws become obvious.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
As a counterpoint to Inside Line's excellent The Art of Mercury photo essay I'd like to point out a few reasons Mercury should have been killed long ago and how they've never really had their act together since the 1970s. Starting with the most unattractive sports car ever - the 1990 Mercury Capri. An American Miata? Not really, the Australian built Capri's front wheel drive and sedan like styling meant Capri shoppers ran to the local Mazda dealer as soon as they got a whiff of this disaster.
But there was trouble long before in the form of the Merkur brand, a German built Ford or Mercury depending on how you look at it. How do you say ugly in German? I think it might be Merkur Scorpio. Hey Germany, please stick to building harsh riding $50,000 compact sedans and starting wars - you rock at both.
The 1986 Mercury Cougar was the only car that made the Chevy Celebrity look sexy. Congrats on that one!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
But it really doesn't matter because Ford is killing the Mercury brand. Let's face it, all Mercury vehicles are just re-branded Fords and many are set to expire soon. The Crown Vic and Mercury Grand Marquis are both set to be replaced soon and the Mountaineer (a Mercury version of the Explorer) is also dead. The only real relevant Mercurys are the Mariner and Milan both have hybrid versions but both are also just Fords with nicer trim.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
We expect a turbocharged four cylinder engine making about 250 - 260 hp in the 2012 Regal GS. No V6 will be offered but if those numbers are accurate, Buick won't need one.
No prices have been announced for the latest generation Buick GS but low to mid $30,000 range is a good guess.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Want to know where many jobs in local communities have gone - just take a look at these pictures.
Each of these dealerships employed hundreds of people from entry level salespeople to college graduates in the management and finance departments to highly trained technical people. This Pontiac dealership had been in place for decades.
Plus, each of these closed dealerships represents hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost city and county tax revenue - why are they closing fire stations and laying off teachers? Not enough tax money to support them.
Here's an empty service drive at a former Volvo dealership. This picture was taken on a Friday at 4pm.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
If you want a an all-electric Nissan Leaf, better get your request in now. There's a $99 placeholder fee - you can sign up at the Nissan web site.
Asking price should be about $32,000 but you can get a $7,500 tax credit from Uncle Sam so the real price is even lower. The Leaf is all electric and Nissan says it has a 100 mile range. I drove a prototype Leaf and it feels smoother, quicker and is quieter than other 'lectric cars like the Mini. It should seat 5 passengers comfortably, have an optional navigation system and emits zero emissions.
Made ya look! I wish this was the all new 2012 or 2013 Dodge Charger. The promise of the revived Dodge Charger has never really be fufilled. This concept car from 1999 looked like the real deal - rear wheel drive, Hemi V8, sleek styling that hints at the past but is completely forward looking. Sadly, it never showed up. Instead we got the current generic and plasticky 'hood cruiser. The 2010 Dodge Charger is more like a Dodge Intrepid II than a real Charger. OK, it's rear wheels move the car and you can get a Hemi but c'mon the current Charger is really nothing special.
Although a decade old, this concept car's look is still fresh unlike the current Dodge Charger. Please Fiat, if you know what's good for you build a car like this one. An all-new Dodge Charger is long overdue - do it, Fiat!
Friday, May 21, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Chevrolet makes a hybrid Tahoe - it gets 21 city / 22 highway. But the company's own non-hybrid SUVs do better than that. The 2010 Chevrolet Traverse gets a combined average of 19 mpg topping out at 24 mpg on the highway. The smaller 2010 Equninox does even better with a 26 mpg combined EPA estimate and 32 mpg on the highway.
Although the Toyota Prius does get a real world 50 mpg, many more affordable small cars do nearly as good as other hybrids - Kia Forte EX w/ fuel economy package 36 mpg highway, 2011 Ford Fiesta w/ automatic transmission 29 city / 40 highway, 2010 VW Jetta SportWagen TDI 30 city / 42 highway. Other cars like the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra Blue, VW Golf TDI and Honda Fit do well too but most are priced at or below $20,000 (the VWs are a little more)
So maybe skip the hybrid and save some money.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The interior is high tech and high quality. Two tone seats, exposed stitching on the dash and door panels plus a Bowers and Wilkins stereo give the XFR a look and feel that's just as comfortable on the town as it is carving up a favorite back road. There's even a place for your iPod.
The shiftable six-speed automatic transmission seamlessly sends power to the rear wheels and that power comes on fast and strong. Launch the car from a stop and it jumps ahead with all the ferocity of a caged cat. The sound bellowing from the quad exhaust tips combined with the whine of a spooling up blower is the kind of thing that gets the attention of every man, woman and child within a three block radius. High performance R brakes and 20-inch wheels shod with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires mean braking and handling are equally impressive.
It's likely a car like the BMW M5 racks up quicker track times but in a luxury performance car, that's only a fraction of the story. The 2010 Jaguar XFR sure gets the performance part right but it also does luxury just right too. The XFR is all Jag, all luxury and all awesome.