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Friday
Dec052014

December 2014

December 19, 2014: Ford’s Transit 250 High Roof is a big box on wheels, just what you need when have large items to carry. We take the Transit on a long drive to see if its efficiency extends beyond how much it can carry. One person who may need a Transit is Lotus chassis engineering chief Matthew Becker. He’s on his way to Aston-Martin, and should be more than capable of removing the harsh, “bred on the Nurburgring” ride that drives Top Gear’s James May rightly crazy. Speaking of the guys from Gaydon, Becker might just want to take a look at Aston partner Mercedes’ new GLE Coupe for his company car. On the tech front, Ford introduced a new version of SYNC, that does everything it hoped MyFord Touch would do, but didn’t. Jaguar shows a concept of how “clear” pillars would improve driver visibility. And BMW shows a self-parking i3 controlled by a smartwatch. On the lifestyle beat, we preview a neat iPhone 6 case created by a motorcycle designer that needs your help to get kick started. GAZ creates a family of shock absorbers for classic Chevys. And we take a look at some watches your inner Helio Castroneves might desire. Closer to home, or at least to the couch, our own Al Vinikour waxes lyrical about televised police chases.

 

December 5, 2014: A quick trip to San Diego to drive the 2015 Chevy Trax reveals a compelling, complete and capable small crossover that’s high on content, but low on personality. The same can’t be said of Fiat’s 500X, which combines the cheeky styling and attitude of the 500 hatchback with the underpinnings of Jeep’s Renegade. Mercedes is working on high-tech LED headlights it believes will be more than a match for laser headlights. And while that technology is lighting the way to the future, Volvo has a decidedly low-tech, but effective, solution to determining whether interior odors are acceptable or too strong. We also take a look at the hard-knock life of The Henry Ford’s Le Mans winning Ford GT Mk. IV to see the difference between conservation and restoration. And our own Al Vinikour comes clean with a personal admission, and a challenge to automakers.

Friday
Nov072014

November 2014

November 21, 2014: Press days for the Los Angeles Auto Show just finished, and the number of launches and world premiers continues to increase each year. And, despite last year’s green focus, performance cars and SUVs took center stage in 2014. Join us for a look at some of the most important reveals. Speaking of performance, Cadillac showed its new FIA GT3-compliant racer, and it made one Pilgrim very happy just before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile Mercedes gets together with champion surfer Garrett McNamara to create a pair of surfboards, and we take a look at the result. And Al Vinikour gives a short tour of the strange thoughts that cross his mind on long road trips.

 

November 7, 2014: We take a look at Lincoln’s modular future and unravel plans that would make Matthew McConaughey’s head spin. In the market for a small, quick, sporting car? We compare the folding hardtop Mazda Miata with Ford’s Fiesta ST. Lexus, which has relentlessly pursued perfection, now wants cars with soul. The RX 450h can meet only one of those goals, while the Prius Plug-in Hybrid proves to have more personality than expected. It may be November, but we have lots of motorcycle news. First, Yamaha unveils its new YZF line, the YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M. Next, Ducati pulls the covers off its 1299 Panigale and 1200 Multistrada. Meanwhile, Hero MotoCorp builds a sustainable assembly plant that has a garden wall and feeds its neighbors! Also, Mujjo introduces a new line of touchscreen-friendly gloves, and a wallet case for your iPhone 6. Finally, Al Vinikour takes a look at owner’s manuals, and asks the age-old question: “Isn’t there a better answer than this?” 

Friday
Oct102014

October 2014

October 24, 2014: Toyota does the unthinkable and adds some style and a surprising amount of refinement to the mid-cycle refresh of its 2015 Camry. Is it enough to keep the competition at bay? Ford continues to dribble out information about the 2015 F-150. We look at the BoxLink system (with video), and a bed cap from A.R.E. The folks at XCar take a surprisingly even-handed look at the BMW X6, and come away impressed. Will you? Ducati’s new Testastretta motor has something no other Ducati engine has ever had — variable valve timing. Speaking of complexity, we take a look at the steering wheel of Porsche’s 919 Hybrid racer. NASA would be impressed. Speaking of racing. Ross Brawn returns to competition this month with a unique new (to him) car. And engineering students at England’s University of Wolverhampton go racing in Formula Renault for credit. GKN creates a compact AWD disconnect for small cars and SUVs. Hyundai boasts about what it’s learned from its Nurburgring R&D center, and we ask if they’ve learned enough. Xpel introduces a protection film for matte-finish vehicles that can also be used to turn your gloss finish to satin. And our own driving judge Al Vinikour lays out his sentencing guidelines for bad drivers.

 

October 10, 2014: The mid-engine Corvette rumors have started again, only to be joined by word that Ford is about to launch a new GT and take it to Le Mans in 2016. And there’s even talk that Cadillac will get in on the act with its own version of he C8 Corvette. We analyze the rumors, and add some fuel to the fire. These supercars will have tons of tech, but so will your next car as emissions and fuel economy regulations push automakers and suppliers to get more from less. We speak with the folks from Mahle about the changes you can expect to see in the coming years. When Kia redesigned the Soul for 2014, it greatly improved nearly every aspect of the car, but did it go too far and eliminate too much of its charming personality? VW, meanwhile, is losing market share and has declining sales in the U.S., but isn’t this the company that boasted it would sell 800,000 VW’s in America by 2018? We take a look at what’s been going on behind the scenes. On the lighter side, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering and Southern Comfort Automotive have hooked up to build a bad-ass Chevy Silverado called “The Reaper” that can be mild or wild. And Al Vinikour has his own take on monster trucks, and the most important accessory your monster truck needs.

 

Friday
Sep122014

September 2014

September 26, 2014: We finally got on the roads above Los Angeles in the 2015 Mustang during a time when temps in the valley reached an indicated 108 degrees. Judging from the reactions to the car, the air temperature wasn’t the only thing that was hot as Mustang and Camaro drivers, passersby and even exotic car drivers stopped and asked about the car. Does it meet or exceed the expectations set by the hype? We take an in-depth look. What does it take to start a new sports car company? We speak with former Caterham CEO and Lotus alumnus Ansar Ali about his past, and how it led to the creation of Zenos Cars. Then we examine the technology that makes the Zenos E10 a fascinating, high-tech, and surprisingly practical track day car. And if this little soap opera doesn’t satisfy you, we look at Pocket Classics’ lineup of pint-sized collector cars that even adults can enjoy. Toyota’s Tundra visited our offices recently, and left us wondering why it doesn’t sell in larger numbers. And Al Vinikour talks about his battle with spare tires, and why full-size spares are preferable to the alternatives.

 

September 12, 2014: We took a short break after the Labor Day holiday, but are back like Nixon in ’68; tanned, rested and ready. For those looking for a story on Mazda’s latest Miata, you will be disappointed. The seminal sports car has been covered to the point of annoyance elsewhere, and we’re not about to add to that until more solid information is available. Continuing on around the theme of annoyance, Jaguar finally pulled the wraps off the XE sedan after what seemed like an eternity of teases and information leaks. It wasn’t a subtle launch. Mercedes-AMG also pulled the covers off its GT and GT S two seaters, and we distilled a wordy press release about the car down to its bare essentials for your enjoyment. Speaking of having fun, earlier this week we were out at the Monticello Motor Club to drive the new Lexus RC350, RC F Sport and RC F. It’s an impressive car that’s indicative of where the brand intends to go, but you may be surprised by some of our initial impressions as to which model is best. Elsewhere, Ferrari chairman Luca Montezemolo was shown the door by Fiat Chrysler chairman Sergio Marchionne, but not before he collected a $35 million severance package. We look at what’s going on behind the scenes at the home of the Prancing Horse. Thankfully, the newly retired Montezemolo didn’t have the bad fortune to cross the street with his stash in front of our own Al Vinikour. It seems Al has a problem with folks who dawdle in the crosswalk, and isn’t afraid to share his solutions with anyone who’ll listen.