January 13, 2017: It’s a new year and time for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Last year saw the event scramble to adjust as a number of upscale brands decided to take a pass on Detroit. They didn’t come back in 2017, but the show looked more calm and cohesive. The same wasn’t true behind the scenes, however, as some automakers tripped over themselves to embrace mobility and others came close to starting a thermonuclear war. The vehicles on display mirrored the mobility theme in many cases, with some level of autonomous driving edging closer to everyday reality. Conspicuous by their absence were the 2018 Mustang and Corvette ZR-1, but this void was filled with crossovers, a new rear-drive sport sedan/hatchback, the latest versions of the best-selling car and light truck in the U.S., and an electrified retread from VW. With automakers pushing hard to establish their relevance in a tech savvy world, autonomous vehicle concepts often promise more than they can realistically deliver. We spent time at ZF TRW’s Michigan test center to see and drive the technologies that will make autonomous driving possible, and spoke with execs to separate fact from fantasy. Meanwhile, this week’s Virtual Collection looks back at an era when the luxury offerings from Detroit were fully on par with their European competitors, and dripping with personality, glamour and style.
December 26, 2016: We at TVD hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and will have a great New Year's Day. We'll see you in a couple of weeks from the floor of Cobo Hall where we'll be attending the 2017 North American International Auto Show.
December 16, 2016: We been catching up on our reading as we head into the Christmas holiday. And despite the somewhat eclectic mix of titles that have appeared on these pages in the past, the recent Road Reads are all car books. First up is The Complete Book of American Muscle Supercars. It starts with the Grand Spauldings, Yenkos, and Nickeys of the musclecar world, and continues right on up through the factory hot rods of today. Is it as the title suggests, or an overly ambitious attempt that falls somewhat short of its stated goal? Next up is Camaro 2016, one of the new breed of quick-to-market books aimed at model enthusiasts, and blessed by the brand’s PR and marketing departments. Can this composition serve two masters, reader and corporation, equally well? Then we have a self-published work from an owner of the vehicle in question. Iron Fist, Lead Foot follows the story of the 2003 Mustang Cobra from its gestation on a development drive to the last model off the line. It’s a compelling story, but can a self-published tome like this exhibit the polish of a more traditional automotive title, not to mention the expected objectivity? Next, our Editor at Large throws everything out the window to pursue an alternate reality where truth and fiction swap sides. You may think you know the truth about the featured cars, but chances are you don’t. Finally, in the spirit of the season, we take a look at a Lamborghini-inspired speaker system for your home. But, before you pull out your credit card, you might want to check your bank balance.
December 2, 2016: This week Ford held a giant press conference to introduce the 2018 Fiesta. Interestingly, it isn’t scheduled to go on sale in Europe for seven months, and there was little information as to how the U.S. version will differ from its European counterpart. Speaking of Europe, Volkswagen released its plan to transform the brand in light of the diesel scandal, and the growing trend toward electrification. But is it the right recipe and direction for the brand and company? Mazda’s new CX-9 deftly straddles the sport, tech and luxury segments with a unique and capable mid-to-large crossover with very few vices. But is it enough to break through the clutter, and finally put some sales on the board for the scrappy automaker from Hiroshima? The Mini John Cooper Works Rally is a unique crossover, one designed to compete in grueling events like the Dakar. We take a look under its unusual skin in search of the Mini beneath. Cadillac is returning to endurance racing, this time with IMSA in the Daytona Prototype international class. Read why its uniqueness is pretty much skin deep. Rounding out the racing theme, the Virtual Collection has a pair ofracers with deep NASCAR roots. Both come from Ford, but one was destined for Le Mans, and the other the high banked ovals.
November 18, 2016: This week’s L.A. Auto Show launched a lot of new vehicles, most of which were of the crossover variety. First up (alphabetically) is Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio. Based on the Giulia sedan, the all-wheel drive crossover has a sporting nature bred more for the Nurburgring than the Rubicon. Chevy’s Colorado ZR2, however, makes up for any shortcomings the Alfa might have. This über off-road machine has special Multimatic dampers, 31-in. tires, the option of diesel power, and could force Ford to build a “Raptor Jr.” version of the new Ranger. Chevy’s Spark Activ, on the other hand, is a trim level meant to mimic the styling of off-road vehicles. It either proves that crossovers and SUVs are the price of entry in the market, or that the industry is quickly running out of ideas. Then there’s the Ford EcoSport. Built on the Fiesta platform, this Indian-built micro crossover offers the option of all-wheel drive, and is Ford’s late entry into this hot market. Jaguar’s I-Pace Concept previews the British automaker’s upcoming battery powered crossover. Built on a modular skateboard chassis, it is the first of what promises to be many EVs from Jaguar. Mazda used the show to introduce its new CX-5 which is built on a revised version of the current model’s platform. This tasteful update brings the small crossover more in line with the range topping CX-9, which is not a bad thing. Toyota, on the other hand, used the show to debut the production version of the C-HR, a crossover with claimed sports car overtones and (unfortunately) a CVT. Audi showed its new suite of 5s, including the Q5, A5 and S5 Coupe, and A5 and S5 Sportback. Mazda also pulled the covers off its RT24-P prototype that will debut this January at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Jaguar also showed the preview model of its continuation build of the nine XKSS cars lost in the fire at the Browns Lane factory in 1957. Scrupulously detailed, the cars are exact copies of the original, and all are spoken for. In a similar vein, the Virtual Collection looks at a pair of modern recreations of the Porsche 911 RSR. Far from tool room copies, they capture the essence of the original, and mix it with modern technology and individual style. Finally, Aston Martin introduced the latest generation Vanquish S. This tasteful hot rod starts at $294,950.
November 7, 2016: We've made a small but significant change to our rules for the Sta-Bil giveaway. Instead of awarding the prizes to the correct entry with the earliest time stamp, all correct entries will be entered for the sweepstakes, and the winner chosen at random from those entries. As a number of readers have pointed out, this levels the playing field for all entrants. Fortunately, we have yet to receive a correct entry for the contest (It's not that tough of a question!), so everyone who enters has the same chance of winning.
November 4, 2016: For the first time in the five-year history of this website, we’re running a contest. The winner will receive a 32-ounce bottle of Sta-Bil Storage and a $50 Amazon gift code, both from the Golden Eagle Co., makers of Sta-Bil. These are the same people who have created a new way to take care of the fuel system of your classic car, motorcycle, ATV or other gasoline-powered vehicle, Sta-Bil 360° Performance. We take a look at some of the misconceptions that have built up around use of Sta-Bil Storage, and the properties that help the brand’s new product keep the metal fuel system parts free from corrosion. One item you might want to consider for Sta-Bil’s new formula is Mopar’s new kit to help you put a factory fresh modern Hemi in a 1975 or earlier Chrysler, Dodge or Plymouth. It’s just one part of Mopar’s effort to help restorers and modifiers build a car with factory approved parts. The other is the creation of a website for restorers that provides technical and parts location assistance by providing access to more than 45 approved Mopar parts licensees and 9,000+ restoration parts. What they won’t have are parts for the newest members of the Virtual Collection, a 1904 Packard race car, a 1929 Stutz Blackhawk, and a house. But not just any house. This 2,000-acre ranch was once the vacation home of Henry Bourne Joy, the former head of Packard. This week we take a look at VW’s Atlas SUV, and why it has taken so long to move from the CrossBlue concept to the production crossover. Slightly smaller, but no less German, is the new British-built Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Not only does it have an impossibly long name, it’s Mini’s first plug-in hybrid. Next up is Hyundai’s 2017 Elantra Sport, a Jetta GLI for the Korean automaker. It boasts 201 horsepower, a multi-link independent rear suspension, and a reasonable price. Finally, we take a look at Volvo’s plans to move S90 production to China, revamp its global production strategy, and launch a Chinese brand off its smallest platform.
October 21, 2016: In one of the most unexpected tie ups, Harrods and Caterham have joined forces to produce the most luxurious Seven ever. Hand-stitched leather, a woodgrain instrument panel, and a gold-painted chassis add a side of decadence to this iconic sports car. Audi, known for its tasteful interiors and tech, hasn’t built a competitor to the Harrods Seven, but its own 7 — the Q7 — gives it a run for the money in the tastefulness sweepstakes. Unfortunately, its focus on tech hits a few speed bumps, and diminishes its soul to the point where it points to the way to the autonomous drones of the future. Technology has its positive side as well, like when it produces a machine that helps Ford keep tons of modeling clay out of landfills. Or when it brings a new dimension to the 2017 BMW 5 Series, a sport sedan that reduces passenger stress while increasing dynamic capabilities. More down to earth is the 2017 Honda CR-V, the fifth generation small SUV that puts turbo power under the hood for the first time. Power also is point of Ford Performance’s upgrade kits for the Mustang. There’s one for the EcoBoost four and three for the V8, each with its own factory approved and backed tuning. Hyundai’s U.K. branch joined forces with a behavioral psychologist to create a Driving Emotion Test that shows women are significantly angrier behind the wheel than men. We share the results. For some, washing and waxing their vehicle is enough to melt away the stress, but choosing the right products to use can induce its own stress and strain. We evaluate the Stoner Car Care Kit by detailing an unusual vehicle that has a long history of hard work and minimal cosmetic attention. This week’s Virtual Collection takes a look at two unusual cars built by a pair of men who were, to say the least, unconventional. The Arnolt Bristol and Muntz Jet may have never set the world on fire, but made it a more interesting place. Finally, we take a quick look at four vehicles that crossed our path and made strong impressions, though not always good.
October 6, 2016: Alternative fuels and power sources play a big role in this issue. First up is a look at the electric vehicle landscape with Navigant Research Senior Research, Energy, Scott Shepard. Though the market for EVs is growing, it is being driven largely by regulation and rebate. Also, Shepard shows how the markets casual observers think are ripe for EV penetration are places where they are unlikely to make major inroads. Which, of course, brings us to two EV concepts that are precursors to production vehicles from their respective companies. First up is the Mercedes Generation EQ, an awkwardly named crossover built on a scalable base, and offering all-wheel drive. It’s followed by the car VW hopes is its ticket out of cheating on diesel emissions purgatory, the VW I.D. Similar in size to the Golf, the long-range EV also is built on a scalable modular platform, but only drives the rear wheels. And, like the original Beetle, the powertrain is in the rear. Not to be outdone, Chevy built the Colorado ZH2, an off-road test platform designed for military use that is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. It shares its fuel cell tech with the Unmanned Underwater Vehicle GM is building with the military, and carries on a long tradition of fuel cell research that dates back to 1966. On a slightly shorter time scale, Civic will offer a standard six-speed manual gearbox on certain turbocharged models of the 2017 Civic Sedan and Coupe. It also debuted the Type R concept at the Paris Motor Show, the first factory-backed Type R ever to make it to U.S. shores for retail sale. Halleluiah! However, if all of this technology has you overwhelmed, our Editor at Large takes a look back at two cars that defined America’s Sixties style and swagger, the Thunderbird Sports Roadster and Buick Riviera. They also provide an answer for their respective automakers as they struggle to reestablish their luxury brands.
Copyright 2011, The Virtual Driver