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Thursday
Jun142012

February 2012

February 24, 2012: Last week we were heavy on tech. This week it’s new vehicles. We start with Al’s review of the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. It’s had its own Lifestyle Lift, and some heart surgery. Is it a new vehicle or an old warhorse with a bad nip and tuck? Next, Al and Chris review the new Toyota Prius c. This is the smallest Prius ever, and perhaps the most intriguing. Chris takes a look at what makes the Prius c tick while Al (who was there for one of his other outlets — the cad!) tells what it’s like around the streets of Delray Beach, Florida. Speaking of swanky surroundings, Mini and Ilaria Fendi have gotten together to create men’s and women’s bags made from Mini Roadster leftovers. Chris Sawyer gets the “Timing Is Everything” award when he goes on TV (again!) to talk about winter driving just as a storm hits Michigan. Finally, Al vents his spleen on interior engineers and designers who make finding, and using, the gearshift a nightmare.

 

February 17, 2012: Technology is the word this week, from the sublime to the scary fast. First up is a new touchpad technology from TRW Automotive. It uses an affordable multi-graphic rear projection display that shows you more than the numbers that will unlock your car’s doors. Next are affordable Metal Matrix Composite brake rotors. NYU-Poly and REL, Inc. are working on this technology, and suggest it can remove 30 lb. of unsprung weight from the typical mid-size sedan, last the life of the car, and perform better than the cast iron rotors in production today. At TVD, we call that a bargain. Our last technology is a Lola LMP1 prototype outfitted with an electric drivetrain. If that isn’t enough, some of the electrical systems on the vehicle are powered by structural batteries; cells whose chemistry has been integrated into the composites making up the structure of the vehicle. It’s pretty trick stuff. Just don’t expect to see it running at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Back in the real world, Chris Sawyer takes the Mazda2 Touring out to see what it’s made of. Is it a sporting economy car or a fraternal twin to the Ford Fiesta that uses the same underpinnings? Finally, Al responds to a reader e-mail, and gives both barrels to drivers who slow down to a crawl before turning. Even more frightening is that Al’s satirical take on what should be done to these miscreants — disemboweling comes to mind — is one of his milder suggestion.

 

February 10, 2012: It’s a big week at The Virtual Driver. Al spent time in California driving the new 3 Series. Yes, we "hate" him, too. Judging from his words, the new 3 Series is a big step forward from its already excellent predecessor, no matter which engine you choose. This time, however, your choice of motors extends to a four-cylinder with a twin-scroll turbo and its bigger, six-cylinder brother. Next time, Al stays home… In a more serious vein, Al reviews Bill Vlasic’s latest book on the auto industry. This time around, Vlasic takes a look at the decline, fall and rise of Detroit’s automakers, and gives us fascinating insights into why these companies almost collapsed. Meanwhile, Sawyer looks into the situation at Suzuki, wondering if the company can survive in the U.S. market in its present state. (It can’t.) With that in mind, he looks at the Suzuki lineup and puts forward a plan for its revival. He also strips the Chicago Auto Show down to its basics, looking at the newest of the new vehicles and concepts shown in the Windy City. It’s a short, but interesting list. Finally, Al (he was busy this week) looks at into his crystal ball and discovers a time when, unlike his youth, the V8 Nazis keep you from buying a octo-cylindered vehicle.

 

February 3, 2012: Back from his bout with kidney stone removal Chris Sawyer takes us inside the world of VW’s new modular transverse technology. More than just a standardized structural base or set of powertrains, the MQB, as it is called, is a declaration of war by Volkswagen on the competition. It has the potential to slash per unit costs, increase the level of in-vehicle technology affordably, add immense flexibility to the VW Group’s production facilities, and allow it to build more vehicle variations based on a set of common components at a higher profit margin. It’s pretty amazing. While he was convalescing, Sawyer also finished a book on Edsel Ford, the only child of Ford Motor Company’s founder. The 1934 Model 40 Special Roadster Edsel created alongside Ford design chief Bob Gregorie (right) shows the depths of this man’s talents. Little is really known about Edsel, though author Henry Dominguez has done a wonderful job putting together a sympathetic portrait of this forgotten and misunderstood giant. Read the review to find out what a twisted and tragic existence he was forced to lead. Finally, Al gets out on the road to play space invaders, that game where the nicer the car you drive, the more likely it is that people will harm it. He has some sage advice for those who don’t want to play that game.

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