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Thursday
Jun142012

March 2012

March 30, 2012: In Michigan, March has come in like a lamb, but is leaving like a schizophrenic, never certain what temperature it should be. Monday was balmy and perfect for a run down to Detroit’s Hard Rock Café for the announcement of Dodge’s participation in the Global RallyCross Championship. It will run the new Dart, driven by motocross and Supercross legend, Travis Pastrana. Chris Sawyer spent a little time with Pastrana, and says he’s not as crazy as you might think. On Tuesday, it was off to Auburn Hills to see what Jeep has cooked up for this year’s Easter Safari in Moab. The clear but crisp (c-o-l-d) weather provided the perfect backdrop for concepts both real and fanciful. Wednesday warmed up again, just in time for Ford to announce the Explorer Sport. Powered by a 350-hp EcoBoost V6, it promises lots of go to go with the show (or is that SHO?). The Rumor Mill returns this week, and asks what’s behind Jost Capito’s fast exit from Ford for VW, who is responsible for the Toyota GT 86/Scion FRS’ handling, whether or not Toyota is watching Lotus’s death march and waiting to strike, and what the Lexus LF-A and Hyundai have in common. Chris Sawyer, meanwhile, sits down with friend and former colleague John Clor to discuss oil prices, and asks what can be done to stop this insanity. (A lot, as it turns out.) And Al takes umbrage with drivers who don’t accelerate with alacrity when the light turns green — even the dead ones.

 

March 23, 2012: Curious about the silver scrap in the picture? It’s the remains of a crushed Mercedes 300 SL replica. One whose makers didn’t have Mercedes' permission to build. Read about what happened when German Customs seized the car as it was heading out of Germany. Had the people responsible for the bogus Mercedes been smart, they could have used OnStar’s new aftermarket FMV unit to report the car stolen, called for roadside assistance, called their lawyers or asked about traffic and weather in the vicinity of the local jail. But their loss may be your gain if your vehicle is compatible with the unit. Read what we have to say about the OnStar FMV, and whether or not it’s right for you. Speaking of technology plusses and minuses, Al gives his opinion about steering wheel controls. Good? Bad? Exasperating? Yes, he says, and more. Finally, you can catch up on your Formula 1 reading in time for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Though Peter Wright’s book is now 11 years old, it explains a lot about the technology and work necessary to create a competitive challenger, and why – for many — Formula 1 is no longer fun.

 

March 16, 2012: This week the Driver’s Seat is getting a workout. First up, Al goes to Vegas to drive the Fiat 500 Abarth. Though diminutive and cute, the Abarth proved to be a hoot to drive, and one of Al’s recent favorites. If that isn’t enough, the on-the-go “Angriest Man in Automotive Journalism” spent time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There he evaluated Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. And, while he was at it, Al contemplated why a place that gets as much as 700 inches of snow each year can have smooth, well-maintained roads when his beloved Michigan can’t. Speaking of questions for the ages, Chrhis Sawyer took time out to evaluate Ford’s F-150 EcoBoost. Ford says it has the power of a V8, but the economy of a V6. Find out if this indeed the case, and whether or not this ability has any drawbacks that might kill the deal. The big deal this week was the announcement that Nissan would be the technical partner for the DeltaWing Le Mans project. This begs the question: Why didn’t any American automakers step up to support this wild, innovative program? Finally, we take a look under the hood of the new battery powered Mercedes AMG SLS E-Cell. It’s a supercar that runs on batteries, but is it the answer to a question nobody asked?

 

March 9, 2012: Switzerland is a country of amazing beauty, delicious chocolate, numbered bank accounts and one hell of a motor show. The latter is surprising since the Swiss don’t like speed… or noise. It’s just not proper. Yet Geneva is a proper motor show, and the first major European show of the season. It’s a great place for automakers to launch new cars early in the new year, or to tease the public with concepts. We put on our walking shoes and take a look at some of the more interesting vehicles on display in the Swiss capital. The words “interesting” and “Switzerland” conjure up another image: a reimagined Jaguar E-Type. Swiss designer Robert Palm is bringing his 2011 Growler concept to life as the Lyonheart K. Engineered and built in England, it is based on Jaguar XKR mechanicals, built from “genuine” materials, and costs more than anyone at TVD will make in a lifetime. We celebrate the birthday of one of the world’s most famous and desire race/road cars: the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. Launched just seven years after the end of World War II, the 300 SL helped reestablish Mercedes’ sporting credentials, and boosted interest in the German car maker. Despite all this talk of the world’s timepiece capital, Al finds himself perplexed by the very act of setting the time in the cars he drives. With the explosion of buttons and in-dash technologies, it has gotten much more difficult to perform this simple task. Read how Al deals with this problem, and you’ll understand why his iPad often defaults to German.

 

March 2, 2012: It’s been a busy week here at TVD. Al is back from driving the new Hyundai Azera, a car the Editor once described as “the best Oldsmobile 98 ever made.” With Olds dead and its customers scattered to the four winds, is that a target worth shooting at, or has Hyundai refocused its sights on a new target? Speaking of new targets, the 1.0-liter EcoBoost from Ford isn’t just for the European Focus and Fiesta. It’s going global. What makes this engine special? Read all about the first three-cylinder engine in Ford history to find out. Not strange enough for you? Then how about a small coupe-like SUV that is also a convertible and pickup? It will debut in Geneva later this month. If rumor is more your style, take a look at a new feature we have called The Rumor Mill. It looks at what’s being said behind the scenes, and gives you a clue as to what’s happening in the industry today. It will appear whenever the gossip gets juicy. After bending two wheels on a monster Michigan pothole, Chris Sawyer vented his spleen, and Al took up the cause. Read his tirade on these asphalt aggravations, and then take a listen to a recent podcast Al and Editor Sawyer did with the folks from RoundAbout.