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Friday
Feb082013

February 2013

February 23, 2013: After we sent the issue live, Chrysler revealed official photos of the new Jeep Cherokee. Rather than wait until next week, we thought we’d being them to you now. Click the link to go straight to the story.

 

February 22, 2013: It’s a big truck issue this week. First we look at the speculation surrounding the next Ford F-150. Will it be the Atlas Concept in aluminum, or will Ford supplement it with a unit-body F-100? Maybe… not. Check out what we hear Ford might have up its sleeve. Speaking of pickups, Al Vinikour takes a spin in the 2013 Chevy Avalanche, a SUV/pickup combination that started fast, but faded quickly. Chris Sawyer, meanwhile, tests the Ford Flex. Part minivan, part SUV, it’s a unique market entry that isn’t quite what the Fairlane Concept promised. Also, we take a first look at Toyota’s new RAV4. It’s a huge improvement over its predecessor, and enough to make folks in Korea nervous. We also review actor James Garner’s memoir, and discover what Steve McQueen really thought about Garner replacing him in the movie Grand Prix. And we round out the week with another Tirade by Al Vinikour. This time he harkens to those days of yesteryear when your car’s interior was as dangerous to your health as a gun-toting maniac.

 

February 14, 2013: There’s a lot in the Driver’s Seat this week, starting with the new Ram ProMaster. A modified Fiat Ducato, this front-drive cargo van replaces the Dodge Sprinter, and competes head-on with Ford’s new Transit. Continuing with Fiat, the production-ready Alfa Romeo 4C makes its debut at the Geneva Auto Show next month, and we have the details of the carbon-chassis sports car to be built by Maserati. Yes, Maserati. Speaking of carbon fiber, McLaren has released pictures of the P1 supercar’s interior, which is a textile weaver’s dream. Next up is an American diesel… from GM. It’s taken decades to overcome the Oldsmobile V8 diesel debacle, but GM’s finally ready to offer a diesel in an American car. The Cruze Diesel looks ready to take on VW’s Jetta TDI, and exorcise some old demons. Even more shocking (sorry) are the new electric police/security bikes from Zero Motorcycles. Available in Street and Dual Sport versions, they are aimed at the global police, security and military markets. Finally, Al Vinikour writes an open letter to municipalities suffering from the economic downturn. You might not like his ideas, until you realize he says nothing about speeding…

 

 February 8, 2013: Al and Chris are back from Scottsdale where they drove the 2014 Kia Sorento. It my not look different, but nearly everything is new under the skin, including new engines and drivetrains. Al does something unusual this week — a technology piece! He talks to the folks at Energy Power Systems about the “new” technology of lead-acid batteries for hybrids and EVs. Speaking of technology, Chris discovers a new safety system that, in essence, taps the driver on the shoulder to get his attention. Finally, Mercedes-Benz furthers the cause of keeping the public informed about its history by selling a comic book about company founder Carl Benz.

 

 

Thursday
Jan032013

January 2013

January 30, 2013: The next three weeks are crazy busy, starting with a trip out to Arizona to driver the new Kia Forte. That’s the reason for the early issue this week, and the abbreviated content. Next week it’s off to Chicago for the auto show, and the following week it’s back to Arizona for a drive of Toyota’s new RAV4. In the interim, Al Vinikour weighs in on winter driving, specifically the careless louts who drive off without adequately cleaning snow from their vehicles. And Chris Sawyer comments on the mad dash to increase the ethanol content in our fuel and the damage it might do to your car. Who wins in this battle? Certainly not the consumer.

 

January 25, 2013: After the rush and bother of the Detroit auto show, this week’s issue is quieter and more eclectic. First up is a look at the technology used by Mercedes to set an on-road speed record in 1938, and the Porsche-designed vehicle they built in hopes of bringing the land speed record to Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, automotive analysts are singing the praises of Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover unit, but Chris Sawyer wonders if they have missed the point; can it sustain its current pace and pay the price to do so? Finally, we have the third episode of Cars In Context Television, co-hosted by John Clor and Editor Sawyer. Make sure to pay close attention as barbs fly early and often. And, just to show he’s a nice guy, Sawyer has given Al Vinikour the week off. (He's not fooling anybody, especially Al.)

 

January 18, 2013: It’s been one heck of a week. First, the annual North American International Auto Show took place in Detroit’s Cobo Hall. Not only did Chevy launch its latest Corvette, many automakers brought their best to the Motor City in an attempt to impress the natives, the press, and each other. This gathering of global automakers got our own Al Vinikour thinking about cars as teaching tools, and how their diverse places of origins could lead today’s youth to become interested in geography and geopolitics. (Editor’s note: Despite what Al wrote in his last sentence, we have a hard time imagining him on the couch grooving to Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) or Itchycoo Park for that matter, nursing the munchies.) Finally, The Virtual Driver was contacted by representatives of TheStreet.com and asked if we might be interested in reprinting its coverage of the top car auction sales in 2012 in our Lifestyle section. They didn’t have to ask twice.

 

January 11, 2013: Next week, it’s the Detroit auto show. This week, the world’s automakers descended on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. CES continues to grow in importance as car companies add more software, hardware and capability to their products. First up is Delphi, which introduced a plug-and-play connectivity solution that can do some of the things OnStar can, and some things it can’t. Next up is Hyundai. It showed its ideas for future on-board electronics, including connecting to Apple’s Siri and Nuance’s Dragon Drive. Finally, Ford gave notice that it plans to be an even bigger player in the automotive electronics field. On the lighter side, the folks at Laguna Seca have created a run of Corvette t-shirts to celebrate the marque’s 60th anniversary, and Mecum Auctions has a 1954 Corvette that has risen from the dead, so to speak. Al Vinikour spends a week with the Prius c and comes back smitten, despite its diminutive size. Finally, Al remembers those thrilling days of yesteryear when new tires would get you to the lake, and old ones would keep you afloat.

 

January 4, 2013: How many times have you perused the news section of your favorite magazine or blog, and read something that never came true? The many, many iterations of the mid-engined Corvette are a prime example; lots of coverage, but no vehicle. Chris Sawyer may have an answer as to why this phenomena keeps happening, and its stems from a conversation he had years ago with a former colleague. Speaking of ghosts, Sawyer was certain the last appearance he made on the In a Heartbeat TV would never get aired. Technical difficulties made it impossible to upload the show, but perseverance has paid off. You can see the show here. Al Vinikour returns from vacation with a story about driving the new Land Rover LR2 in snowy Montreal. Plus, he takes time out to take owners of rusted out vehicles to task, and question why vehicles built in the “quality years” rust so quickly.  

 

 

Thursday
Dec062012

December 2012

December 28, 2012: We’re off this week, and will be back in the New Year. However, we want to send a shout out to Jack Yan, publisher of the fashion magazine Lucire and the automotive encyclopedia Autocade, and Keith Adams, publisher/founder of AROnline. It seems Keith posted a comment on, and link to, Editor Sawyer’s Lincoln story on his Facebook page, and Mr. Yan decided to take a look. That resulted in this e-mail to The Virtual Driver: “I haven’t bookmarked an automotive site for some time. You’ve just broken the drought. Keep up the great work.” Talk about an unexpected Christmas present!

 

December 21, 2012: We’re just a few days short of Christmas, and a week off, but loaded for bear. First up, Chris Sawyer tests the 2013 Buick Regal GS, a vehicle that rekindles the relationship between Buick and Opel. Next, he gets the inside story on Ford’s Transit van. Al Vinikour drives the Toyota Venza, a high-top Camry with a unique style. Infiniti rethinks its naming strategy, comes up with—surprise!—letters and numbers, and announces a new model to be built in Britain. Speaking of the English, McLaren launches a line of clothing and accessories for MP4-12C owners, all in basic black. Chris Sawyer buys a book (!) about a different kind of horsepower, and reviews it. And Al Vinikour takes on people who hog parking spots.

 

December 14, 2012: It didn’t start out as a Mercedes week, but it sure turned into one. First, Chris Sawyer came across photographs of old Mercedes concepts and styling models on its media web site. He downloaded a few to share, with commentary. While he was there, he found Mercedes’ explanation of the new CLA-Class 4Matic system; a first for the company in that it is used on a transverse front-drive platform. Finally, there is the update of the E-Class for the 2014 model year. Still on the luxury car track, Sawyer shares his memories of his encounters with Lincoln. See why he isn’t filled with confidence in the Lincoln Motor Company. And while all that was happening, GM introduced its new light-duty pickups. Darwinian in their adherence to evolution, are they enough to stem the sales tide? Finally, Al Vinikour combines Talk Radio, infotainment systems and the Civil War in a single column.

 

December 7, 2012: Though this may be the 71st anniversary of the event behind FDR’s most famous speech, there’ll be no sneak attack in this week’s issue. First up is Al Vinikour’s First Run review of the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible. Al was pleased with the drop top, but not the weather he encountered on the trip. Next, Chris Sawyer drives the Chevy Sonic, and discovers that GM can build a decent small car. Speaking of surprises, he also finds a press release that is the automotive equivalent of junk food; worthless but oh-so tasty. Finally, Al Vinikour asks when a safety feature actually becomes a liability.

 

Friday
Nov022012

November 2012

November 30, 2012: While the rest of the world was running from stand to stand at the L.A. Auto Show, TVD’s editors were taking in the scenery. The Lincoln stand’s homage to Lincolns past caught their attention, but so did something else. Speaking of retro, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering has a way to make your new Camaro look more like its ancestor. Despite sharing DNA with its predecessor, the 2013 Toyota Avalon is a big step forward, though the Sport mode button still baffles. Speaking of distractions, Toyota and the University of Michigan recently completed a study on driver distraction, and the results aren’t promising, especially for parents. We’re tech heavy this week with three stories you’re sure to like. First, French supplier Faurecia designs seats that move and coddle, interiors that take cues from major cities, and… an exhaust manifold for Ford hybrids? Meanwhile, Visteon shows just how detailed 3D instrument displays can be, and our Director of Web Development goes to Burger King with Ferrari’s design house. Finally, Al Vinikour beats a man when he’s down… with a hub cap!

 

November 20, 2012: It’s a short week for the staff at The Virtual Driver as they travel to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. Nevertheless, we’ve picked some of our favorite stories from the past for your entertainment. First up is the story of Andy Peace and his Maserati Tipo 250, a Fifties grand prix car you can drive every day. Next up is the Eagle Speedster, a rumored £500,000 ($796,000) re-do of the classic Jaguar E-Type, and one of the most beautiful Jaguars ever. Those more interested in modern metal might like the review of Chevy’s Volt; a very nice car that makes little economic sense. Judging from its readership, a perennial favorite is William Sawyer’s reminiscence of days of racing past; a time of innovation and lost innocence. Finally, those looking for a touch of comedy may enjoy the Al Vinikour/Chris Sawyer co-review of Hyundai’s Elantra Coupe and GT. We also invite you to wander the site and leave your comments along the way between football games and turkey and stuffing-induced comas. Here’s wishing you and yours the very best this Thanksgiving.

 

November 16, 2012: Australia’s Carbon Revolution just launched a set of carbon fiber road wheels for high-performance sports cars, but that’s not the news. The company has plans to bring these lightweight rims to automotive, aerospace and trucking at competitive prices. Speaking of revolutions, Ford introduces a new minivan closer in size to Chrysler’s original, and BMW announces plans to produce a new air-cooled boxer sport bike. Mini, meanwhile, has a new collection of bags inspired by the car and its native culture. Cadillac’s native culture used to be squishy luxury, but recent products have combined sport with luxury. Does the XTS continue this trend, look to the past or straddle these two worlds? And TVD’s own culture czar, Al Vinikour questions the placement of certain features on new cars.

 

November 9, 2012: Al Vinikour goes out on the trail to drive the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, an SUV that has moved from body-on-frame to monocoque chassis. Has capability been lost in the translation? Honda has signed a letter of agreement with Proton/Lotus owner DRB-Hicom. Is there any fire behind this smoke, and what might it mean for the struggling British sports car maker? Mercedes has commissioned a limited number of 1:43 models of its 300 SL and its latest progeny, but you’d better be able to speak German if you want one. Speaking of presents, TVD has joined forces with Cars In Context Television to create a new car show. You can see the first episode here. If that’s not enough, Chris Sawyer drives the new Jetta Hybrid, a vehicle that brings performance to the hybrid competitive set while getting diesel-like mileage. Finally, Al Vinikour uses the S-word in public, and wants you to do the same.

 

November 2, 2012: Ford launches a new Cobra Jet, a twin-turbo V8-powered drag car concept that may hold the key to future performance Mustangs. If that isn’t enough, the company also relaunched the 1940 Ford; a sheetmetal tool room copy of the original Coupe designed for restorers and rodders. Controlled Power Technologies claims it has the answer to providing both the power and economy necessary to meet future fuel economy standards and customer performance demands. Editor Sawyer drives the Challenger Rallye Redline, and wonders if it’s a pony car competitor or luxo barge. And Al Vinikour talks about the days when he was a (tire) smoker too addicted to quit.