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Friday
Jun032016

June 2016

June 17, 2016: With the 24 Hours of Le Mans taking place this weekend, we thought we’d start with a pair of videos from Ford. The first takes a look at the simulator work necessary to prepare the drivers for the event. The second is culled from amateur video of Ford’s first victory in the event 50 years ago. Staying with Ford, we also preview the new Ka+. Unlike its predecessors, it is a non-premium super mini that shares its underpinnings with the Fiesta while drastically undercutting it on price. Price, on the other hand, is no object if you are in the market for carbon fiber bodywork for your Lamborghini Aventador. If so, the folks at Vitesse AuDessus have just what you need. A little closer to financial sanity, Maserati introduced the latest version of its venerable Quattroporte sedan. The 2017 update gets a little nip and tuck, a revised model lineup, and needed infotainment and other upgrades. On the technology front, Nissan is working on a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell that could be the ultimate range extender for electric vehicles while also supporting SOFC-powered light-duty trucks and SUVs. Nearly as exciting is the new technology in door latch systems from Kiekert. The German company has everything from electric latches to LED safety lighting to a technology guaranteed to eliminate self-inflicted door dings. And we close with a look at the effect Turbulent Jet Ignition technology has had on Formula 1, the similarity between Mercedes and Ferrari, Renault’s recent leap into the tech, and Honda’s apparent resurrection of CVCC technology for its F1 motor.

 

June 3, 2016: Memorial Day made for a short week, and a slow news cycle. VW launched its #PinkBeetle (that’s its official name), and Audi the new A5 Coupe, but one wasn’t important to anyone other than Barbie or a Mary Kay devotee, and the other was short on information. On the other hand, the folks at Advanced Innovative Engineering in the U.K. showed off its latest rotary engine design in a Westfield sports car, and touted it as the perfect motor for a light sports car, series hybrid or range-extender EV. It’s chock-full of interesting tech, including a closed cooling system that reduces oil loss. Staying with cooling, Honda outlined the work necessary to remove the excess heat from its Acura NSX sports car while improving downforce and reducing aerodynamic drag. British Motor Heritage, those hearty folks who supply everything from panels to bodies for MGBs, Minis and more have been using racing to improve the breed. A range of parts are available for MGB racers, and Midget and Sprite owners can order race-proven complete tubs for their restoration or race projects. Jeep’s Renegade is the first member of the family to be built outside of the U.S. on a non-Jeep platform. Does it measure up, or is its true calling in attracting the young at heart with deep pockets?

Friday
May062016

May 2016

May 20, 2016: A scheduling conflict replaced a Fiat 500L with a Chrysler 200, giving us the opportunity to evaluate FCA’s  mid-size sedan. Is it as bad as we’ve been lead to believe, or is Chrysler’s future orphan a misunderstood bargain worth considering? BMW, meanwhile, has updated the powertrains of the 2017 2 Series coupe and convertible, changing nomenclature, power outputs, and lowering 0-60 times. Volvo showed its 40 series concepts and flexible CMA modular architecture it will share with parent Geely. How close the hatchback and crossover concepts are to the production model is anyone’s guess, but the tech is what we’ll see when the production versions debut  in 2017. This week, Hyundai poached Korean designer SungYup Lee from Bentley. We take a look at who he’ll be working with, and what they’ll be working on. What South African GP car was inspired by the Ferrari 156, but failed to qualify for its home grand prix? Give up? So did we, until we stumbled upon the story of the Assegai, and the man who gave it a new life in historic racing. If that piques your interest, you can read about the 1974 VW Beetle bought by an old man to make his weekly trip to church easier, before being put away in a barn with just 54 miles on the odometer. Staying on the topic of old cars and restoration, we look at what the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs has done to ensure that talented young people learn the craft and find employment restoring vintage cars, and how electronics may be the downfall of future restorers unless automakers, suppliers and other interested parties move quickly to save components and source codes. In Snippets, we contemplate coffee with Cadillac, and talk about three things you never thought you’d see mentioned in one sentence: Donald Trump, Oprah, and sex toys.

 

May 6, 2016: Eating hamburgers in Manhattan may not be good for your career but, as Bill Sawyer points out, attending The Mitty brings back the intimacy that once made racing so seductive. Hybrids may be the most common alternative powertrain, but full-electric drive is the fastest growing. Yet NADA says their share of the overall market is shrinking as traditional powertrains continue to dominate. Want to make your head explode like the people in those Jet.com commercials? Run your cursor over our interactive map to see how your state’s average annual cost of car insurance compares to neighboring states as well as the rest of the country. Always on the lookout for bargains (especially after paying our car insurance), we buy a real Ferrari for $22.89, and take a look at the possible outcome of Google’s agreement to build autonomous development vehicles with FCA. Sticking with autonomous vehicles for a moment, we analyze the mad rush toward self-driving vehicles, and the very real possibility that this technological myopia may drive automakers to give away what makes their product special. On the technology front, we have two entries from Ford. The first is a look at its new, portable aeroacoustic wind tunnel that increases quality and reduces time and cost by allowing on-site testing at the assembly plant. The second unveils the second generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and 10-speed automatic transmission that debuts on the 2017 F-150 and Raptor. Meanwhile, the folks at GMPartsOnline.com compare the 1986 and 2016 Chevy Suburbans, and ­— despite praising its advancements — ask why it costs nearly twice the price, even after adjusting for inflation. Elsewhere, Fiat’s 124 Spider lineup is laid out, the color palette and option packages are revealed, and the prices announced. And we discover how adding some personality and style makes the 2016 Lexus RX350 a luxury crossover worth considering.

 

Friday
Apr082016

April 2016

April 22, 2016: Ford announced it will raze and rebuild its research and engineering center, and significantly upgrade its world headquarters campus over the next few years. We take a look at what the changes will bring. Speaking of change, we get together with Corvette Racing’s Doug Fehan, DeltaWing designer Ben Bowlby and Acura’s creative director Dave Marek to look at Le Mans in 2030, and what is in store for racing. Honda pulled the wraps off its 2017 Accord Hybrid, which has been missing in action, and revealed a car at the top of its class. It also announced additions to the Clarity FCV fuel cell vehicle family, with a battery-only version and a plug-in hybrid waiting in the wings. After realizing that current rearview cameras and sensors would not recognize his own son, a Harman International engineer created a software-based system that pretty much eliminates the problem. ContiTech creates a lightweight plastic engine mount system for the 2016 Chevy Malibu and strut mounts for the Cadillac CT6. Silverstone Auctions reveals its next big sale: a recreation of the Mercedes 300 SLR that won the 1955 Mille Miglia. And Mercedes and Aston Martin join up with yacht makers to design automotive-themed yachts for the super wealthy. We drive the Mazda CX-3, a small crossover large on style, and Blue Springs Ford Parts produces an interesting infographic comparing the original Taurus SHO with the latest model.

 

April 8, 2016: We start this issue with an account of the early days inside Championship Auto Racing Teams, the organization that used to run Indy car racing, and why you should never eat a hamburger in Manhattan. Next up is a look behind the mountains of hype surrounding Tesla’s Model 3, and whether this “affordable” battery powered sedan spells the end of internal combustion or the power of positive thinking and showmanship. Then we take a trip to Michigan’s west coast to visit LG Chem’s plant to see how the battery packs for the Chevy Bolt are made, and what we can expect from GM’s modular EV platform. Ford, meanwhile, shows how well-trained technicians are being used to listen for defects in the Focus RS motor. Hitachi and Honda work together on a portable breathalyzer for your car that fits in your pocket. A Chinese company launches plans for the country’s first supercar, but its technology sounds suspiciously familiar… and English. Peugeot announces plans to return to the North American market, and we show how – despite protests to the contrary – Fiat Chrysler could play a role in its return. Plus, we ponder why the sleeker, more sophisticated, and better driving Mazda6 falls short in the sales department to Kia’s Optima.

Friday
Mar112016

March 2016

March 25, 2016: This week’s New York Auto Show saw the debut of a number of new vehicles, and showed that automakers are expanding beyond the Detroit show for their new car introductions. Among the new models on display were the: Subaru Impreza, Miata RF, Lincoln Navigator Concept, Honda Civic Hatchback, Chevy Sonic, Fiat 124 Elaborazione Abarth, and VW Golf Alltrack.

Elsewhere, Audi introduced its latest R18 e-tron for Le Mans. Lighter, more aerodynamic, and using a new energy recovery system, it promises to being the fight to Porsche and Toyota. Forgeline showed its new company car, a 1970 Chevy Camaro that is being modified to Pro-Touring spec., and is built using some of the best parts available. On a different front, Kia and Hyundai have steadily improved their vehicles, but have often fall short of full competitiveness, especially in terms of ride and handling. However, two recent test vehicles, the Kia Sedona SXL and Hyundai Tucson Eco show just how far these companies have come. The Sedona brings real luxury to the minivan segment, while the much less expensive Tucson charms with its honesty. If that’s not enough, we test the Lexus NX 300h, a hybrid version of the little Lexus crossover. Is it worth the price premium, despite its greater efficiency? Finally, GM Parts Center put together a top 10 list of the largest GM engines ever put into production, and we review a fast-paced book that puts the lands speed record drama of the 1960s into context.

 

March 11, 2016: After months of waiting, we finally got our hands on the latest Toyota Prius for a week-long test. In this past, the thought of driving a Prius for that long would have been as exciting as pulling the skin off the surface of pudding. We venture out into the snow in our white test car, and see if the new Prius lives up to the hype or fades into the background. Speaking of hype, at the Geneva Motor Show Alfa Romeo put its Giulia Quadrifoglio to one side and pulled the wraps off the models that will make or break Alfa’s latest sedan, while Aston Martin debuted the DB11. Will a partnership with Daimler and poaching the chief chassis guru from Lotus make the DB11 the high-tech performance grand tourer Aston has dreamed of but never built? Audi, meanwhile, introduced the SQ7, a high performance turbo diesel sport utility that, due to customer demand, may make it to U.S. shores despite VW’s diesel woes. Speaking of VW, it modified its Golf SportWagen lineup with the addition of a Limited Edition model that bridges the chasm between the bottom and top of the lineup economically. And while this addition shows a willingness to listen and react, the man in charge of VW’s U.S. operations has left the company. We take a look at how VW and Fiat Chrysler continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.