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September 2015

September 25, 2015: When the news broke this week that VW had fitted a “defeat device” to its four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines, you would have thought the end of the world was near. Unlike the GM ignition lock scandal, where hundreds of people actually died, the VW imbroglio will have a very minor health effect. We take a look at this growing scandal, and put it in context. We also look into what may have caused VW engineers and executives to follow this path, and one of the reasons may surprise you. Just before the VW situation exploded, we went to a private launch of the 2016 Honda Civic sedan. It’s new from the ground up, and surprisingly aggressive in both look and content. A happy coincidence gave us the opportunity to test the BMW M4 and Lexus RC-F back-to-back, and the comparison isn’t always flattering. On the technology side, Brembo introduces a new fixed caliper design for high-performance cars. Automotive supplier Brose tests the waters with an e-bike design that uses a repurposed power steering motor. The American Chemical Society put forward a video about a new rubber formulation that is self healing and could radically change the idea of run-flat tires.  And Nuance, the folks behind Dragon voice-recognition software, gives us a look behind the curtain at how it develops this software for vehicles, and what’s on the horizon. Just when you thought it was safe to like automotive technology, Al Vinikour chimes in about the need for fail-safing these new systems. While the well-heeled kids out there can forget the technology overload with a new pedal car from Land Rover and stunning powered F1 lookalikes from the folks at Pocket Classics.


September 11, 2015: The closer we get to the Frankfurt Motor Show, the more cars break cover. It’s enough to make you wonder what automakers get out of blowing the surprise comes with a grand unveiling on the show floor. Nevertheless, a number of new vehicles were introduced and we picked a few for special mention. They include the 2016:

Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S. 

Renault Alaskan Concept.

Bentley Bentayaga.

Toyota Prius. 

Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h. 

Kia Optima.

If that’s not enough to get your attention, we take a look at a British barn find made of fiberglass that’s named after a short-lived cigarette brand, and it’s not a Lotus. Plus, we take a look at new technology from Land Rover that could make towing a trailer a more relaxing experience. Also, driven by search engine politics, we bite the bullet and introduce a new feature, Worthy of a Mention, that pulls snippets from other car web sites that we think you’ll find interesting. And for those looking for their ration of road rage, we took pity on Al Vinikour, and gave him some time off.


September 9, 2015: Click here to watch the live reveal of the next generation Toyota Prius at 12:00 am EDT.


August 2015

August 28, 2015: There are a lot of previews this week. First up is the 2016 Honda Accord with a mid-cycle refresh and the same price as 2015. Next comes the 2016 Camaro. Chevy has played it smart and restricted the pony car to just four trim levels, but doesn’t hold back on the goodies. The comes Mazda, which has two new vehicles (CX-3 and MX-5), and plenty of updates for the carry over cars. Plus, Mercedes and AMG give a sneak peek of their respective takes on the 2017 C-Class Coupe that officially debuts in three weeks at Frankfurt. Motorway America’s Jim Meachen takes us along for an off-road ride in the 2016 Toyota Tacoma that shows it hasn’t lost a step even if it looks much the same. We also drive the BMW i3, an electric city car well-suited to the “mega city” life, and compare it to the BMW 328d, a much more rational choice for most drivers. On the tech side, Zircoflex produces coatings that should keep the Bloodhound SSC cool as it tries to break the 1,000 mph land speed barrier. Ford shows us what the multi-modal transportation future could look like, and how cars could be 3D printed sooner than you think. Project LM launches a new line of LED light units at a surprisingly low price point. Plus, our own Al Vinikour complains about those drivers who commit DWO.


August 14, 2015: Whether you are at Monterey or the Dream Cruise this weekend, we give you some Random Thoughts to ponder about the state of the auto industry, and what’s going on behind the scenes. The VW Group has been busy. First, VW releases the changes it will be making to its 2016 lineup. Second, Audi adds a third 3.0-liter V6 engine to the 2016 Q7. Third, the boys and girls in Ingolstadt pump the already potent S8 up a little bit more. Hyundai, meanwhile makes a statement of intent with the Vision G Coupe, but there’s more to this vision than meets the eye. Taylormade Racing introduces a MotoGP-inspired exhaust for the Yamaha R1 and R1M. Plus, there are two Tirades this week. First, former Mini Cooper owner Chris Sawyer reviews the new Mini Cooper S 4-door, and finds it hard to be civil. Al Vinikour takes designers to task for increasing his paranoia by adding a seemingly innocuous item to the back of their cars. Finally, the editor fondly remembers his father on what would have been his 97th birthday.



July 2015

July 31, 2015: It was a week full of travel and new vehicle ride-and-drives. First up is Hyundai’s 2016 Tucson, a vehicle we previewed in the last issue. Will it put Hyundai back in the thick of things and arrest its eroding sales growth, or is it more of the same? Next up are Scion’s latest offerings, the iA sedan and iM hatchback. They’re not exactly what we have come to expect from Toyota’s youth-oriented brand, but they might just be what the doctor ordered. Audi, meanwhile, showed its latest lighting effort: OLEDs. These organic LEDs have great promise, and could bring big changes to lighting and so much more. Our latest Notes of Note have gone to the dogs, the used car lot and the race track, while introducing a new way to keep your expensive wheel and tire package where it belongs — on your car. Stop us if you’ve heard this one. A man goes into a bar, and walks out with a 1959 Cooper Monaco race car! Don’t believe it? You can find all of the details here. And while you ponder that conundrum, Al Vinikour hooks a few cars to his train of thought, and remembers automotive tech and accessories from days past.


July 17, 2015: Renault introduces a new full-size sedan built off a new family of modular platforms that it calls the Talisman. Sleek and handsome, its architecture eventually will replace that of Nissan’s large sedans. Built off this same set of building blocks is the Nissan Rogue, a compact SUV that is fully modern, yet — like mayonnaise — is unexciting. The same can’t be said for VW’s Jetta GLI. It has picked up a raft of improvements, and is one of the best bargains of 2015. Hyundai, meanwhile, pulls the wraps off its new Tucson SUV, and we preview a vehicle some claim could be the new class leader. Ever eager to lead the way, Mercedes shows off the autonomous driving technology coming in the next E-Class. And we stumble across a video that shows what the automotive future looked like in 1948. Al Vinikour takes issue with California motorcyclists who split lanes, and this edition’s Notes of Note looks at free EV charging, a NASA-inspired Mustang, cooling overheated smartphones and more.


July 3, 2015: Recently, FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne has been agitating for a merger. With the release of Alfa Romeo’s new rear-drive Giulia, we take a look at how he could leverage that platform effectively between Alfa, Chrysler and Maserati to secure those three brands and save Fiat. One thing you won’t find on the new Alfas is autonomous driving technology. Nevertheless, we speak with ZF TRW’s top expert to see just how far away we are from self-driving cars becoming reality. Mini also may not have cars that drive themselves, but the brand has the drive to move upmarket, and the latest take on the Clubman is a prime example of what you can expect from “premium” Minis. Audi pulls the wraps off the latest A4, and proves that the current design language is in need of an update. Meanwhile, we pale at the sticker of our test Audi A3, but fall in love despite the cost. Motorway America’s Jim Meachen drives the new Pilot, and gives us his thoughts on Honda’s biggest crossover. We take a look inside GM’s latest Ecotec engine destined for the Chevy Cruze. Lexus goes all Back to the Future and builds a real life hoverboard. And Al Vinikour takes issue with those who grip the steering wheel with two hands.


June 2015

June 19, 2015: Honda listens to its customers and brings a limited edition MotoGP bike to the street. Renault celebrates the new Alpine, but hedges on what it will look like and when it will arrive. Ligier and Exa join forces to create an LMP3 prototype from the digital future. Hyundai taps its inner artist and “explodes” a Genesis Coupe, then sends slot cars to transmit the results. Evolute Drives announces its multi-speed gearbox for EVs and hybrids. Lincoln’s Navigator L gets an update. Alfa Romeo introduces the 4C Spider when what it really needs are non-halo cars real people can buy. We talk to a MazdaPro racer who stared adversity in the face and made it blink, test an Audi SUV that’s anything but subtle, and give Al Vinikour the week off as he celebrates another birthday.


June 5, 2015: Two issues ago, we were talking about the suspension and brakes of Ford’s new GT350 Mustang. This time we’re looking at the engine, all 5.2-liters of flat-plane crank goodness. We also compile more Notes of Note, including shoes from Audi, race cars, Bristol and Fraser-Nash and more. Bienville announces it will take its Legacy motorcycle to Goodwood. Ansible builds a pretty cool driving simulator for professional virtual drivers. Porsche Classic puts the classic early 911’s instrument panel back into production. TVR comes back from the dead with the help of Gordon Murray, while another, fully developed British sports car program comes on the market. We take a first drive in Nissan’s uniquely styled 2016 Maxima, and rethink what’s truly important about the Lexus RC 350 F Sport. Meanwhile Al Vinikour discovers that America’s most dangerous combat zone is closer than you think.