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Friday
May082015

May 2015

May 22, 2015: We introduce a new feature this week, Notes of Note, a compendium of just some of the stuff cluttering our e-mail box that might (or might not) be of interest. On the new car front,Chevy unveiled the 2016 Camaro, a car that definitely has Mustang in its sights.  Also on the new car front, Fiat introduced a new low-cost car for eastern Europe that could find its way here with a Chrysler badge. While cruising the Internet, we discovered a video that promises to show you how to quickly and safely negotiate the famed Nurburgring in your classic. Speaking of fun, we got a chance to climb inside a Michigan landmark, Uniroyal’s giant tire, and have the pictures to prove it. Porsche Cars North America opened its new headquarters, making enthusiasts cheer and competitors weep. Parent VW, meanwhile, talked about the future of the internal combustion in Vienna, and showed a few things it has up its sleeve. Fate scheduled the long wheelbase Ford Transit Connect Titanium and Toyota Sienna Premium back-to-back, so we took the opportunity to compare the yin and yang of the current minivan fleet. Also, we check out Quixx’s All Metal Polish Kit and come away impressed, while our own Al Vinikour questions the need for tachometers on most modern vehicles.

 

May 8, 2015: We start out this issue on a sad note with the passing of two legends in the automotive world. Tom Hoover, the so-called “Godfather of the Hemi”, passed away on April 30 at the age of 85. Closer to home, friend and former colleague Denise McCluggage died May 6 at the age of 88. Both will be missed. On a lighter note, the apprentices at Skoda’s vocational school were given the task of building a concept vehicle for the upcoming GTI gathering in Germany and they built a — small pickup truck! It’s just more proof this is a market that is begging for product. New aero packages are all the rage, apparently. Audi introduced its Le Mans aero package at the 6 Hours of Spa, while Chevy and Honda pulled the wraps off their Indy 500 aero packages at the Brickyard. Goodwood announced a new category for its Festival of Speed that features failed F1 cars. Honda showed the technology behind the new NSX at the recent SAE Congress in Detroit, while Ford invited us to the Ford Performance garage to take a walk around the new GT350. Finally, our own Al Vinikour tells a personal tale about hit-and-run driving, and what he would do to those guilty of this crime.

 

Friday
Apr102015

April 2015

 

April 24, 2015: Dr. Ferdinand Piech has apparently met his match, having called out VW chairman Martin Winterkorn, and getting a fusillade of acrimony back form the company’s Executive Committee. However, a chance meeting on an airplane nearly a decade ago leaves us wondering if Piech won’t eventually get his way. Speaking of things that are hard to handle, Honda’s Formula 1 powertrain has failed to live up to expectations. We take a look behind the scenes and ask if Honda may have the last laugh. Former F1 team executive Nick Wirth is taking his company’s computer-aided aerodynamic capabilities to the big time, and we do mean big. Unlike politicians, Chrysler engineers bring greater transparency to their work. Ducati, on the other hand, follows the path of the ancient masters, and creates something truly sculptural. We find a 1973 Jaguar up for auction that’s been in one family, had three owners, and still hasn’t broken 10,000 miles. Is all the hype surrounding Ford’s aluminum-bodied F-150 for real, or just the aftermath of an all-out PR assault? Baume & Mercier builds a Cobra-themed watch that celebrates a major motorsport anniversary. And if that’s not enough, Al Vinikour shines a spotlight on a car option you can’t seem to find anymore.

 

April 10, 2015: Cadillac comes out swinging with its new CT6 sedan declaring its boldness, but looking conservative enough for a seat on Wall Street. Jim Meachen gives us a first look at VW’s long-awaited Golf (not Jetta) SportWagen. Toyota follows VW’s lead and announces the latest information on its modular family of platforms and powertrains. We take a second look at the Lexus GS F Sport, this time with all-wheel drive, but have more questions than answers. Meanwhile, Lincoln’s MKC crossover stays for a visit and shows there’s hope, and more need for the Lincoln brand to evolve. Rolls Royce announces the first test mule of its upcoming SUV, but shows a car that looks like it belongs in the British Touring Car Championship. We take time out to review a book about one of the most impressive, misunderstood, and maligned U.S. presidents. And Al Vinikour takes aim at the “logic” behind patching potholes.

 

Friday
Mar132015

March 2015

March 27, 2015: A big bruiser that’s about as subtle as a punch, Ford’s F-350 4x4 is a capable work truck, but more than all but a rancher or tradesman probably needs. Despite all appearances, driving a Jaguar C-Type at speed is all about subtlety, and planning ahead. Watch as Alex Buncombe takes Juan Manuel Fangio’s old racer around Monaco. Speaking of Jaguar power, the Lister cars has put the Jaguar-powered Lister Knobby back into production, building a short run of racers suitable for FIA historic racing. And as Amazing as these Jaguar-engined cars may sound, nothing compares to the symphony that comes out of Honda’s 1965 RA272 F1 car. Driven by Americans Richie Ginther and Ronnie Bucknum, it makes you nostalgic for a time when F1 cars sounded fantastic, and American drivers were thick on the grid and able to run with the best. Staying with the racing theme for a moment, Audi has updated its R18 e-tron quattro for the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, and we take a look inside. Meanwhile, McLaren Applied Technologies and MTS have teamed up to build a simulator suitable for road or race cars. Intelligent Energy’s Motive division shows a 100 kW automotive fuel stack it is licensing to automakers globally. Opel/Vauxhall bring high-tech lighting systems to everyday cars. The AAA reexamines distracted driving among teens, and comes away with dire statistics and shocking videos that will have you wincing. On the plus side, Ford introduces a technology that could make speeding tickets a thing of the past, and our own Al Vinikour asks what pair of geniuses set speed limits on the nation’s roads.

 

March 13, 2015:  Detroit’s other auto show was in town, and it was a record setter in more ways that one. Chip Foose took his fourth Ridler Award, a record, and attendance climbed yet again. The quality of cars on display continues to increase, and the scope of vehicles expands to include restorations, imports, race cars and more. It’s a show everyone should attend at least once. The introduction of the Apple Watch comes as some automakers include smart watches into their technology plan. However, it was the introduction of the 12-in. MacBook that has the greater relevance to the auto industry. Speaking of computers, Honda’s new aero package for its IndyCar teams spent a lot of time churning through a CFD program, but the result is not only shocking, it’s bad for the sport. We also spent time on the road testing a variety of vehicles. First up is the Mustang GT, not the first choice for winter fun. But, shorn of its summer tires and Performance Pack, can the prototypical pony car measure up? Next, we get behind the wheel of Lexus’s turbocharged NX 200t F Sport. It has the potential to give Audi, Mercedes and even Porsche something to think about, but is it more show than go? Finally, we spend some time in the Toyota Yaris, the smallest, least expensive vehicle in Toyota’s lineup. Might it prove the old adage about good things coming in small packages? Finally, Al looks back to his earlier escapades to condemn freeways and drivers that aren’t in the Western U.S., and question the sanity of adaptive cruise control’s creators.

Tuesday
Feb032015

February 2015

February 27, 2015: It’s a big issue, so let’s get right to it. Lotus introduces the Evora 400, but is it too much money and too much hype? McLaren previews its 675LT road-legal track car with its devilishly high output twin-turbo V8. Not to be outdone, Aston Martin goes to ridiculous lengths to build the ultimate track day car, and a driving school to make sure your talent level is on par with your bank account. The Jensen Group announces a new GT and Interceptor for the well-heeled gentleman driver. While Squire digs out is prototype, drawings and title paperwork in hopes some wealthy soul might want to resurrect the dormant automaker. Back on Planet Earth, meanwhile, Hyundai shows its 2016 Tucson crossover. VW pulls the wraps off its 2016 Touran, a vehicle that would fit well into its U.S. lineup. Hyundai and Kia build a turbocharged three-cylinder for Europe and (eventually) America. The Henry Ford raises the hoods of some classic cars. Lamborghini launches a new clothing line. Porsche builds a navigation audio system for classic Porsches. And Al Vinikour speaks out about staying in line.

 

February 13, 2015: Did Kia tip its hand when it unveiled the Trail’ster Concept at the Chicago Auto Show? Probably. The Soul-based vehicle introduces an electrically driven rear axle to create an all-wheel drive hybrid with better acceleration and fuel economy. Honda, on the other hand, introduced a new Pilot that’s everything the old one wasn’t. Which is to say, it doesn’t look like the box it came in. Meanwhile, Acura updated its MDX to keep it relevant, and ahead of the Pilot with which it shares its underpinnings. Continuing on the crossover front, Motorway America’s Jim Meachen takes a first drive in the diminutive Jeep Renegade, and brings us his observations. Plus, we take a critical look at Ford’s three-cylinder Fiesta, and ask if it’s worth the claimed mileage gain. Turning from the sublime to the ridiculous, Nissan’s GT-R LM  racer is an example of just how fertile DeltaWing creator Ben Bowlby’s imagination really is. Want more? How about Ferrari’s menacing 488 GTB? It promises to give Ford’s new GT a run for its money. Or you can strap yourself into a CXC simulator for a surprisingly realistic look at racing from the comfort of your own home… or arcade. Then again, Ford’s enhanced stability control may make your on-road crashes less frequent than your on-screen shunts. Still not satisfied? How about a video of a working miniature 32-cylinder engine, and the man who made it? Or maybe you’d prefer to read Al Vinikour’s take on how he feels automakers have legalized theft.

 

February 3, 2015: Ford launched the third-generation Focus RS at a special event in Germany this morning, and beamed the extravaganza to its offices in Dearborn. There we sat with Ford execs and other media to watch as the company's ultimate hot hatch hit the stage. Though Ford left a lot of spaces blank, past history, reading between some very defined lines, and discrete inquiries allied with educated guesswork helped fill in some of the blanks. You can read all about it (and watch video of the press conference) here.