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March 2014

March 21, 2014: Nissan’s Versa Note. As sleepy and safe as the Versa sedan, or is there a fun personality inside? Nissan just reintroduced the Datsun brand as its entry for emerging markets. The first model is now on sale. Ford and OPI have joined forces to create a Mustang-inspired nail polish. Really. Speaking of touch up paint, Microfinish has a new line of paint it claims is fresh, fast, and a perfect match for factory finishes. Louis Vuitton and BMW have joined forces to create carbon fiber-weave luggage for the i8 sports car, while Jaguar and French luggage maker Moynat collaborated on a special trunk for the F-Type with a prize inside. GM’s surprise, other than its recent recall, has been the speed in which it moved from a two-tier pickup strategy to following Ford’s switch to aluminum. Until that happens it must stick to its original plan. Volvo, on the other hand, has its eyes set on iron to follow the road ahead. Audi revises the quattro drive system on its R18 e-tron racer for the 2014 Le Mans in its bid to beat Porsche. Brembo downsizes the rear brakes for its F1 teams. Fiat looks into its crystal ball and sees 1957. We take a look back at the history of Nissan’s Skyline, the sedan turned supercar. Yamaha does something no other Japanese motorcycle maker has to burnish its image and sell its wares. And Al Vinikour sees spots… lots of them.


March 7, 2014: Even though, like most auto shows, the large number of pre-show releases dramatically

reduced the suspense, there were still a few interesting things to see in Geneva. You can find the full show report here. Also at the show, Nissan introduced some new tech, a combination conventional and LCD rearview mirror that’s going to Le Mans. And Lamborghini launched a limited-edition model that smells very nice. Meanwhile, BMW pulled the wraps off its production X4 Sports Activity Coupe. Ducati teamed with Google to provide a virtual tour of its museum. Workers pulled classic Corvettes out of that sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum. And Al Vinikour took the time to write about one of the most important, and infuriating, safety technologies.



February 2014

February 21, 2014: The fallout from the vote rejecting UAW representation at VW’s Chattanooga plant continues. A stunning rebuke to what seemed like a sure thing, the vote promises to have long term repercussions here and in Germany, and suggests VW’s plan to sell 800,000 cars in the U.S. by 2018 is in serious trouble. Next month’s Geneva Motor Show, among other reveals, will see the launch of three new small cars. The first is Renault’s rear-engined Twingo, a car that shares its structure and powertrain with the next smart. Peugeot announced its new 108 just before selling a stake in the 204 year-old company to China’s Donfeng. And BMW pulled the wraps off the production version of its 2 Series Active Tourer, the company’s first volume front-driver; a car that may prove snowballs don’t melt in Hell. Al Vinikour, meanwhile, takes a literal look back at the lowly rearview mirror, while Honda pulls the covers off four new motorcycle offerings for 2014.



February 7, 2014: Volvo gambled big on its modular Drive-E family of engines, but are they strong and

frugal enough to compete in the sports sedan segment? Porsche’s first electric, the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton makes its way to the Porsche Museum in unrestored condition. Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Sunbeam land speed record car, on the other hand, arrives at Britain’s National Motor Museum fresh from a major restoration. We drive Lincoln’s MKZ sedan, but come away wondering what the Lincoln brand means. Mercedes introduces a new family van, the V-Class, but don’t expect it to come to the U.S. Bentley expands its home furnishings collection. And Al Vinikour speaks his mind about people who don’t use turn signals properly.




January 2014

January 24, 2014: Ford made a big splash at the 2014 Detroit show with the first public showing for the 2015 Mustang, and a launch pad for the most radical pickup ever. Though the aluminum-bodied F-150 drew most of the attention, it wasn’t the only thing on display. Chrysler unveiled the new 200S and 200C, Kia and Toyota showed automotive vaporware, and more. After the show, Lincoln launched an updated version of its Navigator SUV that raises more questions about the brand’s future direction than it answers. Confusion also reigned when the rules changes for the 2014 Formula One season were released. We doubt even Sheldon Cooper of TV’s Big Bang Theory would fully understand the revisions. Finally, one thing Al Vinikour understands is professionalism. That’s why he’s written a piece on the unsung heroes of the highway.


January 10, 2014: Just after Christmas, Hyundai management decided that John Krafcik, President and CEO of Hyundai Motor America had to go. It was sold as a planned changing of the guard, but was there more to it? Speaking of new faces, a few recently broke cover. Lamborghini pulls the covers off its Huracán, the replacement for the very successful Gallardo. Lotus, meanwhile, shows the oddly named Elise S Cup R, it’s entry-level track car. Elsewhere, Mercedes and Pebble Tech are working together to make your car’s systems part of your smart watch. Chevrolet announced the vehicles it will launch with OnStar 4G LTE, and Harman launched three technologies at this year’s CES. All are interesting. Undoubtedly, not all are Edward Snowden approved. This week we review Ford’s C-Max Hybrid, a small “multi-activity vehicle” that, oddly, has us pining for the Ford Escape! VW pulls the wraps off its Passat BlueMotion Concept, a large sedan powered by a 1.4-liter gasoline engine. Lexus explains how its RC Coupe gets a red that is so vibrant (and expensive to repair), while Al Vinikour alternately praises and curses keyless entry systems over their convenience and foibles.



December 2013

December 27, 2013: We at The Virtual Driver hope that you and yours had a very Merry Christmas. For those who think their cars don’t have enough high tech onboard already, we’ve got a treat for you. After discussions with the folks at FEV and Ricardo Engineering, we lay out the changes you can expect by 2025 as automakers struggle to meet the 54.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. Forget Hemis and think four-cylinder full-size pickups. On the lighter side, Toyota recently introduced the 2014 Highlander crossover to the press, and we were there for the reveal and drive. Is it everything Toyota hoped it would be? You be the judge as we take a First Run in the mid-size SUV. Finally, we bribed, er, convinced Al Vinikour to produce a Tirade for this last issue of the year, and he delivered. However, now that we’ve read it, we’re a bit perplexed by his grasp of “new” technology…


December 13, 2013: In our younger days, we were fascinated by the PBS/BBC series Connections. In it

historian James Burke showed how changes in technology led to advances in sometimes seemingly unrelated areas. Our own look at the automotive stairsteps of safety delves into major advances that helped create big leaps in safety, many of which are older than you think. Hybrids are all the rage, but what kind of hybrid? Is it a micro-hybrid, parallel hybrid, serial hybrid or something else entirely? We have the answer, presented in language that doesn’t leave you with glazed-over eyes. On a lighter note, XPEL has introduced a new film that will protect your car’s body while eliminating the swirl marks and light scratches that often make these films a short-term solution. And our own connection to a bygone era, Al Vinikour waxes lyrical about vehicular complexity and its effect on underhood real estate.


December 5, 2013: A special day deserves an entry of its own for this was the day that Ford pulled the covers off the 2015 Mustang. It was a global launch because the Mustang, for the first time in its 50-year history, will be a global car. But can it ever have the power and poise of the original? Click here to see.