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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.



November 2013

November 29, 2013: Ross Brawn is out at Mercedes, rumors abound about new F1 competition rules, and Luca di Montezemolo confirms Ferrari special status. Is Formula One all it seems… or less? Speaking of money, if you have a lot of spare change lying around, check out some of the items at this week’s Historic’s at Brooklands auction. If that’s too rich, you can shop BMW’s 2014 gift collection. Or, if a vacation is in your future, check out what you can rent from Hertz in the Netherlands. Honda’s 2014 Valkyrie breaks cover, BMW Motorad pulls the wraps off its 2014 K 1600 GTL, and Reevu introduces a heads up display system in its helmets. Jaguar Land Rover announces a partnership with Intel for infotainment R&D. We test the 2014 Ford Fiesta SE and come away impressed with the improvements, but not much else. Plus, in the spirit of the holidays, our own Al Vinikour creates his own drinking and driving public service announcement.


November 19,2013: Friend and colleague Keith Adams was at the U.K. launch of the new Mini earlier this week, and we asked the editor and creator of AROnline if he would write a few words about the event for us. He did, and we present them here. When you're done reading his post, go one over to AROnline for a fascinating tour through the histories of Austin, Rover and companies and cars that made up the once vibrant British car industry. But be forewarned: Keith's site is addictive.


November 15, 2013: We start off this week with a simple question: Does any automaker have the “testicular fortitude” necessary to capture the youth market? Maybe not. Nissan takes a shot at a battery-powered sports car, and comes up with a DeltaWing for the road. Thankfully, its mid-size Altima sedan is much less radical and much more suited to its intended buyer’s needs. Brembo builds carbon ceramic brakes for the Camaro Z28. Hyundai releases plans to sell crate motors through authorized dealers. Classic Motor Cars in England stretches a Jaguar E-Type for a lanky American customer. Caterham’s new e-bikes and motorcycle causes Chris Sawyer to reminisce about failed plans for Lotus motorcycles. Harley-Davidson introduces a pair of global street bikes. BMW unleashes a road going version of the S 1000 RR. A 1911 Vulcan comes out of its former owner’s front hallway and goes off to auction. Lincoln unveils the 2015 Lincoln MKC compact crossover. Ford builds a new Ka for emerging markets. Chrysler takes a deep breath of CNG storage. And Al Vinikour takes aim at the miscreants who make ignition switches so difficult to use.


November 1, 2013: We borrowed a Passat TDI from Volkswagen, and drove from Michigan to Virginia to see how far it would go on a tank. The answer might surprise you. Eager to decrease emissions and increase

 fuel economy, Volvo is launching its Drive-E family of engines. The 2.0-liter fours will replace Volvo’s current crop of fours, fives, sixes and V8s. AP Racing has a new line of brake calipers and kits built around its racing technology. The new line of Radi-CAL brake calipers is the first foray into the aftermarket and factory performance market for the English firm’s race-bred braking systems. Honda’s HondaJet is in production, with the first saleable unit nearing completion pending full FAA approval. Meanwhile, Honda U.K. is sending its “Mean Mower” to the SEMA show, its first foray outside the U.K. While there, it might just harass Chrysler’s and Fiat’s latest SEMA concepts. Unfortunately, its trip Stateside means it will miss this weekend’s Veteran Car Run that reunites three early 1900s Napier race cars. Should all that travel prove exhausting, we’ve got a Fiat 500-based sofa that fits the bill for your rest and recreation needs. That’s if you can Al off the couch. He’s been leafing through automotive porn, and dreaming about the cars he wants to add to his virtual collection.




October 2013

October 18, 2013: Honda’s 2014 Accord Hybrid gets 50 mpg in the city, but you need more than great gas mileage to entice people to buy. Does the Accord have what it takes? For that matter, does BMW’s new 4 Series Convertible? Is it worth the higher number or is it just an updated 3 Series with a higher price tag? Prices are high for a nautical brand that bills itself as the “Aston Martin of the seas” and is now available in America. Ditto the Bentley-brand furniture the automaker recently introduced. On the technology front, Volvo has a new structural energy system it thinks could change the game for EVs and hybrids. Harley-Davidson issues a recall for faulty clutches on certain bikes built this year. BMW introduces a new sport bike, the R nineT. Angry bulls and crazy stuntmen chase a Volvo truck through a small Spanish town. An English entrepreneur discovers a family secret when he buys a vintage car for the London-to-Brighton Run. And a convalescing Al Vinikour rambles on about turn signals, and the people who use them.


October 4, 2013: Early this week we were in Minneapolis, Minnesota to drive the 2014 Toyota Corolla. As the second-best selling Toyota, it’s an important vehicle in a fast-growing sector. Does it deliver on Toyota’s

promise to make its cars more exciting and fun to drive? We find out. Mini has spilled the beans about many of the changes taking place beneath the skin of the 2015 Mini Cooper. From new powertrains to a new architecture it shares with BMW, the new Mini is all-new. Arguing about the viability of electric cars and their place in the automotive firmament is old hat, as proven by the latest installment of Cars In Context TV. Looking for a luxury crossover with room for seven that won’t deplete the kids’ college fund? Infiniti just might have the answer with its JX. And Al Vinikour gives his two cents worth about impatient, inconsiderate drivers, and what he’d like to do with them.