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December 2012

December 28, 2012: We’re off this week, and will be back in the New Year. However, we want to send a shout out to Jack Yan, publisher of the fashion magazine Lucire and the automotive encyclopedia Autocade, and Keith Adams, publisher/founder of AROnline. It seems Keith posted a comment on, and link to, Editor Sawyer’s Lincoln story on his Facebook page, and Mr. Yan decided to take a look. That resulted in this e-mail to The Virtual Driver: “I haven’t bookmarked an automotive site for some time. You’ve just broken the drought. Keep up the great work.” Talk about an unexpected Christmas present!


December 21, 2012: We’re just a few days short of Christmas, and a week off, but loaded for bear. First up, Chris Sawyer tests the 2013 Buick Regal GS, a vehicle that rekindles the relationship between Buick and Opel. Next, he gets the inside story on Ford’s Transit van. Al Vinikour drives the Toyota Venza, a high-top Camry with a unique style. Infiniti rethinks its naming strategy, comes up with—surprise!—letters and numbers, and announces a new model to be built in Britain. Speaking of the English, McLaren launches a line of clothing and accessories for MP4-12C owners, all in basic black. Chris Sawyer buys a book (!) about a different kind of horsepower, and reviews it. And Al Vinikour takes on people who hog parking spots.


December 14, 2012: It didn’t start out as a Mercedes week, but it sure turned into one. First, Chris Sawyer came across photographs of old Mercedes concepts and styling models on its media web site. He downloaded a few to share, with commentary. While he was there, he found Mercedes’ explanation of the new CLA-Class 4Matic system; a first for the company in that it is used on a transverse front-drive platform. Finally, there is the update of the E-Class for the 2014 model year. Still on the luxury car track, Sawyer shares his memories of his encounters with Lincoln. See why he isn’t filled with confidence in the Lincoln Motor Company. And while all that was happening, GM introduced its new light-duty pickups. Darwinian in their adherence to evolution, are they enough to stem the sales tide? Finally, Al Vinikour combines Talk Radio, infotainment systems and the Civil War in a single column.


December 7, 2012: Though this may be the 71st anniversary of the event behind FDR’s most famous speech, there’ll be no sneak attack in this week’s issue. First up is Al Vinikour’s First Run review of the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible. Al was pleased with the drop top, but not the weather he encountered on the trip. Next, Chris Sawyer drives the Chevy Sonic, and discovers that GM can build a decent small car. Speaking of surprises, he also finds a press release that is the automotive equivalent of junk food; worthless but oh-so tasty. Finally, Al Vinikour asks when a safety feature actually becomes a liability.



November 2012

November 30, 2012: While the rest of the world was running from stand to stand at the L.A. Auto Show, TVD’s editors were taking in the scenery. The Lincoln stand’s homage to Lincolns past caught their attention, but so did something else. Speaking of retro, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering has a way to make your new Camaro look more like its ancestor. Despite sharing DNA with its predecessor, the 2013 Toyota Avalon is a big step forward, though the Sport mode button still baffles. Speaking of distractions, Toyota and the University of Michigan recently completed a study on driver distraction, and the results aren’t promising, especially for parents. We’re tech heavy this week with three stories you’re sure to like. First, French supplier Faurecia designs seats that move and coddle, interiors that take cues from major cities, and… an exhaust manifold for Ford hybrids? Meanwhile, Visteon shows just how detailed 3D instrument displays can be, and our Director of Web Development goes to Burger King with Ferrari’s design house. Finally, Al Vinikour beats a man when he’s down… with a hub cap!


November 20, 2012: It’s a short week for the staff at The Virtual Driver as they travel to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. Nevertheless, we’ve picked some of our favorite stories from the past for your entertainment. First up is the story of Andy Peace and his Maserati Tipo 250, a Fifties grand prix car you can drive every day. Next up is the Eagle Speedster, a rumored £500,000 ($796,000) re-do of the classic Jaguar E-Type, and one of the most beautiful Jaguars ever. Those more interested in modern metal might like the review of Chevy’s Volt; a very nice car that makes little economic sense. Judging from its readership, a perennial favorite is William Sawyer’s reminiscence of days of racing past; a time of innovation and lost innocence. Finally, those looking for a touch of comedy may enjoy the Al Vinikour/Chris Sawyer co-review of Hyundai’s Elantra Coupe and GT. We also invite you to wander the site and leave your comments along the way between football games and turkey and stuffing-induced comas. Here’s wishing you and yours the very best this Thanksgiving.


November 16, 2012: Australia’s Carbon Revolution just launched a set of carbon fiber road wheels for high-performance sports cars, but that’s not the news. The company has plans to bring these lightweight rims to automotive, aerospace and trucking at competitive prices. Speaking of revolutions, Ford introduces a new minivan closer in size to Chrysler’s original, and BMW announces plans to produce a new air-cooled boxer sport bike. Mini, meanwhile, has a new collection of bags inspired by the car and its native culture. Cadillac’s native culture used to be squishy luxury, but recent products have combined sport with luxury. Does the XTS continue this trend, look to the past or straddle these two worlds? And TVD’s own culture czar, Al Vinikour questions the placement of certain features on new cars.


November 9, 2012: Al Vinikour goes out on the trail to drive the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, an SUV that has moved from body-on-frame to monocoque chassis. Has capability been lost in the translation? Honda has signed a letter of agreement with Proton/Lotus owner DRB-Hicom. Is there any fire behind this smoke, and what might it mean for the struggling British sports car maker? Mercedes has commissioned a limited number of 1:43 models of its 300 SL and its latest progeny, but you’d better be able to speak German if you want one. Speaking of presents, TVD has joined forces with Cars In Context Television to create a new car show. You can see the first episode here. If that’s not enough, Chris Sawyer drives the new Jetta Hybrid, a vehicle that brings performance to the hybrid competitive set while getting diesel-like mileage. Finally, Al Vinikour uses the S-word in public, and wants you to do the same.


November 2, 2012: Ford launches a new Cobra Jet, a twin-turbo V8-powered drag car concept that may hold the key to future performance Mustangs. If that isn’t enough, the company also relaunched the 1940 Ford; a sheetmetal tool room copy of the original Coupe designed for restorers and rodders. Controlled Power Technologies claims it has the answer to providing both the power and economy necessary to meet future fuel economy standards and customer performance demands. Editor Sawyer drives the Challenger Rallye Redline, and wonders if it’s a pony car competitor or luxo barge. And Al Vinikour talks about the days when he was a (tire) smoker too addicted to quit.



October 2012

October 26, 2012: The combination of summer like weather and late nights watching the Detroit Tigers square off against the San Francisco Giants have left the staff at TVD dog tired. Rather than spend our time sitting indoors, we enjoyed the 70-degree days and caught up on tasks that needed completion before winter sets in. Then we burned the midnight oil rooting for a team that seems more tired and confused than us. We'll be back next week with new storiess, but encourage you to search through the site and acquaint yourself with The Virtual Driver thus far. We think you'll be surprised by what you find.


October 19, 2012: Ever wonder what the engines of the future might be like? We have, and so have the people at Achates (a-kay-tees) Power. Their solution? An opposed-piston, two-stroke diesel. You can read more about it here. Then again, perhaps you’re trying to figure out what Fiat will do to replace the Jeep Compass and Patriot or what to expect from the Dodge Dart SRT. We have some clues you might find interesting. Speaking of interesting, this weekend marks the running of the Petit Le Mans, and the Stateside debut of the DeltaWing. Unfortunately, the car was involved in a practice mishap. We have the video. If that’s not enough excitement, Editor Sawyer takes a test drive in Ford’s new Focus ST. Surprisingly quick and composed, is it good enough to knock VW’s GTI from its pedestal? And Al Vinikour drives with raccoons, and shines a light on their dangerous habit.


October 12, 2012: This week Al Vinikour gets a First Run in the 2013 Audi A4 and S4, and spills the beans about one high-speed Audi trip in his past. Chris Sawyer also steps back to those days of yesteryear for his review of the Audi TT. Now that its well on its way with EcoBoost, Ford reveals its work in carbon fiber panels for future vehicles. And rumors about massive changes coming to the Speed network are true, but that doesn’t mean all the speculation is right. Finally, Mr. Vinikour listens to the navigation systems in the cars he drives… and he doesn’t like what he hears.


October 5, 2012: Lyonheart sets a production limit for its Jaguar E-Type homage, adds a convertible version, and denies U.S. buyers a chance to own its rolling sculpture. Al Vinikour is on the track of new cars. First, he insists on adding his two-cents worth to Editor Sawyer’s intro story on the 2013 Accord. Next, Al gets his hands on five new Chevys, and tells us what he thinks of the Bow Tie Brigade’s new offerings. Not to be outdone, Sawyer begins with a near-Tirade on last week’s NASCAR race in Dover, a race that redefined the word “boredom”. Next, he comments on motorcycle legend Willie G. Davidson’s recent meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. That’s followed by a look back at the career of F1’s Michael Schumacher, who announced his second, and probably final, retirement this week. And Sawyer wraps it up with a First Run in the Lexus LS. To round out this week’s offerings, Al goes off on instrumentation lighting… again. We have got to get his eyes checked.


September 2012

September 28, 2012: Ford’s 2013 Fusion undergoes its most extensive re-do since its launch, and merges with the European Mondeo sedan. Engineered in America, is it ready to take on the best Europe has to offer, or is it just a pretty face? Speaking of pretty faces, Jaguar introduced the production F-Type convertible at the Paris Motor Show, and it’s a beauty. With three levels and two engines, it promises performance, but is heavier than its closest competition. McLaren’s P1 concept doesn’t have to worry about its weight, the hypercar is made mostly of carbon fiber, and produces Le Mans racer levels of downforce. It’s aimed directly at Ferrari’s Enzo replacement. Meanwhile, Porsche introduced a concept that makes its Panamera both practical and beautiful. It’s a sneak peek at what we can expect from Porsche’s super sedan. On the two-wheeled front, The Virtual Rider, Scott Bowles, is back with his review of the Harley Seventy-Two. Badass bike or throwback? You decide. In the Lifestyle section, we have a first look at Bilstein’s Clubsport suspension system. Designed for drivers who want more performance without the pain, it can handle both street and road course. Speaking of pain, Al Vinikour returns to vent some steam about vent windows, those marvels of yestertech.


September 21, 2012: It’s been a long week for the staff, punctuated by lots of time in the air, and little time in front of the computer. Despite this, we found the time to do what we could between boarding calls. First up is a look at the Concept Active Tourer from BMW. It’s the first front-drive car to wear the blue and white Bavarian badge. Should that thought depress you, we have something that might cheer you up. GoJo has introduced a new line of professional technician’s gloves just perfect for working on your collector car. Even better , they’re machine washable. Finally, our flying partner and airport “gate date” Al Vinikour spent a long time—okay, it was about 15 minutes, including editing—to write his latest column. It’s about things once common that are no more. For the Internet generation, some of these items may seem like things a Neanderthal might have used. However, those of a certain age will remember when cars took a commitment on the part of the owner, and we had better things to do with our fingers—like set points—than play with out smartphones.


September 14, 2012: In an unusual twist of events, this week Editor Sawyer was asked to drive at speed toward a pedestrian. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded, but it proved the effectiveness of the next generation of automotive safety systems. Al Vinikour wishes he had that option, but was instead stuck in traffic behind a left lane bandit. As you might expect, he was NOT amused. When launched, VW sold its small SUV as a GTI in sensible clothes. We see whether this still holds true, and if it’s enough in the ultra-competitive small SUV market. Now that the new CAFE standards are law, is this the end of the muscle car era? Not by a long shot. As if to prove just how much we have to look forward, even if the cylinder count drops, BMW pulls the covers of its new family of small engines. From a tasty triple to a stout inline six, they promise plenty of power, whether fueled by diesel or gasoline.


September 7, 2012: It’s been a busy week, so let’s get right to it. Grand Am and the ALMS “merged” this week, but it's IndyCar that had better watch out. Ford announced a number of new global vehicles and its plans for One Ford in Europe, including the first-ever right-hand drive Mustang from the factory. Audi takes us behind the scenes of developing the new R8. Honda launches the 2013 Accord, the ninth generation of this perennial best seller. We take a look. Al Vinikour gets behind the wheel of the 2013 Dodge Ram, and trades his cowboy fantasies for the lap of luxury. We’ll let him explain. VW launches the seventh generation of the Golf, and the highest volume vehicle to be built off its new MQB modular architecture. We have pictures. Finally, Al Vinikour looks into the future of audio systems, and wishes for the past.


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