Archive | 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Years from Accelerate Mpls!

Review- 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

Americans have a love hate relationship with station wagons. They love to hate them. I personally have never understood this phenomenon. Most car guys will tell you they think wagons are awesome. They combine the cargo hauling versatility of a SUV with the driving dynamics of a sedan. In Europe, station wagons are sold by the truck load. European fuel prices are higher then in the United States, so they never had the love affair we Americans had with the SUV.

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The CTS Sport Wagon was in development before the crash of the economy and General Motors bankruptcy. The original plan was to export the bulk of the Sport Wagons to Europe where hopefully it would be a success and directly take on the European wagons from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Since diesels are more popular in Europe they were also going to make the main engine choice a new 2.9 liter diesel. Since those plans obviously are not going to pan out the future of the Sport Wagon will ride on the American public. The diesel engine is not being offered here unfortunately.

The Sport Wagon is truly good looking. The sharp looks and great stance are attributed to the form over function school of thought. The roof line is raked giving off the sporty appearance and stance. Combine that roofline with a raked rear hatch and you have a rear opening that can not take tall objects. The things that stand out to people that asked me about the car are the three foot long tail lights that are reminiscent of the tail fins of older Cadillacs, and the 19 inch wheels, which are optional. The tail lights are fully LED with light pipes running down the outside edge. Light pipes are also used in the headlights on the upper trim cars.

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The car has many winning characteristics. The rear hatch is power operated and can be set with a knob on the drivers door to open full, 3/4, or off. This can come in handy if you have a garage with a low ceiling or possibly shorter and can not reach the hatch when fully opened. The interior is lifted directly from the CTS sedan. The Sport Wagon has a great cargo management system in the rear hatch. There is a storage bin under the floor in the rear end that can hold things from public view. With the rear seats folded flat you have an ample 58 feet of cargo space.

IMG_1855The interior is literally lifted from the CTS sedan. Soft touch materials abound and soft white ambient lighting at night the interior is a win. The generously sized touch screen navigation rises from the dash when the vehicle is started (when chosen to have the settings that way). The navigation unit in the Sport Wagon is hard drive based. Rendering of the map was snappy and the street names were clean and crisp. Live traffic and weather is provided through your XM satellite radio connection.

The vehicle I had was the top of the line 3.6L Premium with optional 19 inch wheel package and optional crystal red tintcoat paint. The sticker price on this car was $55,630. The Sport Wagon has a starting price of $39,830 before destination charges. The summer performance tires were replaced with snow tires from Bridgestone. The Blizzaks handled well though added some tire noise. That is to be expected of snow tires. The Sport Wagon I had was rear wheel drive though all wheel drive is optional in all trims. Also optioned on this vehicle was the FE3 sport suspension which feels very European and more specifically German.

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The Sport Wagon has two engine choices. I had the optional 3.6 liter V6, which features direct injection. This larger V6 puts out 304 hp and 273 lb-ft. The standard 3.0 liter V6 also features direct injection while only putting out 270 hp and 223 lb-ft. Both the 3.6 liter and 3.0 liter are rated at 18/26 mpg. With no sacrifice in fuel mileage, I would recommend optioning for the larger engine. Both engines mate to a six speed automatic transmission. The transmission operates fine in normal driving though, it hesitates for a second to kick down a gear when the throttle is slammed for passing. Moving the shifter to the right puts the transmission in sport mode. This fixes the aforementioned problem. Downshifts are quick and up shifts are not had until red line. Much sportier dynamics are had out of the transmission in sport mode. You can also shift manually with the buttons on the back of the steering wheel or by moving the gear shift.

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GM lists the competition for the Sport Wagon as the Audi A4 and A6 Avants, BMW 5 series wagon, and the Mercedes E class wagon. When looking at the competition the Cadillac is definitely class competitive. It feels right in between the A4 and A6 Avants in size. The new Sport Wagon is a great extension for the CTS line and with the coupe coming next year, the line is only going to get better. The wagon aspect adds a dash more versatility without losing the driving dynamics that make the CTS such a great vehicle. With dashing good looks and a fun to drive ratio that is surprising for a wagon, this is one Cadillac that Americans can and hopefully will love.

Full Disclosure- This vehicle was provided by General Motors press fleet for review

AutoBird Podcast Episode 9

Episode 9 starts by discussing the past week on both of our respective blogs, AutoBird Blog and AccelerateMpls. The first topic was the Cadillac SRX that I drove this past week. The rest of our conversation focused on the year in review. Everything from the sad stuff to the funny stuff, nothing was left out. Things mentioned included the best/worst automotive brand of the year, best/worst nameplate of the year, the Ram brand, losing Saturn, Saab, Pontiac, Hummer, and much much more. We look forward to episode 10 in 2010!


2011 Ford Mustang GT- 5.0 is Back!

2011 Ford Mustang GT New 5.0 V8

2011 Ford Mustang GT New 5.0 V8

The 2011 Mustang already had one large announcement last month about the new 3.7L V6.  With the new V6 putting out almost as much horsepower as the current V8 you did not think Ford was going to leave the V8 alone did you?  Of course not, the 2011 Mustang GT will receive an all new 5.0L V8 pushing out 412 hp and 390 ft-lb of torque.  What was important about that last sentence is simple, the 5.0 is back! This is no old school V8, modern technologies are in full force to help achieve an estimated 17/25 mpg (with the six speed automatic).  That 25 mpg rating on the highway is 1 more mpg then the Camaro SS with the six speed automatic.  Though slightly down on horsepower to the Camaro SS, the Mustang has a distinct weight advantage.

2011 Ford Mustang GT (Notice 5.0 Fender Badges)

Some of the new technologies packed into the new 2011 Mustang GT’s 5.0 were recently implemented in the new 3.7L V6 Mustang.  Both feature Ti-VCT (twin independent variable camshaft timing) new six speed transmissions (both automatic and manual), and electric power steering.  The new 5.0 will receive a large capacity deep sump oil pan.  This enables sustained high rpm use and what Ford believes to be a 10,000 mile oil change interval.  Handling should be slightly improved with the use of the stiffened rear stabilizer and improved rear lower control arms.

2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0

The new 5.0 is a huge step forward for the Mustang GT.  The 2010 GT used a 4.6L V8 pushing out a mere 315 hp and 325 ft-lb of torque.  The new 5.0 is pushing out a full 97 more hp and 65 more ft-lb of torque.  More power with the same if not better gas milage (depending on transmission choice) is quite impressive.  Both the automatic and manual transmissions are six speeds.  The manual is estimated to achieve 16/24 mpg which is the same milage as the 4.6L.  The automatic, as stated earlier, is estimated to provide 17/25 mpg which is 2 more mpg on the highway then the 4.6L.  The speedometer has been increased to 160 mpg while the redline has been moved up from 6,500 rpm to 7,000 rpm.

The new 5.0 V8 engine is not the only new thing for the 2011 GT.  New colors offered include Yellow Blaze Tri-Coat, Race Red, and Ingot Silver.  Also the fenders adorn a 5.0 badge heralding the return of the  5.0 V8 engine.  For enthusiasts a Brembo brake package with 14 inch rotors and larger calipers will be offered from the Shelby GT500 Mustang.  Finishing off this package will be 19 inch wheels with summer performance tires.  New convenience content is also on the 2011 Mustang including standard message center, integrated blind spot, MyKey programmable key, illuminated visors, universal garage door opener, and sun visor storage.

This overview provided to the press sums up the changes to the 2011 Mustang GT quite well.  “This powertrain honors Mustang’s heritage by raising the bar on performance while increasing fuel economy,” said Barb Samardzich, vice president, Powertrain Development.  The bottom line is simple, with the new V6 and V8 engines for 2011, the Mustang is closing the competitive gap left by the new Camaro.  The next step is that solid rear axle.

New Racing Mustang- Boss 302R

Boss 302R

The BOSS is back and ready to race!  A factory track ready race machine for SCCA, Grand-Am, and NASA classes.  Utilizing the new 2011 Mustang GT 5.0 V8 the new BOSS 302R base model will come with a six speed manual transmission, roll cage, race seats, safety harness, data acquisition and race dampers/springs, and Brembo brake and tire package.  The BOSS 302R will be sold as a serialized off-road only vehicle.  2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Parnelli Jones 1970 Trans-Am championship in a BOSS 302 Mustang.  That particular vehicle was made by Bud Moore Engineering.

Ford provided this statement which sums up why this new vehicle exists.  “To keep pace with consumer demand, the Ford team has built modern versions of the most iconic performance Mustangs over the years,” said Jamie Allison, director, Ford North America Motorsports. “From Shelbys to Bullitt, Mach and Cobra Jet, it is now time for BOSS to join the list of America’s most coveted Mustangs. The original BOSS 302 was a championship-winning legend and the new Mustang BOSS 302R will carry on the tradition. The Mustang was born to race from the start, and this new Mustang is bred to win.”

A total of 50 BOSS 302R Mustangs will be built by Ford Racing.  You can order one through your local Ford dealership with a MSRP of $79,000.  Deliveries are scheduled for Q3 of 2010.

Happy Holidays!

A4 Modified by STāSIS

A4 Modified by STāSIS

Happy Holidays from Accelerate Mpls!

Ford Finally Sells Volvo

Ford announced yesterday morning that all the major parts of a deal to sell Volvo to Geely have been settled.  They made it clear that details will not be made public yet, but that the deal will be signed in Q1 of 2010 and the sale will be done in Q2.

Many have speculated that Volvo would be sold to Geely and now it is a reality.  Some people seemed concerned about Geely’s resources for the future of Volvo.  When people raised concerns to Ford they responded with “the prospective sale would ensure Volvo has the resources, including the capital investment, necessary to further strengthen the business and build its global franchise.”  Geely is a Chinese car manufacturer and that worries some people as well.  Not known for quality or safety, many question what Geely brings to Volvo.  It seems Volvo brings things for Geely, mainly the safety technology.

With new product just arriving from Volvo (2010 XC60) and more coming soon (new S60) Geely bought Volvo at a decent time.  Some of the model line just received a face lift or is new/coming.  Chinese car companies have not made it into the U.S. and many are afraid this is the beginning to a bad thing.  While that is a valid concern as I mentioned earlier Geely is not known for safety or reliability.  Two things that many car shoppers care about these days.

Twitter was a buzz yesterday morning when the news of the sale hit.  Many Volvo fanatics were angered and saddened.  I even heard some say “There went Volvo.”  We have to examine what happened in a similar situation with Jaguar/Land Rover.  Tata bought the brands from Ford and really did not make many changes.  They liked what planned.  Deciding to take a wait and see approach is not a terrible idea.  So far it has worked for Tata and Jaguar/Land Rover is rolling out refreshed or new product.  Sales are up, and everyone seems to be happy.  If Geely plays things smart, they will let Volvo be themselves and stay somewhat hands off.  If left alone and not interfered with, Volvo could become profitable.

Something to keep in mind about this whole deal is platforms.  Many Fords ride on Volvo platforms.  They share so many, the deal must have clauses in place for platform sharing for at least the foreseeable future until new models arrive.  I assume the platform sharing will cease at in the future.  Other things are shared such as BLIS.  BLIS is Volvo’s blind spot detection system that Volvo developed and uses.  Ford has stated that they intend to work “closely” with Geely in the future.  For how long no one really knows but it can easily be assumed it is because of all the sharing of technology and platforms.

Ford has to be happy right now.  They have no off loaded all the brands in their premier portfolio including Aston Martin, Jaguar/Land Rover, and now Volvo.  They have been trying to sell all of these and have now accomplished just that.  Letting them get the focus back on Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln.

Ford’s press release is below-

PRESS RELEASE:

DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 23, 2009 – Ford Motor Company [NYSE: F] confirmed today that all substantive commercial terms relating to the potential sale of Volvo Car Corporation have been settled between Ford and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Company Limited.

While some work still remains to be completed before signing – including final documentation, financing and government approvals – Ford and Geely anticipate that a definitive sale agreement will be signed in the first quarter of 2010, with closing of the sale likely to occur in the second quarter 2010, subject to appropriate regulatory approvals.

The prospective sale would ensure Volvo has the resources, including the capital investment, necessary to further strengthen the business and build its global franchise, while enabling Ford to continue to focus on and implement its core ONE Ford strategy.

While Ford would continue to cooperate with Volvo Cars in several areas after a possible sale, the company does not intend to retain a shareholding in the business post-sale.

More details will be made available once the expected definitive sale agreement is signed in the first quarter of 2010.

Autobird Podcast Episode 8

Episode 8 starts by discussing the past week on both of our respective blogs, AutoBird Blog and AccelerateMpls.  The week in review included GMAC, my Lexus ES350 review, the dead 2011 NSX and the Cadillac SRX I just took delivery of for the week.  The next topic is the Saab story that continues to unfold.  Our conversation moved on to the upcoming Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) and what we have heard will be there.  The last topic we cover is the 2010 North American car and truck of the year.


Born from Jets, Killed by GM

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Saab 900

When the deal between GM and Koenigsegg for the sale of Saab fell through Saab was in trouble.  Many people, including myself, were very excited back in June when word came out that Koenigsegg was purchasing Saab.  Koenigsegg is a Swedish super car maker which many felt would compliment Saab very well.  The possibilities were there, Saab was going to be a Swedish company again.  Many of us on Twitter were even talking about the possibility of the Aero X concept coming to fruition someday with Koenigsegg’s technology and super car knowledge.  In November the deal feel through because Koenigsegg backed out.

When the deal fell through with Koenigsegg GM said they would take a few days to reconsider the situation.  GM reevaluated and announced they would take until the end of December to find a new suitor.  If one could not be found, Saab would be shut down.  BAIC bought the tooling and rights to the old/current Saab platforms.  This does not include any new or future product just the current and past line up.  They plan on using the design and platforms for their vehicles.  Word then came out that the only real suitor interested in Saab and the future of the brand was Spyker.  While slightly different then Koenigsegg, there are many similarities.  Both companies are small.  Many assumed that for whatever reason Koenigsegg backed out of the deal, Spyker would follow suit.  As many predicted, the negotiations broke down and it was realized that the deal would not happen no matter how much time was spent.  GM announced Friday morning that they would wind down Saab operations and the brand would be killed off.

A little background on how all this came to be. GM purchased fifty one percent of Saab back in 1990 and in 2000 GM purchased the remaining portion.  Saabs tag line has been “Born From Jets”.  Saab started life by producing fighter jets.  After World War II they started producing cars.

Many say the brand was diluted with non-Saab product.  To an extent they were correct.  The 9-7x was quite possibly the worst Saab ever.  With that said it was one heck of a nice Trailblazer (for what it was).  The 9-2x (commonly referred to as the Saabaru), while more fun the 9-7x, was still no where near a Saab.  It was merely a re-badged Subaru WRX wagon.  With all wheel drive and the fun of a WRX in a slightly more upscale package (emphasis on slightly) the 9-2x was the one really nice WRX, but not really a Saab.

Saab has become an after thought for many consumers.  The sales numbers reflect this.  In October only 513 vehicles sold in the United states.  It got even worse in November when only a mere 371 vehicles sold in the United States.  The vehicles are not class competitive and overall are an after thought for most people.  Even many Saab enthusiasts were not buying.

The all new 9-5 was so close to production.  On paper the car was promising.  In my opinion, the new 9-5 just might have been the ultimate vehicle on the Epsilon II platform.  I personally was excited to test the top tier model with a Turbo V6, XWD (a torque vectoring all wheel drive), adaptive suspension, and many more features.  Not to mention a slick six speed manual transmission along side the automatic transmission.  Many cars in this class do not even offer a manual transmission as an option.  This was going to be a drivers car.  The 9-4x was also close to production ready.  This vehicle was going to be a midsize crossover based on and developed alongside the new Cadillac SRX.

Funny thing about the death of Saab.  When the announcement came Friday morning it instantly hit Twitter.  People were tweeting about this news around the world.  In fact, Saab was trending as a topic for over half the day.  Thousands upon thousands of people were whining and complaining.  People were telling stories about their Saab experiences.  So where were all these people when purchasing a car?

Things were finally looking up for Saab.  They had fresh product in the pipeline that was actually class competitive. Technology was going to be a key component in their vehicles, and over all the persona of the brand seemed to be going less GM and more towards its Swedish roots.  I was excited at the prospect of Saab finally getting back to being Swedish and possibly a little quirky.  Nearly 20 years after GM bought Saab they are going to be killing it. Saab was born from jets as they say, but they were killed by GM.

That was all I was planning on writing but Saturday morning a new development seemed to occur in this story.  Rumors swirled that the Swedish government was holding emergency meetings this weekend to try and save Saab.  Something to keep in mind is that Sweden has small population.  The government is probably nervous about impact the closure of Saab will have on the small nations economy.  This sounds awfully similar to what happened to GM and our government this past summer.

Sunday morning the story developed a new chapter.  It was said there were eleven sticking points between GM and Spyker that prevented the sale of Saab.  We do not know what these eleven things where as they were not made public.  It has been said that Nick Reilly who is GM’s man in Europe called off the Sale between Spyker early Friday morning due to concerns about intellectual property.  One of Spykers backers was going to be Russian and this was a concern.  Rumors are now swirling that Spyker resubmitted a new offer on Sunday fixing some of those concerns and set a deadline for GM of Monday December 21 at 5pm EST. (UPDATE 12/21/09 4pm- Spyker just announced they have extended the deadline for GM.  No new time was given.)

It is evident that Spyker really wants Saab.  Spyker themselves note many benefits to both Saab and themselves. Below is an excerpt from Spyker.

“In Spyker’s view, the ownership of Saab by Spyker Cars would add a lot of value to both parties. For Spyker, Saab would bring a strong, global distribution network consisting of no less than 1100 dealers, state-of-the-art production facilities, a truly dedicated work force and solid engineering, sourcing and research & development capabilities. Likewise, Saab would receive the financial backing required to compete as a competitive global brand, along with an entrepreneurial leadership team sensitive to the uniqueness, heritage and individuality of the Saab brand. Throughout these negotiations, both Spyker and Saab leadership have proven that they share a mutual vision for just such a partnership.”

GM continued to say upon questioning this weekend that Saab will be wound down over the course of three months beginning in January.  I for one hope that Saab has a second chance at survival.  I am however a realist and understand these are all rumors. We will see how this all plays out. For now the official word is still Saab dead.

2010 Saab 9-5
What was the upcoming all new 2010 Saab 9-5

Below is Spykers press statement from this weekend about the new offer made to GM.

PRESS RELEASE

SPYKER CARS RENEWS OFFER FOR SAAB THAT REMOVES LAST HURDLES

ZEEWOLDE, The Netherlands (20 December, 2009) -Following the announcement on Friday that the intended sales terms of Saab Automobile AB between Spyker and General Motors (GM) could not be finalized, the Spyker leadership has submitted a renewed offer in the hopes of securing a future for Saab, its employees and the brand, despite the announcement that the winding down of Saab would begin.

Spyker CEO Victor R. Muller said today that an 11-point proposal had been submitted to GM, addressing each of the issues that arose during the due diligence process and that the renewed offer would remove each of the obstacles that were standing in the way of a swift transaction.

“We have made every effort to resolve the issues that were preventing the conclusion of this matter and we have asked GM and all other involved parties to seriously consider this offer,” said Muller.

“We are very confident that our renewed offer will remove the impasse that was standing in the way of an agreement on Friday, and this would still allow us to conclude the deal prior to the expiry of the deadline originally set by GM of December 31st,” said Muller.

“Despite our collective eleventh hour set-back, we are returning to the table with a renewed offer, that addresses every known issue brought to light during the initial negotiations and that has the full backing of the Saab Management. The new offer eliminates the need for an EIB loan approval prior to year end, for example, which will allow the deal to be concluded within GM’s deadline. Our efforts are based on our passion for saving an iconic brand that we would be honoured to shepherd, and the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of loyal Saab employees, suppliers and dealers around the world. Some 1,500,000 Saabs are on the road today and their proud owners would no doubt welcome the survival of this phenomenal brand,” he added.

In Spyker’s view, the ownership of Saab by Spyker Cars would add a lot of value to both parties. For Spyker, Saab would bring a strong, global distribution network consisting of no less than 1100 dealers, state-of-the-art production facilities, a truly dedicated work force and solid engineering, sourcing and research & development capabilities. Likewise, Saab would receive the financial backing required to compete as a competitive global brand, along with an entrepreneurial leadership team sensitive to the uniqueness, heritage and individuality of the Saab brand. Throughout these negotiations, both Spyker and Saab leadership have proven that they share a mutual vision for just such a partnership.

“Our company motto is nulla tenaci invia est via – for the tenacious no road is impassable,” said Muller, “And we intend to remain true to that throughout these negotiations as we bid to secure Saab’s future and revive the company.”

The renewed Spyker offer is valid until 5pm (Eastern Standard Time) on Monday December 21, 2009.

The Dead 2011 Acura NSX

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX

Many car people knew that Acura was planning on resurrecting the NSX for 2011.  That was the plan until the drop in both the economy and the auto industry.  The car was well into development with what seemed to be a production ready (almost) body and interior.  Spy shots showed a front engine long hood short deck stance.  Rumors were a revised version of SH-AWD was going to send the power to all four wheels.  We also heard that the vehicle would be powered by a 5.5 liter V10 putting out 500-550 hp while using iVTEC.  Reliable sources said an aggressive cylinder deactivation mode would help obtain decent fuel economy.  This was supposed to be a super car to put a halo around Acura.  Similar in concept to the recently debuted Lexus LFA.  In fact, the new NSX would have been competition for the LFA.  No pricing was ever announced or leaked but I would assume the price tag would have been under that of the LFA’s $375,000 price.

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX at the Nurburgring

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX at the Nurburgring

I for one always like both the first and second generation NSX’s.  It brought something new to the table.  Showing super car manufactures and buyers, that you can have a high performance car that is still reliable.  This was somewhat of a revolutionary concept.  The mid-mount V6 was also unique.  This was not the fastest car.  Nor was it the most expensive car.  It was a unique car from a company that was out to prove themselves.

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX at the Nurburgring

Spy Shot of the 2011 NSX at the Nurburgring

As I mentioned earlier the NSX replacement was in the final stages of preparation for an unveiling.  Sources say the dream is dead and the NSX replacement will not be coming.  While I completely believe this I wish it were not true.  Competition in the marketplace is a good thing.  While I have a feeling the 2011 NSX would be vastly different (front engine and all wheel drive vs mid-engine and rear wheel drive), the reliability attribute would still probably be there.

Below is a video recorded of the 2011 NSX prototype in in final testing stages driving around the Nurburgring.

2010 Honda NSX replacement at the Nürburgring Nordschleife from MrBTG on Vimeo.

Last Generation NSX

Last Generation NSX