Archive | September, 2009

1987 Buick Grand National GNX

1987 Buick GNX

1987 Buick GNX

It came to my attention on Friday this unbelievable 1987 Buick Grand National GNX on Craigslist. First a little history on what exactly the Buick Grand National GNX is and why should you be completely in love with this car. The GNX was essentially meant to be the end all of Grand Nationals. Claimed to be the fastest production car at the time it was quite a car. With a price tag of $29,290 this was a very expensive car for the time. Rated at 276 HP and 360 lb-ft of torque all flowing to the rear wheels from a turbo charged V6. It was thought that General Motors under rated the power on paper. The Turbo charger was sourced from Garrett and featured a ceramic impeller which blew the air through a intercooler to a “cermatel (ceramic/aluminum) coated pipe” which connected the intercooler to the engine.

The whole car is highly upgraded from a regular Grand National. The list of upgrades includes a reprogrammed Turbo Hydramatic 200-4R transmission, low-restriction exhaust with dual mufflers, custom torque converter, transmission cooler, and unique rear differential cover/panhard. These are just the performance upgrades. Both the interior and exterior was upgraded as well including vents located on each fender, 16 inch black mesh style wheels wrapped in VR rated tires, along with the deletion of hood and fender emblems. The interior included a dash plaque with a serial number for each car built, and a revised gauge cluster featuring Stewart-Warner analog gauges which included a boost gauge.

1987 Buick GNX Interior

1987 Buick GNX Interior

Back to the Craigslist car. The car pictured is listed on Craigslist in Miami Florida. This car was purchased new by the investment pool of the Miller Brewing Company employees. They felt it was a wise investment which it seems they were smart when it came to investing. For sale now for a asking price of mere $95,000. This car is believed to be the lowest mileage GNX in the world with 9.7 original miles on the odometer. This car has never been driven or even titled for that matter and still has the orignal window sticker on the window. In fact, the tires still have the factory marks and all parts on the under carriage still have the stickers from the factory on them. This car has never even had a oil change. It is the oil that was in the engine when it rolled out of the factory.

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Garrett Turbo Charger

Garrett Turbo Charger

This car apparently has been started every month since it was bought and is in perfect condition. I actually saw a GNX in the General Motors Heritage Center when I was at the product and technology event. The GNX in the Heritage Center had paint that was terribly swirled and it truly made me want to cry. This is probably without question the lowest mileage GNX in the world and also probably the best condition GNX in the world as well. If you hold a conversation with any car guy you will quickly learn most have a fetish for the GNX. When the car debuted Star Wars mania was in full swing. Seeing as this car could be had in any color you would like as long as it was black, this car was nick named Darth Vader. Whomever buys this piece of history is one really lucky individual. If I won the lottery tomorrow it would be in my garage next week.

Original Window sticker on 1987 Buick GNX

Original Window sticker on 1987 Buick GNX

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Source-GNX Craigslist listing

Officially Official- 2011 Hyundai Sonata

2011 Hyundai Sonata

2011 Hyundai Sonata

With all the news buzzing around about the Frankfurt Motor Show last week I almost forgot about a very important product launch in Korea the new Hyundai Sonata. Hyundai has played second fiddle to Camry, Accord, and the other major plays in the mid-size car market for a few years now. They are no longer content being that guy. They are looking to shake things up. The new 2011 Sonata will continue what Hyundai has started with from the Genesis sedan and Genesis Coupe over the last two years. Sleeker, sexier, and more curvaceous, the new Sonata has gone under the knife for a complete redo and is coming out swinging at the champs. Upon first glance you must say it is a looker. Taking the four door coupe theme started by the Mercedes CLS and continued on by the Volkswagen CC, the new Sonata has a short rear deck and fast roof line.

2011 Hyundai Sonata

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Arriving here sometime next year the new Sonata will feature initially two engine choices with a hybrid joining the mix about a year after. The base vehicle will have a upgraded 2.4 4 cylinder featuring direct injection. The 4 cylinder will probably be putting out close to 200 hp. Also available will be a V6 option. The both engines will most likely feature 6 speed transmissions. The Sonata remains front wheel drive with no all wheel drive option currently offered.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Interior

2011 Hyundai Sonata Interior

The mid-size sedan segment has been heating up as of late and this makes it that much hotter. The fact remains this car mimics styling cues of cars with much higher price tags. Hyundai has said while official pricing is not available yet, pricing should be similar to Korean pricing on the Sonata which ranges from high teens to mid twenties. The US spec version and more details should debut at the L.A. Auto Show or Detroit Auto Show. This is definitely one mid-size sedan to keep an eye on not to mention Toyota Camry should be worried.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Interior Center Stack

2011 Hyundai Sonata Interior Center Stack

Review- 2009 Audi Q7 TDI

2009 Q7 TDI

2009 Q7 TDI

American’s have a stigma about diesels and it stems from the old school diesels from the eighties.  When you think diesel you think a big loud truck with black smoke billowing out of the tailpipe killing the planet one mile at a time.  The diesel in this vehicle is completely different, more on that later.

V6 3.0 TDI

V6 3.0 TDI

The diesel in this Q7 is 3.0 TDI pumps out 225 HP, and 406 Lb-Ft to all four wheels through Audi’s legendary Quattro all wheel drive system.  With no low range transfer case this vehicle is not made to go off road.  The Q7 has three rows of seats and children will be more then content in the third row.  This would make a great family hauler all while having the ability to tow a large boat.  The Q7 eats up the miles on the highway effortlessly.  The turbo diesel is rated at 17/25 which on a 7000 lb vehicle is quite a feat.  I saw an average of 24mpg on a mixed city and highway driving route.  There are reports of over 30 mpg on the highway so I feel the 17/25 ratings are more then realistic.

The Q7 I tested had quite a few nice options including, S line package, warm weather package, panoramic roof, along with others.  The S line package gave the Q7 the great looking 20 inch wheels that really fill the wheel wells.  The panoramic roof was a really neat option, giving the passengers a great view of the sky and even cooler on a gorgeous evening with a star light sky. This vehicle was optioned quite nicely.

Clean diesel is not widely known yet. This truly must change, clean diesel is quite amazing.  The benefits of diesel is better gas milage and vast amounts of torque among others.  Why do american’s have a bad taste in their mouths about diesels?  Well as mentioned earlier diesels are associated with being loud and dirty.  Not exactly what people want to be associated with these days.  Both of those stigmas are addressed and fixed with new clean diesels.  There is good reason for all the fuss about new clean diesels. Clean diesels are “clean” because of the low sulfur diesel along with other engine technologies that dramatically reduce emissions of diesel engines.  Bottom line, by reducing emissions and increasing fuel economy new clean diesels save the earth, save you money, and the best part is they are still fun to drive.

As I have said before Audi sets the standard when it comes to interiors and this Q7 TDI is no different. With great fit and finish, soft touch materials, everything just felt right.  The iPod/iPhone integration with MMI is great providing the ability to control everything from the car the device can be tucked away.  The warm weather package gave us four zone climate control so the rear seat occupants can choose what temperature they want their section of the vehicle to be.

This review is based on the Q7 2009. It should be noted the 2010 Q7 has some slight changes and they are already rolling into dealerships.  The 2010 Q7 has new LED tail lights, LED’s in the front headlights as day time running lights other new Audi’s, the new third generation MMI system, updated interior ambient lighting, and other small tweaks.  The TDI engine is the same for 2010.  The Q7 TDI starts with a base price of $50,900 before destination.  The Q7 I tested had a sticker price a slightly north of $62,000 with some nice option packages.  The Q7 is a great vehicle and the turbo diesel engine makes it even better.  My opinion, skip the V8/V6 engines and get the TDI engine which is definitely the best engine option.  Bottom line, the diesel engine has entered the twentieth century.

Buick Gets a New Tagline

2010 Buick Lacrosse

2010 Buick LaCrosse

Buick has been using the tag line “Take a look at me now” with its advertising and it is not working for them.  They are finally starting to get product that would warrant such a tagline such as the Enclave and now, the new for 2010 LaCrosse.  Seeing as the tagline and advertising is a bit stale General Motors has come up with a new campaign.  The new spot titled “The new class of world class” will start airing soon.

Bob Lutz who has most recently turned his sights on the marketing area of GM is really honing in on Buick’s message.  He was recently quoted by Automotive News as saying the new spots are “aggressive stuff”.  That’s good because Buick needs some aggressive advertising now that it is one of the four core brands left of GM.  I am personally excited to see the new spots and hope they are successful now that Buick finally has some good product both in the showroom and on the way.

2010 Buick LaCrosse Interior

2010 Buick LaCrosse Interior

First Day Frankfurt Motor Show Highlights

BMW ActiveHybrid X6
BMW ActiveHybrid X6
BMW already announced the X6 ActiveHybrid while releasing most of the specifications and has now showed it to the media and public at the Frankfurt Motor Show.  The exciting news is that this is not a concept vehicle.  BMW has been trying to fill a niche for a few years now and this is just another notch in that belt.  This SUV fills the need of consumers who want a 5,000 pound vehicle that handles like a car, goes really fast, and doesn’t gulp gasoline.  Not a whole lot has fit that criteria, but the X6 ActiveHybrid will be just the thing.  This beast mates a 4.4 litre twin turbo V8 with two electric motors.  These things together will net you 485 HP and 575 Lb-Ft all while achieving almost 24mpg.  The battery pack will be the older, heavier nickel metal hydride battery instead of a lithium-ion battery.  Some people might have a problem with how heavy the battery is, but in a 5,000 pound SUV, the extra weight of the battery pack does not really matter.  With more torque than the new X6M (500 Lb-Ft), this will definitely be something of interest to keep a eye on.  No pricing has been announced at this point.
Volkswagen Golf R20
2010 Volkswagen Golf R20
The last generation VW Golf, which was previously known as a VW Rabbit, had a VR6 engine in the highest powered version, R32.  The new generation of this vehicle will be called the Golf R20. This will have 270 HP pumping out to all four wheels through Volkswagen’s 4Motion all wheel drive system against the previous car’s 250 HP.  The main identifying exterior feature will be the LED daytime running lights in front and the LED taillights.  Sales will begin in Europe at the end of the year, so hopefully we will see the R20 this side of the Atlantic sometime in the first half of 2010.
2010 Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 V10
2010 Audi R8 Spyder 5.2 V10
The 2010 Audi R8 Spyder made its grand debut at the Frankfurt motor show today.  The Spyder will launch next year with the same 5.2 V10 from the coupe.  While chopping off the top, the designers axed the side blades. This is a unique styling element different from the coupe.  The Spyder weighs 476 pounds more than the coupe due to the added stiffening needed for rigidity.  The Spyder is said to go 0-60 mph in four seconds, but when it looks this good, do you really care?  I know, I do too.
Lamborghini Reventon Roadster
Lamborghini Reventon Roadster
Lamborghini unleashed its Reventon Roadster that will be sold for over $2 million with only 20 will be made.  It will use the same engine as the coupe version which has 661 HP all through Lamborghini’s e-gear gearbox.  There will not be a manual version offered.  I am sure if demand is there they will build more. After all, I believe Lamborghini is in business to make money.  They go where the money is.
2011 Rolls-Royce Ghost
2011 Rolls-Royce Ghost
Previewed at the Geneva show and named the 200EX concept, Rolls-Royce has taken the wraps off the 2011 Ghost.  The Ghost will be positioned as the entry level Rolls-Royce which, in my opinion, is not exactly entry level.  While this car is smaller than the Phantom, it is still huge.  It retains the suicide doors from the Phantom and is quite a stunner.  The engine is nothing to sniff at either being a 6.6 litre V12 pumping out 563 HP.  The fact remains, the styling is quite similar to the big brother Phantom, so if you do not like that look, you’re probably not going to be in love with the new Ghost in town.
Audi e-tron Concept
Audi e-tron Concept
The anticipation has been killer.  From the teaser on Audi’s website, we have assumed the electric concept car would be something derived from the R8.  We were right. The e-tron concept does have some different styling elements. The differences are mainly in the headlights, tail lights, and ridiculous wheels and grill.  That said, the power behind it is insane with 3,319 Lb-Ft of torque (no that is not a typo) going to all four wheels through electric motors.  We will see how this someday plays into production, but with a claimed 100+ miles of range, this definitely bodes well for green street credibility.
Volkswagen E-Up! Concept
Volkswagen E-Up! Concept
The E-Up concept is being hailed by Volkswagen as “The Beetle of the 21st Century.” VW Chairman, Martin Winterkorn, informed the world yesterday that the E-Up would launch in 2013.  The E-Up will be all electric and made specifically for the city dweller.  With a 0-60 time of about 11 seconds, you definitely will not be over taking an R8, but you will be able to get onto the highway to get your latte at the local Starbucks.  Viewing the picture above, one can see how small the E-Up is. It is only a 3+1 seater.  The passenger sits more forward than the driver so the rear passenger seat occupant has enough room.  There is basically no room for anyone to sit in the seat behind the driver. A small child would be the best person for this location of the vehicle.  The E-Up has an electric motor pumping out 155 Lb-Ft of instant torque.  The lithium-ion battery pack only weighs 500 pounds.
2010 Audi A5 Sportback
2010 Audi A5 Sportback
This is a bitter sweet car.  The car is gorgeous and another great extension to the A5/S5 line.  The sad part is it will not be coming into the United States.  The Sportback combines the gorgeous looks of the A5 with the functionality of 4 doors and a hatch back design.  Using the same engines as the rest of the A5/S5 line up in Europe, the Sportback will be available to order in Europe this spring.
There is a lot more news flowing out of Frankfurt than I can post about, but the above are just a few interesting things coming out of the show.

Go Big or Go Home- Not Anymore

“Go big or go home.”  This saying was something I learned at a early age as ‘the American way.’ The American way has had many trends, and many of these trends move over to the auto industry.  The winds are changing at our doors again.

1984 Dodge Caravan

1984 Dodge Caravan

In 1984 Dodge introduced the world to the Dodge Caravan.  These were an instant success as they were a better option than driving around in a station wagon.  The concept of a minivan appealed to families hauling the kids with lots of gear.  With decent fuel economy and the ability to haul lots of people and luggage, it is no wonder why the minivan was a hit.  Once the initial fad wore off, the minivan started getting the soccer mom name plate.

1991 Ford Explorer

Once the minivan was no longer the ‘cool’ vehicle to be pulling up to soccer practice in, something had to took its place.  This was the birth of the SUV fad.  Having a vehicle that sat up higher made people feel like they were the king of the road.  The higher seating position and the four wheel drive capability gave people the sense of safety and security.  With poor fuel economy and un-necessary running costs for most people, the SUV was truly a symbol of what Americans thought they needed.

1999 Cadillac Escalade

1999 Cadillac Escalade

In 1999, Ford’s premium brand, Lincoln, introduced the Navigator. The Navigator was essentially a rebadged Ford Expedition.  Sales were successful enough that General Motors felt it was necessary to rush something into production that would compete with the Cadillac badge.  General Motors immediately rebadged the GMC Yukon Denali to become what was known as the first generation Escalade.  This is when SUV’s became the status symbol in America.  It was no longer cool to just have a SUV. You needed a large, premium badged SUV.

Now we skip forward to last summer.  Gas prices hit an all time high in the U.S. and people stopped their love affair with SUV’s as quickly as it started.  People started switching the SUV status symbol to hybrids.  It is always amazing to see how short term American’s memories are.  Now that gas prices have gone down significantly from last summers, we are getting back into buying SUV’s.  That said, something else has happened since last year and it is larger then just the auto industry.  The economy has been hit hard and so have people’s pocket books.  This has hurt auto sales across the board. Everything from the Toyota Prius to the Chevrolet Suburban, no one was immune to the down turn.  Sales are starting to pick up again, and people are going back slowly.  The main factor seems to be that people still like SUV’s but they want them more fuel efficient.  The new 2010 Chevrolet Equinox is rated at 32mpg on the highway.  This is very good milage for a crossover SUV since the first SUV’s were averaging 17mpg on the highway.

green-vehicle-main-imageIt seems the tides have turned once again, and people are now in love with SUV’s and good fuel mileage.  The old adage “go big or go home” seems to have turned “go green or go home”.

Review- 2010 Audi S4

2010 Audi S4

2010 Audi S4

First a confession. When I first got wind that Audi would be using a supercharged V6 in the next generation S4 instead of the throaty 4.2 V8, I was nervous. I was wrong. The S4 took the year off in 2009 while Audi launched the new A4 on the new B8 platform. The B8 platform moves the front axle farther forward making for a better weight distribution and a shorter front over hang. The new S4 is larger and faster then the previous generation all while being more fuel efficient.

As with all Audi’s, the interior of this new S4 is gorgeous. The materials are soft touch and are executed well. The S4 I drove while not fully loaded had some nice options including the navigation package, genuine silk nappa leather, Bang & Olufsen sound system, carbon atlas interior and sprint blue pearl effect paint. The Bang & Olufsen sound system is well worth the $850. The stereo had two SD card slots to play music off of. The space used for the SD card slots could be utilized for something more worth while like buttons for radio presets. Instead you have to go through menus using the MMI interface to get to the presets, this is somewhat cumbersome. That said, the third generation MMI system is more user friendly and better to use then previous generations. The navigation system is hard drive based which means it will move faster through menus without lag and also allows you to load your personal music on a portion of the hard drive. The genuine silk nappa leather seats that were two tone black and silver. The sport seats hug your body in all the right places and are bolstered well. S4 badges are strewn about the cabin tastefully to remind you, that you are indeed in something special.

The new supercharged V6 has 7 less HP then the old V8, but puts out 22 Lb-Ft more torque. Making the new 2010 S4 faster 0-60. The 2010 S4 has a supercharged V6 pumping out 333 HP, and 325 Lb-Ft through the legendary Quattro all wheel drive system. The Quattro system in the S4 has a 40/60 split front to rear power ratio. Optional is a new sport differential in the back which can vary torque from side to side in the rear. This helps with under steer and over steer when going through corners by pushing the power to the outside rear wheel. In operation, the sport differential works similarly to the system in the Acura’s with SH-AWD. The car I test drove had the standard 6 speed manual transmission. A 7 speed dual clutch transmission called Sport-tronic is optional. With the 6 speed manual 60 comes in at 4.9 seconds. Also available is Audi’s Drive Select package which allows the driver to customize the steering, suspension, and acceleration characteristics. The S4 I drove was not equipped with Drive Select so I could not give feedback on this option. The gas milage has improved with the new engine going from 13/19 in the previous generation S4 to 18/27 in the new S4.

The waters run deep in this vehicle segment and the new S4 is bringing its A-game for sure. It is no secret that the arch nemesis of the S4 is BMW’s 335i which is now available with all wheel drive as the 335i xDrive. We also can not forget the other German crosstown rival, the Mercedes C350. Both of the main competitors are less expensive, which people will ask then how is the S4 a true competitor. You have to look at the whole picture. While yes cross town rivals are less expensive they are also less powerful. Which begs the question are they really a better value? If you are paying more for the Audi and getting more then really it is a fair game. The price difference between the BMW 335i xDrive and the S4 is around $2,000 which in this price bracket is not a huge difference.

The new S4 is not perfect though the few items of question are easily forgotten once you start driving. When you look at the competition the S4 is definitely king of the hill. The new S4 starts with a base price of $45,900 before destination, while the one I drove with select options had a sticker price of $52,050. The main item to take away from this, is the new S4 is leaps and bounds better then the previous generation. Everything from the chassis to the interior is new and improved, it shows. The car truly spoke to me. It fit in all the right places and truly is a drivers car. I will leave you with this, it is rare I will walk out of a car and say “WOW I truly connected with that car”.

Review- 2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible

2009 G37 Convertible
2009 G37 Convertible

Convertibles are not for everyone they are however a large segment and it is growing rapidly in the luxury market.  One of the main competitors to Infiniti’s G line is BMW’s 3 series line, of which almost half are sold as convertibles.  Infiniti has been missing out on this party for years but is looking to rectify that by launching the newest addition to the G line up, a hard top convertible.

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Lopping off the top of a car is not as simple as it sounds.  Once the top if off you have lost a lot of structural rigidity that needs to be brought back.  Infiniti did a good job of reinforcing the chassis, so much so that the convertible is as rigid as the coupe.  Infiniti used a floor support on the transmission tunnel, two braces one in front of and one behind the rear wheels, and reinforcements behind the rear seats.  By adding all the reinforcements the convertible pays a toll at weigh in time with 453 pounds more then the coupe to lug around.  Top down operation takes a mere 30 seconds which when waiting seems a lot longer.  The top can not be opened or closed while moving.  With the top up Infiniti designer’s did a great job keeping its good looks with great integration of the cut lines.  Keeping the great looks of the G without the top has its compromises, mainly the trunk.  With a mere 2.5 cubic feet of trunk space with the top down, you will be using the “back seats” as your luggage rack.  That works out well seeing as a child could barely fit in the seats due to zero leg room.

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The G37 I test drove had pretty much every option including the premium package, navigation package, sport package, and illuminated kick plates.  Starting at $43,850 you can get the G37 convertible north of $50,000 quickly by adding bulky option packages.  The interior was gorgeous with top end materials all around.  The navigation unit is a touch screen and can also be controlled by the buttons below it.  The whole head unit was easy to use and I was able to change the sound settings in under 20 seconds.  The sound system is Bose branded with 13 speakers sounded great.  There are speakers on each side of the head rests which are tied into the Audiopilot 2.0 noise cancellation technology.  This adjusts the stereo to compensate for the outside noise with the top down depending on your speed.  I found it worked quite well both on the highway and in the city.

3.7 V6 325 HP, 267 Lb-Ft

3.7 V6 325 HP, 267 Lb-Ft

Retained in the convertible is the coupe’s 3.7 V6 pushing out 325 HP, and 267 Lb-Ft to the rear wheels.  The engine is tied to a choice of a 6 speed manual or a 7 speed automatic.  The car I test drove had the 7 speed automatic which shifts quickly and cleanly.  The sport package adds magnesium shift paddles that when downshifted the transmission will rev match for a sweet sweet sound.  The exhaust has a glorious note that makes you want to tear off from every stop light.  The exhaust note is definitely more menacing then the BMW 335i’s at idle and in the low revs.

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This car is a drivers car.  It retains the great looks of the coupe with some trunk usage compromises.  The car is great for driving down University Drive or just cruising the back roads in the country.  I would personally choose the back country roads option.  At the end of the day the G37 convertible is just that a convertible which entails compromise.  At the price as tested of $52,840 you are deep in the luxury convertible waters and there are many a sharks in those waters.  While the competition is steep I truly feel the G37 convertible is more then up to the task of taking a bite out of the competition.