Archive | November, 2009

2011 Ford Mustang V6- 305 HP & 30 MPG!

2011 Ford Mustang V-6

2011 Ford Mustang V-6

305 hp and 30 mpg!  Get used to seeing those two numbers together because I am sure a huge marketing blitz is about to start soon.  Those are the expected numbers to be coming from the new for 2011 Mustang V6.  The all new 3.7 liter engine is an all aluminum dual-overhead-cam (DOHC) 24 valve V6 engine that utilizes Ford’s twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT).  The new engine is not the only news on the 2011 Mustang.  Both the automatic and manual transmissions will be six speeds attached to a now standard, limited slip differential with revised suspension.  No I did not say independent suspension, merely revised.  Other notable new features are standard integrated spotter mirrors, message center, MyKey programmable vehicle key, and universal garage door opener.

New 3.7 liter all aluminum V6

New 3.7 liter all aluminum V6

The new 3.7 liter V6 sends 305 hp and 280 ft-lb to the rear wheels.  With a 7000 rpm redline and a new dual exhaust system attached to the cold air induction system, this V6 Mustang is unlike anything before.  The Ti-VCT allows variable control of the valve operations throughout the rev range.  With the new die-cast aluminum “deep-sump” oil pan, Ford believes a 10,000 mile oil change interval will be fine.  This will lead to cost savings for the owner.

The suspension has upgrades to both the rear lower control arms and a new, stiffer stabilizer bar bushing.  The combination of these two upgrades improve stiffness and cornering response.

Both transmissions options are new with six speeds.  The manual transmission features short throws and a high sixth gear for highway cruising and better fuel economy.  The six speed automatic features grade-assist, also known as “hill mode,” this is said to improve drivability in hilly areas.

Taken from Ford’s press information-

Fuel economy improvements

Extra horsepower and refined engine operation will be the most noticeable features to new 2011 Mustang 3.7-liter V-6 buyers while projected class-leading fuel economy, also a standard feature, offers an additional bonus. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 19 mpg city/30 highway with six-speed automatic transmission, up from 16 mpg city/
    24 highway on the 2010 model with automatic – a 25 percent improvement over 2010
  • 18 mpg city/29 highway with six-speed manual transmission, up from 18 mpg city/26 highway on the 2010 model with manual

Refinements throughout Mustang’s body, powertrain and chassis design contribute to the improved fuel economy numbers. Examples include:

  • The new Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system which eliminates the drag of an engine-operated hydraulic power steering pump
  • Six-speed transmissions that allow lower cruising revs without sacrificing off-the-line performance
  • Aerodynamic improvements such as a new front fascia, tire spats on the rear wheels, modified underbody shields, a taller air dam and an added rear decklid seal

Occupants also benefit from new door seals and a rear wheel arch liner that reduce road noise for a quieter, more enjoyable drive, all with minimal weight gain compared to the 2010 model.

Enthusiasts who want a premium performance-oriented Mustang V-6 can opt for the new Performance Package, which will be available August 2010. Designed for driving enthusiasts, the Mustang V-6 Performance Package comprises:

  • A 3.31 rear axle ratio for quicker off-the-line acceleration
  • Firmer Mustang GT suspension
  • 19-inch wheels
  • Summer performance tires for improved grip
  • A strut tower brace for increased chassis rigidity
  • Unique electronic stability control calibration with sport mode for performance driving
2011 Ford Mustang V6 Dual Exhaust

2011 Ford Mustang V6 Dual Exhaust

2011 Ford Mustang V6 Instrument Cluster

2011 Ford Mustang V6 Instrument Cluster

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving from Accelerate Mpls!

AutoBird Podcast Episode 4

Podcast

This week, episode 4 discusses the week in review on both of our respective blogs, AutoBird Blog and AccelerateMpls.  We first briefly discuss the Ford Fiesta technical debriefing that I attended last week.  Our conversation moved on to the all new 2011 BMW 5 Series and the new 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe.  We use the introduction of the new 2010 Lexus GX460 to transition into our last topic, a report card on the current Toyota/Lexus situation.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Download this episode (right click and save)

Review- 2010 Camaro SS

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The pony car wars are back in full swing.  I covered this with the review of the Camaro V6.  I will not focus as much on the pony car wars rather, the focus will be on the Camaro SS itself.  The Camaro has been enjoying brisk sales.  Most are leaving the dealers lots at full MRSP.  The new Camaro continues to outsell both the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger each month since it has re-arrived on the scene, it would be fair to say the Camaro has been a hit so far.

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This car is based on the Zeta platform, which is not a light platform.  Pair that with sophisticated independent suspension set up, and you end up with a heavy car.  To say this car is a porker, well, it would be justified.  It needs to call up a weight loss clinic and lose about 500 lbs quick.  The SS I had was equipped with a manual 6 speed transmission.  The cars official weight, according to General Motors, is 3849 lbs!  The Camaro SS is slightly heavier then the V6, and the extra weight is sitting directly above the front wheels.  You can directly feel this weight when driving aggressively.

Optional Inferno Orange Interior

Optional Inferno Orange Interior

The car I had was a 2SS with a few nice option packages including the RS package, interior accent trim package, cyber grey metallic stripe package, 20″ polished aluminum wheels, and inferno orange metallic paint.  The RS package is $1200, and for that you get 20″ flangeless painted aluminum wheels, body-color roof ditch molding, high intensity discharge headlights (xenons) with halo rings, and RS unique tail lights.

RS Unique Tail Lights

RS Unique Tail Lights

I like that the xenons that come with this package are bi-xenon.  They do not list them as such.  That means both the high and low beams are xenon, vs having the high beams be regular halogens.  The polished wheel package replaced the regular painted aluminum wheels that come with the RS package for $400.  The most interesting of the options was the combination of the inferno orange metallic exterior paint and the interior accent trim package.  This combination had the interior swathed in inferno orange from the stitching to the black and orange seats.  Also, we can not forget the orange plastic moldings.  This made for a very bright interior.  At first it was a little much, but as the week went on the orange interior grew on me.

The big draw to the SS is the engine.  Equipped with the lovely and ever versatile 6.2L LS3 pushrod V8 from the base Corvette.  In the Camaro SS the LS3 is slightly detuned to 426 hp and 420 lb-ft with the manual transmission.

IMG_1817When equipped with an automatic, the engine is no longer the LS3 rather the L99, putting out 400 hp and 410 lb-ft.  There is no question this engine is good for much more power with a slight electronics adjustment and some upgrades like superchargers and cold air intakes.  The car can handle the power just fine.  Rated at 4.7 seconds 0-60, the car is no slouch at the drag strip.  Seat of the pants puts you in the range though it feels a tick slower due to the heft the car has about it.  The car is rated at 16/24 mpg, and I can honestly say I topped the highway rating.  I took the Camaro on a road trip down to Des Moines, IA.  On the way there I managed a respectable 21.2 mpg average.  That was ok, but on the way back I averaged 25.2 mpg, which I was truly impressed with.  I had the cruise control set at 75mph both ways.  With the cruise control set at 60 mph, I would venture a bet you could get close to 28mpg.

IMG_1731This car could just possibly be the national symbol for thumbs up.  Everywhere I went someone was giving me a thumbs up.  I blew past a man in a Jeep Liberty, he was craning his neck to see the car so hard I thought he was going to drive off the road.  Everyone wants to look inside and tell you about their Camaro story from back in the day.  Do not go to the mall and expect to walk right in.  Someone will stop you to talk about the car.

I mentioned the interior in the last review and aside from the inferno orange trim package the interior is the same.  I love the retro styling that Chevrolet has done with the interior.  The graining on the materials is decent looking, but the materials themselves are very hard and cold.  The Mustang has the upper hand when it comes to technology when you consider the available touch screen navigation and Microsoft Sync system.

I hope for the next generation that General Motors can find a way to shed some major weight.  They could use more high strength steel, or more exotic materials.  Maybe they should just dip into the Corvette’s parts bin.  Make some body panels out of composite or better yet, carbon fiber.  A sticking point could become using more exotic materials becomes expensive quickly.  This car is not at a high price point for what you are getting.

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The take aways after driving this Camaro for a week were pretty clear to me.  First, you always get out feeling like you drove an American hero or a national icon.  Second, the interior materials could use an upgrade in the next generation along with an overall diet.  Third, muscle cars can now do more than just a straight line.  Fourth and final, the American public has spoken and they love love the new Camaro!

The Regal is Back! Will it Sell?

2011 Buick Regal

2011 Buick Regal

Last week General Motors announced they would officially be bringing back the Buick Regal.  The car is set to arrive in spring of next year as a 2011 model.  The car will launch with a base 2.4 liter four cylinder that puts out 182 hp while returning 30 mpg on the highway.  Later in the summer, a 2.0 liter turbo four cylinder that puts out 220 hp will launch.  The more powerful engine will still manage 29 mpg on the highway.  The list of specifications reads like a list of what Buick needs to get customers to both show up in the showrooms and buy their cars.  The car may look familiar to some of you, and that is because the car is a rebadged Opel Insignia.  The car that instantly won Car of the Year in Europe and is already selling well as a Buick Regal in China.  The turbo model will come with “Interactive Drive Control System.”  This will have four different driver selectable suspension settings.  GM has not gone into detail about the system yet though it sounds promising.

2011 Buick Regal Interior

2011 Buick Regal Interior

The main question is simple, will this car sell?  Buick already has the new LaCrosse and the Enclave, both of which are being viewed as successes so far and selling quite well.  GM knows they need more home runs and more foot traffic in the showroom.  The Regal should bring a lower entry price point into the Buick showrooms.  GM is hoping that, in itself, will lower the age of the customers.  While we do not know pricing yet, we can naturally assume the Regal will be priced both aggressively and will undercut the new LaCrosse somewhat significantly.  I personally think, from the specifications we know so far, this car will definitely help both Buick and General Motors.  My only hope is that the rumors of a GS (GS stands for Grand Sport) model come true.  That would not only be an epic move on GM’s part, but also drive huge foot traffic that might otherwise not come near the Buick showroom.  Bob Lutz actually recently told Car and Driver that they are considering a version for the new Buick Regal to be Regal GS.  It would essentially be a rebadged Insignia OPC.  It would push somewhere along the lines of 335 hp and all wheel drive and possibly have the trick torque vectoring rear end.  Finish all this off with a six speed manual transmission and a reasonable price point that would obviously going to undercut the Germans, and everyone else that would compete, and you have a recipe for huge success.  I truly believe that GM needs a model like the Regal with a GS trim level.  It will show how serious they really are about growing their market share and changing the image of Buick once and for all.  Hey GM, I want a Regal GS, I want it now, and a wagon variant would not hurt.

Note- Hakim Givens created a mock up of what a Regal GS wagon variant might look like.

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Concept of what a Regal GS wagon might look like- Image by Hakim Givens

2011 Buick Regal

2011 Buick Regal

Opel Insignia OPC

Opel Insignia OPC

Opel Insignia OPC

Opel Insignia OPC

AutoBird Podcast Episode 3

Podcast

This week, episode 3 discusses the week in review on each of our respective blogs.  We discuss the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon I had this past week and the Lexus HS250 hybrid review that posted.  We then discuss announced Buick Regal and new Volvo S60.  We also spend a little time giving a report card on General Motors current financial situation.  We finish by discussing the upcoming Nissan Leaf.


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First Drive- 2010 Lexus HS250 Hybrid

2010 Lexus HS250 Hybrid

2010 Lexus HS250 Hybrid

The new Lexus HS250 is a departure for Lexus and its hybrid line. The LS600 hybrid is meant to have the power of a V12 with the fuel economy of a V8, utilizing a hybrid system in conjunction with a V8 which gives it decent fuel economy. The same can be said for the GS450 hybrid. These are hybrids that are standing for something other then being green but more for performance in a different way than the competitors. The HS250 is the Lexus that is meant to be your step up into Luxury while still being “green.”

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So you have had a Prius and you are now a little older, a little wiser, and want a vehicle that is a little more luxurious. What is your next move for a new car? Well, you could go and get a new third generation Prius and load it up with all the optional tech toys. Though the Prius does not have the luxury badge, and you still want to be a little green. Enter the Lexus HS250 which is all new for 2010. At first glance you think Toyota took and rebadged/restyled a Prius and slapped a L badge on it. The HS250 is actually based on the Scion tC platform and the foreign market Toyota Avensis platform. This front wheel drive platform is a fine base, but people still assume naturally this is a rebadged Prius.

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With a 2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle four cylinder putting out 147 hp and adding to that a 40 hp electric motor, you get a grand total of 187 hp and 180 ft-lb. This is essentially the powertrain from the Toyota Camry Hybrid. This is good for a rated 8.7 second jaunt from 0-60 which is almost a full second quicker then the new third generation Prius. Driving is more engaging and much more “Lexus like” than the Prius. With much more sound deadening and a lighter to the touch steering feel, this car feels more luxurious. This is all good because this car is quite a bit more money then the Prius. The car is refined and overall enjoyable to drive. I was taking corners faster than a hybrid usually wants to go, and the car handled comfortably without complaint. Although this is definitely no sports car. Once going, the wind noise and more importantly highway noise is noticeably quieter then the Prius. Something to note, the engine does not require premium fuel. It is content with regular 87 octane gasoline. The car is rated at 35 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway for a combined 34 mpg overall. I have heard reports of people getting mid 50’s, which if you harp on it constantly you can fall into the very low 30’s. These are all respectable numbers, though the new Prius is rated at 50 mpg combined which you can easily beat when trying. One reason for the huge gas milage differences is the Prius’s engine is a smaller displacement putting out less total power.

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The interior is a nice place to spend time. The car I had was “stripped,” no optional equipment was on board. The sound system was OK but definitely not as good as the optional Mark Levinson sound system. The controls all operate silky smooth and are great to the touch. The “buttons” on the steering wheel are not as they appear. The actual buttons are under those icons which are covered in a membrane like material. The trunk is a mere 12.1 cubic feet because the battery pack is sandwiched between the backseat and the trunk. There are a lot of tech toys that are available on this car that were not on the car I tested. If you are into tech this car can be completely loaded up.

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The base price for this car is $34,200 and if you option it out with technology, you could be knocking close to the $50k door. Keep in mind you are deep in entry level luxury range here competing in price with the Infiniti G37, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and others. This car does get much better gas milage, and after all, is that not what Hybrids are all about? Lexus is saying this car falls between the ES and IS line and is for young technology savvy people that care about the environment. Notice they did not say green because we all know they have the lower level Toyota Prius for that. In this price bracket I would have a hard time recommending this car, personally I would go with one of the aforementioned competitors. I am into driver engagement and fun-to-drive factor, and in those departments, this car can not compete. If you want an entry level hybrid luxury, car this is the only place to look in town because there is no real competition, yet.

Cars & Café – November 7, 2009

Auto MotorPlex

Auto MotorPlex

The first weekend of the month has come and gone and that means Cars & Café.  An opportunity for car guys to come, drool and gawk at each others toys.  The weather was unseasonably warm for November, reaching a high of 57 degrees.  The sun was shining, the people were smiling, and all was well with the world.  Per the name Cars & Café, the cars where there as was the coffee and doughnuts.

Spyker C8

Spyker C8 Spyder

Spyker Logo

Spyker Logo

This month was much nicer weather then October which meant the crowd was about double and the amount of cars were too.  Many notable appearance were made such as the gorgeous Spyker C8 Spyder all the way to the normal Honda S2000.  EuroCars even brought out a ultra rare Noble M400 they currently have for sale.  Kevin Tan, owner of Imola Motorsports, brought out his Acura NSX which is tastefully modified.  Not one, but two, Buick Grand National’s were in attendance. One had aftermarket wheels while the other was quite stock.  Both were gorgeous sights to see in person.  Also notable was the old school Porsche that was absolutely gorgeous.  I will note, my buddy who has the Honda S2000 that we brought to October’s Cars & Café, and our 300ZX, were both sadly already put into storage due to the early cold snap we had.  We both decided to error on the safe side and we were sad we did.

Noble M400

Noble M400

Buick Grand National

Buick Grand National

This month the club house was open to stroll through.  Spacious and luxurious, the clubhouse is a very nice  place  to hang out while grabbing a cup of coffee and a doughnut.  Auto Motorplex is currently nearing completion on another new building that was framed up in October.  They were also obviously prepping to develop more land for more buildings towards the edge of the property.  Until next April 3, 2010 (but who’s counting) when Cars & Café starts another season, we will all unfortunately just have to get out our trickle chargers and car covers, while we go into storage for the winter.

Kevin Tan's Acura NSX
Kevin Tan’s Acura NSX

Gorgeous Porsche

Gorgeous Porsche

AutoBird Podcast Episode 2

Podcast

This week, episode 2 starts off with news about Colin’s blog, AutoBird Blog,  and AccelerateMpls.  We also discuss the Camaro SS which I drove the past week.  We then discuss the 6-hour Chrysler press conference and the 5-year plan that was revealed.  Before we wrap up, we discuss the news out of Ford and the profits they just reported.  The commentary throughout this podcast might give you a few laughs regarding Chrysler’s current line-up and their new marketing campaign.

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Review- 2010 Buick LaCrosse

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2010 Buick LaCrosse

I have heard the “New GM” say over and over again that any product launch can not be just a launch, it has to be a success.  The new LaCrosse for Buick is no exception, and in fact, this is the car that is helping to “reinvent” the Buick brand.  The Enclave that debuted two years ago went in the reinvention direction, it was however, less reinvention and more a new segment for the brand.  The Enclave was the vehicle that started generating younger foot traffic into Buick showrooms.  That is a good start, and this new LaCrosse looks to keep that momentum going.  So how is the car?  Well this is not your grandpa’s Buick.

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The last generation LaCrosse was a curvy affair that had four headlights and the bland styling of white bread.  Buick has set its sights upon some new comers and some industry leaders ranging from the new Lincoln MKZ and Acura TL to the recently updated Lexus ES350 and let’s not forget the aging, and not gracefully I might add, Toyota Avalon.  These are the “main competitors” in GM’s view.  The list makes sense to me, although I believe, the main direct competitor is the Lexus ES350.  The advertising is poking at Lexus and the Buick is actually better looking.

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The exterior design of the new LaCrosse has a very strong sweep spear line down the side.  The character line goes continuously from the headlights all the way down the side to the tail lights, creating a long and flowing line that helps to give the sides character.  This, along with curves toward the bottom of the doors, keep the car from appearing slab sided.  The front has a new modernized interpretation on the Buick waterfall grille.  Following the current trend, this car has a high belt line and the result is down right good looking.  No yawn inducing smoothed out jelly bean here.  The bland styling from the previous generation LaCrosse has been kicked to the curb for LED tail lights and that bold character line down the side.  With dual exhaust and finishers, the whole outside screams “I have style”.

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Everyone that got in the interior commented on how nice the Lexus was.  That is until I told them it was the new Buick.  It took their breath away.  Once you get past that you are in a Buick, you have to stop yourself because suddenly you want to admit you like this Buick.  It is ok, someday it will be the cool thing, and this is the big first step toward that day.  The interior was designed with input from the Chinese division within GM.  Why would they do that you ask?  The answer is because Buick is a smash hit over in China, so they decided to have the market where Buick sells best design the interior.  Lets just say, bravo.  The gauge cluster looks great, probably one of the best in any GM vehicle.  The whole entire dash is covered in soft material which is how it should be.  The bottom, by your knees and where the glove box is, continues to be made of hard plastic.  It does look good, and you will rarely touch it.  The steering wheel both tilts and telescopes to help find the perfect driving position.

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The car I had was a top tier CXS model with no additional options other then special paint for $195.  The sticker price was $33,960.  Equipped with an auxiliary jack and a USB port you could listen to your music from your iPhone or iPod through the Harmon Kardon branded sound system which sounded great.  I would even venture to say it rivals the Mark Levinson sound system in the Lexus ES350.  The wheels were 18″ with chrome plating.  I really liked the CXS standard heated steering wheel.

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The car comes with three different engines.  The top shelf CXS I had came with a one choice 3.6 liter V6 featuring direct injection putting out 280 hp and 259 lb-ft to the front wheels.  Rated at 17/27 mpg, the car averaged 21.5 mpg with a mix of city/highway driving.  If you step down one trim level to the CXL you can get all wheel drive as a option, but you can not get the 3.6 V6, you have one choice, a 3.0 liter with 255 hp and 217 lb-ft.  The base CX model comes in front wheel drive with the 3.0 V6 standard though a 2.4 liter four cylinder with 182 hp and 172 lb-ft is optional.  I was surprised with how well the torque steer was in check with front wheel drive and the larger 3.6 liter V6.

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So it seems all cheers here right?  Buick hit a home run with no flaws.  Well not exactly.  The car uses old goose neck hinges for the trunk which significantly eat into the trunk room.  Though the arms are covered so they can not crush luggage, that does not stop them from eating trunk space in a large way.  Yes the Lexus ES350 uses them too, but that is not an excuse.  Also, the seat tracks in the front have a very open design that, in theory, could easily devour a long evening gown while moving back or forth.  Also, as I have mentioned, I am not a huge fan of this high belt line trend.  Sure I am being nit picky I will admit that, but they did that good of a job.  My biggest complaint is simple.  You can not see the rear end when backing up.  This thing needs a back up camera stat!  The only way to get the back up camera is to have the optional navigation package.  When the back up camera is standard on the GMC Terrain, which has a base price less then this CXS, something is not right.

The new LaCrosse certainly is not your grandpa’s Buick anymore.  This cars main target are the people shopping for a Lexus ES350.  It hits that target while being a better value, having more character, and is overall better looking.  Certainly a few things I mentioned could use tweaking, but overall this is a nice execution on General Motors part.  Buick’s new marketing slogan is “The new class of world class”, and for the first time this brand has a car that is world class.