Archive | November, 2010

Video: Why Is That Tractor Coming At Me?

I want to give some background on this video. To be frank, I debated whether or not this video would ever see the light of day. By popular demand (by a very small, annoying group of people who just will not leave me alone about the darn thing) the decision has been made to post it. With that said, some background is needed before watching the video.

The goal when I had the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited was to take it off-roading. Unfortunately I do not exactly live by mountains. I was asked not to take it to the one place in Minnesota that is a true off-road park, mainly because it is known as the place you take to destroy your vehicle. I decided to take it through a muddy field that a friend of a friend’s dad owns.

The videos turned out more then boring. Though one hilarious gem of a clip did come through entertaining enough to post. When I entered the field, it was decided that we should test the Jeep to see how well it would do in two wheel drive. Then once stuck, I would move to four wheel drive, then if I continued to have issues, put it in four low and lock the differentials. I ended up in four low but never needed to lock the differentials. Once in four low, I never ended up getting stuck again. This video is a clip from the first part in two wheel drive. It took less then two minutes to get stuck in two wheel drive. I hope you enjoy. Oh and Ross, now you have nothing on me about this Jeep thing.

2010 LA Auto Show: The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Mazda Shinari Concept

I had hoped to get this post out last week, but for those that followed my adventures at the LA Auto Show, I was running on four hours of sleep and many cans of Monster Energy drinks. Hence why this post is coming to you a little bit late.

The LA Auto Show is the kick off to the auto show season. Some say it sets the tone for the following auto shows. This year held a ton of promise as the auto industry gets back on to its feet and companies start churning out new product.

Infiniti Essence Concept

Highlights of the show ranged from Mazda Shinari concept car to new Ford Focus sedan and hatchback. Heck I was even excited to see the new Nissan Quest minivan. Yes, you read that correctly. I was excited to see  a new minivan. Hey, in my defense, the teaser shots they leaked out were quite compelling, and I was not let down. The new Quest is quite stunning in my opinion. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Infiniti Essence concept that made its debut a while back. The car is as stunning now as it was when it made its debut.

I was also looking forward to finally seeing the new Dodge Charger in person. Sitting in the new Charger and feeling the materials, I was pleasantly surprised. While not all is fixed, this is a huge leap in the right direction. I look forward to getting to spend more time with that vehicle along with the rest of the revamped Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep line-up.

2011 Dodge Charger

2011 Toyota Corolla

The bad ranged from the “refreshed” Toyota Corolla to the “OMG they built that thing,” Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. The Toyota Corolla is more of a shock and awe. The fact that you can now only get it with a four speed automatic or five speed manual blows my mind. Let me repeat that, four speed automatic. You know, like from the 90’s and early 2000’s. This calls for a “lets party like it’s 1999” statement. Just shameful. Oh and they dropped the more powerful of the two engines. I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention the fact that you can no longer get leather on any Corolla.

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Moving along the bad portion of our trip down LA Auto Show lane we reach the “OMG they built that thing” section. We have heard rumors for years about a convertible Nissan Murano. Many outlets have comissioned drawings based upon insider knowledge. Well the time has finally come and Nissan took the sheet off the duckling. Is it ugly? Well, based on the gasp from the crowd, I am not entirely sure. I think the gasp from the crowd was a combination of, again, “OMG they built that thing,” and also a sticker shock when the price was announced at $46,390. I’m sorry, did you just have a slight heart attack? Because I am pretty sure the press at the Nissan press conference did as well. It was made slightly better when I learned later from a PR rep that the price is for the one trim model, which is a LE trim. This will come fully loaded with pretty much no options. Still, that is a pretty penny for this odd duckling.

Overall I would say the tone for the show was upbeat. The industry is clearly fighting to make its way back. Without question a nice foothold has been given, with sales up and profits finally being made, things are looking a little brighter. Here’s looking forward to seeing what is unveiled in Detroit in January.

LA Auto Show – See You There

Smell that? That ‘s the smell of the auto show season! It is that wonderful time of year again when the manufactures shine up the paint and bring new promises and dreams to the American consumers. The LA Auto Show will kick off the season and this year promises to be a big one.

The High Gear Media crew (myself included) will invade the Los Angeles convention center starting Wednesday morning, bringing you all the coverage you can handle from all angles. You want your news served on Twitter? We can handle that. Is Facebook more your style? We have that covered as well. Oh and of course our main hub will have everything from the online articles to the tweets from the floor, not to mention photos. Below is a list of places you can follow along, and of course some news will flow on here as well.

Review – 2011 GMC Sierra Denali HD: King of the Luxury Heavy Duties?

The heavy duty truck wars are heating up, and until recently the Ford Super Duties have been the only place for luxury truck buyers to go. Not anymore though – General Motors has decided there is no reason they shouldn’t fight for their share of the pie.

The Denali nameplate already exists in the GMC showroom on the half ton Sierra. Making the leap from half ton to the three quarter ton and one ton pick-ups was nothing if not logical.

The Denali HD is more of a trim package then a complete package. The exterior has the same lines as the regular Sierras. It has a blunt front end that is squared off nicely and a rear tail gate that incorporate some sculpting.

The front and rear bumpers are painted , while the upper and lower grilles are finished in signature Denali chrome. The twenty-inch wheels look terrific and really set the stance correctly on this vehicle. You can only get the Denali HD in three colors: black, silver and white. Overall, the Denali trim is a very nice looking package on an already good looking truck.

The interior of the Denali HD is similar to any other loaded up GMC Sierra. There is more “wood” splashed around the cabin and leather covering the seating surfaces, making the interior a nice place to spend your time. With plenty of storage cubbies strewn about the cabin you  definitely won’t be lacking storage space.

The optional navigation unit (which the Denali HD I was in did not have) is somewhat dated, though it gets the job done. Since I did not have the navigation screen, the rear back up camera had the screen integrated into the left hand side of the rear view mirror. I noted the lack of auto up window function on any window, and only express down on the drivers window. This seems out of place on a truck of this price. The automatic climate control is easy to operate and has decent size buttons for the most part, though a few are tiny and might be hard to operate with gloves on.

One friend commented on how well the seat warmers worked on a chilly evening and was surprised to see the availability of cooled seats. The friend also commented on the fact that they have three heat intervals, which is quite nice as the competition has just on or off. The interior is a very understated place, but still “classy” as some would call it. Sometimes the competition could be viewed as over the top. This truck would not fall into that category.

The engine really is where this beast oozes awesome. The new Duramax is a 6.6-liter V-8 turbo diesel pumping out 397 horsepower and 765 pound feet of torque. That is channeled through an Allison six-speed automatic transmission. Even with that much power I still managed to average 14.6 mpg in mixed driving. While going 60 mph on a straight stretch of highway, I was curious to see how high I could get the average fuel economy up to. Resetting the trip computer, I was able to average 23.5 mpg on a highway stretch cruising at exactly 60 mph.

The new powertrain does utilize Urea injection into the exhaust system. This is the same type of exhaust cleaning system that Ford now utilizes in the new Super Duties. With this system the days of black smoke pouring out of diesel exhaust pipes is dead. The RAM Heavy Duty is the only one of the three heavy duty trucks that does not use Urea injection in the exhaust system. GM likes to note in their new marketing campaign that the Duramax and Allison transmission combination have been put to the test. With many work trucks on the road, over twenty million miles have been logged. That is no small feat. It is also worth mentioning that Ford is now on the fourth PowerStroke engine.

The power train can tow 13,000 pounds in this configuration, which is no small number. With my family’s cabin up north closed and the boats put away, I had no boat of my own to tow. My friends had also put away their boats for the season so that was not going to work. I had tried setting something up with the local Airstream dealer, but that fell through (seeing a trend?). I did finally have something rather cool planned for my last day with the Denali , but a miscommunication caused that plan to fall through (hopefully that plan will work out next time I have a heavy duty truck sitting in my driveway). So unfortunately I did not get haul something ridiculously huge with this more-than-capable truck.

Driving the Denali HD was an enjoyable experience. With more then enough power on tap, slamming the go pedal at a stop light would immediately kick the traction control into a frenzy. The steering was light, with decent on center feel for a truck of this size. You would think a truck of this size would be a handful in the city, but you would be surprised. Handling was good and the ride was comfortable. It is truly amazing how far the ride and handling of these trucks have come in the last ten years, especially considering their capabilities.

With an as tested sticker price of $58,199, is the new Denali HD king of the luxury trucks? Until now the Ford Super Duties in King Ranch trim has held that crown with no disputes. Mainly because there has been no one in the marketplace to dispute with. I have to say, it seems to me the Denali HD and the King Ranch have very different approaches to how they execute luxury and styling.

The Denali HD is a very understated type of luxury, while the new Super Duty King Ranch is a very in your face, larger-than-life luxury. Seeing how these trucks have different approaches, one might think they will attract different types of buyers. I believe that having options in the marketplace is a great thing. Between the terrific powertrain and great looks, this new Denali HD really does turn heads. As to whether it is the king of luxury heavy duties, it will come down to what kind of luxury are you looking for.

Be sure to check out the gallery below for more terrific pictures of the Denali HD.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Photography – Alex Bellus

Video: Racing “Big Bertha” Around Dirt Track In Dodge City

Hey remember that time on the Fireball Run when I went with Kevin in his Ford Excursion racing around the dirt track in Dodge City, KS? No!? Well it happened. Since then Kevin has been bored at home with no missions and no passage control to get to by a certain time. So he made a little video.

Using pictures taken by Nelson on the sideline, video taken by me in the Excursion, and video taken by others outside of the track we now have this video to remember the time Kevin almost put me into the wall.

Key highlights in the video include:

  • This is trouble brewing (see the knew before we even hit the track!)
  • Kevin almost crashing us (my side of the truck) into the wall
  • Mis-Directed by too much testosterone
  • Me as in car director (didn’t know I had the title, but I’ll roll with it)

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 34: “White Diamond Episode”

Loyal fans, we are back! Sorry for the delay, my work life has been crazy and Justin has school, between the two scheduling has been tough. Episode 34 starts with introducing this weeks guest Drew Dowdell owner of CheersandGears. Moving on we talk a little about the Fireball Run which I was in since the last recording. Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 GMC DenaliHD I was in for the past week.

We then proceed to the clip of the week segment.  This week we feature a new ad campaign by Chevrolet called Max and Al. (Link)

We then move along to the major news of the week segment.  This week included-

  • Outrage over the Chevrolet Volt’s drivetrain (Link)
  • Chevrolet Volt not PZEV (Link)
  • Is the Chevrolet Cruze really priced out of competition? (Link)
  • Disneyland and cars? Definitely! (Link)

Next came our main topic which was discussing Fiat/Chryslers onslaught of new product.

Last we plug our respective blogs, Cheers and Gears,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

Buick Dropped The Ball And Created #GSFail

I wanted to write this editorial on Thursday night, but decided it was better to wait a few days and see how the dust settled. How would the fans react? Would my emotions on the topic change once I calmed down? The answer is no.

Buick announced the production version of the Regal GS in Miami, Florida last Thursday. It wasn’t without a few surprises. The biggest surprise of which was a lack of all-wheel drive. Most people assumed the 2.8 liter turbo V-6 from the Opel Insignia OPC would not make the trek across the Atlantic. As for the all-wheel drive, that is a different story.

Lets not forget about power output. The 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder will put out 255 horsepower and 295 pound feet to the front wheels (no, that was not a typo). This engine has also done duty in the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, HHR SS,  Pontiac Solstice GXP and Saturn Sky Redline. For all of these models you could purchase a $650 factory upgrade at the dealership that would kick things up a notch, pushing out 290 hp and 340 lb-ft, all while keeping your factory warranty. The engine has the potential.

The Regal GS will feature GM’s terrific HiPerStrut front suspension system, which in theory, should curve most of the torque steer which this beast is sure to feature.

So where are the two main problems? Well, it’s a combination of power and drivetrain. The engineers said they did not need all-wheel drive for the Regal GS. Their reasoning was the added weight wasn’t necessary and the power output did not require it. Wait, the power output did not need it? Hey, we stumbled onto the second problem!

It was initially thought that Buick wanted the Regal GS to take on the likes of the BMW 335i and the Audi S4, like the Opel Insignia OPC does in Europe. These power numbers do not put it even close to competing with those vehicles. Zero to sixty is quoted as “under seven seconds.” Are you joking? That’s slower then the Acura TSX V-6. Did I mention the new Hyundai Sonata Turbo has more horsepower and posts better fuel economy? That isn’t even a “sports car.” Don’t even think about getting close to a BMW 335i or Audi S4 in race away from that stop light.

Also high on the disappointment list is the removal of the terrific Recaro seats. The Opel Insignia OPC features them, as did the Regal GS Concept. I sat in them at the Detroit Auto Show last year – those were comfy seats.

Fans on Buick’s Facebook fan page were outraged. Many have claimed how this car just got knocked off their list. I was told by someone that three people in Detroit that were waiting for this car called the dealership and are no longer interested. My own cousin who has a 2002 Audi A6 2.7t was waiting for this car – I had convinced him this might be the replacement. Now? Not so much.

The Twitter community was just as outraged. The hashtag #GSFail was created quite quickly and really spread fast. Enthusiasts across the nation shared their disappointment.

I still remember standing three feet away from Bob Lutz at the Detroit Auto Show last year. I overheard him talking about the Regal GS to a reporter – he was smiling ear to ear, proud of what Buick was transforming into. What I wouldn’t give to hear Bob Lutz’s candid thoughts on how this car turned out.

My garage has a poster in it of the Regal GS concept car from last years auto show season. The car is something I was looking forward to.

The fact that I have not driven the car is not lost on me. Without a question, the car looks the part. In fact, it probably is still fun to drive, but that isn’t the point. The point is the car is not what was expected from the GS. It has been slightly watered down in all the wrong places, and the enthusiasts know it. The GS model is meant to be niche, meaning it is meant for enthusiasts.

Buick had the opportunity to really make a move here. This car could have stood for something, having the potential to truly ignite enthusiasts and maybe even convert a few past Pontiac owners. Now, it is another watered down product we are getting from Europe. In a discussion this weekend with Nick Saporito, I think he said it best: “the car is “good enough” with excuses.”

Sound off in the comments and we are also running a poll over at Motor Authority about whether the Regal GS meets your expectations. Check it out and vote here.

Introducing the GMC Jimmy SS Hybrid

Behold in all its glory, this very rare, super special GMC Jimmy. Very few of these SuperSport Hybrid Jimmy’s were made, finding one in halfway decent condition, that’s next to impossible. My good friend Mark just happened to stumble upon this fine example driving down the highway here in Minneapolis this week.

Ok fine, you got me. There was no GMC Jimmy SS Hybrid. But, I will say somewhere there is a Toyota Hybrid that is missing a badge of honor, and I bet it wants it back dearly. As for the SuperSport badge, who knows. What a cluster this piece of work is. I must say, the 4X4 decals really do finish off the picture.

Thanks Mark for the tip.

SEMA 2010: The Good, The Bad, The Very Ugly

I’m going to skip right to the chase, the 2010 SEMA show is going on right now. High Gear Media has been obsessively covering the show both on Motor Authority and on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Each year there is some hot stuff and then there is the not so hot stuff. There are many things I eagerly awaited to see this year, one of the higher profile reveals for me was the 2011 Dodge Charger. Mopar Underground was given cart blanche to customize a brand new 2011 Dodge Charger R/T and that lead to the Dodge Charger RedLine. While the paint is a special factory option, the rest of the shiny looking aftermarket bits are not for sale yet.

The ugly is, well very ugly this year. Can’t believe I am saying this, but the world might have actually found the ugliest Toyota Prius. Also, Pontiac is now dead, which means we will not see the Camaro’s cousin known as the Trans Am. So leave it to the aftermarket world to customize a Camaro to look like a Trans Am. The only problem is, it is hideous! Good lord, look at that beak. This was only day one and so much has happened it’ll make your head spin. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings.

Off Road Ford Mustang Fail?

We’ve seen the Chevrolet Corvette fail last April, and that was a sight to behold. We now bring you this Ford Mustang fail. My friend Neal, that lives in Iowa spotted this hot piece of metal sitting outside where else, a Sportsman’s Warehouse in Ankeny, IA. The store apparently sells everything you would need for hunting and other outdoor activities (wonder if there is a gun rack in the trunk). Clearly this Mustang has custom bumpers along with a large lift kit. The hood might be from a Boss, while the rear mud flaps are clearly meant for a F350 dually. The straight pipes coming out the back I am sure pass emissions. One has to wonder, do they take this thing mudding or in the fields? Regardless, if you happen to be near Des Moines, IA anytime soon, keep your eyes peeled for this hot piece of Mustang. The owner may even let you check its undercarriage.