America loves the new Chevrolet Camaro. You really can’t argue with the previous statement, as the new Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang in 2010. That was with one body style, the coupe. All while the Ford Mustang had both a coupe and convertible, along with a myriad of other speciality models. So what happens when you chop the top off the Camaro? Chevrolet has taken out the sawzall and handed me the keys to find out. Read More…
Episode 36 starts with introducing this weeks guest Nick Saporito from GM Inside News and Ford Inside News. This week we find the garage quite full. Both Nick and I have had Cadillac Escalade Platinum’s along with Chevrolet Cruze’s. Also in the garage I have a Mitsubishi Evolution MR and Nick has a Buick Regal Turbo.
We then move along to the major news of the week segment. This week included:
- Top 10 ugliest car grilles [Link]
- Dealers are creating monster Camaros [Link]
- Great YouTube find: CHP video from 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake [Link]
- How to install and iPad in your Mustang [Link]
Next came our main topic which was discussing what’s coming in 2011. We take a look at Ford’s financial goals along with some Detroit Auto Show talk.
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.
That’s right folks! Chevrolet has teamed up with High Gear Media for the Fireball Run Adventurally. It is coined as the “ultimate motoring adventure.” Nelson Ireson, Tim Healey and myself will make up the team for High Gear Media. Chevrolet is sponsoring us and providing the Camaro SS (our chariot) for the rally.
The rally is 9 days and 3500 miles. We will start in Henderson, Nevada (just outside Las Vegas) and end in Galena, IL. Hey the back to the future car will be there! The event is a race to recover America’s missing children. We will be trying to raise awareness for Jade Flores. She has been missing since July 10, 2008. Handing out posters, tweeting, talking to locals along the way, everything we can do to aid in helping locate her. The event consists of missions each day with a few track events here and there. I’ve heard one of the events is racing school buses around a track (yes you read that correctly!).
You can follow our adventure the whole time! Check here often as this will be our “hub.” The site will pull in our latest tweets, blog posts and even pictures. You can become a fan of The Car Connection on Facebook or follow along on Twitter. Some of the content will end up here as well or on my Twitter, but the main sources will be the previously mentioned places. Be sure to follow along as we will need all the help we can get with the missions! Of course we have schwag for our fans/followers. See you on the interwebz!
Click here to see the full High Gear Media press release
Episode 33 starts with introducing this weeks guest Nick Salvatore from SpeedSportLife. Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Porsche Cayenne and 1967 Ford Mustang I drove since the last recording. We also heard about the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS and Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec Nick was in. We then move along to the major news of the week segment. This week included-
NADA picks vehicles with best cost of ownership (Link)
- Nissan vs. Hyundai – Who is going to be the #2 Asian Automaker (Link)
This week we continue with the newer segment called car spotting. Justin spotted a Chevrolet Corvair. Nick saw a Alfa 159 Wagon when in Europe and his new Glut Orange Audi S5.
Another month has come and gone which means it is time for yet again another Cars & Café. Unfortunately this month the Saturday happened to fall on the holiday weekend known as Labor Day. Most people in Minnesota that have a cabin know Labor Day weekend as a work weekend and I fall into that category. As I was cleaning up boats, many auto enthusiasts in Minneapolis were gathering for coffee and doughnuts. Oh and there were cars as well.
The weather was gorgeous (where as last month is was *ahem* crappy) and the cars flowed in. Luckily for us my friends Ross and Alex Bellus both were in attendance reporting back.
The good is a long list this month. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Super Snake made an appearance again as did the Aston Martin DB7 Vantage. The Bentley Continental SuperSport made an appearance along with three Porsche GT3 RS’s. These are all super but the Mazda Miata with a LS3 V8 shoved in it, well that really takes a special place in my heart. The amount of awesomeness that oozes from that is off the charts.
I’m told little to no head scratching vehicles made an appearance, so I will just have to take the word that there were few. I did hear about a VW Golf that had digital camouflage (what!?). Also, the above VW something or another that was chopped and had a small bed welded on on the back made an appearance. Oh and that VW something or another had full hydraulics in the front which the owner lowered down once parking. Also a BMW had a very unique sound system in the trunk that payed homage to BMW’s M division.
From the Super Seven to the Yenko Camaro, the cars were all there and the weather cooperated. Many thank’s to Ross and Alex Bellus for providing the photo’s. Until next month when the enthusiasts gather again for a cup of coffee and doughnuts, oh and the cars.
Photography- Alex Bellus and Ross
I will be the first to admit that I was not around during the beginning of the pony car wars. Luckily for me, I am around at the rebirth of the pony car wars. The Ford Mustang really never left , while the Challenger had been off the market for some time. The Challenger beat the new Camaro to market, but the Camaro is making up for lost time with killer sales numbers. So back to the Challenger SRT8, is this beast one blast from the past or should it just be left in the past?
The exterior really is a retouched 21st century take on the original formula. The exterior lines and design is unmistakably Challenger. The SRT ups the formula with a chin spoiler, larger wheels and brakes, along with a small trunk lid spoiler. Up front you have what almost looks like a sucker mouth front clip with four round lamps, the two inner lights being parking lights while the outer two are the headlights. The fog lights below put out a surprising amount of light. The character line that flows from the headlights down the side of the fenders and door flows into the rear haunches, which are exaggerated and quite large. They look terrific. The rear end is somewhat tall but stays true to the retro recipe set forth by the rest of the styling. The rear tail light is a strip across the back that is really three pieces – but usually if you look quick, you would not notice. Two squared off polished exhaust tips peek out from the bottom of the bumper to let you know, “hey I’m here, I can and will let you hear me.” From the retro metal fuel cover to the raised hood with functional air inlets, I love the exterior lines. They are classic – pure and simple.
Some have called the Challenger’s interior bland or boring. I really actually feel it fits the car. It is not over done, but the materials are all soft touch and have a feeling of quality. The seats are nothing short of terrific. I did note the seat bottoms were a little flatter then the seats in the Charger SRT8 I recently tested. That said, they are terrific ,with great bolsters for your backside. They were all-day comfortable and then some. The gauge cluster consists of four round barrels with the tachometer and speedometer in the center and the fuel and engine temp gauges to the side. The SRT8 model had a built in performance meter set up. This included everthing from the ability to time 1/4 miles and 0-60 runs, to braking and even a G meter. I must say this is very trick. The head unit in this Challenger was the optional Uconnect system. It is hard drive based and easy to use. Something of note is that automatic climate control is not currently available in the Challenger. While this does not bother me, it seems to irk some when they see the price tag on this particular car. Did I mention the seats? Overall, I liked the interior.
Like the other SRT8’s, the engine bay is filled with a 6.1 liter HEMI V-8 pumping out 425 horsepower to the rear wheels. The power is channeled through either a pistol-grip six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. I had the later and it was acceptable. I noted the block of the engine was painted orange in a nod to the history of this vehicle , and I really liked that little detail.
I drove this car in town during the week and went up north during the weekend. On the open highway the car was a very comfortable cruiser. Composed at any speed, it enjoys straight lines. When the turns start coming the car can handle it, but this is no light weight. The car weighs over 4,000 lbs! On the way back from up north I had my mother, girlfriend and sister all in the Challenger SRT8, along with a full trunk. After the nearly four-hour drive I asked how they fared. Only the person behind me (the driver) said it was cramped. I still managed to average 22.7 mpg on that highway jaunt with the cruise control set at 77 mph. In the city I averaged 16.5 mpg, and that included downtown stop and go along with suburb and highway driving. The car is rated at 13/19, which I easily exceeded.
So what do I make of this modern day remake of the Challenger? It’s big, it’s comfy (did I mention the seats?) while being somewhat practical for what it is. A ton of fun, but at a price. Ringing in at $44,940, this is no cheap trick. That is a lot of coin considering what Ford and Chevrolet are offering now with the new Mustang and Camaro. Still, this car has a different personality then both of those cars, and I think it sells on its own merits. Would I recommend the Challenger? In a heart beat! Now, if you asked if it is better then the Mustang or Camaro? I would say that is all in your definition of better.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Dodge
The Dodge Charger hit the scene back in 2005 and made quite a splash. That splash was two fold: firstly the fact that many people were less then thrilled that the Charger name was applied to a four door sedan. If you remember, the original Dodge Charger was a 2 door. The second part was the bold and in your face styling, which was fresh and really spoke to many people. The Charger has now been on the market since 2005 with only a few major changes (depending on how you look at it). So lets dive in and see how this once-popular muscle car has fared.
The Charger has a bold styling that can be described as chunky by some. The SRT8 kicks it up a notch, but in a subtle way. The hood has an integrated scoop that is functional, funneling outside air into the engine bay to keep that large engine nice and cool. The front end is lower to the ground and slightly more aggressive. There is a belt line that runs from the top of the headlights down the side into the rear “haunches” that begin at the rear of the back doors. These haunches go over the rear wheels and into the tail lights. The tail lights are one piece but they have been refreshed and now have four (two on each side) circles. The trunk has a small but raised spoiler. It is tasteful, but I still wonder if I would want it on my SRT8. The spoiler is attached by four bolts and I think it could be removed (not that I tried). The wheels are 20-inches, and ride on low profile tires. My favorite line on the whole car is the intersection of the belt line and the shoulders in the rear. It almost looks like a lightning bolt.
The interior was originally a horrible mess. The materials when the car launched were all hard plastic. I am not talking about just any plastic. We are talking about plastic that even Lego would reject for quality control. Back in 2008, a mild refresh fixed that, and everything you touch and even most things you do not are now soft touch. Very little hard plastic is still left. The belt line is high, which makes it feel smaller then it really is. Sight lines are surprisingly good. The interior has tons of space both in the front and back. The rear seats fold down almost flat – the bolsters prevent them from being perfectly flat. That said, it is nice to see that they are able to fold. This increases functionality for hauling large items. The seats were very well bolstered and more then comfortable. The bolsters are leather and the center of the seat is a suede-like material that keeps you from sliding when driving aggressively.
The SRT8 is powered by not just any HEMI but the HEMI. The 6.1 liter HEMI puts out 425 horsepower and 420 pound feet to the rear wheels. The power is channeled through a one-choice five-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capabilities. No manual is offered, though how cool would it be if they offered the pistol grip six-speed from the Challenger? This engine just sounds terrific. You literally just want to slam the gas to hear it over and over again. Of course you would expect with this amount of power this car has, mileage suffers- -and you would be correct. It is rated by the EPA at 13/19 mpg, I saw an average of 14.3 mpg with a mix of city and suburb driving.
This car drives like a big sports car. Wait – well not like just any sports car. This is not a Porsche, rather this is a large car. It will push in the corners and you will feel its weight. That said, it is very composed. It drives European-like which should be no surprise, because the basic frame and transmission is a hand-me-down from the 1999 generation Mercedes Benz E Class (W210).
I actually was moving when the Charger SRT8 was in my possession. I used this vehicle to see just how practical it was in daily service. The seats folding down helped and the trunk swallowed a surprisingly large amount of boxes. The subwoofer in the corner of the trunk did eat into some of the cargo space, but that is minimal. The practicality of this vehicle was demonstrated in spades.
Alright so what do we have here? Well, it is practical for a sports car. A large trunk and large interior while still going like a bat out of hell. I already know what you are going to say – but Joel it gets crappy gas mileage. To that I say this – it gets no worse then my Jeep and many other SUV’s that Americans love, yet it is a heck of a lot more fun to drive. This Charger SRT8 was fully loaded and had a sticker price of $43,730 and that is a lot of coin. You can get any of the other new muscle cars such as the new Chevrolet Camaro SS or Ford Mustang GT with just as much power, better fuel economy and for a lot less coin. But they do not have four doors. It is all about what you need and or want. I would say this is a great family sedan for the guy that simply wants fast but can not compromise and get a two door. With the Pontiac G8 GXP now dead and gone, this is one of the cheapest four-door sports sedans that houses over 400 hp.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Chrysler
Episode 29 starts with introducing this weeks guest Drew Dowdell owner of CheersandGears. Moving into the garage we talk about the Chevrolet Camaro Colin was in for the past week. We also take time for a special report on the Local Minneapolis Fisker Karma unveiling that I attended last week. We then move along to the major news of the week segment. This week included-
- May Sales
- 2011 Dodge Charger Leaked
- Nissan Leaf will break the EV silence with a digital whistle
- A myriad of GM talk surrounding Ex-CEO Richard Wagoner Jr. and the possibility of a real RWD flagship for Cadillac
We then proceed to the clip of the week segment. This week we featured Toyota, finally, although indirectly, is now acknowledging their safety failures for the first time in an ad which Features their new Star Safety System. This system includes ABS, Electronic Stability Control, and the much needed brake over-ride system. (Link)
Next came our main topic which was discussing Mercury’s death and Lincoln’s future.
Hold on to your hats folks. When I was at the GM Product and Technology event put on last August I saw things. Some things were awesome such as the future Buick Regal, upcoming Chevrolet Camaro convertible and the list goes on. Some were not so awesome, such as the Buick that was quickly dubbed Vuick. See it was essentially a re-badged (and I mean literally a new grille inserted) Saturn Vue.
The Vuick thing caught on quick and GM supposedly decided to kill it a mere few weeks later. In fact they were so proudly announcing how fast they acted based on the negative feedback they were receiving (shocking). Anyways, next to that Vuick on the floor was a upcoming small crossover for Buick. This could possibly be dubbed the Encore. It essentially looked literally like a shrunken down Enclave. This my friends looked good. It was most likely based on the new Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain platform.
Yesterday Chris Baccus was driving in Detroit and spotted this test vehicle. He noted it looked like a Buick grille behind the cladding. This my friends is one of two things. The Vuick being resurrected (dear god no) or the baby Enclave (Encore?) that has been severely changed since I saw it and not for the better. Either way you are looking at something that is not production ready. I am sincerely hoping this is not the Vuick coming back from the dead rather just a test mule. I hope they keep the baby Enclaves styling that I saw last fall.
Some have mentioned this looks an awful lot like the Chevrolet Captiva not sold in America. I have also just received word from GMInsidenews that GM plans to still sell and produce the Vuick but only for China. It will be a youth oriented crossover.
Source- Chris Baccus