As some of you know, I sold my Jeep. Funny thing is, when I put it up for sale no decision had been made on its replacement. Now that the dust has settled and my Jeep will be going to its new owners this weekend, it is time to get serious about what my next vehicle will be.
Over the past three weeks I have narrowed the choices down. Some were impractical, while some were going to just be money pits. In the end some clear winners have emerged – unfortunately they are all so different and I am having trouble deciding. Each choice has an upside and of course, like everything else, a downside. Lets get right to it. Read More…
While Detroit has been down in the dumps for a while, this years auto show definitely shows things might be back on track in the D. Of course it had to snow while everyone was in town, but it gave those from the warmer climates a chance to see what us snow belt state peeps live through on a daily basis.
Some of you will remember that last year I wanted to differentiate myself. I started tweeting pictures of cars with the models and tagged them as #EyeCandy. This quickly became a hot topic. A few of my followers mentioned this year that I was not really tweeting any #EyeCandy and asked why not. The simple answer, there wasn’t any. Few booths had the babes that were in attendance last year. Though Chrysler group and Ferrari still pulled through.
But lets get down the to the product. The new Chrysler 300 looks terrific. In reality, many wondered when they saw the pictures if it can recapture the market that the 300 once had in 2005. Upon seeing the car in real life, I am happy to report that it looks much better in person. The interior really does deliver on the promise that the 300 made back in 2005. American luxury. From the great new Pentastar V6, to the growling Hemi V8 in the 300C, this is American luxury in a rear-wheel drive car.
Another car I was anxious to see in real life was the new Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic is Chevrolet’s new B-Segment car which will take on the likes of the new Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and many others. I have to say, while I think the new Sonic is a home run from a styling perspective, I can see how many will not. It will be either a love it or hate it vehicle. From the exposed barrel headlights to the ridiculously short rear overhang and really long front overhang, the styling is nothing short of eye catching. The interior gauge cluster is also interesting, as they actually put into the production model the Aveo RS concept’s gauge cluster. With a racing like analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer, the gauge cluster is more reminiscent of a race car or motorcycle than that of a sub-compact car. Going on sale later this year I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see how the driving dynamics compare to the competition.
The new A6 has already won a design award without even leaving the show floor. In my opinion the new A6 takes everything that is right with the new A8 and A4 while dropping everything that is wrong with them. Smashing all the good together to make a great looking Audi. The design language has really come together for this car. The interior is terrific and the exterior is eye catching. The optional LED headlights are very intricately designed when inspecting them up close. You will see the new A6 on the road later this year.
I’m not going to really cover the CTS-V Coupe race car but I wanted to make mention of it. Two words come to mind when you walked past it on the turntable, menacing and awesome. Ok, moving on.
Toyota has finally unveiled a larger Prius. The model is called the Prius V. This is especially confusing to some since the regular Prius has trim level packages that are in roman numerals. Right now if you go buy a Prius in the top trim level you are buying a Prius V. Wait, that can’t make sense. So when you buy a top trim level Prius V will you be buying a Prius V V? This is clearly not well thought out. I wonder if Toyota realizes this yet. Maybe someone should send them a note. Regardless, I heard many people comment on how the Prius V rear end has a lot of Honda Fit in it. I can see that. The front, well it looks like a third generation Prius with a few slight tweaks. You’ll still know it’s a Prius. You will see the people mover Prius at a dealership near you in the Summer.
Ah the Honda Civic Concept. Honda waltzed Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy on stage to talk about the new Civic Concept. Here’s the problem, either Wentz was drunk or he really could care less about being there. He enthusiasm was worse than the new Civic’s styling. He barely stumbled through his words off the teleprompter. Note to Honda: make sure your spokesperson is somewhat excited about your luke warm product.
But getting back to that product, the new Civic Concept looks as if a new Odyssey and the current generation Civic got it on in the back room. That, or a designer of the current Civic got wasted one night, and just took the current Civics lines and tweaked them a little. For a mid-cycle refresh, I am not sure how this will be competitive until 2016 with new competition from Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet. We will have to wait and see when the new Civic comes out, but I am not holding my breath.
Mercedes had its SLS E-Cell electric car on display. In a word it is blinding. The paint job on this car can literally sear your retinas. Beyond the paint job, it looks fairly identical on the outside to the current SLS. The interior changes a little as most of the gauges and center stack are now LCD screens. This car will go into production, but if you have to ask range or price, you can’t afford it.
I don’t really want to spend much time on the Passat as I’m not sure it deserves it. I’ll reserve final judgement until I drive one. Until then, I’ll say this, Volkswagen is going downmarket to sell more cars. Is that really a good idea? Why alienate all your current customers. People that buy current Passats pay more because they expect to get better quality materials. Cheapening the car for a lower base price is going to hurt your brand image. This is no longer just German engineering, it is German engineering to a price point.
While I skipped Porsches press conference to eat breakfast at my hotel (it was at 6:30 AM), I will say looking at the car in person, it is stunning. Seeing that huge flywheel in the passenger seat, yea. This is how you build a hybrid. It is good to see Porsche looking at new technology for racing. If this car does go into the racing circuit it could change the game. With less fuel stops needed and more power on tap for instant bursts, it could be a whole new era of racing.
At the end of the day I was exhausted. Most journalists were up at 5 AM and didn’t leave the show floor till nearly 8 PM. I ran to nearly every press conference and went through approximately 6,600 milliamps of battery power for my iPhone4. It was a good show with some great product. Not everything was great, but it was a good to see where each automaker is going in 2011.
Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations are being provided by General Motors
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 30 starts with introducing this weeks guest Drew Dowdell owner of CheersandGears. Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Ford Fiesta I was in for the past week along with the Chevrolet Malibu Drew was in. We then move along to the major news of the week segment. This week included-
After taking time to digest everything I wanted to share some experiences from the MAMA spring rally. MAMA is the Midwest Automotive Media Association, a non-profit group that brings automotive journalists and public relations people together. A quick recap: the spring rally was a two day event spanning a Wednesday and Thursday.
Getting right into it, we were first unleashed onto the track at Road America Raceway on Wednesday morning after a quick breakfast and safety seminar. During breakfast the various manufactures in attendance gave quick speeches about what they had brought with them for the rally.
Once we were unleashed we had choices; cars were lined up and each car had a sticker on the windshield stating either “road” or “track”. If a car had a track sticker we were allowed to take it on either the public roads or the track. Cars with road stickers were not permitted on the track.
Some things to note about the day: we were asked to keep stability control on at all times in the cars. They were trying to avoid people over-reaching their abilities and wanted to minimize any damage or injury that might occur and while this most likely hindered some people’s lap times and severely hindered some autocross times, it was fine because part no major incidents occurred.
I focused much of my attention on the track in the early morning. I drove everything from the Mazda RX8, Audi S4 and Mercedes Benz C63 to the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec. I instantly found the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0t R-Spec underwhelming. I was not in love with the manual, it felt slightly mushy and the shifts were not clean and crisp. The engine needed to stay high in the revs to keep going around the course. When I asked the Hyundai rep about this he admitted that this was too much track for the car and went on to state that the car is better in shorter track scenarios. I can easily believe that.
The new 2010 Audi S4 was just tackled the track. I set all the settings to dynamic mode and took off. I loved the six speed manual transmission in that car. Through the corners, the car felt much more neutral then the last generation with the heavy V8, though I will admit I do miss the V8 exhaust from the previous generation S4. The car pulled itself through the corners pushing power to different wheels with the sport differential in the rear.
I did not take the time to properly set up the Mercedes Benz C63 or the E63 before hitting the track and this hindered some of the fun. I did not tinker with all the settings, thus the car was not to my liking. The paddles did not seem to do what I wanted them to do, the steering was not how I predicted through the corners, and the E63 was just simply hard to place in the corners. You really need to play with the settings to get these cars to your liking and I did not take the time.
For the road portion I took out the upcoming Suzuki Kizashi Sport with the CVT transmission. The paddles responded nicely and overall, the car was very nice. The slightly more aggressive exterior body kit is welcomed and the larger wheels and tires looked great. This was no barn burner but it went well enough.
The Rolls Royce Ghost was another trip all together, hitting near illegal speeds in no time. The interior of the new Rolls Royce Ghost is just plush. Everything is made of quality materials. I determined if I can ever afford a house with carpet as nice as the floor mats in the Ghost, I have made it. The umbrellas in the doors have ventilation ducts that dry them, giving the ability to put away the umbrellas wet (coming in quite handy when Jeeves picks you up at the gallery opening). Speaking of Jeeves, this car is much smaller then the Phantom (though still quite large) and many owners may prefer drive it themselves instead of having a chauffeur. Sorry Jeeves, you’ll be taking the other car.
I also took the new Ford F150 Raptor with the 6.2 liter V8 out on the roads. This big truck finally seems to have the much needed motivation to move like it should.
You know what they say, it’s not a party until a tree falls on an Aston Martin Rapide. If nothing else, many people will remember this from the 2010 MAMA spring rally. Upon getting back to our hotels (tired and stinky from being in the sun all day) it started to downpour and I mean a torrential downpour. Within minutes of the rain hitting, hail rolled through. The chunks of hail were about the size of a pea. Of course, my thoughts quickly rolled to the millions of dollars worth of cars sitting outside of the hotel and the track. Once the storm passed, I walked to dinner. As I was walking everyone was heading to the parking lot. I asked why and they only could utter something about a tree and the Aston Martin. Uh oh, that is not good. To my (and everyone else’s) horror, a pine tree had fallen on the Aston Martin Rapide. We lifted the tree off as they backed the car out from under it. Upon closer inspection, the passenger side mirror was gone, the hood was dented, the windshield broken and the worst part was that wood had gone through the windshield and into the dashboard, more then likely ruining the dashboard. Not good.
Thursday morning we had an autocross course set up next to the track. The Ford Fiesta was a ton of fun due to its handling. The new 2011 Ford Mustang V6 was much better then I anticipated. The Mercedes Benz C63 was a beast though the E63 was a boat through the course, mainly due to it’s size. Its power was what pushed it through.
The rest of the morning was spent off roading in everything from Range Rovers to the Ford F150 Raptor 6.2. The Raptor 6.2 was my first vehicle I took off road and its size made it a handful. The course was somewhat tight in some areas and I had to back up to make some corners. The truck handled everything like the beast that it is. After going through the course in the Raptor, I decided to go for something a bit smaller. The new 2010 Range Rover Sport was next up and this thing was ridiculously nice. Something crazy to note is that the Range Rover Sport was also labeled Wednesday as a track car. This vehicle was put through its paces both on the track and off road. Not many vehicles can be pushed through the track one morning and then stuck onto an off road trail the next. I was curious as to how the stock 20 inch wheels and tires would handle the off road portion seeing as they had been used on the track the morning before. To my surprise, the Range Rover Sport (I should not have been surprised) was an off road machine, shrugging off everything I threw at it. Driving the Range Rover next was a very cool experience. The all digital gauge cluster is really useful. Being able to change what is displayed based on what you are doing comes in handy when off road.
The entire experience gave me the opportunity to drive many different cars in varying situations throughout a two day period. The track portion was a blast, as was everything else. The people were friendly and inviting. Sitting and having lunch with two gentlemen from Consumer Reports lead to quite an interesting conversation. Everyone from freelancers to Cars.com writers were in attendance. Overall it was a great first experience and I look forward to whatever the next MAMA rallies should bring.
Nissan has already announced the upcoming NV1500 and NV2500 work vans but they have not yet gone on sale. Further these are the first shots of one on the road being used. It seems they are testing them before they go on sale. Speaking of going on sale they should be on sale before the end of the year but no exact time frame or pricing has been given yet. Notice the Nissan badge is covered up on this tester vehicle. With the Sprinter pulled from Dodge showrooms by Mercedes and the new Ford Transit Connect on sale this is a good time to Nissan to try and jump into the market. Whether they will actually be accepted into the market in large numbers is a whole new question.
Quick recap on the NV1500 and NV2500. They are work vans that will come with either a V6 or V8 along with a raised roof option on the 2500. A standard five speed automatic transmission will be the only transmission choice. Based on the slow selling Titan full size pickup, this should help the excess capacity at the Titan plant.
Episode 28 starts with introducing this weeks guest William Maley also known as realmudmonster on Twitter. Moving into the garage we talk about the Buick LaCrosse I was in for the past week along We then discuss the MAMA spring rally that I attended this past week. We then move along to the major news of the week segment. This week included-
This week we bring back the clip of the week segment. This week we featured Mercedes-Benz: Sorry. (Link)
Next came our main topics which we have a discussion about the going to go over some government boondoggles we’ve been seeing cropping up in the news. We actually got the idea from jalopnik which did a recent post about the world’s safest cars that were built here in America
Last we plug our respective blogs, AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.
Surel,y I can not be the only one to say about freaking time! That said, you know what they say, better late then never. These new engines should make them class competitive in both power and fuel economy.
Quick facts to note-
Mercedes-Benz says its upcoming 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 and 3.5-liter V6 will post big gains in fuel economy and power.
The 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 is rated at 435 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, with a 22 percent improvement in fuel economy.
3.5-liter V6 makes 306 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque with a 24 percent jump in fuel economy.
STUTTGART, Germany — Mercedes-Benz announced today that its upcoming 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 and 3.5-liter V6 will post gas-electric hybrid-like jumps in fuel economy, 22 percent and 24 percent respectively. The engines will deliver more power, too.
Those numbers are not official EPA numbers, but are Mercedes’ own estimates. Further since a chunk of that fuel economy comes from the company newly standard start/stop system, it’s not likely to show up as quite as great a fuel economy improvement on U.S.-market window stickers since the EPA’s current testing standard doesn’t really reflect the improved real-world economy that comes from this type of system.
The new V8 is a direct-injected twin-turbo unit of 4663 cc displacement. According to Mercedes, the engine, which will appear first in the CL-Class coupe and S-Class sedan this fall, will pump out a healthy 435 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, up 12 percent and 32 percent respectively. Thanks to the direct injection system, Mercedes can run the engine at 10.5:1 compression ratio.
The V6 starts with a new architecture. It goes from a 90 degree V angle to 60 degrees. I has all-new intake and exhaust and will make 306 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes claims that an S350 (a model we do not get in the U.S.) will achieve 24 percent better fuel economy than the old S350. Again, a large part of the improvement comes from the standard stop/start system. No word on when or in what model the new V6 will debut.
Another element of both new engines (and one that should be reflected in EPA fuel economy numbers) is the addition of ancillary units that consume less of the engine’s power. These include water pump, oil pump and fuel pump. Both motors will also come with intelligent generation management systems
The Minneapolis Auto Show has finally arrived. I must admit that I look forward to the show every year. The show is not large compared to others and, in reality, many concept cars go to the larger shows and skip us. The reason I like our show is it is local and I am on my own time. I can go with my friends with no scheduled agenda. The big shows like Chicago and Detroit are a lot of fun but this is just different having a show near home.
The show was busier then I expected. I talked to quite a few people that noted how the attendance numbers were up from last year already on the second day of the show. The economy is in a slightly better place and car sales are starting to pick up and the attendance at the show is reflecting it. I am guessing that Ford was a major sponsor this year as many new Taurus’s were strewn about outside of the entrances. I overheard several consumers commenting on how they liked the look of the new Taurus and most didn’t even know what it was.
Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 Concept
Some of the highlights included the special edition Synergy Green Camaro and the Silverado ZR2 Concept truck from Chevrolet. Though many General Motors concept cars were missing, I was surprised to see the Cadillac Converj concept at the Cadillac Stand. Ford had the new 2011 Edge along with the new 2011 Fiesta Sedan. The updated 2011 Shelby GT500 Mustang was on the show floor with the hood open and, although the doors were locked, it was what was under the hood that was important. Audi had the mighty R8 5.2 in a copper brown color with carbon fiber side blades.
2010 Audi R8 5.2
Some things I noted about the show: BMW, PorscheInfiniti were all absent. While a few talked about Porsche, I’m not sure anyone noticed Infiniti was gone and the largest complaint of the show that I heard was “Where’s BMW?” I spoke with one of the local BMW dealerships and they said that their research indicates that they do not sell enough cars by being at the auto show to warrant the expense. This absence just gave the competition such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz a chance to have BMW owners sit in their cars. Another anomaly was Nissan. They found it important to have the GT-R with a base price of $80,790 but not to have a 370Z, which starts at $29,990. I was told that the reason was, “That is what they sent us…”. Not a terribly good answer in my opinion.
Ross Testing the Man Step
I personally think many manufactures should take notes more from Ford. They have been building terrific booths at the shows lately. They engage the consumers and have a lot to look at, and I am not just talking product. There are interactive games such as foosball and driving simulators not to mention the computers filled with information.
Overall the show was better then last year. With more manufacturers in attendance and consumer attendance up, the atmosphere was a bit more upbeat. The Minneapolis Auto Show’s tag line is “Your License to Dream” and I believe that is exactly what this show did for many consumers this year and with the products coming in the next year, I am sure next year will be even better for consumers.