Saturday Road Test – VW Golf GTI Autobahn Edition



                    Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn

                                Good Fun    

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Here is darn near perfection on a treasured back road.

 A turbocharged ever so willing four cylinder, a sport suspension, a Sport” drive mode, and no traffic on a sunny summer afternoon.

 An A/C system related to an iceberg on a day the Weather Service is issuing heat advisories of over 100.  

 Seats that keep my bod in place, fast acting paddle shifts, and sensory feedback from the car that says, “Let’s go have some fun.”

 And that is why the Volks GTI for ages has won praise from road testers and enthusiasts from Seattle to Stuttgart.

 Under the short hood is a turbo charged four good for 220 hp @ 4,500 rpm with 258 lb-ft of torque @1,500 rpm. Look for a 0-60 in about six seconds flat with the automatic.

 Aiding the fun level in the top trim level Autobahn is a larger rear stabilizer bar, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, and adaptive suspension dampers. It manages the suspension’s rebound and compression rate individually helping to improve vehicle dynamics and is available only on the Autobahn edition.

 On roads that really are just paved over old wagon trails, the GTI hung in there extremely well and the turbo four was quick to respond to a request for more power when getting around a very slow moving AMC Pacer. (I’m not kidding.)

 Non-enthusiasts may wonder about the stiff ride but that can be mitigated to some degree by selecting something other than the Sport mode.

 There was some turbo lag when not in Sport mode, and I did wish for a six speed manual even though the automatic equated itself rather well and calmed things down nicely on interstates. Well it should since this was the Autobahn model!

 The test model also came with a $1,095 Driver Assist Package that included an automated parallel parking assist, with front and rear parking sensors. This car is just 168 inches long and 71 wide and left me wondering why anyone would need the assisted parking systems.

 EPA? 24 city, 32 highway for a combined 27 mpg which was my average for the week. Premium for full performance.

 Standard equipment included a rather quiet sunroof when open, the expected safety equipment, summer tires that stuck rather nicely in turns, but also mean that if you live in the snow belt you will go shopping for tires in late fall.

 The info screen was located rather low in the center dash, meaning you have to take your gaze off the road to check it. A center top of the dash position is much better. Standard is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The navi system was not the greatest, but one can overlook that with those two standard items.

 Two adults will find ample space in the rear seats, while up front there is also ample room even with the sunroof. But the multi-adjustable driver’s seat was not as comfortable as others on a long day’s drive.

 While the GTI sits low to the ground getting in and out was a snap for both row passengers thanks to the hatchback design. Fold the second row 60/40 seats down, and one can stash away an abundant supply of stuff given the available 52.7 cubic feet of space created.

 But it is on your favorite back road where the GTI (Great Touring Indeed) sparkles. The suspension, steering, engine and tranny are all in perfect harmony, like a Bavarian Band playing during Octoberfest. (You have to experience one in Germany before you die.)

 The price for all this fun in a very well equipped hatch came to $37,110 that some might feel is a bit much to pay for a VW Golf. But do not despair.

 A base model GTI with a stick shift can be had for $25,595. A more desirable Sport model starts at $29,995 and brings to the party the Performance Package with torque-sensing limited slip differential. You want that.  

 Coming for 2018 will be standard LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, an 8 inch-infotainment screen on SE and SEL trims, and a Digital Cockpit customizable dashboard on the Golf R.


Auto News for July 21 – A Pulse Quickening New Lotus


 As the greater Washington D.C. area wilts under heat and humidity that feels like 100 degrees plus, we will lead off this morning with a hot new Lotus.

 How hot? A 0-60 of just 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 190 mph.

 The Lotus Evora GT430 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that is supercharged and “charge cooled” with 430 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque from 4,500 rpm with a six-speed manual transmission.

 Lotus has taken various steps to lighten the new car such as using lots of carbon fiber so it weighs in at just 2,864 pounds. There are a number of design enhancements to increase the amount of downforce at speed and there are four “Dynamic Stability Modes” – Drive, Sport, Race, and Off.    

 “Lotus is famous for using its technical expertise to develop the lightest engineering solutions,” explained CEO Jean-Marc Gales.

 “It’s an intricate balance of power, finesse and road holding, no matter the speed, and is a true track-and-back sports car, supremely focused and immensely fast,” he said of the new model.

 Just 60 editions of the GT430 will be hand built in Norfolk, England, for sale in select markets around the world and, following the popularity of Lotus’ recent limited run editions, the company said it’s already in line to be a true collector’s car.

 I would add this car simply has to be a wonderful experience on what the Brits call a “B” road.


 Ford has unveiled the “industry’s first pursuit-related pickup”, the 2018 F-150 Police Responder. For power there is a 3.5-liter V6 with 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque with a 10-speed transmission and a top speed of 100 mph. It is based on the F-150 FX4 off-road model with the “Supercrew” body.

 Volvo will soon release details of its first entry into the small premium SUV segment with the VC40. It will come with “dozens of possible exterior and interior color combinations” because buyers want “a car that reflects their personality,” the company said. Interior color choices will include Lava Orange carpet and Oxide Red upholstery.  

 The 2017 Kia Forte has earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the group’s highest rating.




Auto News – Performance Buick GS

2018 Buick Regal GS2018 Buick Regal GS

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 A performance Buick? Yup!

 Long rumored and long talked about, Buick has taken all the wraps off its 2018 Regal GS with 51 more horsepower than the model is replaces. That comes from a new 3.6 liter V6 with 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque. All this hooks up to a nine speed automatic and all-wheel drive.

 Inside are “performance seats” that are heated and cooled and will also give the operator a back massage. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are compatible through the 8-inch touchscreen. There is also an 8-inch instrument cluster.

 A full-color head-up display is available with an optional Driver Confidence II package that includes several safety features such as Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Automatic Braking.

 Standard are Brembo brakes, while Continuous Damping Control can adjust the suspension damping up to 500 times per second. There is also a “sport turned” dual exhaust system. To add to the fun, operators can choose either a GS or Sport drive mode.

 It will be interesting to see how customers react to the five door “Sportback Design” of the new car that will carry a starting price of $39,990, well under the price of rival Acura TLX A-Spec and the Lexus IS350 F-Sport.

 Look for the Buick to hit the market later this year.

 Car shoppers visiting a popular website are searching most for vehicles from domestic manufacturers, with nine out of the top 10 cars, trucks and SUVs on the list hailing from American auto companies. Four vehicles on the Auto Trader list are Chevrolets, three are Fords and two are Jeeps, with one Toyota model rounding out the list. Eight of ten vehicles, no surprise, are SUV’s.

 Topping the list are the Ford F-150, Jeep Wrangler, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford Mustang and the F-250 pickup.

 Washington residents think pet passengers pose a greater distraction for drivers than kids in the car. Still, about half of drivers across the Northwest admit they’ve driven with unrestrained animals, which can have serious consequences for pets, owners and fellow drivers alike, according to PEMCO insurance.

 A total of 43 percent of drivers in Washington think it’s more distracting to drive with barking, licking and tail-chasing pets than it is to commute with rambunctious kids. That’s compared to 34 percent who think children are the greater distraction. The same sentiment isn’t true in Oregon – drivers there find kids and fur babies equally distracting.

 PEMCO said pets and drivers are at risk of injury or worse if animals are unrestrained in an accident.

 Leasing a new set of wheels has declined after a four year surge according to The number of vehicles that were leased in the first half of the year fell 4.4 percent – twice the rate of decline for overall sales which are down 2.2 percent year over year.



Auto News for July 19 – Mercedes Pickup Revealed

Weltpremiere neue Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse, Kapstadt, 2017 

 Say hello to the new Mercedes X-Class, the luxury auto maker’s first pickup truck. There are three design and equipment variants to choose from as well as four or six-cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive and or permanent all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed automatic transmission. In addition there are six different seat covers, including two leather variants, three sets of cockpit trim parts and a diverse range of accessories. The high lux midsize X-Class will debut in November, but there is no mention of it being offered here in the states. Mercedes took the wraps off the production model Tuesday in South Africa.

RR Phantom

 Rolls-Royce has released a picture of the eighth edition of the Phantom which will debut on July 27th. Very little information on the new top-of-the-line model has been released. Most early reviews call this a “very evolutionary design.”

 Motor Trend says Ferrari is working behind closed and locked doors on an SUV, believe it or not. Management has a said there is no such thing in the works. Britain’s Autocar magazine said the FUV, quickly let me point out that stands for Ferrari Utility Vehicle, will launch in 2021 with hidden rear doors. I tend to believe Ferrari will launch such a vehicle since its competitors either are either working on a sport ute or have already introduced one.

 Harley Davidson said demand for its motorcycles has slowed and it will cut an unspecified number of jobs to compensate. The company also said profit margins will fall short of projections, as will full year sales. Wall Street took notice – HOG shares were off $3.05 or 5.8 percent at the close on Tuesday.


Auto News for July 18

 Citing people familiar with the situation, the Detroit News reported that Lucid Motors has conducted talks with Ford to have the Blue Oval take over the electric car maker. The talks are said to be in the early stage. Lucid is raising funds to start production of an all-electric and expensive luxury sedan next year.

 Tesla’s Elon Musk said on CNBC that shares in his company are higher than “we have any right to deserve.” Later he tweeted that the stock is high based on past and present, “but low if you believe in Tesla’s future. Place bets accordingly.” Tesla shares closed down 2 ½ percent on Monday.

 GM is extending the summer shutdown at the Michigan plant that produces the Chevy all-electric Bolt and the Chevy Sonic. The move was taken to bring inventories in line with demand. In the past month, supplies of the Bolt rose to 111 days from 104 days, according to Reuters. Ninety days is considered normal.

 Fiat has now been making the model 500 for 60 years believe it or don’t. There are various celebrations to mark the event in Europe, and a 500 has joined the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Fiat has sold four million units of the original model, and two million of the current one worldwide.

 Chrysler is now a sponsor and supporter of “Sesame Street.” In addition to sponsoring the show on PBS, Chrysler is creating a multimedia campaign that will pair Sesame characters and the Chrysler Pacifica and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid in 10 videos for parents that will launch on Monday, July 17 across the brand’s digital and social channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.




Auto News for July 17 – New tech doesn’t like car washes

Auto News for July 17

 International Carwash Association members say their efforts to clean your car are being thwarted by the car itself. Nearly 40% of wash operators reported problems with start/stop systems and forward collision avoidance technology stopping vehicles in automatic car washes. Sixty percent reported issues with transmissions that will not allow a vehicle to roll in neutral as full service teams work inside and outside to clean the car.

 Procedures for the proper operation of the vehicle are listed in most owner’s manuals but many vehicle owners do not read them or have trouble finding the instructions. Every vehicle manufacturer handles these systems differently so no one approach will cover all cars, the group said.

 The Association is proposing a common approach to the car wash setup and a telematics solution that would inform the car that it is in a wash, automatically set systems to the wash cycle, and notify them when the wash is complete.

 J.D. Power said its measure of used car prices remained flat last month, that new vehicle deliveries were off 3.2 percent, and incentive spending showed a double-digit growth. This month, Power expects used car prices will decline around 6 percent, good news for parents searching for a set of wheels for their kids heading to college.

 Ever want a car painted Helios Yellow or Orange Fury? Those colors are now available in the 2018 Honda Fit that will also add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The MSRP starts at $16,190 and the EX and above trim level add safety equipment such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Keeping Assist, among other items.

 I could not leave you without showing what Orange Fury looks like.




Auto News for July 15 – The 2018 Honda Accord

                          2018 Honda Accord

                              First Look

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – It is no small thing when a major auto maker introduces, even in this SUV crazy market, a complete redesign of its bread and butter midsize sedan.

 Thus it was of more than passing interest when Honda unveiled, in Detroit all places, the “next generation” Accord to the world.  

 So what is new? Just about everything in what Honda said is a complete remake from “the ground up.”

2018 Honda Accord Touring

 The 10th generation Accord is lighter with a more rigid body structure, the world’s first 10-speed automatic in a front drive car, and two turbo charged four cylinder engines now that the six, along with the Accord coupe, have been sent out to pasture.

 For 2018, the base engine is a 1.5-liter with 192 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 192 lb-ft of torque with a CVT or a 6-speed manual if the customer selects the Sport trim.

 One step up is a 2.0 liter turbo four that shares much of its design with the Civic Type R with 252 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 rpm to 4,000 rpm.

 For comparison, the 2.0-liter in the Type R is rated at 306 hp with 295 lb-ft of torque.

 With the 2.0-liter customers can select either the 10-speed automatic or a six-speed manual tranny. This is not fake news!!!!

 All Accords will come with a choice of driving modes, Normal and Sport. An ECON mode is also available that modifies throttle mapping and HVAC operation.

 Inside, visibility should be improved thanks to a lower cowl and front roof pillars that are 20 percent narrower and more rearward relative to the driver’s seating position.

 The heated and cooled driver’s seat has available 12-way power adjustment with height-adjustable lumbar support, while the passenger side has available heated and ventilated seats. Rear seats can also be optionally heated for backs and bottoms.

 Check out the pictures and you will see, and hallelujah for this, volume and tuning knobs for the audio system. No more maddening sliding scales!

 There is an 8-inch touchscreen center dash with customizable app tiles and home-screen shortcuts, Honda claims. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are welcomed.

  HondaLink telematics now includes emergency roadside assistance, remote locking/unlocking and engine start, stolen vehicle tracking, remote diagnostics, speed tracking and more.

 A Head Up Display in the Touring model offers such info as speed, engine rpm, navigation and traffic sign recognition. Wireless charging is also available.

 An ear wax eliminating 450 watt, 10 speaker audio system comes with the top-of-the-line EX-L and Touring models.

 Size wise, the new model sports a 2.1 inch longer wheelbase, a fractionally lower overall height and width. The greenhouse is positioned further back on the body.

 And there is one additional cubic foot of trunk space.

 Total vehicle weight is down between approximately 110 to 176 pounds, depending on trim, while body torsional and bending rigidity are improved 32 and 24 percent, respectively, aiding ride quality, cabin quietness, and dynamic performance. 

 Honda also announced that an all-new Accord Hybrid will be produced at its plant in Marysville, Ohio after a couple of years of production in Japan.

 The hybrid battery pack will now be located under the rear floor instead of the trunk thus opening up more cargo space.

 Look for the non-hybrids to hit dealer showrooms in the fall, with the hybrid to follow.

 Six trim levels will be offered in the 1.5-liter models – LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi and Touring. The 2.0-liter model has four trims available, which are Sport, EX-L, EX-L Navi and Touring.


 Honda has been producing automobiles in America for 35 years and currently operates 19 major manufacturing facilities in North America.

 Stay tuned for the inevitable comparison test of the redesigned Accord with the also redesigned Camry.