Auto News for May 31


This just in, a look at the 2014 Acura MDX that rides on a new platform. The third generation MDX is said to be developed on the image of an “Executive Family Jet.” It is two inches longer than the old model and rides on a nearly three inch longer wheelbase. Acura said the new model is 275 pounds lighter and interior space has been increased with emphasis on second row passengers. Replacing the 3.7 liter, 300 horsepower V6, is a 3.5 liter V6 with 290 horsepower with about 8 percent more torque in the low rpm range, according to the maker. It is married to a six speed automatic.

2014 Acura MDX

Ford has topped its full year hybrid sales record in just the first five months of 2013. It says the Fusion Hybrid is forecast to deliver its best May sales ever. Hybrid sales are expected to hit 37,000 through May topping the previous yearly sales record of 35,496.

Pennsylvania will hold an auction June 10 of state seized vehicles, among them a Maserati Quattroporte and 27 motorcycles.

Cadillac will become the first non-fashion partner of the Bergdorf Goodman magazine. The 24 page spread will feature vintage Cadillac’s including a 1912 Model 30 and the 1952 Le Mans. There’s got to be some tailfins in there somewhere!

Minivans are not the thing to own according to many in suburbia, but Kia hasn’t given up on them. It said the Sedona will return for model year 2014 with a slight refresh.

GM will unveil a reworked Chevy Malibu today, a model that has not exactly been a hot seller of late. The General said the front end will be altered along with upgrades to the interior, according to the Detroit Free Press. Rear seat leg room many also be improved. Yet, some industry watchers believe that the new Impala will steal sales away from car lot cousin.






Auto News for May 30


Honda wants to attract electric car buyers with a new leasing plan for its Fit EV. The cost of the lease was reduced from $389 a month to $259. It includes no down payment, unlimited mileage, routine maintenance, collision coverage, and a 240 volt home charging station. Honda claims this makes the Fit “one of the most affordable electric vehicles available in the U.S.”

If you are serious about doing some hard work with your 2014 pickup, GM will offer a new 6.2-liter V8 in its Sierra Denali. GM said it is good for 420 hp and a robust 450 lb-ft of torque.

Strategy Analytics estimates that 24 million light vehicles will deploy LED headlights by the year 2020. It notes that one impediment might be the higher cost of LED’s over halogen and xenon based systems.

Proving that I want to cover all aspects of the motor world, a new market research report is available on “The Global Armored and Counter IED Vehicles Market.”

The first recorded auto accident occurred on this date in 1896 in New York City. A man driving a new Duryea Motor Wagon collided with a woman riding a bicycle. The bike rider suffered a broken leg, while the driver spent the night in jail, according to the Census Bureau.

Auto News for May 29

Wall Street believes in electric cars. Shares in Tesla closed yesterday at $110.33 each and that is an all-time high. In the month of May alone, the shares have increased 104%. The company recently announced it will expand its network of charging stations.

In case you’ve been awake nights worrying about this, GM reported the 6.2-liter V8 to be offered in the new Sting Ray Corvette has been certified at 460 horsepower with a rather, shall we say, robust 465 lb-ft of torque. GM claims it will be the most powerful Corvette ever when the performance exhaust is fitted.

Research into consumer behavior reveals that almost three quarters of motorists now spend at least as much on car care products as they do on personal grooming. The research comes from a maker of car cleaning products, Halfords, in Great Britain.  Guess it makes sense since we buy underarm deodorant and clean the wheel wells of our vehicles. The company said “owners are prepared to spend the time and money on an appropriate beauty regime” for their cars.

The Detroit News reports that a retired Chrysler production control analyst is offering furniture for your home made out of old car seats that are in good condition. The business is called “Re-Seatables” and will be on the web in the near future.







Auto News for May 28

McLaren will mark its 50th anniversary by producing two limited edition commemorative models. Fifty 12C and 12C Spider models are scheduled. They will carry some styling changes including a new front bumper that is said to increase downdraft. The interiors get a full leather upgrade with a dedication plate on the driver’s door.


BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe

BMW meanwhile, has produced a one-off Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe. Luxury abounds with all wood elements of the interior sourced from a single piece of Karui wood selected by Italian timber experts. BMW said the wood is to native to New Zealand and “is among the rarest timbers in the world.” The roof liner is made of virgin wool and an oblong aperture in the roof illuminated by white LED’s brightens up the interior. It’s a pretty fancy car.

The Chattanooga VW plant is celebrating production of the 250,000th Passat sedan. It is “Night Blue” with a black leather interior and packs a TDI diesel engine.

Here’s some good news. The fifth most wanted auto thief has been arrested in Fresno, California. Police say he was arrested five times last year and is a meth addict.

Two neat things when I was out and about on the holiday. I spotted an Amphicar, a 70’s era weird looking car that also worked as a boat. This one was blue and nicely restored. Only about 500 still exist. And had a nice chat with the proud owner of a 70’s era showroom quality restored MG with real wire wheels. Even the area under the hood was cleaner than some greasy spoons I’ve eaten in. It sounded great and the owner said he would soon ship it back home to California. For now, he said, it would be a great driver on a great day.


Auto News for May 27

Ford’s hot selling F-150 pickups are coming under the scrutiny of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At issue are 95 complaints of reduced engine power, under certain circumstances, in 2011-2013 trucks with the 3.5 liter EcoBoost engine. NHTSA said Ford has issued some service recalls on the matter that seems to occur in humid or rainy conditions, according to the Detroit News.

Amid reports that it may be headed to a new headquarters in New York, Fiat/Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne said that no decision has been made, and indicated that none is liable to be reached in the near future.

Fiat announced that its 42% bigger 500L model will go on sale next month here in the U.S. with a base price of $19,100, not including delivery. It is said to seat five and carry a 160-horsepower, 1.4 liter four and will be offered in Easy, Trekking and Lounge trim lines.

Fiat 500L

You can now get a Garmin navi system in your Mini. The company has announced a dealer installed unit that mounts next to the instrument cluster. Users can select a variety of Mini icons to display their location.


Saturday Road Test – A SubyToy!!!

Scion FR-S 002


2013 Scion FR-S

It’s All About Balance

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Balance makes things work.

A gymnast needs it to bring home a gold medal, a circus performer to walk on a wire. In baseball, a combination of pitching, hitting and defense is crucial if a team is to compete over a long season.

And a nice combination of power, handling, engineering and style make for a perfect sports car such as this weekend’s Scion FR-S.

Pop open the hood and you will see something rather unique. Two names, Subaru and Toyota, catch your eye on top of the engine instead of the traditional single name designation.

Scion FR-S 004



Scion FR-S 001


It is no secret that the FR-S and the Subaru BRZ were developed jointly by the two automakers and the end result should gladden the hearts of anyone who hankers for a basic, modern, fun to drive two-seater in the tradition of English sports cars of old. With one exception – the SubyToy is expected to be rock solid dependable.

Sporting those two names is a 2.0 liter horizontally opposed Suby four mounted low and to the rear of its enclosure, thus improving the car’s center of gravity. It delivers 200 hp @ 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque @ 6,600 rpm. While not enough to drive up your testosterone level to dangerous highs, if one exercises the excellent six-speed manual box there is more than enough power to quickly achieve freeway speeds, and exceed them.

Handling is such that you will go out searching for twisty back roads and challenging interstate ramps. The rear wheel drive FR-S has a Torsen limited slip differential, with McPherson struts up front with a multilink suspension setup out back. Seventeen inch wheels are standard.

Look for a 0-60 run in about 6.5 seconds with the manual box and a bit more with the optional automatic. You will WANT the stick. Right from the start it feels like a box you have been driving for say, the last ten years.

Clutch take up was light but toward the top of the pedal travel in the test car, requiring a short period of adjustment.

Inside, you will find true bucket seats that grab you like a long lost girl friend at a high school reunion who just found out you are single. During a long day’s drive I never once fiddled with the seat settings, and that is more than I can say about a number of cars. There is plenty of room up front for two tall occupants. Rear seats are strictly for storage in the classic sports car tradition. There is a small trunk for light visits to the Safeway, yet no one buys this kind of car for heavy hauling duties.

All controls come readily to hand, and they are basic. No navi system here, no zillions of buttons to decipher, no touch screen to smudge. Just an AM-FM radio in the test car that was ready to chat with whatever audio device that came along, plus Bluetooth of course.

Yet I seldom turned the audio system on, preferring to enjoy the sounds of the suspension working, the purring of the four at speed and yes, even some wind noise – an elemental getting to know you relationship of man and machine that is missing in more refined and expensive wheels.

And there was lots of feedback from the FR-S, through the small, but right sized steering wheel, tied to the best electric steering system I have yet experienced.

The four settled down nicely when shifted into sixth gear – a kind of overdrive and fuel saver. The test car is EPA rated at 22-30 mpg and I recorded 29 mpg with more than a few runs to the red line. Scion recommends premium petrol.

If I could have a wish list for the FR-S it would be for another 10 to 20 horsepower, something that the car could easily handle. And a convertible model, I firmly predict, would have crowds backed up around the block at Suby and Scion dealers. It would make for a fascinating comparison test with the upcoming new Mazda/Alfa MX-5 Miata.

With two small options, (more are available at Scion dealers), the test car would sell for $25,066 including $730 for delivery. This should make the loan officer happy.

Scion FR-S 003

Younger readers who have not experienced the joy of a basic sports car should do so before the family starts to grow. New empty nesters, just out of a big SUV, can be quickly reminded how much fun driving can be again, at prices that should please the household treasury secretary.







Auto News for May 24

The head of motorsports for Pirelli has hinted to Reuters that the company may drop out of Formula One racing in 2014 if an agreement can’t be reached soon on tire standards. The company said it is running out of time to test tires for the type of cars that will be on the track in the New Year. Pirelli said the dynamics of the race cars will change dramatically with the switch to a 1.6-litre V6 turbo engine with energy recovery systems.

Are consumers starting to embrace diesels? Ward’s AutoInfoBank reports sales for diesel powered cars and trucks rose 41% in the last five years. The top sellers were the Ford F-series and Ram pickups followed by the VW Jetta. The news comes as Chevy starts selling its diesel powered Cruze.

The definitive word on May vehicle sales is still about 10 days away, but there is no lack of positive forecasts. J.D. Power and LMC Automotive expect sales to be above the 1-million mark for the third straight month with a nice pickup over the holiday weekend. The two firms note that several manufacturers are at or near production capacity.

Look under the hood and you will see something interesting – the name of not one but two automakers. Both Toyota and Subaru have their names on the engine that powers the Scion FR-S. How does the Scion version of the joint venture Subaru BRZ measure up? Take a moment or three from your holiday weekend to check out my report on the Scion sports car on these pages tomorrow morning.

Scion FR-S




Auto News for May 23


Chevy claims its Spark subcompact will be one of the least expensive all-electric cars on the market. It will carry a base price of $27,495, but add in tax credits, and that price can be reduced to $19,995, the maker said. The Spark EV will be available at dealers in California and Oregon beginning in the middle of June. An interesting option is an app that will plot a route with recommended charging stations if the trip is beyond the vehicle’s remaining range. With a full charge, the Spark has a range of about 82 miles. And that is not a bad name for an electric car!

Citing high costs, Ford will close its two production plants in Australia in 2016. The decision will cost 1,200 jobs.

Tesla has repaid the $465-million startup loan it received from Uncle Sam, and did so nine years early. It used a stock and note sale to repay the loan.

TrueCar.Com is predicting that vehicle sales will be up 8.5% this month, compared to May of 2012. Part of the reason will be the continuing demand for full size trucks.

Harley Davidson and Miller beer are celebrating the fact that they were born across the street from each other in Milwaukee 110 years ago. Miller will offer a special batch of brew to mark the event.

An estimated 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, according to AAA Travel. That is nearly a 1% decline from last year. Triple A said gas prices will have no impact on travel plans, but median spending is expected to be six percent less among travelers.



Auto News for May 22

Ford says it will step up production and shorten its traditional summer slow-down from two weeks to one week to keep up with “surging customer demand.” The company said demand has been strong for the Explorer, Fusion and full size pickup trucks. The Detroit News reports that three Chrysler plants won’t have a summer shutdown and GM has announced a similar move. It’s nice to start out with some good news!

Reuters reports that Bob Lutz is part of a group that made an offer this month to buy Fisker, the cash starved electric car maker. VL Automotive and China’s largest auto parts supplier are said to be partners in the offer. Reuters said talks are ongoing and may yet fall apart.

It is interesting to see the daily headlines on Tesla as they leave one wondering where the car company is headed. One headline this morning read, “Tesla Moves into the Passing Lane,” while another said “Long and Bumpy Road Ahead for Tesla.” Having covered business news for a few decades, you learn that in the end someone will be able to claim they were right and are the great guru of the auto news world.

In the endless list of “Bests” from Kelley Blue Book, the Honda CR-V tops its rankings of the top compact SUV’s.

The Mazda CX-5 finished second, with the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, and Kia Sorento rounding out the top five. KBB said the Honda was “outstandingly reliable and exceptionally easy to get along with.”

One of the great GT cars of modern times, the Viper, will return to the 24 hours of Le Mans endurance race in France. Chrysler said two SRT ViperGTS-R cars will return to the race for the first time since finishing one-two in the GTS class three consecutive years… 1998-2000. “The whole motorsports world is watching and it’s extremely exciting for us to be part of it and a big challenge to do well” said Chrysler spokesperson Beth Paretta.







Auto News for May 21


It doesn’t seem all that long ago that any self-respecting car out of Detroit carried with it a big V8. Now Ford is predicting that by the end of the decade, two-thirds of the cars on the road will be propelled by four cylinder engines.

Three former Saab executives face up to four years in prison if convicted on accounting fraud charges. A prosecutor alleges they falsified parts of the new defunct automaker’s accounts to avoid taxes.

TomTom has added TrafficLand’s network of over 13,000 roadside traffic cameras to its Location Based Services. It means that developers can add live video footage of actual traffic situations in the U.S. and Canada.

A study of more than 2,000 car buyers and 650 dealers finds consumers are increasingly using online review sites, Facebook and mobile devices in their car buying process. The study comes from Digital Air Strike. There is a 59% probability that a consumer will trust a review from a Facebook friend more than reviews on other sites. And that, of course, is where you will find my reviews every Saturday morning!

The Subaru BRZ, Camaro ZL1, and Porsche Boxster have made the annual all-star list at Automobile magazine. On a larger scale, so did the Ram pickup. See more at:

Porsche boxster