Auto News for July 29

The judges have released their long list of candidates that could be named North American Car and Truck of the Year with the winner will be named at the Detroit Auto Show. The rather extensive list will be pared down prior to the January 2014 show, but among the early contenders for Car of the Year are the Corvette Sting Ray, Jaguar F-Type, Porsche Cayman and Cayman S, and the BMW 4 Series.

Some of the Truck of the Year contenders: The Chevy Silverado, (in my opinion the likely winner), Ford Transit Connect/Wagon, and the Toyota RAV 4.

Ford is recalling more than 33,000 C-Max hybrids to install additional material between the headliner and the roof to increase safety. Involved are hybrids made between January 2012 and late June of 2013. The Detroit News reports that the National Highway Safety Administration found the car did not live up to safety standards when it came to the risk of head injuries. Ford said there have been no reported injuries related to this matter.

Shelby American said 2013 will be the last year of availability for its limited-run series of Shelby GT350 muscle cars. Said President John Luft, “In true Carroll Shelby fashion, we’re planning our next ultimate performance Shelby model.”



The first known national ad about a car appeared at the end of July 1898 in the Scientific American. The Winton Motor Carriage ad said simply, “Dispense with a horse.” The Census Bureau reports that by May 1906 a total of 57 car companies spent over a half million dollars advertising in a dozen national magazines. Today that figure has grown to nearly $95-billion.

Your humble auto writer is taking a few days off and flying to the caffeine capitol of the nation. See you all back here on Saturday August 3 for the weekly road test.


Saturday Road Test – Nissan Pathfinder



IMG_12242013 Nissan Pathfinder

Big Changes

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. –  In its fourth generation the Pathfinder lost its truck like frame for solid unibody construction, grew almost five inches longer, lost hundreds of pounds, and, in short, got a complete redesign.

That is a term that is knocked around a fair amount in auto circles, but is more than apropos here.

Two things stand out when you first take a seat. You sit up high in the Pathfinder and it feels like a bigger vehicle than it is. At nearly 198 inches it is 6 inches longer than the Honda Pilot but smaller overall than the Mazda CX-9.

Drivers will also notice the upscale feel of the interior especially in the test vehicle – a very top of the line Platinum 4×4. It features three rows of leather appointed seating with abundant room for adults up front and in the second row. In fact, the second row can slide 5.5 inches for abundant legroom. The third row is best left folded down unless you are carrying small children but that is the case for most three row models of this type.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder


The front seats were both heated and cooled, but second row passengers will only feel the heat. With temperatures in the mid-90’s with high humidity during the test, I will stipulate that the heated steering wheel works.

Maximum cargo space is almost 80 cubic feet, and that is in line with the Pilot but shy of the Toyota Highlander. The seats are easy to fold down for budget busting trips to weekend flea markets or hardware outlets.

The price sticker on the test vehicle listed 37 comfort and convenience features including a rear sonar system,  (“Captain to bridge”), a 13-speaker Bose audio system, 8” color monitor, and a neat hidden storage compartment to the rear.

Power came from a 3.5-liter V6 good for 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Coupled with a CVT transmission the Pathfinder quickly fell in line with fast moving interstate traffic. Look for an 8 second or so run from a stop to sixty. Yet under load, the CVT made a high pitched squeal not unlike a pig that just saw its first Shake and Bake commercial.

On regular unleaded, the combination is rated at 19-25 mpg. I got 19.7 mpg.

Pathfinder 001

Out on the highway, the Pathfinder cruised nicely with little wind noise and just a smattering of tire noise on course pavement. Handling was on par with its competition. All in all, not bad considering its hefty 4,486 pound curb weight.

Drivers can select 2WD, Auto, and 4WD lock modes through a center console mounted knob. Despite all the changes, the Pathfinder will still tow 5,000 pounds with a “tow hitch receiver with integrated finisher.”

With the $2,300 “Platinum Premium Package”, rear seat residents got a DVD player with wireless headphones and remote control, something that will reduce major insurrections from the younger set.

Add it all up and the test Pathfinder carried an MSRP of $44,395 for a solid, good looking and roomy SUV.

Pathfinder 002

Auto News for July 26

New figures show that Toyota sold more vehicles worldwide than anyone else in the first half of this year. GM was second and Volkswagen third. Toyota held on to the top spot despite a 1.2 percent decline in sales.

It apparently was not enough that the City of Detroit has filed for bankruptcy, but now the firm that operates the tunnel between the Motor City and Windsor, Ontario, has filed for bankruptcy. It is a so-called pre-packaged bankruptcy that will allow the tunnel company to reorganize its debts.

Car collector Steve Plunkett owns the original prototype 1949 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. During restoration he found out that the original had Eagle Ottawa leather seats. Plunkett brought this to the attention of the company, and Eagle was able to recreate the leather seats of the original all these many years later.

Acura announced that a prototype NSX supercar will take to the track in Lexington, Ohio, just ahead of an IndyCar race on August fourth. The production NSX is slated for launch in 2015 and it will be produced at the Honda plant in Raymond, Ohio.



Mazda will send a fleet of its new 3 series cars on a rather unique road trip – some 9,300 miles from Hiroshima Japan to Frankfurt, Germany for display at the auto show there on September 7th. The cars will cross nine time zones, five countries and two continents. Many of those miles without a fast food outlet.





Auto News for July 25



Ford had a great second quarter with earnings per share, sans one-time items, coming in well above analyst estimates, and the company setting second quarter and first half records for pre-tax profits in North America. It now believes that total company pre-tax profit will be equal to, or higher, than last year. European results were also better than expected. Take a bow, Alan Mulally.

General Motors has also topped Wall Street earnings forecasts by nine cents per share at 84 cents. Revenue also topped market predictions and worldwide sales rose four percent. Yet net income fell below the level recorded a year ago.  GM was helped by strong sales in North America and the benefits of cost cutting enacted in Europe where sales continue to be weak.

GM has to love the high scores its new Chevy Impala scored in Consumer Reports testing. CR gave it a 95 rating out of a possible 100, and noted that only two other cars, both costing much more, have scored higher. Comparison tests by auto magazines generally gave the Impala high marks, but not as high as CR.

Just back from New York City, and I was amazed at how many Ford Crown Vics continue to ply the streets in various roles. A friend called them indestructible as several garage owners continue to rehab them. NYC continues to be a study in ‘round the clock gridlock.

J.D. Power is out with a new survey on how owners feel about their new wheels three months after buying them. There are enough categories here for many makers to claim a win. Overall, Porsche led the list, as it did last year, followed by Audi, BMW, Land Rover and Lexus. The top-ranked non-premium brand was the Ram truck.

Harley-Davidson has reported higher quarterly earnings thanks to higher motorcycle shipments and continued gains in operating efficiencies.

Mercedes and Aston Martin have entered into a “technical partnership” whereby Mercedes-AMG will supply Aston with engines, and Mercedes Benz cars will supply them with electronic components for future models. In return, Mercedes parent company, Daimler, will receive up to five percent equity in Aston Martin. For competitive reasons, the parties have agreed on non-disclosure of further details of the partnership.

Auto News for July 23


When I had a Rolls Royce test car I thought the neatest thing to do would be to motor through the drive up at a burger joint and order from the $1 menu. Well the BBC has done me one better. My friend Dan Carney took a $356,290 Rolls Royce Ghost Extended Wheelbase to a good old fashioned drive in!!! Yes, there are some still open, in this case in Stephens City, Virginia, about 90 minutes from D.C. The Ghost is just three inches shorter than a Chevy Suburban so, “a pilot should take care not to mow down the speaker posts” it was noted. The writer did not mention what the double feature was that night, but given that it was watched in a Ghost model RR, one would hope they at least had a Casper cartoon. You can read more at:

The last BMW M3 coupe has been produced at the plant in Regensburg, Germany. It will be replaced by the M4 in mid-2014.

No indication if this event is sponsored by an auto body shop, but an organization in Dubai is offering a rookie workshop for those wanting to know what it is like to enter the national racing scene. Sessions will offer drivers the chance to drive their cars at high speeds on a race circuit in “near racing conditions.”

Four motorcyclists were clocked going 138 miles per hour in a 65 mpg zone my police in upstate New York. They were given speeding tickets and will appear in court next month.

The column will resume on Thursday, July 25.


Auto News for July 22

BMW has announced pricing for its i3 electric vehicle. Sans destination and handling, the i3 will start at $41,350. It will debut at events in New York, London and Beijing July 29th and arrive in showrooms on these shores in the second quarter of next year. BMW said the car will be good for 80-100 miles of all electric operation.

It took a while after the invention of the first gas powered automobile by Karl Benz in Germany in 1886 for someone to steel the wheels. The first stolen car is said to be of a French aristocrat’s Peugeot in Paris in 1896. According to a Census Bureau report, the first car stolen in the U.S. was in St Louis in 1905.

The American Asteopathic Association’s House of Delegates has voted to support legislation banning activities that cause distracted driving.

J.D. Power predicts that July auto sales will be up by 12 percent from a year ago. New and used vehicle transaction prices are up 3 percent in the first half of the year. There has also been an increase in longer term vehicle loans and leasing periods.



Saturday Road Test

azera (2)


2013 Hyundai Azera

One Is Not The Loneliest Number

By Ron Amadon

BIG POOL MD –  Road testers must remember and auto designers will never forget that the majority of car buyers just want wheels that get them down the road with some luxury touches, a nice ride, okay fuel economy and good power. They are no more likely to go out and buy a 6.4-liter, 470 horsepower V8 Dodge Charger than I am to buy black licorice.

They also probably don’t want to mess around with a list containing thousands of options, preferring instead to get an “all in one” package. That brings us to this weekend’s test car, the Hyundai Azera.

There is only one model offered and only one option package. It includes 19” alloy wheels, sunroof, xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, an Infinity audio system, rear sunshade, and a few other goodies.

That compliments the long list of standard features that include all the expected safety equipment, heated outside mirrors, heated front and rear seats with leather trim, navi, a rear backup camera, and on and on.

The Azera is in the larger sedan class at 193 inches long. To put that in perspective, it is two inches shorter than a Toyota Avalon and six inches shorter than a Chrysler 300.



In keeping with the “only one” theme, there is only one engine – a 3.3-liter V6 that bats out 293 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 225 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. Matched to a smooth six speed automatic, the Azera will hit 60 from a stop in under 7 seconds. It is EPA rated at 20-29 mpg and in a week of driving on interstates and country roads I checked in at 24 mpg.

There is lots of room for tall folks up front, and they should also be content out back. On the highway, the Azera was a quiet companion and great for cobbling up lots of miles on a day long drive. It has large trunk for hauling whatever two might want to take along for a summer vacation trip.

azera (4)

Wind and road noise were largely absent, audio and ventilation controls were within reach and easy to figure out. It handled bridge expansion joints without fuss, with a nice balance between ride and handling. However, this is not the sedan you might want, handling wise, if you lust after, say, an Audi A4, nor was it designed to be.

With the $4,000 Technology Package and $100 floor mats and delivery the test Azera came in at $37,225.

One could easily spend that much for a competitor such as the Avalon. Yet to my eyes the Azera is the better looking car. And if this means something to you, you probably will not see as many Azeras in the neighborhood as Avalons.

One should not forget the Hyundai’s 5-year, 60,000 mile new vehicle warranty and decade long, 100,000 powertrain warranty.

Full size sedan shoppers should definitely make a stop at the Hyundai outlet for the Azera.