Auto News for Aug. 19

2013 Cadillac Elmiraj Concept

In lovely Carmel, California, Cadillac revealed the Elmiraj Concept powered by a 4.5-liter twin turbocharged V8 with an estimated 500 horsepower. My guess is that it might accelerate rather briskly. Inside, the layout is 2+2 with lots of luxury touches including a rear bucket seat that slides 4 inches forward to meet the passenger, then slides back into position once they are seated. The seats also recline. Like all concept cars, the Elmiraj may give us some clues as to where future Cadillac styling is headed.

Nearly 340,000 Chevy Cruze models from model years 2011 and 2012 are being recalled. GM said there is a problem with the power brakes that on occasion might need extra pressure to stop the vehicle after a cold start.

The Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, home where Lee Iacocca and his wife raised their family is on the market. The Detroit Free Press said the house has 7,000 sq. feet of space and has been extensively remodeled by the current owners. What is it selling for you might ask? Nearly $2.4 million.  That’s a lot of minvans.

All hail Charles F. Kettering. Because 98 years ago this month he invented the self-starter that eliminated the hand crank that could do some damage to the hand and wrist. If the Kettering name sounds familiar, he also co-founded the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York.

 

 

 

SPECIAL Saturday Road Test -The Jag F-TYPE

2014 Jaguar F-TYPE

As The Brits Would Say -Rapid

F-TYPE 3

 

By Ron Amadon

SEATTLE – What a year for our friends from Great Britain! First, the Royal Baby captured the attention of the world, and now comes the first Jag-u-ar sports car since JFK was our president and Alan Shepard blasted into space.

That earlier Jag, of course, was the XKE, a breathtaking design that even Enzo Ferrari said was the “most beautiful car ever made.” It still turns heads today.

E Type

Released in March 1961, the XKE came with a four-speed stick, independent rear suspension, an inline six with up to 265 horsepower and a top speed of 153 mph.

Certainly, it would be difficult for any designer to top the sleek and sexy XKE but the renowned Ian Callum and his small team have come up with the F-TYPE, a striking rendition of a modern day sports car especially in rear three-quarter view and painted black. I thought the front looked better in person than in pictures – your reaction may vary.

FTYPE 15

There are three models starting with a base model at $69,000 with a 340 horsepower V6. Second in line is the F-Type S with a stronger six at 380 horsepower and a starting price of $81,000. Now tighten up your seatbelt a bit for the $92,000 top of the line 5-liter, supercharged, 495 horsepower V8 that is neatly shoehorned under the sloping hood – a car that will make you forget all about the quiet, plush sedans in this automaker’s lineup.

Jaguar sent a group of journalists off on a journey through the twisting roads of Washington’s Cascade Mountain Range, with a lovely view of 14,000 foot snow covered Mount Rainer, eventually ending up in 4,500 foot high White Pass. It was a coffee break across Route 12 from the ski area where the legendary Phil and Steve Mahre got their starts.

F-TYPE 13

 

My expedition started in the mid-pack S convertible that carried the $3,400 optional “Performance Pack,” something you do NOT want to overlook. Along with a flat bottom steering wheel, extremely comfortable and  gripping Performance Seats the car came equipped with “Selectable Active Exhaust” that emitted sounds that did wonderful things to your red blood cells.

Jaguar claims a 0-60 run of 4.8 seconds for this model, and that felt about right with a top seed of 171, obviously for track days only. Along with 380 hp, the six delivers 339 lb-ft of torque from 3,500 rpm to 5,500 rpm.

This is logging country so there were ample opportunities to safely pass the slow moving semis and enjoy the quick response of the paddle shifted 8-speed automatic that will take you from 50 to 75 mpg in just 3.3 seconds.

For the technically inclined, the six uses a twin vortex supercharger mounted in the engine’s V and a water cooled Intercooler that reduces the temperature of the intake air to optimize power and efficiency.

Do not fret about the lack of a stick shift. Working either on its own, or through the hefty paddle shifts, the “Quick Shift” automatic can change gears much faster than any human, even if the operator is charged up with a gallon or two of Seattle’s best brew. In addition, it can detect the manner in which the car is being driven, and upon detecting a more spirited driving style, will automatically make the shifts more aggressive and move the shift points higher. It will also blip the throttle on downshifts – Wonderful!

FTYPE 14

Of course, there is the expected wide variety of driver selected braking, steering, throttle, and suspension settings depending on the operator’s whims and driving record.

Handling was excellent with the “Adaptive Dynamic” suspension that controls vertical body movement, roll and pitch rates and can adjust damper rates up to 500 times a second. When it comes to performance and handling one should not think of this as a poseur sports car. It’s as real as the Brit’s love of bangers and mash.

Inside is where the luxury side of Jaguar gets to show its stuff. Fit and finish was spot on, and everything was geared toward the driver. There was one touch of nostalgia from older sports cars, a passenger side panic handle neatly molded into the center console for use when you show what this F-TYPE can do to a white knuckle flyer.

There was ample room for a six foot tall driver and passenger, and of course, that was it. A TFT LCD screen between the normal instruments displayed numerous bits of information including navi. Rotary dials controlled air conditioning and heating, something that was necessary when we set off in 50 degree weather. Hey, the other guys didn’t put their tops up, so neither would we.

A bit different were air vents that rose out of the center of the dash top. Two Meridian sound systems were offered, but the mixture of the crisp mountain air, the thundering sounds of the exhaust and the supercharged six left little reason to try them out.

Various road testers liked the lighter weight, handling and balance in the supercharged six over the eight. Others felt that way until they got behind the wheel of what some in the homeland must be calling the “Hooligan Eight.”

F-TYPE 5.o Liter

In short, 495 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 460 lbs-ft of torque @ 2,500 to 5,500 rpm is addictive. Jaguar claims a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds with a top speed of 186 mpg and a breathtaking 2.5 second thriller from 50 to 75 mph with, I suspect, the typical passenger’s hand in firm control of the above mentioned panic handle.

Push the pedal to the metal and your testosterone level will increase faster than from any of those lotions you see advertised on the evening news. Both on acceleration and when lifting of the go pedal, the sounds the performance exhaust produces is to sports car lovers what the 1812 overture is to music.

All this wonderfulness might be a handful at the limits and on rainy days, (they have a few of them in this country), but here is why I preferred the eight over the six, money no object.

Pull out to pass a semi or two and there was just two hairs breath, (just that), of lag in the six before the power kicked in. Yet do that in the eight and the power was instantaneous, intoxicating and just plain breathtaking. If the six was Jennifer Aniston, the eight was Kate Upton in an SI bikini – Simple as that.

The Queen would “not be amused” with the ruffian behavior of the eight, but added to my fantasy list of fun things to do would be a lap or two around a track with the great Stirling Moss at the controls.

Now arriving at Jag dealers on these shores, the F-TYPE is one hell of a sports car. Even if it is out of your budget range car buffs should applaud any time a manufacturer comes out with a two seat, rear drive sports car.

F-TYPE 1

Right now, the F-TYPE is available only as a convertible. So that raised the question – Is there a coupe in the works as there was with the XKE? No one would comment on that, but no one said no.

LATE UPDATE: The August 2013 issue of “Car” magazine that is just hitting newsstands here has pictures of an F-TYPE coupe with heavy camo.

 

Auto News for Aug. 16

BMW M4

BMW has given the world a look at its Concept M4 Coupe at the Pebble Beach/Monterey weekend. It will replace the M3 in the Bimmer lineup. No performance or interior details were released, but in case you were wondering the paint in the teaser picture is called “Aurum Dust.”

The government may be getting out of General Motors, but Warren Buffet is buying in. The Detroit News said one of the world’s richest men has increased his GM stake to 40-million shares, a gain of 60 percent.

Ford is reducing its fuel economy claim on the C-MAX Hybrid to a city/highway combination of 43 miles per gallon, a reduction of four mpg. The company will also reimburse customers for the difference and change the way it calculates the hybrid’s economy after owners complained they were not getting the advertised 47 mpg. It should be noted that Ford broke no EPA rules when it used the economy rating of the Fusion Hybrid for the C-MAX Hybrid. They now will be tested separately.

Edmunds.com is out with a list of what it considers the top cars in 17 categories with Toyota placing three models and Honda two. Toyota models include the Avalon, Tacoma and Prius while Honda places the CRV and Odyssey. Check out Edmunds web site for the full list.

 

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Aug. 15

Chrysler announced that the 2014 Durango will carry a starting price of $30,790 but will also offer additional standard equipment. The top-of-the-line Citadel model will start just shy of $42,000.

A 2014 Ford Shelby GT500 brought a half million dollars at a recent auction. The car was auctioned off by Ford and proceeds benefited the Brain Injury Association of America. In case you were wondering, the car packed 662 horsepower and will snarl its way to 60 in less than four seconds.

The new Corvette Sting Ray will offer 69 sources of information on its cluster display. Officials said each display item is designed for a specific driving scenario and early track testers seemed to like the hockey stick styled tach. There is also an acceleration timer and a tire temperature gauge among other things.

Not all of this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise near Detroit will be devoted to beautifully restored older cars. Dodge, oops Ram, announced it will display a concept truck at the event and released a teaser picture.

ram truck

Auto News for Aug. 14

five million vehicle celebration

The five millionth vehicle has rolled off the assembly line at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit. It was a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland and it was donated to the USO.

Cadillac announced it will display the 2015 Escalade at a media event in New York City in early October. And performance car maker Saleen will unveil a new model Saturday at the Leguna Seca track in California. It released no further details on the new creation.

A survey by E-Score shows that Ford and Chevrolet have the highest awareness and overall appeal among consumers. Porsche made its way into the top five in both categories. E-Score said consumer’s criteria for choosing a car have shifted more toward efficiency, environment impact and size.

Union leaders at Hyundai and Kia in South Korea say members have voted to go on strike to back demands for increased pay and benefits. The two sides may resume talks on Friday.

Auto News for Aug. 13

The first item this morning is kind of neat. As you may have read, the end of 35mm film distribution later this year could shut down many drive-in theaters that cannot afford the switch to digital. Now Honda said it will supply at least five drive-ins with digital projectors. It wants the public to vote on which drive-ins will get the update at:

www.projectdrivein.com

Audi said it is on target to sell more than its stated goal of 150,000 cars and SUV’s in the U.S. this year. Boosting Audi sales this year has been the rise of the Q5 to the brand’s highest-volume nameplate.

VW claims its Chattanooga plant has created 12,400 jobs and has an annual impact of $643 million on the local economy. The Passat is assembled there.

The Treasury Department has sold more shares in General Motors – nearly $900 million worth. It wants to complete the sale of all shares by early next year.

Citing data from Polk, Ford maintains its Focus is the world’s best-selling car with global registration up 18 percent in the first quarter. It reported strong demand in China and Brazil.

An Australian auto news site, Car Advice, quotes a top Toyota official as saying the company is considering building a small rear wheel drive sports car. He said work also underway on a larger sports car, but neither has received the green light from the suits. Yours T is rooting for a return of the MR2.

Auto News for Aug. 12

AutoTrader.com thinks the Acura MDX, Audi A6, and the 2014 Corvette Sting Ray are among the cars with the best interiors for under $60,000. Also named were the BMW 3-series, Cadillac CTS, Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Lexus GS.

Classic car lovers know all about the annual Woodward Dream Cruise that takes place in Detroit area. This is no small event. The Detroit Free Press said the event will attract up to 40,000 classic cars and more than one-million people. Of course, the 50th anniversary of the Mustang and the 60th anniversary of the Corvette will not be forgotten. Chances are if you are fan of old Oldsmobiles, ’57 Chevys, Edsels, or what have you, there will be one or more at this event. It officially begins Saturday, Aug. 17.

Oshkosh Defense has delivered what could be a modern day Jeep or Hummer to the military for testing. Known as a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Oshkosh will deliver 22 prototype models to the military for a once over. It claims the JLTV can “support missions on any topography and every continent.” It can accept multiple armor configurations for troop safety and looks rugged in a picture released by the company.

Oshkosh_JLTV_Demo_Photo

Saturday Road Test

(Due to computer failure early today, the Jaguar F-Type road test will appear next Saturday).

2014 Kia Sorento SX-L

One Million & Going Strong

By Ron Amadon

IMG_1217

 

DAMASCUS, MD – By the time you read this the milestone will have easily been exceeded – that Kia has now made more than one million vehicles in this country.

Number one million was a white Sorento, not unlike this weekend’s test vehicle. For 2014, the Kia Crossover received a more powerful V6 now rated at 290 horsepower, a gain of 14 ponies. The ride was also upgraded as was the interior, all of which made an already fine mid-sized crossover even better.

A new top-of-the-line trim model was also introduced, the SX-L that adds chrome wheels, xenon headlights, heated and wood trimmed steering wheel, and upgraded and heated Napa leather seats in the first and second rows.

Further, it adds the next generation of UVO, Kia’s voice activated telematics system, and the company’s first ever blind spot detection system.

IMG_1218

On the highway, the Sorrento was tranquil, with road and wind noise nicely hushed and the six having plenty of clout to meet all expectations. Look for 60 to come up in about 7.5 seconds from a dead stop.

The MacPherson strut front suspension and independent rear made for a firm but more than acceptable ride. The “ventilated” front seats were all day comfy and easily adjustable. Drivers face a gauge cluster that features a 7-inch LCD for speed, rpm’s, fuel and engine temp among other things. It proved easy to read in most lighting conditions.

This weekend’s test model included all-wheel drive, something I thought about more than once as the National Weather Service kept issuing Flash Flood Watches and Warnings for the area due to torrential showers.

Yet despite temps in the very humid mid-90’s, the dual zone automatic climate control kept things COOOL on the inside and the Infinity Surround Sound audio system batted out some fine music. Ventilation and audio controls were easy to figure out and reach while the Navi system in an 8” screen at the top of the center stack was clean, bright and easy to program. All of them get an A+ from this writer.

The more powerful V6 is EPA rated at 18-24 miles per gallon and I checked in at 23 mpg. Should you be considering settling for the base 191 hp four for fuel economy reasons, it is only rated at 19-24 mpg with AWD and it was my feeling that most people would want the extra performance of the smooth guy six.

There were a few nits. While the second row seats are fore and aft adjustable, leg and knee room was bordering on the short side for a 6’ tall passenger behind a similarly sized driver. And here’s a way to save $1,000 on a Sorento. Forgo the third row seat that is difficult to access and offers very little room for even small kids unless they are stars in gym class.

Also there is very little cargo room left when the seat is in the raised position. A rather large C pillar blocks a driver’s view to the left rear corner, yet the Blind Spot detector makes up for some of this.

Cargo space came to 72.5 cubic feet with both rows of seats folded and almost 37 cubic feet with just the third row folded.

In keeping with Kia tradition, there are lots of goodies tacked on to even the base levels. On the test Kia, there were very effective Xenon HID headlamps with levelizer, a large moonroof with Power Sun Shade, heated outside rear view mirrors with turn signal indicators and a power liftgate.

IMG_1222

With just about all the safety equipment, bells and whistles that one could want in a crossover the test vehicle came to a hefty $41,600.

If that makes the papers curl in your check book, a second-in-command EX Sorento still packs a nice assortment of goodies including satellite radio, the UVO system, 8” display navi and rear camera for about $30K. Select the LX and the price moves to $24,100 for a base model.

The 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty should not be overlooked along with the 5 year, 60,000 mile limited basic warranty.

What you get is a solid, well made, easy to handle, comfortable crossover that will more than hold its own against the competition while meeting the needs of errand running, soccer team moms and commuting dads.

IMG_1219

Auto News for Aug. 9

Colorado-Canyon-PreviewImage-medium

General Motors has released teaser pics of its upcoming mid-sized pickups, the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon. Production is scheduled to start in 2014. It makes one wonder if Ford will stage a Ranger comeback.

Please check back tomorrow morning for a special report on the new Jaguar F-Type. I have driven both the six and rocket like eight and can tell you that picking a fav was rather difficult, but one of those models squeezed out a victory.

And let me say that when the weather is fine, the city of Seattle is most enjoyable with a hip, modern, and very friendly atmosphere. Not a bad cup of Joe in the place.

Preliminary data collected by the National Safety Council indicated that fatal auto accidents are down five percent during the first half of the year. It said a “definitive reason behind the decrease is not known.” An estimated 16,620 traffic deaths occurred from January through June, the council said.

Edmunds.com meanwhile said many new car designs make it more difficult for short drivers to achieve optimal visibility. They might have something here in that I have come up behind many cars at a traffic light and wondered if anyone was driving the car ahead, not being able to see a head above the driver’s seat. Edmunds said many newer vehicles have a higher “beltline” which makes it harder to see out of the side windows. It notes this can make “a vehicle feel claustrophobic for smaller drivers.”

Special Wednesday Road Tests & Preview

MazdaSpeed3

MX5 Miata

And A Look Ahead

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Welcome to a special mid-week feature on two cars that make driving fun – the sporty MazdaSpeed3 and just about everyone’s favorite affordable sports car, the MX5 Miata. Plus, we will take a look at the upcoming and completely reworked Mazda 3 for 2014.

2013 MazdaSpeed3

Mazdaspeed

Say you want a car that can haul a modest amount of stuff, one that is a blast to drive and won’t make a huge dent in the household budget. The Speed3 fulfills all of those important issues.

The zoom-zoom comes from a frisky 2.3-liter turbo four that is rated at 263 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm with 280 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm. Coupled with a neat six speed manual transmission, (yes, there are still cars with a DIY shifter), the Speed3 will post 0-60 runs of just a whisker over six seconds.

Where the fun really kicks in power wise is when the tach exceeds 3,000 rpm and there is a distinct push forward.        Yes there is torque steer, but while I did not find it   excessive, it is something to keep in mind. Mazda    recommends premium fuel and that is not a surprise with a turbo. EPA estimates come to 18-25 mpg and in a week’s worth of testing I came in at 22 mpg.

Handling was first rate, the six speed stick was a delight to use, but I found the MX5 stick a shade better.

The seats grab you on all sides, there is abundant room for a six foot tall driver, and about that stuff – fold down the rear seats and create nearly 43 cubic feet of space for whatever you want to haul home.

With some other test cars in the driveway, it was a real challenge not to take the “Velocity Red” MazdaSpeed out for a drive every time. And for once the price was right.

Mazdaspeed 3

From a base price of $24,200 the test hatch added in a $2,485 Tech Package that the frugally minded could probably live without. Add in two smaller options totaling $475, and the bottom line came to $27,955 with delivery.

On the downside, there is no solid evidence that there will be a 2014 Speed3. Mazda is mum on whether one might hatch further down the road. So if you are in search of a hot hatch that is just a blast to drive, check with your local dealer to see if there is one on the lot and then move quickly.

Oh, one more note: One owner said he loved the instrument panel layout because his wife could not see how fast he was going. Of course, that would hold true if she were driving as well. Hang on tight!!!

 2014 Mazda3

2014+Mazda3

 Mazda said the new three “shares almost nothing with its older siblings other than a name.” And they are right.

Hitting the market in September, the new three is totally different as it enters its third generation. The look is totally different with Mazda’s Kodo styling producing a more modern looking car.

It will be a bit longer, and Mazda claims the interior will be a bit bigger. Under the hood, the 2.0-liter 155 horsepower 4 will remain the base engine, while a 2.5-liter 184 horsepower four will be the alternative.

A six speed manual or a six speed automatic will be the available transmissions. Prices will start at $16,945 for the SV model with manual transmission up to $24,245 for the Grand Touring model. Upscale models get a six way power adjustable driver’s seat, with manual lumbar adjustment, leatherette seats and door inserts, heated front seats and moonroof.

2014+Mazda3 (2)

The 2014 model goes on sale next month. Let’s hope there is a MazdaSpeed in the future.

2013 MX5 Miata

Mazdas 005

Like so many people that love them I was introduced to sports cars at an early age falling heavily for the Triumph TR4, Porsche 356 and 914, and many others including the Miata.

Driving it reminded me of the many airline pilots who fly jumbo jets and then hanker to have a go at a small Cessna to, as one told me, “get back to real flying.”

A hit for many years in the marketplace, the Miata is a bit cramped in the cockpit for some, and doesn’t have an abundance of power, but none of this detracts from the fun to drive factor.

Mazdas 001

With a slick manual shift, (you really wouldn’t order the automatic, would you), impeccable handling and back to basics interior, this is as true a sports car as you can find in the year 2013, especially when you roll back the neatly styled folding hardtop.

Mazdas 006

Ahead of it is a 2.0-liter four knocking out 167 hp @ 7,000 rpm with 140 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm. A trip to the mile a minute mark comes up in 7 seconds or so depending on how good a shifter you are.

You will go out looking for twisty back roads and marvel at the feedback you get and the confidence building handling. Wind buffeting in the test car was well controlled but the wind blocker did hinder a driver’s vision to the rear.

Slow down a bit and the car is quiet enough to enjoy the sounds of nature and its smells, the latter making you glad the farmers are NOT fertilizing their fields at this time of year. If rain should suddenly pour down, you simply touch and hold a single button and the top appears out of nowhere to keep you dry. The soft top is also an easy riser.

The middle-of-the-lineup Club model test car, in a striking “True Red” with a “Black Wired Stitch” interior, came in at $29,260 with delivery.

Mazdas 010

At some point, a redesigned MX will appear as the rumor mill bubbles with guesses as to what it may look like. And, as you may have read, it will also be the platform for a new Alfa.

The auto world, at least from the enthusiast standpoint, is a better place thanks to the Speed3 and the MX5. As I have said before, and it bears repeating, if you enjoy driving at all, you should experience both of them one day. Best of all, for once the price of admission is quite reasonable.