Auto News for Feb. 28

T ROC

Say hello to the Volkswagen T-Roc. That is not an internal rock band but a new styling exercise.  It is called “a glimpse at future Volkswagen SUV’s” and would be powered by a turbodiesel with a 7-speed DSG transmission and permanent all-wheel drive. The concept, to be unveiled next week at the Geneva show, will have removable roof halves and Street, Off road and Snow operating modes. For off road adventures there are cameras galore to point out potential obstacles and a swiveling spotlight for after dark excursions. It would seat four with the interior featuring a removable tablet computer, while the center console design is said to be “inspired by the motocross helmet.”

Subaru said the 2015 Forester will carry a base price of $22,195 working up to $28,495 for the Premium edition. That would be an increase of $1,000 over the 2014 base model but that also includes a standard rear vision camera and color multi-functional display. Suby’s driver assist option package is $500 cheaper.

McLaren_650S_03

No ever thought that the upcoming McLaren 650S would be a slug, but now we know how fast it will be. Just a hold on tight 0-124 mph in 8.5 seconds and O-62 mph in only 3.0 seconds! “Driving excitement is at the absolute head of the McLaren 650S,” said Chief Executive Officer Mike Flewitt. The car has its coming out party at the Geneva show.

Former GM chief Dan Akerson has been named to the board at Lockheed Martin.

The Detroit Free Press reports that four states, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico are in the running for that Tesla battery plant that could create up to 6,500 jobs.

An emergency cat food run this morning when the temperature hovered at a most un-Maryland like 10 degrees revealed the Toyota Tundra has a good heater.

A neat move!!! To celebrate the fact that its Ram was named Motor Trend’s top pickup for the second year in a row, Chrysler draped a 10 story tall wrap over its headquarters building in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The truck was also named the favorite of Consumer Reports testers. The wrap is so big it took four days to install.

CHRYSLER GROUP LLC RAM 1500

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Auto News for Feb. 26

It is a study on how not to deal with a known safety problem. David Shepardson and Melissa Burden have the full GM story in the Detroit News. I recommend it.

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140225/AUTO0103/302250094/0/auto01/GM-put-off-ignition-switch-recall-years-13-deaths-linked-issue

Reuters reports this morning that Panasonic is considering an investment in a domestic based battery plant planned by Tesla. It cited sources familiar with the plan. Panasonic is Tesla’s primary supplier of lithium-ion batteries.

Mini countryman

Mini will show off a Clubman Concept at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show. It is said to be slightly longer and wider than the current offering and the speedometer is now in front of the driver. Slick move Mini.

Nissan Juke

Nissan will display a new Juke at the show on March 4th. It released a teaser photo that doesn’t tell us much. The Mini Concept and the Juke are pictured.

Lamborghini is expanding its program that allows clients to create their own made to order car right down to the color of the seatbelts and floor mats. Currently available in the Aventador it will soon be extended to the Huracan. Want hand stitched seat emblems and monograms inside the passenger compartment? It’s all here – for a price of course.

“For the second consecutive month, winter storms and unusually cold weather in many parts of the country are expected to negatively impact sales,” Kelley Blue Book said about February vehicle sales. “However, it is likely these purchases have only been delayed and many lost sales will be recorded in March or April.”

 

Consumer Reports Top Picks for 2014

Consumer Reports Top Picks

Tesla Should Get A Charge Out Of This

By Ron Amadon

Tesla S

DAMASCUS, MD – “The Tesla is a glimpse into a future where cars and computers coexist in seamless harmony” Consumer Reports said in naming the Model S as its “Best Overall” Vehicle today.

While admitting the Tesla is “pricey” starting at $89,650, it said the all-electric sedan is brimming with innovation that provides an ultra-quiet, zero-emission driving experience.”

For those on a tighter budget, the magazine named the four-cylinder Honda Accord as the best midsized sedan. It called the car “roomy, well-equipped and competitively priced but added consumers should avoid the HondaLink infotainment system on the EX-L trim line “because of reliability problems.”

Those seeking a small SUV could do no better than the Subaru Forester, CR said. “The Forester delivers a class-leading 26 mpg overall and a frugal 35 on the highway” with a space efficient design, large windows and doors, plus one of the roomiest rear seats in the category.

Subaru got a second nod among the Top Picks when its Impreza was named the top compact car. While it was said to have “pronounced road noise” it was not enough to make it deal breaker. CR said the Suby is a well-rounded package with nimble handling and an impressively compliant, absorbent ride that’s among the best in its class. CR testers also cited the “simple controls.” May more follow!

Yours truly found the Hyundai Santa Fe to be a comfortable, feature laden midsized SUV on a test drive through the mountains east of San Diego. CR agreed naming it the top SUV in the mid-sized bracket. “Santa Fe offered a lot of features for the money” the magazine said with a “comfortable ride, quiet interior and a limolike rear seat.”

The Top Pick Green car was a no brainer. The Toyota Prius captured that category for the 11th year in a row.

2014 Ram 1500

CR’s top pickup was the Ram with an interior that feels more like a luxury car, yet it is a truck that “is fully capable of getting its hands dirty when duty calls.” But this award may not last long. CR said the Chevy Silverado outscored the Ram in its testing but “its reliability is unknown.” But let Chrysler cheer for a while – the Ram is the first of its products to land on this list in 16 years.

Audi’s very likeable A6 was named the top Luxury Car. “It’s potent, supercharged V6 engine and super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission deliver invigorating power,” said the editors. They added that some controls “take getting used to, so you may have extra homework, (yet) it’s worth cramming.”

Year after year competitors try to top the BMW 3-series, but here again it was named the top Sports sedan. “The current model delivers excellent handling and a high fun-to-drive factor,” said CR. The 3-series, editors said, “has long set the standard for sports sedans.” Amen.

And the Top Pick for a minivan was the Honda Odyssey that CR called “the most complete family vehicle you can buy.”

 

Auto News for Feb. 25 – Jag Wagon?

Auto News for Feb. 25

Well the birds do it! The wicked snow and cold across much of the country have people heading south in record numbers according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. It said campgrounds in southern California, Texas, Florida and Arizona are seeing a boom in occupancy. An estimated 1-million RV owners will head south this winter staying an average of 12 weeks in what they hope will be warmer climes. As I write this, the forecast is for 80 degrees today in Orlando, but dropping into the upper 40’s Thursday night. One campground owner in Sarasota said he is at 100% occupancy for February and March and April is up 20% over a year ago.

Consumer Reports will check in today with their annual survey of the most dependable cars. Check back later for a complete update once the report is released. In recent years, CR found that Detroit’s three are making improvements, but still trail the Japanese. Stay tuned.

We will get the official figures next week, but True Car predicts new light vehicle sales will be up one-half percent this month from a year ago. That bad weather mentioned above is bound to have slowed sales in snowbound states.

Those that are buying, no surprise, are seeking out all- wheel drive vehicles. Sales are up 20% according to Cars.com. They are particularly in demand in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions with New England also strong.

Jaguer SPORTBRAKE

Jaguar just announced it will unveil its 2015 XFR-S Sportbrake, (something we would call a wagon), at the Geneva auto show next week. It should get up and go a 5.0-liter supercharged V8, the first high performance sports estate car to be produced by Jag. Zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds the maker proclaims with an eight speed automatic and a top speed of a rather rapid 186 mph.

'59 Jaguar

A 1959 Jaguar XK150 Drop head Coupe, once owned by Dr. Stephen Ward, the physician at the center of the Promo political scandal recently sold at auction in Britain for more than twice its pre-sale estimate. The winning bid came to $207,264. The car and the new Sportbrake are pictured.

 

Auto News and Geneva Auto Show Preview – Feb. 24

  A Geneva Auto Show Preview

Starting March 4th, the attention of the auto world shifts to Geneva where major automakers will compete for headlines by unmasking some new and imagined products.

Hyundai-PassoCorto

As previewed here earlier, McLaren will reveal a new supercar, the MP4-12 650S, while Hyundai will debut the PassoCorto, its answer to the Kia Stinger that turned heads in Detroit. It is said to be a two-seater about the size of the Alfa 4C and should heat up the rumor mill that Hyundai-Kia is serious about producing a sports car. The Hyundai is pictured above.

Audi TTAudi S3 Cabriolet

Audi’s new look TT coupe will catch a lot of attention, with the release of some drawings as to what it may look like. It will also show off an S3 Cabriolet.

Volkswagen will brag about a plug-in hybrid Golf GTE.

The 2015 Lexus RC 350 will dominate that company’s Geneva offerings. Reports indicate it will slot between the RC 350 coupe and the RC F performance model.

2015 MB S-Class coupe

Mercedes will talk up its 2015 S-Class Coupe with a rather awesome 5.5-liter, 577 horsepower biturbo V8 among the power options.

Concept cars are expected from Mazda and Subaru among others and who knows how many other surprises will light up the night.

2015 Ford Focus

Ford has unveiled the 2015 Focus with a redesign that echoes other recent company products. It will offer a standard review camera, and available lane-keeping system and Blind Spot Information System. Ford displayed the new model at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It will be offered with 1.0-liter EcoBoost three cylinder engine tied only to a six-speed manual transmission. Four and five door versions will be sold here Look for it in showrooms in the second half of this year.

Autoweek hints that Mazda is considering production of a new RX-7. It said work is being conducted on a new rotary engine, and at least preliminary design studies are being worked out. But here is the catch. It says a business case has not been made for the car, and that could be the death knell since the bean counters hold a lot of power. My guess is that Mazda may well go ahead with the new RX, but not until the market has been established for the updated Miata. The new two-seater, reports indicate, may appear at the Chicago Auto Show next year.

What country comes to mind if I ask you which one imports more cars to this country than any other? New research shows that in the not too distant future Mexico will be number one ahead of Japan and Canada. Honda just opened a new plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, that will bang out its subcompact Fit model. Automakers have found that it is cheaper to make cars in Mexico than Canada.

It is bye-bye Microsoft and hello Blackberry for Ford. The Detroit News reports that Ford will use Blackberry to update its much criticized Sync system this year or in 2015. Blackberry’s QNX system is already in BMW and Audi models. Nothing official yet from Ford, Microsoft or Blackberry.

Saturday Road Test – 2014 Honda Accord

2014-honda-accord-sedan-brake-lights

 

2014 Honda Accord EX-LNAV

Striking a Familiar (A)ccord

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – An accord can sometimes be very profitable.

Take the New York Yankees signing of Masahiro Tanaka for $153-million for seven years. That works out to roughly $92,000 a baseball day. Recently he threw 25 pitches in spring training batting practice, a feat that cost the Yanks $3,690 a throw.

Capitalize that Accord and one could acquire one of the most durable, and most honored cars currently on the market for less than the cost of 10 Tanaka pitches.

The Accord that resides in the Honda barn, it is fair to speculate, has put a few million on the automaker’s books, and has been on Car and Driver’s Ten Best list since it started apologizing for the lack of the de Sade model in the Mercury Marquis lineup.

Now in its ninth generation, the Accord is Honda’s best-selling model in this country and comes with a four, a six, or as a plug-in.

2014-honda-accord-sedan-side1

For this week long test, we got a surprise. The 185 horsepower, 2.4 liter four with 181 lb-ft of torque @ 3,900 rpm was one little neat power plant. And its EPA rated fuel economy of 27-36 mpg on a diet of regular fuel is not hard to take either. In a week’s worth of interstate, country and city driving my tally came to 31 mpg.

One of the better CVT transmissions did its thing delivering punch when it was need to merge on to fast moving interstates such as I-84 in West Virginia where 70 is legal and 80 is often the norm. A zero to 60 run takes less than eight seconds.

The ride is on the firm side but never jarring and the handling, while not sports car sharp, is better than the Yankees faced with Alex Rodriguez. In fact, leaps and bounds better.

At 80 the Accord cruises quietly giving the operator a chance to appreciate the luxury touches inside such as the leather trimmed seats, excellent 360 watt audio system, and Honda’s Lane Watch system – a camera that exposes big rig truckers and even Smart cars in your blind spot. When you flip the right turn signal, an image of whatever is lurking to the right pops up on the 8-inch screen on top of the center stack. Great thinking Honda!

2014-honda-accord-sedan-dashboard

The dual zone automatic climate control kept things toasty warm inside during the worst of a record breaking cold snap that hit these parts. The 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, ample room up front and easy access to the controls that mattered meant that this was a car designed for satisfying long distance travel. Two adults can easily fit in the back as well.

Fit and finish were top of the line, of course, and Honda’s promise of years of dependable transportation continues.

Plus there is value here. Move up to the EX-L trim level and you get the leather trimmed and heated seats with memory, four way adjustable passenger seat, forward collision and lane-departure warning, an upscale rearview camera, moonroof, 17”x7.5” alloy wheels, LED taillights, satellite radio, navi of course, and all the gear needed to hook up most anything that generates music.

Okay, you are thinking, hit me up with it – The price! With zero options, the top of the line test car would roll into your garage for a more than reasonable $30,835.

When you add up the ingredients one would want in a mid-sized sedan the Honda keeps coming up aces. It is a quality product more than able to hold its own in a segment of the market that is hotter than the S-I swimsuit issue.

Okay, I’m reaching for any analogy that might indicate that SPRING is on the way!!!

 

Auto News for Feb. 21

Panda van

It is no secret that Washington D.C. is crazy about the baby panda, Bao Bao, at the National Zoo. It has its own on line camera, and tons of attention. Now it has its own vehicle. Ford today turned over the National Zoo one of its Transit Connect Vans and it is covered with images of the panda cub.

Two of Porsche’s high performance GT3 models have caught fire so it is recalling all 785 of them. The Detroit News said the fires occurred after an engine failure and thankfully there have been no injuries or accidents. Porsche is said to be still looking into the cause of the fires.

J .D. Power says all of the rough weather over much of the nation cut into new car sales early this month. It expects the sales pace to pick up as we head toward March and thinks full month retail sales will be up 5 percent over a year ago.

The man who founded MAACO, Anthony Martino, will be posthumously inducted into the International Franchise Association Hall of Fame. It all stated in 1959 in a simple shop that specialized in automatic transmission repair that was sold off and became AAMCO.  Martino’s first auto painting and bodyworks opened in 1972.