Saturday Road Test – Chevy SSR???

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Chevy SSR

Hello Broadway!

By Ron Amadon

 This morning I launch a new, occasional feature of some of the most fun vehicles tested over the past dozen years or so that I have been at this. All of them had to have been great fun to drive, and that certainly was the case with this lead off trucklet, the very retro Chevy SSR. But would blasé New Yorker’s like it? Read on. This was the road test of the first of two that I drove.

NEW YORK — We subjected Chevy’s retro convertible to a test not given any other test vehicle – none, nada, zilch.

 We figured that since the SSR had been out for a while, and slyly featured in lots of Chevy ads, it would be ignored on a cross town excursion from the west side of New York City to the east side and back again, then on to the Lincoln Tunnel. We were as wrong as Harry Frazee was when the Red Sox owner sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

 Construction put us right down Broadway, and the “Redline Red” SSR was an instant hit. People pointed, heads turned and everyone smiled, as if Rudy Giuliani were sharing the two-seater drop top with Brittany Spears in a bikini. 

 While we collected our bags at a hotel in the fashionable Murray Hill neighborhood, a crowd materialized on 39th Street around the SSR. The most commonly asked question? “What is it?”

 It is a convertible, a truck, a bit of a car, and just simply too much fun to drive. Turn off the stereo and listen to the truly wonderful American symphony that the sweet 5.3 liter, 300-horsepower V8 makes through the dual exhausts. This is what you need!!!

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The power adjustable leather buckets were most comfortable on the drive down I-95 to Maryland. We loved the retro style instruments, the big fat steering wheel, and the grand view over the hood. Yes, the structure can shimmy and shake over certain bumps. Yes, it’s expensive – $43,910 in our test model (with a few options – including a good Bose stereo).

 But stop for a minute and put down the power top, which folds neatly into the space between the interior and the pickup bed out back, and you have a first class American hot rod. We can think of no other description for the SSR. Plus, hot rods are always fun to drive.

 And the SSR, while maybe a bit down on power (0-60 in about 7 secs.), is just plain fun. It will be built in limited quantities of only about 15,000 this year, so you probably won’t see too many going the other way.

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 We say hurrah for Chevy for having the guts to go ahead with what once was a show truck/car/hot rod. We need more vehicles like the SSR and more manufacturers willing to go out on a bit of a limb. The “Super Sport Roadster” is just that!

(PS Not that anyone asked, but I still love New York!)

 Post Script. The SSR proved to be a slow seller for GM and production was shut down in March of 2006. Collectors still march then out when Old Man Winter goes away and it is not unusual to see them on the highway these many years later. While the red one is reviewed in the article, the pictures are of a second SSR in, well shall I say, brilliant YELLLOW!

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Auto News for Jan. 30

Seeing the latest report on fatal auto accidents, I was reminded of an older gentleman I knew that adamantly refused to wear a seat belt when driving his larger than life station wagon. He didn’t want to be “trapped” in the car!

Now the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has concluded that the chance of dying in a crash in a late model vehicle has fallen by more than one third in three years thanks to safety features. And among 2011 vehicles, a record nine of them have driver death rates of zero. On the down side, the gap between the safest and riskiest models remains wide.

Among the group of zero-death vehicles, two-thirds of them are SUV’s, while minicars and small cars dominate the worst list, “not surprising since these vehicles can’t protect as well as larger ones,” the IIHS said.

Here are the nine models with zero death rates based on registered vehicle years, 2011 and equivalent earlier models.

Audi A4 AWD, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento AWD, Lexus RX 350 AWD, Mercedes GL Class 4WD, Subaru Legacy AWD, Toyota Highlander hybrid AWD and Sequoia, and lastly, the Volvo XC90.

The top three with the highest rates of driver deaths were the Kia Rio, Nissan Versa sedan and Hyundai Accent. But not all the vehicles were small cars. In sixth place was the Chevy Camaro and it was followed by the Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 4WD.

Honda has lowered its annual earnings forecast due to the cost of the Takata produced air bags here in the U.S. Honda was Takata’s largest customer. Honda is paying the full freight for the recall of about 4 million cars here, but hopes to get some of that back if it is found that Takata is at fault. And the company is hoping to benefit from the increased demand for SUV’s with the release of a restyled Pilot in the near future.

Along that line, predicts that 1.15 million new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. this month. That is a 14.4 gain over January 2014. “New car shoppers, seemingly inspired by winter weather and low gas prices, are buying up trucks and SUV’s – particularly smaller ones,” said Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds. The Detroit three are all expected to enjoy increased sales.

One of the more fun cars you can drive is the Ford Focus RS. What the company said is an “all-new” RS will be previewed on February 3 at Ford’s European Headquarters in Cologne, Germany.

GM is halting production at its plant in St. Petersburg, Russia for two months due to low demand for its Opel models.


Auto News for Jan. 28

Acura ILX

The first 2016 Acura ILX has rolled off the assembly line in Marysville, Ohio, the 2 millionth North American made Acura vehicle. Acura production on these shores started 20 years ago. For 2016 the ILX picks up a new 2.4-liter VTEC engine and 8-speed dual clutch transmission. That same power plant is used in the new TLX reviewed last weekend on these pages.

McLaren will introduce a 666 horsepower, 675LT model at the Geneva show in March. The LT name stands for Longtail named after a race car that appeared in 1997 and won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1995. More details to come.

“Mustang” is the 16th most common password on the net according to a recent study by SplashData. It is more popular than Superman and Batman and is the only car to appear in the top 25 most common internet passwords. Ford notes that adding letters, numbers, acronyms, and symbols will help strengthen your password.

The Porsche 911 Carrera GTS is Playboy’s Car of the Year. It selected that model over the GT3 because the GTS can be had with a stick shift. “We’re drunk in love all over again,” the magazine said. No word on whether the Porsche made the center fold.

Here’s a neat name for a performance oriented Jeep Grand Cherokee. In Britain it will be known as the Red Vapor edition.

Good luck to all of our New England coastal residents who are digging out today after the big storm. A total of 31 inches in some towns.


Auto News for Jan. 27

Keeping in mind that sales were slowed by cold and snow a year earlier, the experts think January 2015 still will be a good month for auto makers. J.D. Power is predicting a 12.4 percent sales boost and most think the biggest gainer will be GM. We will get the actual figures early next month.

Problems with leaking fuel have Audi, VW and Porsche recalling about 27,000 vehicles here in the U.S. The notice covers Porsche Cayenne and Panamera S hybrids from model year 2011-12. Also being recalled are the 2012-2013 Audi A7, and the Audi Q7, S4 and S5 from model years 2011-2012. Dealers will replace seals and fuel injector rails.

You will be able to watch the stars on Super Bowl Sunday and we are not referring to those on the field. Pierce Brosnan will appear in an ad for Kia, while Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel will promote the all-electric BMW i3. If you can’t wait, the Brosnan ad is on the Detroit Free Press web site and it is more than worth a look.

AM General has been selected to build the Mercedes R-class luxury sport utility at its assembly plant in South Bend, Indiana. Production of the SUV will be moved from the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and make AMG the only contract manufacturer for MB in this country.

I was in a new car showroom yesterday and found that dealer add ons, generally worthless trim pieces and stripes, added anywhere from $2,200 to more than $3,000 to the price of every new vehicle on display. One compact got a bat wing on the rear and other extras that added about $3,600 to the base price. That doesn’t beat the other dealer that charged for putting helium in the tires of all cars on the showroom floor. Not to mention the $300 dealer processing fee. Word to the wise – check the window sticker very carefully before you sign on the dotted line and reject such nonsense. It is the only way dealers will stop this practice and remember – none of these items will add a dime to the price come resale time.

Auto News for Jan. 26

Porsche Macan

Porsche has a hot selling vehicle on its hands in the form of the Macan mid-sized crossover. Automotive News said there has been up to a six month waiting list and demand has also been strong worldwide, so there is some question about the company’s ability to increase production. Five inches longer than a RAV4, the Macan is available with either a 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 good for 340 horsepower or a slightly less powerful V6 that will still post a 0-60 of just 5.2 seconds.

We still like big auto shows. Attendance hit a 12 year high at the Detroit extravaganza at 808,775. The show closed on Sunday.

Carfax said this morning that millions of people may be driving, buying or selling potentially dangerous cars due to an unfixed recall. It said more than 46 million cars have at least one safety recall that’s never been addressed. Five million of them were brought and sold by potentially unsuspecting consumers last year. “America’s cavalier response to manufacturer safety recalls is putting lives at risk,” said Larry Gamache of Carfax. And he added that the minor inconvenience that comes from having a recall fixed “pales in comparison to what can happen if you don’t.” Recall information is available on the Carfax site or its free app.

Sixty one percent of new car buyers said they purchased their latest vehicle due to a want and not a need. AutoTrader polled more than 2,300 buyers and says it shows a nice increase in consumer confidence. Two-thirds researched their new wheels on line prior to making the leap.




Saturday Road Test – Acura TLX 2.4L Tech

Acura TLX

2015 Acura TLX

A most pleasant set of wheels for many

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Gone are the TSX and the TL models from the Acura lineup and in their place comes the TLX, a very likeable sedan for those not looking for hand edge BMW like cornering but rather a touch of luxury and tech for a reasonable outlay of cash.

Under the hood of the test car was a refined 2.4-liter, 206 horsepower four with 182 lb-ft of torque all delivered via an 8-speed dual clutch automatic with fast acting paddle shifts. The front drive sedan will ring up a 0-60 run in about 7.5 seconds and those looking for more can opt for the 3.5-liter V6 rated at 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. That one comes with a nine speed automatic and is available with all-wheel drive.

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Again, for the large majority of drivers, the refined four has ample get up and go. Stick with the Sport+ driving mode to extract all that it has to offer and enjoy its ability to downshift quickly and hold gears for a longer period of time. Rather fun on back roads.

The TLX settled nicely on the interstates and had no problem slipping by semis on what passes for mountains in these parts. The test car is EPA rated 24 to 35 mpg and I came out at 28 mpg in a week’s testing in a variety of traffic conditions.

Sound proofing was a major condition when Acura considered the TLX and your ears will tell you they succeeded. I liked the soft touches inside and the more than comfortable 10-way adjustable driver’s seat with good lateral support. Out back, two adults will be comfortable in the 60-40 fold down seat and my guess is that they will believe they are riding in a more expensive automobile.

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The center stack is dominated by two screens that will reveal virtually everything you want to know about the workings of the TLX once you, with extended consultations with the owner’s manual, figure out how it all works.

I thought the Acura/ELS 10-speaker audio system left something to be desired sound quality wise with weak bass response and a need for additional tone adjustments.

Included on the test car was the Tech Package that brought along the navi system with voice recognition, heated leather clad seats with memory settings, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic monitor and a  lane departure warning that was a bit too sensitive, like many others on the market.

With zero options, the test car carried an easy to digest MSRP of $35,920. For that you get a car with sport and luxury touches, one that would be more than up to a long trip with its spacious truck, plus one more thing that should be overlooked.

Acura’s reputation for long life.


Auto News for Jan. 23

A new top of the line luxury sedan called the CT6 will be unveiled by Cadillac March 31 in its new home, New York City. It is said to be a large spacious car, the lineup’s most expensive model that will return the gas mileage of a mid-size car. This is all part of a plan by Cadillac to overhaul its sales sagging lineup by introducing eight new models by the year 2020. The Detroit News said one of them will be a lightweight high performance crossover that will be smaller than the Escalade.


“Unofficially, Lexus has created a Best Resale Value dynasty,” said Kelley Blue Book. For the fourth year in a row, Lexus held the top spot when it comes to luxury vehicle resale value, in KBB’s annual survey. Subaru was named the Best Brand this year, KBB saying it “wins fandom with new car buyers and when resale time comes.”

The 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk has been named “Four Wheeler of the Year” by Four Wheeler Magazine. It is the 13th time that a Jeep vehicle has captured the award.

Green Car Journal named the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel its SUV of the year while the BMW i8 captured the “Luxury Green Car of the Year” award. The magazine’s Technology Award went to the new Ford F-150 for its aluminum body.

BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint will create express electric car charging corridors along heavily traveled routes on both coasts. One hundred such stations will be created initially along the I-95 corridor from Boston to Washington and from Portland Oregon, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego out west. They will be located 50 miles apart “making it even easier to take long road trips in an EV,” the backers said.