Auto News for June 30

Auto News for June 30

The winners will not be announced until January, but here are the nominees for 2016 North American Car and Truck of the Year. The list is a long one with 21 trucks that includes such curious additions as the Fiat 500X. There are 19 cars in the running.

Cars                                        Trucks

Acura ILX Fiat 500X
Audi TT Ford Edge
BMW 7-Series Honda HR-V
Cadillac ATS-V Honda Pilot
Cadillac CT6 Hyundai Tucson
Chevrolet Camaro Infiniti QX50
Chevrolet Malibu Jeep Renegade
Chevrolet Spark Kia Sorento
Chrysler 300 Land Rover Discovery Sport
Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Lexus RX
Honda Civic Lincoln MKX
Jaguar XF Mazda CX-3
Kia Optima Mercedes-Benz GLC
Mazda MX-5 Miata Mercedes-Benz GLE
Nissan Altima Mercedes-Benz Metris
Nissan Maxima Mitsubishi Outlander
Scion iA Nissan Titan
Scion iM Ram ProMaster City
Toyota Prius 20 Tesla Model X
Toyota Tacoma
Volvo XC90

Over time, the list will be pared down to three finalists with the winners announced at the opening of the Detroit Auto Show.

So far this year, the Mustang is outselling the Camaro and that hasn’t happened since 2009, according to the Detroit News. In the muscle car race, the Mustang and Camaro are outselling the Dodge Challenger with the FCA muscle car in third place. It should be noted that sales figures could change when the 2016 Camaro hits showrooms later this year.

If you own a 2010 to 2014 Audi, BMW, or Subaru you might want to start checking the oil frequently. Consumer Reports says owners are finding that some of the engines in those cars require a quart of oil as frequently as once a month. It cited Audi’s 2.0-liter turbo four and 3.0-liter V6, BMW’s 4.8-liter V8 and 4.4-liter turbo V8, and Subaru’s 3.6-liter six along with its 2.0-liter and 2.5 liter fours.

Cadillac XT5

One of the problems with taking official photos of an upcoming model in the heart of New York City is that passersby have smartphones and can post pictures on the net. Such is the case with Cadillac’s upcoming XT5 that will replace the SRX in the lineup. Caddy has announced the XT5 will debut early next year.

You will see a lot of Hyundai’s in NFL games this fall. The company is now the official automotive sponsor of the league replacing General Motors. The automaker will launch all this during NFL Kickoff activities on Sept. 10. Financial terms of the four year agreement were not released, but you can bet the deal did not come cheap.

Cars.com has released its list of the cars that contain the most parts made in the U.S. with point of manufacture and overall sales part of the equation. The bottom line is that the most “American-made” car is the Toyota Camry. It is followed by the Toyota Sienna and the Chevy Traverse. The Honda Odyssey and the GMC Acadia round out the top five. “This year’s list of eligible cars is down to just seven, the smallest number we’ve ever seen, said Editor-in-Chief Patrick Olsen. “Just five years ago, 29 cars qualified for the American-Made Index …”

 

 

Auto News for June 29

Fiat will spend the holiday weekend introducing a new 500 model on the 4th. The rumor mill indicates that it will be larger than the current offering with a new and improved interior with a touch screen. In May, Fiat sales fell 19 percent here in the states, but rose 4 percent in Europe.

Fiat Chrysler is advising approximately 65 SUV owners in the U.S. to stop driving their vehicles. They are being recalled because they may have been equipped with improperly heat-treated suspension components that could lead to breakage, rear-end instability and/or reduced braking power. The company said it is unaware of any injuries or accidents. Many of the affected 2016 Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango models are still on dealer lots, the company said.

This seems to be FCA’s morning. The company will delay the introduction of a redesigned Grand Cherokee to late 2018 or early 2019, according to Automotive News. It was originally scheduled to have its coming out party in late 2017. No reason was given for the delay.

Aston Martin Vulcan

Aston Martin’s track-only Vulcan with its 800-plus horsepower was one of the hits at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Great Britain. The all-carbon fiber Vulcan, (what a great name) sports a 7.0-liter V12 that will top out at 200 mph, not to mention a predicted 0-60 run of under three seconds.

Lotus 3-11

Lotus, yes they are still around, used the festival to show off a limited edition 3-Eleven in two model lines, one for the road and one for the track. Production will begin next February but will be limited to just 311 vehicles total. The race version can sprint to 60 in under three seconds, while the road version has a top speed of 174 mph. In keeping with Lotus tradition this is a very light weight sports car and is powered by a V6 supercharged engine good for 450 horsepower. There was no word if a 3-Eleven or two might show up here in the U.S. for a run to 7-11.

Sharapova Porsche

And tennis star Maria Sharapova took a mid-engine Porsche Boxster Spyder out for a test drive. At the conclusion she proclaimed the car was “huge fun’ and “I need to get one.” The Boxster has a top track speed of 180 mph and a 0-60 time of just 4.3 seconds backed by a 375 hp six with 309 lb-ft of torque. And stick shift only, by the way. It is expected to arrive in this country in October.

Audi, or at least parts of it, may go to the moon. It has joined an effort to land an unmanned rover on the lunar surface nearly 45 years after Apollo 17 completed the last manned mission there. The goal is to land in exactly the same spot. Audi is supporting the effort using technology from Quattro all-wheel drive to electric mobility and piloted driving. “The concept of a privately financed mission to the moon is fascinating,” said Luca de Meo, Audi Board Member for Sales and Marketing.

 

 

Saturday Road Test – Lexus ES 350

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2015 Lexus ES 350

Living Up To the Lexus Standard

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Years ago Lexus rocked the world with its first luxury offering and skeptics said that Toyota’s upstart brand would never make it.

The year was 1989 and Lexus introduced the LS 400 as Toyota’s luxury brand got off to a slow start with only 121 dealers signed on a year later. By 1991 Lexus outsold both Mercedes Benz and BMW to become the best-selling luxury brand in the U.S.

Here we are nearly 25 years later sitting in a well optioned ES 350 in glove soft leather seats, the V6 virtually silent at interstate speeds, and a ride that is neither too hard nor to too soft – a perfect blend of sportiness and comfort for this type of car.

Bridge expansion strips and other bumps along the road are more seen than felt. The 3.5 liter V6 delivers brisk acceleration for a quick move around a semi, not to mention that tour bus with the destination sign that read, “Lost Again.”

If the opportunity arose, I would eagerly set sail in the ES on a cross country jaunt to California – enjoying every mile in a car that would be the direct opposite of seat 18C on any jetliner.

Now to get a bit more specific – with $6,158 worth of options there wasn’t much lacking on the test car. It sported 17” inch, 10 spoke wheels in “Liquid Graphite Finish,” a power rear sunshade, lots of leather and “Espresso Bird’s-Eye Maple Wood” interior trim, heated and ventilated front seats, rain sensing wipers and “Intuitive Parking Assist” among other items. There was no charge for something called, “Drop Ship Fleet” but then I never was in the Navy.

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Rated at 268 horsepower with 248 lb-ft of torque the V6 defined the term “refined”. It was tied to a six speed automatic that was quick to deliver whatever shifts were needed, especially in the “Sport” mode.

The EPA rates the combo at 21 mpg city, 31 highway for a combined 24 mpg and I came away with 23 for the week.

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Inside, fit and finish were impeccable, the instruments were an easy read, and there was plenty of stretch out room front and rear for four adults. A slim passenger might be comfortable for short to medium trips in the middle rear seat.

The Hard Disk Drive Navi system brings what is basically a computer mouse to control the workings of an 8” VGA screen. This works well when one is parked, but the mouse is a bit hyperactive and making a selection while driving can be a bit frustrating.

One can stuff a fair amount of stuff in the 15.2 cubic foot trunk.

With a $925 delivery charge, the test car carried an MSRP of $44,783, not bad for an entry level luxury set of wheels that every time you get in it, will tell you that you made the right selection.

No surprise that the ES gets a top rating for reliability from Consumer Reports and a check mark as a “Recommended Vehicle.”

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Auto News for June 26

The August edition of Automobile magazine has the best report on driverless cars that I have ever read. In a clear, concise manner it breaks down the problems that developers of autonomous cars face and the fact that it maybe two life times or more before you will be able to pop into the car, say “take me to work,” thus leaving the driving to computers and various forms of radar. If you have an interest in this, do pick up the August issue. (And no, they did not pay me to write this.)

Today’s Washington Post reports that two self-driving cars nearly collided during testing in Palo Alto, California. One was operated by Google and the other by Delphi Automotive. Reuters reports both cars had actual drivers behind the wheel in cash of an emergency. If the two cars had the technology that allows one car to speak to the other, the exchange might have been interesting.

June auto sales are expected to increase 5.8 percent year-over-year according to Kelley Blue Book, and that would be the 16th month in a row that sales have moved higher. But Kelley added that sales could flatten out as the summer rolls along.

Nearly 42 million of us plan to hit the road over the 4th of July holiday weekend and that is the most since 2007, according to Triple A. Rising incomes and low gas prices are encouraging more people to take a holiday trip this year, the auto club said.

McLaren 570S

Things are going well at McLaren where the company has reported a second consecutive year of profitability, four years since it opened its first retail outlet. It rang up its fourth year of sales growth and is predicting more following the launch of a quartet of new models – two of which are already sold out.

And the biggest auto event of the year, the Goodwood Motor Show, is underway in the UK with 21 new models making their first appearance. In short, if you make cars that are sold in the UK one simply must have a presence at the historic Goodwood Estate for a wide variety of events that will take place this weekend. The Aston Martin DB9 GT will make its world debut along with the Peugeot 308GTI. The Porsche 919 hybrid that captured the 24 hours of Le Mans will be displayed.

Acura is recalling roughly 106,000 2014-15 MDX models, saying a pulley related to the air conditioner could fall off. A bolt will be replaced at no cost to owners. Subaru is calling back about 74,000 vehicles with its Eyesight Driver Assist System. It said the pre-collision braking component could fail in 2015 Legacy, Impreza, XV Crosstrek models plus 2016 WRX.

 

Auto News for June 25

Long time readers know that I love starting off a column with new models to talk about and this morning we have a bunch of them.

Camaro Convert

Since it is summer let’s start with the 2016 Camaro that is, to my eyes, a stunning design. GM said it has a fully automatic top capable of opening or closing at speeds of up to 30 mph. It also features a remote open with the key fob – imagine being a neighbor and seeing a top go down with no one around the car! There will also be a hard tonneau cover that deploys automatically giving the car a more finished appearance. It will arrive on dealer’s lots in early 2016.

Chevy Cruzcq5dam.web.1280.1280 (2)

But Chevy is not done yet. It also took the wraps off the 2016 Cruze that will be offered with a 1.4-liter, 153 horsepower turbo four with 177 lb-ft of torque and direct injection that GM claims will deliver an estimated 40 mpg on the highway and 0-60 run of eight seconds. It will be matched with a six speed manual or a six speed automatic. Look for the new 2.7 inch longer Cruze in early 2016, a move that Chevy said results in more rear seat leg and knee room. The Cruze is said to be 53 pounds lighter with a 27 percent stiffer body. A new Chevrolet MyLink system will be compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

P90187471_lowRes

If I told you that the 2016 Mini Clubman is bigger would you ask, “At what point does the Mini cease to be a Mini?”

The upcoming model is nearly 11 inches longer, with a four inch longer wheelbase and is nearly three inches wider than the 2015. It now has four full size front hinged doors, and don’t worry Club Person lovers the rear “barn doors” carry over. Mini said there will be room for five inside thanks to the fact that it is now 168.3 inches long or about the length of a VW Beetle. An option called “Mini Excitement” will project the brand’s logo on the ground from the outside mirrors. Available engine options carry over from 2015 and will include the 2.0-liter, turbo I-4 rated at 134 horsepower with either a six speed manual or eight speed automatic with paddles. Look for the new Clubman in January.

Alfa-Giulia

And on the 105th anniversary of the Alfa Romeo brand, it introduced a new Giulia sedan at the newly refurbished Alfa museum in Arese, Italy. A Quadrifoglio version will offer a six cylinder turbo engine from Ferrari producing 510 horsepower and a 0-62 time of just 3.9 seconds with a 50/50 weight distribution. Of course, with that kind of power it will be rear wheel drive. The new sedan is aimed at BMW, Audi, and Mercedes among others. If the current schedule is followed, and some are skeptical of that, the new sedan will appear in Europe early next year with U.S. introduction sometime after that. Some auto analysts believe that the new sedan might help Fiat Chrysler attract a merger partner that CEO Sergio Marchionne has been urgently seeking. In case you were wondering, Alfa stands for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrice Automobili.

Ford is recalling 200,000 Escape models and Transit Connects from the model years 2014-15. It wants to correct an instrument panel defect whereby chimes, warning lights and messages may not work when the vehicle is started. Automotive News reports this is the 16th recall for the Escape since it was redesigned three years ago.

Rolls Royce has celebrated the largest gathering of its cars in the world at the annual Enthusiasts’ Club Annual Concours and Rally in England. Over 1,000 heritage and contemporary Rollers attended the event.

 

 

Notice

Due to spotty internet connectivity due to a major thunderstorm in the area, the Auto News column will resume on Thursday.

Auto News for June 23

Tesla maintains that its first high volume car, the Model 3, is on schedule to be displayed next year and in production in 2017. This following a report of a slide in a Tesla briefing that indicated the $35,000 car might not appear until 2018.

If the price of the current Tesla exceeds your household budget, here is how you can own one for $1.09. Mattel’s Hot Wheels is offering a Tesla Model S in silver with red trimmed tires.

GM will invest $245 million and add 300 jobs at its Orion Assembly plant in Michigan and launch “an all-new vehicle program unlike any in the plant’s 32-year history.” What that “all-new vehicle” program might entail was not disclosed.

Nothing official from the parties involved, but Bloomberg reports Hyundai is close to signing a deal to become the official automobile sponsor of the NFL for some big bucks. GM ended its long association with the league at the end of last season.