Auto News for Aug. 31

The Honda Accord leads the list of Most Stolen Cars with the Ford F-150 the most stolen truck according to the National Crime Information Center. The Honda Civic was the second most stolen vehicle, followed by Ford truck, Chevy Silverado, Toyota Camry, Ram truck, Dodge Caravan, Nissan Altima, Acura Integra, and the Nissan Maxima. Thankfully, the Center said auto thefts have been on a “long downward trajectory.”

The head of Fiat Chrysler is still trying to engage GM in some type of a marriage but GM again said it is not interested. Sergio Marchionne told Automotive News a merger would generate up to $30 billion annually. But he stopped short of saying he would attempt a hostile deal with GM. GM said it is moving ahead with its current plans to maximize shareholder value, and that clearly does not include FCA. And the beat goes on.

Ford is adding a Platinum trim level to its 2016 Explorer lineup. It will include an upscale leather-wrapped interior, and a 500 watt Sony audio system. Under the hood of the upscale SUV that will arrive in showrooms next month will be the 3.5-liter, 365 hp V6 EcoBoost engine. Ford said the Explorer has been the best-selling SUV in the U.S. for a quarter century.

GM announced its Flint Michigan plant has now produced 1- million 1.4-liter engines. The facility is now receiving a makeover and will begin manufacturing a new Ecotec small gas engine by the end of the year. It will be installed in the Volt and Cruze models and perhaps some others.

Saturday Road Test Lexus IS250

 

 

Lexus IS250 AWD

1440 1443 1445!

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Sitting in the test car driveway the “Deep Sea Mica” paint captures the eye as does the aggressive styling of the entry level sedan in Lexus’ IS series.

This is a sport sedan and that becomes clear during entry that requires a certain amount of agility. But once inside you will quickly notice the luxury touches and 10-way adjustable heated and cooled bucket seats that keep your bottom firmly in place under what we will call robust driving situations.

Leather, real wood, and large easy to read white on black instruments face the driver with along with a 4.2 inch color multi-information display including audio, trip, navigation, phone, ambient temperature numbers or pretty much all you want to know. All of your senses will tell you this is a luxury ride in the Lexus tradition.

The dual-zone climate control system is controlled by touch-sensitive electrostatic temperature switches that can be finicky. Old fashioned knobs work better.

Grab the leather wrapped and hefty gear lever and we are underway.

 

Propelling the AWD test car was a 2.5-liter six rated at 204 hp @ 6,400 rpm, with 185 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. A 0-60 time of about 7.5 seconds is the norm. While more than adequate for the typical owner, quick passing maneuvers had me wishing for about another 10 to 15 horsepower.

More power can be had by moving up to the IS350 and its 3.5-liter V6 with 306 hp @ 6,400 with 277 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm. That will lower an all out 0-60 run to just less than six seconds and adds an eight speed automatic compared to the IS250’s six speed.

EPA fuel economy works out to 20-27 in the IS250 and 19-29 in its bigger brother so there isn’t much of a penalty to moving up in class. Both require premium unleaded.

I came in at 23 mpg in country and interstate driving. During the period, I didn’t have a chance to experience the worst rush hour backups in the land that occur five days a week in your nation’s Capitol City, according to a new report. In a typical year, motorists put in a full work week just sitting in traffic.

While not the handling whiz of the rival BMW 3-series, the IS was still a treat to drive on winding back roads in Maryland and West Virginia. The sport driving mode added to the experience holding lower gears in place longer, with lightning quick paddle shifts just a finger flick away on the hefty, leather bound steering wheel.

Driving modes, selected via a large knob on the center console, also include Normal and ECO.

On the flip side, if there is a long interstate trip in your future the IS reveals its luxury persona, with virtually no wind or road noise on the interstates, And allow me again praise one of the most comfortable bucket seats this bod has experienced.

One brilliant addition! A right ankle and lower leg rest built into the drive tunnel added greatly to the comfort level and made me wonder why this is not included on all cars.

Two adult rear seat passengers can be accommodated behind two six foot folks up front but taller riders may find their head occasionally touching the gradually tapering C pillar.

There are, of course, a multitude of safety, audio, and other options available – backup camera, remote touch interface, voice command and app suite.

Lexus Enform allows IOS Smartphone users to obtain information such as maintenance alerts, warning light notifications and a vehicle health report that include email and push notifications as well as service campaigns.

Enform remote allows the owner to remotely view and control features such as lock/unlock, remote start/stop, and climate control.

Now what does all this cost? The base MSRP for the IS 250 is $37,500. With lovely optional 18” wheels, a Luxury Package, Navi system, Intuitive Parking Assist, and some other minor details, the test car would roll off the lot with an MSRP of $46,650.

That compares to a base of $40,870 for the IS350 if the greater horsepower appeals.

At the end of the week this was one of those test cars that I was sorry to see roll down the street. It had a wonderful balance of handling, performance and luxury not to forget some eye catching style.

For 2016, Lexus adds a new model, the IS 200t, available in RWD form only. Under the bonnet is a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with intercooler paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

This engine cranks out 241 hp and has 258 lb-ft. torque at 1,650-4,400 rpm. Lexus developed the turbocharged engine in house, first integrated it into the NX luxury utility hybrid for 2015 model year, and modified it for IS 200t.

I have not yet seen any performance or economy figures.

 

Auto News for Aug. 28

tesla

The high performance Tesla P85D scored so well in Consumer Report’s testing that the staff had to make changes to its rating system. When everything was totaled up the score was better than 100 at 103! Oh that we could have brought that test score home to our parents! The CR staff loved the electric car’s acceleration, handling, braking and luxury even at the $127K price tag. But all was not perfect with demerits for interior noise and materials, and a balky door handle. Even so, the P85D emerged as the best car the magazine has ever tested.

The P85D posts a 0-60 run of just 3.2 seconds according its maker thanks to the addition of a 221-hp electric motor that drives the front wheels. It works in concert with a 470-hp motor that drives the rear wheels. To answer your next question, that means there is 686 lb-ft of torque to play with, and that’s a heap. I almost forgot the car’s “Ludicrous Speed” upgrade that reduces the 0-60 run to just 2.8 seconds, Tesla claims.

If you live off the beaten path but still want top performance, think of what would happen if you took the 707 horsepower Hellcat V8 and put it into a Jeep Grand Cherokee! Fiat Chrysler will do just that and achieve a 0-60 run in a very short 3.5 seconds in what they will call the Trackhawk. Various reports indicate it might show up on dealer lots sometime next summer.

JLTV_P7A5025_720x300

If you REALLY live off road, there is always the replacement for the Hummer, the JLTV produced by Oshkosh Corp. The company has won a $6.7 billion contract to produce the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle for the Army and Marine Corps. The JLTV features 20 inches of wheel travel for improved off-road mobility and a suspension that can be raised and lowered to meet demand. Unfortunately, died in the dirt off roaders, it will be only offered to the military. But that is one mean looking machine.

A state owned Chinese auto company is said to be in talks to acquire a stake in Daimler, the parent of Mercedes Benz. BAIC’s chairman Xu Heyi has confirmed to the Taiwan newspaper “Want China Times” that the two sides are talking and he hopes to seal the deal by the end of the year. It is not clear how large a stake BAIC would acquire in Daimler, yet the Times said it would become Daimler’s third largest shareholder. Previously, the two firms signed a series of cooperation agreements and Daimler owns a stake in BAIC, or Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co.

August new vehicle sales are expected to decline 1.2 percent, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive and your can blame the calendar. A year ago Labor Day weekend transactions were counted as part of August sales. But that will not be the case this year since the holiday falls on Sept. 7, too late to be included in the August sales tally. This time around, August sales are expected to total 1.3 million units and the daily selling rate is trending 8 percent higher this year compared to 2014, so the decline may be of little concern.

 

 

Auto News for Aug. 27

Fiat Chrysler did its best to get dealers juiced about new future new products during a meeting in Las Vegas. Reporters were not allowed in and no one was allowed to record anything on their smart phones. From various reports, FCA displayed the next Jeep Wrangler that should hit showrooms in 2017 and a larger Grand Wagoneer. Also displayed were a new Dodge Charger and a convertible Barracuda that Automotive News said would be based on the Alfa Giulia. If all these models do make it to market, FCA dealers should have more than a few customers beating a path to their doors.

An update on that story about Ford considering a revival of the Ford Ranger pickup for the U.S. Bloomberg is reporting that a return of the Bronco SUV may also be a part of the package. Should the Bronco reappear, it would constitute a new challenge for the Jeep brand.

Washington, D.C. tops the list of gridlock-plagued cities followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York in a study released by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Cities of all sizes are experiencing increased traffic congestion from growing urban populations and lower fuel prices that are outpacing the nation’s ability to build infrastructure. The average travel delay per commuter nationwide is more than twice what it was in 1982 and in cities with less than 500,000 people, the problem is four times worse than in 1982. The authors say the nation needs more roadway and transit investment to meet demands as well as flexible work schedules. INRIX is a data technology company.

Norwegian Morgan Torvolt claims to have driven a Tesla Model S just shy of 453 miles on a single charge, something that he claims is a world’s record. He admits it was a slow drive, averaging just 24.2 miles per hour.

Experian Automotive reports more customers are signing up for new auto leases beyond the traditional three years in order to hold down monthly payments. That would be in line with the growing demand for auto loans up to seven years.

Auto News for Aug. 26

HOnda type R

Honda will show off the 2016 Civic on September 16th in Detroit and Los Angeles. It will be the tenth-generation of the car and it will ride on a whole new platform, so this will be a complete makeover. Initially Honda will offer only a sedan version with a coupe to follow later. Performance types are hoping that the hot “R” model now on sale in Europe will make it to these shores, as is. Honda claims the European spec model will launch from a standing start to 62 mph (100 km) in 5.7 seconds with a top speed of 167 mph. The 2.0-liter turbo four is rated at 306 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm. And it comes with a six speed manual!

What do you consider the most important factors when it comes to buying a new car? A Harris poll reveals that reliability tops the list among 93 percent of those surveyed. It was followed by purchase price, safety features, fuel economy, performance, and operating cost.

Ford is said to be in talks with the United Auto Workers Union to possibly bring the Ranger mid-size pickup truck back to the U.S. market. The Detroit News, among other sources, reports the automaker is considering assembling the truck at its plant in Wayne, Michigan in 2018 when production of the Focus and C-Max possibly heads to Mexico. It would make sense with GM now churning out the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks and Toyota revamping the Tacoma. Ford’s board of directors would also have to approve the Ranger’s return and that means backers will have to make an economic case for the truck. Ford now assembles a Ranger in South Africa, Thailand and Nigeria. Here at home, the Detroit News said the last Ranger rolled off the line in December 2011.

A just out report from J.D. Power concludes that automakers are investing billions of dollars to put technologies in their vehicles that are not being used. The survey measured driver experiences with in-vehicle technology features during the first 90 days of ownership. At least 20 percent have never used 16 of the 33 tech features such as concierge services, mobile routers, automatic parking systems, head-up display and built in apps. “In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their Smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they are familiar with the device and it’s accurate,” said Kristin Kolodge of J.D. Power. Owners who say their dealer did not explain a feature have a higher likelihood of never using it. Technologies that most owners DO want include vehicle health diagnostics, blind-spot warning and detection and adaptive cruise control. The “Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report” is based on responses from more than 4,200 vehicle owners and lessees.

Auto News for Aug. 25

When it comes to customer satisfaction, 15 auto nameplates lost ground and only two improved over the past year. That’s according to the latest study from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Acura and BMW were the only brands to gain ground with Acura up eight percent and BMW up three percent. At the top of the industry overall, Lexus took the lead from Mercedes by a single point. Considering domestic automakers only, Ford is the sole manufacturer maintaining overall customer satisfaction with a score of 81 percent. GM slipped three percent and Fiat Chrysler was off five percent. “While it is true that all cars are now much better than they were 10 to 20 years ago, it is alarming that so many of them have quality problems,” said Claes Fornell, ACS Chairman and founder. An increase is recalls and rising prices have damaged driver satisfaction, he said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into 14 complaints alleging that after being placed in Park certain models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled away. The unintended motion in 2014-15 models with shift-by-wire occurred with both the engine off and the engine running. The investigation involves 408,000 vehicles.

Tesla’s Elon Musk will be one of the guests on Stephen Colbert’s first week as host of the Late Show, according to the New York Times. He is scheduled to appear on Sept. 9.

Mercedes stadium

Mercedes has won naming rights for a new stadium in Atlanta that will house the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons when it opens in 2017. The multi-purpose stadium will also host other major sports and entertainment events, including the NCAA’s Men’s Final Four in 2020. The MB brand will be prominent inside and outside the building including the roof. Inside there will be the “first-of-its-kind” video halo board. Mercedes is headquartered in Atlanta.

GEICO has agreed to pay $6 million to settle a Consumer Federation of California complaint alleging the company violated civil rights and insurance law. It is alleges GEICO targeted low-and-moderate-income women and unmarried motorists with deceptive and inflated auto insurance rate quotes. The settlement required GEICO to change its website to provide all good drivers an initial quote for identical coverage, without regard to marital status, gender, educational attainment, occupation or current insurance status. The company denied any intentional wrongdoing and said it was unaware that its website contained potentially misleading information, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Auto News for Aug. 24

Shelby

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2015 International Historic Motoring Awards’ Car of the Year. The 2014 winner was the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe which was also the first car to be accepted into the National Historic Registry of the United States. The rather unique Shelby is pictured. To find out more about the awards go to:

www.historicmotoringawards.com

Another big slide for stocks in Asia this morning with the Tokyo market closing down 4.6 percent and automakers were not exempt. Toyota shares finished sharply lower off 6.7 percent. Nissan and Honda also closed lower. In Seoul, Hyundai Motor lost 2.4 percent.

Automotive News reports that Toyota will tell dealers at an upcoming meeting that they will be no longer allowed to advertise “below-invoice prices.” Honda has already made a similar move. AN said dealer reaction to the upcoming Toyota announcement has been mixed but dealers who ignore the ban face some stiff penalties