Auto News for Nov. 30

“Car” magazine in London has confirmed that the new Bugatti “Hypercar” will be launched at the Geneva auto show next year and called the Chiron. It will replace the discontinued Veyron as the world’s fastest car with a reported 1,480 horsepower according to Georg Kacher, one of the world’s top auto writers. Top speed is expected to be in excess of 200 mph. The price tag is expected to be in the millions and Kacher said the company has already received more than 100 orders. Take it from me, if Kacher says it you can take it to the bank.

November auto sales figures will be released tomorrow with some forecasters predicting nice gains, and others less optimistic. Kelley Blue Book believes sales will be flat on a year-over-year basis given the fact that November had two fewer selling days compared to a year ago. Others believe Black Friday sales and increased incentive spending will be enough to move sales higher. But there is general agreement that total yearly sales should hit a record number.

Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed” hit book store shelves 50 years ago today. While many felt the book was the death knell for the Corvair, the GM compact with the controversial swing axle suspension design, occupied only one of the book’s eight chapters. It was largely critical of what the author said was automaker’s reluctance to advance auto safety. The 81-year-old Nader is now a political activist, author, lecturer and attorney.

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The first production Bentley Bentayga sport utility has rolled off the production line in Crewe U.K. with customer deliveries starting in January of next year. It carries a V12 twin turbo rated at 600 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. Bentley claims it is the fastest sport utility with a top speed of 187 mph and a 0-60 time of 4.0 seconds. Price? Much less than the Bugatti mentioned above, but still expensive at about $229,100. Of course, there are options!

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Saturday Road Test – Ford Transit – First Look

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Ford Transit

Forecasting the end of an era

By Ron Amadon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Know that big white van that shows up in your driveway when the plumbing is backed up or the electrical system is coughing up electrons?

Well those beyond bare bones vans are going the way of huge station wagons with fake wood on the side. Taking their place are more nimble, more economical, more versatile car-like vans. The 2016 Ford Transit lineup is in many ways at the forefront of this transition. They should not be confused with the smaller Transit Connect vans.

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The big brother vans are offered with three roof heights, 2 wheelbases and three lengths. Inside are a wide variety of options that make it easier for your plumber, electrician or carpenter to set up shop. Check the right box and he or she can stand up in the back with the 81.5” high roof. Your neck thanks you.

And if you like, the Transit can carry 8 to 15 passengers. Take it to an after-market outfitter, and the camper of your dreams can be created with a stove, microwave, TV, sofa, etc.

Nifty features include rear doors that won’t bang shut on your head on a windy day, an easier to operate sliding side door, and a rear view camera that makes back up moves much safer, especially if the customer didn’t hit the box for side window glass. That camera can also come with Trailer Hitch Assist that will allow even a novice to line up his hitch to a trailer as nicely as a veteran driving a big Peterbuilt.

Check further down the option list and find rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, rear air-conditioning, LED cargo lighting, (it’s very effective – you want this), and spray in liner and mat for the cargo area that helps reduce noise.

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The seats are comfortable up front, entry is easier with the low riding Transit, and the 6.5 inch touchscreen on the dash can be outfitted with just about anything you can get on a Ford Fusion. All controls are angled toward the operator and there is even an upgraded Sync 3 system. They moved the UBS connection higher for easier cup holder access. In passenger models you can specify enough cup holders to start getting franchise information from Dunkin’ Donuts in your e-mail.

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Transit offers a base 3.7 liter V6 rated at 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 3.5 liter V6 ups the horsepower to 310 with 400 lb-ft of torque and there is a 3.2-liter five cylinder diesel with 350 lb-ft of torque with 185 horsepower. Properly equipped the transit can carry up to 4,560 pounds of payload and tow 7,500 pounds. The low roof standard model offers 246.7 cubic feet of storage, on up to 487.3 cubic feet in the longest and tallest Transit.

A ride over some rough streets in downtown Washington revealed a quiet interior even in the base model and a more car like ride, especially compared to the older E-Series vans. Most striking it drives like a car, not a truck.

And that is what the Transit is all about – the transition from truck like van to a car based atmosphere that can fit the needs of the general contractor, become a shuttle bus for business clients, or a weekend getaway camper for a family.

Check Winnebago, Thor Motor Coach and Coachmen RV for examples of Transit campers you can live in. Camper conversions start at $60,000 on up to $130,000 according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

Prices for a bare bones model start at $30,960, add in $995 for transportation, and you are looking at $31,955.

 

Auto News for Nov. 25

Auto News for Nov. 25

A happy Thanksgiving wish for you all!

Due to the expected lack of news over the holiday, the Auto News column will resume on Monday Nov. 30.

However, the Saturday Road Test feature will appear.

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Heavy mountain snow is forecast today for the western United States and the white stuff may spread to the Central Plains by tomorrow. Yet a Harris Poll shows Americans will log a combined national average of 25 billion miles on the road to visit loved ones and friends during the holiday season. We will spend an estimated $52 billion on travel during that time period. Most will drive about 147 miles, yet 71 percent said they are nervous driving when it’s icy and snow puts 45 percent on edge.  So make sure you car or truck is ready with winter tires, ice scrapers, a shovel, that fluid levels are up to snuff, (the car’s, not yours,) and your windshield wipers are up to the wintertime task.

Imagine you left work and found all your holiday shopping complete and waiting for you in your car? All you have to do is drive the stuff home. Volvo has teamed up with some retailers and a logistics supplier in Sweden to have Christmas toys, gifts, food and drinks delivered to its vehicles. As a result, you will miss crowds of stressed people, the hunt for a parking space, clerks who do not know how to ring up a sale, and all the other less desirable aspects of holiday shopping. Volvo owners just choose the in-car delivery option at the online checkout when they buy their gifts. A digital key is used to gain one-time access to the vehicle, owners receive a notification that the goods have been delivered and just drive home with them. Volvo said the concept may one day spread to the U.S.

There have been predictions in the European press that the Volkswagen diesel pollution matter might spur further development of all-electric cars and spell the demise of the diesel engine. Audi of America President Scott Keogh said by the year 2025 at least 25 percent of its sales will come from electric vehicles. It will launch a plug-in hybrid later this year and a full electric SUV by 2018. And early next year, the redesigned Toyota Prius will hit U.S. showrooms.

 

Saturday Road Test – Scion iM

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Scion iM

Bang for the Buck

First Drive

By Ron Amadon

BOYDS, MD. – For many first time buyers the bottom line moves up to the top line because tight budgets matter.

So let’s go right to the bottom line MSRP for this 2016 offering from Scion: $19,594 with transportation. These days anytime you can get decent looking wheels for under $20K, well that’s news.

And there is a nice list of standard equipment:

Power folding heated mirrors, dual zone climate control, LED running lights, rear view camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a 7 inch touchscreen. There is a six speaker audio system with HD radio and Aha streaming. Navi is optional. Options on the first drive test car included $185 floor mats, $65 wheel locks, and an $89 Rear Bumper Protector.

A nice interior touch is a cushioned pad along the center console for the driver’s leg. I can’t understand why that small feature is not included in more cars. And Scion is the only maker in this market range to offer two years of free scheduled maintenance.

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Power, such as it is, comes from a 1.8-liter four with 137 horsepower @ 6,100 rpm and 126 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Consumers can choose either a slick six speed manual or a CVT. I would recommend the stick to add a sporty touch to an economy runabout and to extract maximum performance out of the iM.

There really is the need for another 10 to 20 horsepower here even at the risk of losing an MPG or three. But one can manage with what’s on hand considering this is designed to be a suburban errand running, commuter car.

Take it out on the interstate and the MPG hits 36 according to the EPA compared to 27 around town for a combined 31 mpg. That is something to be considered if the price of petrol takes another giant leap upward one day.

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The iM interior is nicely trimmed with supportive and comfortable buckets, and 60/40 folding rear seats for additional cargo space. Two urbanites seeking a weekend in the country should find ample storage to the rear.

They would discover a ride that is neither sporty side stiff, or on the wallow side soft. Interior noise levels were on the quiet side for this price range and there is excellent small item storage up front.

Scion provides seating for five, while four might be more comfortable, but no one should ever go thirsty with eight cup holders spread around the interior. There is about 21 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, a bit on the small side.

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Based on the Toyota Auris that is sold in Europe and Japan, the iM rides on a 102.4 inch wheelbase and is 170.5 inches long, or about the size of a Hyundai Accent. A bit of a surprise, since, to my eyes, it appears to be a larger car.

The bottom line is a slick looking commuter vehicle squarely aimed at a younger demographic on a budget. A set of wheels that also promises a long and trouble free driving experience.

It is a Toyota after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Nov. 20 – A big day for VW & Ford

 

A couple of things you should know about today.

Today is the deadline for Volkswagen to submit a draft plan to regulators on how it will fix four cylinder diesels that the EPA and California Air Resources Board said exceed pollution regulations. VW’s board has agreed to cut spending by $1 billion next year as it sets aside funds to deal with the pollution problem. At this stage, there are only estimates on the total costs for dealing with the problem.

Will Ford reach agreement with the United Auto Workers on a new four year labor agreement? It is a close call, and members of the local at the Rouge Complex, some 8,000 of them, will decide the tentative contract’s future when they finish voting today.

Some final items from the Los Angeles Show:

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Scion displayed the C-HR Concept aimed at “young urban creative” customers who like to stand out from the crowd. The C-HR or Compact – High Ride is built on Toyota’s new Global Architecture with increased body rigidity, and less body movement and roll in cornering. Beyond that, we don’t know much about it except for this line – “More information about the timing and technical specifications for the C-HR will be available when the production version debuts in 2016.”

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The Chevy Volt was named the 2016 Green Car of the Year, the second time it has taken home the award. The Green Car Journal cited a host of improvements in the latest model including more energy-dense batteries, new electric motors and quicker acceleration. Other finalists were the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata and Audi A3 E-Tron.

Elsewhere:

Car and Driver has announced its Top Ten winners for 2016. They are:

BMW M235i

Cadillac CTS Vsport

Chevrolet Camaro

Ford Mustang Shelby GT350/GT350R

Honda Accord

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda 3

Porsche Boxster/Cayman

Tesla Model S 70/70D

Volkswagen Golf/GTI/ Golf R

This marks the 19th year in a row that the Accord has made C&D’s Top Ten and the Porsche Boxster/Cayman has been on the list for a decade. You can find out more in the January 2016 edition of the magazine.

It is worth noting that the three best-selling vehicles in this country so far this year are trucks – The Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and Ram trucks in that order. Toyota’s Camry remains the top selling car. Ram is the official truck of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade which means it will be towing a lot of floats.

Among Fortune magazine’s predictions for the New Year is that Apple will buy Tesla. Fortune said Apple can afford it to jump start its move to build an electric car.

 

 

 

Auto News for Nov. 19 – L.A. Update

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Jaguar Land Rover unveiled its first luxury compact convertible SUV not at the auto show, but on the beach in Santa Monica with Bond star Naomie Harris. The Evoque Convertible will go on sale next spring. With seating for four, the new model features a Z-fold flush fabric roof that will lower in 18 seconds and rise in 21. The glass rear window is heated. There is a 10.2 inch touchscreen with the firm’s new InControl Touch Pro infotainment system with 3G connectivity. Land Rover insists the Evoque has the off road capability that its products are known for. Power comes from a four cylinder “petrol” engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Pricing will be announced later.

2017 Mercedes-AMG SL65

And speaking of convertibles, Mercedes displayed an SL that will launch in the U.S. in the spring with a more powerful engine, a new transmission and “Active Body Control.” The SL450 gets a V6 up rated to 362 horsepower, a gain of 34, while the SL gets a 449 horsepower V8, both with a 9-speed transmission. A wide variety of engine, transmission, and steering selections await the operator’s whimsy. If all that is not enough, the V12 powered SL65 is still in the lineup with 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque. A couple of nifty interior features are an analog clock and an available 900- watt Bang & Olufsen sound system with a dozen speakers and tweeters with LED light strips. With any kind of options, look for a six figure price tag.

2017 Elantra Sedan

Hyundai displayed a reworked 2017 Elantra offered with a 1.4-liter turbo four with 128 horsepower or a 2.0-liter four with 147 ponies under the hood. The 2.0 liter comes with either a six speed manual or six speed automatic and the 1.4 with a seven speed dual clutch automatic. Look for the new model to appear in January. Premium features include a driver’s seat memory, dual automatic temperature control, and “advanced ergonomic front seats.”

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Over at Mazda the redesigned three-row midsized crossover known as the CX-9 came into view. Sales will start next spring with a new 2.5-liter direct-injection turbo four engine. While it produces only 250 horsepower on premium unleaded, it cranks out 310 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm. The idea, Mazda said, is to produce the most torque low in the rpm range where a majority of drivers spend their time. Check the box for the new Signature interior trim and pick up some items that might surprise you in a Mazda such as real Rosewood trim, French stitching, and Nappa leather. It should be more peaceful inside thanks 53 pounds of additional sound deadening material and acoustic laminated glass.

The new 2016 Nissan Sentra exterior redesign brings its appearance closer in look and feel to its more upscale showroom siblings. All three Nissan sedans – Maxima, Altima and now Sentra – reflect Nissan’s new design language first introduced on the dramatic Nissan Murano crossover. Key features of the 2016 Sentra exterior include a new front fascia, grille, fenders, hood and signature boomerang-shaped headlights. New LED low-beam headlights with LED signature accents are offered on Sentra SR and Sentra SL grades. In the rear, a new fascia with redesigned boomerang-shaped taillights adds a more premium appearance. There are also two new 17-inch wheel designs for SR and SL grades, as well as a new SV 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheel design.

Nissan showed off a revamped Sentra with front end styling like the Maxima. New interior appointments were added with a TFT-type LCD flat panel display and available Siri Eyes Free Voice Recognition. More safety equipment has been added including Intelligent Cruise Control and Forward Emergency Braking. The current powertrain is carried over – a 1.8-liter, 130 horsepower four with a six-speed manual available on base models, and a CVT on more upscale choices. Nissan said prices will start at $17,605 when the Sentra goes on sale by the end of the year.

Concept 26

At the Volvo stand was the Concept 26, a look at what interiors might look like when people don’t have to focus on the task of driving. That is a 25 inch flat screen monitor that flips up from the passenger side dashboard. There are three interior modes. The Drive Mode is about the same is what we have now with a human in control. The Create Mode is for autonomous operation and allows the driver to read, work on their next big product or whatever. The Relax Mode reclines the driver’s seat and the car can suggest appropriate media for the right mood.

The All – New 2017 Buick LaCrosse

Truly new is the 2017 Buick LaCrosse with “sweep sphere” styling that will set the pace for other models to follow. The new sedan on the block is 300 pounds lighter and gets a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 305 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque that GM claims will top the current model in fuel economy of 36 mpg on the highway. Inside there will be a choice of three trim levels, including upgraded leather seats with massage and even paddle shifts. One option for those in states where the snow flies will be All-Wheel Drive. Look for the LaCrosse early next summer.

More to come!

Auto News for Nov. 18

The first pot of coffee had not been brewed at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and yet we can tell you about some of the stars of the Tinsel Town extravaganza.

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It has been no secret that Ford wants to breathe new life into the Lincoln brand. It took the first step with the MKZ sedan that should arrive in showrooms next summer. Gone is the old split-wing grille, with the 2017 MKZ displaying a style much like the well received Continental concept car. Where the top engine in the current model delivers 300 horsepower, the MKZ will get an exclusive 3.0-liter V6 at 400 horsepower when it is matched up with all-wheel-drive. There is also 400 lb-ft of torque. There will also be a hybrid alternative and Lincoln will offer three new Black Label trim packages plus two Revel audio systems.

2016 Honda Civic Coupe

The 2016 Honda Civic coupe will make its initial public appearance featuring the first turbo engine for that model. It will be offered on mid to the highest trims – a 1.5-liter direct-injected turbo with 174 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The base engine will be a 2.0-liter VTEC turning out 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. Honda claims interior space is up by 8.4 cubic feet with rear legroom gaining a not insignificant 5 inches. Android Auto or Apple CarPlay is available along with an embedded navi system by Garmin. The new coupe will launch in March.

Honda also announced that the platform underpinning the Clarity Fuel Cell sedan will also serve as the foundation for a next-generation plug-in hybrid that will launch by 2018.

Fiat 124

Fiat worked with Mazda to come up with a new model 124 Spider with a unique exterior design and a very MX-5 Miata interior and underpinnings. The 2017 model makes its debut today in L.A. and will be powered not by a Mazda engine, but the 1.4-liter four out of the Fiat 500 Abarth. It is rated at 160 horsepower with 184 lb-ft of torque or 15 more horsepower and 36 more lb-ft of torque than the Mazda. The 124 Spider is also five inches longer and will come with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The original 124 of the late 60’s was one of this writer’s favorite cars, reliability problems and all.

Created for a new generation of premium buyers who appreciate category-defying design inside and out, the Infiniti QX30 boasts a purposeful appearance that makes a bold visual statement as part of Infiniti’s premium model line-up.

Making its global debut and aimed squarely at Generations X and Y, Infiniti will unveil the QX30 “Premium Active Crossover.” The QX30 is said to bridge the gap between premium compact rivals and larger crossover vehicles. Prior to the formal introduction, powertrain details were not available but the guessing is it will be the 2.0-liter four rated at 208 horsepower that is included in the Q30 hatchback. Look for the QX30 in showrooms in the second quarter of 2016.

Other debuts include the 2017 Buick LaCrosse, 2016 Mazda CX-9, 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, the 2016 Nissan Sentra, and the new 2016 BMW 7-Series will make its North American debut.

BMW 7 series

It is 190 pounds lighter thanks in part to a “Carbon Core Passenger Cell,” and will offer Gesture Control, (no not that gesture), wireless charging and an MSRP of $82,295 for the 740i. Also making its North American debut is the 3 Series eDrive plug in hybrid.

BMW claims a 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds from a power system that consists of a twin turbo four rated at 248 horsepower aided by an electric motor. Total range is said to be about 370 miles. In all-electric mode, about 22 miles can be driven before its partner in power kicks in. Base price for the hybrid is $44,695 and it will arrive in the U.S. in the spring of 2016.

Auto sales may peak in 2016 without heavy incentives from manufacturers, according to Steven Szakaly, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Sales will increase to 17.7 units next year, he predicts, a gain of 2.3 percent over this year. But he said sales cannot be maintained at that level due to a number of factors including expected higher interest rates and wage and income pressure.