Auto News for May 31

Auto News for May 31

Those who have been following this column know that I love starting off with interesting new models and concepts.

L500-V1 L500-v4

The Peugeot L550 R Hybrid concept certainly fits that description. It is very low to the ground and will do a 0-62 mph run in a scant 2.5 seconds its maker says. The 500 horsepower plug-in hybrid also sports two electric motors, one front and one rear plus a 270 hp gas engine. Because it is dubbed a hybrid race car it seats only one and you will note the lack of a conventional steering wheel. Two holograms show information in dual disc displays and it offers a virtual co-pilot an amplified real-time racing experience through a virtual reality headset. It is pictured with the L45 that won the Indy 500 on May 30, 1916 backed by a team called the “Charlatans.” We have come a long way in 100 years.

Global fiscal year sales rose 13 percent at Jaguar-Land Rover, but a charge for the Takata airbag recall in the U.S. cut into earnings. Sales in North America rose a not insignificant 27 percent thanks to a sharp increase in demand for Jags.

July 29 will be a big day for Tesla for that is when it will host the grand opening of its giga-battery factory outside Reno. The word came in an email to customers.

Fiat Chrysler is implementing a second shift and recalling about 500 workers to assemble its Maserati Levante SUV in Italy. It will arrive here by early October and enter European showrooms this spring. Here at home, the Levante will carry a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 good for either 345 horsepower or 424 horsepower. Prices will start at $83,000 according to the Detroit News.

The first recorded automobile accident involving two vehicles occurred on May 28, 1896 in New York City. Henry Wells of Springfield, Massachusetts was driving a new Duryea Motor Wagon, the first automobile model to be made and sold in the U.S. Unfortunately, he collided with Evelyn Thomas of New York, riding a bicycle. Thomas went to the hospital with a broken leg, and Wells spent the night in jail. This from the Census Bureau.

 

 

Saturday First Look – 2017 Nissan GT-R

The new GT-R boasts a thoroughly refreshed exterior look that adds a high sense of style to what is already considered one of the most distinctive-looking sports cars in the marketplace.

2017 Nissan GT-R

First Look

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – One of the more memorable drives over the past decade of my testing cars was a week behind the wheel of the GT-R.

A stop at a convenience store/gas station in West Virginia resulted in the car being surrounded by people asking, “Please, can I take a picture of your car?”

I told my wife after the GT-R finished posing, “I think they liked it.” The reaction was the same where ever we went in the still new to the market sports car.

The new GT-R boasts a thoroughly refreshed exterior look that adds a high sense of style to what is already considered one of the most distinctive-looking sports cars in the marketplace.

Now for 2017 Nissan has updated the car especially in the interior. There is a new dashboard with a “horizontal flow,” (Nissan’s term), and lots of leather while the center stack layout has been simplified with the number of navi and audio controls reduced from 27 switches to only 11.

The 2017 Nissan GT-R NISMO’s front end features a freshened face highlighted by an aggressive new fascia. To help cool the car’s high-output engine, the dark chrome “V-motion” grille has been enlarged to collect more air, without diminishing the car’s aerodynamic performance. A new significantly reinforced hood avoids deformation at extremely high speeds, allowing it to keep its aerodynamic shape. Unlike the standard model, the front bumper of the GT-R NISMO – crafted with Takumi-like precision – feature layers of carbon-fiber sheets carefully overlapped to achieve the ideal amount of stiffness.

An enlarged 8-inch touch panel monitor features larger icons and “dials are now machined from real aluminum alloy,” the maker said. Shift paddles are now mounted on the new steering wheel allowing drivers to change gears in mid-turn without having to take their hands off the wheel.

I thought the interior looked like a nice update from the original 2009 offering.

And there is more power. The 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged engine is now rated at 565 horsepower at 6,800 rpm with 467 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 20 HP and 4 lb-ft. Nissan said maximum torque output is now available across a wider range of the powerband.

If you want to impress the folks at work gathered around the coffee pot, the engine’s name is actually “VR38DETT.” Each engine is hand-assembled from beginning to end in a special clean room and the name of the craftsman is included on a plaque located to the front of each engine. Kind of a nice credit.

And then there is the NISMO, the GT-R’s performance mow-cheen. The 2017 model just made its world debut at the Nurburgring Ring in Germany.

The 2017 Nissan GT-R NISMO’s front end features a freshened face highlighted by an aggressive new fascia. To help cool the car’s high-output engine, the dark chrome “V-motion” grille has been enlarged to collect more air, without diminishing the car’s aerodynamic performance. A new significantly reinforced hood avoids deformation at extremely high speeds, allowing it to keep its aerodynamic shape. Unlike the standard model, the front bumper of the GT-R NISMO – crafted with Takumi-like precision – feature layers of carbon-fiber sheets carefully overlapped to achieve the ideal amount of stiffness.

“The GT-R NISMO emphasizes the ‘R’ in its nomenclature. Its direct ties with racing make it at home on any racetrack, providing the highest levels of excitement and exhilaration for the driver. With the 2017 GT-R as a starting point, the new NISMO version has become a more well-balanced machine …” said Hiroshi Tamura, Chief Product Specialist, GT-R.

Nissan did not release details of any hot laps around the famed track. It said changes to shock absorbers, springs and stabilizers result in improved slalom times and cornering performance – both increase by two percent.

The power of the twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 remains at an awesome 600 horsepower and the tranny is a 6-speed dual clutch.

Of course it gets the interior upgrades of the base model, along with Alcantara suede and leather Recaro seats.

The 2017 Nissan GT-R NISMO’s front end features a freshened face highlighted by an aggressive new fascia. To help cool the car’s high-output engine, the dark chrome “V-motion” grille has been enlarged to collect more air, without diminishing the car’s aerodynamic performance. A new significantly reinforced hood avoids deformation at extremely high speeds, allowing it to keep its aerodynamic shape. Unlike the standard model, the front bumper of the GT-R NISMO – crafted with Takumi-like precision – feature layers of carbon-fiber sheets carefully overlapped to achieve the ideal amount of stiffness.

Up front a larger grille will allow more air in to keep things cool, there is a reinforced hood, and the front bumper now is made of carbon-fiber sheets.

No performance figures have been released for the 2017.   You are most likely looking at a zero to 60 in about 3 seconds.

For a 2016 model, prices started at $101,770 for the base model and $149,990 for the NISMO.

It has been my experience that they are both well worth the investment if you like to drive.

 

 

 

 

 

Auto News for May 27

 Kia Hamsters  

 Kia is bringing back the hamsters!!! They will appear in a 60-second “Soul Jam” ad that will debut on more than 34,000 movie screens today. It will bring together 30 different musical instruments representing more than 20 cultures around the world, promoting the Kia Soul, or what the maker calls an “urban passenger vehicle.” It begins with Nathaniel Rateliff, front man of Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, trading guitar licks with a banjo-playing hamster. You can see an extended version of the ad on YouTube.com/Kia. This should be fun.

 GM has confirmed it will stop making the Buick Verano, the brand’s entry level sedan. Production will end in October after a short output of 2017 models. The Detroit News said sales were off nearly 12 percent through April. GM said it wants to put more investment dollars into development of hot selling SUV’s.

 Ford said it has a plug-in hybrid that can go further than any other. The 2017 Fusion Energi can travel 610 miles on a full tank of gas and battery charge, according to EPA estimates. That would mean it could travel from San Diego to San Francisco with 110 miles of range remaining. Changes to the car’s hybrid powertrain software and regenerative braking were cited for the range extension.

 Even with the price of premium gas hitting $3 a gallon in many locations, many consumers are not worried about the price of a fill up as they hit the road for the long holiday weekend. If you are, Consumer Reports said the Toyota Prius gets the best mileage of many mass produced car it has ever tested at 52 mpg. That is a single mpg over the 2000 Honda Insight.

 Hyundai is adding smartphone integrations to several existing models via a do-it-yourself installation. The software update is compatible with CarPlay and Android auto and is available free through MyHyundi.com. Existing owners can now get the most out of their smartphones, by simply loading new software into their cars’ infotainment systems. Just a few years ago, they would have had to buy a new car to get such an upgrade. Hyundai said.

 I will bet a lot of us did not have this expectation, but a new survey concludes that one in three teens expect to receive a car or truck, or help paying for one, as a high school graduation present. That according to a survey conducted by Junior Achievement and Honda Finance. But only 14 percent fully understood the cost of vehicle ownership.

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 My best wishes for an excellent and safe holiday weekend. But do take a moment to reflect on the meaning of this holiday and remember the men and women who gave their lives in defense of our country. We should never forget those who gave their all.

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The Auto News column will resume on Tuesday, May 31.

 

Auto News for May 25 – Muscle Cars Crash Tested

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The ZL1 features a supercharged LT4 6.2L V-8 Small Block engine, with intake and exhaust systems tailored for Camaro. It is rated at an estimated 640 horsepower (477 kW) and 640 lb-ft of torque (868 Nm), backed by a standard six-speed manual transmission or all-new, available paddle-shift 10-speed automatic. The 10-speed automatic has 7.39 overall ratio for smaller steps between gears. It enables the LT4 engine to remain at optimal rpm levels during acceleration, particularly when exiting corners, for quicker laps and lightning-quick responses on both up- and down-shifts.

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

 

The Ford Mustang came the closest to earning a Top Safety Pick Award, while the Camaro fell short in one category and lacks an available front crash prevention system. The Dodge Challenger is most in need of improvement, said the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety after conducting crash tests on the three muscle cars. The Mustang is just one good rating away from earning the IIHS top rating but falls short in the small overlap crash test. The Camaro came up short only on the matter of roof strength while the Challenger received only a marginal rating in the small overlap test. Roof strength, head restraints and seats were rated only acceptable.

From left, Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group, takes delivery of 2017 Acura NSX, VIN 001, from Acura NSX Engineering Large Project Leader Clement D'Souza.

Rick Hendrick is the happy owner of the first Acura NSX supercar to roll off the assembly line in Marysville, Ohio. He made the winning bid of $1.2 million at an auction in January with all proceeds going to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.  VIN 001 features exclusive interwoven wheels, carbon ceramic brake rotors, leather and Alcantara interior trim and carbon fiber upgrades including the engine cover, roof, and rear decklid spoiler. Each NSX engine is machine balanced, bench tested and broken-in to the equivalent of 150 miles of service to ensure that every NSX engine is track-ready upon customer delivery. Hendrick, owner of the motorsports and automotive group that bears his name, is shown taking delivery of the car from Acura’s Clement D’Souza.

A German newspaper said the emission control system on a Fiat shut down after 22 minutes of testing, or two minutes after the end of the standard test. That allowed the release of more nitrogen oxide than allowed, the report said. With the news, FCA shares closed sharply lower Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. FCA said its vehicles do not have a mechanism to either detect they are being tested or to active a function to operate emission controls only under lab testing. German and Italian government officials are now in talks, since Fiats are made in Italy, and tested by the government there.

Volkswagen has made a $300 million investment in ride-hailing app Gett that operates in 60 cities including New York. It provides on-demand rides in cars with licensed drivers and no surge pricing. Gett is quite active in Europe. Toyota has announced a partnership with Uber and made an investment in the company. The amount of that investment was not made public.

VW and lawyers representing the owners of diesel powered cars are on track to meet a June deadline for a final settlement proposal, according to the Los Angeles Times. Judge Charles Breyer said the parties have made substantial progress but offered no further details. A previously disclosed tentative deal would give owners the option of having their cars repaired or bought back by VW, but a number of details are to be worked out.  The two sides are facing a June 21 deadline for an agreement.

Not sure what to make of this, but LendingTree said Millennials in Memphis, Milwaukee and St. Louis are seeking auto loans more often than their counterparts in any of the nation’s Top 50 cities.

NADA said approximately 31 percent of all trade-ins had negative equity in the last quarter, a better than two percent gain over the first quarter of 2015. This is caused in large part to the decline in used car prices, which means your car is worth less come trade in time. A higher rate of depreciation, combined with increasingly longer loan terms, means it will take consumers longer to reach a point of positive equity in new vehicle loans. The concern among experts is, this will weaken new car sales down the road. J.D. Power is forecasting just a 2 percent gain this year, and only 1 percent 2017.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for May 24 – More Takata Recalls

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 The Takata air bag inflator story is far from over. Toyota is recalling roughly 1.6 million more vehicles here in the U.S. They are:

2009 – 2011 Corolla, Matrix

2006 – 2011 Yaris

2010 – 2011 4Runner

2011 Sienna

2008 – 2011 Scion xB

2007 – 2011 Lexus ES

2010 – 2011 Lexus GX

2006 – 2011 Lexus IS

Owners will be notified by mail to bring their vehicle in for inspection and repair. The potentially faulty inflators have been linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries around the world.

 A new study indicates motorists are not ready yet to embrace self-driving cars. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said 46 percent of the more than 600 people polled showed they would rather do the driving than automation. A total of 39 percent opted for some form of partial self-driving, while 16 percent favored complete self-driving. The results closely mimic a similar survey conducted in 2014. One researcher told the Detroit Free Press that people still want to take control and they’re afraid of truly giving up control.

 The National Safety Council estimates 439 people may be killed and an additional 50,000 seriously injured in accidents during the Memorial Day weekend. That would make it the worst Memorial Day holiday weekend since 2009. So be careful out there. The Council believes the spike in fatal car crashes is due in part to an improving economy with lower gas prices and lower unemployment rates, which result in more people taking to the road.

 The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe and Phantom coupe are being phased out so the last 50 cars will carry something unique. All 50 have been spoken for and they will come with a polished aluminum case on the dash containing pieces of the assembly line where they were built. Autoweek said each item will be laser-engraved with the car’s production number and information on where the part was located on the line.

 

 

Auto News for May 23

Nissan Motor Corporation ofreció un adelanto de lo que exhibirá durante el 44° Auto Show de Tokio, el cual tendrá lugar en el Tokyo Big Sight, la exhibición incluye el vehículo concepto Nissan 2020 Vision Gran Turismo.

Okay admit it, the Nissan Concept 2020 Vision Grand Turismo caught your eye! It will be featured in a new game called “Grand Turismo Sport” and “provides a visualization of what a high performance Nissan could look like in the future,” Nissan said. It added that the designers were given free rein to create the “perfect super car” for their own Gran Turismo fantasy garage.

 A total of 135,000 customers who purchased GM SUV’s with inflated gas mileage on window stickers will be offered either a pre-paid debit card or extended warranties. The debit cards are worth $450 to $900 while the extended warranties will run for 48 months or 60,000 miles. Covered are 2016 Chevy Traverse models, along with the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave. GM said fuel economy was overstated by 1 to 2 miles per gallon.

 

 Toyota is teaming up with investor Dean Kamen to complete the development of a very unique motorized wheelchair. The two sets of powered wheels can be rotated to allow the user to make it up and down stairs. It can rise from a sitting level to about six feet in height and travel in this mode while crossing a wide variety of terrain. Toyota will license balancing technologies held by Kamin’s firm and discuss other mobility assistance technology.

 Honda and driver James Hinchcliffe have claimed the pole position for next weekend’s Indianapolis 500. It is the ninth pole for Honda at the Brickyard.

The Mazda 3 tops Kelley Blue Book’s list of the top “Cool Cars” to own. It is followed by the Honda Civic, Jeep Renegade, VW Golf, and Kia Soul.

Saturday Road Test – Nissan Maxima SR

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                          Nissan Maxima SR

                      A Touch or Three of Sport

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – The Maxima has gained a reputation as an entry level luxury car without tiptoeing into the performance realm. Until now.

 See those little letters above? The SR? That means Nissan engineers have gone tiptoeing. Now this is nothing like Uber suddenly hiring Richard Petty but it does result in a fun to drive sedan that remains luxury oriented.

 What sets the Maxima SR apart is a sport-tuned suspension, Integrated Dynamics-control Module (IDM), a front chassis performance damper, premium Ascot leather-appointed seats with diamond-quilted Alcantara inserts, Climate-controlled front seats, Ascot leather-appointed steering wheel with Alcantara insert, paddle shifters, aluminum sport pedals, Liquid Chrome faceted finishers, LED low beam headlights, 19-inch diamond-cut machined aluminum-alloy wheels and 245/40R19 all-season tires developed uniquely for Maxima.

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 The energetic 3.5-liter V6 gets more than 60 percent new parts such as sodium filled valves but don’t worry, we won’t tell your doctor.

 It is a DOHC 24-valve V-6 with aluminum block and heads, plus port fuel injection, good for 300 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 261 lb-ft of torque @ 4400 rpm. It will gallop to 60 from a standstill in 5.5 seconds or so, and top out at an “Excuse me officer” 135 mph. That is more than ample power for the kind of every day driving that most of us do.

 SR made particularly quick work of getting around a slow moving piece of farm equipment where the operator sat so high in the sky that he probably also qualified to work in an airport control tower.

 Out on the highways with an “I” prefix, the six was just not heard from unless your leg got twitchy.

 It was matched to one of the best CVT’s that I have driven. There was none of the rubber band effect, unlike many others, in fact most passengers will never catch on that it is not a conventional automatic.  

 EPA fuel economy checks in at 22 city, 30 highway for a combined 25 mpg.

 The Xtronic transmission with a wider gear ratio range allows for stronger acceleration from a standing start while the shifting logic allows rapid shifts at high throttle openings. There is also a drive mode selector on board for the first time giving operators the choice of Sport and Normal modes.

 I liked the Sport setting that increases throttle response, with more aggressive shifting under braking and gear loading. The steering gets heftier and the Active Sound Enhancement system allows more engine noise to enter the interior. But never to excess.

 It is a solid build with a 25 percent increase in torsional rigidity, but the car is also 83 pounds lighter thanks to various enhancements.

 Unique to the SR is a larger front stabilizer bar, and suspension damper tuning. One thing that you will notice in daily operation is the so called “Performance Chassis Damper” that helps reduce high frequency vibration in the body that can result from the SR’s stiffer suspension.

 A touch of first class was the Alcantara seating inserts and steering wheel insert. The Zero Gravity Ascot Leather seats were comfortable at first sitting, and remained so with just minor adjustments on a long day in the saddle. The seats were both heated and cooled.

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 The interior, Nissan said, echoes the cockpit design of the Navy’s Blue Angels. Not sure about all that since it never occurred to me to yell “Lift off” at any speed, but the interior was nicely outfitted in quality materials and all of the vital controls were within easy reach and instantly identifiable.

 The center stack is angled seven degrees toward the driver and the console sits higher than the previous model. And the Bose Sound System with 11 speakers was simply outstanding. You might want to take the long way home just to enjoy your favorites. There are two USB ports and a bin large enough to accommodate your iPhone 6 Plus. 

 Two adults will fit just fine to the rear, and three can also ride along for short trip, but the passenger stuck in the middle might not like the shortage of head room.

 The “V-Motion” grille turns some people off, while others see an aggressive design here. Personally, I go with the latter.

 Nissan calls it a “4-door Sports Car.” I am not ready to go that far but all of the work Nissan put into this car shows when you want to make some time on a back road. No BMW here, but a fun to drive sedan with a long, long list of standard equipment.

 In fact, the only option on the “Deep Blue Pearl” test car were floor and trunk mats. The bottom line with delivery came to $38,750.

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 The eighth generation of the Maxima is a product of the Nissan factory in Smyrna, Tennessee.

 

Auto News for May 20 – Volvo Thinks Small

 

Volvo Concept 40.1 front seven-eights

Volvo Concept 40.1 front seven-eights

Volvo Concept 40.2 front

Volvo Concept 40.2 front

   Volvo is expanding its lineup into small cars teasing two “premium” small car concepts based on a new Compact Modular Architecture. The 40 series lineup will include pure battery electrics as well as a twin engine plug-in hybrid. Production will begin in 2017 and they may appear here in the U.S. the following year. We should learn more about them at a formal unveiling next week.

 The Detroit News reports GM will compensate 130,000 buyers of the Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia with price stickers that overstated their fuel economy. Details are expected to be announced next week. GM has said it overstated fuel economy by one to two miles per gallon. It has halted sales for the SUV’s until the proper stickers can be affixed.

 GM’s car sharing program will expand to Boston and Washington, D.C. this summer. Customers will have the option of having their wheels delivered to them. The Maven program is now operating in Chicago with pricing starting at $8 an hour. The program is already up and running in New York and Ann Arbor, Michigan and GM claims members have driven more than one million miles.

 The 2017 Subaru Forester will carry a starting price of $22,595 with what the maker said will be new driver assist technologies, more interior comfort and improved fuel economy. A redesigned grille and redesigned headlights will set the 2017 apart from current models. The Forester gets improved soundproofing in the form thicker door glass and door seals.

 The total balance on auto loans climbed 11.1 percent in the first quarter surpassing the trillion dollar mark for the first time, according to Experian Automotive. Lease loan balances increased 27.5 percent to an all-time high of $76.9 billion. While there were increases in both 30- and 60-day delinquency rates, the overall percentage of total delinquent loans remains relatively low when compared to pre-recession levels. Banks continued to hold the top position in auto loan and lease volumes.

 

 

Auto News for May 19

  So what happened to Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond after they were ousted from Top Gear? They moved to Amazon Prime streaming and just confirmed their new show will debut in the fall and be called “The Grand Tour” according to “Car” magazine. Each program will originate from a different country, hence the name. Top Gear, with hosts Chris Evans and Matt Leblanc among others, will debut on the BBC May 29th.

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Cadillac has ended production of its electric ELR model due to slow sales. Caddy will produce a plug-in version of the CT6 sedan later this year.

Tesla Model 3

 Tesla will make a $2 billion stock offering to help fund its ambitious production schedule and to bring the new, and lower cost, Model 3 to market. The company said customers cut about 8,000 orders for the Model 3 and Tesla eliminated another 4,200 orders saying that were most likely duplicates. That leaves about 373,000 orders.

 I missed the birthday celebration but do want to mention that ACDelco is now 100 years old. It was founded in May of 1916 by William C. “Buddy” Durant to provide a single source for service and replacement parts to the growing number of car buyers. The brand flew over the Atlantic with Charles Lindberg, on the race track with Dale Earnhardt and into out space on Apollo moon missions.

 The carbon-fibered-bodied Ford GT will also offer carbon fiber wheels. But it is not the first. Carbon fiber wheels were also featured on the 2015 Shelby GT350R Mustang. On the GT they will be offered in either matte or a glossy clear coat. Of course, the big advantage is weight saving.