Auto News for Sept. 30 – Wild New Ram

Ram Rebel TRX Concept

This is one truckin’ Friday

 The Ram Rebel TRX concept is an engineering, design and consumer-interest study for an extreme performance half-ton pickup. A supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V-8 delivers 575 horsepower, the most powerful factory-engineered half-ton pickup ever, said Fiat Chrysler. It features an eight speed automatic with paddle shifts, more than 13 inches of wheel travel at all four corners, and is six inches wider than the standard Ram 1500. The truck was built specifically for the 2016 State Fair of Texas and is one mean looking pickup.


 Ford announced horsepower and torque ratings for the 2017 F-150 Raptor. Equipped with the new 3.5-liter twin-turbo six the Raptor is good for 510 lb-ft of torque and 450 horsepower. It will be married to a 10-speed automatic and a six mode Terrain management System. The dual-mode transfer case supplies clutch-driven, on-demand all-wheel drive capability for everyday driving regardless of road conditions, while also providing a mechanically-locked, durable four-wheel drive system for severe, off-road fun. Ford said the truck will carry an MSRP of less than $50,000 when it goes on sale later this year.

2017 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD HighCountry

 Not to be left out of this party, Chevrolet has announced a redesigned Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 turbo diesel for the Silverado that it said offers more horsepower and torque than ever – 445 horsepower with 910 lb-ft of torque. That is a 19 percent gain in max torque over the current Duramax diesel. Engine noise has been reduced 38 percent at idle with 90 percent of peak torque is available at 1,550 rpm through 2,850 rpm. And that hood scoop you see in the picture actually works for cooler engine temperatures during trailering on steep grades for instance.

 Mercedes and Renault have reaffirmed their alliance and announced at the Paris Auto Show that the first Mercedes-Benz pickup truck is on track and will be produced at the Alliance’s production facilities in Spain and Argentina. At this point, it appears the 1-ton truck will not be offered here. Mercedes will offer more information in October.




Auto News for Sept. 29 – VW electric, BMW X2 Concept, Hypercar From Mercedes


Autodesk VRED Professional 2016 SP1

Autodesk VRED Professional 2016 SP1


 Volkswagen has unveiled a concept electric car at the Paris Auto Show with a production model debuting in 2020 with a range of 249 to 373 miles. It will use a 168 horsepower electric motor and give the “first tangible glimpse of fully automated driving, a mode that will be offered from 2025 onwards.” VW said the “I.D.” will carry a price that is “on a par” with comparable Golf models. VW has a goal of selling a million electric cars a year by 2015.

p90232966_highres_bmw-concept-x2-09-20 p90232967_highres_bmw-concept-x2-09-20

 Also at the Mondial de l’Automobile Paris BMW presented the Concept X2, a “compact concept exuding urban sporting appeal.” Meant to be an alternative to the X1, the two carries design elements that set it apart from other Bimmers. The front-end design of the BMW Concept X2 “fuses dynamic elements with a robust use of forms,” the maker said. There was no mention of powertrains or interior fittings from BMW.

Honda Civic Type R Prototype


 Honda showed off the next generation Civic Type R “in prototype form” that will make its North American debut at the 2016 SEMA show in November. This will be the first Type R to come to these shores. Look for the production model in 2017. The 2017 Civic Type R will be produced exclusively at the Honda of the UK Manufacturing plant in Swindon. Honda released no powertrain specs either.


 Mercedes confirmed that it is working with AMG to produce a high performance car. How high performance? Well, it will carry the powertrain of the Mercedes Formula 1 car, or about 1,000 horsepower inside a carbon fiber body, and ready to take on the LaFerrari and the McLaren P1. No indication of when it might appear on the market, at a hypercar price no doubt. For now all we have is the teaser sketch revealed in Paris.

 It is the first license restricted to an autonomous vehicle and it goes to former Indy Racing driver Sam Schmidt, according the Detroit News. Schmidt was injured in an accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He now will be able to drive on Nevada roads in a specially designed Corvette and control the vehicle using hand motions. Since the accident, the newspaper said, Schmidt has raced a sailboat, run a racing team and headed up a foundation.









Auto News for Sept. 28 – Most Drivers Want Some Control

 Sixty-two percent of those surveyed by Kelly Blue Book do not think they will live to see a world where all vehicles are fully autonomous. Eighty percent believe people should always have the option to drive themselves. The survey was conducted for KBB by the market research firm Vital Findings. Six out of ten admitted they know little or nothing about autonomous vehicles. However … Respondents in the tech-savvy pre-driving Gen Z (12-15 years old) age range are ready to get on board with autonomy and consider themselves the most educated about autonomous vehicles. The majority (67 percent) of pre-driving Gen Z respondents believe they will see fully autonomous vehicles in their lifetime. Overall, more than 2,200 people were surveyed between the ages of 12-64.

 The Paris Auto Show opens to the press tomorrow, and one highlight will be a very futuristic electric concept car from Mercedes. You can see the teaser video at:

 Mercedes was quite tight lipped about any details prior to the show but it is clear from the video this is a concept, and not a production ready vehicle.

 The mayor of Paris has introduced vehicle free days for parts of the city, and is calling for an end to diesel powered vehicles and adoption of more all electric cars and trucks for environmental reasons. GM will display the European version of the upcoming electric, the Chevy Bolt. Volkswagen will show two electrics as it tries to rebuild its image from the ongoing diesel emissions scandal. And how do you feel about a four door Ferrari? It is called the GTC4Lusso, and it will make its debut in Paris sporting a robust 602 horsepower. Should be adequate!

 And this just in: Porsche has confirmed it will display the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. It will deliver a system power of 462 horsepower thanks to a combination of a 2.9-liter V6 with a 100-kW electric motor. The maximum torque of the vehicle is 516 lb.-ft. with an electric range of up to 31 miles.

 Motorcyclist magazine has named the Triumph Street Twin as its 2016 motorcycle of the year.










Auto News for Sept. 27 – New Jeep Compass

  Since debates are the talk of the town this morning, we should remember some ongoing and perhaps never ending debates among auto buffs. Such as:

 Chevy vs. Ford vs. Ram trucks

 Mustang vs. Camaro

 BMW vs. Mercedes for best-selling luxury car

 And to some degree, the debate over whether to buy a domestic brand over an imported one, and what exactly is an imported brand with so many assembly plants here in the U.S.

 Should any of this erupt into a prime time nationally televised debate, I nominate Bob Lutz to be the moderator!

Jeep® Compass Limited

Jeep® Compass Trailhawk

Jeep Compass Trailhawk

 Fiat Chrysler has released pictures of the redesigned 2017 Jeep Compass that will make its stateside debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The global debut took place in Brazil where the Jeep will be manufactured for some world markets, while the U.S. version will be manufactured in Mexico. The Detroit News said the new Jeep will go on sale here in the first quarter of the New Year. Beyond that, FCA released no further details on the vehicle, so enjoy the pictures Jeep fans.


 Mazda customers who were sent an invitation now have an opportunity to place an order for the 1,000 MX-5 RF Launch Edition vehicles. This is the MX-5 “retractable fastback.” Pricing will start at $33,850 for a six speed manual and $34,925 for the six speed automatic. Delivery will begin in February 2017 and continue through the spring. Buyers will receive a custom-designed, serialized 42mm Tourneau watch to complement his or her purchase.

 September auto sales will decline almost one percent according to forecasters at J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. It would be the fifth month in the last seven to show a decline. Deirdre Borrego, senior vice president and general manager of automotive data and analytics at J.D. Power, said: “The industry can be viewed through two competing perspectives. The first is that in absolute terms, the industry is performing at an exceptional level. While sales have fallen slightly, they are at near-record levels and transaction prices are at all-time highs. The second is less positive. With the rate of growth slowing, leading indicators are pointing to challenges ahead. Specifically in September, incentive spending is at an all-time high.”




As they once said in television, “due to circumstances beyond our control” there will be no road test feature today. It will resume on Oct. 1.

Auto News for Sept. 23 – Apple-McLaren Marriage? 2018 Chevy Already!


 The hot rumor of the morning, well in fact the entire month, has Apple showing more than a candid interest in McLaren. Various reports say Apple either wants to take control of the British based supercar maker, or acquire a substantial interest in the firm. McLaren denies that such talks are underway but added that it has confidential conversations with a wide range of parties. One expert told the CBC that Apple is most likely interested in McLaren’s patents and its racing endeavor as it marches down the road toward producing its own car, in cahoots with a partner. Still other reports have Apple eyeing Tesla.

The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is a fresh and modern SUV sized and designed to meet the needs of the compact SUV customer. Its expressive exterior has an all-new, athletic look echoing the global Chevrolet design cues seen on vehicles such as the Cruze, Bolt EV and 2017 Trax.

The interior of the recently unveiled 2018 Chevrolet Equinox takes advantage of the Equinox’s all-new architecture to offer a down-and-away instrument panel, while a low windshield base provides a commanding outward view.

 On the Autumnal Equinox General Motors unveiled the completely redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Equinox in Chicago, one of the crossover’s best markets. The 2018 loses about 400 pounds, 4 inches in overall length, and picks up 1.6 liter turbo diesel engine, the first turbo-diesel in North America. Other engines include a 1.5 liter turbo and a 2.0-liter turbo. The 1.5 is listed at 170 horsepower, while the 2.0 liter jumps that to 252 horsepower. Diesel fans get 136 horsepower with an estimated 236 lb-ft of torque. All three engines will come with a 9-speed automatic. Estimated gas mileage, all highway, is 28 mpg for the 2.0, 31 for the 1.6, and 40 mpg for the diesel. Inside, it features a “down-and-away” instrument panel for improved visibility and a new “kneeling” rear seat where the bottom cushions tilt forward thus creating a flat floor for loading. The new Equinox will appear in the spring of 2017.

 Tesla is suing the state of Michigan over its rejection of a bid to sell its products directly to consumers, and not through a dealer network. Michigan residents who purchase a Tesla now must travel to Ohio to pick up their ride. Michigan has a law requiring vehicles be sold only by franchised dealers, something the company calls the “anti-Tesla” law. “This is not a legitimate government interest under the U.S. Constitution,” the company said.

 Having reached a tentative settlement with GM, the Canadian auto workers union, Unifor, will now begin talks with Fiat Chrysler. It will continue to push for production of new products at Canadian plants.

 Subaru announced that its 2017 Crosstrek will carry a starting price of $21,695, a gain of $100 over the 2016 model.

 It is called “The Ultimate Guide To Taking A Motorcycle Across America,” by Time contributing writer Brian Roberts. The 3,000 mile journey in 14 days is detailed in a 5,000 word story you can read on the Huffington Post. Brian and his co-rider Tim Torres ended up stranded on a highway in Ohio, helped save a life in Chicago, got stopped by a motorcycle gang in Pennsylvania, wandered into an auditorium full of 700 college women in Illinois (long story), talked shop with BBQ pitmasters in St Louis, hiked to the tip of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and much more.



Auto News for Sept. 21 – You Might Be Wasting Money on Gas

 Auto News for Sept. 21

 Motorists have not been worried about the price of a fill up for their trucks and SUV’s of late. But they have wasted more than $2.1 billion by using premium grade gasoline in vehicles that are designed to run on regular fuel, according to AAA. And this adds up. Yours truly saw a sign the other day that indicated premium was selling for 50 cents a gallon more than regular unleaded.

 “Drivers see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and may assume the fuel is better for their vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “AAA cautions drivers that premium gasoline is higher octane, not higher quality, and urges drivers to follow the owner’s manual recommendations for their vehicle’s fuel.”

 “AAA’s tests reveal that there is no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that requires regular fuel,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “Premium gasoline is specifically formulated to be compatible with specific types of engine designs and most vehicles cannot take advantage of the higher octane rating.”

 The Paris Auto Show begins Sept. 29 but there will be no Mazdas, Bentleys, or Lamborghinis on display. They have joined Volvo and Rolls-Royce in sitting out this year’s extravaganza opting instead for less expensive ways to show off their wares and methods that they feel are more effective in reaching target audiences.

 The Department of Transportation is issuing guidelines for automated vehicles, laying a path for safe testing and deployment. The move is designed to build a consistent national framework of laws governing self-driving vehicles, instead of rules that vary from state to state. “There are huge upsides and significant challenges that come with automated vehicle technology, and we will continue the conversation with the public over the coming months and years as this technology develops,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. DOT wants automakers to meet 15 guidelines before they test fully autonomous vehicles on public roads and share safety data.

 The new Chrysler Pacifica has earned a rating of Top Safety Pick + from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It achieved the highest possible score in each of five tests by the IIHS to evaluate crashworthiness.

 Dodge has signed an agreement to become the title rights sponsor of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania. The 32nd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals will be held Sept. 29-Oct. 3.


 For those of us who drove the old VW beetle with a rather, shall we say, lack of any kind of acceleration, this story came as surprise. A specially tuned Beetle has set a new speed record at Bonneville flats of 205.1 miles per hour. That, VW says, makes it the “fastest speed ever documented for a Beetle …” And yes, they did a lot of work on the engine. With new turbochargers, pistons, camshafts, connecting rods, and head modifications, it produced 543 horsepower and 421 pound-feet of torque at the wheels: at the flywheel, that would be more than 600 hp and nearly 500 lb-ft.

 That is a few more ponies than my ’69 black bug. But it did have whitewalls.




Auto News for Sept. 20 – Auto Ownership To Go The Way Of The CD

 Auto ownership to go the way of the CD?

 Autonomous vehicle fleets will quickly become widespread and will account for the majority of Lyft rides with five years, predicts John Zimmer, Co-Founder of Lyft. And by 2025, “private car ownership will all but end in major U.S. cities,” he added.


 “We see car ownership as a burden that is costing the average American $9,000 every year. The car has actually become more like a $9,000 ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life. Owning a car means monthly car payments, searching for parking, buying fuel, and dealing with repairs.”

 What does that mean for cities?

 “The end of private car ownership means we’ll have far fewer cars sitting parked and empty. And that means we’ll have the chance to redesign our entire urban fabric. Cities of the future must be built around people, not vehicles. They should be defined by communities and connections, not pavement and parking spots. They need common spaces where culture can thrive — and where new ideas can be shared in the very places where cars previously stood parked and empty,” he said.

 In short, car ownership will go the way of the CD.

“With Netflix and streaming services, DVD ownership became obsolete. Spotify has made it unnecessary to own CDs and MP3s. Eventually, we’ll look at owning a car in much the same way.”

 He sees autonomous ride sharing as making for sense for those in urban areas.

 “It may shock you, but Americans spend more than $2 trillion every year on car ownership — more money than we spend on food. What’s even more staggering is that for all the money we spend on them, the 250 million cars in America are only occupied 4% of the time. That’s the equivalent of 240 million of the 250 million cars being parked at all times. For the most part, your car isn’t actually a driving machine at all. It’s a parking machine,” he said.

 Car buffs may not like what he said, but it is powerful food for thought. And, of course, Zimmer’s company has a lot to gain if, and when, his predictions come true.


 GM has reached a tentative contract agreement with a major Canadian union thus averting a possible walkout. A union official said the group has received assurances that production will continue at two plants, a key issue for the group. Members must now ratify the tentative agreement that also brings pay raises. “The agreement will enable significant new product, technology and process investments at GM’s Oshawa, St. Catharines and Woodstock facilities, placing those operations at the forefront of advanced manufacturing flexibility, innovation and environmental sustainability,” said GM.

 GM also announced the Chevrolet Bolt will carry a starting price of $37,495 including delivery. That can be reduced to $29,995 when federal tax credits are factored in. The EPA recently announced the all-electric Bolt will have a range of 238 miles on a full charge. It is expected to go on sale later this year.

 Wholesale used car prices fell 2.6 percent in August, the biggest loss record so far this year, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. This covers eight year old or younger used vehicles.

 The largest loss came for luxury vehicles while large pickup prices fell only 1.2 percent.

 “We forecasted vehicle prices would continue to trend downward this past month — and they did,” said Jonathan Banks, vice president of vehicle analysis and analytics at NADA Used Car Guide.

 “The big question everybody is asking is, ‘Will the decline in used vehicle prices accelerate?’ We believe that will be influenced by manufacturers, and how much their incentive spend is on 2017 models,” he said.

Auto News for Sept. 19 GM Faces Strike Deadline – A Slingshot On the Road!!!

 GM and members of a major Canadian labor union are facing a deadline of midnight Tuesday to come to agreement on a new contract, or face the possibility of a strike. Reuter’s reports one major problem is future production at the GM plant in Oshawa, Ontario. The union is seeking assurance that some future models will be produced there, as GM is close to shutting down one production line. Union agreements with Fiat Chrysler and Ford expire on Monday with GM designated the lead company in negotiations.

 Production of the slow selling Dodge Dart will end this month, according to the Detroit Free Press. Analysts said the Dart was offered in an already crowded market and suffered when consumers turned their attention to SUV’s and crossovers and gas prices fell.  

 Not sure why anyone without a Peterbilt in the driveway would want one, but Automotive News reports Honda has filed with the Patent Office in Japan for a three-clutch, 11- speed transmission. AN said that would be a world’s first but Honda did not disclose what products would receive the new transmission.

 An oasis on the road, Sheetz is one of the 2016 Best Workplaces for Women, according to global research and consulting firm Great Place to Work and Fortune. Sheetz, has been ranked twice on the list, which is based on employees’ assessments of communications with management, options for development and training, and support for work/life balance, among other factors. The ranking also takes into account how well-represented women are within the workforce overall and in management and executive positions.


 Saw my first Polaris Slingshot yesterday when I stopped for a quick sandwich at the bustling Sheets in the small railroad oriented town of Brunswick, Maryland. The three-wheeled motorcycle/roadster is powered by an inline four with 173 horsepower and a 0-60 of about 4.5 seconds. It straddles the line between motorcycle and automobile and seats only two. The owner was grumpy but did say he enjoyed his ride very much. Certainly, it was eye catching.



Saturday Road Test – Lexus NX 300h Hybrid – It Pampers




                       Lexus NX 300h

                  Luxury in a Small Package

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – One thing is very obvious when you first enter the Lexus NX 300h – this is a very luxurious hybrid crossover.

 Lots of soft touches, leather and wood, excellent fit and finish and some thoughtful additions put this one far apart from the bare bones trim one might expect in a smaller people mover.

 Items such as heated and cooled seats – that cooling was most welcome on a string of very humid, upper 90 degree days. The hushed interior emphasized the excellent build quality of the NX, no small thing when you have had a crazy day at the office. Or perhaps you want to blast your mind still further with the superb sounds from the upgraded 10-speaker audio system.


 Those “thoughtful additions” included some soft padding along the driver’s side of the center console where your right leg comes in contact with it – beats hard plastic any day. Second was some actual padding in the door and center console arm rests. Such things are rare these days, but they make long drives much more pleasant.

 Mrs. Auto Evaluator liked the centrally located analog clock.

 Power comes from a 154 hp four with 152 lb-ft of torque. Then the hybrid stuff kicks in – three electric motors that bring total system power to 194 horsepower in the all-wheel drive version.


 But it is not enough mainly due to the CVT that produces a lot off revs when pushed, but rather slow forward progress. Lexus puts the 0-60 at 9.1 seconds and that feels about right. There is a Sport driving mode, but it didn’t feel much different than the normal setting. Other choices are Eco, and EV.

 The EPA rates all this at an excellent 33 mpg city, 30 highway for an overall mpg of 32 mpg. I came out at 31.6 mpg. The NX is happy with 87 octane petrol.

 Some other inside notes: A six-foot tall passenger, in fact two of them, will find more than adequate head, foot and knee room in the second row seats that also recline.

 Small item storage was sparse with the wireless charging tray taking up a chunk of space in the center console bin. A tall stack of operator manuals chews up much of the glove box capacity.

 While the 60/40 rear seats are easy to fold, you end up with 53.7 cubic feet of storage – and that is less than competitors offer. Put the seats up, and that reduces storage to 16.8 cubes.

 But the biggest bugaboo was the Remote Touch Interface, more recognizable as a laptop touch pad. It was way too sensitive and distracting to operate while driving.  It controls what pops up on the 7” center dash screen such as navi and audio sources.   

 Our extensively optioned NX came with the Premium Package that added 18” inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, LED daytime running lights, moonroof, and powered 10-way driver’s seat with lumbar support. $2,670.


  One other major addition was the Navigation Package at $1,875 that brings the obvious, plus the Remote Touch Interface, and the upgraded audio system.

 There was also a powered rear hatch, parking assist with clearance and back sonar and the expected safety equipment.

 Looking back at a week at the wheel, it was easy to fall in love with the high quality interior, excellent gas mileage, and serene highway cruising. Should things go to grief, the NX has excellent crash test ratings.

 With that long list of options, the hybrid carried a hefty MSRP of $48,160 but that is in line with the only other luxury compact hybrid on the market, the Audi Q5.

 The NX would make a dandy and economical runabout for a new family looking for a stylish crossover that is sized just right for an urban environment.

 At just 182.3 inches long, it easily fits into parking spaces that would be off limits to your neighbor’s full size SUV. And let us not forget Lexus excellent reliability record and reputation for long years of service.