Auto News for Halloween

 ram-rebel

 Those who live in the Colorado Rockies should know a thing or three about off-road driving. After testing nearly 40 vehicles, auto writers have named the Ram Rebel “Best Off-road Vehicle” for the second year in a row. The truck was cited for its combination of off-road capability, power and comfort, the auto writers said. The group represents journalists from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona.

ford-gtt

 Big event in Las Vegas tomorrow. The opening of the SEMA show where extremely high performance vehicles, both old and new will be displayed. One from Zero to 60 Designs is the GTT – a supercharged 800 horsepower modified Ford Mustang/GT that Zero to 60 will put into limited production early next year. Unfortunately, the company did not release any performance data. But my guess is it will be fast.

 Also at the Specialty Equipment Market Association’s show will be a bunch of modified F-150 trucks, one with a 5.0-liter, 750 horsepower V8.

BISIMOTO SANTA-FAST CONCEPT

Hyundai went to work to produce a wild looking “Santa Fast” 1,075 horsepower rear drive Santa Fe in partnership with Bisimoto. Believe it or not, this one comes with a six speed manual tranny. 

Toyota said it will show off a total of 30 vehicles, some from its past such as “Japan’s First Super Car” the 2000GT. Performance versions of the newer, Land Cruiser, Corolla, Sienna, Tacoma and Prius are promised.

 It should be quite a show. In this case, however, the specialty builders and auto companies backing them, hope that what happens in Vegas, does not stay in Vegas.

 

 

 

Saturday First Look – Volvo S90 T6

Recently I had the chance to spend an entire day sampling a number of cars and trucks along Maryland’s picturesque Chesapeake Bay. Staged by WAPA, a local auto writer’s group, it was an extraordinary event that I want to share with you.

 So in the Saturdays ahead, there will be a series of “First Drive” reports on a van, (of all things), a favorite German sports car, a bold new truck, and today, a Swedish sedan made by a Chinese owned company that sports an interior that should keep German automakers awake nights. 

Interior Blond Volvo S90/V90

                      

                  Volvo S90 AWD Inscription

By Ron Amadon

KENT ISLAND, MD. – In the course of more than a decade of climbing in and out of a wide variety of cars, only a few have made an outstanding first impression based on interior design.

 One that will last forever in the memory bank is the S90, Volvo’s top-of-the-line midsize luxury sedan. From the Nappa glove soft leather covering the seats that are heated and ventilated, with power side support and cushion extension, to the big screen that catches the eye above the center console, you know right away this is a car that will pamper.

 In a stylish fashion leather also covered the dashboard and upper door panels, with splashes of walnut wood inlays.

 If you can’t get quickly comfortable in this car, what Volvo calls a “Scandinavian Sanctuary,” I would recommend an immediate consultation with your local chiropractor.

Interior centre display and air blades Volvo S90/V90

 

 And then there is that 9 inch, really tablet sized screen that handles not only the magnificent Bowers & Wilkins sound system, ($2,650), but also climate controls, phone and navigation. It may also apologize to your aunt for that late birthday card.

 Two adults can get very comfy in the rear seats with 36 inches of legroom, and behind them is a huge trunk capable of hauling home 13.5 cubic feet of whatever.

 The 2.0 liter turbocharged/supercharged 316 horsepower four with 295 lb-ft of torque @ 2,200 rpm had more than enough power for all driving situations in cooperation with a responsive eight-speed automatic. Our test car had all-wheel drive, a good idea now that it’s snowing in New England. To start it, look for the knob on the center console. A thumbwheel nearby selects the drive mode.

 Economy wise –  22 mpg city, 25 highway for a combined 31 mpg.

img_3906img_3910

 Outside, the styling is modern and fresh, and light years away from the Volvos of old that resembled ’41 Fords.

 Of course, being a Volvo, there was a long list of safety equipment including pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection. Hi Rudolph!  

 Handling seemed fine considering the target audience which is probably not looking for a BMW like performance.    

 The ride on generally smooth roads was luxury car like, but never sloppy. In my short exposure, I would say this is a sedan that screams to be taken on a run from Chesapeake Bay to the Pacific.

 There is one downside. Consumer Reports was critical of the infotainment system saying it is unintuitive to use. I really did not have a chance to put the system through its paces. Others have said there is a learning curve here.

 Also, the steering column adjustment should be powered.

 With a long list of options, the tested S90 would roll off the lot for $66,105, which could be less than you would spend on a similar Mercedes E-Class or a BMW 5-series. 

 If you are in the luxury car market allow me to say that at first blush, the still made in Sweden Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription should be on your list of cars to try out. The seats alone may just win you over.

 img_3915

 

 

 

 

 

   

                              

Auto News for Oct. 28 – It Would Be VW’s largest

2018_atlas_65892018_atlas_6583

 Say hello to the Volkswagen Atlas, a seven passenger SUV that is the largest VW ever assembled in America. It was unveiled last night at the end of Route 66 at the Santa Monica California, but the Atlas will be assembled in Chattanooga. The big VW will offer three row seating, five trim levels, and customers can choose a four or six cylinder engine, both tied to an eight speed automatic. Front drive or all-wheel drive will be offered depending on the model. How big is it? At 198.3 inches long, 77.9 inches wide, and 69.6 inches high it is the same length as the Ford Explorer. One interesting feature is called Automatic Post-Collision Braking that will apply the brakes after an initial collision in an effort to avoid further crashes. The Atlas will appear in showrooms in the spring of 2017. No word yet on prices or fuel economy.

2017 Honda CR-V

 

2017 Honda CR-V

 Honda has released photos and details of its 2017 CR-V, the fifth generation of the compact sport utility that will go on sale this winter. It will feature a turbocharged engine, and “a more premium interior.” In the picture you might notice a volume control knob, replacing the much criticized sliding screen based control. The turbo four is rated at 190 horsepower and will be available in EX and higher trims mated to a CVT. Inside, Honda is claiming best in class space and the most rear seat legroom in the compact class. Key features will include remote engine start, dual-zone climate controls, heated side mirrors, an Electric Parking Brake, rear USB charging ports, front passenger seat with 4-way power adjustment and driver’s seat with 8-way power adjustment, 4-way power lumbar support, and a long list of safety equipment. The CR-V will be produced at three plants in North America – in East Liberty, Ohio; Alliston, Ontario, Canada; and, for the first time, in Greensburg, Indiana.

 You might remember back in November of 2012 when Hyundai/Kia restated fuel economy claims on about a quarter of its lineup. It reduced economy ratings by one or two mpg. Now, the automakers have announced they will pay $41.2 million to 33 states to settle the issue. They admitted no wrongdoing or violation of law.

 Car wash blues. That’s what a new study says will occur when semi-autonomous cars go through automatic washes. Bestride.com said, for instance, an automatic braking system would stop a car when it first encounters the brushes. That would require the driver, ahead of time, to know how to deactivate the system before the soap is applied. And that could require some deep diving into the owner’s manual because there is no standardization on how the systems work, or even if they can be disabled. It might be easier to dig out your boots, bucket and sponge at home in the driveway. You know, the old fashioned way to clean a car. Goodness – could a return of whitewalls be next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auto News – Ford Is A Stock To Watch Today

 ford-logo

 Ford released third quarter results this morning and the numbers were not good. It earned 24 cents a share compared to 55 cents one year ago and revenue was off 6 percent. Pre-tax profit in North America was down nearly 57 percent to $1.26 billion with profit margin at its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2011. Officials said that was caused by the launch of the new Super Duty pickup, a dealer stock reduction for the F-150 versus the increase from a year ago, “normalization” of the model mix of the F-150, plus the costs of a previously announced door latch recall. But officials remain optimistic long term. “Importantly, we remain on track to deliver one of our best profit years ever,” said President & CEO Mark Fields.

model-3-unveil

 Shares in Tesla posted some sharp gains in after hours trading yesterday after the electric car maker posted its first quarterly profit since 2013. It was also the second best quarter ever for Elon Musk’s company and the news surprised many on Wall Street. It was betting Tesla would post a loss of 86 cents a share. The bottom line was helped by Tesla delivering more vehicles in its latest quarter, in fact 72 percent more. The good news came ahead of a key vote by shareholders November 17th regarding Tesla’s integration with Solar City, an all-stock $24 billion dollar deal. Musk is Solar City’s Chairman.

 Mini has introduced what it says is an all-new Countryman, that will also be the brand’s first plug-in hybrid. The SE Countryman ALL4 will be powered by both a three cylinder twin power turbo and an electric synchronous motor. It is also the largest Mini ever – almost eight inches longer than existing models. Look for the Countryman to debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Nov. 16.

 Audi announced it will try out its corporate ride sharing service at a technology incubator in Durham, North Carolina. The service is scheduled to go nationwide next year and the initial vehicles will be three Audi A4 sedans.

 You really are a true car buff of the 60’s if you remember the Borgward. Now the brand is attempting a comeback with the announcement it will build a production facility in Bremen, Germany, the former home of Borgward. The company will display two models at the Geneva show next spring.

   

 

Auto News for Oct. 26 – A Mercedes Pickup!!!

Mercedes-Benz Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer ; Mercedes-Benz Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer;

 

 It is official! Mercedes will offer a midsize pickup truck late next year, the first German premium automaker to make such a move. The truck will make its debut in Europe and MB did not disclose any launch date for the U.S. It will seat five and be branded under the Mercedes-Benz X-Class. The key markets will be Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia with New Zealand, and Europe.

 Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars: “With the Mercedes-Benz pickup, we will close one of the last gaps in our portfolio. Our target: we want to offer customers vehicles matching their specific needs. The X-Class will set new standards in a growing segment.”

 The double cab truck will have a ladder type frame, six cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. MB promises a very upscale interior. The top-of-the-line model will be available with a six cylinder diesel. So who will buy it? One important target group is families with an active lifestyle and an affinity for premium products. They use the pickup mostly for commuting to work, for shopping, taking the kids to school or sports activities, for weekend trips, and vacation, MB claims. Hopefully, one day it will appear here in the states.

 Only one pickup’s headlights out of 11 earned a good performance rating in tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “The headlights on the majority of pickups don’t adequately light up the road,” it said. The lone exception was the new Honda Ridgeline’s RTL and Black Edition trims. Elsewhere, the IIHS said the GMC Sierra has acceptable headlights available on certain trims. Other versions earn a marginal or poor rating. The two kinds of headlights available on the Nissan Titan both earn a marginal rating. The Ram 1500 has marginal headlights on certain trim levels, while others have poor ones. The Ford F-150, the centerpiece of the best-selling F-Series line, is among the poorest performers, the IIHS said, adding the headlights with the worst visibility are on the Chevrolet Colorado.

 The judge had said he was inclined to approve it and yesterday he did. The $14.7 billion settlement between Volkswagen and regulators regarding excess emissions from the 2.0-liter diesel engine. Owners can have VW buyback their vehicles –  2013-15 Beetle; 2010-15 Golf; 2009-15 Jetta; 2012-15 Passat; and 2010-13 and 2015 Audi A3. Owners can also opt to have their diesels repaired. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer called the agreement, “fair, reasonable and adequate.

 “Final approval of the 2.0L TDI settlement is an important milestone in our journey to making things right in the United States, and we appreciate the efforts of all parties involved in this process,” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. The automaker will also pay a total of $4.7 billion for environmental mitigation and clean emissions research.  Next up is an agreement covering customers with the 3.0-liter V6 diesels.

 General Motors had an excellent third quarter exceeding Wall Street expectations when it comes to revenue and earnings per share. Fiat Chrysler reported quarterly earnings of 47 cents a share, and that topped market expectations. It also posted a profit of $659 million in the third quarter – an improvement over the loss of $421 reported a year earlier. Ford issues its report card on Thursday.

 

 

Auto News for Oct. 25 – Buick – A First in 30 Years

 lexus_ux_concept

Buick Avista Concept front view shown in lacquer jewel red finish

 

 Consumer Reports has released its latest look at vehicle reliability. Here are the top ten for 2017:

Lexus

Toyota

Buick

Audi

Kia

Mazda

Hyundai

Infiniti

BMW

Honda

On the other end of the list were:

Tesla

Dodge

Chrysler

Fiat

Ram

 Toyota and Lexus topped the list of the most reliable brands again. CR said Toyota uses tried-and-true methods to build its vehicles, taking a conservative, evolutionary approach that makes them more reliable.

 Buick moves into the top three brands this year, the first brand from Detroit to place in the top three in 30 years. CR said Buick’s core product line is mature, with most problems having been ironed out. But, it added, Buick has introduced several new vehicles, which could have an impact on future brand performance.

 Infiniti is the biggest mover this year, jumping 16 places to crack the top 10. It has a small model lineup, so slight improvements in reliability can result in big brand gains.

 Three brands dropped significantly: Subaru, Volvo, and Volkswagen. They also have small model lineups, so one or two models suffering a drop in reliability had big repercussions for each brand.

 Subaru dropped out of the top 10 because of multiple problems in the Legacy sedan and Outback wagon, which now have average reliability. The drop was compounded by the WRX/STi falling to below average reliability.

 Honda took a tumble in the ratings, falling two slots and barely making it into the top ten. CR cited reliability problems with the redesigned Civic and Pilot. The Pilot received just an average reliability rating. The Civic’s infotainment system dragged the nameplate down along with engine problems. In February, Honda recalled 42,000 Civics for potential engine failure in the 2.0-liter four cylinder power plant.

 Tesla’s Model S has improved to average reliability, which now makes the electric car one of CR’s recommended models. But its new Model X SUV has been plagued with malfunctions, including its complex Falcon-wing doors and Tesla finished 25th out of 29 brands. Tesla responded that it has fixed many of the problems since CR conducted its consumer survey. Both vehicles can be upgraded to include Tesla’s optional semi-autonomous Autopilot software, which can allow the car to maintain lane position, speed, and following distances on its own.  “Consumer Reports has serious concerns about how some automakers, including Tesla, have designed, deployed, and marketed semi-autonomous technology. We believe automakers need to clearly communicate what these systems can and cannot do.”

 Consumer Reports said Ford, which placed 18th in the survey, continues to have problems with its nine-speed automatic transmissions, especially in the Ford Focus compact car and Fiesta subcompact.

 No Hyundai or Kia model finished below average reliability wise.

 The bottom line in all this is clear. CR said brands that stick with proven components fair better in its study than those with all new everything. It noted that Toyota and Lexus sometime lag other makers in the introduction of new technology and infotainment equipment, but their systems have proven more reliable.

  Elsewhere:

 A survey conducted for Hankook Tires reveals our Election Day driving plans. Nearly one third (29%) of Americans drive a red or a blue car, but just like the nation, they’re split on whether this color choice matches their political affiliation. Sixty-five percent of likely voters will drive to their polling place. Thirty-eight percent rated potholes as the top road hazard followed by animals in the road. And keep in mind, whether your candidate wins or not, 15% of Americans say they’d like to have a current or former president in the car on a road trip!

 Honda said its Fuel Cell Sedan, the Clarity, has received an EPA range rating of 366 miles and a fuel economy rating of 68 miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent. The Clarity will appear later this year in a dozen fuel cell vehicle dealerships in California.

 

 

Auto News for Oct. 24 – Maggie May’s Car is for Sale

 rod-stewart-car u2-car 

 Cars owned by Rod Stewart and Adam Clayton from U2 will be among those auctioned off at an upcoming event in London. A 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 S delivered new to Maggie May singer Stewart, who was knighted just this month, will go on the block along with a 1972 Maserati Ghibli 4.9SS formerly owned by U2 bassist Clayton. This is one of only eight right-hand drive versions of this model. Both cars are expected to command big bucks.

 Along that line, a new poll shows that one in four women would now consider buying a classic car. A classic car insurance firm backed the survey and found that the number of female owners has risen by 40 percent in the past two years. Among the cars they favor are Volkswagen, Mazda, MG, and Land Rover, according to the Footman James firm in the UK.

 U.S October auto sales are projected to fall 0.8 percent from a year ago according to J.D. Power and LMC automotive. This would be the sixth time in the past eight months that sales have dipped. “We do not foresee a large pullback in sales in the near term, but the fact that retail sales are beginning to contract, despite high incentives and extremely low interest rates and gas prices, is a clear indicator that this (sales) cycle has reached its peak,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

 Volvo has been named “Tech Brand of the Year” for its Sensus touchscreen control system in its larger premium models. The award comes from Carbuyer, a review and advice service. I have had a chance to see the system work in a very luxurious S90 and it was dazzling.

 A new Road Safety Monitor poll conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation USA and sponsored by Anheuser-Busch revealed low awareness of safe ride home programs among U.S. drivers. It also showed that a large proportion of drivers do not use safe ride home programs, even when they are available and drivers were aware of them. A number of people reported driving while impaired and did so because they believed they were okay to make it home. In addition, the survey showed that safe ride home programs and public transportation were not consistently available across the U.S. A number of drivers seeking these options were not aware of whether these programs were available in their area.