Car of the Year – Audi TTS

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                         Car of the Year

                            Audi TTS

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Sure the Chevrolet Bolt is a break the mold electric, but what about those who think handling, speed and sportiness are more important than volts in the Bolt?

 Enter the Car of the Year, the Audi TTS.

 The TT coupe and Roadster come with a 2.0-liter, 220 horsepower turbo four with 258 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60 run of 5.3 seconds for the coupe and only three-tenths more for the convertible.

 Those seeking more fun can opt for the TTS coupe with 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque that gets you to 60 in just 4.6 seconds. Both are tied to an S tronic transmission, AKA, a responsive six speed automatic. Paddle shifts did there thing quickly to keep things on the boil, and of course Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive was standard.

 Top track speed in the TTS is 155. In the real world, there was more than enough grunt in this 3,241 pound two seater to make you happier than the ending of Rogue One. 

 It is interesting to note the new Quattro all-wheel drive varies torque delivery percentage front to rear by measuring the coefficient of traction at all four wheels via 150 readings every 10 milliseconds and can be controlled through the drive select system. To the less technical, all that means the TTS is a hell of a lot of fun to drive.

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 The “magnetic ride” allows the driver to choose a driving mode to suit conditions and their mood. Some genius came up with a system that uses a synthetic blend of oils that contain tiny magnetic particles and can adjust the firmness of the dampers within a few milliseconds by creating a magnetic field within the shock absorber. I could use that some mornings.

 Some say the exterior styling is on the plain side, and while curls and swirls are a subjective thing, I thought the design was simply outstanding. It is just plain enough to make a fellow with blue lights on his roof think twice about an infraction or two – Certainly think about it more than that other driver in the shocking YELLOW Corvette.

 Driver-centric is the term Audi uses to describe the interior, one that is rather different from the competition. You will notice there is no center console screen, instead everything is displayed on a 12.3 inch screen right in front of the driver. One could not think of a better place!

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 The “virtual cockpit,” when in classic view mode, has the circular instrument dials, i.e. the speedometer and rev counter, more dominant. In “infotainment mode” it displays additional functions such as the navigation system, telephone, Audi connect and media more prominently.

 Other controls came readily to hand, and there is ample room up front for two adults. The space to the rear is best reserved for whatever small cargo you are hauling. Odds and ends storage up front is a bit skimpy.

 The $950 Bang & Olufsen audio system, I felt, was well worth the money with outstanding sound. Early on you might wonder where the ventilation controls are. You rotate knobs around the vent itself!

 The bottom line in all this for me was the impeccable handling on rural back roads and off ramps. It just hangs in there in a turn as the turbo winds up like a major league strike out pitchers’ fastball. The pneumatic side bolsters will keep you firmly in place when you turn exuberant.

 Further, you will not see a ton of TT’s coming the other way, so there is the exclusivity thing to consider.

 With $575 for the Daytona Gray paint, $3,250 for Audi’s MMI navigation, and the B&P sounds, the TTS I drove came to $57,600 with delivery. 

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 The 2017 is virtually unchanged with only some minor trim alterations. The biggest change is an Optional Technology package with a smartphone interface for Apple CarPlay and Google Android. And the TTS is available with a black grille surround, exterior mirror housing, rear diffuser, and not to forget the 20” V spoke design wheels with Titanium finish.

 TT sales, while small in the overall Audi scheme of things, rose 36.4 percent in November and are up substantially for the full year. People who don’t want to go full bore into the R8 are catching on.

 They should!

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 Now, coming up on Monday I will start the New Year with my Truck of the Year, and much more. Do check back when you have recovered from welcoming in 2017.

 

    

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Auto News for Dec. 30 – Higher Gas Prices This Year – Travel Ends Early in Maine

 Auto News for Dec. 30

 “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” at least for the Auto News column in 2016. But the year will end with a bang for the weekly Road Test column with my Car of the Year announcement. For the first time there will also be a Truck of the Year, Utility Vehicle of the Year, Crossover of the Year, and a few more.

 The finalists were narrowed from a list of 15 vehicles, aided by many cups of Starbucks strongest, some excellent Mexican beer, (XX), and a couple sleepless nights. For you readers, the curtain goes up tomorrow so please check back.

 As for this morning’s auto news:

 Honda is recalling almost 642,000 Odyssey vans to repair a bracket that could allow second row seats to move unexpectedly, such as in a crash. The bugaboo is a release lever that may unintentionally remain in the unlocked position. Being recalled are model year 2011-2016 vans. Dealers will install another bracket and spring to the seats or take other action in the newer models to fix the problem.

 Taking a road trip for New Year’s? Triple A said gas prices have increased of late with the national average now about $2.29 a gallon. That is up by 16 cents over a month ago and 29 cents more year-over-year. Heading into 2017, gasoline demand is expected to drop drastically during the month of January following the busy holiday travel season. Travel will come to a halt earlier in parts of Maine that just received 25+ inches of snow!

 To start off the year, all eyes will be on OPEC to see if they, along with partnering countries, will stick to their 6-month promise to cut 1.8-million barrels a day of crude production – that is what is driving up prices. If you fill up in South Carolina, you are enjoying the lowest prices in the country, according to AAA. The West Coast leads the nation with four of the top five most expensive states with California again leading the pack.

 I don’t know what this means, but let’s end the Auto News column on a high note. A compilation of 1950 Donald Duck cartoons was Sweden’s most watched TV show of 2016.

 

 

Auto News for Dec. 29 – Freep’s Choices

 The Chevrolet Bolt has been named Car of the Year by the Detroit Free Press. The Ford F-series Super Duty was named Truck of the Year, while the Chrysler Pacifica captured the Utility Vehicle of the Year award. Auto critic Mark Phelan hit it right on the nose when he said any of these vehicles would have seemed like something out of science fiction a few years ago, but today embody the best the auto industry has to offer.

 The Bolt also made Car & Driver’s Top Ten list for the year, and was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.

 Please check back Saturday for my “Of the Year Announcements” in a whole new format!

 Motor Trend has directed me to 20 minutes of pure listening pleasure on YouTube. There you can listen to the “Best Supercar Sounds of the Year.” They will remove the dust from your speakers in seconds!

  http://www.motortrend.com/news/dream-theater-holiday-supercar-slacking-got-20-minutes-need-kill/

 C&D has an outstanding article on its web site on future technology that can produce some amazing results. Like a truly active suspension that will follow the contours of the road and minimize disruptions to the interior. There are already some prototypes. See:

http://www.caranddriver.com/flipbook/the-most-promising-automotive-technology-of-right-now#2

Elsewhere:

 Volvo will be the first automaker to offer Skype for Business, Microsoft’s collaborative productivity app. It will appear in Volvo’s 90 Series cars. Skype for Business is used by millions of people at work around the globe. People will be able to view their upcoming meetings and participant details, and join business meetings with one click via the large center display. “With the dawn of autonomous cars we see a future where flexible in-car productivity tools will enable people to reduce time spent in the office. This is just the beginning of a completely new way of looking at how we spend time in the car,” said Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, of Volvo Car Group.

 At the Consumer Electronics Show next week, Fiat Chrysler will offer a hands-on demonstration of its fourth-generation Uconnect system, and Uconnect Theater rear seat entertainment system in the Pacifica van.

 

Auto News for Dec. 28 – Driving Under the Influence of Caffeine?

 It’s a crazy world out there this morning!

 A California man is fighting a charge of driving under the influence – of caffeine. Joseph Schwab was pulled over by an Alcohol Beverage Control agent, according to several reports, who said he was driving erratically. Blood tests showed no presence of drugs or alcohol, just caffeine. Yet the DA said she believes he was under the influence of something that didn’t show up in blood tests but agreed that proving that will be difficult in court. Schwab’s attorney is moving to have the charge dismissed.

 Two studies just out with logical conclusions: Edmunds.com said the most researched class of vehicles on its site were Sport Utility Vehicles. While an Allstate survey showed what it said were the safest cities to drive in during bad winter weather. Two of them were in Florida while the safest city, Brownsville Texas lies in the deep south of the Lone Star State along the Mexican border.

 Elsewhere:

 Europeans buying midsize cars are turning to luxury brands, where sales are up 8 percent this year, according to Automotive News. Sales of more mainstream midsize cars are up by just one percent. So, good news for Mercedes, Audi and BMW.

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 Ford will display its “next generation” Fusion Hybrid at both the Consumer Electronics Show and the Detroit auto show next month. The new vehicle uses the current Ford autonomous vehicle platform, but ups the processing power with new computer hardware. Electrical controls are closer to production-ready, and adjustments to the sensor technology, including placement, allow the car to better see what’s around it. New LiDAR sensors have a sleeker design and more targeted field of vision, which enables the car to now use just two sensors rather than four, while still getting just as much data, Ford said.

 On any long trip you must stop for food. If you are in Las Vegas and want something different you might want to try Evel Pie, a pizza joint opened by Evel Knievel’s son. The Los Angeles Times reports that menu items include pizza topped with rattlesnake jalapeno sausage, onion, bell peppers and garlic. You can wash that down with beer served in a motorcycle helmet.

 As I said, a crazy world out there this morning.

 

   

 

Auto News for Dec. 27 – Red Light Running – Too Much

 Welcome back and I hope everyone had an outstanding holiday! Here is what’s happening in the auto world this morning:

 I was surprised at the number of people who run red lights.  American Traffic Solutions wants drivers to see this year’s compilation of the worst red-light running crash videos and realize they are too dangerous to ignore.

 “Seeing is believing, and ATS urges drivers to watch this public service video and recognize the danger red-light running presents,” said Liz Caracciolo, ATS Safety General Manager. “Every day, in the United States, drivers running red lights cause an average of two fatalities and more than 340 injuries. When drivers ignore a red light, they put themselves and innocent pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, other drivers and passengers at great risk.”

The video, compiled from ATS red-light safety cameras in operation in communities throughout the country, is available for viewing here: https://www.atsol.com/2016-worst-red-light-runners/

 An updated study from Kelley Blue Book concludes that December will be the hottest month for vehicle sales this year. But they will fall 2 percent behind the record sales rung up one year earlier. For 2017, KBB believe sales will fall 1 to 3 percent from this year. “Substantial incentive hikes this year haven’t resulted in retail growth, while inventories continue to grow,” said Analyst Tim Fleming. He believes manufacturers will cut production in the New Year to better match slowing consumer demand and alleviate the need for elevated incentives.

2017 Honda CR-V

 Thanks to the Accord, Civic, CR-V and Odyssey, Honda maintains it will have the number one and two best selling cars of the year. Also the number one SUV and minivan. The Civic will post its all-time best sales performance in its 44 year history, Honda said, and the CR-V will post a seventh year for sales gains and “cement its position as America’s best-selling SUV …” Interesting then that Honda is now selling a redesigned CR-V and will unveil a redesigned Odyssey at the upcoming Detroit show. The 2017 CR-V is pictured.  

 Tesla and Panasonic have announced they will manufacture solar cells and modules at a factory in Buffalo, New York. But they will wait until the snow melts with production not commencing until summer of next year.  

 Hertz has signed a deal to become the exclusive car rental provider of Cathay Pacific airlines.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Dec. 23 – You own a car. Would You Buy Another?

 First off, a heartfelt wish to you and yours for a wonderful holiday season and exceptional 2017. To those who will be alone over Christmas, consider volunteering at a local non-profit that will be serving dinner to the poor and homeless. I’ll bet that will put you in the holiday spirit.

 The auto desk is closing until Dec. 27. But do check back then as tidbits and actual news appear in the run up to the big Detroit Auto show. Press days start Jan. 8 and I plan extensive coverage.

 The Saturday Road Test feature will resume Dec. 31 with my pick for Car of the Year, with some new twists added in it. Hey, if the car makers can release “teaser” photos, I can do “teaser” words!

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 Audi will reveal an A8 concept car in Detroit that “represents a synthesis of the emotional styling of a coupe and the spaciousness that typifies an SUV. With this move, the brand is unlocking a new segment for the full-size category.” Audi will tell all on Jan. 9

 Tesla was the runaway winner when Consumer Reports asked owners how satisfied they are with their current wheels, and if they would buy another. A whopping 98 percent of Tesla owners want another one. Porsche, Audi, Subaru and Toyota rounded out the top five. CR said Lincoln climbed to 12th place this year from 21st, and Hyundai rose to 13th from 24th a year earlier. Ram trucks fell from 5th place to 17th, BMW from 6th to 14th, and VW from 16th to 24th.  Fiat was at the bottom of the CR list. While Tesla topped the survey, its Model X Sport Utility was included on CR’s list of least reliable vehicles with problems with its falcon-wing doors, power equipment and in-car electronics.

 As reported here yesterday, California has banned Uber from using self-driving cars in San Francisco in a dispute over permits. Uber moved the fleet east. “Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads. While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses,” said Gov. Doug Ducey.

 Crankshaft and camshaft sensor problems that could cause a vehicle to stall out have Fiat Chrysler recalling 43,071 vehicles. Involved are 2016 Dodge Journey, Jeep Compass and Patriot models that rolled off the assembly line between May 9 and July 15, 2016.

  A federal judge has warned owners of VW diesels not to strip their car before attempting to sell them back to the company as part of the diesel emissions settlement. The web site Jalopnik, said one owner removed doors, seats, hood, bumper, and much of interior from his diesel before the buyback attempt. VW rejected the car according to the Detroit Free Press. The judge said the spirit of the agreement requires the cars to be in the same condition they were in when they were in daily service.

 

Auto News for Dec. 22 – Kia Teases – Uber pulls Self-Driving Cars in S.F.

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 One of the more interesting unveilings at the 2017 Detroit show will be a sports car from Kia. The automaker is teasing the event saying the all-new model will have a “fastback silhouette” with “heart-pounding performance with purposeful and progressive design.” In a video, a prototype is shown ringing up a 0-60 in just 5.1 seconds. There is a belief that it could look like the Kia GT concept that is pictured. Stay tuned, we will learn more on January 9th.

 Uber is less alles in San Francisco after the California Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the self-driving cars’ registrations. Uber then pulled the cars from circulation. The DMV said the cars were not properly marked as test vehicles, and the company refused to get a permit to operate them. Some customers have reported the self-drivers violated traffic laws including red light running. Uber may send the cars to another state, or it could apply for the permits.

 While not an auto item, the San Francisco Chronicle notes that one of the craft beer firms in the area is named Seismic Brewing Co. That works!

 Honda has entered into talks with Waymo to “integrate its self-driving technology into Honda vehicles.” If both parties agree, Honda R&D engineers based in California and Japan, would work closely with Waymo engineers based in California and Michigan. Honda previously announced its intention to put production vehicles with automated driving capabilities on highways sometime around 2020 related to its goal of a collision-free society.

 Subaru of America announced that has set its eighth consecutive yearly sales record by selling 582,675 vehicles as of December 21. The company expects to end the year by breaking the 600,000 barrier for the first time with sales in excess of 610,000.

 It is going to be close, very close, yet Edmunds.com predicts automakers will sell 17,480,294 vehicles this year and that would be a new record, by less than 5,000. Analyst Jeremy Acevedo said the final week of the year will decide whether 2016 makes automotive history.

  Staycations may be coming to an end. Enterprise, the rental firm, said nearly two-thirds of those in a recent survey are planning a weekend getaway in 2017. So much for staying home and firing up the grill in the old backyard. The survey said a majority will travel more than 150 miles on their trip away from home.

 W. Gerald Flannery has been named interim president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America after the ouster of Dave Zuchowski. Flannery will retain his duties as Chief Legal and Safety Officer. There are reports the folks at headquarters were not happy with Hyundai sales here in the U.S.