Auto News for Jan. 31 – Last Phantom


 Pictured this morning is the last Rolls-Royce Phantom produced at the factory in Goodwood, Sussex, Great Britain. The current model first appeared in 2003 with a V12 engine and what one writer called a ride quality that made cobbled streets feel like carpet. Demand was strong and it carried the noble and rich to destinations around the world. The final edition was commissioned by a Rolls-Royce collector and sports many custom features such as lamb’s wool carpets and the Spirit of Ecstasy statuette is made from solid silver. Rolls will produce a new model of the Phantom, but details have been shrouded in secrecy.

 GM and Honda is announced the establishment of the industry’s first joint venture to mass produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system to be used in future products from each company. It will operate within GM’s existing battery pack manufacturing facility in Michigan. Mass production of fuel cell systems is expected to begin around 2020 and create nearly 100 new jobs. The companies are making equal investments totaling $85 million in the joint venture. Fuel cell vehicles can operate on hydrogen made from renewable sources such as wind and biomass. Water vapor is the only emission from fuel cell vehicles.

 Times are tough for Mitsubishi. It has struggled over the years to make inroads in the U.S. market. Now the company has seen its quarterly profit fall by 81 percent, according to Automotive News. A good chunk of this was penalties related to the company’s admitted overstating of fuel economy in some vehicles sold in Japan. Sales were also flat in every world market except its homeland, Japan.

 McLaren Automotive has announced a strategic project to design and develop technology for the next generation of powertrains. Working with a number of partners including BMW Group, the project will develop new combustion technology that will deliver a higher output per capacity than currently possible. It also aims to further facilitate CO2 reductions while simultaneously increasing engine output. The technology is destined for application in future McLaren engines. 


Auto News for Jan. 30 – Diesels aside, VW is world’s best seller

  The best-selling vehicle brand in all the world? Volkswagen. That ended Toyota’s four year run at the top of the list. It sold 10.2 million vehicles around the globe, while VW sold 10.3 million last year. Yet, Automotive News points out that Toyota’s profit was more than double that of its German rival.


 Kia announced that its Super Bowl commercial for the Niro crossover starring Melissa McCarthy will debut Feb. 1 on Facebook Messenger. Check out NiroBot for Messenger. Now if they could just get Tom Brady to drive one on to the field.

 A J.D. Power analyst predicts that about 3-million vehicles will come off their leases this year and “with so many vehicles available in the used market, prices will take a hit.” Power’s vice president of vehicle analysis, Jonathan Banks, added, “In a nutshell, luxury car prices are taking a beating and losing a ton of value in their first three years of use.” This year’s estimated decline would leave wholesale used vehicle prices 9 percent below 2014’s all-time high, and 8 percent above 2007’s pre-recession level, he predicted.

 If it is snowing where you are and this has prompted planning for a nice summer vacation, then you should know that AAA has added 63 restaurants and 120 hotels to it Five Diamond Rating list. Details at:

HMMM, going to investigate this. Just noticed it is snowing outside the office.

 And a London driver received five years and three months in jail after being involved in a high speed accident that claimed the life of a pedestrian, a 21-year-old woman. Police reviewed footage from closed circuit cameras in the area of the Old Bailey but the key items of evidence came from the black box located inside the BMW that struck the woman.


2017 Hyundai Santa Fe – And That’s Only Part of the Name

2017 Santa Fe

Saturday Road Test

 Hyundai Santa Few LTD ULT AWD

 Please tell your car buff friends about this Saturday Road Test feature, and my five week day capsule summaries of the day’s top auto news. Look for Ron Amadon’s Roads here on WordPress – where you will find new vehicles first!

 POINT OF ROCKS, MD. – Wow, that is quite a name for this crossover yet it is also an indication of the long list of equipment that comes with it. And that is, after all, what put Hyundai on the map.

 LTD, of course, means Limited trim level and not a revival of the old Ford model line. ULT or Ultimate, is a level above the LTD that adds even more goodies such as a large sunroof, 19-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated second row seats among other gear.

 Starting out on a bone chilling morning I can report to you that the heated driver’s seat was a most welcome addition. In just a short distance I lowered the heat level from three to one.

2017 Santa Fe

 With 292 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, the 3.3-liter V6 was more than up for cruising the interstates, as well as the steep hills and sharp curves on the back roads that surround this historic railroad town on the banks of the Potomac River. Of course, there was all-wheel drive along for the ride, but I really didn’t have much of an opportunity to try it out on what has been, thus far, a snowless winter in these parts.

 A six speed automatic was quick to respond to requests for power. The Santa Fe’s handling was on par with the competition and hushed was a good way to describe the interior noise level.

 Safety equipment abounded with the addition of a $2,100 “Ultimate Tech Package” that included Smart Cruise Control, Automatic Emergency Braking, Land Departure Warning, and Electronic Parking Brake with auto hold.

 For 2017 Hyundai added an 8-inch touchscreen and a 360-degree camera – very handy when maneuvering in tight spots at night.

 Kudos also for the hands free liftgate, which once went by the name tailgate. The upscale model had captain’s chairs in the second row, so there was seating for six, but a bench is also available. Those seats easily folded down when cargo was the main concern.

 Total cargo hauling space works out to 80 cubic feet with all seats folded, but with all seats up there is only about 13.5 cubic feet. Total cargo space is a bit behind some competitors.

 The standard Infinity premium audio system cranked out some great sounds. A public radio station offered the Boston Pops playing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” reminding me that the Santa Fe was named “Full Size CUV of Texas” by auto writers in the Lone Star State.

 (Suddenly I was craving a bowl of chili.)

2017 Santa Fe

2017 Santa Fe

 The interior was a delight with excellent fit, finish, and materials. All controls were a short reach away, and the total effect was that of driving a very upscale vehicle. There was a USB outlet back in the third row, a relatively rare addition among most competitors.

 Add in Hyundai’s long warranty coverage, (10-year, 100,000 miles on the powertrain for instance), high level of standard equipment and refinement, and you have a very appealing CUV here. One that can more than hold its own in a highly competitive market.

 With $895 in delivery charges, and the above mentioned option package, the bottom line came to $44,295 for a loaded vehicle. A base SE model with front wheel drive starts at $30,800. Add all-wheel drive and that increases to $32,550.

 Some specs:

 3.3-liter V6

 290hp @ 6,400 rpm

 252 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm

 Economy wise, look for an EPA of 17 mpg city, 22 highway for a combined 19 mpg.

 Suspension – Front

 MacPherson strut with twin-tube gas filled damper and 26-mm outside diameter, hollow-type stabilizer bar with 5mm wall thickness. There will be a test on this later.

 Suspension – Rear

 Multi-link with gas shock absorber and (FWD 21 mm / AWD 19 mm) stabilizer bar

 Turning Circle – 36.9 ft.


 110.2 in.

 Overall length

 193.1 in.

 Overall width

 74.2 in.

 Overall height (with roof rack)

 66.5 in. (66.9 in.)

 Curb Weight 4,149 lbs.

 Towing Capacity 5,000 lbs.







Auto News for Jan. 27 – How Two Of The Big Three Are Doing

 Thanks to the Jeep brand and Ram trucks, Fiat Chrysler saw its net profit jump to $1.92 billion in 2015. That will mean profit sharing checks will be going out to its UAW union workers to the tune of $5,000 each.

 A pension accounting change caused Ford to report its first quarterly net loss in seven years. But take out one-time items, and that is what Wall Street does, and Ford reported earnings that fell one penny shy of most market forecasts. And for all of 2016, the automaker its second best pretax profit ever. Its UAW workers will receive checks averaging $9,000 in profit sharing.

 GM will check in with earnings in February.

2016 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class

 Mercedes-Maybach released specifications for the 2017 S600 and it should please those who want lots of power. Up front will be a 6.0-liter V12 biturbo rated at 523 hp @ 4,900 rpm to 5,300. Torque? Oh a tad. 612 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm to 4,000 rpm. All that will be hitched to a 7 speed TRONIC automatic transmission.  Mercedes cites a 0-60 of just 4.5 seconds and a track top speed of 155 mph. Start saving now. MSRP is $191,300.

 J.D. Power predicts new vehicle sales will dip 2.0 percent this month compared to one year ago. Officials said the decline was not unexpected following impressive sales gains last December. “While this year will mark the first time that the industry has started off with a retail sales decline since 2010, the retail SAAR remains robust. The challenges for the industry remain maintaining profitability while coping with high inventory levels and elevated incentives, which continue to rise year over year,” said Deirdre Borrego, senior vice president of automotive data and analytics at J.D. Power. Trucks account for 63.3% of new-vehicle retail sales so far in January—the highest level ever for the month of January. Despite the slow start, Power predicts another record year for vehicle sales.

 Three winners of Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards have been announced. Named 2017 Connected Green Car of the Year is the Mercedes-Benz C350e, with the 2017 Green SUV of the Year awarded to the BMW X5 xDrive40e and the 2017 Luxury Green Car of the Year to Acura’s new NSX.











Auto News for Jan. 25 – Toyota Beefs Up Indiana

  Toyota announced it will add 400 jobs at its plant in Princeton, Indiana and invest $600 million to meet the demand for its Highlander midsize SUV and modernize the facility. Renovations will begin in the fall of 2019 and will allow Toyota to produce 40,000 more Highlanders a year. This is part of a larger modernization plan announced earlier this month totaling $10 billion over the next five years.

 Also, Toyota is recalling about 73,000 model year 2016 and 2017 Tundra pickup trucks with resin rear step bumpers. It said in the event of an impact to the corner of the bumper, a resin bracket may break and pose a threat of injury if someone steps on the bumper it might collapse.  Dealers will install new brackets made of steel at no cost to customers. If you have one of the affected trucks, look for a notice in the mail.

 Slow demand for the Passat has VW adding three more shutdown days to the already announced eight day production halt at a big plant in Emden, Germany. A spokesman told Automotive News that further shutdowns may be announced until Easter.


 BMW said the 2018 4-Series, coupe, convertible and Gran Coupe will be available starting in March. Pricing will be announced closer to vehicle launch. The coupe and Gran Coupe received a stiffer suspension with “advanced damping technology and an upgraded steering set-up.” Some minor styling changes will be made front and rear.

 Nissan and BMW have joined with EVgo, a fast charging network, to add 174 more electric vehicle charging stations in 33 states. They said 50 more are planned this year. The stations are designed to support Nissan LEAF and BMW i3 customers. EVgo said it is the nation’s largest DC Fast charging operator with a total of 670 stations across the country.

 For those who like to plan ahead, backers of the big auto show in Detroit have announced their 2018 show dates. The North American International Auto show, (its official name), will host press days Jan. 14-18 next year with the show opening to the public on Jan. 20 and running through the 28th.

 A stock Dodge Viper has set a new record for the fastest lap at the Carolina Motorsports Park. The production car lap record is now 1:37:040. Production of the Dodge Viper has just a few short months remaining before they lock the doors on the assembly plant on Connor Ave in Detroit.









Auto News for Jan. 24 – Kia Niro Pricing – Raptor Wins Off-Road

  Just to clarify an item from yesterday. That Subaru XV is known as the Crosstrek here in the U.S. We will learn more about the 2018 version on March 7.

2017 Niro - Red

 Kia announced pricing for its Niro Crossover that will arrive on dealer lots “early in 2017.” It will be offered in five trim levels with the top-of-the-line Touring model starting at $29,650 plus $895 for delivery. The base model FE will start at $22,890 with Kia’s hefty list of standard equipment.

 The Honda Accord Sport was named Good Housekeeping’s 2017 Best New Sedan.

 U-Haul is offering victims of the Mississippi twisters 30 days of free self-storage. “One tornado touched down near our center,” said Dick Porter, U-Haul Company of Mississippi president. “We want to make sure our neighbors in these communities are safe and have the help they need with a secure place to store their possessions while they try to recover.”

The all-new 2017 F-150 Raptor is the toughest, smartest, most capable Raptor ever, and re-defines what it means to be the only purpose-built, high-performance off-road truck

 Ford’s Raptor has been named the best off-road pickup by in a comparison test against five rivals. “To put it simply, the F-150 Raptor dominated,” said Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief. “This is the next generation sports truck. It is versatile enough to dominate low-speed trails and higher-speed loose dirt roads, plus it exhibited surprising civility on the road and has a long list of creature comforts.”

Trucks ranked in the following order:

1.       2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

2.       2016 Ram 1500 Mopar Rebel

3.       2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X

4.       2016 Toyota Tundra XD Pro-4X

5.       Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X

6.       2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

 A federal judge has approved Volkswagen’s $1.21 billion settlement with 650 dealers regarding diesel emissions. The dealers will be paid over an 18 month period. VW has now agreed to spend up to $22 billion to settle with various parties here in the U.S.



Auto News for Jan. 23 – Let’s set sail!!!


 Subaru said its new XV will make its global debut at the Geneva auto show on March 7th. It is said to be “a compact SUV with a personality packed interior.” And that is all we know, except for the teaser photo.

 Rolls-Royce Motor Cars wants to make a few things clear. It is a completely separate company from Rolls-Royce plc which manufactures power systems for aircraft, ships and land applications. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BMW Group. “As an entirely separate company, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has no involvement whatsoever in issues relating to alleged bribery and subsequent legal settlements reached by Rolls-Royce plc with authorities in various jurisdictions…” the company said. It wanted to “clarify confusion and misreporting (not here) that has arisen in certain media around the world, following recent statements” issued by aircraft related company.


 Don’t know about you, but I did not know that Toyota and Lexus fool around with boats. But the Toyota Marine Department has released graphic pictures of a concept “open sport yacht” powered by twin-high performance Lexus V8’s. It will seat six to eight people, backers said. “This concept for a Lexus Sport Yacht allowed us to explore how Lexus design language could be applied to a maritime lifestyle,” said Yoshihiro Sawa, executive vice president of Lexus International. Each engine produces 440 horsepower, driving the yacht at speeds up to 49 miles per hour (43 knots) through a pair of hydraulically controlled inboard/outboard stern-drives. A bow-thruster with joystick control aids in docking. Unfortunately, the company said it has no plans to offer the boat, oh sorry yacht, for sale.



Saturday Road Test – BMW 330e –

 If you are seeing this for the first time please tell your car buff friends about this Saturday Road Test feature, and  my five week day capsule summaries of the day’s top auto news. This is where you will find new vehicles first!


                  Saturday Road Test            

                          BMW 330e

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – There were no shotguns at this wedding.

 BMW engineers brought together in perfect matrimonial harmony gas engines, electronic motors, and an eight speed transmission. Dissenting relatives were not to be found.

 Start with nearly silent running in pure electric mode to help save the planet. Yet a flick of an ankle away was a lovely low pitched rumbling sound that accompanies a needed burst of acceleration. For those with a gold and platinum bank card, well, prepare for a long and happy honeymoon.

 What makes it go?



 Up front and covered over is a “twin power turbo” four with 180 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque. An electric motor kicks in 87 horsepower with a maximum peak torque of 184 lb-ft. The power electronics are derived directly from the i3 and i8 models, and that’s not a bad place to start.

 The motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery located under the trunk floor. That slightly reduces cargo capacity from 17 cubic feet to 13 cubes. The fuel tank is under the rear seat.

 Add it all together and the power producers serve up 248 horsepower and peak torque of 310 lb-ft allowing a 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. Pure electric driving is possible at speeds of up to 75 mph but that reduces driving range of course.

 In gas only mode look for 31 mpg. In gas and electric, 72MPGe is claimed. In all electric range, look for a 14 mile range. Combine the two and look for 350 miles without a stop.

 There are three e-Drive programs – AUTO eDrive,   MAX eDRIVE and SAVE BATTERY – all via the eDrive button in the center console.  

 AUTO eDRIVE: This setting ensures the engine and electric motor work to optimize all driving situations and is the default setting activated each time the car is started. They work together as smoothly as the best trio you’ve ever heard performing acappella.

 MAX eDRIVE: In this mode the BMW 330e uses electric power only with zero emissions. In so doing, it draws on the electric drive system’s full power output.  The combustion engine can activate at any time if the accelerator is pushed beyond its kick down position. I ran a bunch of errands around town in electric mode and it was eerily quiet inside. But it made the errand run fun.

 SAVE BATTERY: This mode contains two operating settings. If the battery’s charge is below 50 percent, the battery is charged to 50 percent by the combustion engine. If over 50 percent, the charge level is “frozen”, so that the remaining electric energy can be used for part of an upcoming journey.

 On top of all that there are four available drive modes: ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT and available SPORT+ modes. COMFORT offers a balance of comfort and efficiency and the electric motor only kicks in to maximize power delivery.

 In SPORT and SPORT+ modes the engine and motor are both permanently active. This allows the drive system to react instantaneously to every movement of the accelerator. (And it does!) I used Sport a lot!

 In ECO PRO mode, the electric motor and engine work together with the greatest possible overall efficiency. Energy management carefully regulates the use of electrically operated functions such as the climate control system, seat heating and exterior mirror heating to maximize the car’s range.

 An empty battery can be fully recharged with an available 240-volt system in two and a half hours. That steps up to six to seven hours on common household current. An empty battery can be brought up to at least 50 percent of full charge while on the move by activating SAVE BATTERY using the eDrive button. You can forget range anxiety with this car.

 In the default modes, when just a touch of added acceleration was needed, the turbo four would kick in so smoothly I had to check the tach to see if it had engaged.


 The interior of the test car was beautifully trimmed, in that it was not all black, controls were easy to reach, and the $875 optional Harman Kardon audio system cranked out some awesome notes, even on the 50’s oldies channel, not known for its audio range. Audio and ventilation controls were easy to figure out from the get go.

 Two adults were max capacity to the rear for maximum comfort with head and leg room more than adequate if a 6 footer was operating up front. Knee room was okay. Materials used in the front visors were not in keeping with the rest of the interior.

 The 10-way adjustable driver’s seat was well above average keeping one’s bod in place in robust cornering. It was also very comfortable on longer journeys. BMW says total range is 350 miles.

 Interior glitches. There are a number of routine operations that are different in a BMW starting with the center console mounted shift lever. Intermittent wiper operation was another, as was opening the hood. All can easily be mastered but it was frustrating at first.

 Handling was good with little feedback through the leather covered steering wheel. There was little body roll and the suspension handled winter time bumps with aplomb.


 Options? More than a few on this BMW. They raised the price from a base of $43,700 to $60,245 including $995 for delivery. There is only one trim level.

 In closing, let me say this was by far the best hybrid I have driven. Impressive was the ability of the 330e to get up and boogie when the driver told it to. Entering interstates and carving out turns on rural roads was entertaining. Then you could head out to your favorite foodie restaurant in full electric mode.

 One caveat. Keep a close eye on the head up display. It was very easy to exceed the speed limit allowed by state troopers on interstates. Not that I had any close calls but…

 Some specs:

 10-way power front sport seats; includes 2-way power-adjustable side bolsters, 2-way manual headrests and thigh support; driver memory for exterior mirror and seat positions

40/20/40 split fold-down through-load rear seats

8-year/80,000-mile High-Voltage Battery Warranty

4-year/50,000-mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty

4-year Unlimited Mileage Roadside Assistance Program

Curb weight

3900 lbs.

Ground clearance 5.5 in.

Length 182.8 in.

Wheel base 110.6 in.

Width 71.3 in.

Final Assembly: Munich Germany

Auto News for Jan. 20 – Tesla Investigation Ends


Tesla’s Autopilot and Automatic Emergency Braking systems did not malfunction in the case of a fatal accident involving a Model S in Williston Florida in 2015, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission closed out an investigation. The driver of the Tesla was killed when her car struck a tractor trailer at an intersection. The NHTSC concluded that the semi-autonomous Autopilot system is a “hands on the steering wheel” system that requires driver involvement. In this case, the driver took no braking, steering or other actions to avoid the collision, the agency said. Systems such as the Autopilot “require the continual and full attention of the driver to monitor the traffic environment and be prepared to take action to avoid crashes. The agency did not recommend any fine or recall against Tesla.

 A facility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, has been named one of 10 designated proving grounds for autonomous vehicles by the Department of Transportation. The Detroit News said the 355 acre facility at the old Willow Run plant must open by the start of next year.

 Readers of that newspaper named the Ford GT as their favorite car at the Detroit auto show.

 In 2016, Toyota achieved another record year of North American vehicle production with 2,124,608 vehicles built at its North American vehicle assembly plants. Production volume was up 4.4 percent over the previous year’s total.

 You know that crossovers and SUV’s are hot sellers here, but what about Europe? A new study found that SUV registrations there have set a record accounting for one in four cars sold on the continent in 2016. Overall sales rose 6.5 percent over 2015.