Auto News for July 31

 Of course the talk of the town this morning is the Tesla 3. The first 30 production models have been delivered to customers in a production hosted by Elon Musk at the company’s HQ in Fremont, California.

 There will be two models. A Long Range model that will go 310 miles on a charge, thanks to a larger battery, and start at $44,000. A “Standard”, or short range model, will sell for $35,000 and have a range of 220 miles.

 Those hoping for the less expensive model will have to wait until fall as Tesla will initially only produce the Long Range model. Both are rear wheel drive.

 Go for the top of the line with all options flying, the Detroit News reports, and look for a sticker of $59,200.

 How will it sell? The company is said to have almost 500,000 orders and many are wondering how Tesla will be able to add the Model 3 to its production schedule along with the Model X and the Model S. The first 30 were reportedly turned over to Tesla staff with customer deliveries coming by the end of 2017.

 A select group got the chance to take a very short drive in a Model 3 and most praised its acceleration and handling.

 The interior is quite plain with everything, and I do mean everything, centered on a 15-inch tablet in the center dash with some controls such as outside mirror adjustment, on the steering wheel. There is no instrument panel in front of the operator and a head up display is not in the works.

 To enter the vehicle one must download an app from Tesla on to your smart phone. Bye-bye key fob. This could be a challenge if your Model 3 is covered by winter time ice.

 Also if the screen goes down, how do you figure out how fast you are going? This is rather important if you live in an area that has purchased a few hundred fine inducing speed cameras.

 Looking ahead to fully autonomous driving, Elon Musk told the gathering, “We aimed for a very simple, clean design, because in the future — really, the future being now — the cars will be increasingly autonomous,” Musk said Friday. “So you won’t really need to look at an instrument panel all that often. You’ll be able to do whatever you want: You’ll be able to watch a movie, talk to friends, go to sleep.”

 Motor Trend got a chance to drive a Model 3 and said this might be “The Automobile 2.0”

 USA Today said Tesla “just needs to, as promised, make 499,999 more a year to the same standards” as those at the show. It praised the fit and finish on the early product.

 And Jalopnik concluded,  “… if Tesla can deliver a sporty, reliable driving experience with a tight finish to all of its claimed half-million deposit holders, the Model 3 just might live up to its hype.”

 Time will tell.

Elsewhere:

 Fiat Chrysler has received a certificate of conformity from the Environmental Protection Agency and a conditional executive order from the California Air Resources Board permitting the production and sale of FCA US 2017 model-year light-duty Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles equipped with 3.0-liter diesel engines. Updates include modified emissions software calibrations, with no required hardware changes, and FCA expects that the modifications will have no effect on the stated fuel economy or the performance of these vehicles.

 

Advisory

Due to storm related frequent internet outages, (maddening),  the weekly Road Test report will resume on August 5. If current plans hold, I will have a nice surprise for you.

Auto News for July 28 – Porsche To Race Electrics

Porsche plan e

 Porsche announced it will join Formula E racing, the world’s first purely electric racing series. “The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us,” said Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board of Porsche AG responsible for Research and Development. “For us, Formula E is the ultimate competitive environment for driving forward the development of high-performance vehicles in areas such as environmental friendliness, efficiency, and sustainability.”

 The new Ram pickup will make its debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January and will go on sale shortly after the covers come off. Good source on this one – Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

 The EPA and the California Air Resources Board has approved a fix for Volkswagen diesels that have emissions cheating software. EPA said VW will remove the controversial software and replace it with software that directs the emission controls to function properly in all typical vehicle operations. The fix will cover about 326,000 vehicles with the 2.0- liter diesel.

 

Auto News for July 27 – We Like Our New Cars!

 There is a J.D. Power survey that measures new car owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement across 77 attributes. They range from the power they feel when they step on the gas to the sense of comfort and luxury they feel when climbing into the driver’s seat.

 This time around Porsche topped the survey for the 13th consecutive year. Genesis ranked second followed by BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Chrysler was the most improved brand, with strong improvements from Mini, Nissan and Honda, Power said.

 Overall, consumers are finding their new rides more appealing than ever, the survey concluded.

 This headline is not good news – “Auto Sales Expected to Take the Biggest Hit of the Year in July,” predicts Edmunds.Com. It said new vehicle sales are expected to be 3.1 percent lower than last month, and 6.2 percent lower when compared to July of 2016. “July is historically a strong month, but with disappointing sales and inventories still building, something needs to give,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. “A lot is riding on late-summer sales events to help move vehicles before 2018 models start arriving at dealer lots.” It predicts GM, Toyota and Ford will see the largest setbacks.

 A forecast from Kelley Blue Book echoed the figures from Power.

 At $2.28, the national gas price is three cents more than a week ago, which is the largest seven-day increase since before Memorial Day, said AAA.

 “Demand has remained strong as gasoline stocks dip for a fifth consecutive week, driving up prices at the pump,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “For much of the summer, gas prices have been fairly cheap. Those days are in the rearview mirror.”

 Second quarter profit rose 16 percent and adjusted earnings exceed market expectations at Fiat Chrysler. It was sparked by SUV demand including the new Maserati Levante. In fact, Maserati reported earnings that more than quadrupled over the past year. FCA said gains overseas helped offset lower demand here in the U.S.

 Quarterly earnings rose at Volkswagen but there was a 13 percent drop in quarter profit at Nissan.

 Quarterly net profit fell 51 percent year over year at Hyundai as sales sagged in China and here in the U.S. with key figures falling well below analyst expectations. In the first half of this year, Hyundai’s U.S. sales are off 7.4 percent.

 

Auto News for July 26 – A Great Quarter For Ford

 

 Ford’s second quarter earnings should catch the attention of Wall Street today and in a positive fashion. The automaker topped earnings expectations and posted higher revenue than forecast. It cited the strong demand for its F-150 trucks and good performance from its financial operation. The truck line, long the nation’s best-selling vehicle, had its greatest second quarter sales performance since 2001. Ford also raised its full year financial forecast.

 Ford also announced that the starting price for the 2018 Mustang will be $26,485 for the base model, a four cylinder with a stick shift. That is $610 less than the current EcoBoost model. Pricing for the GT coupe increases to $35,995, a $1,900 price boost.

 One man. One mower. Rodney Smith Jr. who owns a lawn care firm, wrapped up his 50 States, 50 Lawns tour, during which he mowed a lawn in every state to raise awareness for his organization that provides free lawn care service to the elderly, disabled, single mothers and veterans. Briggs & Stratton made a financial donation and provided equipment to ensure he had the resources needed to complete his one-man mission. His story was told in dozens of media outlets, ranging from People Magazine to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

 A specially prepared Subaru WRX STI has set a new lap record for a four door sedan at the Nurburgring in Germany of 6 minutes, 57.5 seconds. The WRX STI Type RA NBR Special is a custom built race car built by Prodrive using a stock 2017 WRX STI with a full roll cage welded into the standard unibody for added strength and stiffness. It has a modified 2.0-liter boxer motor and uses a 75-mm intake, and the turbo runs at 25 psi of boost. This produces more than 600 horsepower at 8,500 rpm.

Auto News for July 25 – Redesigned Wrangler in November!

  Here is something to look forward to! The redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler will make its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in late November. Britain’s Auto Express quotes a pretty good source – Jeep Boss Mike Manley. And do not fret Jeep fans. He assured the publication that many things you like about the current model, such as the traditional grille, will be retained while moving “everything the Wrangler stands for forward significantly.”

 Ford is the latest to consider phasing out cars that are not selling briskly in light of the continuing demand for SUV’s and crossovers, the Detroit News reports this morning. It said Ford may cease production of the Taurus by the end of next year, the Fiesta by the end of 2018 or 2019, and the C-Max is likely to be sent out to pasture by early 2019. The newspaper cited an unidentified source.

 GM reported this morning that second quarter income fell 42 percent compared to year earlier mainly due to a big loss from discontinued European operations related to its sale of Opel. But take out one-time items, and GM earnings came to $1.89 a share and that topped analyst estimates. “Disciplined and relentless focus on improving our business performance led to a strong quarter and very solid first half of the year. We will continue transforming GM to capitalize on growth opportunities and deliver even more value for our shareholders,” said Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. The automaker said crossover sales are the best in GM history. In pre-market trading this morning, GM shares fell just over a half percent. Ford is scheduled to report its second quarter results before the market opens on Wednesday.

 The 2018 Mustang GT in Drag Strip mode can reach 60 mph in under four seconds and that makes it the fastest Mustang GT ever, the automaker announced. A redesigned 5.0-liter V8 with the also new 10-speed transmission gets a power boost to 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. That compares to 435/400 in the current model. Drag Strip mode optimizes torque, transmission and newly available custom-designed Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires to deliver maximum acceleration and performance in straight-line driving.

 The EcoBoost four gets a 30 lb-ft gain in torque that will send it to 60 in under five seconds, again in Drag Strip Mode.

 

 

 

 

 

   

  

Auto News for July 24

 If one does not sell a product, why make it? GM is reportedly considering dropping six car models believing that the strong demand for crossovers and related vehicles will continue for several years down the road. Reuters has the report citing unnamed sources. Potentially on the chopping block due to slow sales are the Chevrolet Sonic, Impala, and Volt, along with two Cadillacs, the XTS and the CT6, and the Buick Lacrosse. Production of some of these models has been slowed to bring inventory in line with current demand. If any of the brands are axed, they would be replaced by crossovers and SUVs. GM officials have refused comment on the story. Wow! Imagine Chevy without an Impala!

 Infiniti has confirmed to Automotive News that this will be the last year the QX70 will be offered. But like blockbuster Broadway productions it may not be gone forever. Automotive News said Infiniti is working on a redesigned QX that could show up in 2021 or 2022.

 Didn’t want you to miss the fact that this is “National Drive-Thru Day” celebrating restaurants that serve customers on the go. The first is believed to have been at Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield Missouri and you will not believe the debut date! 1947! Although, this was more of a “car hop” as it was known then rather than the station to station way we pick up food today. Back then servers, many times on roller skates, brought food to the customer in a parking lot and placed a tray on car’s side window. This was not the ideal solution when it was raining.

 Ferrari is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the F40 back on July 21, 1987 at the Civic Center in Maranello, now home to the Ferrari Museum. It carried an 8-cylinder twin-turbo rated at 478 horsepower and was the first production Ferrari with a top speed of almost 204 miles per hour. “We obtained precisely the car we wanted, with few comforts and no compromises. With no power steering, power brakes or electronic devices, it demands the skill and commitment of the driver but generously repays it with a unique driving experience. Steering precision, road holding, braking power and intensity of acceleration reached unmatched levels for a road car,” said Dario Benuzzi, Ferrari’s long-term test driver.

 

Saturday Road Test – VW Golf GTI Autobahn Edition

                   

 

                    Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn

                                Good Fun    

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Here is darn near perfection on a treasured back road.

 A turbocharged ever so willing four cylinder, a sport suspension, a Sport” drive mode, and no traffic on a sunny summer afternoon.

 An A/C system related to an iceberg on a day the Weather Service is issuing heat advisories of over 100.  

 Seats that keep my bod in place, fast acting paddle shifts, and sensory feedback from the car that says, “Let’s go have some fun.”

 And that is why the Volks GTI for ages has won praise from road testers and enthusiasts from Seattle to Stuttgart.

 Under the short hood is a turbo charged four good for 220 hp @ 4,500 rpm with 258 lb-ft of torque @1,500 rpm. Look for a 0-60 in about six seconds flat with the automatic.

 Aiding the fun level in the top trim level Autobahn is a larger rear stabilizer bar, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, and adaptive suspension dampers. It manages the suspension’s rebound and compression rate individually helping to improve vehicle dynamics and is available only on the Autobahn edition.

 On roads that really are just paved over old wagon trails, the GTI hung in there extremely well and the turbo four was quick to respond to a request for more power when getting around a very slow moving AMC Pacer. (I’m not kidding.)

 Non-enthusiasts may wonder about the stiff ride but that can be mitigated to some degree by selecting something other than the Sport mode.

 There was some turbo lag when not in Sport mode, and I did wish for a six speed manual even though the automatic equated itself rather well and calmed things down nicely on interstates. Well it should since this was the Autobahn model!

 The test model also came with a $1,095 Driver Assist Package that included an automated parallel parking assist, with front and rear parking sensors. This car is just 168 inches long and 71 wide and left me wondering why anyone would need the assisted parking systems.

 EPA? 24 city, 32 highway for a combined 27 mpg which was my average for the week. Premium for full performance.

 Standard equipment included a rather quiet sunroof when open, the expected safety equipment, summer tires that stuck rather nicely in turns, but also mean that if you live in the snow belt you will go shopping for tires in late fall.

 The info screen was located rather low in the center dash, meaning you have to take your gaze off the road to check it. A center top of the dash position is much better. Standard is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The navi system was not the greatest, but one can overlook that with those two standard items.

 Two adults will find ample space in the rear seats, while up front there is also ample room even with the sunroof. But the multi-adjustable driver’s seat was not as comfortable as others on a long day’s drive.

 While the GTI sits low to the ground getting in and out was a snap for both row passengers thanks to the hatchback design. Fold the second row 60/40 seats down, and one can stash away an abundant supply of stuff given the available 52.7 cubic feet of space created.

 But it is on your favorite back road where the GTI (Great Touring Indeed) sparkles. The suspension, steering, engine and tranny are all in perfect harmony, like a Bavarian Band playing during Octoberfest. (You have to experience one in Germany before you die.)

 The price for all this fun in a very well equipped hatch came to $37,110 that some might feel is a bit much to pay for a VW Golf. But do not despair.

 A base model GTI with a stick shift can be had for $25,595. A more desirable Sport model starts at $29,995 and brings to the party the Performance Package with torque-sensing limited slip differential. You want that.  

 Coming for 2018 will be standard LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, an 8 inch-infotainment screen on SE and SEL trims, and a Digital Cockpit customizable dashboard on the Golf R.

 

Auto News for July 21 – A Pulse Quickening New Lotus

 

 As the greater Washington D.C. area wilts under heat and humidity that feels like 100 degrees plus, we will lead off this morning with a hot new Lotus.

 How hot? A 0-60 of just 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 190 mph.

 The Lotus Evora GT430 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that is supercharged and “charge cooled” with 430 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque from 4,500 rpm with a six-speed manual transmission.

 Lotus has taken various steps to lighten the new car such as using lots of carbon fiber so it weighs in at just 2,864 pounds. There are a number of design enhancements to increase the amount of downforce at speed and there are four “Dynamic Stability Modes” – Drive, Sport, Race, and Off.    

 “Lotus is famous for using its technical expertise to develop the lightest engineering solutions,” explained CEO Jean-Marc Gales.

 “It’s an intricate balance of power, finesse and road holding, no matter the speed, and is a true track-and-back sports car, supremely focused and immensely fast,” he said of the new model.

 Just 60 editions of the GT430 will be hand built in Norfolk, England, for sale in select markets around the world and, following the popularity of Lotus’ recent limited run editions, the company said it’s already in line to be a true collector’s car.

 I would add this car simply has to be a wonderful experience on what the Brits call a “B” road.

 Elsewhere:

 Ford has unveiled the “industry’s first pursuit-related pickup”, the 2018 F-150 Police Responder. For power there is a 3.5-liter V6 with 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque with a 10-speed transmission and a top speed of 100 mph. It is based on the F-150 FX4 off-road model with the “Supercrew” body.

 Volvo will soon release details of its first entry into the small premium SUV segment with the VC40. It will come with “dozens of possible exterior and interior color combinations” because buyers want “a car that reflects their personality,” the company said. Interior color choices will include Lava Orange carpet and Oxide Red upholstery.  

 The 2017 Kia Forte has earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the group’s highest rating.

 

 

 

Auto News – Performance Buick GS

2018 Buick Regal GS2018 Buick Regal GS

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 A performance Buick? Yup!

 Long rumored and long talked about, Buick has taken all the wraps off its 2018 Regal GS with 51 more horsepower than the model is replaces. That comes from a new 3.6 liter V6 with 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque. All this hooks up to a nine speed automatic and all-wheel drive.

 Inside are “performance seats” that are heated and cooled and will also give the operator a back massage. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are compatible through the 8-inch touchscreen. There is also an 8-inch instrument cluster.

 A full-color head-up display is available with an optional Driver Confidence II package that includes several safety features such as Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Automatic Braking.

 Standard are Brembo brakes, while Continuous Damping Control can adjust the suspension damping up to 500 times per second. There is also a “sport turned” dual exhaust system. To add to the fun, operators can choose either a GS or Sport drive mode.

 It will be interesting to see how customers react to the five door “Sportback Design” of the new car that will carry a starting price of $39,990, well under the price of rival Acura TLX A-Spec and the Lexus IS350 F-Sport.

 Look for the Buick to hit the market later this year.

 Car shoppers visiting a popular website are searching most for vehicles from domestic manufacturers, with nine out of the top 10 cars, trucks and SUVs on the list hailing from American auto companies. Four vehicles on the Auto Trader list are Chevrolets, three are Fords and two are Jeeps, with one Toyota model rounding out the list. Eight of ten vehicles, no surprise, are SUV’s.

 Topping the list are the Ford F-150, Jeep Wrangler, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford Mustang and the F-250 pickup.

 Washington residents think pet passengers pose a greater distraction for drivers than kids in the car. Still, about half of drivers across the Northwest admit they’ve driven with unrestrained animals, which can have serious consequences for pets, owners and fellow drivers alike, according to PEMCO insurance.

 A total of 43 percent of drivers in Washington think it’s more distracting to drive with barking, licking and tail-chasing pets than it is to commute with rambunctious kids. That’s compared to 34 percent who think children are the greater distraction. The same sentiment isn’t true in Oregon – drivers there find kids and fur babies equally distracting.

 PEMCO said pets and drivers are at risk of injury or worse if animals are unrestrained in an accident.

 Leasing a new set of wheels has declined after a four year surge according to Edmunds.com. The number of vehicles that were leased in the first half of the year fell 4.4 percent – twice the rate of decline for overall sales which are down 2.2 percent year over year.