Auto News for Jan. 22 – Dogs & Subaru


 Subaru is going to the dogs and that is a good thing. If you watched the Screen Actors Guild Awards you saw their new ad campaign featuring the “Barkleys” promoting the “Dog Tested. Dog Approved” Subarus. The family of Labrador and Golden Retrievers also recently helped launch the Suby Ascent.

 Meanwhile Hyundai used the AFC and NFC Championship games on Sunday to tease the advertising we will see for the company during the Super Bowl in two weeks.  The tease remembers Hyundai’s ad from last year’s big game in which three troops stationed overseas watched the game in custom built immersive pods and were virtually reunited with their families who were at the game. The auto company said this year it wants to do something bigger and “celebrate millions of heroes who have helped a very important cause.”


 Penske Automotive has been named one of Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies.” Toyota also made the list. It was named the top motor vehicle company for the fourth consecutive year.

 The very first 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt has been sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction for $300,000 with all of the proceeds going to a school for troubled youth – a school attended by Steve McQueen, star of the 1968 “Bullitt” movie. He remained close to the school long after graduating. Ford has not disclosed the selling price for the limited edition model featuring a 475 horsepower V8 with 15 more ponies than the Mustang 5.0-liter. A total of 420 lb-ft of torque should get your attention also. A smart move by future owners might be some shares Goodyear or Firestone.  








Toyota CH-R




                                 Toyota CH-R

                                   First Drive 

                             OOO, What’s This?

 By Ron Amadon

 DAMASCUS, MD. – The Toyota CH-R is not known for its acceleration with a slow 0-60 in excess of 10 seconds. The lone engine offered is a 2.0 liter four with 144 horsepower @ 6,100 rpm and 139 lb-ft of torque @ 3,900 rpm.  

 It is married to a CVT that can be slow to dig some power out of the engine and can be noisy when making its search.

 There is enough here for around town driving and a fellow road tester said the CH-R would be a rather nice ride for that task.

 But wait! What is this?

 How about a CH-R that turned in a quicker lap time at the Willow Springs International Raceway than all but five production cars, all of which carry price tags well north of the Toyota.

 Say hello to the one off CH-R Tuned edition that can make your palms sweaty.

 It features a 2.4 super turned turbo with a power output in excess of 600 horsepower.

 For you tech types: It is a 2.4-liter Toyota 2AZ-FE with Dezod-supplied forged internals, a titanium and Inconel valve-train and custom DG-Spec Garret turbo system. All this is tied to a five speed manual transmission. Front wheel drive is retained but it has a limited-slip differential that mediates between the drive wheels.

 Braking and handling have not been forgotten with Brembo racing brakes, with aluminum Monobloc calipers up front and triple adjustable Motion Control Suspension motorsports dampers along with a long list of competition goodies.

 Now I am not saying that Toyota is going to turn one of these around for the street. But it does show what Dan Gardner Spec could do to such a vehicle.

 Here’s a tease! Gardner said this is not just a show concept but a track worthy performance vehicle, and he can’t wait to see what the public thinks of it.

 Yours truly has been told by folks in the know that the CH-R was supposed to be a Scion but that brand was shut down. Toyota wanted to continue to offer the “Utility Vehicle” but had little time to make any desired changes before it was scheduled to hit the market.

 All this leaves open the possibility of some desired performance improvements down the road, the upper echelon of Toyota agreeing.

 And it would not be the first to take some performance car parts and add them to the consumer offering. A turbo with a five or six speed stick would be inviting for sure, since the CH-R handles rather well on roundabouts.

 Addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be a major step forward to meeting the demands of the younger audience CH-R is aimed at.

 Certainly the exterior design is controversial, but I will leave it to the ultimate judge, the market place, to decide how it is accepted.

 Yet, give it some grunt and those much talked about lines may just disappear. And of course, it will never get lost in a supermarket parking lot.

 Factoid: CH-R stands for “Coupe High-Rider.”


 EPA 27/31/29 on reg. unleaded

 Wheelbase 103.9 in.

 Overall Length 171.2 in.

 Overall Width 70.7 in.

 Overall Height 61.6 in.

 Seats: 5

 Curb Weight 3,300 lbs

 Prices start at $22,500 for the base XLE model

 The XLE Premium starts at $24,350.

Auto News for Jan. 19 – When a simple Rolls is just not enough

 The very rich could just wander into a Rolls-Royce showroom and pick out a car. But for the super-super rich their new wheels have to be better than the one parked next to them at the country club.

 So Rolls has a special “Bespoke” department to meet their desires.

 In 2017, one client wanted a “Sweptail,” what we could call a fastback that paid homage to the Rolls of the 1920s and 1930s. He or she got one. “Bespoke, motor car like no other,” the maker said.

 Another drew its inspiration from the ancient art of Arabic calligraphy while the Ghost “Elegance” became the first Rolls to be finished in a paint infused with diamonds. (Your body shop would be so impressed.)

 Yet another model had a screen that stretches the entire width of the dash panel for displaying art works. And the “Wraith Busan Edition” had a rear pillar motif that echoes the latticework for traditional Korean “Hanok” screen doors.

 It certainly will be fun to see what Rolls comes up with this year to keep “the customer satisfied, satisfied.”

 GM will not have to pay $1 billion in stock as part of a settlement with owners of cars with defective ignition switches. A judge ruled the trust overseeing claims against the “old” GM acted in bad faith and never signed the settlement agreement with GM.

 The Takata air bag inflator recall just got bigger. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has added 14 additional automakers that will be added to the recall.

 To see if your vehicle is involved, go to and enter your vehicles VIN number. It appears on the driver’s side of the dashboard.



Auto News for Jan. 18


McLaren christening
A christening of sorts for McLaren’s new carbon fiber plant in Yorkshire, England. The firm staged a spectacular light show, after which a McLaren performed a series of doughnuts to leave a trail of fresh rubber on the center’s floor to christen it – McLaren style.
When it comes on line, the facility will produce carbon fiber tubs for the company’s cars, McLaren’s first plant outside Woking, England.

A new study from the EPA concludes that Mazda has achieved the highest overall Manufacturer Adjusted Fuel Economy for the 2016 model year. This is the fifth year in a row that Mazda claimed the first place finish.

Ford’s stock took a tumble the day after executives said 2017 earnings would fall short of Wall Street expectations. In heavy trading, Ford shares closed down 7 percent Wednesday. It cited unfavorable currency rates overseas and higher costs for steel, aluminum and other metals as well as investments in mobility and autonomous vehicles. The automaker will release its complete financial report on the 24th.

GM announced that the 3.0-liter turbo diesel that will be available in its Chevy Silverado pickups will be manufactured at its plant in Flint, Michigan.



Auto News for Jan. 17 – An Electric Ferrari?


 After once indicating that he was not a fan of all-electric cars, the head of Fiat Chrysler told reporters Ferrari will produce, at some point, a high performance electric to compete with Tesla. Sergio Marchionne also said Ferrari will introduce an SUV by late next year or in 2020 and it will be the fastest of its kind on the market.


 The Volkswagen Atlas has been named “Best of 2018” by for its ability to “comfortably haul seven adults and plenty of cargo.” Other winners were:

 Best Pickup Truck of 2018: Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

 Eco-Friendly Car of the Year: Chevrolet Bolt EV 

 Family Car of the Year: Chrysler Pacifica

 Luxury Car of the Year: Audi A4

 Most Fun-to-Drive Car of the Year: Volkswagen Golf GTI

 A new survey of 1,134 drivers finds that nearly half expect to see more fuel efficient vehicles on the road this year, and 41 percent expect “environmentally – friendly vehicles,” such as electrics, to become more mainstream. The biggest trend for the New Year? Thirty-two percent said it will be self-driving vehicles.

 And it doesn’t appear that the SUV/crossover trend is slowing. Nearly 32 percent said an SUV is their vehicle of choice.

 When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, 57 percent said they would clean the interior of their vehicle on a regular basis.

 The poll was a venture of Capital One and the GM BuyPower Card.

 Infiniti expects more than half of its global sales to be comprised of electric vehicles by 2025. Its chief executive officer told the Automotive News World Congress the company will introduce vehicles with electrified powertrains from 2021.

 Volvo has opened what it calls a climate-neutral manufacturing plant in Skovde, Sweden, or one that has switched to renewable heating. All heating supplied to the plant is generated from waste incineration, biomass and recycled bio-fuels. The company said it would continue to work with energy suppliers in all regions to “secure further access to renewable energy.”

Auto News for Jan. 16 – New off-road vehicles announced



 A redesigned Jeep Cherokee was unveiled this morning at the Detroit Auto Show, the last ceremony of its kind at this year’s event.

 It sports a new look up front but retains the seven slot grille demanded by Jeep fans. Like so many new models at the show it has have dieting.

 Jeep said the new Cherokee is 200 pounds lighter while retaining its legendary off-road abilities. The cargo area has been expanded, the standard infotainment screen is now two inches larger at 7 inches, while the 8.4 inch display remains an option.  

 There is a new engine option, a 2.0-liter turbo four with 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque and that is more torque than the 3.2-liter V6 which carries over along with the 2.4-liter four. The new four is matched to a 9-speed automatic.

 Also new is a hands free power liftgate.

 Look for the new Cherokee in the first quarter.

 Mercedes displayed its new G-Class off road vehicle with LED headlamps, advanced driver assistance systems, a high-quality interior with leather seats and a new suspension. Additionally, options such as the Exclusive Interior Plus with diamond-stitched leather provide even more customization.


 Under the hood is a 4.0-liter V8 biturbo with 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque matched to a new 9 speed automatic with a torque converter specially designed for those going off road.

 Occupants benefit from more space in virtually all areas, with an option of multicontour seats with various massage functions, rapid heating and ventilation.

  But make no mistake, this is a premier off road vehicle despite all the luxury touches thanks to its standard ladder-type frame, the three 100-percent differential locks and low range off-road gear reduction – the G remains a true G.

 Ground clearance is a hefty 10.6 inches to the front axle gear and an improved 9.5 inches between the axles.

 The new G wagon will go on sale here in the U.S. later this year.


 GM is optimistic entering 2018 and it is projecting record 2017 earnings per share adjusted at the high end of the previously stated range of $6.00 to $6.50 a share.  

 One reason for future optimism is expected strong demand for the new Silverado pickup with the revamped GMC model to follow.

 “The all-new full-size truck family that launches this year will generate very strong returns for years to come,” said GM President Dan Ammann.

 Several readers have asked how the Lincoln Navigator could win the “North American Truck of the Year” award without an open truck bed to the rear.

 The journalists who vote on the winners spent a considerable amount of time talking about this very issue.

 For Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press it came down to this:

 “If it tows like a truck and hauls like a truck, it’s a truck,” he said in the paper.

 The Navigator can tow 8,700 pounds and that sets it apart from vehicles such as the Volvo XC90 and that is how it ended up in the truck category, he added

 I wonder if another award category should be added to end the confusion, but I guess if we can have 4-door coupes …

  Fiat Chrysler could be cash positive by June, a prime goal of CEO Sergio Marchionne. Further, he said the company would not be sold off to Chinese auto firms in whole or in part.

 Marchionne is expected to step down as CEO later this year or early next year.







Wrapping up Detroit – Day One

Acura to Toyota

By Ron Amadon

Acura calls it the “most extensive” redesign in more than a decade – the unveiling of the 2019 RDX prototype.

Acura RDX Prototype

It has undergone a top to bottom remake and is the first to embrace Acura’s new design language.

In addition to a stiffer and lighter body and an Acura exclusive platform, the RDX gets an all new powertrain with a 2.0-liter turbo four matched to a ten speed automatic. For 2019, there is the return of Acura’s Super-handling All Wheel Drive and four distinct drive modes; Sport, Sport+, Comfort and Snow.

It rides on a 2.5 inch longer wheelbase and is 1.2 inches wider so there is more room inside. Front seats are 16 ways adjustable, and are heated and ventilated.

The new Touchpad Interface is an Android based operating system projected on a 10.2 inch screen and an available head up display. There is also a new voice recognition system.

Sounds? An optional 710 watt audio system designed by Panasonic that uses four ultra-thin ceiling mounted speakers.

The 2019 RDX will launch in mid-year.

Also in the Motor City this morning was the global debut of the 2019 Kia Forte. It will come with Kia’s first in-house designed variable transmission and other changes that it said should deliver an estimated 35 combined mpg.

2019 Forte
Standard equipment will include an 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Overall length is up 3.2 inches to 182.7 inches with 15.1 cubic feet of cargo room. Head room is up by a half inch.

The 2.0-liter Atkinson Cycle four can be matched to either a six speed manual or the “all-new Intelligent Variable Transmission.” It is said to have a step-shift-like feel at wide open throttle.

A 320-watt Harmon Kardon sound system available.

Look for the new model to go on sale here in the U.S. later this year.


A redesigned Veloster lit up the Hyundai stand with an appealing Model N performance version sporting a 2.0-liter turbo four with up to 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

And it will come with a six-speed manual tranny!

Also on board is an “electronically controlled” suspension with multiple track tuned driving modes.

Tires are of the ultra-high performance category, with standard 225/40R18 Michelin Pilot SuperSport summer tires for the 18-inch wheel design and exclusive-compound 235/35R19 Pirelli P-Zero summer tires for the available 19-inch alloy wheel.

As engine speed approaches redline, the N-design center cluster displays a progressive sequential shift indicator, alerting the driver of an impending shift point for maximum acceleration.
Drive Modes include Normal, Sport, N, Eco and N Custom, differentiating engine throttle response, engine speed rev-matching, exhaust note, active differential tuning, suspension damping rates, steering feel and yaw-control characteristics. N Custom mode allows comprehensive driving character preferences via customizable settings for each tunable driving attribute.

This puppy should be a blast to drive when it appears in the fourth quarter!
Over at Infiniti came the midsize Q Inspiration Concept, with an eye catching exterior and interior design that could be giving some hints about where the company’s future designs are headed.

INFINITI Q Inspiration Concept

It is powered by a four cylinder turbocharged variable compression ratio engine – one that combusts much like a diesel but runs on gasoline.

INFINITI Q Inspiration Concept

ProPILOT is said to be the next stage in vehicle autonomy that allows the driver to delegate more stressful operating tasks to the car, but to always retain ultimate control.

The cabin follows a minimalist approach, with a concise and clean interior design enveloping the driver and passengers.

“The INFINITI Q Inspiration previews something that could appeal to a younger audience, who seek modern design and new technologies to inspire and empower them,” said Christian Meunier, INFINITI Global Division Vice President.

Riding into the hall on its New Global Architecture, came the redesigned Toyota Avalon.

It will share many of its updates with its brother, the Camry.


Avalon firsts include an optional adaptive suspension something that might spice up handling. Like many of the new offerings displayed this morning, the Avalon underwent a bit of a growth spurt.

It sports a two inch longer wheelbase, and is just under an inch wider than the current model.

‘Git up and go comes from either a 2.5-liter hybrid four or the 3.5-liter V6 which will appear on most models. Toyota did not release any power figures. Hybrid models come with a CVT while the six mates with an eight speed automatic.


Apple CarPlay enters the picture for the first time, and Avalon will offer integration with Amazon Alexa.

It should appear on dealer lots later this year.