Auto News for Jan. 11

 Some automakers just can’t wait for the Detroit show next week to show off their new offerings, so this morning we are treated to a “Preview of Coming Attractions.”

 Kia led off with drawings of the “all-new” Forte that has “graduated” to a “more sophisticated appearance…” The big change is a more swept back design from the current “cab forward” look.

 Inside, the car is said to have a sense of openness with minimal buttons that are placed below the center dash screen. More info to come on Monday.

 Honda released a picture of the 2019 Insight prototype that will also debut Monday and launch nationwide next year. The two electric motor hybrid is expected to receive an EPA fuel economy in excess of 50 mpg. It also features a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine and a lithium-ion battery pack. There will be some luxury touches inside such as perforated leather seating, an 8-inch touchscreen and a 7-inch digital LCD driver’s “meter.”

 And Toyota will show off “a modern toolbox for today’s city driver” the FT-4X Concept. It is a four-wheel drive crossover designed in California that helps drivers achieve a casual rather than hardcore outing and move from the city to “adventure” seamlessly. And, as mentioned here earlier, Toyota will debut a redesigned Avalon.  

 Car and Driver has announced its selections for the 10 Best Trucks and SUV’s of the year. They are:

 Kia Soul, BMW X1, Mazda CX-5 & CX-9, Porsche Macan, Audi Q7, Mercedes GLS450, Honda Ridgeline, Ford F-150, and the Chrysler Pacifica in their respective categories. They are broken down into subcompact, compact, and mid-size, each with a luxury and non-luxury sector, along with a combined large category. The base price had to be under $80,000.

 Toyota and Mazda have made it official. They will jointly build a $1.6 billion dollar plant in Huntsville, Alabama that create “up to 4,000 jobs” and begin production by 2021. It will produce the Toyota Corolla and a crossover model for Mazda. “With this announcement, our world changes overnight,” said Tommy Battle, mayor of Huntsville.

 At the Consumer Electronics Show Harman, now a part of Samsung, has displayed what could be the dashboard of the future. It features a QLED screen that stretches from the driver’s side of the dash to the passenger space. For instance, this would allow the passenger to access their favorite video services, handy on a long trip. There are specialized screens for the driver depending on their need for information.

 Harman said it can “seamlessly integrate the instrument cluster with center console via voice, haptic feedback, and physical knobs and steering wheel controls in a single, center screen for all vital vehicle information and features. This also supports a multi-modal approach for interactions with different human-machine interfaces to allow customization in terms of HVAC, media and user settings.”

 But in full display mode, one does wonder how this will help reduce the growing instances of distracted driving.

 

  

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Auto News for Jan. 10 – New Lexus, & Alabama Wins Another One

 

 Stand by for the Lexus LF-1 Limitless that will be displayed for the first time at the Detroit auto show next week. It is said to be a luxury crossover vehicle and designed in California. Lexus released a teaser photo.

 Alabama not only won the National Championship, but a new auto factory according to numerous published reports. Toyota and Mazda have selected the state as site of a $1.6 billion joint plant that will employ about 4,000 people. A formal announcement is expected later today.

 It will produce both the Toyota Corolla and a new small Mazda SUV starting in 2021.

 Cadillac is said to be considering production a new smaller crossover vehicle at its plant in Kansas, Bloomberg said citing people familiar with the matter. The XT4 would take on the BMW X3 and Audi Q3.

 Toyota Amazon Alexa, Amazon’s cloud based voice service, will be introduced in select Toyota and Lexus vehicles with Toyota Entune 3.0 App Suite and Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0 this year. Additional models will be available in 2019. This feature will allow Toyota and Lexus customers to, among other things, control entertainment, get the news, add items to a shopping list, control their smart home and even get directions.  

 

Auto News for Jan. 9 – Don’t Give Up The Steering Wheel – For Years

  A bit of perspective. You will hear a lot this week from the Consumer Electronics Show about driverless cars and trucks, including a van that will deliver a pizza to your door without someone behind the wheel.

 But as a recent Bloomberg article points out, we are many years away from giving up our place behind the wheel.

 Simply stated, technology has not caught up with the human brain’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Will it happen one day? Most likely. When? That is unclear.

 

That being said, Kia has announced it will produce a full line of connected cars by the year 2030, 16 electrified vehicles by 2025, and rolled out the Niro EV concept.

 It is a full-electric compact SUV with a range of 238 miles. An “Active Pedestrian Warning System” will sound an alert if it detects a pedestrian or cyclist crossing in front of it warning them of the car’s presence.

 Another system would allow front and rear passengers to listen to their own music at the same time without intruding on others in the car, using noise cancellation technology.

 Also at CES, Hyundai displayed a fuel cell vehicle called NEXO with an estimated range of 370 miles. It will also be able to supply electricity to a “conceptual household” and voice commands that will cover most vehicle rated functions, as well as turning on your living room lights, for instance, or giving you tomorrow’s weather forecast.

 

 The main bugaboo with hydrogen powered cars is the lack of refueling stations, now centered mainly in California. So NEXO will only be offered in select markets, sometime this year.

 Hyundai also displayed its “Intelligent Personal Cockpit” that can predict a driver’s needs and check on his or hers health.

 “Personal Wellness Care” operates with two sensors in the steering wheel and seat. One monitors heart rate for sudden changes and stress levels and provide online visual consultation with a doctor or simply turn on soothing music while dimming cabin lighting to lighten the mood.

 Not so sure about the feature that opens the door simply by knocking twice.

 Pizza Hut is working with Toyota on a fully-autonomous delivery vehicle called e-Palette. Toyota may start testing the idea in 2020.

  

 

 

 

 

   

 

Auto News for Jan. 8 – First Diesel Powered F-150 in the Works!

 

 For the first time Ford’s best-selling vehicle will be available with a diesel engine, a V6 with 440 lb-ft of torque and 250 horsepower. It will be offered with a 10-speed automatic and, Ford hopes, will be rated at 30 mpg when it first appears in showrooms this spring.

 The F-150 was once again the nation’s top selling vehicle in 2017, the 41st year in a row the truck could claim the top spot.

 

Mercedes Benz will officially reveal the new “Gelandewagen” at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, according to Motor Trend. This is the heavy duty off road G-Class with a history of conquering the toughest off road conditions. MB did release a teaser photo of the G taking on a blizzard.

 Volkswagen sold 10.7 million vehicles last year, which was more than Toyota, and allowed VW to retain the title of world’s largest automaker. This according to estimates released by Bild am Sontag, Germany’s largest selling Sunday newspaper. It is based in Berlin.

 Those who rented U-Haul trailers and trucks for moving to a new home made the most trips to Texas, the company announced. Some of the state’s figures can likely be attributed to the active hurricane season.

 Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee rounded out the top five most arrivals, and North Carolina was seventh, continuing a strong growth movement in the Southeast.

 California overtook Illinois on the list as the biggest net-loss state.

 Mini has announced the route for its “MINI TAKES THE STATES” rally later this year. Participants will roll out of either Portland, Oregon, or Orlando, Florida and meet up at the Keystone Resort in Colorado. The rally will run from July 14 to the 22nd and the routes selected are not interstates, but focus on state and county roads with the best scenery and lots of challenging corners.

 

 

Truck of the Year Announced!

                             RAM 2500 Big Horn Crew Cab 4×4           

                 

 By Ron Amadon

 DAMASCUS, MD. – It won because it’s macho. It will take you anywhere you want to go when you want to go there and look tough doing it.  

 Okay, maybe not through the Bombogenesis flooded out streets of Boston and other coastal Massachusetts towns and cities, but through most everything else.

 My appreciation of Dodge/RAM trucks started, of all places, on a remote Aleutian Island. (Correction: A very, very remote island eight hours from Anchorage.)

 When one had to get to the other end of the tiny island when the wind was howling and snow was falling sideways, there was only one way to do it. A Dodge Powerwagon pickup with a huge amount of ground clearance and 4-wheel drive. It was just about unstoppable.

 The fun came when you found out how many fellow airmen wearing bulky parkas you could fit in per trip to their duty station.

 All these memories came flashing back when I sat on the ground to take a head on picture of the “Truck of the Year.”

  “Big Horn” is just such an appropriate name for it. Just look at the picture! At least these “Big Horns” don’t intentionally crash head on into one another.   

 It was a Crew Cab, of course, but I could not round up enough neighbors to test its maximum potential passenger capacity.

 And unlike the stripped down Air Force Powerwagon, this RAM was right in step with what Americans are buying these days – trucks with the interior of a luxury sedan.

 In Delmonico Red, the test truck sported $19,525 worth of options such as a 10-way adjustable leather driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, 8.4 inch touchscreen infotainment screen, dual zone heating and air, power adjustable pedals, navi, heated outside mirrors, parking assist system, and enough other goodies to fill out the rest of this story.

 Any truck like this had to have a diesel under the hood, and in this case it was a 6.7 liter Cummins turbo matched to a very responsive 6-speed automatic.

 Torque is the name of the game with a diesel, so try on the 800 lb-ft this RAM offered to go with the 385 horsepower that can tow 17,980 pounds of trailer with trailer brake control or just under 4,000 pounds of cargo in the truck bed.

 It was quick to get up to interstate speeds from slow speed entrance ramps, and once at cruising speed the diesel settled right in and became a silent partner. So not only can this Big Horn do some heavy lifting on weekends, it is also, with all those comfort touches inside and quiet ride, a good choice for a long trip. The coil spring suspension all around resulted in a better than expected ride for such a heavy duty truck.

Kudos for an infotainment system that was easy to configure, and it came with a 5 year subscription to Sirius XM traffic – handy for that daily commute.

 Sitting on 20-inch black painted aluminum wheels one gets a great view of what’s around this big truck that is also ready to go off road.

  Electric shift-on-the-fly transfer case of course, along with skid plates to protect vital components, tow hooks, hill descent control, and Bilstein front and rear performance tuned shock absorbers.

 And there’s a Diesel Exhaust Brake, that, like the “big rigs,” uses the engine and exhaust path to slow the vehicle.

 For hauling there were four adjustable tie down hooks in the spray on lined truck bed, along with a cargo divider and extender.

 So as you can see, the RAM like other pickups on the market, can be configured just the way you would like it.

 But to this reviewers eyes, this is the truck with the “Night Special Edition” that pronounces in a deep, sweaty, masculine voice – “TRUCK”

 Factoids:

 The test truck with a long list of options carried an MSRP of $64,860.

 New for 2018: Ultra-luxurious Limited Tungsten edition; Sport appearance upgrade; 8.4-inch screen, 4G LTE,  Android Auto/Apple Car Play, USB Flip, pinch to zoom and improved resolution; Sirius Guardian with SOS, Assist, Remote Services, Send and Go and Vehicle Finder; Remote exterior switch in truck bed to activate LED bed lights; Backup camera now standard on all models.

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

                       Truck of the Year

             RAM 2500 Big Horn Crew Cab 4×4                            

 By Ron Amadon

 DAMASCUS, MD. – It won because it’s macho. It will take you anywhere you want to go when you want to go there and look tough doing it.   

 Okay, maybe not through the Bombogenesis flooded out streets of Boston and other coastal Massachusetts towns and cities, but through most everything else.

 My appreciation of Dodge/RAM trucks started, of all places, on a remote Aleutian Island. (Correction: A very, very remote island eight hours from Anchorage.)

 When one had to get to the other end of the tiny island when the wind was howling and snow was falling sideways, there was only one way to do it. A Dodge Powerwagon pickup with a huge amount of ground clearance and 4-wheel drive. It was just about unstoppable.

 The fun came when you found out how many fellow airmen wearing bulky parkas you could fit in per trip to their duty station.

 All these memories came flashing back when I sat on the ground to take a head on picture of the “Truck of the Year.”

  “Big Horn” is just such an appropriate name for it. Just look at the picture! At least these “Big Horns” don’t intentionally crash head on into one another.   

 It was a Crew Cab, of course, but I could not round up enough neighbors to test its maximum potential passenger capacity.

 And unlike the stripped down Air Force Powerwagon, this RAM was right in step with what Americans are buying these days – trucks with the interior of a luxury sedan.

 In Delmonico Red, the test truck sported $19,525 worth of options such as a 10-way adjustable leather driver’s seat, ventilated front seats, 8.4 inch touchscreen infotainment screen, dual zone heating and air, power adjustable pedals, navi, heated outside mirrors, parking assist system, and enough other goodies to fill out the rest of this story.

 Any truck like this had to have a diesel under the hood, and in this case it was a 6.7 liter Cummins turbo matched to a very responsive 6-speed automatic.

 Torque is the name of the game with a diesel, so try on the 800 lb-ft this RAM offered to go with the 385 horsepower that can tow 17,980 pounds of trailer with trailer brake control or just under 4,000 pounds of cargo in the truck bed.

 It was quick to get up to interstate speeds from slow speed entrance ramps, and once at cruising speed the diesel settled right in and became a silent partner. So not only can this Big Horn do some heavy lifting on weekends, it is also, with all those comfort touches inside and quiet ride, a good choice for a long trip. The coil spring suspension all around resulted in a better than expected ride for such a heavy duty truck.

 Kudos for an infotainment system that was easy to configure, and it came with a 5 year subscription to Sirius XM traffic – handy for that daily commute.

 Sitting on 20-inch black painted aluminum wheels one gets a great view of what’s around this big truck that is also ready to go off road.

  Electric shift-on-the-fly transfer case of course, along with skid plates to protect vital components, tow hooks, hill descent control, and Bilstein front and rear performance tuned shock absorbers.

 And there’s a Diesel Exhaust Brake, that, like the “big rigs,” uses the engine and exhaust path to slow the vehicle.

 For hauling there were four adjustable tie down hooks in the spray on lined truck bed, along with a cargo divider and extender.

 So as you can see, the RAM like other pickups on the market, can be configured just the way you would like it.

 But to this reviewers eyes, this is the truck with the “Night Special Edition” that pronounces in a deep, sweaty, masculine voice – “TRUCK”

 Factoids:

 The test truck with a long list of options carried an MSRP of $64,860.

 New for 2018: Limited Tungsten edition; Sport appearance upgrade; 8.4-inch screen, 4G LTE,  Android Auto/Apple Car Play, USB Flip, pinch to zoom and improved resolution; Sirius Guardian with SOS, Assist, Remote Services, Send and Go and Vehicle Finder; Remote exterior switch in truck bed to activate LED bed lights; Backup camera now standard on all models.

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

        

        

Auto News for Jan. 5

Remove pickups from the equation, and the hottest selling vehicles last year that were the Audi Q5, Buick Envision, Nissan Rogue, and the Toyota RAV4, according to USA Today. The Toyota (pictured) 2018_Toyota_RAV4_Adventure_1_67174E72F8D8434D9D975B8B1ADDC2B90754A64B_lowwas the top selling vehicle in this category, marking the first time in a decade that a sedan failed to finish on top, according to the Detroit News. The Nissan Rogue was the second most popular vehicle last year that was not a pickup.

But don’t worry truck fans. The Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and RAM trucks were still the nation’s top one, two and three overall best sellers.

8700-DSC_4316

McLaren has recorded another record year selling a total of 3,340 cars in 2017, two-thirds of them from the Super Series. That would include the super high performance 720S model. The automaker said demand has been “particularly robust in our biggest market, North America.”

It will soon add a second production plant in Yorkshire, England and launch 15 new cars and/or derivatives between now and 2022.

aston martin

Aston Martin, meanwhile, said unit sales exceeded 5,000 for the first time since 2008. There was strong demand last year for the DB11, in fact it was a sell-out. This year, Aston will introduce a replacement for the Vanquish and start production of a new Vantage model. Did you know the company was founded way back in 1913, well before the James Bond movies?

Just what is Aurora, the company that has partnered with Hyundai and now VW in the development of self-driving cars? Based in California and Pennsylvania the company designs and builds autonomous driving technology and works with automakers to integrate that tech into their vehicles. VW said the partnership will “help bring self-driving cars to roads worldwide, quickly, broadly and safely.”

 

Auto News for Jan. 4

1959_Chevy_Impala_four_door_June_2008

 The death of the American sedan? It is growing closer. A must read is Daniel Howes column in today’s Detroit News. Here is a link:

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/columnists/daniel-howes/2018/01/03/howes-death-great-american-car-draws-nearer/109138770/

 Here is one reason why. The Detroit Free Press reports consumers bought 17 million new vehicles last year, and that is a good number. But most of them were high profit very well equipped trucks and SUV’s. The average transaction price on a new vehicle was over $36,000 according to Kelley Blue Book.

 And Edmunds said the average price of a new vehicle may have hit an all-time high of $36,495 in December. That is a gain of 8.3 percent from one year ago.

  “Vehicle prices have been rising all year but really hit a crescendo in December. Even though holiday bonus checks likely played a role in boosting down payments to record levels, when buyers are willing to put down more than $4,000 for a new car, it says something,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds. “There are fewer buyers in the market right now, but those who are there are not only feeling confident, they’re willing to shell out the extra cash to get a larger vehicle with all the bells and whistles. They know what they want and they are willing to accept the higher costs.”

 Hyundai and Aurora will team up to bring self-driving vehicles to market by 2021. Aurora is a leader in autonomous vehicle technology. Initially, they will focus on Level 4 automation, or vehicles that can operate without human input or oversight under “select” conditions.

 Hyundai’s latest fuel cell vehicle will become the first model to be join the test fleet starting sometime this year. That vehicle will make its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show next week.

 Tesla said it will produce about 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of the first quarter, or about half the number promised earlier. But some analysts are not concerned saying Tesla is concentrating on quality control.