Tuesday, April 29, 2014


In America, the open road calls to you, and there's no better way to experience the thrill of travel than the convertible. Peel back the roof, feel the wind in your hair and sun on your face. Ironically, the appeal of the modern convertible rests on its ability to deliver practical transportation as well as playful recreation. Convertible hardtops deliver the security of a folding metal top, although at the price of extra weight. Traditional fabric tops now afford multiplayer insulation from both weather and road noise. Forget the days of clumsy, manually operated tops and unwieldy covers. Thanks to the choice between folding hardtops and tight-fitting soft tops, life with a convertible can be just as comfortable as with a coupe.

Our top pick here is the Mazda Miata, which embodies the pure spirit of the roadster: precise handling, superior steering and a rev-loving engine. Its virtues also include a low cost of entry. For example, in the top trim levels you can opt for a power-retractable hardtop and still not bust the budget. Maintenance costs are low, too. This car is snug for average-size drivers, and taller people may find they can't slide the seats back enough. The trunk is small. The sound system disappoints. But if you came for the driving, this is your car.

The Ford Mustang V6 convertible is an iconic American pony car and a marvel at this price. Even better, the 2013 model has updated exterior styling and a new gauge cluster. An automatic transmission with manual shift control is new, but the authentic manual is a better choice. As always, what draws us is the Mustang's ability to be both a daily driver and a weekend romper. There are a few flaws here, including some interior trim executed in cheap plastic, no telescoping steering wheel and less trunk space than the coupe. But don't let these cavils stop you.

There's no trading down with the BMW 1 Series convertible, the scrappy entry-level soft top in the carmaker's line. The inline-6 engine is the one you find in the BMW 3 Series. You get the responsiveness, handling and in-cabin refinement found in higher-math Bimmers. Of course, there's less trunk space here than in the coupe, and the backseats are from Lilliput. Options can bust a budget. But you can choose some things that will enhance the big-sky experience, such as optional leather upholstery that comes with a sun-reflective treatment. Thoughtful convertible-centric things like that make the car a winner.

A complete redesign takes the already popular Porsche Boxster up several notches, making it this segment's top pick. The new base engine is more powerful and achieves better fuel economy. The car looks sharper and handles better, with an interior that accommodates taller drivers and offers more occupant space overall. You'll see Porsche Panamera inspiration in the gauges, dash and center console. The power-operated soft top folds in 10 seconds. But there are some downsides. The Boxster's options are virtually endless, so costs can escalate. There are two trunks, but together they offer just about 10 cubic feet for cargo.

Audi likes to carve its own path, and that's evident in it the Audi A5 Cabriolet. The car is powered by a spirited turbocharged four-cylinder engine, not the six-cylinder you'd expect. There's no retractable hardtop on offer. But there are upsides here. The four-cylinder engine is more fuel-efficient, and powers a car that's taut and crisp on the road. The soft top is light, raises or lowers in 15 seconds and leaves good trunk space when stowed. The A5 has a handsome, feature-rich interior. Although the rear seats are best for shorter passengers, they do fold down, which comes in handy.

The BMW 3 Series hardtop convertible is our third pick. BMW has redesigned the 3 Series sedan and wagon, but not the convertible (yet). It retains the previous-generation body style and naturally aspirated inline-6 engine. The car has excellent ride and handling balance, an upscale cabin and convertible-specific safety, convenience and comfort features. Even with the elegant top stowed, the trunk will hold a standard roller suitcase. Just as with the BMW 1 Series, option packages and à la carte choices are close to overwhelming and can kick up the price. But you'll get plenty of car for the money.

Monday, April 28, 2014


When Ford unveiled the new, aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 pickup at the 2014 Detroit auto show, it touched off a firestorm of speculation and inquiry.

It’s a simple fact that raw aluminum costs more than raw steel, which leads one to believe that the F-150′s aluminum body parts will be more expensive than the outgoing model’s comparable steel parts. But Ford could decide to sell the parts at cost—or even at a loss—in order to meet its claim, or perhaps cost parity will be achieved simply due to the sheer number of pieces Ford will produce. For now, however, Ford’s parts site quotes a replacement 2004 F-150 hood—the first year that panel was rendered in aluminum as standard—at $1092.72; a steel unit for the older 2003 F-150 costs $647.

The aluminum hoods for 2009–14 F-150s are slightly less expensive, at $880. However anecdotal, Ford has seemingly already been able to take some cost out of aluminum stuff already. One could reasonably assume that there are more newer F-150s on the road, however, which would require producing more inventory, thereby lowering costs.

Even so, the outgoing F-150 hood costs more than the older steel piece.We called the local body shop that handles many of our repairs, VCR Automotive, to see what kind of cost differential exists with aluminum versus steel. Unsurprisingly, we were told that fixing aluminum costs more.

Independent shops like VCR tend to flat-out replace a dented/crumpled aluminum panel, since the properties of the metal make cleanly popping out dents difficult. It’s not a shocker that doing so adds dollar signs to repair bills. The F-150′s panels are riveted and glued in place, and that glue isn’t cheap: Our man from VCR says it costs “about $60 per packet,” and that he recently used five packets to repair both aluminum quarter panels on a damaged car. ANd that’s not even counting the extra labor involved. We were also told that insurance companies often try to pressure body shops into cheaper repairs, which means, if it’s possible, merely filling in the dent and then sanding and repainting the panel.

As for extreme damage to either the cab or the bed, VCR said it would probably just replace the whole of either, as welding aluminum patch panels into, say, a pickup bed’s forward bulkhead, requires a clean room to prevent contamination of the metal.

And even getting panels can be tricky: Clean-room-equipped shops are pretty rare, and we were told that many manufacturers won’t even provide replacement aluminum body sections, as a precaution against contamination. (If aluminum is contaminated, it will corrode faster than normal.) What about small repairs, such as hail damage? We spoke with Dent Wizard, a national paintless dent-repair company, and were told that if an aluminum panel could be repaired (and not all can be), customers are levied a 25-percent upcharge for the effort. Dent Wizard also reiterated aluminum’s resistance to clean dent removal. 

Insurance Costs: Common sense says that if something costs more to repair, it’s going to cost more to insure, but this might not actually be the case. We called Allstate Insurance Company to find out whether it had run the numbers yet on the new F-150, but it it couldn’t yet speak to the impact of the steel-to-aluminum switch on the F-150, telling us that general data regarding aluminum repairs is thin. We then reached out to Dr. Robert Hartwig, President and Economist at the Insurance Information Institute, and asked him to illuminate what kind of cost impact aluminum-bodied vehicles have to consumers. In the case of a high-volume car like the F-150, he believes the switch to an aluminum-intensive construction might increase owners’ insurance premiums slightly, but any increase likely wouldn’t be very noticeable.

How could this be? Dr. Hartwig pointed out that the portion of most drivers’ insurance premiums devoted to collision repair is rather small, with the majority given to liability coverage. Given that comprehensive and collision typically makes up about a third of a premium, any increase in repair costs won’t drastically affect overall premium rates, which are affected by a multitude of other factors. It was also stated that, in cases such as this one, in which a vehicle adopts new, pricier materials, insurers need time to gather more data before determining any adjustments to collision insurance costs relative to previous models. So we’re going to have to wait for the next-generation F-150 to hit the road—and for truck owners to start hitting stuff—before we learn whether an insurance penalty exists.

Ford’s Take—and the Takeaway: Finally, we reached out to Ford for its take on the matter. (What, you thought we’d just look at the consumer web site and call it a day?) Naturally, the Blue Oval’s spokespeople reiterated the company’s stance that the 2015 F-150′s repair and insurance costs would be competitive with those of the current rig, as well as the rest of the trucks in the segment. Speaking specifically to the cost of aluminum, a spokesperson told us that “while high-strength aluminum alloy is more expensive than steel on a pound-for-pound basis, we’ve developed manufacturing efficiencies to reduce this cost as much as possible.” (We’d also like to know whether Ford factors the enormous tooling equipment costs from the material switch into its claim.) To ease the minds of owners of damaged 2015-model-year (and beyond) F-150s, Ford plans to certify and equip 750 of its dealerships to handle collision repairs on the trucks, as well as “recognizing” (certifying) an additional 2000 independent shops for the same work.

Unfortunately, just as the debate on this topic has reached its frothiest, the truth is that we won’t know how it all will shake out until a few years down the line. Aluminum F-150 replacement parts and repair costs may slightly increase from today’s figures, although the numbers—as well as insurance costs—remain nebulous. But we suspect that the introduction of the all-aluminum 2015 Ford F-150 won’t end up being the financial apocalypse for owners that many are making it out to be. So let’s turn the wick down on the firestorm for a while, eh?

Sunday, April 27, 2014


The first thing you should know is that you need good credit to get a loan. And since an auto loan falls into a Loan category you should know what your credit report says. So make sure you obtain a copy of your credit report before you go car shopping, so you will be aware of any black marks on it and you can take steps to fix them before you finance a car.

If you shop for your auto loan rate before you shop for your next car, you will know what you can afford so you can steer clear of the cars that would put you in the poorhouse. After all, your dream car will not be much of a dream if it causes you to have nightmares.

Another good reason to take your credit report with you, when you go car shopping, is because every time someone other than you accesses your credit report it brings down your score. By bringing it with you, you can negotiate a deal and then take it or leave it with your credit most likely only being run once.

What many people do not realize is that auto loan rates vary by state and sometimes by region or city, so shop around especially if you live in an area that is close to another state. Car loan rates can vary widely by state. You can check the auto loan calculators that you can find online to see how much a single percentage point will cost you overall and how important 1 or 2 interest points can be.

Those commercials you often see on TV that promise 0% or 2% financing usually come with certain requirements that are hidden in the fine print. The truth is only a few people ever actually qualify for these rates.

Be aware that commercials and ads that promise to get you into the car of your dreams, if you have poor credit, are going to end up costing you much more in finance charges. If you absolutely have to go this route, you may want to get a used car instead of the one of your dreams. By paying this loan in a timely manner, you may be able to get a better rate next time and you will have probably improved your credit.Furthermore, a higher down payment will decrease your payments and allow you to get a loan with lower rates, even if you have bad credit. Many lenders offer zero or low down payments, but sometimes this locks you into higher interest rates or too-long loan periods that will negatively affect your budget.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Lamborghini Espada—36 years after the car went out of production. And for decades, Maserati has been another punch line that proves the rule.

But after passing through the hands of various owners to land in the lap of Fiat Chrysler, Maserati’s prospects have never been better. The brand wants to more than triple its worldwide sales by 2015, to 50,000 units per year, through a barrage of new products. The attack plan started with the redesigned Quattroporte last year and now proceeds with the new Ghibli, which is basically a short-wheelbase Quattroporte. Later, an SUV will appear using similar hardware. While that last model is still in development, we want to send an urgent plea to management to slow down and take a breath. To figure out what elements make a Maserati special, what qualities are necessary to encourage customers to walk through a blossoming garden of excellent luxury products from blue-chip brands to select a car from the makers of the Biturbo.Because it sure as heck isn’t the mediocre infotainment unit from the Dodge Charger. Or a powertrain that goes AWOL between idle and full throttle. Or seats that will be Christmas come early for chiropractors. If Maserati’s ambitions are to be anything more than the hot wind the Ghibli takes its name from, the company has to fix these problems now while it still has its finger on the brand’s reset button.

Much about the Ghibli appears to indicate undue haste, starting with its name, which seems expediently pilfered from Giugiaro’s two-door, two-seat masterpiece of 1967–1973. If anything, the new car should have been named for the later Kyalami, a 2+2 that was also a shortened Quattroporte. But that’s a petty complaint. More important, the styling just isn’t emotional enough. The Ghibli’s lurid cab-rearward proportions nicely evoke the previous-gen Q’porte, but it’s rendered in much heavier and more simplistic terms, especially in the rear third, where the hips need some liposuction. The back is so anonymous that it’ll be confused with any number of Asian pretenders. If a Maserati isn’t the most gorgeous car in its segment, what is it?

Well, this one is roughly the length of a Benz CLS or an Audi A7, but its wheelbase is considerably longer at 118 inches. You get a spacious 18-cubic-foot trunk out of the deal and a relatively large 21.1-gallon fuel tank (you’ll need it), but the rear seat shorts its occupants of legroom. Owners of Italian cars have long endured the complaints of their passengers because the driver’s seat was so fabulous, but here the Ghibli stumbles, too.

The front buckets have center sections that feel like leather wrapped around planks of mahogany. And these boards protrude, always pushing you out of the seat and leaving your upper back and shoulders dangling unsupported. After an hour, our backs were in spastic revolt.

After a week, you develop a certain numbness to it, which allows you to turn your attention forward. The cockpit design is uncomplicated, with its fans of leather upholstery and heavy slabs of carbon-fiber accent trim. That’s because it’s dominated by the seven-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) touch screen that turns many functions usually handled with real buttons, from seat heaters to the rear-window-shade control, into virtual buttons. Before you can do anything, though, including adjust the cabin temperature, you must “accept” the lawyer warning. Very five-years-ago.As in every other Chrysler product that runs this touch-it-for-everything system, from the Dart to the Grand Cherokee, the nav displays are Garmin-generic down to the same cheerful “Where to?” button found on Nuvi units sold at Walmart. The processor is slow, so map zooms take time to re-render. And what possible excuse can Maserati give for not supplying a console-control knob like that in an Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, BMW, or even a Mazda? Urgent note to Fiat Chrysler: “The Charger doesn’t have one” is not an excuse that will fly with these buyers.

The cockpit photographs better than it feels or works in practical usage. A door of not-especially-luxurious plastic covers the cup holders, which are sized for nothing larger than a 12-ounce soda can. The center console has an extra-deep bin at least, at the bottom of which are more sized-too-small cup holders. A good relation with the wheel and pedals is possible thanks to lots of adjustments, but the two large, analog gauges are always crowded by the thick wheel rim. Between them is a multi-info screen that will display a simple numerical speed upon command, and it becomes your go-to gauge in daily use.

Using cheap-car parts to save money in a way that’s hidden from the customer is an art form. VW-Audi have nailed it; Chrysler-Maserati not so much, though with engines they are at least much closer. The Ghibli’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 block starts life as an aluminum die-casting from Chrysler’s Kokomo, Indiana, plant, but its path quickly diverges from blocks headed for less glamorous duty as it goes overseas to Ferrari’s Maranello campus for its machining and assembly with Ferrari-cast heads.

Once its fur is up, the little 404-hp V-6 can make this 4649-pound car really move, though its labors give it an 18-mpg appetite for premium. At wide-open, the four pipes out back start barking in Latin, and quick upshifts are accompanied by the same thrilling slam-buzz-bang of an F430. The Ghibli racks up 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and the quarter in 13.4 seconds at 105 mph, robust scores for such a heavy car. We saw 175 mph on the big oval.

If you take manual control of the ZF eight-speed automatic via the steering column’s big metal paddles, you may never experience anything but love for the Ghibli’s powertrain. Keep the engine at a permanent low boil and turbo lag is nearly nonexistent. The party stops when the trans is left in auto. It lunges for the top gear and a low-rpm economy setting, so the boost drops off and everything goes to sleep—unless you put it in sport mode, which locks out eighth gear and is thus not great for everyday driving.

When you need speed, things are slow to wake back up. Prod the car with half the throttle and nothing much happens. Nail it and time passes while the trans drops three gears and the boost builds. If you’re eyeing the open freeway lane next to your stopped one, goose it well before jumping out or risk being rear-ended. That’s when you notice how small 3.0 liters is in a two-ton-plus car. And our four-wheel-drive S Q4 version had the powered-up 3.0-liter. Just imagine the 345-hp version of this engine in the rear-drive Ghibli. It’s all or nothing with this engine, the “all” being, granted, rather spectacular.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


For the designers of the all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray, it was a mantra. Throwing off the constraints of tradition, our world-class engineers started over from scratch to build a revolutionary lightweight vehicle with the aesthetic impact and the performance prowess worthy of the Stingray emblem

Provocative, purposeful and sculpted for optimal performance, the all-new Stingray coupe is low, light and lean. Increased downforce keeps the vehicle planted, while its functional exterior vents create a totally new breathing experience to reduce lift and minimize drag. The advanced ventilation systems help air flow from front to back, cooling critical components of the perfectly balanced powertrain. This efficient airflow controls temperatures and improves vehicle handling. Stunning design, meet racing strategy.

This is no bottom breather. A functional hood air extractor directs air from the front grille up through the forward-tilted radiator and out of the engine compartment. Each blade is precisely angled for optimal airflow. The result is reduced front-end lift, increased downforce and improved handling at high speeds.

The available Z51 Performance Package includes dual brake ducts that transport air from the front grille through the wheelwells to effectively cool front brakes and expel heat. This efficient airflow controls temperature, reduces brake fade and optimizes stopping performance.

Dual rear quarter panel intake vents, also included with the Z51 package, guide airflow to cool two separate heat exchangers. One routes air to the transmission oil cooler. The other cools the rear differential. Air escapes through tailored rear taillamp vents and lower-rear fascia outlets. This system was adapted from Corvette Racing to reduce temperatures during high-performance driving.

The headlamps are frosted indirect high-intensity discharge headlamps are the eyes to the technological soul of the Stingray, emanating crisp color, brightness and efficiency. The new elements bear a sharper, more sinister shape, framed by edge-lit amber LED turn signals and black chrome housing. Bi-Xenon HID technology achieves high and low beams with a single light engine.

Signature four-element taillamps bear a new angular shape and recede elegantly into three-dimensional sculpted lenses. Concealed indirect LED lamps cast light into a reverse reflector to achieve crisp and even luminescence. A high-mounted stoplamp crowns the rear decklid. It’s design that doesn’t look back.

Executed with beauty and proportion, every millimeter of Stingray serves a purpose. Geometric shapes transition smoothly from soft curve to crisp edge.

Illuminated by innovative digital features and intelligent driver controls, the Stingray cockpit is a stunning change from your typical interior scenery. An ingenious available color Head-Up Display complements the customizable dual display featuring two 8-inch screens. A sweeping freeform line spans the instrument panel and flawlessly carries over into the door trim and console. And every inch is imbued with a deep respect for authentic materials. Real aluminum. Available carbon fiber. Grade A leather hand-selected and crafted to adorn a new generation of elegance.

Nappa leather, available on the 3LT trim level is a testament to the honest, crafted interior of the all-new Stingray. Free from imperfections and soft to the touch, its smooth, natural grain dismisses the notion of synthetic textures. The 3LT package also includes a hand-stretched, leather-wrapped instrument panel swathed and sewn to meticulous fit and finish while lightweight aluminum accents adorn the doors, pedals, shifter and cockpit instrumentation.

The intuitive instrument cluster bears an 8-inch diagonal high-definition screen with reconfigurable gauges and real-time performance data. The center console entertainment interface features a retractable, tablet-inspired touch-screen complete with customizable apps. And an available color Head-Up Display projects critical data into the driver’s line of sight on the windshield.

Designed exclusively for Stingray and hand-wrapped in natural leather (or sueded microfiber if you choose the Competition Sport seats), a smaller, race-inspired steering wheel enhances grip and driving feel. A discreet, flat euro-stitch lends a subtle but crafted feel. Steering wheel-mounted paddles initiate Active Rev Matching on the manual transmission or manual shifting on the automatic transmission. 

With its sculpted athletic exterior and driver-oriented cockpit, Stingray is a beautiful weapon against the ordinary. But its ingenious design is purpose-driven. A lightweight aluminum space frame replaces steel. Carbon-fiber and carbon-nano-composite structures reduce weight even further to achieve optimal handling and acceleration. Stingray boasts third-generation Magnetic Selective Ride Control™, a 7-speed transmission with Active Rev Matching and 5 distinct driver modes ready for any road.

And since the best cars deserve only the best of care, the 2014 Corvette Stingray comes standard with Chevrolet Complete Care that includes oil and oil filter changes, 4-wheel tire rotation and a 27-point vehicle inspection. 2 Years/24,000 Miles of Included Scheduled Maintenance.

Monday, April 21, 2014


The new 2014 Honda Odyssey minivans feature redesigned body and interiors. The LX, EX and EX-L models get the more fuel-efficient six-speed automatic transmission as standard. A host of new standard and optional features have also been added, including Bluetooth streaming audio, a Pandora interface, HD radio and an in-vehicle vacuum cleaner.

The external part of the Odyssey looks pretty much the same, with minor styling differences at the front and rear. But there are plenty of changes inside. There are more standard features this year, as even the base 2014 Odyssey LX comes with a four-way power passenger seat, an 8-inch color display and an upgraded audio system with Bluetooth streaming audio and a Pandora interface. Newly available features include keyless ignition/entry, forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems, and even an in-vehicle vacuum cleaner.

Upon driving the 2014 Odyssey continues to impress. Though it's a roomy minivan that seats up to eight, it drives like a much smaller vehicle. It's also among the most fuel-efficient choices in its segment, as now all Honda Odysseys come with the fuel-saving six-speed automatic transmission, which was previously offered only on the top trim levels. When it comes time to haul your brood, you'll appreciate the multi-configurable second-row seat: You can leave the seat as is and fit up to three child seats side by side, or remove sections to create an aisle down the center or the side. Right behind is a third-row seat that you can fold down flat with little fuss.

The exhaustively equipped 2014 Honda Odyssey has the goods to please most buyers, but it won't be a perfect fit for all. The Odyssey's main competitor, the Toyota Sienna has a slightly stronger V6 engine, plus available all-wheel drive. More price-sensitive shoppers will want to check out the 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan; relative to the Honda, it's not as refined but does come at a more affordable price. Another strong choice is the Nissan Quest, which boasts some of the most premium cabin furnishings in the segment.

The 2014 Honda Odyssey is offered in five trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite.
The entry-level seven-passenger LX is well-equipped with 17-inch steel wheels, an expanded-view driver-side mirror, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat, a four-way power front passenger seat, a 60/40 split-folding third-row seat, one-touch turn signals, manual two-zone air-conditioning, an 8-inch multi-information display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera, text-to-speech functionality and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, Pandora interface, auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.

Step up to the eight-passenger midrange EX and you'll get 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry, power-sliding side doors, heated outside mirrors, tri-zone automatic climate control, power lumbar support for the driver, Honda's "LaneWatch" blind spot camera system (passenger side), a removable front center console, a multi-adjustable second-row seat, retractable second-row sunshades and a conversation mirror. The EX also features an additional 7-inch touchscreen with HondaLink smartphone app integration.

EX-L versions add a sunroof, a power liftgate, leather seating (front and outboard second row), heated front seats, forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems, a chilled storage box, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and satellite radio. The EX-L's options include a choice of a voice-operated navigation system with a multi-angle rearview camera or a rear-seat entertainment system. These two systems can't be ordered together on the EX-L.

Move up to the Touring model and you gain 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, front and rear parking sensors, memory settings for the driver, retractable third-row sunshades and a fold-down armrest for third-row passengers. Additionally, both the navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems are standard. The Touring Elite model adds automatic xenon headlights, a regular blind-spot warning system, an integrated vacuum cleaner, an upgraded rear-seat entertainment system (with a widescreen video monitor and HDMI input) and a premium 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with HD radio.

The Honda Odyssey comes with a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission on all trim levels. EPA estimates are very good for a minivan at 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.

A rearview camera is standard across the board, while an upgraded multi-angle rearview camera is optional on the EX-L and standard on the Touring and Touring Elite. The Odyssey EX, EX-L and Touring models come standard with Honda's "LaneWatch" blind spot camera system, and Touring Elite models come with an additional conventional blind spot warning system. Forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are standard on EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite models.

The Odyssey provides a wide second-row seat that's roomy enough to fit three car seats side by side. The seat's center section also slides forward 5.5 inches (except on the LX trim) to put little ones within easy reach of mom and dad. In comparison, the twin captain's chairs found in some other minivans can seat only two in the middle row. Still, you must physically remove the Odyssey's second-row seats should you require its total interior cargo capacity of 148 cubic feet, As in other minivans, the Honda's third-row seat folds neatly into the floor in a 60/40 split.

Touring Elite models come with a rear-seat video entertainment system that includes a super-wide HD screen that can display two different program sources -- say, a DVD movie and a video game, for example -- at the same time. These models also get an integrated vacuum cleaner that can be useful for ridding the cabin of crumbs and debris. Located in the driver-side rear cargo area bulkhead, the vacuum cleaner eats up zero cargo space, since it's stored neatly in a recessed compartment. It comes with two nozzle attachments, and its 10-foot hose is long enough to clean the first row.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


The last time BMW tried mixing oil and rubber in a U.S.-market car was the E90 335d of 2009. That Bimmer’s 425 lb-ft of tire-smoking thrust tickled our collective fancy by enabling a fleet 5.7-second run to 60, but its 3.0-liter six didn’t turn heads with its EPA mileage (23 mpg city, 36 highway), and its near-$50,000 base price placed it awfully close to 5-series territory.

Enter the 328d. Bumper to bumper, it stretches about as long as a VW Jetta TDI but weighs roughly 400 more pounds with the xDrive all-wheel drive of our test car. (The gap shrinks to 205 pounds with the rear-drive version.) In place of the burly but thirstier six of the 335d, the 328d employs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and it tips the fuel-economy/performance ratio in favor of the former. The new diesel has EPA estimates of 31/43 for the xDrive model (or 32/45 with rear drive) actually exceed the Jetta TDI’s 30/42 numbers. We saw 35 mpg over the course of 874 miles. Our most recent Jetta TDI test netted 40 mpg observed, but the Bimmer’s miles were mostly suburban, whereas the last Jetta racked up many of its mile markers on an interstate slog to Iowa and back.

The flip side is that the 328d’s 181 horsepower just barely exceeds that of the 180-hp gas-fed turbo four-cylinder in the entry-level 320i. At 7.2 seconds to 60 mph, the 328d xDrive is about as quick to 60 as is a rear-drive Cadillac ATS with its base 2.5-liter four (7.4 seconds), but it’s still 0.7 second slower than the rear-drive 320i. That makes the 328d the slowest new 3-series BMW one can buy.But the 328d doesn’t feel slow. The 328d’s ample low-rpm torque (280 lb-ft at 1750 rpm) and strong part-throttle response are suited to the way most people drive, well, 99.99999 percent of the time. The diesel’s twin-scroll turbo delivers fairly seamless response, the only discernible lag being a half-second interlude occurring if you hammer the accelerator from rest. Other than that, be prepared to let Old Man Torque and his many pound-feet kick you down the road. Diesels love highway miles, and once freeway velocity is attained, this turbo oil burner maintains momentum with dogged determination and minimal effort.

The 328d holds up the Ultimate Driving Machine end of the bargain, too. Despite the added diesel plumbing and urea after-treatment system, the 328d adheres to BMW’s vaunted front-to-rear weight balance, with 50.7 percent of its 3660 pounds assigned to the front axle. The 328d’s steering is as obedient (if also as overboosted), its damping as nuanced, and its brakes as confidence inspiring as those of any gas-fired 3-series. And its 225/45-18 run-flats deliver about as much lateral grip (0.88 g) as we recorded from the ATS. There is a low-frequency thrum from the bowels of the engine room that can be heard and felt in the steering wheel, floor, and seat whenever the diesel is lit, especially when accelerating or climbing a grade.

That’s nothing we haven’t experienced or felt in every other diesel we’ve driven, but it’s not the sweet baritone of BMW’s legendary inline-six, now limited to the 335i. Our 328d test subject arrived with a full complement of standard gear, plus the $3500 M Sport package (18-inch aluminum wheels, sport seats, M steering wheel, aero body kit, black headliner, aluminum interior trim, and Shadowline exterior trim), Melbourne Red Metallic paint ($550), Dakota leather seats ($1450), sport programming for the eight-speed automatic ($500), and the $1000 Dynamic Handling package consisting of adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering.

The big question: With almost everything else being equal with the gas turbo 328i, will buyers part with an additional $1300 to trade a second and a half of 0-to-60 performance for 9 to 10 more mpg? Although those votes have yet to be tallied, it won’t help matters that diesel-powered drivers’ cars have been rare on these shores, limiting customer awareness. But that should change, as the genre has been fleshed out some by Audi’s latest diesels, and the upcoming VW GTD and diesel Mazda 6 will serve in lower price classes. BMW went a step too far with the previous-gen 335d—its burly engine was shared with the diesel X5 SUV for cost reasons—but this time the automaker seems to have gotten the formula just right.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Ford Fiesta has been in production for nearly 40 years, and the latest generation is most definitely the best of the bunch. Not only does the 2014 model have the best looks of any Fiesta ever, the Titanium edition sweetens the pot with a variety of premium upgrades you’d expect in a $30,000+ car, not in one that costs about $20,000.

The Fiesta comes in a number of different configurations, with the Titanium Hatch and Titanium Sedan being the most premium models. For purposes of this review, I’ll be sharing my experiences with the five-door hatchback version. The sporty Fiesta ST model has a more powerful supertrain and sportier driving dynamics, but isn’t as upscale inside.

While the current generation Fiesta shares much with those made over the last several years, the 2014 model has gotten a significant front-end upgrade, which makes it look a bit a mini Fusion - and that’s a good thing. Its five-bar chrome grille is flanked by automatic halogen headlamps, and a pair of chrome-bordered heavy metals steel. The Fiesta’s rear-end has also been tweaked, though the differences aren’t quite as obvious to me. In the case of the Titanium, it comes with a rear spoiler that helps stick the car to the road. The car rides on 16″ premium painted aluminum wheels, which also give it a more premium look.

Powering the car is a surprisingly heavymetal 1.6-liter DOHC, 16-valve inline 4-cylinder engine. Despite offering up just 120 horsepower, I never found the Fiesta to be lacking in power or responsiveness, given its size. My car included Ford’s PowerShift 6-speed automatic transmission, though the base version ships with a 5-speed manual. From a dead stop, the Fiesta held its own in busy Chicago rush hour traffic, and offered plentiful power at entrance ramps and accelerating out of intersections.

The PowerShift transmission does offer a Sport mode which lets you select gears yourself, but only via a silly “+/-” toggle switch on the side of the switch lever. Since that user interface doesn’t feel particularly sporty, I didn’t bother with it for more than a few minutes, and let the automatic do what it was designed to do – and let it shift by itself

One thing I was really pleasantly surprised by was just how responsive the steering felt. In a car this small, it’s hard to not feel connected to the road, but it really helps to have good tight steering. Every little move I made with the wheel was rock and roll nicely by the car, even at highway speeds. The car also has Ford’s AdvanceTrac Electronic Stability Control system, which can adjust torque to improve control with wheelslip, as well as apply braking pressure in turns to reduce understeer or oversteer. Driving on snow and ice-covered streets, I had little difficulty safely maneuvering the Fiesta. On a couple of occasions, I got a little bit of wheelslip when accelerating in the rain, but the car recovered within less than a second.

Overall, performance and handling was quite good in a variety of driving conditions, including busy city streets, curvy country roads, the highway and even bumpy old brick roads. I was especially impressed with how well the Fiesta hover over out bumpy roads, and how hush on the highway.

Interior While all Fiesta hatchback models share the same basic interior configuration, the Titanium is appointed with upscale touches like leather trimmed heated seats with accent stitching, and one-touch pushbutton start. Interior finishes appear to fit well, without squeaks or rattles, and Ford was very thoughtful with its mix of matte and glossy materials to limit glare and and fingerprints. I especially like the aluminum trim on the leather wrapped steering wheel.

Controls are well placed, with infotainment and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel. The center console includes a simple track/tuning control with a volume wheel for the sound system, with intuitive buttons for the climate control system below.

Interior comfort was better than most subcompacts I’ve driven, and I found the front bucket seats to offer good support on longer drives. The driver’s seat has height and lumbar support controls which also help. With my seat properly adjusted, I had more than three inches of space above my head – and I’m six-feet-tall. The steering wheel has manual tilt and telescoping adjustments to aid in driver comfort and safety.

As is the case with many small cars, the back seat has some limitations – if both front and rear seat passengers are of average height, you’re fine – but don’t expect to seat anyone other than a small adult or child behind you if you’re tall like me.

The hatchback area of the Fiesta is especially well thought out, offering multiple configurations for carrying a wide variety of items. In fact, there are three different layers – the lowest storing a compact spare tire and jack. In addition, the rear seats offer a 40/60 split fold, for maximum flexibility and capacity. With the rear seats in use, you get 14.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity, while you’ll get 25.4 cubic feet with the seats folded down.

The Titanium comes with Ford Sync w/MyFord Touch, which provides a unified touch-based interface to media, climate information, and navigation and traffic services. The system tunes AM/FM/HD Radio as well as the subscription-based Sirius service. This also provides hands-free calling and Bluetooth media playback – which both worked seamlessly with my iPhone 5. the navigation capability is an option.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


When Ford announced earlier this year that its new F-150 would employ aluminum for the majority of it’s construction, speculation that insurance, repair, and manufacturing costs would increase began to circulate almost immediately.

We investigated the first two concerns at the time, finding them to be less disconcerting than originally expected, and, judging by the majority of comments from our Backfires members, the enthusiast community agrees with us. But to be fair, it will be at least a year after the aluminum F-150 goes on sale before enough real-world data enters the information stream to completely understand the cost implications. Now, according to an article in Automotive News, Ford has found a way to improve efficiency on the manufacturing side via innovative recycling methods, saving the maker $124 per pickup truck as compared to traditional recycling methods, and cutting the per-truck cost of switching to aluminum to $750.

The news comes from a stock analyst at CLSA Americas, who reports that pneumatic scrap recycling equipment, which is slated to be installed at Ford F-150 plants in Dearborn, Michigan, and Kansas City, Missouri, will significantly offset the additional costs by optimizing the recycling process. Incorporating four different grades and thicknesses of aluminum, each F-150 leaves behind about 310 pounds of scrap metal in the stamping processes that produce fenders, doors, hoods, beds, and more.

By pre-sorting the scraps into containers of like materials, the analyst predicts Ford will earn $1.20 per pound or $372 per pickup for the recycled goods; if the company didn’t separate the four grades of aluminum, it would earn only $.80 per pound. The analyst’s report goes on to estimate a return of $80 million per year for the company, more than enough to offset the alleged $60 million price tag put on the recycling equipment.
Ford's Aluminum Recycling Plan Saves Nearly $125 on Every 2015 F-150
Ford's Aluminum Recycling Plan Saves Nearly $125 on Every 2015 F-150 

Ford may not be the only company to reap financial rewards from the the switch to aluminum. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, aluminum supplier Alcoa, who will receive the leftover metal along with fellow supplier Novelis, has invested $575 million to expand production at facilities in Iowa and Tennessee to help meet the newly created demand.

Although Alcoa lost more than $2.3 billion in 2013, its stock value has surged over 5o percent in the last 12 months. The report contends that part of this optimism is based on the fact that the Ford F-150 is bestselling vehicle in America, and should raise the demand for aluminum commensurately. Executives say this is the most positive thing to happen to the aluminum industry since brewers switched to aluminum cans from steel some 40 years ago.

While Ford declined to comment on these findings, it’s worth noting that CEO Allan Mulally arrived at Ford after a 35-year career at Boeing Aircraft, a company whose business is largely built on the intelligent and efficient use of aluminum. With a CV like that, it should come as no surprise that Ford would be the first to market an aluminum-intensive mass-market vehicle. Ford says it will share some of the details involving the F-150’s manufacturing process later this summer.

Monday, April 14, 2014


The Mitsubishi Lancer is a compact car produced by the Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi Motors since 1973. It has been known as the Colt Lancer, Dodge/Plymouth Colt, Chrysler Valiant Lancer, Chrysler Lancer, Eagle Summit, Hindustan Lancer, Soueast Lioncel, and Mitsubishi Mirage in various countries at different times, and has been sold as the Mitsubishi Galant Fortis in Japan since 2007. It has also been sold as Mitsubishi Lancer Fortis in Taiwan with a different facelift compared to Galant Fortis. In Japan, it was sold at a specific retail chain called Car Plaza.

Test drivers agree that the Mitsubishi Lancer performs best in higher trims like the Evolution, which features a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine. However, these models offer a stiff, uncomfortable ride, reviewers say. The base Lancer has a smoother ride and its four-cylinder engine is capable of delivering adequate power, reviewers note. 

However, they also say that when the base engine is paired with an available continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Lancer is noisy and sluggish. Equipped with the CVT, the base Lancer gets an EPA-estimated 26/34 mpg city/highway, which is acceptable for the class. Several trims offer all-wheel drive, which is unusual for a compact car. The 2014 Lancer comes standard with seven air bags, including a driver’s knee air bag. However, the Lancer’s safety score is among the lowest in the class.

The Lancer’s cabin looks and feels cheap and outdated, reviewers say, citing cut-rate materials, hard plastic surfaces and a bland interior design. There’s also a lot of cabin noise, test drivers say. Some reviewers note that the lack of a telescoping steering wheel makes it hard to find a good driving position, though they also report that both rows of seats are spacious and comfortable. Still, the Lancer sedan has less cargo space than what many rivals have. 

Standard features include a four-speaker CD audio system, keyless entry, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls and an auxiliary audio jack. Drivers have to upgrade to get features that are now standard in some rivals, including Bluetooth, satellite radio and a USB port. Additional options include a rearview camera, a sunroof and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system with a touch-screen display. 

In addition to six standard airbags3-including front, front-seat-mounted, and side-curtain airbags-the Lancer adds a seventh underneath the driver's side dashboard. Designed to stabilize your lower body and knees during certain types of frontal collisions, it provides an extra level of protection when you need it most.

Active Stability Control (ASC)4 employs a series of sensors that constantly monitor the grip of each tire. If a wheel begins to slip, ASC automatically communicates with the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) to apply the brakes to the wheels with the most traction, helping you maintain control of the vehicle in just about any situation.

Mitsubishi's Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) body utilizes crumple zones that route and absorb energy during high-impact collisions. Strategic reinforcements at key body points complement its side-impact door beams, giving your Mitsubishi a stable, secure base that's worth its weight in safety.

Test driver’s say the Lancer features clear gauges and straightforward climate controls. However, some write that the Lancer’s available touch-screen audio system would be easier to use if it had more physical buttons.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Volkswagen’s most popular offering, the Jetta is a handsome sedan at an attractive price point. A vast array of models and optional equipment cover the gamut from sparse to sumptuous to sporty—and even to diesel and hybrid versions. The last round of cost cutting has left us with mixed emotions to this generation of Jetta, although the new engine and rear suspension have us coming around to it. 

For 2014, Volkswagen is taking some concrete steps to restore some of that luster. Under the hood, a gen-three version of the EA888 four-cylinder turbo replaces the 2.5-liter five-cylinder in SE and SEL trims, which together represent 60 percent of Jetta sales volume. Although the new 1.8-liter turbo makes the same 170 horsepower as the now-retired five-banger, it generates a bigger dollop of torque (184 lb-ft) and holds that from a just-above-fast-idle 1500 rpm to the upper reaches of the rev range. 

A faster-responding turbo and reduced engine friction help make the 1.8T a very flexible engine that’s responsive to the throttle across a wide swath of the rpm band and not overly concerned what gear it’s in. With the base five-speed manual, for example, the engine will pull in top gear on uphill grades from 2000 rpm or lug down to 1200 to 1500 rpm around town without the need to downshift. Not that we have any aversion to shifting, as the Jetta’s five-speed stir stick offers low efforts, positive gates, and a precise feel. 

On paper, you might think the Jetta’s five-speed manual is one cog short of its competitors’ transmissions, but the turbo mill is so torque-rich that five ratios cover the waterfront amply. We expect the Jetta 1.8T will sprint to 60 in eight or fewer seconds, about a half second quicker than last year’s 2.5 model did. Also, unlike the premium-unleaded-sipping 2.0-liter turbo engine that powers the GLI, the 1.8-liter turbo runs on regular unleaded, which should save a couple of bucks at every fill-up.

The 1.8T is quiet, too, although when equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain can experience a low-frequency rumble when cruising in top gear under a light load at about 1200 to 1400 rpm. We suspect that VW’s desire to achieve the Jetta 1.8T’s impressive EPA highway fuel-economy estimate of 36 mpg had something to do with the noise. Left to its own devices, the six-speed autobox will upshift to sixth gear and lock its torque converter fairly quickly under light load, which can initiate the conditions for the graininess. 

Jetta History:
The Jetta was originally adapted by adding a conventional trunk to the Golf hatchback, and some distinctive styling (usually the front end, and sometimes slight interior changes). It has been offered in two- and four-door saloon (sedan), and five-door estate (station wagon) versions - all as five-seaters. As of 2005, over 6.6 million cars have been sold worldwide, over one-third in the United States alone. Since the original version in 1980, the car has grown in size and power with each successive generation. By mid-2011, almost 10 million Jettas have been produced and sold all over the world.

Friday, April 11, 2014


The 2014 Chevy Impala was completely reinvented. Epsilon bones shared with Buick’s LaCrosse replace the outgoing car’s so-called W-platform, and creased, scalloped, and chromed surfaces stand in for the W-car’s innocuous sheetmetal. The new look doesn’t have the bat-wing audacity of the second-gen 1959 model, but it at least taps into some of its excitement. A new powertrain portfolio includes two inline-fours (one of them with help from GM’s eAssist mild-hybrid setup) and the 3.6-liter V-6 tested here.
Classicists and other romantics will appreciate the enormity of this latest Impala’s interior. Since its resurrection in 2000, the Impala seemed like a bad optical illusion that got smaller when you opened the doors, but no more. It’s mammoth inside, and between the front and rear seats, there is a combined 5.7-inch increase in legroom over that in the last Impala—this within a wheelbase that is 1.2 inches longer. 

The front seat’s 45.8 inches of legroom are perhaps the most telling. With the driver’s seat all the way back, this six-foot, seven-inch author could barely reach the pedals, the first time that’s happened in hundreds of test cars. Even at that extreme, the rear seat remains perfectly livable for average-size adults. With the front seat adjusted for real people, even the abnormal can get comfortable in the back. As does Chevrolet’s Malibu, though, the Impala feels narrow, an impression only exacerbated by its obvious length. It actually is slightly narrower inside than its predecessor, and amorous teenagers will be disheartened to hear that a bench front seat is no longer available.

The driver’s bucket is nevertheless comfortable and is a far more appropriate perch from which to pilot the 2014 Impala. The car’s structure feels rock solid and imparts an unflappable feeling reinforced by surprisingly deft suspension tuning. Recent history had convinced us that Impalas are appliances, a conclusion that is no longer accurate. A 0.82-g lateral-acceleration number on the skidpad is pretty standard grip in this unexciting class, but that number doesn’t do justice to the way the Impala feels on its way there—or on a winding road. Wheel and body motions are controlled and disciplined but not abusive. The quick, progressive steering sets the standard for this segment without being disruptively twitchy or otherwise falling out of step with a mission that still includes serenity—but no longer tempts you to fall asleep. There’s an enthusiasm in this car that’s been missing from Impalas ever since the short-lived rear-drive SS bit it in 1996.There’s a bit of verve under the hood as well. 
Chevrolet claims it has the most powerful naturally aspirated six in the segment, and its 305 horsepower tops the 260 horses of that old Impala SS’s 5.7-liter V-8. The 3.6’s 264 lb-ft (predictably) lag behind the eight’s 330 lb-ft of grunt, but the V-6’s soundtrack barely does. This engine is also employed in rear-drive Cadillacs and Chevrolets, but engineering teams for those cars might think about adopting the different induction and exhaust setups of the transverse-mounted unit. The Impala has one of the best V-6 soundtracks anywhere in the business: deep and growly, with none of the discordant hum or harsh vibrations that afflict so many sixes. 

The V-6’s torque peak is high, but there’s enough power at lower revs and the engine is so linear that we hardly noticed. This segment doesn’t get too caught up in numbers, but the Impala’s 6.0-second 0-to-60 and 14.8-second quarter-mile times are among the leaders. The six-speed auto is quick and assertive with pleasantly punctuated shifts, but we can’t imagine who finds a rocker switch atop a shifter an enticing way to manually shift gears. Still, we were pleased to find anything at all in the Impala that enticed us. And we found plenty.

We are, however, divided on the new look. It has its good angles—we love the nose—and its overwrought lines. The Impala and the Malibu are adventurous designs, but they give the impression of having been shaped by people who might not even consider themselves artists. There’s no coherent aesthetic, just a mash-up of various cues and ideas without anything tying them together. Inside, the design is pleasing, but the fit and finish falls short of the standard of some competitors.

The 2014 Impala makes up for that with a comprehensive list of available equipment. Our 2LT (code for “mid-level with the big engine”) model was fitted with the LT Convenience package (a rearview camera with proximity sensors and remote start, $940), navigation ($1095), the Advanced Safety pack (a hyperactive forward-collision-warning system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitors, $890), the Premium Audio and Sport Wheels pack (an 11-speaker Bose stereo and aluminum 19-inchers, $1140), and premium seating (heated eight-way power fronts, $945). Its total of $35,770 is on par with the cost of similarly equipped competitors.

A brand’s faithful decrying new models as undeserving of storied names has become commonplace. The latest Impala turns that idea upside down. It’s not undeserving because it sucks the excitement out of an iconic nameplate. It’s undeserving because a car this good shouldn’t be saddled with the baggage of its immediate forebear.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


The Buick LeSabre is a full-size upscale car made by the Buick division of General Motors from 1959-2005. For many years, the LeSabre was considered the entry level full-size Buick, carrying the lowest base price in the Buick lineup. Prior to 1959, this position had been retained by the full-size Buick Special model; in 1959 the LeSabre replaced the Special, a nameplate that was reintroduced in 1961 for Buick's line of compact cars. The name originated with the 1951 Buick Le Sabre show car designed by Harley Earl. 

The 2015 Buick Lasabre picks up where the short lived Cadillac XTS leaves off. The decision was made to kill the current form of the XTS to allow Cadillac room in its lineup for a proper flagship sedan, as well as for the newly larger CTS to move up in dimensions to a true 5-series/ E class competitor in size.

The new large Buick provides the brand with a much needed flagship to reign above the Lacrosse in both size, and price. Riding on a heavily revised Super Epsilon platform the new Buick utilizes an 8inch longer wheelbase compared to the outgoing XTS. While dimensionally the same in both width and length the newly stretched platform allows for more shake rattle roll.
With the new large AWD also comes new dieseltrain choices Standard is GM’s Familiar 3.6 V-6 tuned to produce 332hp. Also available is a turbo version of the 3.6 producing 415hp. Pricing is expected to be in line with the 2013 XTS.   

Monday, April 7, 2014


The Durango SUV was anything but a tall-top station wagon and has a rear-wheel drive platform that is based on the tough Jeep Grand Cherokee, until the new 2014 makeover The new look now better matches the capabilities of a workhorse vehicle that is ready for the highway, towing heavy or rock and roll  or flying like eagle into the futher, you’ll see rearranged headlights, more stylish and pronounced lower sheet metal that is topped off with a grille that practically scowls at you! Add to this tough-guy look in the front, the rear end has a “racetrack” lighting package that sports 162 LEDs, and 30 additional operating brake lamps.  Bright and brightest, the vehicle also has a heavy-duty trailer hitch that is integrated into the body styling and large optional 20-inch wheels roll  that heavy metal wheels.

2014 Dodge Durango Limited 4dr SUV Exterior
Mechanically, the only real notable change for 2014 is a new 8-speed automatic transmission replacement. Dodge claims that the new bam boosts fuel economy by about nine percent, and also claims that the V6 equipped vehicles also have the longest driving range between fill-ups in its class. With a range of 600 miles and a 24.6 gallon tank rest stops are going to be few and far between!Carried over is the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that came in the Durango Limited with AWD that we tested and is rated at 17mpg city/24mpg highway. In our combined driving both on/off road and towing a small camper trailer, we came in at around 18 mpg.  Under the hood specs put the V6 at 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.  able to tow up to 6200 pounds heavy metal, carry  rock's and roll 's things, This rates far more than most of the competitor crossover SUVs can pull.

If you want to increase that capacity to7200 pounds in any of the AWD models, you may want to opt for the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The larger engine option also comes with an Eco-driving-mode feature as standard equipment that automatically is selected when the vehicle is started up and controls throttle sensitivity, the transmission and the cylinder deactivation feature. There is an over-ride button to block it out.

Standard equipment in the Durango Limited is long and longer, and includes a reworked dash display with an 8.4-inch touch screen display that is friendly, simple to use/navigate and easy to see. Both driver and front passenger seats are power adjustable. These heated leather front bucket seats are coupled to heated second row seats for added comfort, and they even include a heated steering wheel. Other standard niceties include backup camera, parking assist sensors, trailer sway dampeners, remote start, security alarm, and a full sound sat system.  For us sportsmen, there are both 12-volt and 120-volt auxiliary power outlets.

On the road, with or without pulling a boat/trailer, the V6 Durango has a lot of  pep and easy acceleration. Unless you’re doing heavier towing than 6200 pounds, there really is no need to opt for the optional V8. Handling and steering are tight and precise and provides a smooth, luxury vehicle ride. Head to the gravel/back roads and with the AWD, you are going to be pleasantly surprised at power, handling and ride. The Durango is never going to be a trail-busting Jeep, but with a full 8.1 inches of ground clearance and a standard factory-installed skid-plate, back trail travel to hunting/fishing areas, as well as trail exploring should not be intimidating. Even the more ruggedized Jeep Grand Cherokee offers only 8.6 inches of ground clearance, so taking the Durango into the back country and off road rates high!
Durango Backseats

Designed to carry six/seven folks with all the seats in the full-and-upright position, the Durango really does have decent room area for those riders banished to the back of the bus, third row seating area. Both back seat rows fold down flat and affords 84.5 cubic of cargo room. That’s less than larger crossover SUVs from Chevy and Mazda, but should accommodate most with long gun cases, ammo, fishing gear and camping equipment.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a rule that will eventually require all cars to have standard backup cameras, a group of automakers filed a petition asking NHTSA to revise the requirement that all cars have sideview mirrors , NHTSA confirmed it will require all new light-duty vehicles built after May 2018 to have a backup camera.

The ruling comes after NHTSA mulled requiring backup cameras for several years, and after a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety confirmed such cameras drastically improve driver vision. In its ruling, NHTSA says it expects the addition of backup cameras to save 58 to 69 lives per year; currently, the agency says 210 people are killed each year and 15,000 are injured during "backover" accidents.

"Rear visibility requirements will save lives, and will save many families from the heartache suffered after these tragic incidents occur," NHTSA acting administrator David Friedman said in a statement.
NHTSA's rule doesn't specifically require automakers to add cameras, but does specify a specific area behind the vehicle that must be visible to the driver. NHTSA, "anticipates that, in the near term, vehicle manufacturers will use rearview video systems and in-vehicle visual displays to meet the requirements of this final rule."

The requirement for backup cameras will be phased in over several years. Automakers are required to meet the visibility rule on 10 percent of their new vehicles built between May 1, 2017 and May 1, 2017; on 40 percent of vehicles built between May 1, 2017 and May 1, 2018; and on 100 percent of vehicles built after May 1, 2018. The rule does exclude "small volume" manufacturers, which could potentially give certain exotic automakers an out from adding cameras.

NHTSA estimates that adding backup cameras to cars without them will cost between $132 and $142 per vehicle, while adding the systems to cars that already have a display capable of showing a camera's output (such as a touchscreen) will only cost $43 to $45 per ca

Automotive News reports that Tesla Motors and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers wants NHTSA to allow automakers to use video cameras rather than physical mirrors on future models. Because the cameras would reportedly be smaller than glass mirrors, the Alliance believes the change could reduce aerodynamic drag and improve car fuel efficiency. Currently, federal vehicle standards require all cars to have exterior sideview mirrors.

"Cameras will open opportunities for additional design flexibility and innovation. This idea has been in development since the 1990s, when the U.S. Department of Energy partnered with automakers to produce an energy-efficient concept car with cameras instead of side-view mirrors," the Alliance said in a statement.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers counts among its members BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi, Porsche Cars North America, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America, and Volvo. Automotive News reports that Tesla, although not a member of the Alliance, has also signed on to the petition.

Many automakers have shown concept cars that use small cameras instead of physical mirrors, including the super-efficient Volkswagen XL1 (pictured). In the XL1, the view behind the car is shown on color screens integrated into the door panels. The original Tesla Model X Prototype similarly eschewed mirrors in favor of drag-reducing cameras. The 2014 Honda Accord offers a similar feature called LaneWatch, which shows a view of the car's blindspot in the infotainment display.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Intricate Tire Carving Artwork DesignA while back we featured an article about tire carvings that we’re quite insane. Back then, the carving itself was on the top side of the tire, and it pretty much created an astonishing pattern when it rolled on anything soft. Of course, these tires were only used for art.

I am quite sure that if they were ever to be equipped on a car and driven, they would blow out faster than you could get in second gear. Even though those tires weren’t very durable, they sure looked good. As with everything that is created, there is always someone out there who wants to make something even better and more stunning.

This time around the torch gets handed to Wim Delvoye who wanted to create something even more over the top on a tire, and he went on a journey that few of us have ever been able to enjoy.

By taking perfectly normal car and truck tires, this artist started carving elaborate and intricate patters all across the surface of the tires. The result was something out of this world really. When I look at these, I can’t help but think about how long it must have taken for the Wim to create these amazing pieces of art.

I am not one to put tires in my living room; however, I would have no problem sporting these in the corner for a couple of weeks just to highlight their awesomeness. know I am a sucker for detail, and that I am an incurable perfectionist, so these fall right in line with what I would call perfect.

 I mean, there’s just not anything else that can be added to them, and I think you are about to agree. It’s just amazing how much time someone is ready to put into some tires just to make sure we all get to see something that we have not seen before.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


When buying your first car you must understand the importance of the Car's Warranty. Buying a car is always done with a warranty. (so are many other products)

A car warranty is a document that is delivered by the seller to the purchaser of a car at the time of sale; the car warranty is an assurance or type of guarantee that will provide the purchaser a form of repayment or replacement if the vehicle purchased does not perform as expected or fails to properly function.

A car warranty is offered in the form of a contract; each warranty will list specific functions and components of the automobile, that if prove defunct or ultimately fail will be replaced or refunded as promised by the car warranty.

The two basic types of car warranty are those offered in the aftermarket (extended coverage warranties) and those provided by the auto manufacturer. Regardless as the type of warranty; however, the purpose of the car warranty is to provide coverage, in the form of monetary repayment, if the car is defunct and requires major repairs.

Manufacturer warranties, in contrast, are placed on new vehicle purchases and generally cover the power train—meaning the engine, transmission and other major components of the automobile. The manufacturer’s car warranty is typically offered for a limited period of time or for a certain number of miles. 

Aftermarket car warranties may typically be purchased both used and new cars; the generic aftermarket car warranty will cover various components of the automobile depending on the specifics latent in the particular car warranty contract.

Manufacturer’s Warranty:
Every vehicle manufacturer in the United States offers some form of car warranty to the consumer base, though the specifics, meaning the period that the warranty is active and what the car warranty covers, will vary based on automobile and manufacturer. Some car warranties will cover virtually anything aligned with the automobile for ten or more years, while other types of car warranties will only cover catastrophic breakdowns or failures of the transmission, the engine, or other major components of the vehicle. 

In addition to the seller of the automobile and the manufacturer, insurance companies may also provide types of car warranties. This form of aftermarket car warranty can be purchased on both used and new cars and may last longer or cover components that were not mentioned in the original warranty.

For instance, a common manufacturer’s car warranty will not cover parts or items of the car that are susceptible to wear, such as brakes or drive belts. That being said, an insurance company who offers a car warranty may provide coverage for these parts and their subsequent repairs.

While the typical manufacturer’s warranty will transfer over when a vehicle is resold to a second owner, many used cars are re-sold with an expired car warranty. In these prevalent matters, an aftermarket car warranty may protect the second purchaser from facing expensive repairs. As a result, it is always a prudent move to have a used car inspected before you purchase it.

When learning abut your car warranty it is important to note that there exists to consumer's  laws that have been put into place for  the protection of consumers from goods that do not meet the specified standards. These Laws are know as The Lemon Laws.

Lemon laws are American state laws that provide a remedy for purchasers of cars and other consumer goods in order to compensate for products that repeatedly fail to meet standards of quality and performance. Although there may be defective products of all sorts ranging from small electrical appliances to huge pieces of machinery, and there is even a "puppy lemon law," the term "lemon" is generally thought of as applying to defective vehicles such as automobiles, trucks, SUV's, motorcycles, etc.

These vehicles and other goods are called "lemons." The federal lemon law (the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act) was enacted in 1975 and protects citizens of all states. State lemon laws vary by state and may not necessarily cover used or leased cars, and other goods. The rights afforded to consumers by lemon laws may exceed the warranties expressed in purchase contracts. Lemon law is the common nickname for these laws, but each state has different names for the laws and acts.

There are two types of warranties. Express warranties are usually statements in writing such as those provided by the manufacturers in Owner's Manuals and other written sales or advertising materials, or by a sample or model. Implied warranties are broader in scope and assure consumers that the retail product would meet certain minimum standards of quality whereby the product is fit for use for the purpose intended. In each type the manufacturer assumes the liability and responsibility to correct the defect or to repurchase or replace the product.

Federal lemon laws cover anything mechanical. The federal lemon law also provides that the warranter may be obligated to pay the prevailing party's attorney in a successful lemon law suit, as do most state lemon laws.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


The Mitsubishi XR-PHEV hybrid crossover offers a very futuristic style in a package clearly designed for fuel economy. The XR-PHEV uses a front-wheel drive drivetrain, powered by a 1.1-liter turbocharged MIVEC engine, married to an electric motor and a battery pack. What makes the XR stand out in our minds are its wide, raised rear haunches and angular body details which lead the eye towards its front.

The XR is just one of three concept SUVs recently revealed by Mitsubishi, including the GC-PHEV – a full-size plug-in hybrid, and the Concept AR, which is designed to bridge the gap between SUV and minivan.

Mitsubishi's current Outlander Sport has done a yeoman's job since it came on the market for the 2011 model year. The affordable crossover has been one of the few bright spots in the perennially troubled automaker's lineup – it's the brand's best seller in the US and sales are up nearly 40 percent this year. The compact CUV has become an increasingly important part of the Mitsubishi lineup, which is why you should pay attention to this XR-PHEV Concept – it's said to presage the next-generation model.

Stylistically, this is a pretty bold little CUV, with a striking face framed by brazen zig-zags of chrome that underline the narrow headlamps and frame the massive lower fascia. The profile has a dramatically tapered greenhouse with deep sheetmetal contours and a funky blacked-out A-pillar that emphasizes the hood's height. The rear end is no less dramatic, with dual-pane rear tailgate with a particularly fast rake.

As shown here, the XR-PHEV (pronounced "Cross Runner") is a four-seat CUV that motivates its front wheels through a turbocharged 1.1-liter, three-cylinder engine with 134 horsepower paired with a 120-kW electric motor. In pure-electric mode, the 14-kWh battery is said to be good for 52 miles of cruising range and the combined fuel economy bogey is 66 miles per gallon on Japan's lenient testing cycle.

How much of this front-wheel drive hybrid's design carries over to the next Outlander Sport is anyone's guess, but the plan is for the model to arrive within the next three years and be available in both gas-only and plug-in hybrid formats, not unlike its big brother, the Outlander.