Saturday, January 31, 2009
They want the provision tied in with the $819-billion economic stimulus bill that passed the House. The Senate will take up that bill soon.
Backers of the car trade-in plan say it would help the economy and the environment.
The old gas guzzlers would be scrapped.
"We're for any program that seeks to boost consumer confidence and get people into showrooms," Bailey Wood, legislative affairs director for the National Automobile Dealers Association told the Detroit Free Press. But "a cash for clunkers plan is an uphill fight because of the need to get industry consensus."
Under the plan, if your ride gets less than 18 miles per gallon, you get a voucher of up to $4,500 toward a new vehicle. Vehicles from model year 2002 and newer would get the full $4,500. Older vehicles would get less.
The voucher could help buy a new or used vehicle that gets 25% better fuel economy than federal standards, or be swapped for bus and rail fares. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates the plan would scrap 575,124 vehicles in its first full year at a cost of $1.1 billion, while generating 270,877 sales of new cars and trucks.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Unlike previous models, today's diesel vehicles are not smelly, don't belch smoke into the air and aren't very loud.
The Grand Cherokee Limited came with a 3.0-liter V-6 with common-rail diesel technology developed by Mercedes-Benz.
The traditional diesel rumble sound is still audible, but in no way is it intrusive — it's just a low-hum.
The five-speed automatic transmission rolls from one gear to another without drama.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of driving this Grand Cherokee is its torque, which is 376 pounds-feet. It's quite evident when you attempt to merge onto a freeway crowded with speeding commuters.
Horsepower is a relatively modest 215.
So why buy a diesel?
It's not because of the price of diesel fuel, which has been running consistently higher than even premium unleaded gasoline.
But, the upside is that when you fill your tank, it tends to stay full longer than a gas tank.
The EPA numbers for the tester are 17 mpg city/22 highway. In combined driving we were getting just shy of 20 mpg.
Now, compare that with the gasoline Grand Cherokee, which has a 3.7-liter V-6 and carries EPA numbers of 15 and 20. It also falls short of the diesel in horsepower and torque.
If you bump up the Grand Cherokee to the 4.7-liter V-8, your EPA numbers drop to 14 and 19.
This diesel technology gives you better power than most hybrids we've tested, its fuel economy numbers aren't too far off and you aren't weighed down with extra batteries.
Diesel fuel is widely available, too — most estimates say that about 50 percent of retail fuel stations nationally carry diesel.
Besides the diesel technology, this Grand Cherokee offered what you would expect from a Jeep.
The interior was nicely designed, there's a fair amount of room for driver, passengers and cargo, and visibility is good, thanks to the high seating structure.
We didn't check its off-road capabilities, but would assume that it performs well in this area, too.
The sticker price was $40,905.
Monday, January 19, 2009
It earns strong reliability ratings according to almost all who chart such measurements, is reasonably priced, gets good gas mileage, and of course has the famous all-wheel-drive system that Subaru is known for.
But one of the dirty little secrets of the automotive marketplace is that "practical" is often a euphemism for "boring."
Does that hold true for the 2009 version of the Outback?
Well, uh, maybe just a little bit.
But that certainly should not disqualify it from consideration among those who need a nice family vehicle that is, well, practical.
The Outback is somewhat like that girl who lived down the street from you and went to school with you.
She was smart, kind-hearted and a good friend. And while she wasn't at all unpleasant to look at, you didn't think of her first on Saturday night as you were thumbing through your little black book (which nobody has anymore; everybody stores numbers in their phones these days, right?)
But as you get a little older in life, you begin to realize that every night isn't Saturday night.
The Outback can get you comfortably through a Wednesday night, and you'll especially appreciate it if that Wednesday night is cold and snowy.
We didn't get to test it in those conditions (thank goodness), but what was evident was that the comfort this vehicle provides would only enhance its bad-weather performance capability.
To start with, its exterior styling is solid.
Sure, it's still a wagon/crossover type thing, but there are sporty undertones, including the angular front end and the almost muscular-looking rear.
On the interior, the cabin is full of quality materials that are neatly arranged.
The fit and finish of the textured surfaces is good, and the controls are arranged in a practical (there's that word again) manner.
The wood trim adds a bit of class.
The only thing we were disappointed in was that it was somewhat difficult to read the gauges at night, because they never seemed to light up too brightly.
Well, maybe not the only thing.
What's up with the window controls being awkwardly behind the door handle?
It's as if they didn't want it to be easy for you to open and close your windows.
Just like when that girl down the street would wear a cool necklace, the Outback has a few features that show it can have fun.
That would include the Harman-Kardon sound system that can play MP3 files and has an auxiliary input.
Also, the navigation system was not bad. It took us awhile longer to figure this one out, compared with other models, for some reason, but it was manageable.
It addition to directions, it offered fuel mileage data and a display of maintenance records.
Our tester was a Limited trim level, a step above the base, and had dual power moonroofs and leather upholstery.
Out on the road, the Outback delivers a dependable, albeit not drama-filled, ride.
Subaru became famous for its all-wheel-drive system.
The system, which the company calls Symmetrical AWD, is said to provide ideal balance that brings stability and poise.
Subaru says it's the only system that mates a horizontally opposed engine and a symmetrically arranged AWD system, resulting in a better transmission of power, better grip and quicker responsiveness.
That's probably all true, even though we didn't put it on any challenging road surfaces.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 170 horsepower.
Not terribly exciting, but certainly adequate to give you the pickup you need for most traffic situations.
The tester had a four-speed automatic transmission that was, if not flawless, at least smooth enough.
When you need some juice for the highway, you'll get it, in a steady allocation.
Gas mileage was good for this five-passenger vehicle; 20 mpg city and 26 highway.
When something is this practical, safety features usually come along for the ride, and the Outlook is no exception.
It has anti-lock brakes and front seatbelts with load limiters and pre-tensioners.
Side airbags come standard on the Limited.
Also available is a stability control system that helps cut the risk of dangerous skids or spins.
Our tester had a sticker price of $31,211.
So, practical is good, right?
And so is the Outback.
Monday, January 12, 2009
The Mazda RX-8 is a sporty little car with a funky rotary engine that loves to get out and play on the pavement.
It's a compact - very compact - sports coupe, with a tiny back seat, but it packs a wallop of a performance punch, and at a price a bit lower than that of some other cars that like to tout their performance credentials.
WATCH THE RX-8 TAKE ON THE ROAD:
The RX-8 comes with a rotary engine - basically one that has rotors inside that circulate and combustion chambers but no cylinders.
For 2009, the RX-8 gets a few styling modifications, as well as some technical revisions.
The RX-8's design speaks to its performance - sinewy and aggressive.
One of our favorite features about its design, though, remains intact: the "clam-shell" doors that provide easy access to the back seat.
The doors open from the center outward, and there is no middle pillar to impede entry.
So getting back there is pretty simple.
Sitting back there, however, is not particularly easy for adults of average size or above.
But if you're just putting kids back there, they'll be fine.
It's in the performance arena where this car really shines.
The 1.3-liter engine produces a robust 232 horsepower and is linked to a six-speed manual transmission that shifts quite smartly.
An automatic transmission is available, and the engine with that gearbox makes 212 horsepower.
Handling on the RX-8, which comes with rear-wheel drive, is superb.
Take it out on some curvy roads and you will be rewarded handsomely.
The electric power steering is directly responsive, and the wide, low tires also contribute to the strong on-road performance.
You'll feel some of the road, to be sure, but only enough to remind you that you're enjoying an invigorating ride.
Even when you are cruising along a highway, there's a refinement to be admired.
The downside is that fuel economy is disappointing; 16 mpg city, 22 highway, according to EPA.
The interior has quality materials and is quite comfortable (for front passengers anyway).
Our tester had the optional R3 sports package, which in addition to a firmer suspension included Recaro front bucket seats, a Bose audio system, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity and keyless ignition.
On the outside, the sport package offers a rear spoiler, 19-inch aluminum wheels and high-performance tires.
The dashboard controls are a bit cluttered, but fairly easy to use.
The RX-8's price tag can mostly be justified by its performance and its uniqueness.
The tester, which was loaded with just about everything, went for $32,580.
Mazda continues to churn out impressive products.
A few months ago, we tested the new version of the Mazda6 midsize sedan, and found it to be better than its predecessor.
The CX-7 and CX-9 crossovers are fun, functional and follow the "Zoom-Zoom" credo that Mazda is known for.
And the MX-5 Miata remains a favorite of roadster lovers.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
A sporty, four-door sedan that offers great driving performance and aggressive styling.
Must be a European brand, or maybe an offering from one of the leading Asian automakers, right?
The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, new for 2009, is derived from the Lancer GTS, a model that has had somewhat of a cult following among tuner and performance enthusiasts.
CLICK HERE TO TAKE A 360 degree LOOK AT THE LANCER RALLIART
Mitsubishi is an Asian brand that has had its struggles over the past several years, but still has managed to hang in there, probably thanks to its ability to make products such as this one.
Several months ago, we drove the Lancer Evolution (nicknamed Evo), and noted how it made such a big impression on guys in the 18-24 age bracket who loved its styling and were also familiar with its performance chops.
The Ralliart has much of the same driving ability, thanks to taking its powertrain and all-wheel-drive technology from the Evo.
But it seems to be just a tad more mature.
If the Evo is the unruly college frat boy, the Ralliart is the graduate who is married, or at least engaged, but still likes to hang out with the fellas every so often.
For instance, even though the Ralliart's interior is similar to the Lancer GTS and Evo, we found the Ralliart's cabin to somehow be a bit more comfortable.
The front bucket sport seats feel pretty good, even if not quite like your favorite recliner.
And the back seat is adequately roomy, considering this is not a large sedan.
The leather-wrapped sport steering wheel comes with audio and cruise control switches.
But it's performance that sets the Ralliart apart from so many other sedans.
Its engine is derived from the Evo's turbocharged 2.0-liter four banger and is linked to a Twin Clutch-Sportronic Shift Transmission, which is a six-speed automatic.
There are paddle shifters if you want to manually control the tranny, as well as a console shifter that also lets you do it yourself.
You can choose normal or sport shifting modes.
That engine proves to be quite capable, kicking out 237 horsepower and 253 pounds-feet of torque.
Gas mileage is listed at 17 mpg city, 25 highway.
The all-wheel-drive system enhances the vehicle's handling using an active center differential unit that can respond to driving conditions.
You can pick tarmac, gravel or snow mode, depending on which type of terrain you are riding.
Mitsubishi says the Ralliart's chassis is engineered for performance, and you'll probably agree once you experience how effectively the suspension helps latch onto the road.
Handling also is aided by the active stability control and traction control, which is standard.
Mitsubishi included a generous amount of standard safety features, including front seat-mounted side-impact air bags, advanced dual front air bag supplemental restraint system with occupant sensors, a driver's knee air bag and side curtain air bags.
For gadget fans, there's a Bluetooth system with voice recognition and an auxiliary MP3 input jack.
Our tester had Sirius Satellite Radio.
If you're going to drive a car that boasts this kind of performance, it has to look the part, and the Ralliart does.
Start with the duct and vents on the hood, move down to the racing-inspired grille and cruise the sculpted body back to the rear spoiler, and this machine exudes sportiness.
So what's not to like?
The materials, especially on the interior, aren't of poor quality by any account, but don't seem to be quite up to the price point the Ralliart occupies.
The tester had a sticker price of $27,165.
That's not bad considering the overall package, but Mitsubishi could make a stronger competitive value case by trimming a bit off of that figure.
But for youthful fun with a dose of maturity, the Lancer Ralliart is a fine choice.