Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Sure, the minivan market might not be what it once was, say 20 years ago before the SUV invasion.
All seats would meet the approval of Goldie Locks: not too firm, not too soft.
In the S trim level, you get a second row folding bench seat standard, but at other trim levels there are removable captain's chairs that fold forward.
The third row can fold into the floor or recline and face the rear, in case you want to do some tailgating.
Very clever touch.
Another clever touch is the flip down mirror up front that lets a mom or dad who is driving take a glance at the kids in the back without having to turn around.
Families that buy minivans for convenience are also usually concerned about safety, and the Routan does well in that area too.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives this VW five stars, the top rating, in frontal and side crash tests.
Driver, passenger and side curtain airbags are standard, as are electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.
Pricing isn't too bad on the Routan, with a base S model starting at around $25,000.
But when you get into the higher trim levels and add all the bells and whistles, such as navigation and rear entertainment system with premium sound, you can push up into the $38,000 neighborhood.
The Routan is a very nice family hauler that defies the image of minivans as stodgy and boring.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
But if you do, you'll have the option of a six-speed manual transmission. Your gas mileage will drop to 13 city and 18 highway.
Hit the throttle and experience the roar of the engine and the explosive takeoff.
There's an admirable firmness to the suspension, and you get great stopping power from the large disc brakes.
And as was the case when we drove the SRT8 a few months ago, guys at the gas station, gym and sporting goods shop all wanted to give a thumbs up or ask a question about the car.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
--Overseas Confidence Scams: Originating in Eastern Europe, Russia and Africa, these often involve ‘phantom vehicles’ that do not exist or cars that are offered for sale elsewhere on the Internet by legitimate sellers.
--F.A.I.R. Recommendation: AutoTrader.com and Cars.com recommended that prospective buyers insist on establishing voice contact with the seller. Perpetrators of this type of fraud often avoid direct contact and will abandon the transaction when pressed for a direct local phone number.
--WMDs (Wrong & Misleading Descriptions): The traditional online used car market has sometimes been affected by sellers providing inaccurate descriptions used to intentionally mislead buyers.
--F.A.I.R. Recommendation: As a best practice, buyers should have a vehicle’s condition validated by an independent third-party professional, which can potentially save money on unforeseen repairs. Next month, PepBoys will announce a new web-based inspection request and viewing system to assist used car buyers through technology provided by Mota Motors.
--Odometer Rollbacks: CARFAX reported a 57 percent increase in this type of fraud over the last two years attributed directly to the popularity of vehicle leasing and the associated mileage penalties in returning a vehicle. Not only does this type of deception affect the value of the vehicle, but it places future owners at physical risk due to neglected scheduled service and maintenance.
--F.A.I.R. Recommendation: By obtaining a vehicle history report, consumers are able to see the accumulation of mileage over time and quickly determine if there are any potential anomalies.
--VIN Cloning: Essentially identity theft for vehicles, this ruse involves replacing the vehicle identification number (VIN) on a stolen vehicle with a VIN copied from a similar vehicle located elsewhere.
--F.A.I.R. Recommendation: Prospective buyers are encouraged to obtain a vehicle history report which will often show the same VIN number registered in different jurisdictions at the same time.
--Black Market Airbag Fraud: This emerging scam involves removing expensive airbags in modern vehicles and replacing them with faulty ones, or even omitting the airbags entirely. This is potentially the most dangerous risk to consumers as the Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) indicates in a recent study that up to 40 percent of automotive fatalities are the result of a faulty airbag.
--F.A.I.R. Recommendation: When buying a used car, consumers should obtain a professional independent inspection which can confirm the airbags are installed and in good-working order.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I used to wonder why there was a luxury SUV market. If you wanted luxury, I thought, wouldn't you just drive a luxury car? If you wanted an SUV, I thought, wouldn't you want something tough and rugged?
The Range Rover Sport is a few inches shorter in length and height than a regular Range Rover, and its overall styling is a bit more sleek.
But otherwise, it is very similar in appearance to the Range Rover, including its large windows and front-end styling.
On the inside, high-quality leather, rich carpeting and pleasant wood trim let you know that Land Rover takes luxury seriously.
Comfortable seating, a very good sound system and other amenities also make the Range Rover Sport experience a pleasurable one for passengers and driver.
That engine gets a little thirsty, too, with its fuel economy being pegged at 12 mpg city, 18 highway by EPA.
The Range Rover Sport takes premium fuel, too, which will take a little bit more out of your wallet at the pump.
The pricing bandwidth for the Range Rover Sport is as wide as the ocean.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
If you are compiling your summer reading list, here are three entries from the automotive field that you might consider:
Automotive Custom Interiors Idea Book by Sue Elliott (hits shelves July 12) – OVER 650 COLOR PHOTOS!
The interior--perhaps more than any other aspect of a vehicle--lends itself to customization, to the expression of a personal style, a desire, a conviction. The question is, how far to go? How different, how comfortable, how functional, how wild? Whatever the answer might be, this book will help you get there. And the most surprising part is just how budget-friendly a custom automotive interior can be. With images of an incredible assortment of custom interiors--from the ultimate in luxury to race-inspired minimalism, from monochromatic to psychedelic, from totally high-tech to retro hot rod styling, from suede and leather to tuck 'n' roll, and from inlaid wood to rusty metal--Automotive Custom Interiors gives you the inspiration to envision your dream interior, plus the tips and connections to make it a reality.
Hot Rods Idea Book: Roadsters, Coupes, Customs by Dain Gingerelli ( hits shelves July 15) – OVER 520 COLOR PHOTOS!
When it comes to building your hot rod, you’re faced with choices for everything from which go-fast goodies to slap on your mill to what paint and other eye candy might define your rod more than anything else. And when it comes to a hot rod, parts aren’t just parts; it’s all in how they come together--either it works or it doesn’t. This new Motorbooks Idea Book covers every system of a traditional hot rod—be it roadster, coupe, or tub—illustrating with hundreds of color photos the various options for frame rails, suspension, steering, brakes, wheels and tires, drivetrain, electrics, cooling, body, interior, and paint. Looking through this book, you’ll be able to assess which choices fit your aesthetic sensibility as well as how they suit your plan to use your hot rod.
How To Restore Automotive Trim and Hardware by John Gunnell ( hits shelves July 15)
When it comes to restoring classic cars, the devil is often in the details--specifically, the small pieces of decorative trim and hardware. In this book one of the best auto restorers around provides step-by-step instructions for getting those essential details just right. Whether you're looking to replace it, repair it, polish it or re-chrome it, this book tells you how---and photos guide you through each step. Master craftsman Jeff Lilly covers the repair of stainless steel and aluminum trim, decorative strips, fenders, bumpers, hub caps, wheel covers, door and trunk handles, and more.
Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO, Mazda North American Operations, and managing executive officer, Mazda Motor Corp., was named 2009 Automotive Executive of the Year.
The award recognizes excellence in automotive leadership, honoring those individuals with “staying power” who emerge from the crowd as survivors, thinkers and doers. The Automotive Executive of the year Award nominating committee is comprised of automotive industry media, various industry analysts, and automotive supplier CEOs.
Past winners include Carroll Shelby, Henry Ford II, Bill Ford, Jr., Jim Press, Roger Smith, Lee Iacocca, John DeLorean and former Mazda Motor Corp. President Kenichi Yamamoto.
“As a native Detroiter with a strong background in the actual sales process, coupled with a lean inventory, a solid partnership with JP Morgan Chase, and a great market offering in the MAZDA3, Jim is the ideal candidate for the 2009 Automotive Executive of the Year,” said Robert Djurovic, executive director of the Automotive Executive of the Year award program.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The luxury sports sedan/coupe market is a robustly competitive field, with great offerings from brands such as BMW, Lexus, Audi, Acura and others.
CHECK OUT THE CONVERTIBLE VERSION OF THE G37:
One of the finer offerings in the class comes from Infiniti, with its 2009 G37 Coupe.
Infiniti took its popular G35 model, which was nice, and made it a little better.
The result is a great looking, great handling, fun-to-drive model that comes with a reasonable sticker price.
The G37 has a dynamic 3.7-liter V-6 engine, the same one found in the Nissan 370Z that we recently drove.
It makes a breathtaking 330 horsepower.
For 2009, Infiniti has added a seven-speed automatic transmission, which replaces last year’s five-speed.
Infiniti also included one of the neatest features on the automotive market on the G37: the new self-healing clearcoat paint.
If you get small scratches in the clearcoat (not the base coat underneath) they will heal themselves after a day or two, keeping your car’s finish unblemished and avoiding the hairline scratches that typically accumulate on cars.
You can also get the G37 in a sedan, and coming soon is a convertible that Infiniti has shown at the Atlanta auto show and other shows.
The G37 Coupe combines sportiness and luxury in an attractive package. The interior has a handsome design, with aluminum highlights and a well-organized, clean dashboard.
Infiniti says the G37 Coupe goes from 0 to 60 mph in a shade over 5 seconds.
Its cornering ability is superb, and steering is responsive and tight.
The taut suspension lends itself well to performing as a sports car, or, when you prefer, riding like a luxury car.
The exhaust note has a growl that, for performance car enthusiasts, is absolutely melodious.
The seats are adjustable and quite comfortable.
And a feature that we noted that we liked in the 370Z is present in the G37, too: the instrument cluster moves when you adjust the tilt and telescoping steering column, so that the gauges aren’t blocked by the wheel.
There are other neat technological features, such as adaptive cruise control, adaptive front lighting, which pivots the headlights around turns for better visibility and an effective GPS that can be controlled with buttons or touch screen.
You also get an on-board iPod integration.
The G37 Coupe's interior space isn't cavernous, and the back seat is pretty cramped. But the driver should have enough room to be comfortable.
The trunk was larger than we expected, which was a nice surprise.
The 2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe, which starts at around $38,700, is a terrific value in the luxury segment. Even when you upgrade with a few of the option packages, it remains a good value.
For instance, you can get the G37x Coupe, which is equipped with intelligent all-wheel drive, which keeps the car in rear-wheel drive until it detects slip, then lets it send up to 50 percent of its power to the front wheels.
Also available are the $1,150 Technology Package, $3,000 Premium Package, $2,200 Navigation Package, $330 illuminated kick plates, and the $1,650 upgraded 18-inch wheels.
With the Premium package, you get a moonroof, upgraded audio, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and Bluetooth, while the Tech package adds adaptive cruise control, adaptive front lighting, and front pre-crash seat belts.
The Navigation package has a hard drive-based nav system, voice recognition, rear back-up camera, and a 9.3-GB hard drive music system.
Our tester had a sticker price of around $45,000.
When it comes to performance and luxury, Infiniti is truly a leader, thanks to great models like the G37 Coupe.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Fuel economy has improved to 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway for the automatic.
The Z's handling dynamics are sensational, and it's thrilling to whip it around.
We also recently drove the 370Z's more luxurious cousin, the Infiniti G37 Coupe. It's a bit more refined and has more interior room, but it's pricier, too. Stay tuned for a full review.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
These spare bumpers prevent rear-end collision damage and whiplash from the two most frequent vehicle accidents: getting hit while parked and the rear-end collision.
These under-ride guards are similar to the “Mansfield Bar” on the rear of semi truck trailers.
The scene was so gruesome that it wasn’t long before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made it mandatory that all semi truck trailers be outfitted with a rear under-ride bar or bumper.
All of Mohr's products have the same patented, crash tested compression system.
--$1,618 – average cost to fix a full size pickup truck bumper from a 5 mph collision – in 2004 prices.
CHECK OUT THE Q5 IN MOTION:
Monday, May 4, 2009
If you really want to get funky out on the road, but you want to do it on a budget (and who doesn't, these days?) check out the all new Kia Soul.
This hip, wagon-type thang gets down with its bad self, and delivers some new energy to the Kia mix.
If you dig the Scion xB, the Honda Element, or the new Nissan Cube, see what the Soul is trying to lay on you: a roomy interior with some far-out designs, a groovy exterior style, and outta sight gas mileage.
The Soul's boxy little body has just enough flair to keep it sexy, and the front holds onto Kia's latest grille styling.
You can almost picture the headlights serving as a set of cool shades.
So there's roundness, but also sharp sloping lines, you dig?
On the interior, you get some off-beat options, such as the houndstooth-check pattern on the seats and the bright colors for the dash and paneling.
For engines, the base Soul has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 122 horsepower and 115 pounds-feet of torque. That one is linked to a five-speed manual transmission.
Its fuel economy is a hearty 26 mpg city, 31 highway; great numbers for a vehicle with this size and versatility.
The other engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 142 horsepower and 137 pounds-feet.
It comes with the manual or a four-speed automatic, and brings in a still very strong 24 and 30 mpg.
The Soul comes in trim levels that are known as Soul+, Soul!, and Soul Sport, and they come with the latter engine/transmission configuration.
Base and mid-line Souls have 15- or 16-inch wheels, while the Soul Sport, which we most recently test drove and is the model's best performance version, has 18-inch wheels.
It's also tuned a bit more aggressively.
When it comes to on-road performance, though, each model is more than up to the task, displaying great acceleration, steady handling, firm braking and an overall very comfortable ride.
Plus, even at highway speeds, road noise is much less than what you might expect.
The Soul seats five adults, and the backseat is relatively comfortable, especially if you aren't going too far.
For the driver, the controls are easily accessible and there is plenty of comfort in the driving experience - headroom, legroom and visibility.
The second-row seats fold down, which will then provide you with about 53 cubic feet of cargo space. But if that's not enough in the practicality department, notice the fact that the cargo floor lifts to expose more storage area.
There is also an optional cargo organizer that goes in there.
For other little neat things that give the Soul extremely high practicality marks, check out the two-tier glove box, which Kia says is large enough to hold a laptop; a handy center console; a bin on the center stack that can hold an iPod or Blackberry, and a ton of cupholders.
The Soul looks smallish from afar, but it has more size than it might first appear to. It is 161.6 inches long, 70.3 inches wide, 63.4 inches high, and has a 100.4-inch wheelbase.
Kia added plenty of safety features, too, like the standard six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and tire pressure monitoring system.
Other standard stuff on the base model (which starts at $13,300) includes tilt steering, air conditioning, Sirius Satellite Radio (the first three months of service are free), USB and auxiliary inputs for music players, and power windows. The Soul+ starts at $14,950 and you get cruise control, steering-wheel audio switches, Bluetooth connectivity, and dual 12V outlets. The $16,950 Soul! gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a tan-and-houndstooth interior trim package, and a 315-watt audio system with speaker lighting, which lights up according to music beat or "mood." The $16,950 Soul Sport comes with the same features as the Soul! but adds 18-inch wheels, sport suspension, metal pedals, and a red-on-black interior scheme.
Other options for the Soul are the sunroof, the 315-watt audio system, and more than 60 accessories, from styling add-ons to interior trim. Kia really touts how buyers can personalize their Soul.
And of course, you get Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
The Soul: it's got funk, it's got spunk, and you can put some junk in its trunk. Plus, it won't cost you much grip if you want to get one and be hip.