Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Beat's Top 10 Models of the Year

Atlanta Auto Beat presents its top models of the year. We based our decisions on a number of factors, such as affordability, fuel economy, driving performance and practicality. It was hard to limit our choices to 10, but we had to because of contractual reasons (don't ask).
So, read 'em and weep, or cheer, if you like.

But we at The Beat would like to thank you for your loyal readership, and we wish you a wonderful holiday season and the best wishes for the coming new year.

Happy Motoring!!

No. 10 Ford Edge



Ford doesn't bill its Edge crossover vehicle as a luxury model, but when you get this vehicle all decked out in its nicest trim levels, it most certainly is luxurious.


The 2011 Edge has received a refreshed look on the outside, has an upscale look inside, offers superb technology and more power. 

No. 9 Buick Regal

Buick, which has been on a hugely successful comeback trail for the past few years, continues its journey toward being one of the top nameplates on the market with the relaunch of the Regal midsize sedan for the 2011 model year.

No. 8 Honda Odyssey





Honda has given a brand new exterior and interior to the Odyssey, and both are sharp improvements on what already had been very good designs. 

No. 7 Kia Forte

















Kia continues to turn out cars that offer good quality at a great value.


The latest case in point is the Forte sedan.

No. 6 Ford Fiesta




The new Fiesta offers great styling, wonderful convenience features and superb fuel economy.

No. 5 Toyota Sienna


The 2011 Toyota Sienna is still a minivan, make no mistake about it.
But its remodeled styling, new four-cylinder engine and better gas mileage make the Sienna more attractive than ever, even to many folks who aren't big minivan fans.

No. 4 Infiniti M37

The 2011 Infiniti M37 is a dynamic package of performance and sleek styling, improving on what was already a very good car in previous years.

No. 3 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid


The luxury sedan market is a supercompetitive one these days, but one competitor that is frequently overlooked has created a monster entry.


Lincoln, with its 2011 MKZ Hybrid, can lay claim to making the most fuel-efficient luxury hybrid in the U.S. market. 

No. 2 Buick LaCrosse


A gorgeous design and outstanding driving dynamics are enough to make you sit up and take notice of a car. But when you add really good fuel economy to the mix, you've got a can't miss product. That's what Buick has with the LaCrosse.

No. 1 Hyundai Sonata


 
This car came to symbolize all that Hyundai has become in the past couple of years: a maker of outstanding, affordable vehicles that look good and are fun to drive. This masterpiece got a substantially redesigned body for model year 2011 that makes it look like a pure luxury car, but it does not carry a luxury car price tag. Bravo, Hyundai, bravo.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If You Think Gas is High Now...

Gas prices continue to climb and the national average price has topped $3 a gallon, according to AAA.

That is nearly 20 cents higher than it was a month ago and about 40 cents above what it was a year ago.

Unfortunately, this might just be the tip of the iceberg, according to a former oil industry executive.

John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, predicts that gas prices will reach $5 a gallon in 2012.

Hofmeister is the founder and CEO of the non-profit Citizens for Affordable Energy and wrote "Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk From an Energy Insider," which will be released in May.
In a recent interview, he said that crude oil prices topped $91 per barrel Tuesday, and a number of large investment banks predict it will reach $100 next year. Higher demand from China, India and other emerging economies added to that of developed countries will strain the world's oil supply

In predicting $5 a gallon gas, Hofmeister cites not only increased oil demand from Asia, but Obama administration clampdowns on offshore drilling.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chevrolet Silverado: Sterling among Work Trucks


Working men and women who need a working truck to help them get their jobs done should take a good look at the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD.
This blue-collar machine has a new Duramax turbo-diesel engine that is not only powerful, but is also remarkably fuel efficient. 

The engine makes 397-horsepower and is a 6.6-liter V-8 that does a colossal 765 pounds-feet of torque. That engine is linked to a six-speed automatic Allison 1000 transmission that offers manual shift control. 
If you don't want the diesel, there's a 360-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine that makes a comparatively paltry 380 pounds-feet of torque that is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.
For the record, though, there really is nothing paltry about 380 pounds-feet - that's still pretty doggone strong.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, but four-wheel drive is optional.
Chevy says there is a traditional floor-mounted transfer case or an Autotrac knob-controlled electric transfer case that engages when wheel slippage is detected. 

Incredibly, this new diesel engine makes more power but also gains an 11 percent improvement in fuel economy. Emissions have also been reduced compared with the previous year’s model.  The fuel tank is a cavernous 36 gallons that provides you with about 680 miles of range, meaning city-highway fuel economy is right around 18.8 mpg.

Towing capacity has been raised to 17,800 pounds, Chevy says, thanks to the fully boxed frame on the Duramax diesel. With the single-rear-wheel gas V-8, towing is now 14,500 pounds. Chevy says maximum payload capacity is up to 4,192 pounds.

The Silverado can be configured in a variety of ways thanks to the four models, three cab configurations and two bed lengths that are offered.
At the base level, there is the two-wheel-drive, two-door Work Truck, with standard features such as vinyl seats, XM Satellite Radio and a CD player.  The four-wheel-drive LTZ model has automatic locking hubs, leather seats, remote power door locks, cruise control, dual zone climate control, heated and powered front seats, and an upgraded Bose stereo with seven speakers and a subwoofer.  Options include a power glass sunroof, adjustable pedals, a rearview camera, a TV, and a DVD-based navigation system.  OnStar 9.0, mobile WiFi, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port are also offered.

For safety, the stout structure of the Silverado and dual front airbags protect passengers in collisions, but standard antilock brakes and traction and stability control systems can help prevent wrecks.  Trailer sway control, hill-hold assist and GM’s StabiliTrak stability and traction control systems are other key safety features.



The Silverado starts at around $28,400 and ranges as high as the $55,145 sticker on the test drive model, a four-wheel drive LT crew cab.


The pickup truck market suffered a bit of a slump over the past couple of years, thanks largely to the economy and to consumers' concerns about fuel prices.
But thanks to a slight economic recovery and some pent-up demand, pickup sales are starting to warm up a bit.
For those who need a solid, meat-and-potatoes truck that can get the job done, the Silverado presents a sterling option.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Atlanta Automotive Colleague Passes Away

The Atlanta automotive journalism community has suffered a tremendous loss. Karl Ritzler, who served for many years as automotive editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution then later worked for other media outlets, passed away on Christmas eve, surrounded by family.
Karl was a kind and humorous man, in addition to being an outstanding journalist.
Our condolences go out to the Ritzler family.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Acura TL is Refined, Sporty and Powerful



With outstanding luxury and performance, the 2011 Acura TL is a midsize sport sedan that offers understated elegance and scintillating driving character.

The TL comes in a base front-wheel-drive or Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive trim level.
Choose between two strong engines: a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 or a 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6.

Those power plants are linked to a five-speed automatic transmission with auto-manual mode or a six-speed manual transmission. The SH-AWD sends more torque to the outside rear wheel to give the TL the ability to turn more quickly and make the ride more balanced. Gas mileage is solid, with the TL ranging from 17-18 mpg in the city and 25-26 mpg on the highway.



The TL has standard 17-inch aluminum wheels or optional 18- or 19-inch aluminum wheels that improve handling. The beautifully appointed interior has leather trim and a power moonroof, dual-zone adaptive climate control, 10-way power adjustable driver seat and eight-way power adjustable passenger front seat.

Acura says an eight-speaker audio system with a six-disc CD changer, AM/FM tuner, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth connectivity and HandsFreeLink wireless telephone interface are standard, and an optional Technology Package includes a navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic alerts and rerouting capabilities, and a 10-speaker premium sound system. The hill start assist system keeps the car from rolling backwards when you let off the brake while stopped on a hill.

The TL gives a nice set of safety features that includes dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags, dual-chamber front-seat side airbags with front passenger seat occupant position detection system and side-curtain airbags for front and outboard rear seating positions. Also, Acura says its Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure enhance passenger protection. Added standard safety gear includes four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability assist, a tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.


The TL competes against formidable opponents such as the Lincoln MKS, Infiniti M37 and Hyundai Genesis.
The sticker price on our test-drive model, which had front-wheel drive and the tech package, was a reasonable $40,895.







With its sportiness and sleekness, the Acura TL is a powerful and technologically advanced entrant in the midsize sedan performance luxury market.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Three Brands Fell in 2010



Pontiac ends production in 2010




The American auto industry is showing clear signs of recovery, but the problems that plagued it in recent years bore a number of casualties, among them three brands that folded in 2010. 
 Pontiac, Mercury and Hummer were victims of changing consumer tastes, mismanagement and an ultracompetitive marketplace.

General Motors began back in 1926, and was well known for high-performance models such as the GTO.



  Mercury, a Ford brand, offered virtually the same vehicles as the blue oval, with different trim levels. That was part of its problem. The brand was a bit pricier than Ford, but a bit less expensive than Lincoln. Ultimately, that proved to offer not enough of a market.

 Hummer was originally applied to military vehicles produced by AM General, particularly the famous Humvee. GM bought the rights to the name in 1998 and produced a line of street-legal vehicles mimicking the design of the military vehicles. In the wake of its reorganization, GM attempted to sell the brand and couldn't. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

San Diego Automotive Museum

The Beat recently got to visit the San Diego Automotive Museum, which offers a glimpse of America's, and especially California's, longtime love affair with the automobile.

Check out a few scenes from this wonderful attraction.

This vintage car is a beauty that resides in the San Diego Automotive Museum.
The museum featured a tribute to Jack In The Box, one of America's first drive-thru restaurants. It got its start in San Diego. The display featured a screen (right) that showed a continuous loop of old Jack In The Box commercials from the 1960s and '70s, a display of what a drive-thru looked like (center) and a menu board (left) featuring hamburgers for 25 cents. 
These brightly hued vintage cars were displayed in the California Roll section of the museum, dedicated to the Golden State's illustrious automotive history.
This psychedelic Volkswagen Microbus was accompanied by an information board that gave a brief but interesting history of hippie culture. Far out, man!
Everybody's going surfing, surfing USA.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nissan Quest Making a Return




The Nissan Quest has returned from a two-year hiatus with some substantial changes. Nissan recently unveiled its minivan to The Beat and several other automotive journalists and mommy bloggers (what a fun group) in San Diego. 
For starters, the new Quest is built in Kyushu, Japan, instead of Canton, Miss., where its predecessor was made. It's also smaller than the 2009 Quest, which had a 124-inch wheelbase.
It now is scaled similarly to its key competitors in the segment, the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey (scroll below to see review).
 The Quest is still built on the same platform as the Altima and Maxima sedans and the Murano crossover -- Nissan's D-segment platform. 
The new Quest's wheelbase is 118.2 inches, with a 68.1-inch track and length of 200.1 inches.
Nissan says that, unlike the Odyssey and Sienna, the Quest is a seven-passenger minivan with no bench option in the second row. The 60/40-split third-row seat folds flat with a single pull of a strap (or it can be powered down on the higher trim levels). The second-row captain's chairs recline and adjust fore-and-aft, as well as fold. But without the bench, Nissan says, it will be easier for users to adjust for big hauling assignments. Maximum cargo volume is 148 cubic feet.
The Quest has always been known for atypical styling among minivans, and this version follows that pattern.  It is inspired by the design of Nissan's Japanese-market minivans, with a taller, boxier look than its competitors. Nissan reportedly says the 2011 Quest is meant to look as if it's "carved from one solid piece of sculptor's stone," and says this design provides aerodynamic benefits. 
The engine is Nissan's VQ-Series 3.5-liter V-6, which is rated at 235 horsepower and 240 pounds-feet of torque.  The engine is linked to Nissan's continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is used in the Maxima and Murano. Nissan estimates that fuel economy on the Quest will be 16 mpg city and 24 highway.
There are a number of safety and convenience features offered, including a jumbo 11-inch screen for the rear entertainment system and tri-zone climate control system with the Plasmacluster air purifier and grape polyphenol filter that debuted on the Infiniti M sedans. 
Also, perhaps the coolest feature is the tire-pressure monitoring system that includes a horn alert to let you know when you've achieved the correct pressure when you're putting air in the tires.
The Quest, going on sale in January, will come in S, SV, SL and LE trim levels. The base S model has the basic minivan features, along with keyless start. The SV includes back-up camera, automatic climate control, Bluetooth and a USB input, among other things. Move to the SL and get the power-fold feature for the third row along with leather upholstery, and the top level LE provides a navigation system, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, a rear entertainment system, the Plasmacluster purifier, a blind spot warning system and low-beam xenon headlights.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Honda Odyssey is a Cool Take on the Minivan





How do you get excited about a minivan?
Well, it can be a little difficult, frankly, unless you're talking about the 2011 Honda Odyssey. 


Honda has given a brand new exterior and interior to the Odyssey, and both are sharp improvements on what already had been very good designs. 


The engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 248 horsepower and 250 pounds-feet of torque.
It comes with Honda’s fuel-saving cylinder deactivation system, which turns off cylinders in the engine when they are not needed, to conserve gas and raise efficiency. 
The LX and EX trim levels have a five-speed automatic transmission and the Touring and Touring Elite have a six-speed.

The fuel efficiency on the Odyssey is remarkable for such a large vehicle. City numbers are 18-19 mpg and highway numbers are 27-28 mpg. In a week of combined driving, we got approximately 26 mpg.



 There are other really nice minivans on the market, including the Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Town and Country, but those models don't come close to the Odyssey in fuel economy.

The exterior changes on the Odyssey include a sharp slope on the belt line under the side windows to the rear of the sliding doors. Honda says the design inspiration was lightning bolts, and that the new styling improves third-row visibility.  There is also a larger, more aggressive grille, sportier front headlamps and 17- or 18-inch wheels.

Honda's interior renovations include a flip-up ring to mount a trash bag for second-row passengers, a “cool box” in the front that allows you to keep a six-pack of beverages chilled and a center second-row seat that slides fore and aft, in case you might have a young passenger who you'd like to keep closer to the first row to attend to. 

Plus there are 15, that's right, 15, cupholders. Your crew will never be thirsty.


Comfort and convenience factors abound. All but the LX trim models have tri-zone automatic climate control, with optional heated leather seats and moonroof.  

Honda also offers a rear entertainment system with a 16.2-inch widescreen display, which can split the screen and play different programming for the right or left side passengers.  Honda says navigation and the rear entertainment system are standard on Touring/Touring Elite trims.

The Odyssey's safety features are outstanding and include front-, side-impact and three-row side curtain airbags, antilock brakes and an active electronic stability system.  A blind spot warning system is optional and the Odyssey includes LATCH anchors for up to five child safety seats.

So Honda is proving that a little bit of style can go along with the functionality people expect in their minivans.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nissan Leaf Makes an Appearance in Atlanta - Will Be Sold Here Soon



Nissan brought its new Leaf all-electric car to Atlanta for a sneak peek and brief drive a few days ago, and observers seemed to come away very impressed.
Nissan is calling the Leaf the world's first affordable all-electric vehicle, and is initially rolling it out for sales in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Tucson and Tennessee this month.
In the new year, the car will be available for sale in Georgia and elsewhere in the U.S.
The Leaf is a five-door hatchback that seats five and has a fair amount of cargo room.
Headroom was terrific -- at 6'6", this driver (who also happens to have a pretty large melon atop these shoulders) didn't come close to the ceiling. Legroom was also good.
Nissan says the Leaf has no tailpipe emissions because there is no tailpipe and the car never uses gasoline.
The lithium ion battery pack gives the car a 100-mile range on a single charge. And there are range-management technologies that allow you to gauge how much farther you've got -- making it convenient, Nissan says, for the 90 percent of U.S. drivers who travel less than 100 miles per day.
When you're at home, you'll plug the car into an electrical outlet to charge it up that will be installed in your home upon purchase.
As is the case with hybrid vehicles, which rely partly on gas, partly on electricity, the Leaf is very quiet.
In fact, Nissan had to add some noise to it for pedestrian safety, especially for blind pedestrians.
The car is 99 percent recyclable and is made of recycled materials; for example, the seats are made of plastic from water bottles.
The Leaf is built on the same platform as the Versa and Cube, and Nissan says that by 2012, it will be produced at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
So how affordable is it?
The SV trim level is priced at $32,780. Upgrade to the SL trim and you'll pay $33,720.
But you'll also be eligible for a federal tax break of $7,500 and Georgia buyers will be eligible for a state tax break of $5,000, which truly does make the Leaf quite affordable.

Gas Prices Rising in Georgia, Nationally



A weak dollar is pushing gas prices higher, and Georgia drivers are feeling the increase more than most.


The average price of regular unleaded has hit $2.83 in Georgia, up 11 cents from last week. The national average is $2.93, up 7 cents.
Experts predict gas prices will continue rising. Last week's news that U.S. employers added far fewer jobs than forecast for November weakened the dollar and increased the appeal of crude oil as a commodity to foreign investors, according to AAA Auto Club. Crude prices settled Friday at $89.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

READ MORE:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rearview Cameras Could Become More Common



Rules proposed by the federal government on Friday could make rearview cameras more common in future cars and trucks, aiming to respond to concerns about drivers unintentionally backing over children.
The new requirements from the Transportation Department are intended to improve rear visibility in cars by the 2014 model year, according to news reports. Most carmakers would comply by installing rear-mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays. The government believes video systems would add about $200 to the cost of each new vehicle.
Congress in 2008 set in motion the safety upgrades in response to dozens of accidents in which children were backed over. At issue in particular were blind zones in large sport utility vehicles and pickups.
"There is no more tragic accident than for a parent or caregiver to back out of a garage or driveway and kill or injure an undetected child playing behind the vehicle," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters. He said the changes would "help drivers see into those blind zones directly behind vehicles to make sure it is safe to back up."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hyundai, 3 U.S. Brands Post Sales Gains




Hyundai led a string of automakers that posted higher sales in November, seeing a 45 percent gain from the same month last year. Nissan sales rose 27 percent, followed by Honda at 21 and Ford with 20 percent. Chrysler posted a 17 percent increase, while General Motors reported sales 11 percent higher than November of last year.
Toyota sales dropped 3 percent, and the company said it came as a result of a 60 percent cut in sales to fleet buyers such as rental car companies. Toyota said sales to individuals rose slightly but they didn't increase as much as the industry average.
Toyota has battled safety problems, recalling more than 10 million vehicles worldwide mostly for problems with sticky gas pedals or floor mats that can trap the accelerator pedal.
GM reported increased showroom visits near the end of the month, an encouraging sign after its initial public stock offering on Nov. 18. The U.S. government, which spent $49.5 billion bailing GM out of its financial troubles last year, lowered its stake in the company from 61 percent to about 33 percent by selling stock in the IPO. GM has said that government ownership has hurt its image with consumers, dropping sales.
GM has pared itself to four brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac — in order to be more focused on delivering quality vehicles. 
Ford's numbers were boosted by a 34 percent bump in truck sales. The year-ago result includes sales figures for Volvo, which Ford sold this year. 
Chrysler posted its eighth-straight month of year-over-year sales increases, driven largely by the Jeep and Ram brands. The newest version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to sell well, more than tripling from November of last year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Honda Accord Stays at the Top of the Sedan Heap for 2011 Model Year











Honda Accord



The Honda Accord has been one of the all-time greats in the midsize sedan market, and the 2011 model year brings a few changes that keep Accord at the top of the heap.

There are now three engines from which to choose. Standard is a 177-horsepower, 2.4-liter four cylinder engine for the LX and SE sedans.  

If you choose an EX sedan or coupe or an LX-S coupe, the horsepower rises to 190-horsepower.
The tester came with a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 271-horsepower.
We were glad to get this version because it offered an unexpectedly exciting driving experience. 
The engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission featuring Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management system, which shuts down cylinders in the engine when they aren't needed, allowing for fuel conservation.


So not only do you get a dynamic road presence, you also get great gas mileage.
For the V-6, fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg city, 30 highway, according to EPA. In a week of mostly highway driving, we posted 29 mpg.

Honda says the Accord's gas mileage is assisted by improved aerodynamics, reduced engine friction, and an adjustment to the transmission gearing ratios.

But the power and displacement numbers are still the same as those from the 2010 model year.


Ah, the wonders of engineering.

From a design standpoint, the front and rear styling has changed slightly, including a new bumper and grille design up front. Honda says it also updated the wheel designs.  

Standard on the sedan are 16-inch steel wheels, but 17-inch alloys are available.  On the coupe, the 17-inch alloys are standard, with 18-inch alloys as an available option.

On the inside there are a few changes, but Honda's terrific fit and finish are still present. 

Accords come very well equipped, with such standard features as air conditioning, cruise control, stereo with auxiliary input jack, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. 


 Honda says the new SE sedan trim level includes leather seating, heated front seats, and a leather trimmed steering wheel.  And a new bonus for the 2011 model year is that all Accords with the optional navigation system also contain a backup camera.

The Accord's safety features include side-impact and side curtain airbags, an electronic stability system, four wheel disc and antilock brakes, and active front head restraints.

The Accord has a certain refinement that drivers and passengers alike will appreciate. So even though it might not technically be considered a luxury car, there certainly are characteristics that give it that feel.



Plus, when you buy the Accord, you know you are getting the reliability that Honda has become so well-known for.


The Accord ranges in price from around $22,000 to around $32,380.

Chrysler Pumping Up Indiana Plants


Chrysler announced that it will invest $843 million in its transmission-building plants in Kokomo, Ind., to make a new advanced front-wheel drive automatic transmission for future vehicles.
 Chrysler’s total investment in U.S. plants will rise to almost $3 billion from June 2009.
Chrysler previously announced investments of $343 million in its Kokomo plants, making Kokomo the recipient of the largest investment -- $1.1 billion – in one year for one community.
Chrysler, though, is awaiting a tax abatement application's approval before the investment is official on Dec. 13, 2010. The investment would fund equipment to update the Indiana Transmission Plants and the Kokomo Casting Plant. The project would extend the life of the plants and help hold onto about 2,250 jobs.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Luxury Cars Score High in Resale Survey


By Audi











Luxury cars fared very well in the latest Best Resale Value Awards from Kelley Blue Book.
Luxury models held the top five of its 10 best cars for predicted resale values. The list, from top to bottom includes Audi A5, Lexus GX, BMW X5, Lexus RX, BMW X6. The second half of the list is made of non-luxury models: Subaru Outback, Honda CR-V, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Tacoma.
 Subaru had the best brand for resale value. BMW was best luxury brand.
Here are the categories and cars:
SUBCOMPACT CAR: Honda Fit
COMPACT UTILITY VEHICLE: Honda CR-V
COMPACT CAR: MINI Cooper
MID-SIZE UTILITY VEHICLE: Toyota FJ Cruiser

MID-SIZE CAR: Honda Accord
FULL-SIZE UTILITY VEHICLE: GMC Acadia

FULL-SIZE CAR: Ford Taurus
LUXURY UTILITY VEHICLE: BMW X5
NEAR-LUXURY CAR: Lexus IS
HYBRID/ALT. ENERGY UTILITY VEHICLE: BMW X5 XDrive35d

LUXURY CAR: Audi A5
MID-SIZE PICKUP: Toyota Tacoma

SPORTS CAR: Subaru Impreza WRX
FULL-SIZE PICKUP: Ford F-Series Super Duty

HIGH-PERFORMANCE CAR: Ford Mustang GT
VAN: Toyota Sienna

HYBRID/ALT. ENERGY CAR: Volkswagen Golf TDI
WAGON: Subaru Outback

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Classic Gets Better: 2011 Ford Mustang





Last year, great American muscle car Ford Mustang underwent a refresh that touched its interior and exterior styling.
For the 2011 model year, the Mustang gets two more powerful engines, to accentuate the muscle in its muscle car description.

The standard engine now is a 3.7-liter, 305-horsepower V-6, which takes the place of the 4.0-liter, 210-horsepower engine. The base power plant is linked to a six-speed manual, with an optional six-speed automatic transmission.



Ford says the new model is quicker off the line, jumping to 280 pounds-feet of torque, a gain of 40 over last year's model.   Fuel economy has risen, too, to 19 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. 

But the real muscle comes from the optional 5.0-liter, 412-horsepower V-8, which makes 390 pounds-feet of torque.  

Like the V-6, the V-8 is linked to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, with both being rear-wheel drive.
  Fuel economy is a surprisingly decent 17-18 mpg in the city and 25-26 mpg on the highway.


Ford has emphasized its commitment to raising fuel economy in recent years, and it certainly is paying handsome dividends for the blue oval. When the company can make a muscle car that gets this kind of mileage, it has to be doing something right.

  As in the previous model, the 2011 Mustang is available as a coupe or convertible and in four trims: V-6, V-6 Premium, GT and GT Premium. The convertible comes with a power-folding top and optional soft boot for open-air fun, and the coupe adorns an optional panoramic glass roof.

On the inside, this Mustang provides an optional 8-inch, voice-activated touch screen navigation system with SIRIUS Travel Link. Two hearty Shaker audio systems are offered – a 500-watt version and a piercing 1,000-watt version with dual trunk subwoofers.  



There is an auxiliary audio input jack to accommodate an iPod, and Sirius satellite radio comes standard. 


The Sync Communications and Entertainment System allows you to control the music verbally, choosing genre, album, artist or song title. You can also operate your Bluetooth.


  Standard cloth or optional heated leather upholstery cover comfortable front bucket seats, and coupes have a 50/50 split  rear seat that allows for some cargo capacity.

For safety, the Mustang has dual front and side airbags, and an anti-lock braking system that is optional on V-6 models and standard on the GT. New for this model year is an electronic stability system.



The Mustang ranges in price from around $23,000 to about $39,000.

So if it's red-blooded American driving fun you are after, the Mustang will move you. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fiat Prices 500 Model

Fiat announced  a surprisingly low $15,500 base price for the stylish little 500 that signals the Italian brand's return to the U.S.

Read more: Hopes high for sales of sporty $15,500 Fiat 500 | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20101118/BUSINESS01/11180447/Hopes-high-for-sales-of-sporty-15-500-Fiat-500#ixzz15ejbRGr8



Members of the news media check out the Fiat 500 Wednesday during its debut at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Fiat 500's starting price will be $15,500.   (Photos by JONATHAN ALCORN/Bloomberg News)
Members of the news media check out the Fiat 500 Wednesday during its debut at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Fiat 500's starting price will be $15,500. (PHOTOS BY JONATHAN ALCORN/BLOOMBERG NEWS)

GM Shares Hitting the Market



General Motors revived itself as a publicly traded corporation Thursday, offering $23 billion in new shares  as the U.S. government sold its majority stake in the automaker that it had acquired as part of last year's bailout.
About a year and a half ago, GM filed for bankruptcy protection. Now, it has pared its debt, shed some brands and become more fiscally efficient and focused on core products. 
Its IPO is one of the largest in history. 
The federal government now holds only about a third of the company. 
GM priced its common shares at $33 amid high investor demand. When the government and other owners sell their shares, they will raise $18.2 billion. GM will raise $5 billion by selling 100 million preferred shares at $50 each.

Getting Ready to Buy? Check Out these Financing Tips

As the end of the year approaches, it's a good bet that auto dealers will be offering some pretty sweet deals to clear out excess inventory from their lots.
So if you're tempted to take the plunge, here are a few financing tips to keep in mind.

--Know How Much You Can Spend
Take stock of your budget and determine how much you can spend. Financial experts believe that you should not spend more than 20 percent of your monthly income (before taxes) on car payments.


-- Do Your Homework
Shop for the best interest rate around on your loan. The dealer might offer you a nice rate, but if your bank or credit union can beat it, let them. Don't let the dealer talk you into taking a higher rate just for the convenience.


--Cash - It's All About The Benjamins Baby
If you have enough money to buy a new car outright—do it! But even if you can't, put as much money down as you can, so that you can lower your monthly payments and perhaps the term of your loan. 


--Know The Score
As in your FICO, or credit score. Knowing it before you seek a loan is good so that you will know how much interest you will pay during the period of your loan/lease. 


--Know The Term
That is, the length of your loan. The shorter the term, the more you'll save in interest charges. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lexus Unveiling Hybrid Hatchback



Delray Beach, Fla. -- Lexus recently unveiled its premium hatchback, the CT 200h, that will go on sale in March. 
This hybrid is small; 170.1 inches in length.
That puts it about an inch longer than one of its key competitors, the Audi A3.
It doesn't offer quite as much front headroom or second-row legroom as the Audi. Cargo space is 14.3 cubic feet, which is also smaller than the A3's 19.5 cubic feet. 


But it does offer a stout yet rakish exterior design and a modern, neat interior.

On the outside, check out the aggressive fascia and the two pinched slats dividing the headlamps and grille. 

Inside, the leather-wrapped LFA-inspired steering wheel is sized appropriately and it's nice to have the inboard Mode and Display buttons placed at thumb-level. The normal array of controls for volume, channel and phone functions are easily read and controlled, as is the center-mounted climate control stack. 

 The trim choices are linked nicely with the "NuLuxe" synthetic leather upholstery that is available. But regular leather can also be selected. 



The Universal Device Holder –  a stand for your smartphone that rises from the transmission column -- fits nearly every device, from the iPhone to the EVO, to display streaming audio and navigation instructions.


The engine is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, which makes 98 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 105 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Two electric motors are fed by 28 Ni-MH batteries to churn out an additional 36 hp.


Lexus is billing the CT as, essentially, an entry-level luxury car that lets you be green.


With its sharp styling and fuel economy (42 mpg city, 41 highway), it's making a good case.


Pricing will be announced in the first week of December, Lexus says.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Buick Regal GS Stars at Remix Event in Miami


This week, Buick offered up a sneak peek at its 


production version of the 2012 Regal GS, which it


 describes as a sportier version of the Regal sedan 


that was reintroduced this year.


The GS carries an Ecotec 2-liter engine that makes


 255 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque. 


Buick says it estimates the GS goes from 0-60 mph


 in less than seven seconds.




"Buick continues to generate new energy with its 


products, and this one is no exception," said John 


Schwegman, vice president of Buick marketing.


 "We're seeing more people take a new look at


 Buick, and liking what they are seeing."


Indeed, Buick is undergoing something of a 


renaissance.


It started with the introduction of the outstanding 


Enclave crossover a few years ago, was continued


with the presentation of the new LaCrosse sedan 


and will now likely move forward with the Regal.


The Regal GS, shown to journalists and the public 


in Miami prior to the opening of that city's auto 


show, will add even more sportiness to what is 


already a very cool sedan.


If seen by enough people, it should continue to 


reshape the public's view of what Buick is (a 


premium-to-luxury brand that is producing quality


 vehicles that are stylish) from what it used to be (a


 good car for Grandpa).


That kind of change doesn't happen overnight.


Chris Ayotte, Buick Regal's marketing manager, 


said he realizes that brand perceptions don't turn on


 a dime. But the company is committed to making 


products that have appeal for those who 


traditionally might only look to marques such as 


Lexus, Infiniti and BMW.


The GS will hit showrooms in the second have of 


2011.


So what did some of the consumers think?
The event in Miami, which was highlighted by a concert by the Plain White Ts, drew a pretty young crowd - purposely sought by Buick as it endeavors to change its demographics.
Most seemed to react favorably, but seriously, you probably aren't going to get too many thumbs downs when you bring a bunch of hipsters to a club, give them free drinks and a rock concert.
The Beat's roving correspondent spoke with one young woman, who gave her name as Elena, who said she could see herself driving one of the cars if the price was right.
What's the right price?
"I don't know, just, like, something affordable."
OK, thanks, Elena.