Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ford, Microsoft Combine on Battery Recharge Technology

Ford and Microsoft say they are going to roll out a system that will tell electric car owners the optimal time to recharge their vehicles. The system was announced at the New York Auto Show.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chevy Malibu Keeps on Making You Love It

Ever since the Chevrolet Malibu was redesigned a few years ago, people have loved it.

What's not to love?

It's stylish, gets great gas mileage and is a very affordable mid-size sedan.

The 2010 Malibu doesn't get a whole lot of changes from Chevy, thankfully.

It still comes with the very efficient (22 mpg city, up to 33 highway) 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or an also fine 3.6-liter V-6.

And it still manages to stand out in an increasingly competitive field that includes the redesigned Hyundai Sonata, the Ford Fusion and of course, the Toyota Camry.

The 2010 Malibu comes in four trim levels: LS, LT 1LT, LT 2 LT and LTZ.

You can pick from three transmissions.

The Malibu ranges in price from around $21,900 to $27,000.

M Stand for March Madness and Marketing

Have you been watching the NCAA basketball tournament? Are your brackets all torn up?

Well, if you've been able to check out some of this season's exciting games, you've probably seen the ads for the official vehicle sponsor, the 2011 Infiniti M.

The commercial is quite creative and artful -- if you haven't seen it check it out:

Honda Accord Crosstour is Unusual in a Good Way

One of the most creative new vehicles on the market today is the Honda Accord Crosstour.
What makes it so creative?
Well, just look at it.
Clearly, it's not just another Accord.
It's bigger, bulkier and has a different shape.
It is a crossover, but it's not really all that SUV-like, as are most crossovers.
It's not even all that wagony like so many crossovers.
It's much more sedanish.
But then again, it's not just any ordinary sedan.
It has more space inside than most, all-wheel drive as an option and a slightly higher ground clearance.
From an appearance standpoint, the nearest comparison you might be able to make is the BMW X6.
Compared with the regular Accord sedan, the Crosstour has a larger front grille, although the interior design is very similar.
The rear hatchback door closely resembles the one on Honda's small hybrid car, the Insight.
But make no mistake - this car, 'er crossover, whatever - has far more room than that subcompact.
For instance, Honda says the Crosstour has a sizable 37.4 inches of legroom in the back seat, which is a 60/40 split bench. There is a 25.7 cubic foot cargo area behind that bench, and cargo capacity rises to 51.3 inches when you fold that bench down.
Also, there's a storage box under the load floor that can hold valuables out of sight.
The Crosstour comes in EX and EX-L trim levels. The only engine is a 271-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that's linked to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Both are smooth and powerful.
Fuel economy is pretty good for such a large vehicle, rated at 17 mpg city, 25 highway.
Honda packs many safety features into the Crosstour, including front side airbags, active front head restraints and electronic stability control.
The Crosstour ranges in price from around $29,700 to about $34,100.
So, while it might be a bit unusual, it's also refreshing to see crossover that looks more like a car than an SUV, and it certainly is nice to see the versatility you can gain from such a vehicle.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is Ultimate Green Style

The Cadillac Escalade has long been known as one of the kings of bling.
What it hasn't been known quite as well for is its greenness.
But it's true -- the Escalade is available as a hybrid.
And along with the hybrid technology that brings you respectable gas mileage, you also get a strong V-8 engine, plenty of room and loads of luxury.
General Motors uses what it calls a two-mode hybrid system in big vehicles like the Escalade.
That means that there are two electric motors, a nickel-metal hydride battery and a continuously variable transmission.
So, along with the 6.0-liter V-8 engine that makes 332 horsepower, you get a system that helps pump up gas mileage to 20 mpg city, 21 highway, which is quite respectable for a vehicle this size.
And safety features are in good supply, too.
There are head airbags in all three rows of seats, traction and stability control and antilock brakes.
Cadillac says the Escalade Hybrid earned five-star front impact ratings in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing.
But it's the feeling of first-class travel that really sets the Escalade apart.
For instance, all three rows of seats have automatic climate control, and all eight seats are heated.
The wood, leather and alloy trims found throughout are beautiful.
The Platinum trim level that was found on the test vehicle included hand-sewn French seams in the leather, as well as heated and cooled cupholders.
There is a DVD entertainment system with video game connectivity and TV screens on the back of the two front seats.
If you need to haul some cargo, that's not a problem -- this vehicle isn't just a pretty boy.
There is 109 whopping cubic feet of cargo space and huge room for passengers.
Also, Cadillac says Escalade has a payload rating of 1,373 pounds, and a towing capability of 5,800 pounds.
But this green vehicle will set you back a fair amount of green.
It ranges from about $73,500 to around $87,700.
However, if you want to be environmentally friendly and bling friendly at the same time, this is the machine for you.

Infiniti Redoes the M, and it's Marvelous

For the 2011 model year, Infiniti has unveiled a fully redesigned M sport sedan that is hitting dealerships, carrying a sticker price of $47,085 for the M37 version with a V-6 engine, and $57,550 for the M56 model with a V-8.

There are also all-wheel-drive models: the M37x starts at $48,400, and the M56x at $60,050.

The M's prices have not gone up substantially even though it has more standard features.

The Beat recently got to take a look at and drive the new M at its unveiling in San Diego, including on some scenic twisty mountain roads just north of the Mexican border. And as if Infiniti were trying to emphasize the M's athletic ability, the base for each driving route was at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

The M37 is quite an athlete. Its 330-horsepower, 3.7-liter engine is powerful and yet manages to get 18 mpg city, 26 highway.

The M56 would take the gold medal in a sprint, though, thanks to its 420 horsepower and 417 pounds-feet of torque. And it doesn't gulp much more than the V-6, rating at 17 city, 24 highway.

The M, which first came out in 2004, is a formidable competitor in the sedan market

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Come Drop that Spare $200k at this Shop

There's a new place to buy Aston Martins in Atlanta, which is sure to cause much rejoicing among the six people in these economic times who can afford the luxury sport machines.
Motorcars of Georgia, which is on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, sells the models which previously were available at a dealership on Alpharetta Highway in Roswell.
That dealership sells other super high-end luxury models.
Models available at Motorcars include the DB9 cabriolet and the DBS cabriolet and coupe.
Pricewise, you're talking in the $180,000 - $290,000 range.
Oh, yeah.

Dodge Grand Caravan is More Fun Than You Think

Sure, go ahead, say it: nobody but the terminally unhip drives a minivan.
Well, who are we to judge?
Some folks need the roominess and the practicality that only comes in a boxy package with sliding doors.
But you can't argue that minivans, especially the classic Dodge Grand Caravan, don't offer some comfort and safety.
You can actually have a little fun in them, too, if you pack your family and friends for a nice road trip.
The 2010 Grand Caravan is virtually the same as the past couple of model years, but that's a good thing.
With cool features such as Stow 'n Go second-row seats, or the optional Swivel 'n Go second row seats that can turn to face the rear, as well as Sirius satellite TV, why mess with success?
The Grand Caravan comes in SE and SXT trim levels.
There are plenty of safety features, as you might expect, such as side curtain airbags for all three seating rows, rear sensor that alerts the driver when something is behind the vehicle and antilock brakes.
Those are all standard.
Options include a blind-spot detecting system and backup camera.
You'll find the engine choices to be powerful enough yet not too bad when it comes to fuel economy.
The 3.3-liter V-6 is rated at 175 horsepower and the 3.8-liter V-6 makes 197 ponies, while the 4.0-liter churns out 251.
That largest engine is rated at 16 mpg city, 23 highway, and the other two range around 17 and 25.
Transmissions offered are four- or six-speed automatics.
For convenience, check out the power sliding doors and, if you get the swiveling middle seats, the table that can be used for eating or playing games or reading or working.
Makes you feel like you're in a little camper.
If you opt for the UConnect system, you can get Web access, connect mobile phones and laptops and download music, among other functions.
Also, you can store photos and music, which you can play on the vehicle's stereo.
The Grand Caravan is priced in the range of about $22,000-$28,000.
So, knock the minivan if you want.
But the Grand Caravan's driver and passengers might be having much more fun than you think.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jaguar XF is Extra Fun, Extra Fine

Speed, style and sophistication.
That's what the 2010 Jaguar XF is all about.
This screamin' demon of a machine has three available engines, all of which are capable of blowing the competition away.
There's a 4.2-liter V-8 that makes 300 horsepower, a 5.0-liter V-8 that makes 385 horsepower and a ridiculous 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 that makes 510, yes, 510 ponies.
Jaguar says that supercharged power plant offers a 23 percent upgrade in horsepower and 12 percent more torque than its predecesor, but is capable of similar fuel economy and emission levels.
With all that power, fuel economy is modest, but not terrible: 15 mpg city, 21 highway in the largest engine.
But if you're not impressed by the power, surely you will be struck by the great craftsmanship that this Jag's interior offers.
The cockpit is quite refined, but somehow manages to not be pretentious.
The shiny metals, polished woodgrains and rich leathers in the interior will have you shaking your head.
Mashing on the gas pedal will have you snapping your head back.
Jaguar says this model offers a variable dampening system and electronic rear differential that deliver the best possible road grip when strong acceleration takes place, and bolsters the XF's cornering capabilities.
Jaguar also boasts about the transmission, a six-speed automatic, that adapts to the driver's style.
These claims are all true. Engineers at Jaguar truly deserve applause for the masterful work they have done in creating a driving experience that is outstanding.
But with so much power and performance, it doesn't hurt to have some nice safety features, and the XF delivers.
For instance, there is cruise control with automatic speed limiter.
A radar-based blind spot alert can let the driver know when another vehicle approaches in an adjacent lane, and there is also a backup camera -- both features are optional.
Another option is adaptive cruise control, which lets you set a top speed and then just steer as the car adjusts its velocity according to traffic.
Emergency brake assist is standard on the XF.
When it comes to conveniences, the XF has some nice high-tech offerings, such as the turn-by-turn directions that are offered from the navigation system.
There is an MP3-compatible portable audio interface that features touch screen controls as well as controls mounted on the steering wheel.
And if you're really into music, you can opt for the Bowers & Wilkins 440-watt sound system, which has Dolby ProLogic II surround sound.
HD radio is now also an option, and Sirius satellite and digital radio are available.
For comfort, driver and passenger can enjoy the heated and cooled seats, which are multi-way adjustable.
Drivers will appreciate the heated steering wheel when the weather is chilly.

Exterior styling is brilliant and distinctive.
The redesigned front end clearly has Jaguar heritage with a modern flair.

For a high-end luxury model such as this one, the XF is somewhat reasonably priced.

The test drive model, an XF Supercharged, carried a sticker price of $68,000.

That buys a lot of speed, style and sophistication.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Prius Incident Ends Safely



A California Highway Patrol officer helped slow a runaway Toyota Prius from 94 mph to a safe stop on Monday after the car's accelerator became stuck on a San Diego County freeway, the CHP said.

Prius driver James Sikes called 911 about 1:30 p.m. after accelerating to pass another vehicle on Interstate 8 near La Posta and finding that he could not control his car, the CHP said.

"I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny... it jumped and it just stuck there," the 61-year-old driver said at a news conference. "As it was going, I was trying the wasn't stopping, it wasn't doing anything and it just kept speeding up," Sikes said, adding he could smell the brakes burning he was pressing the pedal so hard.

A patrol car pulled alongside the Prius and officers told Sikes over a loudspeaker to push the brake pedal to the floor and apply the emergency brake.

"They also got it going on a steep upgrade," said Officer Jesse Udovich. "Between those three things, they got it to slow down."

After the car decelerated to about 50 mph, Sikes turned off the engine and coasted to a halt.

The officer then maneuvered his car in front of the Prius as a precautionary block, Udovich said.

In a statement, Toyota said it has dispatched a field technical specialist to San Diego to investigate the incident.

Monday, March 8, 2010

All You Could Ask For in a Sedan: Nissan Maxima

You want the practicality of a mid-size sedan.
You want the performance and styling of a sports car.
No problem.
The Nissan Maxima is the choice for you.
The Maxima, which was redesigned for the 2009 model year, comes back strong in model year 2010 with some new color and option choices.
In a field that includes worthy competitors such as the Honda Accord, Mazda6 and Chevrolet Malibu, the Maxima brings its strong-performing engine, well designed interior and exterior and impressive list of options to show why it merits serious consideration.
The Maxima's engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 290 horsepower and is rated at 19 mpg city, 26 highway by the EPA. That power plant is linked to a continuously variable transmission that can be switched to manual mode, should you want to engage in some performance driving.
For 2010, Maxima lets you choose from three options packages.
With the Sport package, you'll get a rear spoiler, heated seats and rearview mirrors, high intensity xenon headlights and a sport-tuned suspension.
Pick the Premium package and you can include a moonroof and front and rear power sunshades.
The Tech package offers a 9.3 gb music hard drive, XM satellite radio, a navigation system with voice recognition and a seven-inch touch screen color monitor.
The back seat is available in two formats: a fixed bench with center armrest pass through that allows you to haul long pieces of cargo or a 60/40 split bench that gives fold-down access to the trunk.
But it's on the road where the Maxima will really shine.
Whether you're accelerating onto a busy freeway or tossing through some twisty country roads, the Maxima's power and agility are sure to impress you.
Plus, this is no tiny car -- it's quite roomy -- but it handles nearly as easily as a compact.
The four-wheel vented disc brakes are responsive and firm.
Coming standard on the Maxima is vehicle dynamic control with traction control.
You can get 18- or 19-inch wheels.
If you're thinking about safety, no worries, so was Nissan: the Maxima gets the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s top marks for front- and side crash safety.
Nissan has priced the Maxima in the range of about $30,500 -- $33,200.
The Maxima presents a great choice for those who want the comfort and practicality of a mid-size sedan, and the exciting looks and performance of a sport coupe.

Hyundai Tucson's New Look is a Winner

The 2011 Hyundai Tucson gets a new look, and last week, The Beat got a look at its new look.

Hyundai has done an outstanding job of giving the Tucson a more dramatic, curvy design, and getting away from the boxiness that is becoming less popular among small and mid-size SUVs.

The front features an inspired two-part grille that references luxury.

The rear seems to follow the design language of other Hyundai's, most notably the Veracruz.

Stay tuned for a full review of the Tucson coming soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

West Point, Ga., Kia Plant Might Build Hyundai SUV

Hyundai's Santa Fe SUV, now made at its plant in Montgomery, Ala., soon could be made at sister company Kia's plant in West Point, Ga.

The Kia plant has produced the Sorento SUV since October. If it gets the Hyundai work, it might be employing as many as 3,500 people a year from now.

Kia and Hyundai are not announcing the production shift yet. But two Hyundai auto-parts suppliers are reportedly planning to cut workers or move them to West Point.

The Alabama Office of Workforce Development confirmed Thursday that one of the companies, Jay Mid-South in Gadsden, will lay off 75 employees because of the production shift, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Jay Mid-South is basically doing what they need to do based on projected scenarios, but there won’t be any official announcement until July,” Robert Burns, a spokesman for Hyundai in Montgomery, told the AJC.

Hyundai has built autos in Alabama since 2005. Kia began production last October in West Point, about 80 miles from Hyundai and just across the Georgia state line. Both are owned by Kia Motors Corp. of South Korea.

Hyundai has done quite well with the Santa Fe, posting a 53 percent rise in sales from February 2009 to February 2010. Kia's redesigned Sorento is the brand's top seller, with 8,200 units moved in February.

The Kia plant employs 1,200 in West Point.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nissan Issues Recall for Brake Pedals, Gas Gauges

Nissan Motor Co. is recalling about 540,000 pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and minivans to fix problems with brake pedals and fuel gauges.
Most of the vehices are in the U.S., with others elsewhere in the world, the company said.

The brake pedal recall affects 179,000 vehicles in the U.S. and about 26,000 in the Middle East, Canada, Russia and several other countries.

A pin in the pedal assemblies on certain 2008 to 2010 Nissan Titan pickups, Infiniti QX56 and Nissan Armada SUVs, and some 2008 and 2009 Nissan Quest minivans can come loose and cause reduced braking force, Nissan said Tuesday in a statement.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Oh the Space, Power and Luxury: Buick Enclave

If you are in the market for an SUV, you might be wanting roominess.
Or you might only be seeking a powerful engine.
Or, luxury might be your thing.
But if you want all of those, the 2010 Buick Enclave should command your attention.
The Enclave has an abbundance of space, seating eight passengers and providing a huge 115 cubic feet of cargo space.
The second of the Enclave's three rows of seats can collapse and slide, making it simple to access the third row or to haul large items in the vehicle's mid section, if you choose.
And if you have average size or slightly larger people who want to sit in the third row, no problem; unlike so many other vehicles offering three rows, this one is actually somewhat comfortable.
The Enclave is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that is strong enough to drag 4,500 pounds around if you need it to.
And even with that, fuel economy is reasonable for a vehicle this size, at 16 mpg city, 22 highway.
That engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Enclave is available with two-wheel or all-wheel drive.
If you're all about the niceties, the Enclave gives you an interior that is adorned with enhanced wood and leather, heated front seats, DVD entertainment system and front and rear sunroof, at its highest trim level (CXL2).
Crank it down a notch to the CXL1 and you still get many of those features, including the rearview camera that comes on the CXL2.
If you go with the base CX model, you'll have cloth seats, but also a three-zone climate control system.
Other features add nicely to the value of the Enclave, including the standard XM Satellite Radio that comes with a three-month free subscription as well as the OnStar turn-by-turn navigation and safety system that is the easiest to use in the auto industry.
The optional Bose stereo system that comes with 10 speakers is also available for you to rock and roll all the way down the highway.Some of the smaller things that you might notice that will help you fall in love with the Enclave are the standard power liftgate (comes in handy when loading or unloading groceries) and the quiet tuning system.
It's really quiet.
So quiet that sitting in the library will sound like you're at a rocket launch compared with riding in this vehicle.
A nice collection of safety features makes you feel good about hauling the family around in the Enclave, including head airbags for all three rows, antilock brakes and traction and stability control systems.The Enclave has earned five-star ratings for front and side crash testing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Enclave is competitively priced compared with other vehicles in its class, starting at around $35,500.
The test-drive model was a top of the line CXL-2 that carried a sticker price of $49,355.