Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ford to do the Safety Dance Downtown

Ford is coming to downtown Atlanta on Thursday to demonstrate what it says is the future of auto safety - including the world's first inflatable seat belts. The event also offers visitors a sneak peek at the next-generation, yet-to-be-revealed Ford Explorer, which goes into production later in 2010.

Pei-Wen Hsu, Ford Taurus marketing manager, and Ford safety technology representatives will be on hand at the Hilton Garden Inn, across from Centennial Olympic Park, to conduct demonstrations of Ford’s suite of safety technologies and innovations. 
WHAT: Ford safety product demo

WHERE: Ventanas at Hilton Garden Inn

               267 Marietta Street

                 Atlanta, Ga. 30313

WHEN: Thursday, July 1

               11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Monday, June 28, 2010

BMW 1 Series Offers a Good Thing in a Small Package

It's often said that good things come in small packages.
For driving enthusiasts, BMW is a good thing. And one of its small vehicle packages, the BMW 1 Series, is surely a good thing, providing robust performance and power and lots of goodies.
The 1 Series includes the 128i model and the 135i, which is turbocharged. The latter features a 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine linked to a six-speed automatic or manual transmission.
BMW says the 135 goes from 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds.
Fuel economy is rated at 17-18 mpg city and 25-26 highway.
The 1 Series first came to the U.S. in 2008. The small coupe and soft convertible compete with such models as the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Infiniti G37.
Where it might struggle against those models, though, is on sticker price.
The test-drive model went for around $41,000, and didn't have a sunroof or a few other features you might expect at that price.
The 1 Series nominally seats two, and there is a rear seat option that also is said to seat two, but really, don't try to fit two folks who are larger than a bag of Doritos back there.
But the 60/40-split folding seat does give you more trunk room -- BMW says about 13 cubic feet.
The collection of safety features on the 135 is strong, such as side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for front and rear and antilock brakes.
You also get standard adaptive headlights, which track the direction that you are steering.
Other convenience features include heated side-view mirrors and windshield washer jets, rain-sensing wipers and, on the convertible, a power soft top that can open or close in 22 seconds.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, 10-speaker stereo with a CD player and MP3 capability also come standard.
Navigation systems are increasingly popular these days, and you can get one as an option on the 1 Series, but note that it uses BMW’s iDrive control system, which has drawn plenty of criticism for its perceived lack of user friendliness.
All in all, though, if you really want the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience, as the company slogan goes, and you want it in a nice, compact package, the 1 Series is not a bad way to go.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Audi is Hard to Get, But Worth It

Audi has a big presence on a recently released list of the toughest cars to get. The Audi R8 (tough to get because it's $114,000, among other reasons), S4, A5 and S6 made the rankings, which were compiled by Forbes magazine.
Also on the list are the Dodge Charger (a nice car, but a somewhat curious selection), BMW 5-Series, Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen GTI.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lexus GX 460 Offers Inspired Styling, Good Safety

It can be tough out there for luxury SUV makers. First you get slammed by rising fuel prices, then you get hit by a crappy economy.
Finally, if you're Lexus, you get smacked with Consumer Reports magazine's kiss of death, the Do Not Buy label, which was bestowed on the GX 460.
It was given this dubious status because, the mag said, it is top heavy and if it were driven aggressively through a corner, then shifted in direction, it could lose stability and tip over.
Well, yeah.
Toyota, Lexus's parent, quickly stopped all sales of the GX until the problem was fixed.
It's back on the market now.
So how is it?
It has a powerful engine and pretty sharp interior and exterior design cues.
It has three rows of seats, all of which are adequately spacious.
The 4.6-liter V-8 engine makes 301 horsepower and is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel-drive.
The GX gets 15 mpg city, 20 highway, according to EPA.
You must give the GX props for its safety features -- 10 airbags, electronic stability system, active front head restraints and antilock brakes.
Also, there's a pre-collision system that tightens seat belts and enhances stopping performance before a collision.
For convenience, the second-row seating slides fore and aft for increased leg room. The third row folds flat into the floor.
A backup camera, nine-speaker audio system and navigation are standard.
Three-zone air conditioning is optional.
Prices for the base model start at around $52,845 and for the higher trim at $57,640.

Realized the Error of their Ways

General Motors wisely reversed itself on an ill-conceived move to try to get its employees to stop using the Chevy name.

The original memo signed by Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, GM vice president for marketing, told employees at the corporation's Detroit headquarters "consistency" is important for the Chevrolet brand -- and it would be helpful in that regard to stop referring to Chevrolets at Chevys, The New York Times reported.


GM says Chevy is OK.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Call Them Whatever You Want, Just Don't Call Them Smart

General Motors has reportedly ordered its employees to stop referring to its iconic Chevy brand as Chevy. Chevy, the geniuses at GM are saying, now must be referred to strictly as Chevrolet.

The New York Times got its hands on a memo the company sent out, and reported that it reads thusly: "We'd ask that whether you're talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.

"When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple, for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding," the memo continued. "Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer."

Ok, so do these brain surgeons really think consumers are confused about whether Chevy is the same as Chevrolet?

These corporate rocket scientists also reportedly have established a jar in which employees must drop a quarter each time they say "Chevy."

The Beat is seriously considering a new policy of, from now on, only referring to Chevrolet as Chevy.

We really love the cars; the Malibu is awesome, the Impala is pretty good and the Aveo is a decent little subcompact.

Let's hope the mental giants who came up with the anti-Chevy memo don't make their way into the product development department.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

GM Recalling 1.4 Million Vehicles for Fire Hazard

General Motors is recalling 1.4 million vehicles in the U.S. to fix a problem in which fires can be caused by a heated windshield washer fluid system.

GM recalled 944,000 vehicles for this same problem in 2008, but now says the fixes it made aren't stopping new fires. Now GM dealers will simply disable the system altogether.



Georgia Bans Texting While Driving

On July 1, texting while driving will be illegal for all Georgia drivers, and young drivers with provisional licenses will be banned from any cellphone use behind the wheel. A violation can cost the driver $150.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Chrysler Announces Recall of Minivans, Jeep Wranglers

Chrysler announced a recall of nearly 600,000 minivans and Jeep Wranglers in the United States and an additional 100,000 elsewhere because of brake or wiring problems that might compromise safety.

Chrysler said the recall will affect 288,968 Jeep Wranglers from the 2006-2010 model years because of a possible leak of brake fluid.

Some 284,831 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans from 2008 and 2009 will be recalled because of a wiring defect that can cause a fire inside the sliding doors.

The company also said 76,430 Wranglers and 34,143 minivans will be recalled in Canada, Mexico and other international markets.

No crashes or injuries have been reported from the defects, Chrysler said.

Last week, Chrysler also announced it is recalling about 35,000 Dodge Calibers and a limited number of Jeep Compasses because of a potential problem with sticky gas pedals.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gorgeous, Great to Drive and Good on Fuel- 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, it's enough to do flips about.
If that's the case, the Buick LaCrosse powered by a four-cylinder engine will turn you into an acrobat.
This car does a great job of putting to rest the old notion that Buick is a brand for those age 65 and over.
The LaCrosse has sharp styling with wonderful on-road performance, presenting a compelling value to consumers.
The LaCrosse also can garner some positive attention from its sticker price.
With the four-banger, LaCrosse starts at around $26,245.
At around $27,900 you get a CX model with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 182 horsepower, gets around 23 mpg - very nice for a car this size.
The six-banger gets around 19-20, which still isn't bad. It makes 255 horsepower.
Will you notice the missing ponies with the four-banger?
But not to the point at which you would call the car woefully underpowered.
So saving some money on the sticker price and at the pump is worth it.

The LaCrosse offers optional all-wheel drive and a number of new technological options.

There is also a rear-seat entertainment system and remote starting.

CX models feature premium cloth seats and 17-inch wheels.

The CXL is LaCrosse's midlevel version, with either front- or all-wheel drive.
The front-drive version starts at around $30,400 and has a 3.0-liter V-6, heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights, outside mirrors with LED turn signals and puddle lamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The all-wheel-drive model CXL is $33,765.

The CXS is the highest trim LaCrosse, and, as tested, was priced at $33,765. It comes with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine making 280 horsepower and 259 pounds-feet of torque, and 18-inch chrome wheels.

The CXS also has heated-and-cooled perforated leather seats; 19-inch wheels are optional.

The V-6 models also come with a six-speed automatic transmission; no manual is offered.

The LaCrosse has dramatic exterior lines that maintain some of the Buick heritage, but greatly update it.
The familiar waterfall grille and faux portholes are still present, but the portholes move to the hood now, rather than the sides of the front fenders as was previously the case.

We loved the ice blue ambient lighting found throughout the cabin and extending to the door panels.

GM says the car has a European-designed chassis and suspension system with real-time damping, high-intensity-discharge adaptive headlights that turn slightly in the same direction the car is turning, a side blind-zone-alert system and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

GM also says the LaCrosse's QuietTuning feature, is designed to block and absorb noise before it enters the passenger cabin.
We'll buy that, because the interior was silent as a church mouse.

The new LaCrosse gets a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which conducts its own crash tests independent of the federal government's testing program.Other LaCrosse safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist; traction control; front seat-mounted side air bags; and roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows.

GM builds the LaCrosse at its Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan.