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:

MID-SIZE CAR: Honda Accord

FULL-SIZE CAR: Ford Taurus

MID-SIZE PICKUP: Toyota Tacoma

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

VAN: Toyota Sienna

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 | | Detroit Free Press

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 


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 


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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pontiac Officially Out of Business

Pontiac has officially ended its 84 year run as a purveyor of muscle cars and other vehicles.
The last Pontiac model rolled off the assembly line about a year ago, but yesterday, contracts with dealers expired.
So now any Pontiacs still on dealer lots are counted as used.