Wednesday, March 30, 2011
With the 2011 Infiniti G37, scintillating driving performance comes standard.
It features three body styles: sedan, convertible and coupe, which the test drive model was. There's also an all-wheel drive version, the G37x, which has enhanced handling.
The coupe is powered by a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that makes 330 horsepower and 270 pounds-feet of torque. The powerplant is linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is optional.
The G37 coupe has new front styling, in which the fog lights have been moved from inside the headlights to the lower fascia and there's a Limited Edition trim that's new for this model year.
On the inside, the G37 coupe seats four and comes with standard leather seats with eight-way power adjustments in the front, single-zone automatic climate control, and a six-speaker stereo system with MP3 jack. There's an iPod-compatible 11-speaker Bose stereo, Bluetooth streaming audio, and moonroof that are optional. Infiniti says the available 2.0 or 9.3 GB Music Box hard drive can be accessed by a USB port in the center armrest, and it helps organize your audio files internally, and a seven-inch LCD touch-screen navigation system with Infiniti Voice Recognition is also optional.
The coupe's styling is dynamic without being overly dramatic. On one test drive session, another motorist actually pulled out a camera at a stop light to snap a picture of the G37.
The interior design is equally attractive, a mix of high tech and classic luxury.
Fuel economy is very good, with an EPA rating of 19 mpg city and 27 highway. In a week of combined driving, we got 28 mpg, which was very pleasing.
For driving pleasure, it's hard to beat the G37. It takes curves exceptionally well, accelerates sharply and brakes precisely.
The test drive model was priced at $46,975; G37s range from $36,000 to $58,000.
The G37 coupe is an outstanding value for those seeking luxury and brilliant driving dynamics.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Ford, which has been among the leaders in the automotive industry in emphasizing fuel economy over the past few years, is now saying that good gas mileage doesn't have to be boring.
The Blue Oval is now touting its new customization options for its Fiesta subcompact. Ford says the three new packages aim to give customers more ways to personalize their fuel sippers.
"We're trying to make fuel economy fun," said Lew Echlin, Ford's global car marketing manager, in an interview with The Beat. "This package will have the richest personalization options of any of our vehicles. We realized that we should allow more customization choices to more of our buyers."
Ford says the new packages build on the success of the current personalization choices Fiesta customers have today, with nearly 40 percent purchasing at least one accessory. More than 26,000 Ford Custom Accessories items have been purchased by Fiesta owners.
In relaunching the Fiesta last year, Ford started the Fiesta Movement, in which a group of selected drivers got to drive, and pretty much live with, a Fiesta and share their impressions with the company.
One key finding that Ford gleaned from that experiment is the level of connection people have with their subcompacts.
Fiesta drivers, Echlin said, often live out of their vehicles, so it was important to give them options that would fit their lifestyles.
“The Fiesta customer loves accessories and personalization. These packages help the customer make the car more tailored to his or her tastes,” he said.
In a news release, Ford cited a recent study by the Specialty Equipment Market Association which found that accessories drive sales, with the availability of accessories influencing more than 1 million new vehicle sales each year.
So what's in the Fiesta packages?
Ford says the new premium sport appearance package takes cues from the European Focus RS with several blacked-out components that feature Tuxedo Black paint, including:
· Side mirrors
· Grille surround
· License plate header
· Upper rear hatch spoiler
Ford also says the package also offers 16-inch polished alloy wheels along with improved performance when ordered with a manual transmission.
On the inside, Fiesta SEL and SES models feature high-contrasting interior accent colors in Oxford White or Race Red strategically placed throughout the interior of the vehicle, which Ford says reflects trends in fashion and home design.
Ford Custom Accessories gives owners additional ways to add their own flair to their Fiesta or to enhance functionality.
So while many buyers might be drawn initially to the outstanding fuel economy the Fiesta offers, they can also take heart in the notion of making it a little more reflective of their own personality and style.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is the bow tie marque's latest entry in the compact market, and it is a solid one.
Replacing the Cobalt, which wasn't all that impressive, the Cruze has better styling and a higher quality of materials.
The Cruze features a pair of four-cylinder engines, a 1.8-liter that makes 136 horsepower and a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that makes 138 ponies. The latter offers 148 pounds-feet of torque.
The Cruze comes with a six-speed transmission, both automatic and manual are available.
There are four trim levels from which to choose: LS, LT, LTZ and Eco, which the test drive model was.
The styling of each is better than that found in its predecessor, the Cobalt, with a sleeker exterior and an improved interior.
On the inside, you get eight-way manual adjustable driver seat, 60/40 split rear seat, six-speaker stereo with CD player and satellite radio and OnStar.
Options include remote vehicle start, leather seating, power driver seat, heated front seats, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB/iPod port, 18-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, automatic climate control, navigation system and sunroof.
For safety, the Cruze offers 10 airbags, antilock brakes and an electric stability system with traction control, all standard.
You'll find plenty of storage space - 15 cubic feet - in the Cruze's trunk.
The test drive model had the manual transmission, which probably won't be a big seller because many of today's drivers don't know how to drive a stick, and even those who do often don't want the hassle of doing it.
The tester was an Eco, as mentioned above, which was touted as being extra fuel efficient. Its EPA ratings are 28 mpg city, 42 highway.
In a week of combined driving, though, we were only able to get 26 mpg, which was somewhat disappointing.
The Cruze ranges in price from around $16,500 to around $23,000. The tester had a sticker price of $19,750.
The Cruze is a solid entry in the compact market, with many upgrades from its predecessor vehicle.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Spend a little time with the newest version of the Audi A8 and you begin to wonder what can be thought of next by the makers of large luxury sedans.
This car is absolutely loaded in virtually every way you could assess it: performance, luxury, safety and technology.
Audi has made the A8 larger, adding to its length by three inches and its width by two inches. As a result, the interior is even more comfortable.
The powerplant has been beefed up, too, with the 4.2-liter V-8 engine cranking out 372 horsepower, which is 22 higher than the previous generation. Audi says the 0-60 mph time for this model is less than 5.7 seconds - astounding for a car this size.
The engine is linked to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and the Quattro all-wheel drive system is standard.
Fuel economy has improved by about 15 percent, to 17 mpg city, 27 highway.
If you really want to examine the performance aspects, you can check out the adjustable driving modes, which include comfort, dynamic, auto and individual, the latter allowing you to personalize your preferences in transmission, suspension and steering.
As for safety, the A8 offers eight airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control with traction control as standard features. Optional are the blind-spot warning, night-vision and lane departure-warning systems. Adaptive cruise control is also offered, allowing the car to sense potential collisions and begin braking to reduce the impact.
Besides all of its great engineering, the A8 offers fun aspects, too.
The rear seat entertainment system features dual 10-inch screens and a DVD player.
The Bang & Olufsen stereo with 19 channels and 19 speakers and more than 1,400 watts of power makes you feel like you are listening in a recording studio.
There's a panorama sunroof that is functional as well as decorative. It can convert sunlight into electricity and generate energy to run a ventilator that allows fresh air to reach the cabin.
The seats are 18-way power, heated and cooled, with Alcantara leather. But that's not enough. There is also a massage function. The driver and front passenger can get a rubdown on the upper, mid or lower back. And it feels pretty doggone good.
On the outside, Audi continues to convert its vehicles' headlights to the stylish pearl-necklace type of LED lights that originated on the R8 supercar. LEDs are now used on low beams, high beams, signals, markers and cornering lights. Audi says the cornering lights can be controlled by the navigation system, which informs the lighting controller in anticipation of turns.
Audi's Multi Media Interface system provides the car with a high level of intelligence.
One example: we were running a little low on fuel, so the car asked if we would like some suggestions of where nearby fuel stations are, then provided a list.
This car, clearly, is not for those who are financially challenged. Prices start around $79,000 and range to about $87,000.
But with all this, who needs an entertainment system at home, or a masseuse?
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The auto industry reported strong gains in U.S. sales in February, despite rising gasoline prices.
Almost 1 million new cars and trucks were sold nationally in February, a jump of 27 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.
Toyota reported a 41.8 percent rise in February and General Motors posted a 46.4 percent gain.
The Chevrolet Cruze was among the models that helped GM boost sales in February.
GM's sales gain is impressive, especially considering that the Detroit-based automaker just emerged from bankruptcy protection last year. However, it raised sales incentives by $386 per vehicle, spending an average of $3,732 per unit on incentives, according to news reports. Most other automakers spent only about $3,000 on average. GM will have to show that it can continue to grow sales without relying too heavily on putting money on the hood.
Chrysler posted a modest sales gain of 12.6 percent in February, but is no doubt hoping the energy generated by its new Chrysler 200 sedan and its cool accompanying "Imported from Detroit" commercials will help it add sales in the future.