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By on February 21, 2017

Cadillac CUE update

Cadillac’s user interface has been one of its consumers’ biggest grievances. Last week, I heard a private chauffeur in an Escalade — a $75,000 car that makes you feel simultaneously wealthy and powerful — refer to the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) as “bullshit.” Even Johan de Nysschen admitted that CUE did not pass muster.

Clearly aware of how supremely loathsome the interface is, the automaker has announced that the next-generation user experience system will debut on the 2017 Cadillac CTS this spring. According to General Motors, the updated user experience will evolve with a customer’s connectivity needs — adjusting itself over time while offering a plethora of personalization, connectivity and apps.

Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

Fordlandia

Welcome to the Paradise of Fordlândia. Three rules: no booze, no Jews, and we want to check your junk now and then.

Well, those were the rules (one of them unwritten) when the Brazilian town, hacked out of the jungle in 1928, was at its peak. Abandoned by Ford Motor Company in 1945, the bizarre utopian industrial and social experiment remains, slowly decomposing and encroached upon by vegetation, on the shores of an Amazonian backwater.

It is here, along the Tapajós river, that revolutionary industrialist and noted oddball Henry Ford created his rubber-producing settlement in the image of a modern Michigan city. Thanks to one enterprising reporter who probably owns a dog-eared copy of Heart of Darkness, we can now see what the failed experiment looks like in 2017. Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

download

Captain of industry John Mendel is retiring as the executive vice president of American Honda’s sales division this April, following ten years of service to the company. Mendel is probably best-known for ensuring that Honda and Acura’s marketing and sales focus remained on North America’s retail markets, not fleets.

Also retiring this spring is Honda Canada’s current president and 42-year company veteran, Jerry Chenkin. Filling the vacuum created in Chenkin’s absence is Dave Gardner, currently senior vice president and future president. Gardner will assume the role of president and provide direct oversight for the automotive and motorcycle divisions, power equipment, ATV, and small engine businesses.  Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

1969 Chrysler New Yorker (Alden Jewell/Flickr)

Those who know me well — the lucky souls who’ve plumbed the deepest depths of my dark psyche and returned alive — know my strange and beautiful lust for 1970s land yachts. It needn’t be seen as a weird kink. I mean, who doesn’t like vast swaths of interior room, pillowed velour, and a narcolepsy-inducing ride? Weirdos, most likely.

If two sad, motherless puppies ever crawled their way to my doorstep, shivering and scared, I’d immediately rename them Brougham and Landau, and I don’t care who knows it.

As full-size cars shrink in popularity, the cues of those past Interstate barges — padded roofs, opera windows, flip-up headlights — are nowhere to be seen in today’s automotive landscape. Another common feature of those overstuffed rides, one that rose to prominence in the heady 1950s and met its death before the end of the 1970s, currently occupies an endangered micro niche.

I’m talking about the missing B-pillar. Yes, the alluring and illustrious pillarless hardtop. Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

2017 hyundai ioniq hybrid

At 30,000 feet above Nebraska, a man who could generously be described as severely corpulent had finally reached the level of personal solace required to allow his mass to spill out of seat 27D and into my own. It was another 1,500 miles to New York, and I could already feel the damp warmth of his body begin to encompass my left side as his sweat began seeping through his pants’ cotton-nylon blend and into my dark denim. Hyundai had invited me out for the introductory press event for its new hybrid/EV five-door, the Ioniq, and I desperately wished I was back in California braving unseasonably heavy rains on low rolling resistance tires as some overfed stranger’s lap oozed across my thigh.

I would have given practically anything to be back behind the wheel of one of Hyundai’s demo cars — not because the Ioniq was the pinnacle of automotive excellence, but because, a day earlier, the company claimed the hybrid version could make the entire transcontinental journey for roughly $100. I’d have gladly paid the Benjamin and spent four headache-free days on the road to avoid four of the most emotionally traumatic hours of my life.

While saying that Hyundai’s new green machines are little more than a preferable alternative to being smothered by middle-aged flesh isn’t the highest praise, I can also say that the Ioniq Electric, Hybrid, and Plug-in Hybrid are all superlatively serviceable — surpassing expectations without ever becoming a sensation. This is adequacy at its most acceptableRead More >

By on February 21, 2017

mercedes-benz logo

If Mercedes-Benz dealers manage to overhaul their stores to the brand’s updated “Autohaus2” image standards, the locations can forget about additional modifications until after 2024.

The German automaker’s promise to leave dealerships alone is abnormal, and comes after the second generation of its controversial Autohaus standard established — to the chagrin of dealerships — in 2008. Much of Mercedes’ salesforce objected to the mandatory image alterations, similarly to how Cadillac’s dealer network has responded to that brand’s Project Pinnacle.

Hoping to ease tensions as showrooms adhere to the new status quo, the 2024 pledge provides all sides with a reprieve. The Autohaus2 plan, and subsequent dealer amnesty, was penned under former Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon, though the company’s current North American boss, Dietmar Exler, also supports it.  Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

2016 Lotus Evora 400

There’s a battle brewing between France and China over a famous Malaysian-owned British automaker. Who said globalization was in danger?

Geely, Volvo’s Chinese parent company, is in talks to buy Proton, the Malaysian owner of the famed Lotus brand, the Financial Times reports. Proton’s not doing well these days, all thanks to an influx of affordable imports that has eroded its domestic market share. To reach its goal, Geely must first stave off stiff competition from Europe.

France’s PSA Group, maker of Peugeot and Citroën (and potential future owner of Opel and Vauxhall), also wants to get its hands on Proton. However, it looks like the competing automakers want different things from the deal. Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

xvi-v16

The Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse produces 1,200 horsepower from its tightly packed quad-turbocharged W16 engine. It is a modern marvel that takes four camshafts and 64 valves to move all the air needed to make this power, and it sure doesn’t come cheap.

An oil change for the Veyron costs slightly more than a new Fiesta ST and requires an engine disassembly due to the extremely tight tolerances. We aren’t likely to find a W16 for sale anytime soon and, even if one does pop up, it won’t go for less than six figures. Not to worry, as a company out of Michigan may have a much better solution — one that makes just as much power with half as many valves and no forced induction. Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

2017 Ford Transit and Transit Connect - Image: Ford

On the surface, little Euro vans seem to make so much sense. Not every contractor needs a football field’s worth of space behind two front seats.

City-friendly exterior dimensions, a more affordable price tag, and four-cylinder fuel economy should, in theory, cause Bob the Builder or Handy Manny to take a serious look.

But enticing as the idea sounds, the value quotient proffered by 2017’s crop of five small commercial vans simply doesn’t add up for the overwhelming majority of commercial van buyers. Sure, the Ford Transit Connect may be a decent deal. But the Ford Transit is a comparatively great deal.

As a result, full-size commercial van sales are consistently on the rise. But small commercial van sales? Plunging like Paul the Plumber. Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

2014 audi a6 tdi engine

Audi appears to be going on the defensive and closing ranks around its CEO following a tumultuous week filled with accusations and revelations.

Late last week, the automaker fired four top engineers who worked on the brand’s diesel technology, including head of engine development Ulrich Weiss. Germany’s Handelsblatt reports that Weiss, who has been on paid leave since the diesel emissions scandal erupted, presented documents in court that appeared to show CEO Rupert Stadler had knowledge of the defeat devices as early as 2012.

Audi is now seeking charges against one or more individuals for “baseless accusations,” as well as revealing internal documents. Unfortunately for the automaker, another German media outlet has gotten its hands on an infamous PowerPoint presentation. Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Sedan at Sebring, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

When Mercedes-Benz brought the W201 platform here as the somewhat oddly named 190E 2.3, it was immediately nicknamed the “baby Benz.” The successor to that car, yclept “C-Class” to fit precisely within Daimler-Benz’s new idiot-compatible nomenclature, became known as the “Cheap-Class” at Mercedes-Benz dealerships.

The car you see above, piloted by Danger Girl at Sebring International Raceway in what was not a violation of the Hertz Dream Cars rental agreement, is no longer baby-sized. Nor is it particularly cheap at the as-tested price of just over $74,000. So what is it, exactly?

Well, it’s absurdly powerful; the Pep-Boys-style block “S” at the end of the C63 badge indicates a full 503 horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. It’s remarkably well-equipped, although there are a few omissions about which one could gripe and I’ll discuss those below. It’s as competent as you’d expect, being the top-spec sedan version of a car that is surprisingly decent even in its poverty-spec, MB-Tex-equipped four-cylinder form.

Most of all, however, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S is a sharp reminder that AMG isn’t what it used to be, for better or for worse.

Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

Harman HALOsonic Engine Order Cancellation

Craig writes:

Hey Sanjeev, (*facepalm* –SM)

I have a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, and I’m bit of a music buff. One of the first things I dispensed with was the factory Harman Kardon speakers. I replaced the sub with a JL stealth box. Now I have a pretty big problem with the factory stereo and its the automatic noise cancellation.

When the transmission is in normal D mode and or eco mode is on, it uses the factory stereo to cancel out the drone of the engine. Unfortunately, the noise cancellation is calibrated for the weaksauce factory sub. Now it sounds like one of those bass CDs from the ’90s as I hold speed or decelerate. I’ve asked the dealer how to get rid of this thing, to which they said “you can’t.”

I’m not so convinced.

Any ideas?

Read More >

By on February 19, 2017

2015 Honda CR-V

Sport utility and crossover vehicles have gradually become hotter than the surface of the sun as the public has come to treat sedans with the sort of disdain usually reserved for an old high school flame. It was decent while it lasted, but now you don’t even really want to acknowledge that it was ever a part of your life.

Sales have reflected this and automakers have hurried to supply an eager market with utility vehicles. While some did not quite meet demand, and have suffered for it, others are seeing rising incentives to meet the growing inventory surplus — giving us our first indications that interest in SUVs and crossovers has its limits.  Read More >

By on February 19, 2017

Civic Type R Prototype

There has been so much nonsense surrounding the 2018 Honda Civic Type R that it was becoming difficult to separate fact from the fiction. Speculation on the car’s engine and transmission was endless. There were rumors that it could be as large as 3.5 liters or a substantially smaller mill mated to a continuously variable transmission. However, it turned out the most expected configuration was the correct one — Occam’s razor, and all that.

Although, after so much conflicting information, when and where the 2.0 liter turbo VTEC and its manual transmission would show up seemed uncertain. The Type R was supposed to come to North America in the middle of this year, something 36 year olds have been begging for since they were 16, but Honda hadn’t said anything concrete and that deadline is fast approaching without anyone even having laid eyes on the production model.

Then, late last week, Honda Europe slipped in a small mention that the Civic Type R would debut in Geneva alongside the Clarity Fuel Cell and the NeuV electric concept while confirming the summer production and immediate export for North America. Read More >

By on February 18, 2017

Honda dealer sign

It’s been a rough week at Frank Ancona Honda of Olathe, Kansas.

The family-owned dealership, in operation just southwest of Kansas City since 1961, has successfully weathered all of the storms that periodically pummel dealers of all stripes.

Then, last weekend, a body discovered on the banks of Missouri’s Big River — about a five-hour drive to the east — gave the dealership the kind of attention that no business wants. The corpse, which had a bullet hole in its head, also had a name: Frank Ancona.

No, the founder of Frank Ancona Honda is still alive and well at 85. But much to his dismay, the Frank Ancona discovered by the Big River was none other than the 51-year-old imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Read More >

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