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By on July 21, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

General Motors is taking the slow and steady approach when it comes to sales of the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, which might be the right path for a highly complex new car. Reviews show it to be a well-composed vehicle with decent fit and finish but, like any new car, there are some teething issues.

Like many of the other models in its class, the Bolt’s windshield is shaped and angled to maximize the vehicle’s efficiency. It works well in most regards, but one aspect has proven troubling. In top-line Premier trim, the Bolt comes with an interior trimmed in what GM calls Light Ash Gray and Ceramic White, paired with a dashboard that is also (very) light gray in color. Due to the dash’s relatively smooth surface, this color combination causes significant glare on sunny days — to the point where certain owners don’t feel safe driving it.

(Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

vintage diesel fuel pump

With Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City all pledging to ban diesel vehicles from entry within the next few years, the fuel’s future doesn’t look particularly bright. While citywide bans like these are becoming increasingly popular in Europe, diesel vehicles still account for almost half of the continent’s registered vehicles.

Germany, which has been speedily moving away from the fuel since Volkswagen’s emissions fiasco, provided more than its fair share of those diesel-powered models. It’s been mulling over how to handle it’s own regulatory matters pertaining to the fuel and the rest of the European Union’s intense pressure doesn’t seem to have fazed it.

Instead of enacting the same transportation ban on diesel vehicles as seen in Paris, Germany has decided to furnish its automakers with the opportunity to clean up their act. Industry officials and politicians have agreed to implement software updates on existing vehicles specifically to keep them eligible for operation within major metropolitan areas. Considering Mercedes-Benz just offered to “voluntarily” recall 3 million Euro-spec cars fitted with diesel engines, that’s incredibly good timing. Likewise, Volkswagen Group claims it will update 850,000 Porsche and Audi vehicles equipped with larger diesel motors.  (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

lotus evora gt430

With the Evora getting on in years and Lotus Cars under new ownership thanks to China’s Geely, it’s just a matter of time before the swift little sports coupe is replaced with something fresh and exciting. That means it’s time for the automaker to roll out special editions of its old models. However, it could be argued the company’s low production volume makes every Lotus Evora special — thus making the new GT430 variant extra special, as its assembly tops off at 60 vehicles.

Like the Evora 400 and Sport 410, the GT’s numeric moniker denotes its horsepower rating of 430 claimed units. The manufacturer states the GT430 uses the same Toyota-sourced 3.5-liter supercharged V6, but with vastly improved cooling. While 20 prancing ponies doesn’t sound like a game changer, the upgraded Lotus is about 300 pounds lighter than the Evora 400 and 57 pounds less than the 410 — all due to a svelte suspension and plenty of carbon fiber.  (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

2018 Hyundai Kona - Image: Hyundai“Each model will have its own identity.” – Luc Donckerwolke,
senior vice president, head of Hyundai Motor Design Center

Finally, long after the Nissan Juke, Subaru Crosstrek, Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3, Hyundai is ready to launch the Kona subcompact crossover, at least in moderate volumes.

The Hyundai Kona is hardly a Tucson Lite; not remotely an Accent Allroad. An unusual face and bizarre use of cladding are all the more obvious because of the Kona’s tidy dimensions.

But while the 2018 Kona showcases a new Hyundai utility vehicle design language, Hyundai’s design leadership promises that future models won’t merely be enlargements of the same. (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

Ford GT Job 1, Image: Sam VarnHagen for Ford

Handcrafted automobiles are a rarity these days but, if you add enough digits to the vehicle’s price tag, companies can still find a handful of buyers willing to fund the expensive production method. One model included on that short list is the Ford GT, the iconic American mid-engine two-seater assembled in Canada. With the help of Multimatic, Ford can usually slap one together every 24 hours under ideal circumstances.

Unfortunately, deliveries of the GT are starting to fall behind. It’s a little embarrassing, especially when you consider Ford only wants to build 250 a year, but it’s also entirely understandable, as a large portion of the assembly process seems to involve pushing the chassis around on a dolly through a mostly empty factory. You can’t rush perfection, and handcrafted perfection takes even longer.

At least, that’s what the automaker cites as the reason for the delivery delay.  (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

Scion xB, Image: Toyota

If you’ve read enough of my writing, then you know that I am a fervent believer in what I call the power of the story. Human beings rarely interact directly with reality; instead, we use stories to interpret what we are seeing in a way that makes sense. It’s why we no longer fear thunder and why people will cheerfully take food prepared for them by strangers.

Few aspects of our existence are as relentlessly story-driven as our interactions with the automobile. Without the power of story, we would see automobiles as nothing but machines for accomplishing a particular task, be it a commute, a vacation, or an SCCA race — and we would judge them solely on their ability to accomplish that task. Trust me, if we all did that it would be absolutely ruinous for the automaker profit margins out there. Imagine picking a car the way you’d pick a dishwasher or, um, a power supply. You would quickly forget about intangibles and focus on fitness for purpose.

Over the past couple of decades, I’ve tried to shed my personal addiction to the automotive narrative and learn how to “understand the thing for itself,” as Marcus Aurelius wrote. This can lead to some surprising conclusions… and it looks like I’m not the only one who has acquired at least a little bit of this skill. Normally we wouldn’t do two Ask Jack columns in one week, but the fellow in this case says he’s going to make a choice this weekend, so let’s pull the trigger pronto and get right to the question.

(Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

Power and performance. Luxury and emotion. Balance and elegance. These are the seductive adjectives experts in automotive marketing insist can be found in a company’s newest offering, especially in the premium sports sedan segment. After spending time on the back roads of Tennessee with the revised-for-2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, is the marketing hype true? Does it really deliver all the desirable adjectives […]

By on July 21, 2017

Mercedes-Benz X-Class Nissan Navara - Images: Mercedes-Benz & NissanAustralia’s pickup truck markets wants to know: is the Mercedes-Benz X-Class more than just a badge-engineered Nissan Navara?

“This is hardly a double badge,” Mercedes-Benz Vans’ global boss Volker Mornhinweg told Motoring.

But there’s a tendency to see matters another way. The production X-Class, not yet bound for North America’s nonexistent premium midsize pickup truck market, isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the X-Class Concept shown in late 2016.

Moreover, that X-Class gear lever looks downright familiar to Navara drivers. (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

1995 Plymouth Neon, Image: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re a believer in the idea of authentically American small cars, then you’ve had a rough couple of years. The last compact or subcompact to be engineered ground-up by an American corporation was probably the ’95 Dodge/Plymouth Neon, although some kind of argument might be possible for the Chevrolet Cobalt. In 2017, the Big Three have been reduced to selling locally assembled versions of a German car, a Korean car, and an Italian car. We’re basically where Brazil was in 1990.

Things are going to get worse. GM might discontinue some small cars altogether. Ford is going to build the Focus in China. FCA probably has no plans to bring a Dart successor here. This is the end, beautiful friend. Do you care?

(Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant Cadillac CT6 - Image: GMThe possibility, or even the necessity, of turning General Motors’ Hamtramck, Michigan, passenger car assembly plant into an SUV/crossover facility in the next half-decade has the company considering the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Volt, Buick LaCrosse, and recently launched Cadillac CT6.

According to a report in Reuters, General Motors is in talks with the United Auto Workers about replacing the increasingly unpopular products currently built in Hamtramck with in-demand utility vehicles. Also in question is the future of the Michigan-built Chevrolet Sonic and the Canada-built Cadillac XTS, which has enjoyed stays of execution in the past.

On average, GM had a 111-day supply of the six models in its U.S. showrooms heading into July 2017. 70 days’ worth of supply would be appropriate. Combined, the Impala, Volt, LaCrosse, CT6, Sonic, and XTS account for 6 percent of GM’s U.S. sales in 2017.

In 2008, the Impala, LaCrosse, and the Sonic’s Aveo predecessor — merely three of the nameplates — accounted for 12 percent of a much more voluminous GM U.S. operation. (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Engine, 2.5L 250HP I5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Ed Writes:

Sajeev,

I bought a 2012 Volvo S60 originally, but there was an ongoing issue the dealer could not fix. Amazingly, it offered to replace the car with a 2013 model after about 10 months of trying to fix the issue (at no cost to me). So, kudos to the dealership — I obviously feel like they did me a solid.

Fast forward to today and my 2013 S60 now has 60,000 on the odometer. During the last oil change cycle, I got a “low oil” warning pop up for the first time around 55,000 miles. I pulled over and the car was almost bone dry. I put in a couple of quarts and called the dealership. Since it was close to the oil change time, they asked that I just bring it in for a quick look and oil change. I did so, and now, just 3,500 miles after that dealership visit, I noticed my oil level has gone from the top of the “normal” range on the dipstick to the bottom. At this rate, my oil level will return to bone dry again in the next 1,000-2,000 miles.

On the Volvo forums there are a number 2012 models with oil burning issues and it looks like the dealers are all over the place when dealing with this issue, especially with cars that are out of warranty (in terms of goodwill assistance). So, do I press my luck and see what the dealership will do to help here or just trade it in for another car and keep quiet about the issue, considering their past goodwill towards me?

From what I read, it seems like the first step is a ring replacement ($3k) and if that doesn’t work, an engine replacement ($$$). Any thoughts?

(Read More…)

By on July 20, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Energi Cousins Shore, PEI - Image: © Timothy CainThe planning session was brief. At TTAC’s virtual HQ, also known as TTAC Slack, Steph Willems, Corey Lewis, and Adam Tonge were busy formulating an idea.

Fascinated by the Cain family’s recent move to rural Prince Edward Island, the guys wondered if, on electric power alone, Ford’s plug-in hybrid 2017 Fusion Energi SE could cross Prince Edward Island from the north side’s Gulf of St. Lawrence to the south side’s Northumberland Strait, which separates Prince Edward Island from mainland Canada.

Sure it can, I said, but that’s too easy. There are many narrow parts of Prince Edward Island. Crossing Rte. 308’s nine miles from Naufrage to Rollo Bay wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

Building on that idea, however, we developed a plan that would grant yours truly a midday office reprieve, or so I thought. From the Cain homestead in Margate, just outside the bustling metropolis of Kensington, I would depart with a fully charged 2017 Ford Fusion Energi and attempt to reach five spectacular beaches along the Gulf of St. Lawrence on PEI’s so-called Green Gables Shore.

Google Maps said I would need to travel 22 miles. The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi has 23 miles of pure EV range. This’ll be a breeze, I thought to myself, and I fled my office and TTAC’s virtual HQ minutes later, thoroughly unprepared for what came next. (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2017

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (left) and Chrysler Pacifica (right) - Image: FCA

It’s a fact that California contains half of the country’s electric vehicles and a solid chunk of America’s hybrids, but that doesn’t necessarily mean residents of the other 49 states can’t tell a plug-in hybrid from a turnip.

As all-electric range grows, plug-in hybrids have begun eclipsing conventional hybrids in the U.S. marketplace, enticing buyers with the prospect of leaving the gas engine shut off (potentially) for the whole commute. After hopping on the green bandwagon with its Pacifica Hybrid, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was able to boast of having the only plug-in minivan in North America.

Only, it won’t boast about the “plug-in” part anywhere except California. Nope, you won’t hear the company call it a plug-in in New York City, or Seattle, or Chicago. Not in Vermont or Georgia, either. Apparently those people just can’t handle it. (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2017

ford f-150 police responder

Ford recently began giving law enforcement agencies more options in terms of the type of automobiles they want to put into active duty. The company provided America’s preferred pursuit vehicle, the Crown Victoria, for years and has moved on to a broader fleet of sedans, SUVs, and pickups specifically equipped for police use. Earlier this year, Ford showcased the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan as part of its Greener Shade of Blue campaign — dubbing it the “first pursuit-rated hybrid police car.”

We condemned Ford for its bragging, mainly because Chevrolet already provided a hybrid police vehicle and there was no concrete evidence that the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan was actually pursuit-rated. Unfortunately, we may be forced to do that all over again with Ford’s new F-150 Police Responder pickup. It’s another new, likely welcome, entry into the automaker’s extensive law enforcement fleet that leaves us doubting the validity of the terminology used. (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2017

BMW Ian Roberts - Image: BMWAfter a near decade-long run at the helm of BMW Group’s sales and marketing department, Ian Robertson is retiring.

Taking over from the Englishman Robertson will be Pieter Nota, a Netherlands native who is anything but representative of the BMW establishment, every inch not automotive industry insider. Nota comes from Royal Philips, where you buy your electric razors, and formerly worked at Beiersdorf (where you buy your Nivea moisturizer) and Unilever, which fills your grocery store shelves with Axe, Hellmann’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Dove.

I can’t believe it’s not butter a board member. (Read More…)

Recent Comments

  • Big Al from Oz: It is extremely common in Australia to use dashmats. These are formed to suite your vehicle, most any...
  • Carilloskis: Any one who is above average height who carries adults does. The sloping rooflines on many cars even...
  • JPWhite: My LEAF has a light interior including dash. Glare is not an issue. The dash material has an uneven surface...
  • Ltd1983: 2) Is not true. Tort law in the US protects these after-the-fact safety fixes, they are known as Subsequent...
  • JPWhite: Polarized sunglasses will reduce your ability to read nav screens on the center dash or on your phone....

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