Posts By: Justin Berkowitz

By on January 5, 2009

In today’s podcast, Jonny and I talked — among other things — about the Toyota Century (mistakenly referred to as the Toyota Crown at first). We both think the V12 Japanese retrolimo is fantastic, and that its old-school technology (curtains?!) are charming as all get out. I agree with him that overflowing technology doesn’t make a car luxurious, and if someone would make a very comfortable, isolating quiet car I’d be thrilled. In other news, we hit on the Kia Soul, had debates about the insane 16-cylinder Cizeta-Moroder V16T on Autofiends, another debate about the Avanti, and then he presented a book report about a fascinating-sounding book called “Brightwork,” which Jonny received for the Jewish festival of lights, Hannukah.

By on December 28, 2008

Jaguar XF Diesel S – 3.0 V6 with 271 hp, 442 lb/ft of torque. Will do 0-60 in 5.9, rated at 35 MPG (US) average. A 236 hp version of the same 3.0 liter engine will be available.

Not for North America. (Consolation prize: we will get the 5.0 liter Supercharged gasoline V8 with 503 hp next year). Full embargo-broken press release after the jump.

(Read More…)

By on December 28, 2008

These are the stock wheels on two special edition “green” Volvos in Europe. What do you think of ye olde Swedish rims?

By on December 24, 2008

Apparently the Rasheen is a JDM car based on the Nissan Sentra. Those three letters are good enough for me, especially when we’re not talking about some crazy Integra but a weird Japanese car. This one is cube-shaped, RHD, has plaid seats, and a general air of goofiness. The owner says he has a Florida title, which only means he is the legal owner of a car that’s illegally in the United States. But is $6000 so much to pay for the privilege of having the only Nissan Rasheen in the country?

By on December 23, 2008

Hyundai just released some pricing info and specs on the surprisingly decent looking Elantra “Touring,” which is essentially just a 5-door hatch version of the professionally mediocre Elantra sedan. What really sticks is the EPA fuel economy, rated at 23 city and either 30 or 31 highway with the manual or automatic, respectively. We’re still talking about a four-cylinder “compact” car here, and despite the weight of size and safety equipment, I am surprised. Hyundai’s own Sonata — with another 40 horses vs. the Elantra — has virtually the same EPA ratings. Sure, we like to trot out the Corvette as an example of a high mileage powerful car, but there are at least a dozen other examples of cars with way more power (and metal) than the Elantra touring and better fuel economy. My 2004 Honda Accord V6, which was a rather portly cruiser, returned 31 mpg on the highway. And yet, the Elantra isn’t unique. Saturn’s Astra, with a 1.8 liter engine, only musters 24/32. The Mazda3 is in the same league. Some of the more efficient cars in this segment can deliver 35 miles per gallon highway – cars like the Corolla, Focus, Civic, and Cobalt XFE. But solely from a fuel economy standpoint, I have a hard time justifying even these better ones, when their bigger counterparts like the Camry, Fusion, Accord, and Malibu offer reasonably close numbers, especially on the highway. It leaves me wondering why, when the Fusion gets 32 mpg highway from its four cylinder, we don’t have a Ford compact car with a gasoline engine that gets 38 mpg highway. But them’s the breaks.

By on December 19, 2008

According to the Financial Times, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his government are sitting on an independent report about the future of cleaner, more fuel efficient cars. The 129-page document has been finished for months (since late September) and yet, from what the FT says, it will not be released to the public in the forseeable future. Apparently people who have seen the report say that it looks negatively on all-electric cars, instead preferring a motoring future based on a mix of gasoline, diesel, biofuel, and parallel and series hybrid cars, all with enhancements in tires, aerodynamics, and so on. In other words, the report said the variety pack we’ve got now seems to be the right approach. Unfortunately, Sarkozy is chummy with two billionaire businessmen who are both pursuing electric car businesses (Serge Dassault and Vincent Bolloré). To make matters worse, the French government still owns a 15% stake in Renault, which has poured a small fortune into the development of electric cars — including a large pilot testing program in Israel previously expected to launch in 2011. This stinks of corruption. And before we say “Well, it’s the French. They surrender and keep mistresses,” keep in mind that you should be no less bothered.

By on December 19, 2008

Ever since Cerberus took ownership of Chrysler, it has been lights out at what was once America’s third-largest automaker. With Daimler holding on to a 20% stake in the firm, some small news was public. And Chrysler did report its [dismal] sales each month. But that’s about it. The public relations folks were rolled into human resources. Cerberus played its cards close to its chest. And this was what we all expected from the beginning; it was at least in theory one of the major high-points of Cerberus taking over as Chrysler’s owner. They didn’t have to keep an open book, report financial data, and be subject to the short-term goals of shareholders. But it has also meant we have no idea what is going on inside this big company with tens of thousands of employees. Now that you and I are non-voting shareholders, we should have a better idea.

By on December 18, 2008

Engineer A: How’s testing on the Merak going?
Engineer B: The brakes catch fire all the time.
Engineer A: Put in a warning light.
Engineer A: Make it big.

By on December 17, 2008

The car bloggers went sub-ballistic (what would that be, scientists?) today because Honda announced that it was killing the NSX project. Well, I say good riddance to a stupid idea. I’m in that camp of people that thinks the original NSX is the very rare car that came out perfectly. And while many people have admonished me for clinging to outdated conceptions of what a particular car or company “should” be (like the 1-Series not being a suitable sucessor to the 2002, or the Subaru Forester betraying its goofwagon roots), I can’t understand the business case for a front-engined V10 Acura NSX. Trickle down tech? Maybe – though certainly not the V10 engine, unless it was going to be tacking two extra cylinders onto Honda’s already dubious planned V8. Front engine supercar? Plenty of those out there. Expensive? Again, plenty of those out there. Lexus reportedly cancelled its LF-A program because it was clear that they weren’t going to take down Godzilla (the Nissan GT-R). So why would Acura plan differently? I think people would welcome a modern version of the original NSX concept, though – a mid-engined car with the best handling in the world, a great gearbox, and a relatively simple V6 or V8 engine. Or, as Lieberman says in the podcast – Honda’s version of a Ferrari F430. Sold.

By on December 15, 2008

Last night’s TopGear (which will air in the U.S. by 2015 or on your computer now) featured Jeremy “The Gentle Giant” Clarkson driving the Tesla Roadster. His observations?

The good: Same time around the track as a Porsche GT3. No gas. Very fast in straight lines. Looks good. Very fast in straight lines. Cheap to fill up compared to a gas/diesel car.

The bad: Handling only so-so, because of the low-resistance tires and the 1000 lbs added by 6831 batteries in the middle of the car. Ample road noise. Green-ambiguity of electric cars & power production.

The ugly: After caning it, Clarkson got 55 miles of range. In a 13 amp UK socket, he estimated a 16 hour recharge time. Tesla had to bring two cars. One overheated while driving (on the track), the other’s brakes “broke” while it was recharging.

Clarkson calls the car a stunning “technical achievement” but finishes by saying it is “completely irrelevant” as he previews a later segment on Honda’s fuel cell car, the Clarity FCX.

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