Posts By: Megan Benoit

By on January 18, 2008

08-altimacaltrans107.jpgNissan says the Altima Coupe was designed separately from the Altima sedan. It’s a different car, from the ground-up. Roger that. Not since the Chevrolet Lumina Sedan and Minivan have two more disparate vehicles shared the same name. While Chrysler’s auto show folk are talking-up the joys of a “shared genetic pool,” the Altima Coupe 3.5SE isn’t even swimming in the same ocean as the sedan. In fact, the Altima Coupe deserves a sexier name, something distinctive, with more panache. I suggest “Accord-killer,” but it’s unlikely to get approved by any legal department, anywhere.

By on December 18, 2007

london-traffic.jpgThe London Assembly's Conservatives have released their 5th Congestion Charge Report. According to thenewspaper.com, the results is… more congestion. Since charges were imposed in 2003, central London's average traffic speed has dropped from 10.6 to 9.3mph. "Excess delay" (as measured by traffic cameras) went from 0.87 minutes per mile to 1.5 minutes per mile. Roads adjacent to the Congestion Charge (CC) zone are clogged with motorists trying to avoid fees. Motorists within the CC are also loitering with intent (to get their money's worth). What's more (or less from a revenue point of view), 41 percent of vehicles entering the zone are exempt from the CC (e.g. taxis, buses, hybrids and mopeds). At the same time, removing lanes from general traffic for buses and changing the light timings is trapping them in jams. So buses are traveling fewer miles at slower speeds– discouraging ridership. The report arrives just in time for a vehicle size-related increase in the charge, which will see some SUV drivers paying $50 to enter Mayor Ken Livingstone's auto zone. Conservative transport spokesman Angie Bray wonders when the madness will stop. "I could bung it up to £50 and then nobody would come in. Would that be your perfect London? Or do you accept that there have to be vehicles at some level traveling around London? Where would you actually stop?" Punk.

By on December 17, 2007

25-front.jpgThe 2008 Subaru WRX is the U.S. pistonhead's cheap thrills with no frills poster child. Meanwhile, the Impreza. Yes, I know: a Subaru without a turbo is like a Mercedes without automatic climate control, but hey, normal people drive cars too. When you move away from turbo-nutter wastegate wonderland, the word “thrills” takes on a different meaning. Or does it? Sans blower, does the new entry level Impreza have what it takes to tickle the fancy of a wider audience?

By on December 7, 2007

08accordex-l-v6_240.jpgThe Subaru Legacy GT, Infiniti G35 and Acura TSX are paid-in-full members of the practical power automotive niche. They cater to financially responsible enthusiasts who want their reliability served with a supersized side of hoon and a la carte cog-swapping. Although Honda’s new Accord V-6 packs a 268-horsepower punch, the four-door’s a pedal short in the row-your-own department. Fortunately, the Accord EX-L coupe boasts a six-speed manual transmission. So is the EX-L a category killer or just another vanilla thrilla?

By on December 6, 2007

gps-speedtrap-detector-20050712b.jpgThe Newspaper reports that the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) is using federal gas tax revenue to fund competitions to see which police departments can write the most speeding tickets. The National Law Enforcement Challenge, as it's called, rewards speeding ticket-happy police departments with federally-funded tricked-out "pursuit vehicles," like the ever popular Hemi-fied Charger. To earn maximum points, the po-po must have a zero-tolerance (i.e. no warning) anti-speeding policy in place. NHTSA argues that writing more tickets promotes safer driving, but the statistics beg to differ. Traffic fatalities in one participating state, South Carolina, are up for the year. While some departments are attempting to use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior, increased fines (and subsequent revenues) appear to be the order of the day. And the list of winners' "creative" ticketing is downright scary. 

By on November 30, 2007

070107003.jpgBusinessGreen reports that Ricardo, Land Rover, mapmaker Ordnance Survey, mobile giant Orange and the UK's Transport Research Laboratory have banded together to develop the "rCube control system." In theory, the bolt-in computer will combine the [now] familiar real time traffic data with automatic control over a hybrid's engine, batteries, throttle and brakes. Say what? "If you are approaching a junction or a traffic jam and have to stop, the control system will optimise the deceleration to limit how hard you have to break and maximise the amount of energy that is captured and used to recharge the battery," explains Tom Robinson, senior product group manager for control and electronics at Ricardo. "It means that you get a smoother ride and lower emissions." The scarily-named "Sentience project" promises a prototype rCube-equipped Ford Escape Hybrid by the summer. So… what's hybridless lame duck Land Rover got to do with any of this? And why can't they just teach people to go easy on the gas and the brakes?

By on November 13, 2007

a06_hydrogen_full.jpgSetting aside our usual "show me the infrastructure" hydrogen economy skepticism for a moment, it looks like we may have a winner! The AFP (via Yahoo News) is reporting that University of Pennsylvania researchers have discovered a way to generate hydrogen that produces more hydrogen energy than the process consumes in electrical energy. [NB: for those of you wishing to cite basic laws of thermodynamics, electrical energy is not the only source of energy in the process.] Poor efficiency rates and low yields have led many alt. energy experts to consider hydrogen an also-ran even before it technically ran. Apparently, adding aetic acid to the production process allows scientists to produce hydrogen at 99% of the theoretical maximum yield. Theoretically, that's more than enough efficiency to make hydrogen a viable energy source. Even better, aetic acid is a common byproduct of glucose fermentation, which is typically discarded. Isn't it wonderful when a plan comes together? Expect tons of complaining from flyover, er, corn land, and much rejoicing from grocery aisles as the price of beef and dairy go backdown to reasonable levels. That is, if this isn't a bunch of hot (cold?) air.

By on October 1, 2007

texpump.jpgWhat Car? [via The Daily Record] says premium petrol is a rip-off, providing neither extra power nor superior gas mileage. The UK consumer magazine paid a lab to test various premium grades against their lowly counterparts. The lab concluded that premium petrol purchasers may eke out a few more miles to the gallon, but the cost (up to 30p more per gallon) outweighs the benefit. In specific, they claim that Shell's V-Power petrol couldn't quite match the mileage provided by regular: 22.9mpg to 23mpg (which is well within the margin of error). The article fails to mention that certain car manufacturers require premium unleaded for a reason; the knock sensor will smooth things over, but you'll get pitiful gas mileage and probably damage your engine over the long run. 

By on August 31, 2007

08scion_xd_01.jpgThe Scion brand has turned to face some strange ch-ch-changes over the last model year. The bento-box-on-wheels xB was re-fashioned for American tastes, exchanging hip Nipponese style for porky gangsta chic. And now the xA, the mini-minivan-shaped thingie that somehow (unfortunately) captured the spirit of the orthopedic Toyota Echo, has been axed. In a break with ToMoCo’s tradition of maintaining model names, Scion has decided to replace the xA with the xD, a mini-CUV-shaped thingie with bad ‘tude. Go figure.

By on August 31, 2007

twingo2908_468x316.jpgSo French automaker Renault hired an ad company to help promote the new Euro-only Twingo to Dutch women. The UK's not-so-prim Daily Mail reports the result: a faux-handwritten letter from an unknown admirer who "called them 'darling', suggested meeting soon for a drink and signed themselves 'lots of love, M." Despite a reference to the Twingo– "you have a Twingo, don't you, I saw the new one and thought immediately of you"– and a color photo of the car enclosed with this missive, recipients were not well pleased. There were heated exchanges in many a huis, while some women were bummed to learn that "M" didn't exist (although you've got to take that idea with a shaker of salt considering the source). Renault has apologized and will send a letter of apology to all 30k households. Presumably it doesn't start "Dear John…"

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