Category: Editorials

By on August 21, 2015

149

It doesn’t take long in any conversation in which I am a participant for some car-related topic to arise. It could be about hobbies, or jobs, or interests — I’m probably going to mention cars in some way, shape, or form if you ask me about any of the above.

Where the conversations go from there, however, can be nearly anywhere, based on the type of guy who’s asking. And I think that’s kind of cool.

Once they find out I’m into cars, men tend to want to know the following four things, and nearly always in this order (or something close to it):

  1. What kind of car do you have?
  2. Have you done any modifications to it?
  3. How fast have you driven it?
  4. Have you ever taken it out on a track?

The reactions that they have to my answers puts them into one of these categories:

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By on August 21, 2015

2014 Toyota 4Runner dirt path

A few days ago, we all woke up to the sad news that the Nissan Xterra is going to be cancelled. This is especially depressing for people who post Instagram photos of themselves lifting weights.

Personally, I could take or leave the Xterra. It’s outdated, it’s trucky, it’s too tall, it’s a bit expensive, and it lacks a wide variety of modern technology. By this I am not referring to forward collision warning, or lane keep assist, or blind spot detection. I mean the base model doesn’t have a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

So the Xterra’s fifteen-year run is coming to an end, and we must all marvel at the fact that yet another off-roady vehicle won’t be available to us anymore. In the land of reasonably priced off-road vehicles, they all seem to vanish: the Toyota FJ Cruiser. The Suzuki Vitara, and Sidekick, and Samurai. The Ford Bronco. The K5 Blazer. All gone, replaced by something more mainstream, or not replaced at all, leaving the Jeep Wrangler to soldier on as today’s sole off-road vehicle choice.

Well, not quite today’s sole off-road vehicle choice. There’s also the Toyota 4Runner.

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By on August 20, 2015

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (3 of 13)

The automotive journalism industry is infinitely weird. I’m much more likely to be recognized by someone in a foreign land than I am in my own city. Just recently, during Halifax’s Pride Parade, a man I didn’t know walked up to me and asked, “Are you Mark Stevenson?” It’s the first time that’s ever happened to me in Halifax. Maybe I have the local LGBT demographic on lock, or at least the “G” part of the initialism.

Regardless of my popularity with the sharply dressed set, I can walk into virtually any local dealer and nobody will know who I am — which is absolutely perfect when you run into a salesman who states: “Let me be honest with you: I make $100,000 a year at this place and it’s made me not care about cars anymore.”

Of course, this was at a Dodge dealer that lacked any kind of automotive enthusiasm on its lot.

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By on August 20, 2015

 

A Brooks Stevens concept.

A Brooks Stevens concept.

Aaron Cole’s post about automotive patent art gladdened my heart. Years ago, I decided to check out some of Les Paul and Leo Fender’s original patents on their electric guitars and I discovered the artistry of patent drawings. These days the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as patent offices around the world, accept digitally produced artwork. However, before the digital age, an inventor had to hire someone skilled at technical drawing to produce the various exploded and see-through sketches needed to describe the “preferred embodiment” of a process patent.

Of course the “inventor” of a design patent — a slightly different form of intellectual property that protects the design and look of a product — is more often than not, the actual designer.

Following up on Aaron’s post, I decided to put the names of some notable automotive designers into a patent search engine to see what I could find. My hypothesis was that in the case of a design patent, particularly for a car, the artwork for the patent application was likely to have been drawn by the designer. A patent is a big deal to any engineer or designer and he’d likely want to be the one responsible for representing his own idea best.

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By on August 19, 2015

brute

Last week, rookie TTACer Aaron Cole called the RAM Rebel a Jeep pickup. I don’t think it would be impossible to make the case that the Rebel is a successor of sorts to the J10 and J20 full-sizers like the one that Jalopnik is rebuilding right now. Those pickups were discontinued after Chrysler acquired AMC because there just wasn’t enough money in the hopper to update them and do a new Dodge Ram truck. Shame, really, because the “FSJ” did have some fans and there are still people willing to pay sixty grand for a ’91 Grand Wagoneer.

Chances are, however, than when you think of a “Jeep pickup” you’re not thinking about a full-sizer at all. Rather, you’re envisioning what’s known as a “CJ-8″. It’s perfectly possible to buy a modern CJ-8. It’s also perfectly impossible that Jeep will ever be willing to sell you one. The reason? Why, it’s basically the same reason that the Camry V6 is not the most popular cop car in existence.

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By on August 19, 2015

00 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Many Internet Car Experts believe that any Porsche, no matter how battered, is worth big money. Spend some time around the 24 Hours of LeMons and you’ll learn otherwise, and of course you can always find 924s, 944s, 914s, and even the occasional 928 in the cheap self-serve wrecking yards. The 944 is the most common, but for some reason I have never shot one for this series. I’ll remedy that soon, but for now here’s a much-abused 924 I spotted in Denver not long ago. Read More >

By on August 18, 2015

2016 Honda Pilot Exterior

2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

3.5-liter i-VTEC SOHC V-6, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm,
262 lbs-ft @ 4,700 rpm)

9-Speed ZF 9HP automatic

19 city/26 highway/22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

21.6 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Elite Trim

Base Price:
$30,875*
As Tested:

$46,420*
* Prices include $880 destination charge.

My sister-in-law announced that she and her husband were having child number four. As a result of this announcement, they decided it was finally time to sell the five-seat sedan and buy another crossover. Since she is constantly flooded with a parade of visiting family members, she asked what sounded like a simple question: What’s the best 8-passenger crossover with a comfortable third row and room for cargo. My answer: Buy a minivan. No, seriously, just buy a minivan. Think you need AWD? Get some winter tires. Really, really need AWD? Get a Sienna.

I’m sure you can guess what she said: “I am not driving a minivan.”

The problem is, aside from minivans, there are few 8-passenger options that aren’t expensive, full size, body-on-frame SUVs. Those options are: the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and GM’s identical triplets — the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. That’s it. If you need more room, be prepared to shell out for a Suburban, Escalade, Navigator or a few other spendy options.

Today we look at the freshest entry in this phonebooth-sized segment, the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot.
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By on August 18, 2015

cuz

Do not click the link in the next paragraph if you are at work.

It’s one of the most popular posts in TTAC history, and it’s absolutely emblematic of the Bertel Era here at this site. It’s completely not safe for work and before you click it, I want you to think about whether you are at work, and if you are at work, do not click this link with horrifying non-work-safe pictures that you should not view at work.

The link above? Don’t view it at work. It’s disgusting.

The article is called A Day in the Life of a Trauma Surgeon: Get Your Foot Off of My Dash and it contains graphic photographs of what can happen to your feet if they are on a car dashboard when the airbags go off. At the time, I considered the article, and the included photographs, to represent the absolute nadir of this website’s management and content selection.

But there is at least one person out there who probably wishes she’d been forced to read it, graphic images and all. Unfortunately for her, it was published three years too late.

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By on August 17, 2015

audikey

Volkswagen has spent over two years trying to block the publication of a research paper which reveals a key hacking vulnerability in many of their models as well as thousands from other manufacturers. According to Bloomberg, a team of researchers discovered the vulnerability in 2012 and notified Volkswagen in May 2013. Instead of working with the researchers to resolve the issue, Volkswagen argued that the paper would increase the risk of theft and sued them to stop the publication. Read More >

By on August 17, 2015

2016_Toyota_Tacoma_(22_of_1)

2016 Toyota Tacoma 4×4

Engines
3.5-liter D4S (direct and port injection) Atkinson cycle V-6 with variable valve intake and exhaust (278 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 265 pounds-feet @ 4,600 rpm).
2.7-liter DOHC I-4 with variable valve intake (159 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 180 pounds-feet @ 3,800 rpm)

Transmissions
Standard 5-speed manual (2.7-liter); optional 6-speed automatic with ECT (2.7-liter)
Standard 6-speed manual (3.5-liter); optional 6-speed automatic with ECT (3.5-liter)

Fuel Economy Ratings
19 mpg city/ 21 mpg highway/ 20 mpg combined (2.7-liter 5-speed manual 4×4)
19/23/21 (2.7-liter 6-speed automatic 4×2)
19/22/20 (2.7-liter 6-speed automatic 4×4)
19/24/21 (3.5-liter 6-speed automatic 4×2)
17/21/19 (3.5-liter 6-speed manual 4×4)
18/23/20 (3.5-liter 6-speed automatic 4×4)

MSRP
Prices start at $24,185 *and go up to $38,705*.
*Price includes $885 destination

Let’s get this out of the way first: there is no groan long enough or loud enough for how I feel about the 2016 Toyota Tacoma’s ballyhooed interior GoPro mount. The 30 cents of branded plastic to film your “eXtreme!” adventures feels more contrived and commercially unnecessary than a TedX talk at your nearest community college. It’s there, it’s usable and I want to talk about the tens of thousands of other parts around that windshield mount.

For the most part, the world of mid-sized pickups has stayed the same since the Clinton administration. (I mean Bill’s years for anyone reading this in 2017.)

Updated slightly in 2005, but mostly unchanged since the 1990s, the Toyota Tacoma has stayed firmly ahead of its time despite playing catch up to the full-size galoots. What I mean is, the Tacoma has a habit of selling far more at the end of its lifecycle than it does at the beginning. Go fig.

For example, take the last year for the Tacoma. Despite being a truck that hasn’t changed much for 10 years, the Tacoma managed to sell more than 17,000 trucks in July, its best sales month ever, en route to 180,000 sales this year, which would be its best sales year, ever. By volume, the Tacoma is the fifth best-selling truck in America, just behind the GMC Sierra, and well behind the three domestic full-size big boys. (The, um, new Tundra was sixth, by the way.)

Plummeting gas prices has helped moved metal, and so has cheap money, but the Tacoma is a very, very solid pickup and the growing chasm between reality and the price of a full-size truck leaves something to be desired for $25,000-$30,000 out the door.

So why fix something that isn’t broken? Toyota said it had nothing to do with Chevrolet and GMC hopping into the mid-size market with the Colorado and Canyon respectively. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the new Nissan Frontier coming to market soon too.

Nope, Toyota says it updated the Tacoma to step on the necks of the others and bring forward the Tacoma into the 21st century. This is as close as Toyota will get to going for the jugular.

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