The Truth About Cars » Car Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 25 Oct 2014 13:00:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Car Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/ Nissan, Honda Recall More Takata-Equipped Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-honda-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-honda-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935674 The Takata airbag recall continues to grow, with Nissan adding 260,000 2008 through 2012 models worldwide to the list. Automotive News reports the recall total for Nissan linked to the airbags since 2013 totalled nearly 700,000 prior to the additional vehicles called back. The recall affects vehicles outside of the United States, including the Cube […]

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2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior

The Takata airbag recall continues to grow, with Nissan adding 260,000 2008 through 2012 models worldwide to the list.

Automotive News reports the recall total for Nissan linked to the airbags since 2013 totalled nearly 700,000 prior to the additional vehicles called back. The recall affects vehicles outside of the United States, including the Cube and Micra/March, with the majority of the models located in the automaker’s home market of Japan.

Meanwhile, Honda is replacing the defective units in 3.5 million vehicles in 11 states in the U.S. where high humidity could lead to an airbag exploding with metal shrapnel taking dead aim at all inside. The company also recalled 425,825 units, adding onto the 6 million that have been recalled over the issue since 2008.

Finally, General Motors and Toyota are issuing warnings to their customers not have anyone sit in the front passenger seat until the airbag unit is replaced.

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NYC Taxi Association Take Taxi Of Tomorrow Fight To Albany http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nyc-taxi-association-take-taxi-tomorrow-fight-albany/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nyc-taxi-association-take-taxi-tomorrow-fight-albany/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935650 Clutching dearly onto their fleet of Panthers, New York’s taxi industry is heading up to Albany to contest the $1 billion plan to replace their vehicles with Nissan’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” NV200. Bloomberg reports the Greater New York Taxi Association will contest the appellate court ruling made this summer that declared the program — meant […]

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Nissan NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow

Clutching dearly onto their fleet of Panthers, New York’s taxi industry is heading up to Albany to contest the $1 billion plan to replace their vehicles with Nissan’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” NV200.

Bloomberg reports the Greater New York Taxi Association will contest the appellate court ruling made this summer that declared the program — meant to bring 15,000 of the new taxis to the streets of Manhattan over the next 10 years — was flawed from the start:

The Taxi of Tomorrow as planned forces owners to purchase a single foreign-made vehicle, which is neither fuel-efficient nor wheelchair accessible.

The lawsuit process began in 2012, after the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission chose the NV200 as its new champion, and mandated all medallion owners to buy the vans to replace their Ford Crown Victorias at $29,700 a pop. The plan was blocked twice prior to the June 2014 ruling in favor, once for the lack of hybrid models, and again for overreach by the commission.

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2017 Jeep Wrangler To Remain Body-On-Frame http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2017-jeep-wrangler-remain-body-frame/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2017-jeep-wrangler-remain-body-frame/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935626 The fate of where the next-gen Jeep Wrangler will be assembled may have been settled, thanks to the fact that there will be no unibody Wrangler anytime soon. Automotive News reports sources from inside and outside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have stated the 2017 Wrangler will remain body-on-frame, meaning the Toledo, Ohio plant responsible for the […]

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The fate of where the next-gen Jeep Wrangler will be assembled may have been settled, thanks to the fact that there will be no unibody Wrangler anytime soon.

Automotive News reports sources from inside and outside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have stated the 2017 Wrangler will remain body-on-frame, meaning the Toledo, Ohio plant responsible for the icon’s production won’t see it head elsewhere for now.

As for going aluminum to help make weight in the CAFE fuel economy competition, CEO Sergio Marchionne says it’s still a possibility for the next Wrangler to use the metal so long as production costs are manageable, which may also mean trouble still for Toledo:

If the solution is aluminum then I think unfortunately Toledo is the wrong set up to try and build a Wrangler because it requires a complete, a reconfiguring of the assets which would be cost prohibitive. I mean it would be just be so outrageously expensive for us to try and work out that facility.

Further, the switchover would stop Wrangler production completely — the Toledo plant, which is already operating above capacity, is the only plant where Wranglers are made — eating away at both dealer inventory and corporate profits. The current forecast shows 235,000 units leaving Ohio by the end of 2014, the third consecutive year of record high production.

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Chrysler Group Outsold Toyota USA In September 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chrysler-group-outsold-toyota-usa-september-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chrysler-group-outsold-toyota-usa-september-2014/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:59:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934538 In September 2014, for the first time since September 2011, the Chrysler Group sold more new vehicles in the United States than Toyota USA. But while the results from three years ago involved post-tsunami struggles for many Japanese automakers and 27,000 extra Chrysler Group sales, September 2014’s numbers point more exclusively to the gains made […]

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The Chrysler Toledo Assembly Complex used to produce Jeep Cherokee in ToledoIn September 2014, for the first time since September 2011, the Chrysler Group sold more new vehicles in the United States than Toyota USA.

But while the results from three years ago involved post-tsunami struggles for many Japanese automakers and 27,000 extra Chrysler Group sales, September 2014’s numbers point more exclusively to the gains made at Chrysler’s five brands.

Once again, Chrysler Group sales increased by around 27,000 units, year-over-year. Toyota sales, including Lexus and Scion, also increased, rising less than 2% last month. In September 2011, total Toyota USA sales tumbled 17%.

In fact, the Chrysler Group outsold Toyota USA on four occasions in 2011: May, June, August, and September. (The earthquake-induced tsunami occurred in March.)

On an annual basis, the Chrysler Group hasn’t outsold Toyota USA since calendar year 2005, when 2.3 million Chrysler products and 2.26 million Toyota products were sold.

Fast forward two years from that point and we arrive at Toyota USA’s best-ever year. 2007 sales rose 3% to 2.62 million sales, 544,000 more than Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep managed that year. 2007 also marked the beginning of a three-year streak in which Toyota USA outsold the Ford Motor Company. On an annual basis, Ford hasn’t allowed that to happen since 2009.

Toyota Chrysler car sales chart September 2014Lest we assume September marks a return to the days of the Big Three being the quasi-Detroit Three, remember that Toyota, Lexus, and Scion have outsold Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, and Ram by nearly 239,000 units over the course of 2014’s first nine months.

Indeed, the gap in September equalled just 2611 units. Excluding commercial vans, the gap shrinks to 725 units. Excluding commercial vans and pickup trucks, the gap reverses in Toyota’s favour to 15,158 units.

The Chrysler Group is also a prominent builder of SUVs and crossovers, with 67,025 September sales from five Jeeps and two Dodges. Toyota and Lexus combined for 52,459 utility vehicle sales from the Lexus GX, LX, and RX and Toyota’s 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, Land Cruiser, RAV4, Sequoia, and Venza.

Toyota Chrysler Light Truck Sales Chart September 2014Do the math and you’ll end up with 85,499 Toyota car sales and 40,063 car sales at the Chrysler Group, Fiat 500L included.

The fact that Chrysler outsold Toyota was little more than an interesting tidbit of September 2014 auto sales news given that, up to this point, it’s only happened once in 36 months. Of far greater interest would be Chrysler Group sales results if the company’s passenger car volume came remotely close to matching industry leaders.

Even without cars, the Chrysler Group sold more trucks, minivans, SUVs, crossovers, and commercial vans in September 2014 than their total vehicle sales in September 2011. More “light trucks” were sold by the Chrysler Group than the complete new vehicle sales totals achieved in September 2014 by American Honda, Nissan/Infiniti, and Hyundai-Kia.

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Gilbert Calls Out Dealers In Wake Of Reinforced Michigan Direct Sales Ban http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gilbert-calls-dealers-wake-reinforced-michigan-direct-sales-ban/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gilbert-calls-dealers-wake-reinforced-michigan-direct-sales-ban/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935370 Tuesday, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that included language reinforcing a direct sales ban established over 30 years ago. Wednesday? Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert — best known as the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers who penned a letter in Comic Sans typeface in response to LeBron James making the decision […]

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Cavaliers Brown Basketball

Tuesday, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that included language reinforcing a direct sales ban established over 30 years ago.

Wednesday? Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert — best known as the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers who penned a letter in Comic Sans typeface in response to LeBron James making the decision to play for the Miami Heat — had a few words to say about this decision.

According to Detroit Free Press, Gilbert was interviewing fellow NBA team owner Mark Cuban while guest-hosting an episode of CNBC’s “Squawk Box” when he brought up the signing of HB 5606, now known as Michigan Public Act 354 of 2014, proclaiming the move “sends a bad message” as far as how much influence lobbyists — especially the auto dealer lobby — have over legislators. He added that Michigan dealers should “man up” and compete with Tesla instead of forcing the EV automaker to sell through a franchise network.

Morgan Stanley automotive analyst Adam Jonas agreed with Gilbert in a note to the financial giant’s clients, stating it was only “a matter of time” that the issue of direct sales — and Tesla’s link to them — would “likely mushroom into a national issue.” He also said legislation protecting the status quo “exist to support the weakest link in the network.”

On the other side, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce president Sandy Baruah believes Detroit “should have a business environment where all participants play by a common set of rules.” The chamber also supported the signing, and says it looks forward to the further examination Snyder called for in light of the reinforcement.

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Nissan, Tesla Sold Most California ZEV Credits In 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-tesla-sold-california-zev-credits-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-tesla-sold-california-zev-credits-2013/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935346 In one corner of the California ZEV credit octagon, the Tesla and its air of luxury. On the other side, the Nissan and its down-to-earth vibe. Who won this year? Nissan. AutoblogGreen reports the Japanese automaker sold more ZEV credits than the Californians, though not by much: 663.6 to 650.195. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles pulled up […]

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In one corner of the California ZEV credit octagon, the Tesla and its air of luxury. On the other side, the Nissan and its down-to-earth vibe.

Who won this year? Nissan.

AutoblogGreen reports the Japanese automaker sold more ZEV credits than the Californians, though not by much: 663.6 to 650.195. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles pulled up at a distant third with 235.2 sold, thanks to the existence of the Fiat 500e.

As for who bought them — purchase price per credit is permanently shrouded in secrecy — Mercedes likely took Nissan’s credits for the former’s less green offerings, Honda following behind with 542.5 purchased. FCA, again, placed third with 237.8, cancelling out what the 500e gained.

Finally, California residents brought home 3.5 million vehicles during the period ending last month, with 38,000 EVs, 30,000 PHEVs and 570,000 hybrids roaming the streets and highways.

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Daimler Financially Divests From Tesla, BMW Could Step In http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/daimler-financially-divests-tesla-bmw-step/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/daimler-financially-divests-tesla-bmw-step/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935314 Over five years ago, Daimler AG acquired a 9.1 percent interest in Tesla, gaining 1,000 battery packs for its Smart EV in exchange for helping to put the Model S on the road to production. Wednesday, Daimler sold its remaining 4 percent in the company, netting $780 million for the trouble. Despite the divestiture, both […]

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Mercedes-Benz B-Klasse Electric Drive – Laden / Mercedes-Benz

Over five years ago, Daimler AG acquired a 9.1 percent interest in Tesla, gaining 1,000 battery packs for its Smart EV in exchange for helping to put the Model S on the road to production.

Wednesday, Daimler sold its remaining 4 percent in the company, netting $780 million for the trouble.

Despite the divestiture, both automakers will continue cooperating on ongoing projects, such as the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive recently launched in the United States. Daimler financial management board member Bodo Uebber said the sale would allow Tesla to “broaden its investor base,” adding that stock ownership wasn’t necessary to the overall relationship between the two companies.

As for who Tesla could now court, Forbes believes BMW could be drawn further into its own relationship with the company. International Strategy & Investment analyst Arndt Ellinghorst believes Tesla would benefit more from BMW’s carbon-fiber technology — put to great use in the i Series — than from providing batteries to Mercedes. Both companies met in June to discuss standardization for a potential EV charging network.

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Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce SUVs Still Waiting For Green Light http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/lamborghini-rolls-royce-suvs-still-waiting-green-light/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/lamborghini-rolls-royce-suvs-still-waiting-green-light/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 10:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935290 Saving away for either a Lamborghini Urus or the Rolls-Royce SUV with no name (yet)? You may end up in an Aventador or Wraith instead if neither one are green-lit. According to AutoCar, the £180,000 ($289,000 USD) new-age Rambo Lambo is awaiting the go-ahead from Audi, which an anonymous insider claims will come when economic […]

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Saving away for either a Lamborghini Urus or the Rolls-Royce SUV with no name (yet)? You may end up in an Aventador or Wraith instead if neither one are green-lit.

According to AutoCar, the £180,000 ($289,000 USD) new-age Rambo Lambo is awaiting the go-ahead from Audi, which an anonymous insider claims will come when economic and geopolitical conditions calm down:

We are convinced the Urus can significantly boost global sales, but the financial conditions need to be sound. Right now, there are signs we may be heading for a downturn in the markets due to various factors, including trouble in the Middle East, although this is not reflected in the current sales situation, which puts us ahead of 2013.

Over at BMW, the Grey Poupon delivery wagon — set to move out of mainly Chinese showrooms at £200,000 ($321,000) — is still in the design phase. Board member for the high-end premium brand, Peter Schwarzenbauer, said the proposals are closing in on BMW’s vision for the SUV, but if the execs can’t be convinced that the final design resembles a Rolls-Royce, the vehicle will not be built.

Both SUVs are expected to enter production in 2017.

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Dodge Viper Assembly To Resume Mid-November http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dodge-viper-assembly-resume-mid-november/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dodge-viper-assembly-resume-mid-november/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934754 After months of idling, the Dodge Viper will once again roll out of the assembly line to a roped-off display near you. Automotive News reports the Conner Avenue plant will start production of the supercar in mid-November after shutting down July 3. The move follows a sales increase in September, thanks to a $15,000 discount […]

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After months of idling, the Dodge Viper will once again roll out of the assembly line to a roped-off display near you.

Automotive News reports the Conner Avenue plant will start production of the supercar in mid-November after shutting down July 3. The move follows a sales increase in September, thanks to a $15,000 discount to help move unsold 2013 and 2014 stock, as well as an additional $15,000 off via a coupon given to over 1,000 customers that will remain good until January 2, 2018.

In the aforementioned month, 108 Vipers were dusted off and sent to a good home after buyers paid $86,880 for them, besting August 2014’s 38 and September 2013’s 45. Dodge chief Tim Kuniskis said October sales are also turning out to be strong, helping to bring inventory down to appropriate levels.

Speaking of inventory, dealers have ordered 200 2015 Vipers, which will only be assembled once more older stock heads out onto the highway. Once assembly starts, only the GT and base SRT trims will come down the line at first, with the more upscale TA and GTS trims following after inventory becomes reasonable.

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Tesla Direct Sales Ban Reinforced In Michigan, GM Supported Signing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/tesla-direct-sales-ban-reinforced-michigan-gm-supported-signing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/tesla-direct-sales-ban-reinforced-michigan-gm-supported-signing/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934698 It’s official: the ban preventing Tesla from directly selling its wares to customers in Michigan has been reinforced. Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed into law HB 5606, now known as Public Act 354 of 2014. The act not only prohibits automakers from telling their dealerships what fees the latter can charge customers, but reinforces a […]

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2013 Tesla Model S Summerside Lighthouse

It’s official: the ban preventing Tesla from directly selling its wares to customers in Michigan has been reinforced.

Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed into law HB 5606, now known as Public Act 354 of 2014. The act not only prohibits automakers from telling their dealerships what fees the latter can charge customers, but reinforces a law already on the books:

This bill does not, as some have claimed, prevent auto manufacturers from selling automobiles directly to consumers at retail in Michigan — because this is already prohibited under Michigan law.

Though Tesla can do little more than open a showroom and a repair shop for now, Snyder said lawmakers should “always be willing to re-examine” legislation with the aim of improving the consumer’s experience “in a more efficient and less costly manner.”

Meanwhile, at least one automaker is happy PA 354 is on the books. In a one-sentence press release, General Motors had this to say prior to the bill’s signing:

We believe that House Bill 5606 will help ensure that all automotive manufacturers follow the same rules to operate in the State of Michigan; therefore, we encourage Governor Snyder to sign it.

Per Jalopnik, GM sent a similar message to Ohio governor John Kasich back in March of this year regarding SB137, which would have allowed Tesla to directly sell to customers in the state; the bill later died in the Ohio Senate.

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Cadillac Dealers Prepare To Step Up, Or Leave, Sales Game Under De Nysschen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/cadillac-dealers-prepare-step-leave-sales-game-de-nysschen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/cadillac-dealers-prepare-step-leave-sales-game-de-nysschen/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934202 Facebook commenters and the automotive press aren’t the only ones feeling the lash from Cadillac boss Johan de Nysschen, as dealers themselves are feeling the pressure to step up their game. Automotive News reports that while some Cadillac dealerships have nothing to worry about, and are, in fact, completely on-board with de Nysschen’s alphanumeric global […]

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Facebook commenters and the automotive press aren’t the only ones feeling the lash from Cadillac boss Johan de Nysschen, as dealers themselves are feeling the pressure to step up their game.

Automotive News reports that while some Cadillac dealerships have nothing to worry about, and are, in fact, completely on-board with de Nysschen’s alphanumeric global vision, those on the low end of the totem pole fear they may be selling something else if they can’t compete on the level their new boss expects of them.

Specifically, de Nysschen may want to consolidate the brand’s network of 924 dealerships into a more BMW/Mercedes-esque number — hovering in the 330 – 370 range — with a similar focus on urban markets. Though neither he nor anyone representing Cadillac have stated such plans were on the table, dealers like Claude Burns and an unnamed dealer in the Midwest are going on the offensive to maintain their spots: a new expanded floorplan for the former, lawyering-up with an attorney who represented dealers during General Motors’ bankruptcy for the latter.

As for the boss himself, de Nysschen had this to say about the future of his dealerships after his meeting with them last month in Las Vegas, where he outlined his vision for the brand and their role in it:

It’s very clear to me that many, many dealers already have risen to the challenge. On the other hand, when those customers engage us in our dealerships, we cannot afford that the experience is anything other than confirming that this is a first-class brand. And not all of our dealers are there.

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NHTSA Issues Urgent Recall For Takata-Equipped Vehicles In Humid Climes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nhtsa-issues-urgent-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles-humid-climes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nhtsa-issues-urgent-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles-humid-climes/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934178 If you happen to own certain BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan vehicles, and reside in a humid climate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging you to take it in for repairs linked to the Takata airbags installed. Though the agency didn’t explain exactly the need for urgency, the airbags made […]

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Takata Airbag Cutaway

If you happen to own certain BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan vehicles, and reside in a humid climate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging you to take it in for repairs linked to the Takata airbags installed.

Though the agency didn’t explain exactly the need for urgency, the airbags made by Takata have been linked to humidity-related failures, where upon detonation, metal shrapnel would be sprayed into the cabin, injuring or killing all within.

Owners of the following affected vehicles may need to bring their vehicles in for repairs if they call Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands or Hawaii home:

Toyota: 778,177 total number of vehicles potentially affected
2002 – 2004 Lexus SC
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2004 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2004 Toyota Tundra
2003 – 2004 Pontiac Vibe

Honda: 2,803,214 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord (4 cyl)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord (6 cyl)
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 -2007 Honda Pilot
2006 Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 -2003 Acura TL/CL

Nissan: 437,712 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2003 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2003 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 Infiniti FX

Mazda: 18,050 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2004 Mazda6
2004 Mazda RX-8

BMW: 573,935 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

General Motors: 133,221 total number potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2003 Buick LeSabre
2002 – 2003 Buick Rendezvous
2002 – 2003 Cadillac DeVille
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Impala
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Venture
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy XL
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Aurora
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Bravada
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Bonneville
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Montana

Recall letters are being sent out to affected owners, who can also look up their VIN through SaferCar.gov to determine if their vehicle is under recall.

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Rental Review :2013 Chevrolet Cruze LT/RS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/rental-review-2013-chevrolet-cruze-ltrs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/rental-review-2013-chevrolet-cruze-ltrs/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:30:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933994 This was supposed to be a rental racetrack review. The plan was to to challenge Watkins Glen with Daewoo GM Korea Chevrolet’s well-received not-so-compact sedan, letting the 1.4L turbo engine drag us from Turn One to the Bus Stop under full throttle before putting the brakes up on a pinball table and giving them the […]

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This was supposed to be a rental racetrack review. The plan was to to challenge Watkins Glen with Daewoo GM Korea Chevrolet’s well-received not-so-compact sedan, letting the 1.4L turbo engine drag us from Turn One to the Bus Stop under full throttle before putting the brakes up on a pinball table and giving them the ol’ Jodie Foster* in preparation for the Outer Loop. This would be excellent practice for me and brother Bark as we prepared for AER’s first race at the Glen and it would also reveal quite a bit about the dynamic character of the “RS” package, which in time-honored RS fashion is entirely cosmetic in nature.

Alas, it was not to be. We’d have to be content with 1,222 miles in just 72 hours. So what’s this? Another Cruze review like this one and this one and this one? Not quite, because this time around I’d managed to rent something that wasn’t rental-spec at all.

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To begin with, this Cruze had a sunroof! I can vividly remember the last time I got a rental car with an optional sunroof; it was 1996, in Los Angeles, and the car in question was an oddball Mercury Sable LS with partial-leather seats and the 24-valve Duratec. Rental agencies are so sunroof-averse that their resale operations will actually install one for you if you insist on it. I would trust an aftermarket sunroof installed by Enterprise Car Sales about as far as I would trust a Chinese condom with incomprehensible characters all over it and a weird cartoon drawing of something halfway between a sunflower and Mikhail Gorbachev’s birthmark.

No, wait, hold on, I’d trust the aftermarket sunroof less, because every aftermarket sunroof I’ve ever tried has leaked and every… you don’t want to hear about this stuff, do you? Our proven market research shows that TTAC readers mostly want to hear about small-sample reliability data extrapolated beyond any possible reason. I feel confident, therefore, in saying that because nothing went wrong with this Cruze during my seventy-two hours with the car nothing will ever go wrong with any of them, ever.

The funny thing is that I would trust a Cruze to hold up. I’ve now put about five thousand miles on at least seven different Cruzes and I’ve never seen anything that raised my eyebrows. Insofar as the manufacture and distribution of vehicles that are reliable and durable in the long term is the very thing that made Toyota’s reputation in this country, I have to wonder how many people will consider GM in the future because they’ve been exposed to a high-mileage Cruze that still looks and drives like a new-ish car.

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Which this one certainly did, even with an odometer that rolled 40,000 during my trip. The interior was a significant upgrade on the poverty chic of the last high-mileage Cruze I drove, in a rather impressive combination of chocolate brown soft-touch plastic and cream leather. Between that and the full touchscreen MyLink system fitted to this example, I started to think I was in a bit of an entry-luxury car. There was no noticeable wear on any surface. The seats look like I wish the seats on my 49,000-mile Boxster S Anniversary looked — free of cracking or shiny spots — yet I’m willing to bet hard cash that, unlike my Boxster, this Cruze hasn’t been garaged indoors its entire life and lovingly treated to Lexol cleaner and conditioner every month or so.

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For much of the weekend, the Cruze was asked to ferry three people plus my RainSong JM1000 in the passenger compartment, a task it accomplished without difficulty but also without much legroom. It’s not a small car in most respects but I can’t imagine that anybody in Korea actually gets chauffeured in their Lacettis; there’d be no point to the exercise. Might as well get driven around in a ’76 Celica with the seat shoved all the way back.

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The upgraded front seats in this example remain short in the bolster and curiously undersized as a whole. They’re like 9/10ths scale seats, Smokey Yunick specials to make the rest of the interior feel bigger. As a result, I found myself bracing my right leg against the center console, where it rolled the temperature control to “hotter than balls” every time I shifted my knee. The sound system in this LT/RS was tinny and oddly short on bass; it also sounded noticeably worse through the AUX input than with a compact disc. Even though the compact disc in question was Mumford and Sons’ “Babel”.

“I cannot stand this,” one passenger moaned, switching the stereo back to “Aux”.

“Is this ‘Kirk Whalum Plays The Babyface Songbook’?” Bark inquired.

“Well,” I replied, “I heard you like jazz.” My previous long-distance drives in the Cruze have been in the cheapo 1.8-liter Ecotec models, but this one is the 1.4L turbo. This is what it’s good at: creating the impression of a much bigger, more powerful, smoothly confident engine at full throttle; pulling small hills without a triple downshift; returning 33.8mpg over 400 miles of freeway usage. This is what it’s not good at: full-throttle acceleration; long hills where the relatively flat torque curve cannot disguise the fact that you’re asking a 1.4L engine to motivate something about the curb weight of an old BMW 733i; making reassuring noises at idle and after shutoff instead of horrible thermal clacking and cracking.

The numbers are close between the two available Cruze engines but assuming the smaller-displacement turbo mill isn’t a hand grenade waiting to happen I’d take it every single time. Combined with the heavy but self-assured steering and dynamics that come standard in every Cruze the effect is sort of like the cheapo BMW F80 variants in many ways. It certainly feels at home on the freeway. In limited backroad driving around the Glen, the Cruze RS proved to be unenthusiastic but capable at moderate cornering speeds.

Unfortunately for me, a previous renter had already treated this Chevy’s brakes with profound disrespect, so every touch of the middle pedal resulted in the kind of shuddering that is more typically the precursor to an exploding Space Shuttle. It got to the point that I chose to use the kinda-Tiptronic as a brake on long hills, a choice neither appreciated nor endured with much grace by the slow-witted six-speed automatic.

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No doubt about it, after the first day or so this review will be read mostly by potential used-Cruze buyers relying on search engines to bring them unbiased opinions on the vehicle. So to those readers, I give you a Cruze Checklist. If you want:

* High-quality materials and workmanship, with the exception of the ignition switch
* Quiet freeway ride
* Good but not spectacular fuel economy
* Reasonable front-seat comfort
* Decent trunk space

then the Cruze is for you. If you want

* Speed, power, excitement
* Maximum efficiency
* Rear seat space
* The best sound system and Bluetooth integration possible
* The smallest possible footprint for urban parking or storage

then you’ll want to avoid the Cruze, because it has none of those things.

Four years ago, I wrote of the Cruze, “It’s well-positioned against the Civic and Corolla. I believe that it beats both of those cars in significant, measurable ways.” The Civic is refreshed and the Corolla is new since then, but I remain pretty steadfast about that statement. The Cruze has a lot of the common decency that was once the particular excellence of the post-1979 GM A-body sedans. Staid-looking, over-serious, unrelentingly unsentimental about things like sportiness and space efficiency, the Cruze continues to deliver what most Americans actually want in a small sedan, as opposed to what they tell people they want.

This RS version with all the gingerbread is worth seeking out in the used market. The question is: if these cars continue to hold up and perform well, will they still be a bargain? Maybe they’d be a bargain even at a higher price, assuming they don’t have any racetrack time on them.

Which reminds me: The reason I didn’t track the Cruze was simplicity itself. During my overnight drive to the Glen, I pulled in at a truck stop to get two hours of rest. It’s rare for me to be able to sleep more than about ninety minutes in a car without cramping or experiencing pain from all the places I’ve been cut up or broken a bone in the past. Imagine my surprise when I woke five hours later, too late to catch the morning street-car practice. So that’s the Cruze: too relaxing to be thrilling. Even with an “RS” badge.

* In all good conscience, I cannot toss off a joke in reference to The Accused without including a counterpoint — JB

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Los Angeles 2014: Honda HR-V, Acura ILX To Bow On The Red Carpet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-honda-hr-v-acura-ilx-bow-red-carpet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-honda-hr-v-acura-ilx-bow-red-carpet/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934146 Coming soon to an automotive red carpet near you: Honda’s new HR-V and Acura’s 2016 ILX. The former, seen only in photos when announced in New York earlier this year, will be making its North American debut at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Fit-based crossover is expected to serve “as the entry point […]

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Coming soon to an automotive red carpet near you: Honda’s new HR-V and Acura’s 2016 ILX.

The former, seen only in photos when announced in New York earlier this year, will be making its North American debut at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Fit-based crossover is expected to serve “as the entry point to the Honda light truck lineup,” consisting of the Ridgeline, Pilot and CR-V. The HR-V will take the stage sometime after 12:30 p.m. Pacific November 19.

Over at Acura, the Civic-based ILX will be debuting its new look for 2016, with the aim of firming up its appeal with customers in the entry-level premium market. The updates include a “more forceful, sporty exterior,” an unknown-yet-powerful powertrain, and new interior design. The sedan will roll up to the world’s stage at 9:30 a.m. Pacific November 20.

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Jaguar Land Rover Evaluating Locales For North American Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jaguar-land-rover-evaluating-locales-north-american-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jaguar-land-rover-evaluating-locales-north-american-plant/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934122 The United Auto Workers may soon need to add another transplant to convert as part of its Southern strategy: Jaguar Land Rover is considering setting up shop in the Southeastern United States as part of its global expansion plans. Autoblog reports the automaker is looking over potential real estate for a new North American factory, […]

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The United Auto Workers may soon need to add another transplant to convert as part of its Southern strategy: Jaguar Land Rover is considering setting up shop in the Southeastern United States as part of its global expansion plans.

Autoblog reports the automaker is looking over potential real estate for a new North American factory, honing in upon right-to-work states in the South such as South Carolina, where BMW already has a presence in Spartanburg assembling the X Series. The future plant would have a total capacity of 200,000 units produced per year.

Elsewhere, JLR welcomed all to its new factory in Changsu, China, where the real Evoque — as opposed to the “If you like Mrs. Beckham’s crossover, you’ll love ours” Landwind E32 — will roll off the line, with the new Discovery Sport to follow. Brazil will join the party with its own factory in 2016.

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Porsche 918 Hybrid Hypercar Nearly Sold Out http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/porsche-918-hybrid-hypercar-nearly-sold/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/porsche-918-hybrid-hypercar-nearly-sold/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934098 Saving your pennies for a Porsche 918 Spyder? You may want to go ahead and take out a loan to get the down payment on the table, for the hybrid hypercar is nearly sold out. Automotive News reports production of the 918 will draw to a close in July 2015, while planned production is sold […]

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Saving your pennies for a Porsche 918 Spyder? You may want to go ahead and take out a loan to get the down payment on the table, for the hybrid hypercar is nearly sold out.

Automotive News reports production of the 918 will draw to a close in July 2015, while planned production is sold out through early April at the latest, according to Porsche Cars North America vice president of marketing, Andre Oosthuizen.

Regarding how many have been made thus far, Oosthuizen declined to say more than that it was doing well for itself. He added that 30 of the $847,945 spyders were delivered to customers around the world — each bestowing Porsche a deposit of $200,000 for the opportunity to own one — thus far.

 

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UAW, Political Leaders Uniting To Keep Wrangler In Ohio http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-political-leaders-uniting-keep-wrangler-ohio/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-political-leaders-uniting-keep-wrangler-ohio/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933842 With the possibility of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler being built elsewhere, the United Auto Workers and political leaders are coming together to convince Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to keep the icon in Toledo, Ohio. Automotive News reports the gathering will occur Monday at the UAW Local 12, with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, […]

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With the possibility of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler being built elsewhere, the United Auto Workers and political leaders are coming together to convince Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to keep the icon in Toledo, Ohio.

Automotive News reports the gathering will occur Monday at the UAW Local 12, with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, and Toledo mayor D. Michael Collins joining the group of workers, local leaders and members of the community to launch a campaign to keep the Wrangler at the Chrysler Assembly Plant, where 1,700 (out of a total of over 6,000) help assemble the icon with the help of 800 employed by neighborhood suppliers.

The campaign is set to begin as FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne warned that should the next-generation Wrangler be based upon an aluminum unibody, it would be built elsewhere:

If the solution is aluminum, then I think unfortunately that Toledo is the wrong place, the wrong setup to try and build a Wrangler, because it requires a complete reconfiguring of the assets that would be cost-prohibitive. It would be so outrageously expensive that it would be impossible to try and work out of that facility.

UAW Local 12 president Bruce Baumhower invited 40 elected officials and local businessmen to the gathering, with the intent of establishing a task force set to address the issues that would take the Wrangler out of Toledo.

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Mercedes Turns Former Naval Base Into Autonomous Testing Ground http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mercedes-turns-former-naval-base-autonomous-testing-ground/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mercedes-turns-former-naval-base-autonomous-testing-ground/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933802 With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research. Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif. Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous […]

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With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research.

Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous vehicles at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a military base decommissioned in 2005 that may be redeveloped in the future.

Until then, Concord will be used as a “starter city” for autonomous city driving and navigation research and development. The strategy allows Mercedes “to run simulation tests with self-driving vehicles in a secure way, including specific hazardous situations,” per the brand’s head of autonomous driving, Axel Gern.

As for why Concord and similar spaces, such as the NASA facility Google uses to test its commuter pod, are in play over actual cities, Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski says “existing proving grounds are not challenging enough,” while real-life testing is “too challenging at this point.” Further, both spaces are owned by the federal government, bestowing researchers the opportunity to test their theories without the California legislature dictating otherwise.

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Los Angeles 2014: Mercedes Maybach Set To Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-mercedes-maybach-set-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-mercedes-maybach-set-debut/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933770 Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model. Car & Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting […]

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Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model.

Car & Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting between the S550 and the deceased Maybach 57, according to head of global design, Gordon Wagener.

Other features include a turbocharged V12, rear-wheel drive, Mercedes’ Magic Body Control suspension, luxurious materials, and a badge here and there to let the proletariat know a god and/or goddess is being chauffeured, not some Silicon Valley dirtbag.

The Mercedes Maybach will be going up against Bentley and Rolls-Royce in the Grey Poupon delivery game, with the Maybach name becoming a sub-brand like AMG. That move could, in turn, allow for more models down the road, such as an SUV based on the GL-Class, as well as a coupe and/or convertible derived from the S-Class.

As for price of admission, all that has been said is that it will be lower than the Maybach models from just a few years ago.

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Koesters: Ford May Build PHEV For Europe Should Demand Rise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/koesters-ford-may-build-phev-europe-demand-rise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/koesters-ford-may-build-phev-europe-demand-rise/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933746 While U.S. consumers can opt for a PHEV version of the Fusion or C-Max, European customers have had to look elsewhere. This could change soon, however. Automotive News reports Ford is “actively considering” bringing over a PHEV to go up against offerings from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volvo, according to vehicle line director for large […]

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While U.S. consumers can opt for a PHEV version of the Fusion or C-Max, European customers have had to look elsewhere.

This could change soon, however.

Automotive News reports Ford is “actively considering” bringing over a PHEV to go up against offerings from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volvo, according to vehicle line director for large cars in Europe, Uli Koesters.

The reason the Blue Oval hadn’t planned on playing the game? Low demand in Europe for PHEVs overall. Koesters could immediately bring a PHEV to market, such as one based upon the Fusion’s European cousin, the Mondeo, but only if the interest is there:

I believe the plug-in take-up in Europe is not quite as ready as some people would like to think, but it is clearly a technology that can do a lot better at significantly reducing fuel consumption and that is why we are actively looking at it.

At the moment, the most popular PHEV is the Mitsubishi Outlander, with 8,953 units sold in H1 2014. Volvo, meanwhile, sold the fewest PHEVs in the same period, moving only 3,233 V60s.

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Ownership Review: Porsche 911 GT3 (997 Vintage) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ownership-review-porsche-911-gt3-997-1-vintage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ownership-review-porsche-911-gt3-997-1-vintage/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:18:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=928346 The last time my friend Derek allowed me to write for TTAC, I narrated a brief test drive of a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, a a car that provided an intense and immersive driving experience, but that presented a heinous proposition as a sole car / daily driver, even for a young, […]

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The last time my friend Derek allowed me to write for TTAC, I narrated a brief test drive of a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, a a car that provided an intense and immersive driving experience, but that presented a heinous proposition as a sole car / daily driver, even for a young, single owner with a short commute in a sunny clime.  Ostensibly, I had driven the car because I was considering replacing my old 911 with something more livable / less cantankerous / more rapid / etc.  While that particular edition of the GT3 proved a poor match for my needs, I still resolved to join the 21st century by upgrading to a more modern car.

Springtime of 2014 represented a good opportunity to start shopping for a new conveyance, with several enticing and new or recently updated offerings both on the horizon and within my price range.  I considered several options – even several non-Porsches! – including the Alfa Romeo 4C, the all-new F8X family of the BMW M3/4, the C7 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51, and the 981 Porsche Cayman GTS.  Those are all new cars, with full factory warranties.  I’d learned my lesson owning an old German sports car with no factory repair safety net.

As I window shopped for new cars I also perused the Autotrader website and came across an intriguing advertisement for a 997 GT3.  Since the car was introduced, I had intensely desired Porsche’s GT3 from the 997 family, and if Halicki’s Gone in 60 Seconds cult classic were improbably re-made to fit my biography, my “Eleanor” would be a 997 GT3.  Unfortunately, the GT3 that was introduced when I was in high school violated the one sacrosanct rule of this entire exercise – the car was old and out of warranty.  It also featured some frighteningly expensive components (new PCCB brake rotors would cost almost as much as I paid for the 993!).

However.  The car was local.  I knew the seller.  The price was below market.  The car was nicely optioned (blinged-out PCCB brakes, full leather, Xenon lights) and well-maintained, with a clean PPI, perfect DME over-rev report, and only 14,000 miles from new.

I called the owner and bought it over the phone for the full asking price, 100% sight unseen, in less than five minutes.  I broke all of the rules.  I did it for two reasons:  1 – I desired the GT3 moreso than any of the other options, and would have chosen a GT3 over any of them if finances were of no concern. 2 – The attractive entry price, coupled with the dynamics of the GT3 market mean that I’m unlikely to suffer any meaningful depreciation.  In fact, I’ve been using the car as my primary vehicle / daily driver now for six months and plan to continue doing so for another year or two before selling it for about what I paid, perhaps a bit more.

So what’s it like?

Driving Experience:

Engine:

The defining feature of every GT3 from the 996 and 997 generations – up to and including the 4.0 RS zenith of the series – is the race-derived engine that Porsche nerds refer to as the “Mezger” engine, so named for Porsche’s visionary engineer, Hans Mezger, who designed the very first 911 engine, and whose very last project for Porsche was the development of the turbocharged lump that powered the 911 GT1 prototype that triumphed at Le Mans in 1998.  That pedigreed block forms the basis for the production car engine, and in 997.1 GT3 guise it displaces 3.6 liters (100mm bore, 76.4mm stroke), producing 415 bhp and 300 lb-ft of torque.  Performance is produced courtesy of high revs (8,400 RPM redline) and high compression (12.0:1); peak power output comes at 7,600 RPM, with peak torque entering at a lofty 5,500 RPM.  While power delivery is, uh, peaky, the engine is sufficiently tractable and civilized at low RPMs.  I’ve enhanced the car with a bypass exhaust from NorCal Porsche tuner Sharkwerks (mine is serial number 639 – it’s rather popular among the small community of GT3 devotees) and forced the exhaust valves to remain open all the time in order to drop 20 pounds from the rear, create an exceedingly antisocial racket and, most importantly, paint a big grin on my face every time I drive the car.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I cannot overstate the engine’s central role in my enjoyment of the car; it is raw, emotive, immediately responsive, and a key driver of value:  With rare exception, all Porsches ever made with a Mezger engine are appreciating or holding value, whereas those without an engine connected to Hans are depreciating.  Furthermore, the factory still uses the admittedly outdated warhorse engine in its 911-based race cars.  I’ve gone so far as to reference the engine’s provenance with an obnoxious vanity plate:

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Drivetrain:

The marvelous engine mates to a close ratio 6-speed manual that features shockingly short throws and a stiff clutch.  When cold or just trundling around town it can be balky and reluctant to engage properly, but the heavy control efforts begin to make sense when driving spiritedly, the intended use for which the entire car is optimized.  Perfectly rev-matched downshifts are a satisfying delight, although the plastic components in the stock lever and linkage feel slightly insubstantial – one of the GT3’s few letdowns as a tool for Freude am Fahren, to borrow a phrase from Porsche’s countrymen in Bavaria.  A dual mass flywheel mates to the aforementioned weighty clutch, whereas the RennSport brethren of the “base” GT3 received the single mass lightweight flywheel.  I have a factory lightweight flywheel in my 993, and I’d love to have the same part in the GT3, but I’d rather have the circa $5,000 associated cost in my pocket.

Suspension and Ride:

The 997 GT3 represented an all-over softening of the preceding generation’s rough edges, coupled with nicer styling – both inside and out – and a bit more grunt. The biggest changes occurred in the car’s suspension, as evidenced in the 997 version’s ride and handling balance. As the first generation of the GT3 to receive PASM – Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management – the contemporary marketing materials and reviews harped on the new, allegedly comfort-oriented suspension setup. The GT3’s PASM setup has two modes, one intended for street usage and the other, harder setting intended for track work. In reality, the “softer” setting is still rather stiff and has a tendency to porpoise over surface imperfections at a variety of speeds while road driving. The stiffer setting has only one legitimate use: illustrating to complaining passengers that the softer setting should be appreciated. The stiffer PASM setting doesn’t bother me in terms of ride quality per se, but it does irk me that that the front tires spend less time in touch with the road than they ought to over anything but perfect pavement. For example, let’s say you perform a panic stop on slightly undulating tarmc – the front wheels will skip over the bumps in the pavement as ABS pulsates away; it’s rather disconcerting. I’ve ridden in and driven all generations of the GT3 sold in North America, and the progressive leap in compliance over time is the most impressive enhancement in my observation. The facelifted 997.2 GT3 brought along mild, evolutionary PASM revisions, whereas the all-new 991 GT3 rides like a Cadillac in comparison to its forebears.

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Handling and Steering:

Despite my niggling complaints regarding suboptimal PASM tuning, I am an avowed fan of the car’s handling and steering feel. Although other cars doubtless offer more outright grip or fractionally higher slalom average speeds, the GT3 dutifully produces the expected objective figures while providing a fulsome stream of involving feedback to the driver. Perhaps you’re driving on a familiar two-lane road when you encounter a mild sheen of rain on the road; you’ll feel it. Perhaps you’re approaching “the limit” around a sweeper and wonder whether you have a bit more grip in reserve; you’ll feel it through the steering wheel and your posterior, and you’ll know. After driving the car for awhile – I’ve put 3,500 miles on mine in 6 months – I’ve gotten used to the chassis’s talents, but time spent driving other cars, including my older 911, brings things into sharp relief once more.

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Brakes:

As mentioned, my car came equipped with the optional PCCB – Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes – setup. Whoever specced my car way back when elected to splurge $8,840 for this option; for that rather immodest sum, they received the following: Massive brake discs (15.0″ front, 13.8″ rear) replete with eye-catching yellow calipers, a circa 40 lb. reduction in unsprung weight, fade-free braking performance, and alleged dust-free operation (untrue). Now, on the other side of the ledger, a few reasons to reconsider PCCBs: Replacing the rotors with OEM parts will run you well over $20,000 (they’re a lifetime part in terms of wear, but, say, running into the gravel trap beyond Road Atlanta’s turn 10A could result in scratching the rotors, necessitating replacement); pads aren’t cheap either (I have a replacement coming soon, it’ll be four figures), and you have to replace them at about 50% life if you’d like to protect your ceramic rotors. Other mitigating factors: PCCBs offer absolutely no advantage versus the standard “Big Red” brakes in terms of stopping distance or pedal feel, and they sometimes squeal around town.

That said, the brakes work impressively, whether you’re executing a full panic stop as an impromptu Heimlich maneuver to help your choking neighbor or wiping off a quick 50 MPH on a back road cruise. Despite the considerable expense, I wouldn’t consider buying another GT3 without ceramics.

Summary Performance Specs:

For the benefit of internet bench racers, I’ve borrowed some performance numbers from the pros in Ann Arbor.

Acceleration:  0-60 in 4.0 seconds; quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 116 MPH

Roadholding: 0.99g

Braking: 70-0 in 149 feet

Ownership Experience:

Now for the practical considerations and downsides of GT3 ownership.

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Ground Clearance:

The front ground clearance for the car is a scant 3.8 inches.  Not only is the car rather low, but the front overhang is substantial.  Imagine you’re driving around with Jay Leno’s chin skimming along the ground in front of you, under a Damoclean multi-thousand dollar penalty if you hit a speed bump at anything above walking pace!  Exciting.  At first this was the most intimidating aspect of driving the car, as pulling into any parking lot involved an exciting game of wondering “Will I or won’t I scrape the front of my new toy?!?”  I’m already on my second front splitter (mercifully a sacrificial plastic piece that only costs a few hundred dollars), but I’ve learned to proceed with caution and take wide approach and departure angles whenever possible.  My car does not have the nose lift feature that Porsche offered on later GT3s, but I can now live without it, successfully navigating parking decks and gas stations with relative ease.

Fuel Economy and Range:

Speaking of gas stations…  The car makes numerous sacrifices at the altar of motorsports chic, but the small capacity fuel tank – just over 10 gallons – and laughable economy conspire to send me to my local Chevron (premium fuel only, of course) every 130 miles or so.  I can occasionally eke out a bit more range on highway hauls, but my average plummets when I go on pleasure drives on back roads, where I’ve burned a tank in less than 100 miles on several occasions.

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Interior:

Despite an MSRP well above $120,000, the GT3’s interior is decidedly no-frills.   The important aspects are executed with aplomb: terrific driving position and ergonomics, touch points swathed in purposeful, tactile Alcantara (ie, synthetic suede) and excellent visibility despite the surfboard / ping pong table out back.  The remainder of the interior, however, leaves a bit to be desired, at least for sybarites seeking sumptuous solace; the seats adjust manually, there is no navigation system, and the puny stereo – featuring only a single disc CD changer, people who own smartphones or MP3 players are out of luck! – is comprehensively overpowered by tire, wind, and engine noise, as the GT3  eschews essentially all sound deadening to pare back mass.  Moreover, the entire car is screwed together so tightly and rides so stiffly that any foreign object in the interior, even a single penny in the console cubby, will induce a maddening vibration / rattle.  As if that weren’t enough, the car makes its own vibrations due to harmonics at about 90 MPH, and they’re sufficiently acute that the view out the rear view mirror is distorted.

Insurance:

Although the car is seven years old now, it’s still fairly valuable and fairly high performance.  I’m 25 and possess a clean driving record (thank you Michael Valentine!), but insurance is still somewhat expensive.  I pay just under $500 per month to insure both the GT3 and 993 through a quality carrier (read: not an insurer that advertises on television).

Summary:

My GT3 is gloriously excessive, embarrassingly wasteful, astonishingly impractical, and supremely indulgent, a pur sang racer diverted from the race track to a relatively quiet, domesticated life at the eleventh hour.

Yet I endure these first world hardships with a smile, because I adore its uncompromising singularity of ideal and purpose.

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David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University. Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.

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Tesla’s First Battery Swap Station Opening Soon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/teslas-first-battery-swap-station-opening-soon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/teslas-first-battery-swap-station-opening-soon/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932362 While Tesla owners — and owners of all EVs, for that matter — may be waiting a couple of years before titanium oxide anodes bring battery charging levels down to the 3- to 5-minute fueling times found at a given gas station, CEO Elon Musk has another option for them to consider: Battery-pack swapping. SlashGear […]

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Tesla Supercharger

While Tesla owners — and owners of all EVs, for that matter — may be waiting a couple of years before titanium oxide anodes bring battery charging levels down to the 3- to 5-minute fueling times found at a given gas station, CEO Elon Musk has another option for them to consider: Battery-pack swapping.

SlashGear reports the first swapping station will come online within the next few months, offering S and X owners the option of allowing robots to swap a drained pack for a fully charged unit from underneath the car within 90 seconds. Not only is this method faster than refueling at the local ARCO, but it blows away the Supercharger’s 30-minute charging time, as well.

The pack swap would also enable owners to retrieve their original packs later on, or, should retrieval become inconvenient, pay the difference for the new pack. Critics note this could lead to supply problems, where some stations have batteries waiting for their owners to return, while others run short of new packs.

The first station will open somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco, though further details were scant.

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Jeep First American Brand To Enter Japan COTY Top 10 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-first-american-brand-enter-japan-coty-top-10/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-first-american-brand-enter-japan-coty-top-10/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932338 While the new Mazda2 — Demio to its friends in Japan — took home the overall gold in this year’s Japanese Car of the Year awards, Jeep took home a JCOTY, too, the first time an American brand has ever accomplished the feat. AutoGuide reports the Cherokee took eighth place among the top 10 list, […]

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2014 jeep cherokee

While the new Mazda2 — Demio to its friends in Japan — took home the overall gold in this year’s Japanese Car of the Year awards, Jeep took home a JCOTY, too, the first time an American brand has ever accomplished the feat.

AutoGuide reports the Cherokee took eighth place among the top 10 list, the third Fiat Chrysler Japan product in a row to do so after the Fiat Panda and Alfa Romeo Giulietta. The crossover went on sale in Japan in May 2014.

Among the transplants, the Mercedes C-Class took a close second behind the Demio, the BMW i3 won the bronze, and the Peugeot 308 came in sixth place. Subaru’s Levorg wagon was the next highest-placing home model.

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How The Honda Passport Got Its Name http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/honda-passport-got-name/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/honda-passport-got-name/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:17:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931842 It ceased being fun working at American Honda around the summer of 1993. Most of our senior managers in the sales division had recently been fired. In May, the New York Times published the first story about our executives soliciting bribes from dealers. The Justice Department was snooping around our US headquarters in Torrance, CA. […]

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Passport Rodeo courtesy popularmechanics.com

It ceased being fun working at American Honda around the summer of 1993. Most of our senior managers in the sales division had recently been fired. In May, the New York Times published the first story about our executives soliciting bribes from dealers. The Justice Department was snooping around our US headquarters in Torrance, CA. The year before, our geniuses in Japan had dropped the ground-breaking CRX two-seater and stuck us with the dull del Sol. Over at Acura, our Honda Division castoffs were busy trying to figure out why the tepid 5-cylinder Vigor was not selling.

We were still stuck in the Civic-Accord-Prelude-del Sol mode. “We will never build trucks,” our execs had often proudly proclaimed.  Now we found ourselves caught flat-footed as we followed the success of the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner SUVs. We needed a sport-ute yesterday, and it would take us a minimum of four years to develop one. We did what any self-respecting, high quality, loved-by-its-customers car company would do in this situation.

We called Isuzu.

We made arrangements with Isuzu to sell their Rodeo SUV in America in exchange for Isuzu rebadging some of our small cars in Japan. “Hello, Burger King? This is Lawry’s Steakhouse. We want to put our name on one of your sandwiches and sell it as our own,” said one of my co-workers in Honda’s advertising department. That may have been a little harsh, but there was a genuine lack of enthusiasm internally for the General Motors-powered Rodeo that we had code-named the “Hodeo.”

We had no time to hire a consultant to make up a moniker, as we had done with the brand name “Acura.” Instead we dug into the Honda motorcycle/ATV parts bin to come up with three potential model names already licensed to us.

This was not the first time we had used a tag from our two-wheel division: before it was an Acura, the Integra was a V-Twin sport bike built in the early 1980s (and the name was resurrected in 2007 and continues today as a scooter.) The cycle division had some really cool names. Heck, if Honda ever built a V-8 version of today’s Ridgeline pickup they could call it the Honda 305 Scrambler.

So armed with the names Elsinore, Odyssey and Passport, we headed off to test the SUV and the proposed names in a consumer focus group. We had a Honda-badged Rodeo and a half-dozen competing SUVs lined up in a warehouse in Culver City. The attendees were primarily SUV-owning men, as we were concerned that we were becoming a bit too much of a chick car company. My boss, Dave the National Advertising Manager, and I watched from behind a one-way mirror but were under a time crunch: thanks to NBC, we had great seats to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup featuring the LA Kings and Wayne Gretzky taking on the Montreal Canadiens, with faceoff being 45 minutes away at the nearby Forum.

The original Honda Passport

The original Honda Passport

The group first reinforced our internal concerns when asked their first impressions about our new SUV, (“It looks like that Suzuki or Isuzu.” “It IS that Isuzu.” “Why would Honda sell an Isuzu?” “It won’t have the same quality.”) Undaunted, the moderator from our advertising agency proceeded to ask the attendees what images the proposed names conjured up.

We started with Elsinore. The Elsinore was a 1970s Honda dirt bike named after Lake Elsinore, an area known for a legendary off-road motorcycle race. Movie star and motorcycle racer Steve McQueen rode an Elsinore. What could be a more rugged and manly name for the Hodeo?

Rugged and manly attendee Bob, a Chevy Suburban owner, asked, “Why would you name a truck after the castle in “Hamlet?”  Amazingly, others agreed with him. Elsinore was out.

Next up was Odyssey, a name used for a 1970s/1980s Honda dune buggy. The attendees were confused. (“So this means you can travel long distances in an Isuzu?”) I think Bob mentioned Homer. Odyssey was out but would be used on Honda’s first minivan the following year.

The name Passport was used in the 1980s on a variation of the venerable Honda Super Cub motorbike. The group liked it far better than the other two names. That was enough for Dave and me: we decided that our first-ever SUV would be called the Honda Passport. We excused ourselves and headed to the Forum. The naming process took less than ten minutes.

The Passport ended up selling pretty well initially thanks to our strong brand image and the usual hilarious commercials produced by the legendary Larry Postaer, creative director at our advertising agency. The Passport would be dropped in 2002 and eventually be replaced by the Honda-built Pilot, named after another Honda off-road ATV.

The Honda/Isuzu alliance made a semi-believer out me that a strong car company could successfully work with a weaker automaker on product sharing and development. Of course I later joined Mercedes-Benz a few months before they bought Chrysler and would learn otherwise…

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Toyota 4Runner Booms: Off-Roaders Aren’t Dead Yet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/toyota-4runner-booms-roaders-arent-dead-yet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/toyota-4runner-booms-roaders-arent-dead-yet/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:37:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931802 The off-roader is not yet dead, and with recent successes from a couple of well-known rough-and-tumble four-by-fours, the niche category has lives yet to live. We’re not talking about pickup trucks with Z71 badges or the ever-growing stable of vehicles perceived to be capable of mud-running because of their when-the-wheels-slip all-wheel-drive systems. No, truck-based SUV […]

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2014 Toyota 4Runner dirt pathThe off-roader is not yet dead, and with recent successes from a couple of well-known rough-and-tumble four-by-fours, the niche category has lives yet to live.

We’re not talking about pickup trucks with Z71 badges or the ever-growing stable of vehicles perceived to be capable of mud-running because of their when-the-wheels-slip all-wheel-drive systems.

No, truck-based SUV platforms with selectable four-wheel-drive are another breed. We’re well acquainted with the Jeep Wrangler’s steady rise up the utility vehicle sales leaderboard, and 2014 is almost assured of ending with record Wrangler sales.

The Unlimited has expanded that Wrangler’s appeal to corners of the market near and far. Wrangler sales in the United States have increased in four consecutive years and are likely to top 170,000 units in 2014.

Yet a far less likely candidate for success in this age is the Toyota 4Runner, sales of which have already risen to a seven-year high in 2014, with three months remaining on the calendar.

(Mr. Kreindler touched on the success of a 4Runner compatriot, the Lexus GX, back in July. GX sales will shoot above 20,000 units in 2014 for the first time since 2007. The GX’s nine-month U.S. sales total is already marks a four-year high.)

It’s not as though the 4Runner is alone on the loosely-defined SUV side of Toyota showrooms. From the RAV4 and Venza to the Highlander, FJ Cruiser, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser, Toyota sales consultants are swimming in utility vehicles up to their ears.

Moreover, the Highlander is an increasingly popular vehicle, with sales rising 12% to 105,526 units in 2014. The FJ Cruiser still matters, too, as Toyota’s clear-out of the cancelled off-roader has resulted in a 30% increase to 12,653 sales through nine months. In fact, 2014 should end as the best FJ Cruiser sales year since 2010, if not 2008.

But while the 4Runner has maintained its boxy shape and rugged underpinnings (and its not exactly track-honed on-road manners) Toyota did update the 4Runner for 2014. Granted, it’s still using a five-speed automatic and it won’t tow any more than a Highlander, but the 4Runner’s equipment levels were upgraded and the exterior was updated, like it or not.

On a monthly basis, 4Runner sales have now increased in eight consecutive months. Third-quarter volume jumped 69% to 19,978 units, 36% of the 4Runner’s 55,271-unit total through nine months.

These aren’t SUV-leading numbers, of course: Honda sells nearly 27,000 CR-Vs per month and America’s top-selling three-row vehicle, the Ford Explorer, should top 170,000 units by October’s end. But the 4Runner has regained volume status, and after forming just 1.3% of Toyota brand sales in 2009, 3.1% in 2010, 3.2% in 2011, 2.8% in 2012, and 2.7% in 2013, the 4Runner is now responsible 3.6% of all Toyota sales.

Indeed, it’s a more popular Toyota than the Avalon, Prius C, Prius V, Venza, FJ, Yaris, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser. In the broader scheme of things, it’s selling more often than the Acura MDX, Dodge Durango, Buick Enclave, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Suburban, Nissan Murano, and BMW X5.

55,271 sales in nine months is an impressive result for a vehicle which averaged 43,130 annual sales over the previous six years. It’s also a figure which tells us something about the market’s swing to car-like crossovers. In four consecutive years ending in 2006, Toyota sold more than 100,000 4Runners. Those days may be gone, but the 4Runner is not.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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