The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:03:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Rental Grinders Of The Road: First Place http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-first-place/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-first-place/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 16:55:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=805434 jgcglass

You’ll search long and hard to find someone else as firmly committed to the removal of the SUV from the American road as your humble author believes himself to be. Although I drove four different Land Rovers during the company’s BMW and Ford periods (a ’97 five-speed Disco, a ’99 Rangie 4.0S that I talked my father into buying, an ’00 Freelander, and an ’03 Discovery 4.6) I had what I felt to be a valid excuse: a BMX and mountain bike hobby that found me on dirt roads and fire trails nearly every weekend. As soon as my knees fired me from those sports, I fired the Rovers and got a Phaeton like decent people do.

The bulk of SUVs foisted on the American public have been irredeemable pieces of garbage, misshapen and deeply offensive embarrassments, gravid with the moist spawn of limitless profit yet crawling with the maggots of brand destruction, long-term customer disappointment, and, occasionally, violent death at the hands of a collapsing roof. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Jeep Grand Cherokee is nothing but another such triumph of cynicism and Barnum-esque contempt for the motoring public, but you would be wrong.

I come to praise the JGC, not to bury it, but there are a few things that must be said before we drive the Ford Edge from the arena. To begin, the rear seat and cargo area in the Jeep aren’t as good as what you find in the Ford. I found riding in the back to be actively painful and so did my passenger. In the interest of fairness, I have to point out that we were both recently struck by a Hyundai Sonata directly in the pelvis; in the interest of accuracy, I have to point that shortly before being passengers in this car we were in a new Viper running hard laps around a California racetrack and were both perfectly comfortable.

Luckily, we were able to distract ourselves with the dual USB power ports and the AC-115 outlet in the rear console. This is such a fantastic idea, and so intimately familiar to Ohio white trash like myself who have Southwest A-List Preferred status and therefore are well-acquainted with the company’s dual-charge airport-lounge seats, that one wonders it wasn’t implemented by someone else years before. Not to worry, it’s here now.

Still, it’s worth noting that the car that a well-respected American autojournalist and club racer called “the American Range Rover” in an email I recently received doesn’t come anywhere near the English Range Rover when it comes to rear-seat accommodations. Even Dad’s ’99 4.0S was far superior to this brand-new Jeep, and the newest Rangies are light-years ahead. In the area of ride, as well, the Indians Brits have the advantage and have long had it. My Discoveries rode better than either the Jeep or the Ford. In this test, however, the Jeep has the clear advantage because the Edge has a weird secondary-ride characteristic that makes every road feel paved with thick gravel. There’s a kind of urrrrrrrrrggggggh that communicates itself along with the copious road noise to all seats in the Edge. It’s tiring and aggravating in equal measure. The Jeep’s no Range Rover but it’s on par with a Camry, ride-wise.

Our Limited didn’t have the boxy LED running lights, by the way. Which means that all the Jeeps you do see with them are Summits or Overlands or the BigTruck-approved JGC SRT-8. Think about that. The roads in the Midwest and East Coast are thick with those LED squares. I wonder what the model mix is for the Grand Cherokee? Betcha it’s heavily biased towards the big-money models.

Which explains why our forty-thousand-dollar Limited tester had the miniature uConnect screen. You need to give the punters a reason to step up to the high-end models, and fitting the Limited with the cheapo screen helps. Incidentally, my father and I went around and around about this when he bought his: he just wanted to spring for the bigger uConnect package, while I thought it was critical that he spring for an Overland or Summit, just so my friends would be impressed when he picked me up from school. It was his money, so he did it his way. Still, when I bought my Accord I briefly considered the JGC and I guarantee you that the Overland was my minimum entry point.

Not that the Limited doesn’t give a solid account of itself in all the touch points. This is where the surprise-and-delight comes in; everything you touch in this car feels pretty first-rate. Even the cheapo uConnect, sitting forlornly and miniscule in its monstrous double-DIN sized cavity like the rebound boyfriend of someone recently dumped by Kobe Bryant, feels reasonably upscale to operate. Even the secret volume-and-channel buttons that arrived in the original uConnect-equipped Chryslers have been upgraded with a smooth finish and a more dignified “click”. Someone’s sweated the details on this car again and again. In this respect, Jeep is more than well-positioned against the rest of the $40,000 brigade. The people who do Cadillac interiors should be locked inside this Jeep and denied food and water until they’ve learned how to make center-stack buttons feel like something other than the power switch on a knockoff Walkman radio.

For the two of us lucky enough to be in the front seat at any given time, then, the Jeep was a brilliant place in which to spend a nine-hour drive. The stereo was better than adequate, although again the rear-seat passengers were victimized, this time by an unpleasant sub-200Hz resonance in the cargo compartment during tracks as diverse as “How Ya Like Me Now” and “Night Passage”. Given that said cargo compartment was stuffed to the roof, one wonders how bad it would have been otherwise.

The HVAC was adequate for all four corners, although neither car could summon a genuine freezing blast of cold air such as what you’d get from a modern S-Class or a classic Fleetwood Brougham. Power, on the other hand, was better than adequate, aided by the 8-speed transmission. No, it’s not GT-R fast, but it’s faster than its V-8 powered predecessors and it returns a reported 25mpg on the freeway. (Incidentally, in response to the “what was your average speed” question in yesterday’s test, the answer is “we had little to no traffic both ways and rarely dipped beneath 75, never exceeding 90.) This powertrain makes the HEMI irrelevant to all but the most acceleration-obsessed and it reinforces my personal conviction that the Pentastar is one of the world’s best engines, initial quality misses be damned.

Unlike the Edge, the Jeep usually required a little correction after rapid lane changes or highway-object avoidance, but who suffers from that? You guessed it — the back-seat passengers, who get head-tossed as a consequence. Starting to see a pattern here?

As fate would have it, your humble author and his companion found themselves in the back of a loaded pre-facelift Lincoln MKX halfway through the show, courtesy of a friend who ordered an Uber ride to get us away from his party before my falling-down-drunk slightly inebriated lady friend harassed poor Travis Okulski any more. (“YOU! YOU’RE TRAVIS! YOU WERE CRYING DURING THAT YOUTUBE VIDEO! YOU’RE GREAT! HEY, EVERYBODY, IT’S TRAVIS!”) Twenty minutes in the back of that MKX, even over miserable roads, reinforced the Edge platform’s potential to serve the back-seat crowd much better than the Jeep can manage.

Oh, well. The era where well-dressed couples double-dated to society balls and country-club parties in deVille coupes or Holiday 98s is long gone, if it ever existed. Most of the time, these suburban warriors will find themselves with one trophy wife in front and one child, approximately the size of a roast turkey, in the back. So as long as you’re driving, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is our undisputed champion, and recommended without reservation.

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Ich bin ein Hotrodder: A Story of My Opel Diplomat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ich-bin-ein-hotrodder-a-story-of-my-opel-diplomat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ich-bin-ein-hotrodder-a-story-of-my-opel-diplomat/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804154  tumblr_m5sxgur4Ci1qzut9po1_1280-394x350

While JFK was busy capturing the hearts of the German people with his Ich bin ein Berliner speech, the GM engineers at Rüsselsheim were busy at work finishing their next big project – the series of full-size (on European scale) luxury models, called Kapitän, Admiral and Diplomat. Introduced in February of 1964, the new models were meant to take on Mercedes-Benz, though they shared something in common with contemporary America cars, in that they were really just one car, offered in different equipment levels, and with different engine options. Kapitän was the cheapest, with an inline six under the hood, standard manual transmission and relatively sparse equipment. Its size, equipment and power put it somewhere between American compacts and midsize cars of the time, like a smaller 1964 Chevelle, with a dash of Buick styling.

The other two models were more interesting. The Admiral added some equipment, and available V8 engine – the venerable Chevy Small Block, in 283 cubic inch guise. The top of the line Diplomat, which came with even more luxury, shunned the six cylinder altogether. It was produced with a choice of the 283ci V8, and the famous 327, both teamed with a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. The Diplomat even spawned a sexy, Riviera-like V8 coupe model, with only 347 examples and now exceedingly rare – and terribly expensive.

In the next four years, nearly 90,000 KAD Opels were built. Most lived their lives on Germany’s roads and Autobahns, but some went to other countries. A few even got to the other side of the Berlin Wall. And at least two or three (although probably more) made their way to Hungary.

Around the time of the KAD’s final production run, a white Galaxie 500 coupe, with a 390 big block engine, rolled off the Ford assembly line on the other side of the world.

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For the next half a century, those were totally unrelated events. While the Galaxie 500 puttered around Southern California, preserved by the desert climate, the Admirals and Diplomats in Hungary led eventful, hard lives, which lead them in the state of wrecks.

But their stories were meant to come together. Early in the new century, a Hungarian guy called István bought up three KAD Opels, and started putting them together to build one good car. And some time after that, the old guy owning the Galaxie decided to put it on eBay, where a young guy from Czech Republic saw it, and decided to buy it. That guy was me, and the goal was to import the car, have some fun with it and then flip it for a profit. It didn’t work, because I chose the wrong car. Instead of buying a nicely preserved, but uninteresting four-door, with shiny paint and gleaming chrome, which would sell easily in Europe, I decided to buy a car muscle car enthusiast would like – two-door with a big block engine, discs in front… but also with faded paint and lots of dings and scrapes. Which meant the car didn’t sell, and as my attempt on US classic car importing business fell apart in the global financial crisis, I was stuck with a car I had no means to restore.

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At the same time, István fixed up his Opel. He put the best parts of the two or three cars together, fixing up the best body, rebuilding the 283 engine, fitting the modern 200R4 transmission with a bunch of hot-rodder upgrades, and painted the whole thing flat black, to achieve the cool hot-rod look. To spice things up, he added red wheels, and dual exhausts with glasspack mufflers. But before he got around to restoring the interior or finishing details, he got fed up with the thing. He needed change, and he wanted to go American.

I guess you can see where this is going. Two guys with cars that are hard to sell, both in Central Europe, both lusting for what the other one has.

I don’t even recall for sure who did the first contact. I think it was me. We exchanged e-mails for some time, sending photos of our cars, details about their condition, lists of what was done (on his) and what needed to be done (on mine). And eventually, we came to agreement that we really like each other’s car, and that we’ll go through with the trade. It was decided that it would be me who will do the trip, trailering my Galaxie to István’s place in Budapest. I called a friend of mine with a Seat Alhambra and a car trailer (yes, my American friends – while you think that your ¾ ton truck may not be enough to trailer a car, we do it with minivans), we agreed on a date, and off we went.

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The trip itself would be quite uneventful, with the exception of my idiot friend conveniently “forgetting” he was meant to do it for free (to repay some money he owed me), and needing me (totally broke at the time – partly because of said idiot’s actions, like blowing up transmission and differential in my Chevy Caprice) to pony up the fuel money. The exchange went well, I got a tour of the speed shop where István worked, full of cool muscle cars, hot rods and motorcycles. I did a test drive, and fell in love with the car. We shook hands, loaded the car, and off we went.

My slight annoyment about having to pay for the fuel grew into full-blown rage when I found out that we’re nearly out of fuel, have no Hungarian money and may not make it to the first gas station in Slovakia. I firmly decided to unload the Opel and proceed home, leaving my idiot friend stranded in Hungary – with no money, and no ability to understand their language. Fortunately, the venerable 1.9 TDI turbo-diesel marvel once again shown its unbelievable efficiency and took us to Slovakia, and then home.

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So, I was now in possession of a huge (for Europe, it was about the size of the S-class) beast with a slight identity crisis. The car wasn’t sure whether it’s Admiral or Diplomat (although the paperwork said Diplomat), and most of all, it was a cross between an old German luxury sedan and typical American muscle car. With some hot rod influences here and there, starting with the red wheels and Mooneye decals, and ending with the monstrous roar from the exhaust.

Simply put, it was a perfect car for my daily driver, and that was exactly what I wanted to do with it. At the time, I basically had no other fully street legal and functional vehicle, except for the steady stream of press cars. And I had this idea that unlike the 1967 Dodge Coronet, which I also owned at the time and which could only be registered as “antique”, slightly restricting the daily-driver duties, the Diplomat was the perfect solution for times when I had no press car.

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Of course, using the nearly half a century old hot rod for daily driver duties has its problems. If we dismiss the obvious stuff, like fuel consumption(circa 10 to 16mpg) and its enormous size, there was still the other white elephant – it’s a hot rod.

Those of you who live in good old US of A are probably familiar with what a Chevy Small Block with glasspacks sounds like. For the rest of you, it is best likened to four Harley-Davidson motorcycles with loud pipes, running in unison. Slight problem, if you want to go somewhere, or come from somewhere, during the night, and don’t want neighbors to key your car or throw stuff at you. But this could be avoided by leaving and approaching your home while idling – at least that didn’t set off car alarms.

But being a hot rod, meant for nice, sunny days, the Opel had no choke. And starting a carbureted vehicle with no choke, especially in colder weather, means revving the engine for at least a minute, before you set off. Or it would stall. Which gives your neighbours about a minute to come out of their houses and murder you.

Also, the car lacked some other unnecessary stuff, like a heater. And the lowered front end was pretty cool to look at, but the wheel lock was a bit reduced by the tires rubbing against wheel arches. Which sucks for maneuvering in parking lots.

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But non of it mattered, because, oh, boy, it was fun to drive. Of all the cars I owned, this got closest to my ideal of a big, evil, noisy hot-rod/muscle car thing. Not that it drove any good of course. Those big Opels were basically midsize American cars, modified just very slightly for European use. And even pure European cars of that time weren’t significantly better driving or handling than American ones – this came much, much later.

I don’t remember the handling of that thing very much, mostly because it didn’t have any. By turning that monstrous steering wheel in front of you, you were able to somehow tell the car where it should go, and it somehow obeyed. With disc brakes, it was somehow able to stop. But driving fast into corners wasn’t something that would ever cross your mind.

And the funny part was that it wasn’t even fast. It sure sounded fast, and with an open diff and 185-section tires, it was able to lay rubber, peg-legged, for maybe 60 feet. But the 283 was totally stock, with a 2-barrel cabrburettor, and it had 190 horsepower originally – which I suspect were SAE gross horsepower, leaving the “real” number somewhere around 160hp. I can imagine how slow the thing had to be with original Powerglide two-speed, but thankfully, the 200R4 made things a bit more sprightly. And extremely firm shifts of the hot-rodded tranny helped the “feeling of speed”.

The car roared off the line, with heavy jolts on each shift, squealing rubber… and then got beat by just about anything at least remotely quick, including some faster diesels. In a way, it was a really safe way of having fun, because you were going slow all the time, anyway.

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I had big plans for the car. Buying some nicer and bigger wheels, fixing up the annoying problems like too loud glasspacks or missing heater. Or at least registering it in my name, instead of running on the expired Hungarian temporary tags all the time. I even thought about adding some more horsepower, either by massaging the 283, or selling it to someone who wanted a stock engine, and building a Chevy 302. Actually, I think that was one of my best project car ideas of all time – German sedan with 8000rpm-revving Chevy engine.

But then life got in the way. A failing business meant debts to pay – and a lot of them. That’s why I still drive a borrowed Town Car, and why I had to sell the Opel some three years ago. I don’t think I drove it for more than maybe a thousand miles, but even in that short time, I’ve made tons of memories with it.

When I offered it for sale, no one in Czech Republic wanted it – even when I lowered the price way under its worth. I nearly sold it for peanuts, when I realized I didn’t try Germany. And of course, because Germans love old German cars, it sold – in about three days, for basically what I wanted in the ad (and I regretted not wanting more afterwards).

Last I heard from the new owner, he sent me some pictures of the car with new Cragar mags, straightened bodywork and a new paint (again flat black), and scoop sticking out of the hood. I guess the Opel is still alive and well, terrorizing the Germany’s streets.

Photo credits:
Opel, myself, Radek Beneš, István Zitas (pictures in gallery below)

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New York 2014: Hits, Misses, Surprises And Duds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-hits-misses-surprises-and-duds/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-hits-misses-surprises-and-duds/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 11:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804946 bmw-228-track-1-1-550x366

After the relatively low-key debuts at Detroit and Chicago, New York was thought by many to be the show we’ve all been waiting for – full of exciting debuts and important announcements. Instead, we got more of the same – a number of interesting debuts that will be important to the broader car market, but nothing overly exciting for enthusiasts.

But this is TTAC, a site where the introduction of a facelifted Camry was the most popular topic of discussion during the show. And that means that New York was a great show for the B&B.

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Miss – Acura TLX: Is this RLX 2.0? It sure looks that way. In a segment that has never been more competitive, Acura drops a dud. The TLX looks like a slightly bigger ILX and offers not one but two underwhelming drivetrains, utterly bland styling and no real reason for buying one, aside. Ok, there are some people who will make the case that this will make a good, solid, reliable luxury car once can buy with confidence – try telling that to the hordes of $299/month 320i leasees who want the Roundel and nothing else. The general public may not care that there’s no manual option, but they aren’t going to be sold on the novelty of a DCT or a 9-speed automatic either. Every time Acura introduces a car like this, it strengthens the case that they should become a premium SUV brand only.

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Hit – Alfa Romeo 4C: It’s one thing to look at this car. Sitting inside it – with the deep bucket seats, thick steering wheel and impossibly low driving position – is what makes it feel really special.

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Hit – Audi A3 Sportback TDI: A hit for no other reason than it demonstrates that in an era where everyone is paying strict attention to the spreadsheet, enthusiasts can have their voices heard. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves – Audi obviously sees a business case (if nothing else, it’s another diesel offering and it adds credibility to their TDI campaign), and the homologation costs were probably not terribly high. No, we don’t get a manual, and the VW Golf GTD probably will be sacrificed as a result, but it’s nice to know that somebody is listening.

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Hit – BMW 228i Handling Pack: Another insignificant introduction for everyone but enthusiasts. BMW has graciously decided to put all the heavy-duty performance goodies (big brakes, upgraded shocks) on the lighter 228i. On behalf of the internet, thank you, BMW.

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Dud – BMW M4 Convertible: I just don’t care at all for this car. It’s probably fast and nicely made, but I can’t help but think of the inevitability of these being driven quickly through residential areas with bad techno music blaring from them.

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Miss- BMW X4: To quote one industry professional “So…it’s an X3, that looks like an X6 and is the size of a 3-Series Gran Turismo, but has the same shape as a 4-Series Gran Coupe. I think I get it?” In their insatiable quest for volume, BMW has found the Gospel of Niche – and truly lost it.

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Hit- Chevrolet Trax: 2014 is the year of the small crossover. Along with the Nissan Juke and BMW, Honda, Mercedes, Audi and Jeep are all getting ready to enter the segment, and you can bet that everyone else is hurriedly readying their entries. The Trax should start at under $20,000, and that will provide healthy margins for a Sonic-based vehicle. If Buick can move 30,000 Encores annually, Chevrolet ought to do much bigger volumes.

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Miss – Chevrolet Z06 Convertible: The poseur’s Z06. No thanks.

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Hit – Dodge Challenger: It’s a little too retro for me, with the neon hues, Scat Pack badging and blacked out mag wheels, but the only thing keeping the Challenger from greatness was the lack of a proper UConnect system and an 8-speed automatic. Now that those two items have been added, it will be a great pony car alternative.

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Hit – Dodge Charger: The retro thing had to come to an end, and this is a nice transition out of it. The upgraded interior is just icing on the cake. Expect the next-generation Charger, based on a Fiat/Alfa RWD platform, to look a lot like this as well.

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Neutral – Ford Focus: Thumbs up for the 1.0L Ecoboost. Thumbs down for the re-design.

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Miss – Honda HR-V: Honda had the chance to steal the Trax’s and Renegade’s thunder with their new small crossover. Instead, we just got a press release. Also, the name sounds like venereal disease.

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Neutral – Hyundai Sonata: The B&B are very positive on this car, and it looked nice on the floor, but I have two reservations: it’s a bit more restrained that I was expecting, given how radical the prior car was. Also, can anyone really beat the Camry in sales, the Accord in quality/dynamics and the Altima in sheer momentum, to say nothing of the Fusion and equally strong Chrysler 200? Hyundai is capable of delivering a good car – they are going to need to pull out all the stops to stay competitive in this segment.

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Miss – Infiniti Lineup: Stale designs, confusing nomenclature and a largely ignored booth. Infiniti is right in going for slow, steady growth ala Audi. Right now, it’s looking rather unexciting, and people are losing interest, Q50 aside. Hurry up with the Eau Rouge.

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Neutral – Kia Sedona: Like the Sonata, it looks perfectly good, but are they really going to bring the fight to Honda, Toyota and the Chrysler vans?

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Hit – Land Rover Discovery: I don’t care for this SUV or its gimmicky suicide doors, but if the next Disco is like the rest of JLR’s recent lineup, the execution will be excellent, it will be hugely desirable and good enough to help them continue to gain solid footing in the cutthroat luxury market.

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Miss – Mazda MX-5 Chassis: Mazda’s exhibit of historically significant Miatas was a great move. The 25th Anniversary MX-5, with its blueprinted engine and chassis tweaks, should be a riot. The bare Skyactiv chassis on display? Well, unless you have a tape measure and can compare the dimensions of the NC’s RX-8 derived platform to this, you don’t really learn a whole lot. Unlike the NA and NB, Mazda is sticking with the multilink at the rear. Boo.

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Neutral – Nissan Murano: As gorgeous as it is, I can’t figure out the positioning. The Rogue and Pathfinder both offer seating for seven. The Murano makes do with just two rows. I suppose this is a premium SUV with snazzy styling and an upscale interior, compared to the no-frills Rogue and family-oriented Pathfinder. But I am not quite sure where it fits.

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Hit – Subaru Outback: As Subaru cars get more boring, they also improve in terms of quality and driving dynamics. Case in point: the new Forester. If the Outback follows this trend, it should be a very appealing SUV alternative. And for those who want something smaller, the XV Crosstrek exists.

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Hit- Toyota Camry: Our most talked about article was about this car, constantly derided as America’s most boring appliance. For such a poorly regarded vehicle, you all have a lot to say about it. My take? The new redesign looks great. It wouldn’t be my choice in this segment, but over 400,000 buyers disagree with me every single year. A home run for Toyota.

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Miss – Volkswagen Jetta: Sales of VW’s American-sized compact are sputtering and the new upgrades do little to make it any more attractive. An MQB-ified replacement would be welcome, and soon.

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Hit – Volkswagen GolfSportwagen TDI Concept: In Toronto, gas prices just breached the critical $5.30/gallon level (about $1.40/liter) with diesel as much as 30 cents cheaper per gallon. Up north, wagons and manuals are more popular, and the Haldex all-wheel drive on this car would be welcome. But its chances of success in America, where gas is cheap and the weather is milder, are slim. And that means that this is likely a PR stunt by Volkswagen. But we can dream.

 

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Rental Grinders Of The Road: Second Place http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-second-place/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-grinders-of-the-road-second-place/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 20:13:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804954 cheroedge

The assignment was simple: Take four people and an oversized amount of luggage from sunny Powell, Ohio to Manhattan for the New York Auto Show, using the 556-mile “high road” path down I-80. (The “low road” is the 555-mile grind on Route 70 and its endless Pennsylvania 55-mph construction zones.) To make things interesting, and to save the parking charges at Kimpton’s delightful but pricey “Muse” hotel, we decided to do it as a pair of one-way rentals.

Fate threw us a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with a fairly comprehensive equipment list, and a stripped-out Ford Edge SEL. The Cherokee had just two thousand miles on the digital odometer, while the Ford was livin’ on the edge of its 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Two nine-hour slogs, two crossovers-of-a-sort with two relatively different philosophies but surprisingly similar execution, one winner. Full disclosure: there aren’t any non-stock photos because everybody involved was a hurry to get to, and get out of, the city. Deal with it.

Second Place: Ford Edge SEL V6

This doesn’t really feel like a fair test, does it? Taking the highly-regarded, do-it-all, no-effort-spared-inside-or-out Grand Cherokee, a trucklet so near and dear to our hearts that my father just bought one, and putting it up against the old-platform Edge, a car that was never a favorite of the critics even when it was new. This is like letting Ivan Drago into the ring with Apollo Creed, right?

The thing is, the public doesn’t share the autojourno opinion. True, our own Tim Cain’s rankings show the mighty JGC at #21 in the US-market March sales chart, moving a strong YTD of 40,838. However, the Edge is #33, with a YTD of 33,238. Furthermore, both vehicles are showing a positive sales trend compared to last year. As far as your neighbor is concerned, the bloom is firmly attached to both of these roses.

Our silver Ford Edge SEL was the best of a fairly bad bunch of available CUVs and SUVs for the return leg from LGA to PWL (okay, I just made that up; Powell certainly doesn’t have an airport, although there’s a place to fly model airplanes near the Splash Park) and although we’d have liked to have had an example with lower mileage on the clock, it didn’t really make much of a difference. The Edge has always counted a remarkably solid-feeling structure among its obvious virtues. When my son’s mother traded her Flex Limited for an Edge Limited three years ago, I was immediately struck at just how much more solid, heavy, and inert the Edge felt compared to its larger and (it must be said) more pedigreed sibling. It’s an illusion; the Flex is bigger and it performs better in a crash. But the Edge just feels milled somehow. Probably because in some ways it’s basically an old Fusion with an extra half-ton of metal bolted on somewhere. Thirty-plus-thousand miles of rental abuse didn’t change that.

My first impression of the Edge, as Bark M. picked us up outside the hotel, was positive: it holds more actual luggage than the Grand Cherokee, by quite a bit. The assemblage of roller bags, Tumi carryalls, and laptop messenger cases that filled the Jeep to the roof didn’t even impede rear vision in the Edge. The same was true for the rear seat, which offered more room for shoulders and feet. On the negative side, the center rear armrest was remarkably crappy and, unlike the Jeep’s, forced you to choose between having cups in the fold-out holders and actually using it as an armrest.

Once on the move, however, it became apparent that road noise was going to be a conversational deterrent. Some vehicles are absolutely brilliant when it comes to having a four-corner talk among occupants; my Phaetons were almost too good at it, because you could hear the whispers between occupants in the other row. The Edge is on the other end of the spectrum; it’s necessary to raise your voice to be heard ahead or behind. The Flex, for what it’s worth, is better. In fact, the Flex is better than the Edge at almost everything. Had we been able to get a Flex to go face-to-face with the Jeep for this test, the finishing order wouldn’t have been nearly as obvious.

As a base SEL, the Edge has basic cloth seats. As we expected, the front seats didn’t measure up to the JGC Limited’s leather-lined chairs in any way — but in back, it was a different story. I’ve had a few ribs and vertebrae broken in the past few months and I found the Edge’s rear seats to be much better than the Grand Cherokee’s, in both short-term comfort and long-term support. The same three-hundred-mile stretch that had my ribs audibly cracking and snapping in the Jeep turned out to be no problem in the Ford, even though I’d been pre-brutalized by the trip out to NYC.

When it came my turn to drive, on the other hand, I immediately wished to be a passenger again. The Edge is so completely outclassed as an on-road proposition by the JGC that it’s hard to believe that the former is the transverse-engined platform sans off-road pretenses. Only in lane-change transitional behavior does the Ford have any edge whatsoever over the Jeep; there’s a secondary wobble-back that just doesn’t happen in the Edge. It’s a slightly more relaxing vehicle to pilot for that reason alone.

Nominally, the 3.5V6 in the Edge is a near equal to the 3.6 Pentastar V6 in the Chrysler product, but in the real world it’s not as good, possibly because of the brilliant ZF automatic you get with the Pentastar. Mileage, too, isn’t quite up to par. I drove both vehicles in a conscious effort to maximize reported economy, never exceeding 85mph and staying in cruise control for long stretches of time, and the Edge claimed 23.6mpg on a segment where the Grand Cherokee claimed 25.1. Brakes are okay on both cars, but neither offers the stepping-on-a-steel-block feel you’d get from, say, the monobloc Brembos on a Cayenne. These cars are built to go (shopping), not stop (global warming).

In most respects, the Edge feels a generation behind the JGC. It isn’t just the little touches, like the USB charging ports for both rear seats in the Jeep. Rather, it’s the entire touch-and-feel interface between you and the car. This is a long-in-the-tooth refresh of a twelve-year-old platform, and it feels like it. Nearly five years ago, I was pretty impressed by a loaded Limited, as you can see in the below LLN video of which I’m not particularly proud:

Okay, you have to admit the pizza thing was kind of funny. Or not. Anyway. This SEL doesn’t have most of the stuff you see in that video, which makes it feel even older than it is. Surely Ford’s amortized this platform to the point where they should be able to throw the full MyFordTouch system in at the $32,395 net price of our base AWD SEL, but they continue to expect that you’ll spend an additional two grand to get it. If you don’t — and National Car Rental certainly didn’t — you get a Fiesta-grade interior screen about the size of what you got with the original Nintendo GameBoy.

The net effect is surprisingly downmarket for a vehicle that costs more than a loaded Camcord. The stereo, in particular, is embarrassingly poor. There’s not a lot of surprise and delight here for the money. Some of the interior trim, like the door cards, just feels deliberately crappy. Other parts are simply plain, and that’s no longer good enough in this segment.

You can argue that the Edge SEL works best as a bait-and-switch to get you into a much better-equipped Limited. That vehicle would have been a better competitor to the Grand Cherokee Limited, which at a net $39,390 is more than twenty percent pricier. In fact for $38,695, you can get an Edge Sport AWD, which has the motor and the equipment to take the fight directly to Jeep. In the final analysis, however, it wasn’t the frosting that caused us to rank the Ford second. It was the cake underneath it, which is stale. Eventually, the sales numbers will reflect that. In the meantime, feel free to avoid adding to them.

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Is This The Future of In-Car Infotainment? Continental’s Flexible Smartphone Docking Station http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/is-this-the-future-of-in-car-infotainment-continentals-flexible-smartphone-docking-station/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/is-this-the-future-of-in-car-infotainment-continentals-flexible-smartphone-docking-station/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 16:31:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797898 file_CO1676_Flexible_Smartphone_Docking

Former Hyundai executive John Krafcik recently spoke about connectivity and autonomy and of the possibility that electronic gizmos in our cars may make us less connected to the driving experience. That’s not the only challenge automakers and drivers face when it comes to electronics in cars. After seeing the missteps that Ford has made with Sync and MyFordTouch, with systems seemingly too complicated or not reliable enough for many drivers, it appears to me that the challenge of chasing a technological treadmill to try and keep cars, which most consumers keep for years, electronically up to date, is a fools errand. Comments to Derek’s post on Krafcik’s statement indicated that there’s definitely a market for less complicated car electronics. People have asked, “why does my car need to duplicate the more up-to-date services that my smartphone provides?” Well, someone at Continental Tire’s electronics and instrument division, VDO, asked that same question and they came up with the Flexible Smartphone Docking Station.

Actually, they didn’t ask that precise question because the FSDS seems to have been originally intended for use in commercial trucks, not passenger cars, but it should work with any 12 volt electrical system. I found out about Continental’s phone dock while I was updating our coverage of Elio Motors and the inexpensive three wheeler they say they’ll start making and selling next year. As part of the deal for Continental to provide Elio with electrical and electronic engineering services that include the vehicle’s wiring harness and engine control unit, Elio will also offer the FSDS system as an option on their trikes. It’s a clever and seemingly cost-effective way of providing what we now call infotainment without having to spend lots of money developing software that will be obsolete while the original owners are still driving their cars. I go over the FSDS in my update about Elio, but not everyone is interested in the Elio trike, and this has relevance to the general discussion of connectivity complexity so I thought I’d break this out into a separate post with a bit more detail.

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Continental’s Flexible Smartphone Docking Station (FSDS) has simple controls and software designed for one-click operation.

Continental’s Commercial Vehicles & Aftermarket division, along with VDO, introduced the Flexible Smartphone Docking Station (FSDS) at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show and has been showing it since then at trucking industry trade shows as part of a suite of connectivity products. The FSDS system was designed to let truck drivers’ integrate their smartphones with their vehicles. It appears that Continental is also marketing it as AutoLinQ™Mobile. AutoLinQ is Continental’s brand for in-vehicle connectivity.

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The FSDS installed in the Elio Motors trike.

The phone mounts to the FSDS with a mechanical clamp designed to hold most smartphones and comes with a phone app, developed by Continental, that enables the availability of phone features, including online services, while driving. The unit, which connects  to the smartphone via standard Bluetooth profiles, has an onboard audio amplifier with four channels rated at 20 Watts per channel, an integrated station seeking FM tuner, a 5 volt USB tap for charging your phone and it’s already configured to interface with your vehicle via the CAN bus (which to me sounds like your phone could theoretically be used to control some of your car’s features, just like a built in touch screen). Audio files on thumb drives and memory cards can also be accessed via the USB port on the FSDS’ mounting plate.

In terms of what you can do with it, VDO says that the FSDS app includes the smartphone functions drivers require most while driving, such as phone calls, maps, online points of interest, and music selection. All features use text to speech to reduce distracted driving, and the app bundles related services such as Community (communication & social networking), Vehicle (audio entertainment) and Proximity (individual add-ons) so they can be accessed with a single click. The FSDS is sized to fit a standard single height DIN slot so it can easily be installed in any vehicle made to take a radio. The controls appear to be simple, with just a power switch and a four-position controller.

When they introduced it last year Continental was promoting the FSDS to OEMs and fleets, though it’s being marketed by the same part of Continental that sells to the aftermarket and it’s got obvious potential as something people might want to use to update older cars that have “radios” and “stereos”, not “infotainment”. TTAC has a request in to Continental for pricing information and any news on consumer availability.

With production lead times measured in years rather than months, car makers can’t possibly keep up with the changes in digital consumer electronics and related software applications. By the time a car company’s latest revision to their infotainment systems hits the showrooms, it’s obsolete compared to what many car buyers already have in their pockets and purses. My first thought was that other car companies may follow Elio’s lead and offer the FSDS or something very  much like it in order to provide modern infotainment features in their entry level cars. On second thought, considering that Audi had some consumer issues with early iterations of their MMI system, some folks hate Cadillac’s CUE interface, and Jaguar’s touchscreens’ slow response became a cliche for car reviewers, smartphone or tablet based “infotainment” systems may not be restricted to just the low end of the market.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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The Deuce’s Coupe – Henry Ford II’s Personal Prototype Mustang http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/the-deuces-coupe-henry-ford-iis-personal-prototype-mustang/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/the-deuces-coupe-henry-ford-iis-personal-prototype-mustang/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 01:56:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804458 IMG_0600

Full gallery here.

Fifty years ago this week, the first Ford Mustang went on sale. While Lee Iacocca is considered by many to be the father of the Mustang, the simple reality is that without the approval of Henry Ford II, the chief executive at Ford, the Mustang would never have happened. That took some doing. After American Motors had shown the viability of compact cars, in 1960, Ford introduced the Falcon, Chevrolet introduced the Corvair, and Pontiac brought out the original, compact, Tempest. When GM introduced the sportier Monza versions of the Corvair, Iacocca, who by then was a Ford corporate VP and general manager of the Ford division, wanted something to compete with it. Henry Ford II, aka “Hank the Deuce”, had to be convinced to spend money on the project, just a few short years after FoMoCo took a serious financial hit when the Edsel brand did not have a successful launch. Iacocca, one of the great salesmen, not only sold his boss on the concept of the Mustang, the Deuce came to love the pony car so much he had a very special one made just for himself.

 

Multiple accounts from other participants in the story affirm that HFII was reluctant to give the Mustang program a green light. By early 1962, Iacocca had already been turned down at least twice, with Ford shouting “No! No!” when Ford’s division boss asked for $75 million to go after the youth market with a reskinned Falcon. Iacocca’s unofficial “Fairlane Committee”, an advanced product planning group that met every couple of weeks at the Fairlane Motel, away from prying eyes and ears at the Glass House, Ford’s World headquarters, had been working on the Mustang idea, but the team despaired of getting HFII’s approval.

In an interview on the Mustang’s genesis, Iacocca explained his challenge:

Henry Ford II had just dealt with one of the biggest losses in Ford history with the Edsel. It was dumped just one year earlier at a loss of $250 million. Henry was not receptive to launching a new, unproven line of cars which would present further risk to the company.

I made a number of trips to his office before I gained approval to build. He told me if it wasn’t a success, it would be my ass, and I might be looking for a new job elsewhere.

Surprisingly, Iacocca got word that Ford would let him pitch the as yet unnamed sporty car one more time. With the meeting scheduled for the next morning, Iacocca convened an emergency meeting of his secret committee. Things had to be secret because in the wake of the Edsel debacle, Ford’s corporate culture had become very cautious.

According to Ford head of public relations and Iacocca’s speechwriter Walter T. Murphy, who was at the meeting, the group included: Don Frey, Ford’s chief product planner; John Bowers, advertising manager; Frank Zimmerman, Ford division head of marketing; Robert Eggert, the company’s chief market research authority; Hal Sperlich, who wore many hats as Iacocca’s right hand man (and would follow him to Chrysler): and William Laurie, senior officer of Ford’s advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson.

In a 1989 account that he wrote for Ward’s Auto, Murphy described the scene:

“What I need are some fresh grabbers for my meeting tomorrow morning with Henry at the Glass House,” Mr. Iacocca told his committee (Note: we always called him Henry at meetings when Mr. Ford was not present), Bob Eggert, the researcher, was first at bat: “Lee, let’s lead off with the name of the car we’ve decided on.”

The feeling was that Henry didn’t know we were picking the Mustang name and he’d be entranced. Mr. Frey supported Mr. Eggert. “That’s a good way to go, but emphasize that this stylish pony car will kick GM’s Monza square in the balls.” Henry should love that! “I’ve got it,” Mr. Iacocca responded as he snapped shut the little car research binder that Mr. Eggert had slipped in front of him. “Murphy, put together some notes for me by early tomorrow morning. Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.”

The following morning Mr. Ford stretched out in his leather chair, fingers clasped atop his expanding belly. Mr. Iacocca stood holding a few index cards. He was not smoking or fingering a cigar, as he usually did. Mr. Ford asked “What have you got, Lee?”

Lee launched into his pitch on the market for the youthful low-cost cars that Ford once dominated but had surrendered to GM along with a bushel of profit/penetration points. “Now this new little pony car, the Mustang, would give an orgasm to anyone under 30,” he said. Henry sat upright as if he had been jabbed with a needle. “What was that you said, Lee?” asked Mr. Ford.

Lee began to repeat his orgasm line but Mr. Ford interrupted. “No not that crap, what did you call the car?” “It’s the Mustang, Mr. Ford, a name that will sell like hell.” “Sounds good; have Frey take it to the product planning committee and get it approved. And as of now, you’ve got $75 million to fund your Mustang.”

In the end, Henry Ford II’s approval of the Mustang came down to the name. I’ll note that Walker’s recollection is slightly different than that of Iacocca, who says that Ford initially committed just $45 million for the project.

The Mustang team first developed the four cylinder midengine Mustang (now known as Mustang I) concept for the 1962 show circuit, gauging interest in a sporty car targeted at young people. Because of cost concerns, they were likely to never build such a car (the Edsel failure guaranteed that the car would have to be based on an existing Ford car), but the reaction was positive, leading to the Falcon based Mustang II concept (not to be confused with the 1974 Mustang II production car). The Mustang II was based on a very early preproduction Mustang body shell, first used for a styling study with stretched front end (with “Cougar” badging – the name that convinced HFII was chosen very late in the process)  and then taken out on the ’63 auto show circuit to drum up interest in the new car. The Mustang II is owned by the Detroit Historical Museum and it would be hard to put a dollar value on such a rare and historically significant Mustang.

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Henry Ford II with the Mustang at Ford’s pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where the Mustang was first introduced to the public. Above and behind him you can see one of the convertibles used in the Walt Disney Co. designed Magic Skyway that carried visitors through Ford’s exhibit.

Before the official start of Mustang production on March 9, 1964, in February Ford started to build actual preproduction prototypes of the Mustang, about 180 of them in all. The bodies-in-white were pilot plant units built off of body bucks by Ford Body & Assembly in Allen Park, which explains the leaded seams. The bodies were then trucked to the nearby Dearborn assembly plant where they were assembled as part of the validation process.

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From left to right: Lee Iacocca, Henry Ford II, and Gene Bordinat

One of of those preproduction prototypes was set aside for special treatment by Ford Design. Ten years later, it was just another old Mustang when Art Cairo spotted a classified ad in a Detroit newspaper that read, ”1965 Mustang once owned by the Ford family.” The asking price was a very reasonable $1,000 so Cairo went to look at the car. He found what appeared to be a Hi-Po 289 hardtop in black. It had some unusual parts, though. The vinyl roof was leather, not vinyl, as was the interior upholstery and dashpad. The brightwork on the wheel arch lips was die-cast, not anodized aluminum as on production cars. Door jams and trunk openings had fully leaded seams, and there were features like GT foglights in the grille, exhaust tips and styled steel wheels that were not available on early production Mustangs. Under the hood, there was an alternator instead of a generator, which was what ran the electrical system of early Mustangs. The only Ford products that offered alternators in mid 1964 were Lincolns.

On the interior, in addition to leather seats there was real teakwood, molded leather door panels with pistol-grip door handles, and a factory reverb unit and rear speaker under the package shelf. Door strikers and latches were chrome plated. In addition to what appeared to be an authentic High Performance 289, the car had disc brakes up front, a “top loader” four speed manual transmission and a 9 inch rear end with a 3.50:1 final drive ratio.

When Art read the VIN, 5F07K100148, and realized that it was a genuine “K code” Mustang, an early production “1964 1/2″ model, with a real Hi-Po 289 and lots of oddball parts, he recognized that it was a special car and that he needed to buy it (it would turn out later that Cairo’s Mustang was the very first K-code Mustang built). In the glovebox he found an owner’s manual for a ’65 Mustang written with the name “Edsel B. Ford II” and a Grosse Pointe address. The VIN in the manual, however, was for a fastback and didn’t match the one in the car.

Edsel, Henry Ford II’s son, would have been in high school when the car was new so Cairo figured it was an authentic Ford family car and bought it, assuming it was the younger Ford’s personal car. In 1983, when Art was interviewing Edsel for the Mustang Monthly magazine, Edsel revealed to him that the hardtop was not his, but his father’s and that somehow the owner’s manual for his fastback ’65 ended up with his dad’s car. Since the car’s restoration, Edsel autographed the teakwood glovebox door.

It turns out that while the cars were built for Ford family members to use, they were not titled to the Ford’s but rather remained the possession of the Ford company. After Henry and Edsel were done with their Mustangs, they were returned to FoMoCo and sold. The story that Cairo had heard was that the Deuce gave his Mustang to his chauffeur, who then sold it to the person who sold it to Cairo.

In addition to the changes mentioned above, other modifications were discovered when the car was finally restored. The alternator meant that the car had a custom wiring harness. A steel scatter shield was welded into the transmission tunnel in case of a failure of the clutch or flywheel. The engine was a real Hi-Po 289, but it had experimental cylinder heads, and even the steering box was not a production unit. The original headliner was leather, to match the roof and upholstery and in addition to all the real wood and chrome plating, a custom AM radio with die-cast knobs and buttons was installed.

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“X” stands for experimental. The Hi-Po 289 V8 in Henry Ford II’s personal Mustang had experimental heads.

The fog lamps, exhaust trumpets and die-cast moldings were developmental parts planned to be introduced the following year, installed by Ford Design.

As mentioned, when Cairo bought the car, he knew it was special, being an early K-code car, but he didn’t take the Ford family provenance that seriously. He loaned the car to his brother, who beat on it pretty hard until something broke in the 289′s valvetrain. Art retrieved the keys, overhauled the heads and did a mild restoration and respray.

He didn’t drive it much because his job involving new vehicle launches at Ford kept him on the road a lot, moving from assembly plant to assembly plant. Though he drove 5F07K100148 sparingly, for the most part the car was unknown to the Mustang community.

In 2002, Cairo started getting worried about the long term effects of inactivity and humidity and a deep inspection found significant decay, rust and rodent damage. Rustbusters, a restoration shop in Redford, Michigan was entrusted with the car.

This was going to be a complicated job. Some parts, like the headliner and upholstery are so original they cannot be “restored”. How do you restore a one off with a replica?

The car was carefully taken apart, with copious notes and photographs taken. Once disassembled, they discovered that the rust had eaten through body panels, floors, frame-rails, wheelhouses, quarter-panels, inner fenders, doors, and the cowl vent. Had this been a run of the mill ’65 Mustang, most owners would have removed the VIN and bought a replacement body from Dynacorn.

Instead, with the help of reproduction company National Parts Depot, Rustbusters used a body jig custom designed for vintage Mustangs and repaired all of the sheet metal. A modern self-etching primer sealer was used as was polymer seam sealer, but Cairo was able to locate some vintage Ford Raven Black enamel, and after spraying, the Mustang was color sanded and hand rubbed old school style to replicate a 1964 era paint job. Unfortunately, the die-cast prototype wheel-lip moldings were too corroded to use.

Early production Mustangs came with an unimproved hood that had sharp edges, replaced in 1965 with a hood that had a rolled lip. Since all preproduction and Indy Pace Car Mustangs (Ford provided the pace car for the 1964 race) that have surfaced so far feature the later style hood, Art decided to go with the “1965″ hood, which is how he found the car when he bought it.

The engine was rebuilt to factory specs, other than a .030 overbore, but inspections revealed that both the transmission and rear end just needed new seals and gaskets.

The car was finished just in time for Ford’s centennial in 2003 and Art was invited to display his car in front of Ford World Headquarters as part of the 100th anniversary celebration. This month it’s appropriately back in the lobby of the “Glass House”, whose official name is the Henry Ford II World Center, along with some other historic Mustangs, to celebrate the Mustang’s semicentennial.

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New or Used: Can One Car Last Through Five Kids? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-can-one-car-last-through-five-kids/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-can-one-car-last-through-five-kids/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:58:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804162 brady1

I currently have three cars and I feel a hankering to buy a fourth. My wife has bought into the idea, now it’s just a matter of what to get.

The particulars:

- Five kids between the ages of 5 and 15…

- Active duty military with seven (7!) moves since 2005 with a couple more likely over the next several years
- Three current cars are all paid for
- Commute is 35 highway miles each way and will be that way for at least the next 18 months and maybe longer
- Car #1 – 2006 Honda Odyssey with ~120,000 miles (bought new)
- Car #2 – 2007 Honda Accord 5 speed with ~83,000 miles (bought used)
- Car #3 – 1969 Jeepster Commando that’s been in my family since 1973.

Our oldest turns 16 in a few months and we’d like to get a vehicle that the kids can all drive over the next 13 years. Note that I said ‘a’ vehicle as we keep our cars a long time and don’t intend on getting another car for the kids to share. One and done.

What should that fourth vehicle be? I see really only two paths that make sense.

First option: Get a car that pushes 40+mpg to ease the pain at the pump my commute causes. Possible vehicle: my Dad is selling his 2011 Jetta TDI 5 speed wagon this fall and I have dibs, if I so choose. This option would mean that the kids would drive the Accord, which we’re fine with.

Second option: Get something that can double as the kids’ car and that we can use to tow the Commando on our future moves. This means I would keep commuting in my Accord, which is also fine. Budget is about $7K max and we’ll pay cash.

We are leaning strongly towards getting a third gen 4Runner (’96-’01) with a V6, 4×4 and tow package as the min requirements. Manual is highly desired but not required. There are several for sale where we live (north of LA) and examples with 150-175k miles can be found for around $5k, although most are automatics. Reviews and 4Runner forums seem to portend good news regarding longevity with relatively straight forward maintenance required. My fear? My vehicle aperture isn’t nearly wide enough and that there are lots of other good options out there that we’re not considering. Whatever the fourth vehicle ends up being, there isn’t a requirement that it be able to carry all seven of us.

I leave it in your capable hands. What does your magic 8 ball say? (It better not say to buy a Panther, ’cause it ain’t happening!)

Cheers,

Steve Says

I like your first option the best.

If your kids learn how to drive a stick (good move there!), they will eventually get a far better vehicle in the marketplace as they get older and more independent.

As a car dealer circa 2014, it amazes me how so few people know how to drive a stick these days. When it comes to older vehicles, I find that sticks will go for about 15% to 35% cheaper than their automatic counterparts with a few notable exceptions

I still buy a lot of em’ for retail, and although they sit at my lot for longer periods of time, they also attract customers who are far more conscientious about maintenance and upkeep. This helps me when it comes to financing these rides. Since a car that is well kept tends to have fewer issues.

As for option 2, yes, the Toyota 4Runner has an excellent long-term reliability record. But let me throw in an alternative that will cost thousands less and have a solid reliability record as well.

I would consider a Mitsubishi Montero  from the early 2000′s. If you buy one with the 3.5 Liter, they are virtually bulletproof, and the kids will benefit from a higher seating position.  The gas mileage will remain abysmal. But in the real world the 3.5 Liter in the Montero will get you a vehicle with about half the miles of the 4Runner for the same price, and the reliability of that particular powertrain is solid (<—click).

Maintenance history is critically important when buying older SUV’s because a lot of them are neglected and inevitably hot-potatoed in the used car market . So get it independently inspected and only opt for ones that have a strong maintenance regimen. Otherwise you will also be buying someone else’s problems.

Good luck! Oh, and if you decide to not buy an older SUV, I have a beige on beige Toyota Solara with a V6, no CD player, and a hand shaker in between the front seats. I’m thinking about naming it, “The Rolling Leper” in honor if it more or less being an unsellable car.

If you don’t have to tow, go find the west coast version of a low-spec Solara. In a non-rust climate like central California, I think a car like that would probably be the optimal fit.

All the best.

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GM Saved From ‘Park It Now’ Order, Looks To Strengthen Liability Protections http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-saved-from-park-it-now-order-looks-to-strengthen-liability-protections/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-saved-from-park-it-now-order-looks-to-strengthen-liability-protections/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804122 Recalled GM ignition switch

The Detroit News reports U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos delivered a six-page ruling in favor of General Motors, saving the automaker from issuing a “park it now” order that would have proved costly both financially and in reputation. Had the order gone forward, it would have set a precedent that not even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could attempt in its limited penalty power. The attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit for the order, Robert Hilliard, may appeal.

In other legal news, GM has filed a request with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco to prevent lawsuits filed against the automaker in recall-related incidents prior to the 2009 exit from bankruptcy, reinforcing the liability protections established during the bankruptcy proceedings. GM is currently facing 41 separate lawsuits from 19 U.S. district courts, which may be consolidated into a single venue by a judicial panel in the early stages. The bankruptcy court in New York will rule on jurisdiction April 25.

Autoblog reports CEO Mary Barra will create a new group within the company to be headed by vice president of global product development Mark Reuss that will work with vice president of global vehicle safety Jeff Boyer in monitoring new products for potential safety concerns. Barra also addressed the suspension of engineers Gary Altman and Ray DeGiorgio during her 2014 NYIAS eve announcement:

Let me be really clear, these are real people with real careers, and I’m personally dedicated to making sure we have true facts of what happened… We agonized over that decision, but we thought that was the right thing for the individuals and right thing for the company at this time.

The Detroit News adds North America president Alan Bately, speaking before analysts and investors at the 2014 New York Auto Summit during the 2014 New York Auto Show Wednesday, proclaimed his employer was focused on safety, citing the Chevrolet Trax’s standard rearview camera as an example. When asked about the recall and whether money would be set aside to handle warranty and liability claims down the road, however, Bately said that until internal investigator Anton Valakus completed his work, GM wouldn’t have any answers to offer.

Meanwhile, the myriad of documents delivered to Congress and the NHTSA this week threw more fuel to the smoldering recall crisis when it was revealed GM and supplier Delphi redesigned an ignition switch on the Cadillac SRX prior to production in February 2006 after test drivers accidentally bumped the ignition out of power in a manner similar to the switch at the heart of the recall, which didn’t see a redesign until April of the same year. GM added that the expanded recall of 2008 – 2011 vehicles affected by the out-of-spec switch would cost the automaker $40 million, and that 109 vehicles not under the recall may have received the defective part, as well.

Finally, Fortune magazine senior editor-in-chief Allan Sloan posits that Barra was thrown under the bus GM built in the 13 years prior to then-CEO Dan Akerson passing the torch to her late last year. He also suggests that instead of the federal government, the media and the general public taking her to task for everything wrong with GM as of late, blame should be laid at the feet of the correct people involved in setting the stage: Rick Wagoner, Ed Whitacre and Akerson.

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Horn: VW Phaeton To Return To US In 2018 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/horn-vw-phaeton-to-return-to-us-in-2018/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/horn-vw-phaeton-to-return-to-us-in-2018/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804098 phaetons

In an interview with Bloomberg at the 2014 New York Auto Show, Volkswagen America CEO Michael Horn says the Phaeton will return to the United States market as early as 2018.

Autoblog reports the full-size luxury sedan — which last sold in 2006 on our shores — has been under consideration by the automaker for a return sometime between 2018 and 2019. No word has been given on whether or not the 2018 Phaeton will be underpinned by the Bentley Continental Flying Spur, as it was the last time the sedan was sold.

Whether the return will be marred once more by customers scoffing at the idea of paying Audi-A8 money for a VW badge depends on what Horn does to improve dealer relationships, which are strained between the automaker and the network as of late. Currently, both sides are in negotiations regarding improvements to bonuses, marketing and other issues in the hope narrowing the “great distance” between the two parties.

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Beijing 2014: Production-Ready Ford Escort To Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-production-ready-ford-escort-to-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-production-ready-ford-escort-to-debut/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:30:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804042 000-ford-escort-concept-shanghai

After several years of dormancy, Ford revived the Escort name for a concept sedan at last year’s Shanghai Motor Show. That concept is now production-ready, and will make its debut this weekend at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show.

Autoblog reports the Escort will be made locally in China through a joint venture, and may sport either a three- or four-cylinder powerplant driving the front wheels.

As for other global markets, an Escort was spotted in Europe earlier this month undergoing testing, but nothing more has come of it.

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New York 2014: BMW Debuts 2015 228i Coupe With Track Handling Package http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-bmw-debuts-2015-228i-coupe-with-track-handling-package/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-bmw-debuts-2015-228i-coupe-with-track-handling-package/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803970 bmw-228-track-1-1

For those who opt to save $11,000 by selecting the 2015 BMW 228i Coupe over the M235i, a new Track Handling Package will soon join the options list to help bring the coupe on par with the M235i’s handling skills.

Though power will remain the same — a 240-horsepower four cylinder — Autoblog reports the package will enhance the 228i Coupe’s handling through BMW’s Adaptive M Suspension, Variable Sport Steering, and for stopping power, M Sport Brakes. A set of Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires on exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels aid in delivering the goods to the road.

The Track Handling Package will be available to 228i Coupes with either six-speed manual or eight-speed Sport Automatic transmissions beginning this July, and can be selected during the ordering process. Pricing will be announced closer to its showroom arrival.

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New York 2014: 2015 SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Edition Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-srt-viper-anodized-carbon-edition-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-srt-viper-anodized-carbon-edition-unveiled/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:29:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803802 2015-SRT-Viper-Anodized-Carbon-Time-Attack-Edition-3

In an effort to help boost lagging sales, the 2015 SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Edition was unveiled at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The Viper ACE will be limited to 50 units, with the last 10 receiving both a Time Attack package injection and matte gunmetal “Metallic Matte” paint. Orange stitching in the upholstery and gunmetal bezels make up the rest of the story.

As for how much, it may fall under the standard SRT Viper’s base of $100,000, though SRT has yet to say anything on pricing.

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New York 2014: 2015 Infiniti Q70 Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-infiniti-q70-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-infiniti-q70-revealed/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:14:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803746 2015-Infiniti-Q70-01

Appearing alongside the 2015 Infiniti QX80 at the 2014 New York Auto Show, the 2015 Q70 takes dead aim at the German performance and large sedan markets.

Though the Q70 takes its looks from the Q50, it won’t have the latter’s steer-by-wire system, nor Infiniti’s newest two-screen infotainment system. What it will have is a long-wheelbase variant dubbed the Q70L, which will boast 5.9 inches of rear-seat legroom and a choice of either the 3.7-liter V6 good for 330 horsepower or the 5.6-liter V8 pushing 416 horsepower; the standard model will have four more horsepower from the V8, as well as a hybrid option not available to the newer addition.

Safety systems for both models include lane-departure prevention, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and Backup Collision Intervention.

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New York 2014: 2015 Infiniti QX80 Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-infiniti-qx80-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-infiniti-qx80-unveiled/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803666 2015-Infiniti-QX80-side-angle

The 2015 Infiniti QX80 joined the 2015 Q70 on stage for its unveiling at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

Under the massive hood lies a 5.6-liter V8 delivering 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft to all four corners through a seven-speed automatic, while safety tech such as automatic-dipping headlights and Predictive Front Collision Warning System aim to deliver all inside safely to the office.

For those wanting something more exclusive, the QX80 Limited ups the game with 22-inch wheels and ash wood trim to the self-described “man cave,” in addition to the standard entertainment system, high-grade leather and adjustable seating.

No word on how many Limiteds will be built, let alone for how much one will sell, but for the rest of us, the base price may be higher than the $63,695 for the outgoing model when the new SUVs arrive in U.S. showrooms this fall.

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New York 2014: 2015 Kia Sedona Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-kia-sedona-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-kia-sedona-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:34:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803610 2015-Kia-Sedona-4

The 2015 Kia Sedona quietly made its public debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show, ready to take up to eight passengers to the nearest Trader Joe’s after soccer practice.

Behind the tiger nose, Kia dropped in a 3.3-liter V6 pushing 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic.

Inside, up eight passengers can pile in depending on configuration, with third-row riders receiving 34.8 inches of legroom, second-row gaining 41.1 inches, and the parents enjoying 43.1 inches up front. Access to the third row is enabled by the Sedona’s Slide-n-Stow system in the second row, which also allows for increased storage room if needed.

Other features include auto-opening tailgate, surround-view monitoring, electronic stability control and ABS.

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New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Challenger Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-debuted/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-debuted/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:07:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803530 2015-Dodge-Challenger-7

Prior to the 2015 Dodge Charger descending onto the stage, the 2015 Challenger made its world debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The Challenger will arrive in showrooms ahead of its sedan brother in Q3 2014, and will bring with it eight different trims, including the R/T Shaker and 392 HEMI Scat Pack. Under the hood — whether shaking or static — a choice of three engines will send power to either the standard six-speed manual or the new eight-speed Torqueflite automatic: 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 (305 hp); 5.7-liter HEMI V8 (375 hp); and 6.4-liter HEMI V8 (470 hp/lb-ft of torque).

Inside, drivers will have adjustable gauges, UConnect with remote-start and Performance Pages adjustable performance system, and two touchscreens at the ready.

As for outside, the new Challenger takes its cues from the 1971 Challenger, though with modern upgrades such as LED daytime running lights and LED tail lamps.

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New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Charger Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-charger-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-charger-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:32:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803314 2015-Dodge-Charger-10

Alongside the 2015 Dodge Challenger, the 2015 Charger made its debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The Charger, which will follow the Challenger to the showroom a few months later, will bring both the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter HEMI V8 to the party. The former will push 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic, which will also help send the HEMI’s 370 horses and 395 lb-ft of tire-destroying torque to the back or, if equipped, all four wheels.

The big change, however, is its Dart/Durango-esque look, including LED daytime running lights and the blacked-out grill that will likely be obscured by the bull bar of the police-ready variant when the fleet orders are delivered and prepped.

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New York 2014: 2016 Audi A3 TDI Sportback Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2016-audi-a3-tdi-sportback-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2016-audi-a3-tdi-sportback-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:22:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803234 2015-Audi-A3-TDI-Sportback-6

The 2016 Audi A3 TDI Sportback turned up at the 2014 New York Auto Show wearing white over its diesel-driven FWD system and automatic transmission.

The diesel in question is a 2-liter turbo pushing 150 horsepower to the front through a standard six-speed S tronic transmission.

Inside, drivers can kick out the jams through the hatchback’s MMI infotainment and Bang & Olufsen audio systems while passengers make use of the on-board 4G LTE connection.

No word on pricing, fuel economy or other details beyond an arrival time of Summer 2015.

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New York 2014: 2015 Subaru Outback Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-subaru-outback-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-subaru-outback-revealed/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:21:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803114 2015-Subaru-Outback-06

The 2015 Subaru Outback made a stop at the 2014 New York Auto Show as the fifth-generation wagon makes its way to the showroom floor this summer.

Under the bonnet, a choice of either a 2.5-liter flat-4 or 3.6-liter flat-6 will send 175 to 256 horsepower through a standard CVT to all four corners. The Legacy-esque Outback should average 28 mpg from the flat-4, 22 with the flat-6.

As for safety, rearview camera, pre-collision braking and adaptive cruise control make up part of the overall driver-protection package on-offer from Subaru.

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New York 2014: Honda Announces 2015 Fit-Based HR-V CUV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-honda-announces-2015-fit-based-hr-v-cuv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-honda-announces-2015-fit-based-hr-v-cuv/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:54:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803034 honda-hr-v-2

Automotive News reports Honda announced the Fit-based subcompact crossover will be called the HR-V, releasing the first official photos during the 2014 New York Auto Show. The crossover will enter U.S. showrooms later this year from Honda’s Celaya, Mexico plant, where the Fit is made, and will be priced just below the CR-V, currently $23,775 to start.

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New York 2014: Mazda Skyactiv Chassis Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-mazda-skyactiv-chassis-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-mazda-skyactiv-chassis-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:14:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=802970 Mazda-Skyactiv-Chassis-05

While Mazda’s new MX-5 Miata’s debut will have to wait another day, the iconic roadster’s new Skyactiv Chassis made the rounds at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

As demonstrated, the new chassis places the engine further back toward the center while providing the upcoming Miata with a lower center of gravity and 220 pounds in weight savings over the outgoing chassis. Front and rear suspensions have been reworked, and steering improvements have been made, including the introduction of electric power steering.

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New York 2014: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-alfa-romeo-4c-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-alfa-romeo-4c-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:28:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=802842 Alfa-Romeo-4C-01

Coming soon to a Maserati or select Fiat dealership near you, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C turned up at the 2014 New York Auto Show Wednesday before its U.S. showroom debut this June.

Putting the power to the back is a 1.75-liter turbo-four pushing 237 horsepower through a dual-clutch transmission, more than enough to move the 2,200-pound sports car and its carbon fiber monocoque chassis down the highway.

Up front, last year’s compound-eye headlamps can now be replaced by the 4C Spider’s more traditional configuration if so desired.

As for how much to take a 4C home, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has yet to say anything on price, as well as how it will market the car in the United States. Originally, Fiat dealerships were going to sell the Alfa exclusively, but as of now, only a select group of Fiat dealers will sell the 4C alongside Maserati, who will act as the primary dealer.

Whatever happens, the first 500 4Cs will arrive in showrooms this June, and will be a part of a commemorative launch edition.

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New York 2014: Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-land-rover-discovery-vision-concept-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-land-rover-discovery-vision-concept-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:58:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=802778 Land-Rover-Discovery-Vision-Concept-06

The future of the Land Rover Discovery family — the Discovery Vision concept — was unveiled before attendees at the 2014 New York Auto Show Wednesday.

The concept SUV’s design language will be echoed throughout the entire family that will begin entering showrooms in the coming years, though that’s only the beginning for the Discovery’s silver future.

Among the many driving enhancements on-board the concept include Remote Drive Control — allowing the driver to maneuver their Defender out of the bog without needing to be behind the wheel — Transparent Bonnet display for avoiding obstacles obscured by the height of the bonnet, Laser Terrain Scanning, and Smart Glass augmented reality system.

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Too Big To Fail, Too Confused To Operate: Analysis Of 619 Pages Of Cobalt Engineering Documents [w/ Full Text] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799138  

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The House Energy & Commerce Committee recently released the documents GM submitted for investigation, which includes emails and internal reports documenting GM’s response to reports of their early Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models inadvertently shutting the car “off” while driving due to an ignition cylinder that was, simply, too easy to turn out of the “run” position; and in the case of several accidents, allowed the ignition cylinder to rotate out of the run condition before or during accidents, causing the airbags to not deploy when required.

The documents, totaling 619 pages (some with repeat info), reveal just how deep seated “old GM” was in their cost cutting ways (Driving down supplier costs to the point of sacrificing quality, admittedly poorly designed ignition cylinder, and removing internal quality control on the parts), and just how blind sided “new GM” was during their investigations. It also confirms how suspended engineers Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman were involved in the ignition switch response, and fuzzy problem solving. Full text and an analysis of key documents below.

We already know the basics of how this happened, but it’s still surprising just how ingrained GM was in putting the issue aside. The key issues are these:

  • GM became aware of the ignition issue in the 2001 preproduction Saturn Ion and the 2005 preproduction Chevrolet Cobalt.
  • Gary Altman initiated the report that lead to the insert, and Ray DeGiorgio consulted on the fix and argued against ignition switch changes.
  • Many different options were proposed, including suggestions from Delphi.
  • Cost played a major role in the decision to not recall the ignition switch early on.
  • The later key insert was the result, and was seen not as a fix, but as a “containment.”
  • GM also had very little oversight on parts from Delphi, only relying on Delphi’s incomplete testing.
  • GM’s engineers knowingly put the cars to market with a defective ignition switch.
  • This lead to ISB #05-02-35-007.
  • In 2006, DeGiorgio eventually signed off on design changes for Delphi, that included a stronger spring and plunger for the detent mechanism in the ignition cylinder, which provides a physical resistance between the different key positions.
  • When implemented in 2007, the new ignition cylinders cost less than a dollar per unit more than the original design; $400,000 to retool the production lines. These are the same changes that were deemed “not an acceptable business case” in 2005
  • As company, however, no one knew who signed off on the change until the Melton family lawsuit.
  • In court, DeGiorgio testified that he was unaware of changes to the ignition cylinder that would have effected the detents, only mentioning the key change..
  • Later investigations showed that the Cobalt had a substantial number of airbag warranty claims.
  • Higher level GM representatives broadsided by NHTSA’s investigations and disapproval of their slow reaction to other recent recalls.

First up, Gary Altman’s and Ray Giorgio’s role in the ignition cylinder issue is a problem. In court, Altman claimed that he did not feel that the Melton’s car was “unsafe.” This coming after submitting the initial mechanical complaint about the ignition falling out of run, in 2004:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf
During the investigation, several different approaches to modify the ignition cylinder were brought up to DeGiorgio. All of which were quickly dismissed by DeGiorgio, because the switch was already “very fragile,”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (1)
Later on, all fixes were dropped, as it wasn’t deemed necessary. With a tight deadline and budget, the engineers could not justify any of the fixes at the time, as it wasn’t an “acceptable business case.”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (2) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (3) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (4)

In 2006, DeGiorgio finally signed off on a design change for Delphi. The design change included  a stronger spring and longer detent plunger to increase the force needed to switch the key between different positions, along with an unrelated electrical upgrade. In an unexplained move, DeGiorgio did not assign a new part number to the improved switch design. The design change added 90 cents to the parts cost, and about $400,000 in tooling costs.

 

cobalt report 3
docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD047.pdf (1)

But, with this large of a role in the decision to delay the redesigned ignition switch, DeGiorgio claimed that he was not aware of any mechanical changes to the switches during his testimony in the Melton family suit against GM:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD056.pdf
Though, he did sign off on the changes, and worked with Delphi to test batches of ignition cylinders that contained an upgraded PCB (Printed Circuit Board), and detent plunger:

cobalt report 14

democrats.energycommerce.house.gov sites default files documents GM-Commodity-Validation-Sign-Off-2006-4-26.pdf

 

Curiously enough, though, is that GM had very little oversight on Delphi’s quality control, and Delphi did not check the rotational torque needed to turn past the switches detents. GM simply accepted Delphi’s parts and trusted their QC. But with rumored tensions between GM and Delphi, it’s said that cost cutting measures might be to blame as GM forced Delphi to push prices down, sacrificing parts quality. If this were true, GM’s choice to outsource QC to the supplier left them in the dark for too long, preventing them from seeing the immediate effects of their problems with Delphi:

cobalt report 4cobalt report 18

While this was going on, GM released the key insert as a “containment solution;” it would be the minimum needed to alleviate the problem for effected customers. This was chosen over two other modifications to the ignition cylinder, which were seen as a “partial solution” in the case of adding an additional detent mechanism to add more resistance to rotating the key out of park, and a “sure solution” involving moving the ignition switch higher up on the column, using a gear drive system to reach the rotary switch responsible for selecting which electrical circuit to run on. The added gearing would also increase rotational torque, the design stated.
cobalt report 11
cobalt report 12cobalt report 13
In 2007, the NHTSA began to probe into the surprising number of airbag-related complaints, despite “GM’s indications that they see no specific pattern.”
cobalt report 15

The issue was set aside, for the most part, until GM was informed by the Melton suit that there was a possible design change in the switch, based on an investigation into junkyard-found switches from the effected models. The testing showed that there was a noticeable change in detent torque, but no documentation from GM to show the changes. The GM engineers and representatives in the case were caught off guard by this design change, and began an internal investigation. This investigation lead GM engineer Brian Stouffer to find the documents that showed DeGiorgio signing off on design changes with no part number change.

cobalt report 5cobalt report 16
Finally, the most impressive point of this story comes from GM’s reactions to the NHTSA’s investigations. The NHTSA emailed GM asking for clarification on several other recalls, documenting GM’s reactions to other product issues with a disdain for GM’s penchant for doing the least amout possible to avoid full recalls; ie: regional recalls for parts failures in the rust-belt states. Saying that some were broadsided by this information would be an understatement:

cobalt report 19[...]
cobalt report 19

The response by Mike Robinson, VP for environment, energy and safety policy, sums up GM’s perception and confusion over their responses to the Cobalt issue, and several other poor recall responses in the past. “This note from NHTsA, both the content and tone, comes like a bolt out of the blue,” he states, “We worked way too hard to earn a reputation as the best and we are not going to let this slide.”

cobalt report 19
To summarize, GM is its own worst enemy. They responded poorly to incredibly early reports, dismissing the issue too quickly as a casual problem. With reports going back to 2001, during the Saturn Ion development, there is no reason why the switch should have come unmodified to the Cobalt development; never mind the dismissal of the problem before the car was produced. Ray DeGiorgio’s role in this problem is larger than he initially lead on in the Melton case, though his motive in this discrepancy is unknown at this time.

Full text to all 619 pages can be find here.

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New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Challenger Gets Badly Needed Upgrades http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-gets-badly-needed-upgrades/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-gets-badly-needed-upgrades/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:57:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=801914 From Front to back: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Challenger 3

 

Dodge’s long-rumored 6.4L supercharged Challenger isn’t coming to New York, but there are a number of important upgrades for 2015.

The big news for 2015 is the addition of the 8-speed automatic across the broad, a long awaited upgrade to the Challenger. An upgraded electrical architecture allows better implementation of UConnect as well as electric power steering with three selectable modes. Eight trim levels are now available, with new Shaker and Scat Pack models available with the 5.7L and 6.4L V8 on the Shaker, while the Scat Pack gets the 6.4L engine exclusively. The 6.4L engine gets a bump to 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft on the Scat Pack. Dodge is claiming that the 8-speed Scat Pack model can hit 60 mph in the low 4-second range.

Shaker models get a Super Track Pack suspension package, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, sport seats and a very retro graphics package – indeed, Dodge is going long on the retro theme for the 2015 upgrades.

2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT / R/T Plus (shown in Pearl/Black) with 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT / R/T Plus (shown in Pearl/Black) with 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus (shown in Ruby Red/Black) 2015 Dodge Challenger with eight-speed automatic 2015 Dodge Challenger “Tic-Toc-Tach”-inspired gauges 2015 Dodge Challenger 2015 Dodge Challenger trunk 2015 Dodge Challenger – 1971-inspired full-length stitch trape 2015 Dodge Challenger Uconnect SiriusXM Travel Link 2015 Dodge Challenger rear ¾ home screen 2015 Dodge Challenger Uconnect 3-D navigation icon 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic Ruby Red suede-leather 2015 Dodge Challenger TorqueFlite 8-speed electronic shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 7-inch TFT 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Clockwise starting from top: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dod From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dodge Challe From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dodge Challe From Front to Back: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Front to back: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Challenger 3 From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S ]]>
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