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. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:54:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 Editorial: Cuba And The Axis Of Emerging Markets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/editorial-cuba-axis-emerging-markets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/editorial-cuba-axis-emerging-markets/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:54:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962978 A year ago, TTAC broke news of back channel overtures being made towards Iran on behalf of General Motors. A number of Chevrolet Camaro Convertibles made their way to Iran via a complicated logistics network and the importations were of dubious legality. But the event highlighted a sentiment in the auto industry that few are willing […]

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cubancars-507x350

A year ago, TTAC broke news of back channel overtures being made towards Iran on behalf of General Motors. A number of Chevrolet Camaro Convertibles made their way to Iran via a complicated logistics network and the importations were of dubious legality. But the event highlighted a sentiment in the auto industry that few are willing to openly discuss: the BRIC countries, once the darlings of the emerging markets, have already been exhausted. The search for new markets is on, and that means places like Africa and Iran. And Cuba could be next.

While the French auto makers have established foot holds in Africa, Iran and Cuba represent two untapped markets for auto makers – the only challenge is navigating the complex political considerations that make international trade difficult.

Iran’s auto market is expected to grow to 1.5 million units by the end of the decade - nearly 50 percent greater than Australia’s, and slightly higher than Canada’s. The current sanctions in place against Iran will make it difficult for auto makers to set up shop in the country, but when they come to an end, there will be a groundswell of demand from a country that has a highly educated and relatively affluent population. Iran already has a booming domestic auto industry with long established ties to the French OEMs, but that shouldn’t stop foreign brands from attempting to compete.

Cuba, on the other hand, was on precisely nobody’s radar until the surprise announcement that America and Cuba would attempt to normalize trade relations with one another. But that development, coupled with rapidly changing laws on car ownership, could open up a whole new market in the United States’ backyard. And talk about pent up demand – some 60,000 cars dating back to 1959 or before are still on the roads, held together by MacGyver-esque engineering. To be fair, a trickle of new cars has come into the country, but they are largely restricted to taxi owners and, government agencies and rental car fleets.

The irony of Cuba and Iran’s status as potential emerging markets is lost on nobody, but any enthusiasm should be tempered. The process of economic liberalization will likely take years to fully unfold. But that doesn’t mean that auto makers should defer their preparations.

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Baidu Buys Major Stake In Uber http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/baidu-buys-major-stake-uber/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/baidu-buys-major-stake-uber/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962882 Chinese Internet overlord Baidu is buying a major stake into everyone’s favorite transportation network company, Uber. According to CNBC, neither company stated how much the stake cost Baidu, nor how large the stake is. The tech company joins Google and Goldman Sachs in the big-name-investor group backing the TNC, which is currently valued at $40 […]

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Baidu_headquarters

Chinese Internet overlord Baidu is buying a major stake into everyone’s favorite transportation network company, Uber.

According to CNBC, neither company stated how much the stake cost Baidu, nor how large the stake is. The tech company joins Google and Goldman Sachs in the big-name-investor group backing the TNC, which is currently valued at $40 billion.

As for what will happen as a result of this pairing, Baidu wants to help Uber gain a foothold into the Chinese car-hailing app market — expected to jump to 45 million users next year, from 18 million in 2013 — which is dominated by Alibaba’s Kuaidi Dache and Tencent Holdings’ Didi Dache. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said his company would integrate with the Baidu Maps app, in the hope of helping users get to where they need to go.

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Fuel Prices Fall Further, Auto Sales Soar Higher In December http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/fuel-prices-fall-auto-sales-soar-higher-december/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/fuel-prices-fall-auto-sales-soar-higher-december/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962858 Remember when we thought $2.55 for a gallon of regular was going to make for a good Christmas? Turns out the new average is $2.47, the lowest average price reported in five years. Also: That’s a photo shot by one of my relatives back in Louisville, Ky., where some stations are pumping gas for as […]

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Cheap Gas In Louisville Kentucky Circa Mid-December 2014

Remember when we thought $2.55 for a gallon of regular was going to make for a good Christmas? Turns out the new average is $2.47, the lowest average price reported in five years.

Also: That’s a photo shot by one of my relatives back in Louisville, Ky., where some stations are pumping gas for as low as $1.96/gallon.

Automotive News reports that by January 1, 2015, gasoline could be selling for as much as $2.25 to $2.40 nationally, a seasonal low not seen since 2008. The current average is down from a peak of $3.69 in April, hitting below $2.50 for the first time since October 2009.

Lower fuel prices — caused by OPEC’s decision to play the short game against United States oil production, and, perhaps, to make Putin tap out — is putting more money into the pockets of consumers, who are, in turn, using the savings to buy new vehicles, including SUVs, CUVs and trucks.

The new-car rush is helping to make this December one to remember, with J.D. Power and LMC Automotive both forecasting a 10.4 percent increase in sales over last December. Both added that 2015 will see 17 million units sold for the first time since 2001, while this year will close at 16.5 million.

As for the oil, West Texas Intermediate is going for $53.60/barrel, while Brent is moving for $58.50/barrel. Both prices are the lowest recorded since May 2009.

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Cain’s Segments: Minivans In November 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/cains-segments-minivans-november-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/cains-segments-minivans-november-2014/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:45:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962490 Despite massive year-over-year improvements, the Kia Sedona continues to be a relatively low-volume player in America’s minivan segment. But are the gains made by the Kia significant enough to make life difficult for the top four? Compared with November 2013, Sedona volume jumped 578% last month as a follow-up to October’s 251% gain. Through the […]

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2015 Kia SedonaDespite massive year-over-year improvements, the Kia Sedona continues to be a relatively low-volume player in America’s minivan segment. But are the gains made by the Kia significant enough to make life difficult for the top four?

Compared with November 2013, Sedona volume jumped 578% last month as a follow-up to October’s 251% gain. Through the first three-quarters of 2014, Kia USA had been selling fewer than 630 Sedonas per month. 2376 were sold in October; 3538 in November. The van’s market share through nine months was a paltry 1.3% as even the Mazda 5 and Nissan Quest were easily outselling the Kia. But in November 2014, the Kia Sedona grabbed 9.1% of America’s minivan market.

November was also notable for the name of the minivan category’s best seller. Toyota’s revamped-for-2015 Sienna was America’s top-selling minivan last month. November marked just the third time this year that something other than a Chrysler product topped the minivan sales charts: the Honda Odyssey did so in January; the Sienna in July.

Minivan
November
2014
November
2013
%
Change
11 mos.
2014
11 mos.
2013
%
Change
Chrysler Town & Country
8,055 11,288 -28.6% 127,331 112,551 13.1%
Dodge Grand Caravan
8,842 9,614 -8.0% 122,899 112,793 9.0%
Honda Odyssey
8,639 9,401 -8.1% 112,370 116,880 -3.9%
Kia Sedona
3,538 522 578% 11,570 6,578 75.9%
Mazda 5
407 667 -39.0% 10,854 12,717 -14.6%
Nissan Quest
483 768 -37.1% 9,148 12,006 -23.8%
Toyota Sienna
8,946 8,820 1.4% 112,814 111,737 1.0%
Volkswagen Routan
258 -100% 1,103 1,825 -39.6%
Total
38,910
41,338 -5.9% 508,089 478,087 6.3%

Of course, the Sienna only led the way in the strictest sense. Chrysler and Dodge combined for 16,897 Town & Country/Grand Caravan sales, well in excess of the 8946 managed by the Sienna and the 8639 sold by November’s third-ranked Odyssey.

The Odyssey was officially the best-selling minivan in America in calendar year 2013 but currently ranks fourth in the category through eleven months. Minivan sales in the United States are up 6% in 2014. Odyssey volume is down 4%. That just means fewer Odysseys in which to develop AMFS: Automatic Minivan Filth Syndrome.

As for the Chrysler twins, their U.S. volume plummeted in November but grew 11% to 250,230 units so far this year. The Town & Country has already topped 2013’s full-year total and indeed the full-year totals from any of the last six years, in fact. The Grand Caravan won’t match 2012’s 141,468-unit performance, but the year will end with more Grand Caravans sold than in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, or 2013. Together, the Town & Country and Grand Caravan account for 49.2% of the minivans sold in America so far this year, up from 47.1% at this stage one year ago.

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

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Supercars To Go, Second Place: Ferrari 458 Italia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-second-place-ferrari-458-italia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-second-place-ferrari-458-italia/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962714 It costs $233,509, and it’s genuinely worth the money. That’s the first thing I want you to know about the Ferrari 458 Italia. The second thing is that, once again, I’m driving the wrong 458 for the job. Ferrari supplied Road&Track with the 458 Speciale for Performance Car Of The Year. This no-radio, flat-carbon-fiber-interior-door-panels, bloody-ear-exhaust […]

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It costs $233,509, and it’s genuinely worth the money. That’s the first thing I want you to know about the Ferrari 458 Italia. The second thing is that, once again, I’m driving the wrong 458 for the job.

Ferrari supplied Road&Track with the 458 Speciale for Performance Car Of The Year. This no-radio, flat-carbon-fiber-interior-door-panels, bloody-ear-exhaust variant was an absolute revelation around a track or down a fast two-lane. Yet nobody wanted to actually drive it on the freeway until I showed up and volunteered to do it. I promptly used it in an attempt to pick up a Cobalt-SS-Supercharged-driving nineteen-year-old girl with a Boogie Nights star tattoo visible under the hem of her too-short shorts. Yes, there’s a picture of the interaction, but no, I don’t think TTAC’s management will let me put it up.

The Speciale was a force of nature, an Italian combination of a 308GTB and the first side of Ritual De Lo Habitual. To wring one all the way to fifth gear on a rural road was to become utterly absorbed in the violent noise and scenery-blurring power the 458 Speciale could summon at a fraction of a second’s notice. Yet it was too focused to win the hearts of my fellow road test editors, and my heart had already been lost to the Dodge Viper TA 2.0. (Which brings the Viper-mention ratio in these articles to: three of five. More than once it was suggested that a standard 458 Italia would have fared better in the voting, and I agree with that sentiment even more now than I did at the time.

Fast-forward to late November in Oklahoma, and I’m thinking that the opposite situation has occurred. On Toly Artunoff’s personal playground, on this fast and loose vintage SCCA course, the Speciale would be simply untouchable. Instead, we have the standard 458 Italia, which is less so.

Not that the Italia doesn’t have plenty of the right stuff. It weighs about as much as a Chevrolet Cruze LT but makes 570 horsepower from a direct-injected 4.5L V8. Remember the original Honda S2000 and its claims to displacement-per-liter supremacy? L, as the kids say, OL. It has a dual-clutch transmission that appears to possess no imperfections whatsoever. You cannot confuse or befuddle it no matter what you do, no matter which mode you pick. Want to run it at nine-tenths around the track in “Race” full-auto mode? It will impersonate a Williams Formula One CVT with its hyper-vigilant supply of power to the rear wheels, wobbling the needle ever-so-slightly from well past the “8” mark down to between the six and seven again and again, magically turning this powerful but peaky gasoline engine into a Saturn V booster stage.

In driving rain, with a terrified fifty-year-old woman pedaling the brake and accelerator like a mad church organist? It will flawlessly keep the motor out of peak torque or power, anticipating each herky-jerky shove of a pedal with a shift so prescient a Guild Navigator can’t actually see the Ferrari on-track. (I am so sorry for that.) Never has a rear-wheel-drive sports car been this safe and usable in wet conditions.

Yes, the manettino might have started off as a hideously tacky attempt to tie the perfected F1 cars of the Schumacher era to the decidedly imperfect road cars, but now it works so well that I could tell, with my eyes closed, which mode the 458 was in within seconds of pulling out onto the track. Even the most committed driver really only needs to turn it to “Race”, unless you need to trade the potential of a half-second gain in lap time for the near-certainty of a corrected mistake somewhere in that lap.

You can shift the 458 yourself using the column-mounted paddles, and I occasionally did, but you’d be just as fast letting the car make your decisions for you. It’s never wrong. The idea that a transmission this brilliant is standard equipment in a Ferrari makes me chuckle, because I remember what Ferraris used to be like. Even the 430 comes off like an old Dino compared to this.

Did I mention how spacious it is? Well, it is — six-foot-five drivers can wear a helmet without difficulty. It has as much room as the Audi R8. The seating position feels like it’s on top of the front axle, making the car itself effectively tiny, like a Bugeye Sprite with an extra foot of space between the seats. All drivers of all sizes seem able to fit comfortably. With the power adjustment of the Italia (but not the Speciale) it’s possible for a 4’11” woman to drive the car quickly and confidently. There’s nothing “intuitive” about the controls because they’re very different from what you get in a Lexus ES350 or a Ford Fiesta but once you figure them out it’s no trouble to operate everything from the stereo to the climate control, which also works surprisingly well. After a few days in the car, I was completely Ferrari-competent. Moreover, if you think the steering-wheel-mounted turn signal switches, which work like those in a BMW motorcycle, are silly, wait until you drive a Huracan, which has the same turn-signal operation mechanism as my 1986 Kawasaki Ninja.

The same amount of difference in joy and tossability between the LP560-4 and LP550-2 Gallardos is repeated here, in the Ferrari’s favor. Never has a car this fast with this drivetrain configuration been this easy to drive. After three laps you’re tossing it around like a Miata that just happens to be doing 40-60mph more on every straight. The brakes are heroic. You can do stupid things with it like stomp the power in the middle of the corner and it rewards you with a brilliant slide instead of an unpredictable spin. It just keeps encouraging you to go faster and faster, the steering wheel’s thick rim seemingly connected directly to the road, the engine whooping its very un-American-sounding twin-four-cylinder aria between gears as if it had a KERS system on boost in place of a flywheel.

What else? Visibility is stellar to the front and acceptable to the back. The ABS seems to cycle faster than what you’d get in a Corvette. It has a starter button on the wheel, while the Gallardo has an old-school twist key. From what I’ve heard, they don’t break much, even under the rigors of supercar-rental life. It’s possible to trail-brake the thing out of shape but you really need to try and even then the front end can be used to catch it like a Viper (DING!) or Mustang.

It’s better than the Gallardo in every single way possible except, perhaps, looks. I can’t get used to the proportions or the snout of the thing. Is it too much to ask to return to the era of good-looking mid-engined Ferraris? Still, I’d rather be stretching out in the Ferrari’s fishbowl than cramping in the Lamborghini’s stylish cabin.

If you can afford one, buy it. If you can afford the Speciale, buy that one instead. This is a new high-water mark in mid-engined street cars. And yet… it’s not the winner, is it?

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100 Fatality, Injury Claims Approved For GM Compensation Fund Payments http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/100-fatality-injury-claims-approved-gm-compensation-fund-payments/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/100-fatality-injury-claims-approved-gm-compensation-fund-payments/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962842 It’s been a while since the TTAC Zaibatsu checked in on the victim compensation fund created by General Motors and overseen by the office of attorney Kenneth Feinberg. How have things gone since the last time? One hundred fatality and injury claims have been approved. The Washington Post reports the milestone was announced Monday, when […]

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Recalled GM ignition switch

It’s been a while since the TTAC Zaibatsu checked in on the victim compensation fund created by General Motors and overseen by the office of attorney Kenneth Feinberg. How have things gone since the last time?

One hundred fatality and injury claims have been approved.

The Washington Post reports the milestone was announced Monday, when four new fatality and seven injury claims linked to the February 2014 ignition switch recall were approved. The new total to-date comes to 42 fatalities and 58 injuries approved for payment.

Overall, Feinberg’s staff has received 2,326 claims since the window for acceptance opened August 1 of this year, 306 of which were rejected, 568 deemed deficient in information, 907 were missing verification documents, and 445 — including 46 linked to wrongful death — are under review at this moment.

As for the 100 approved claims, 57 have received and accepted settlement offers, 22 of which have been paid thus far. The window for filing, originally set to close in the final days of 2014, will do so at the end of January 2015.

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US Army Makes $744K In First-Ever Public Humvee Auction http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/us-army-makes-744k-first-ever-public-humvee-auction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/us-army-makes-744k-first-ever-public-humvee-auction/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962818 Forget Panthers: Humvees are the new hotness, as so demonstrated when the United States Army held its first-ever public auction for a surplus of the iconic military vehicle. Military.com reports a total of 25 vehicles were auctioned on behalf of the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency, with $744,000 brought in for the trouble. Bidding for each […]

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Humvee

Forget Panthers: Humvees are the new hotness, as so demonstrated when the United States Army held its first-ever public auction for a surplus of the iconic military vehicle.

Military.com reports a total of 25 vehicles were auctioned on behalf of the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency, with $744,000 brought in for the trouble.

Bidding for each vehicle began at $10,000, but it didn’t last long at that level; the average winning bid came in at $30,000. The lowest bid was $21,500 for a 1989 model, while the highest was $41,000 for one made in 1994.

That said, the vehicles won’t be hitting the highway any time soon, as the vehicles were sold with the caveat that they would be limited to off-road purposes. Another auction is expected in January, with more likely to follow; the DLA has 4,000 Humvees gathering dust at present.

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Teknikens Värld: Ford Mondeo Estate ‘Dangerously Overweight’ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/teknikens-varld-ford-mondeo-estate-dangerously-overweight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/teknikens-varld-ford-mondeo-estate-dangerously-overweight/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962754 The Ford Mondeo Estate is in trouble with one Swedish automotive publication, thanks to how much it weighs. Teknikens Värld reports the Mondeo Titanium Estate equipped with the 150-horsepower 2-liter TDCi and six-speed manual is supposed to weigh 3,530 pounds. However, when the publication’s test subject was placed on a roadside scale, the weight came […]

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Ford Mondeo Estate overweight

The Ford Mondeo Estate is in trouble with one Swedish automotive publication, thanks to how much it weighs.

Teknikens Värld reports the Mondeo Titanium Estate equipped with the 150-horsepower 2-liter TDCi and six-speed manual is supposed to weigh 3,530 pounds. However, when the publication’s test subject was placed on a roadside scale, the weight came out to 4,145 pounds, 615 more than what Ford said it weighed.

This is a problem in Sweden, as loading a vehicle above its total gross weight is illegal, something that would occur if a family loads the Mondeo to what they believe is the gross weight, only to find they’ve exceeded it.

The extra weight also proved to be dangerous, as the Mondeo failed the publication’s moose test, faring better at said test when the load dropped to 220 pounds above the maximum load limit.

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OEMs Suspend Vehicle Sales In Russia Amid Volatile Currency Situation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/oems-suspend-vehicle-sales-in-russia-amid-volatile-currency-swings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/oems-suspend-vehicle-sales-in-russia-amid-volatile-currency-swings/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:02:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962674 With the Russian ruble experiencing a near collapse in value, multiple OEMs have decided to suspend sales of its vehicles in Russia. According to a statement sent to Just-Auto, GM’s Russian arm said “In view of the volatility of [the] rouble exchange rate and with the aim to manage its business risk, GM Russia has decided […]

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opelrussia-autoworld.com_

With the Russian ruble experiencing a near collapse in value, multiple OEMs have decided to suspend sales of its vehicles in Russia.

According to a statement sent to Just-Auto, GM’s Russian arm said

“In view of the volatility of [the] rouble exchange rate and with the aim to manage its business risk, GM Russia has decided to temporarily suspend wholesaling of vehicles to its dealers in Russia as of 16 December, 2014,” said a GM Europe statement emailed to just-auto. At the same time we confirm all Cadillac, Opel and Chevrolet vehicles already purchased by customers will be delivered on the agreed price. We are monitoring the situation.”

Bloomberg is reporting that Audi and Jaguar Land Rover have also suspended sales amid uncertainty in foreign exchange markets. Toyota, Volkswagen are set to adjust their prices in the near future to reflect the new exchange rates.

Russian auto sales have spiked in recent weeks as consumers sought to buy up hard assets to protect against a falling ruble. But the erosion on value of the Russian currency have left several OEMs exposed to currency risks. According to Bloomberg’s report, BMW could stand to lose as much as $135 million dollars due to the recent drop in the ruble.

 

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Dispatches Do Brasil: 2010 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/dispatches-brasil-2010-mitsubishi-pajero-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/dispatches-brasil-2010-mitsubishi-pajero-sport/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:59:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962594 Recently I went car shopping with a friend. We were looking at cars I’d rather not check out, but that struck his fancy . While crossovers were initially at the top of his list, he ended up with a 2010 Mitsubishi Pajero, which you may know as the Montero. Being Brazil a Portuguese-speaking countries, Mitsubishi found […]

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20141218_114715

Recently I went car shopping with a friend. We were looking at cars I’d rather not check out, but that struck his fancy . While crossovers were initially at the top of his list, he ended up with a 2010 Mitsubishi Pajero, which you may know as the Montero. Being Brazil a Portuguese-speaking countries, Mitsubishi found it safe to use the Japanese market name – in Spanish, it means something naughty.

Looking for all the world like the SUV it is, the Pajero has been a force to be reckoned with in Brazil. Mitsubishi is a brand that survived the thinning out of Japanese brands when the Market opened up in the 90s. Back then everybody came. Mazda (unfortunately), Suzuki (though it’s trying again now), Daihatsu, among others I can’t remember, didn’t make it. The usual trio of suspects did, as did Mitsubishi.

In the case of the three diamond company they did it by going full 4×4 here. Little by little, cars ceased to be offered. In that way they became associated with off-roading and, in a cruel twist of image so common in underdeveloped countries, with luxury.

When my friend called me all enthused saying he had found the “perfect” one, I was a little hesitant. He was happy because the car he was looking at was a very common silver and had low mileage (34,000 km for a 4-year old car, now almost 5). My hesitation came from driving previous Mitsubishi products. The Pajero Io or TR, always felt like it wasn’t properly aligned at speeds above 100 km/h. The L200? So noisy and slow. Plus, like I said, many here confuse it with a luxury product. I was afraid my friend did, too.

When we arrived at the place, her owner was waiting for us. A good sign as she was a she. A woman using this car would do it for school runs and mall visiting, nothing off-roadsy. As a general view of course. Talking to her confirmed our impression. She said she was divorced and the car was titled to her name. The paint still shone, and it was easy to see the interior had been detailed. I got under the car and could see no unusual scratches or anything that’d indicate off-roading.

Took it for a spin, decided it was good. Took it to a mechanic, he declared it good. Money changed hands and that was that. As is the case for this kind of car in Brazil, it was a lot. 71,000 reais of my friend’s hard-earned money. As the exchange rate is hovering around USD$1=R$2.5, you can do the math.

Getting inside, it is the typical Japanese fair. The interior would probably look better in a 90s product, though it is well screwed together. The materials do not impress. On top of the dash is a very thin rubber finishing. Quite hard, at least it’s softer than plastic. There is some sort of plastic possibly trying to imitate wood around the instrument binnacle. There is an insert of perforated leatherette on the door breaking that vast expanse of plastic. The vanity mirrors in both sun visors are among the smallest I’ve seen, but I guess they do their job. The mouse fur on the ceiling is good enough, not too grainy and a light color, which helps the sensation of airiness. All windows have auto up and down, though only the driver’s is marked. All others, a drab slab of black plastic. At least the tactile sensation is not notchy, though not silky either.

The seats were quite comfortable too and offer a wide variety of positions. You get to these positions by manual levers of course. There is not a lot of bolstering, but as this car’s function is to confront the urban jungle, I mean the Sahara, it’s not too bad. The leather of course is false, but there is some variation and the sides have a different pattern than the middle. In the back it is not so good. The backs of the seats are very short and a very large section of metal appears. I have never seen a car with that much open space. The floor back there is quite high too, so not the best place to sit for a long drive.

Talking about good things the trunk is huge, officially rated at over 900L. Again, there is a mishap. No lid. Not a good thing in this country. The best thing in the interior is the wheel, I decide. Plastic, but with a nice texture, it is thick and decent sized, being the best place to lay your hands in the interior.

So now the drive. Inside the limitations of the segment, it is decent. The Pajero boast a 2.5 HPE diesel engine with intercooler good for a little over 150 hp. On the go, with the windows closed, vibrations are contained as is noise. This is a good thing, as outside it still sounds like a bus. At least in Brazil self-service gas stations are outlawed, so the owner will never get the stinky fuel on his hands or clothes. Torque is221 lb-ft  at a low 2000 rpm. Bellying that number and speaking from my experience, you need to rev the thing to get it moving. Most especially in this region of Brazil, Minas Gerais, which is a very mountainous state.

What is not decent is the placement of the gear levels. In my day with it I went to some places with a lot of hills to test the torque and drivability. As a result I spent a lot of time in second gear. Being this Pajero a 5-speed manual car, the position of second gear was simply unacceptable. Once engaged, it eats into my thigh, forcing me to dive with my legs straight ahead and not a little bit open like I usually do. I think this a result of a quickie changeover of the driver’s side, as in Japan they drive on the “wrong” side just like the British. Being that here we adopt the same positioning as most of the world, this would render the possibility of buying this car for myself non-existent.

Once on the move and up to speed it can go quite fast and will keep speed rather effortlessly. I was a bit hesitant to push it over 140 km/h though as at those speeds the car is weaving and bobbing. I slowed down for curves, quite a bit, making it necessary to step on it to make it recoup lost speed. Then, the engine does get intrusive. Spacious enough for a family of 4, the noise and spongy suspension do not make it my kind of car for a sortie to the beach.

This Pajero uses Mitsubishi’s Easy Select transfer case. This means you can go from 2 High to 4 High at speeds of up to 100 km/h. Engaging 4 Low does require almost a full stop. This is where Mitsubishi has built its reputation in Brazil. Off-roaders love them and deem it competent. For normal city use, this system requires compromises that most seem willing to make. Heavy, the 4 wheel drive system takes that much more out of the enjoyment of the car but within the limits of its BOF construction, again, decent.

Due to its slab sides and ample windows, sight lines are good. Again, a good thing, as this is a big car for the spaces available in Brazilian cities. The steering is light and numb, which is what most owners would like anyway. Under normal conditions the car doesn’t threaten to roll over off course, but it is not made for speed. It is much better handling than 90s era SUVs in this sense, but most drivers, as they are not going off-road anyway, would be better served by a crossover. A Dodge Journey/Fiat Freemont has this beast beat in the handling department as possibly has Mitsubishi’s own ASX.

When talking of these cars, people like me who don’t get them always ask: Why? So I asked the happy owner. I know he doesn’t have a farm and has never expressed an interest in off-roading. He said he couldn’t exactly pinpoint it, but it gave him a feeling of satisfaction. After many years of hard work, he got a car that told him he’d made it. Also, it was not a Mercedes so he didn’t feel too uneasy about potential violence or kidnapping. I get the sensation this a prime reason for this kind of car in Brazil. It’s big, it’s imposing, it’s “imported”, but it’s not a BMW. People will look, but won’t necessarily put you on their kidnap list.

For 70,000 thousand reais there are much better cars out there. Big cars, medium cars (talking real cars here), which will all give you more performance, a better ride and even possibly lower running costs as the high cost of insuring diesel trucks in Brazil all but guarantee the fuel savings will be annulled. In our world though none of them give you the presence of a big SUV or CUV and I can respect that. As I saw him pulling up and away from my garage, wheels squealing at the incline and sharp turn, I realized once again, it takes all kinds.

 

 

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Supercars To Go, Third Place: Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 AP http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-third-place-lamborghini-gallardo-lp550-2-ap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-third-place-lamborghini-gallardo-lp550-2-ap/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:22:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961969 The idea of a rear-wheel-drive Gallardo was so obvious that it’s a wonder it took six years for it to appear on the market as a limited edition and another year after that to join the standard lineup. Indeed, the 550-2 was popular from the moment it appeared in dealer order sheets, though not for […]

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The idea of a rear-wheel-drive Gallardo was so obvious that it’s a wonder it took six years for it to appear on the market as a limited edition and another year after that to join the standard lineup. Indeed, the 550-2 was popular from the moment it appeared in dealer order sheets, though not for the reason you’d initially suspect.

We’d all like to believe that the “purist” Gallardo sold well because Lamborghini owners naturally gravitated towards a more thrilling, more authentic Lamborghini experience, preferably with a manual transmission. A few people did stump up for the mack daddy clutch-and-RWD combo, but far more people chose the 550-2 Spyder e-gear. After all, the 550-2 was cheaper than the 560-4 we discussed yesterday. Why not use the savings to pay for the droptop, particularly given the fact that you, the Lamborghini customer, live in a sunshine state anyway?

So though you will occasionally see an AWD Gallardo coupe hammering through some miserable weather in Manhattan or Chicago or Powell, Ohio, the customers always really wanted the cheapest convertible they could get. Thus, the triumph of the 550-2; not as a fine-tipped, metal-topped brush with which to paint the fastest laps on a concrete canvas, but as the lowest number in the list of Spyder suggested retail prices.

Our test car is half-pure, if you will; though it has no canvas top, it is equipped with the same e-gear transmission seen in the LP560-4. Like most of its 550-2 siblings, it has a more conservative front and rear fascia than the AWD variant. As an “AP” version, it boasts a quilted-leather interior. This is surprisingly relevant to the trackday task at hand. Observe:

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In a standard Gallardo, that quilted roof is replaced by a double-bubble felt headliner that offers a full extra inch and a half of headroom. The difference that makes in the comfort of operation for taller drivers wearing a helmet is impossible to exaggerate. In this 550-2, I had to keep my head tilted at all times. No amount of slouching could let me sit upright in it. Had I brought my top-vented helmet to the track that day instead of my open-face instructor’s model, I’d have been unable to drive the 550-2 around the track.

Which would have been a genuine shame.

Somewhere inside my twisted, oft-broken ribcage beats a heart that absolutely despises this automobile’s undisputed and massive superiority over the 560-4. After all, it’s the height of douchebag spec-sheet press-kit in-flight journalism to mindlessly prefer the “right-wheel-drive” version of a supercar. I could have delivered this verdict to you from my home office and thus enjoyed four days playing Fleet Foxes covers on my ragged-wood ’74 Gibson J-40 instead of suffering through over one hundred and fifty teeth-grinding coaching sessions in Oklahoma. Any idiot with a twelve-month-old username on Jalopnik can tell you that the 550-2 is better. How I prayed for this car to suck as I took my cramped seat behind the wheel and prepared to pull onto the front straight at Hallett. I was dead set against the white Lamborghini, stabbing from hell’s heart into its flat-surfaced face with all the hate I could muster. The words came unbidden to my mind’s typewriter as I opened the door:

A cynical attempt to persuade nouveau-riche keyboard racers that they aren’t being coddled by everything from hyper-active ESC to safety-first tire stagger, the 550-2 proves to be the two-percent milk of Lamborghinis, a Lambo For Dummies too ill-educated to understand the benefits of AWD on the racetrack…

But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in heat, that thing unsays itself. And it took just one turn — one turn for me to put aside the ridiculous conceit of hating the RWD Gallardo for hate’s sake. How joyously it bent into the first fast left, the steering both smoother and lighter for the loss of the front axles! How it balanced in the midcorner on the throttle, and how it leapt from the exit with just a touch of stutter-step as the V10 fed a Diablo’s worth of twist to the forty-five-percent differential! I pulled the paddle and the shift was smoother and faster than in its quad-driven sister. Over the blind hill I went as the speedometer rang the triple digits and I pulled the paddle again and was heartily shoved in return and then finally it was time to trust the brakes, that trust returned with a shudder of the ABS and an arresting-hook swing of the speedo’s needle even as I roared down through the gears to second for the track’s slowest corner.

Forget the spec sheet, for it fails to show you the most important item included when you choose the cheapest Gallardo: joy. There’s a tradeoff, of course: when it rained, the lack of a driven front axle made everything more of a challenge, including full-throttle acceleration in a straight line. In that respect, however, it was no worse than a Corvette.

The rest of the thing is as the LP560-4: understated interior even with the quilted leather, plenty of visibility, a feeling of manageable size, an engine that manages the neat trick of being torquey and rev-happy, a suspension that balances the competing demands of ride and handling well enough to work on an ancient racetrack.

With less visual gingerbread than virtually any other Gallardo variant, in the Econoline-van white paint, and already suffering from the not-quite-Lamborghini proportions that failed to shock even back in 2004, this car definitely won’t impress anybody in Palm Springs or Miami. Your neighbors will wonder why you can’t afford a Huracan, and your frenemies on the Internet will automatically assume you paid whatever the lowest listing price on eBay for any Gallardo is. The Estonian call girls and NYU SeekingArrangement adventurers will turn up their noses at your attempts to climb the supercar ladder. At the Cars and Coffee, it will be suggested behind your back that you own the Acura ILX of Lamborghinis.

All of that, as well as everything else that troubles you, can be safely and easily forgotten the moment you exit pit lane at your local track. Dismissed by the posers, this bull is, instead, the toreador’s choice.

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MBUSA Looking South For New Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/mbusa-looking-south-new-home/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/mbusa-looking-south-new-home/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962394 With Cadillac getting its inner hipster on in SoHo, and Subaru trekking four miles west to conduct its American hustle in Camden, N.J., Mercedes-Benz USA is feeling the urge to heed the song of the South and go with the wind. Automotive News reports MBUSA is looking at relocating its 800 employees to either Georgia, […]

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With Cadillac getting its inner hipster on in SoHo, and Subaru trekking four miles west to conduct its American hustle in Camden, N.J., Mercedes-Benz USA is feeling the urge to heed the song of the South and go with the wind.

Automotive News reports MBUSA is looking at relocating its 800 employees to either Georgia, Florida or North Carolina, leaving Montvale, N.J. after 42 years. Representatives for the company wouldn’t confirm or deny the plans, believing it to be nothing more than rumor and speculation.

The company is currently looking over tax incentive packages, with New Jersey working on its own package in the hope of keeping MBUSA’s headquarters in Montvale. JLL Inc., the commercial real estate firm that is helping Toyota move its U.S. headquarters to Texas from California, is also lending assistance to the company.

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Detroit 2015: Honda FCV Concept Ready For North American Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-honda-fcv-concept-ready-north-american-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-honda-fcv-concept-ready-north-american-debut/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962370 With the FCX Clarity now out of the picture, Honda is looking forward to the FCV’s replacement, a preview of which is set to bow at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. The Honda FCV Concept will be making its North American debut under the lights of Cobo Hall in January, having made its world debut […]

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With the FCX Clarity now out of the picture, Honda is looking forward to the FCV’s replacement, a preview of which is set to bow at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

The Honda FCV Concept will be making its North American debut under the lights of Cobo Hall in January, having made its world debut last month in Japan. The concept is meant to show the evolution of the automaker’s plans for a new FCV, first seen with the FCEV Concept that bowed during the 2013 LA Auto Show.

As for when the production version of Honda’s next hydrogen vehicle will enter showrooms, the FCV will arrive in Japan March 2016, then land in the United States later on.

Once across the Pacific, the FCV will have quite a few locations to refuel, thanks to a $13.8 million investment deal between Honda and FirstElement Fuel to build more hydrogen refueling stations in California.

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Peak MKC? Lincoln’s MKC Sales Growth Finally Suspended In November http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/peak-mkc-lincolns-mkc-sales-growth-finally-suspended-november/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/peak-mkc-lincolns-mkc-sales-growth-finally-suspended-november/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962090 After increasing sales of the brand’s new Escape-related small crossover in five consecutive months, Lincoln MKC volume levelled off in November 2014 at 2152 units. This represents a 2% drop from the total achieved by the MKC in its best month, October, when 2197 were sold. America’s new vehicle market was 2% larger in November […]

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Lincoln MKCAfter increasing sales of the brand’s new Escape-related small crossover in five consecutive months, Lincoln MKC volume levelled off in November 2014 at 2152 units. This represents a 2% drop from the total achieved by the MKC in its best month, October, when 2197 were sold. America’s new vehicle market was 2% larger in November than it was during the prior month.

Have we therefore reached the MKC’s maximum monthly volume? Dealers have plenty of copies to sell: there was a 116-day supply at the beginning of November. 2150 sales per month would put the MKC in the same territory as the much larger and more costly Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, ahead of the smaller BMW X1 and also-ex-PAG Volvo XC60, but well back of class leaders like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and BMW X3. This year, the latter four are generating 3610, 3443, 3013, and 2820 average monthly sales, respectively.

We don’t yet know how strong the full force of Lexus’s NX will be. The first 22 NXs were sold at the end of November. It’s also far too early to label the MKC as a hit or miss, regardless of what the mainstream media coverage of Matthew McConaughey advertisements said. (We fully expected to see more and more MKCs on the road as the launch took hold, and thus more Lincolns overall, regardless of whether it was marketed by McConaughey or Megan Mullally.) And if we were going to say the McConaughey ads worked, shouldn’t we now say they stopped working?

Of greater interest to the Ford Motor Company may be the MKC’s ability to generate a good deal extra volume even as the Ford Escape reports improved sales, as well. 2013 was a record sales year for the Escape, and after falling 3% through the first one-third of 2014, Escape sales have increased 7% over the last seven months, the time period in which the Lincoln MKC has been available.

Lincoln sales chartAs for the Lincoln brand itself, sales were up 21% to 8113 units in November 2014. Non-MKC volume was down 11%, however, as the Navigator’s 88% increase was more than offset by a 29% drop in car sales, the consistent decline of the MKT, and the gradual disappearance of the first-generation MKX, a vehicle which will soon be replaced.

Total Lincoln volume through the first eleven months of 2014 is up 15%, an 11,074-unit improvement. The MKC has added 10,767 of those extra sales. MKZ sales are up 6% to 31,373 units – the MKZ and MKS (down 26%) account for 46% of Lincoln’s year-to-date volume – and the MKX’s 4% improvement is accompanied by a 13% boost in Navigator volume.

Obviously the MKC is more than capable of bringing more buyers into Lincoln showrooms. Reigniting interesting in the brand’s other vehicles may be too great an ask. After recording year-over-year increases in 13 of the 14 months leading up to the MKC’s release, MKZ sales decreased in June, July, August, September, and October before falling to a 21-month low in November. Is the MKC stealing some sales from the Cadillac SRX? Perhaps. But it may be impacting the MKZ, as well, just as many a small crossover is disrupting many a midsize car.

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

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Detroit 2015: New Lexus F Model Teased http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-new-lexus-f-model-teased/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-new-lexus-f-model-teased/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962338 More teasers from Toyota, this time from its luxury brand, Lexus, which is bringing over a new F model to the party at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. The new vehicle, the second in the F high-performance series after the RC F, will roll into the spotlight January 13 at 8:40 a.m. Eastern. More details […]

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More teasers from Toyota, this time from its luxury brand, Lexus, which is bringing over a new F model to the party at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

The new vehicle, the second in the F high-performance series after the RC F, will roll into the spotlight January 13 at 8:40 a.m. Eastern. More details will likely be revealed closer to showtime, as is sometimes the case with these teasers.

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Alfa Romeo Readies New Engines For 2015 Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-readies-new-engines-2015-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-readies-new-engines-2015-debut/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962314 Aside from rebuilding itself in North America, Alfa Romeo is set to introduce a new family of high-performance engines into the lineup, the first of which will come in the next six months. Automotive News Europe reports three of those engines — two gasoline, one diesel — will debut with the automaker’s new midsize sedan […]

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Aside from rebuilding itself in North America, Alfa Romeo is set to introduce a new family of high-performance engines into the lineup, the first of which will come in the next six months.

Automotive News Europe reports three of those engines — two gasoline, one diesel — will debut with the automaker’s new midsize sedan in June 2015, hitting showrooms sometime in 2016.

The main unit will be a direct-injection 2-liter turbo-four with MultiAir VVT on-board. That engine, dubbed the Global Medium Engine, is expected to produce 180-330 horsepower, with the power directed to the back or all four corners via a range of automatic and manual transmissions. A 2.2-liter turbodiesel four-pot will also be available, delivering 135 to 210 horses in the same manner.

The crown jewel, however, will be a 2.9-liter direct-injection twin-turbo V6 — remade from Ferrari’s 3-liter unit found in the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli — which will throw down up to 480 stallions for the trouble.

VM Motori has also been called upon, working with Alfa to develop a new version of the 3-liter V6 diesel found in a handful of Jeep and Maserati products. Two variants are expected, ranging from 275 horsepower — like the current mill — to 340 horsepower. The engines will be used in AWD applications, and will only be found under the hoods of a large sedan and midsize SUV down the road.

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Detroit 2015: Toyota Teases New Tacoma Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-toyota-teases-new-tacoma/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-toyota-teases-new-tacoma/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962290 You saw part of its backside. Now, behold the façade that is the 2016 Toyota Tacoma. Just like before, Toyota didn’t say anything about the third-gen pickup, other than when it would turn up at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show: January 12, 12:50 p.m. Eastern. As previously stated, the Tacoma is the king of the […]

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You saw part of its backside. Now, behold the façade that is the 2016 Toyota Tacoma.

Just like before, Toyota didn’t say anything about the third-gen pickup, other than when it would turn up at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show: January 12, 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

As previously stated, the Tacoma is the king of the mid-size hill, but its third incarnation will be facing two new upstarts in addition to the aging Nissan Frontier: the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

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Supercars To Go, Fourth Place: Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-fourth-place-lamborghini-gallardo-lp560-4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-fourth-place-lamborghini-gallardo-lp560-4/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:41:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961945 I truly love the Best&Brightest of TTAC. So much so that one of the common attack vectors used by my involuntarily-celibate, low-T, sub-neurotypical detractors is to parody that affection in a manner that reveals more about their fumbling attempts to interact with their “MLP:FiM” Meetups than it does about my admittedly wide range of personal […]

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I truly love the Best&Brightest of TTAC. So much so that one of the common attack vectors used by my involuntarily-celibate, low-T, sub-neurotypical detractors is to parody that affection in a manner that reveals more about their fumbling attempts to interact with their “MLP:FiM” Meetups than it does about my admittedly wide range of personal flaws. Nevertheless, I do occasionally find myself frustrated by the B&B’s relentless desire to nitpick the articles that we put up.

As an example: Due to the distressingly low number of contributors close-knit team at TTAC, it’s often necessary for one of us to pitch in during the off-hours to get a story up. And sometimes that call comes during what I think of as “The Ketel One Hour”, leading me to make inebriated mistakes like referring to deposed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as “Roy Batty” or “Scott LaRock”. The typical response of the readers is to completely pounce on me (or, more often, Derek) for making these mistakes, forgetting that if we had a so-called “editor” to “edit” what we write, we wouldn’t have any money to rent Camrys for track tests.

So, with that in mind, we’re on our third Supercars To Go test, and not a single member of the B&B has been sufficiently incensed to hit the “Reply” button and e-scream:

“NONE OF THESE ARE SUPERCARS!!”

It’s true. While the use of the word “supercar” is almost as old as Shaw’s use of the word “superman”, it didn’t really stick until, by the agency of one LJK Setright, the Lamborghini Miura was yclept thus. Therefore, a supercar is a mid-engined twelve-cylinder automobile with outrageous styling. It is permissible to exceed the requirements of this formula — hello, Cizeta Moroder V16T! — but not to provide less. I ask you, dear reader, is the Fiero 2M4 a supercar? No? Then how is the Audi R8, with barely twice the cylinder count and no more adventurous an interior design, a supercar?

Nor is the Ferrari 458 a supercar, being the direct descendant of the very non-supercar-ish Dino 246. The Gallardo is not a supercar, being the descendant of the (ugh) Jalpa. The McLaren MP4-12C is not a supercar because the “12” in the number has nothing to do with the number of cylinders. The GT-R is not a supercar in the same way that a fish is not a bicycle.

So why call this a “supercar” test? Well, the company that rents these cars, Xtreme Xperience, calls them supercars. Given that they are basically in the rental business, and the rental business is the one place in the world where a Chevrolet Malibu is a “full-sized” car and a Corolla is a “mid-size” car, it makes sense. Hertz calls the 911 C4S a “dream car”, and who’s dreaming of driving some wack-ass waterboxer with a droptop and a PRNDL shifter?

We also live in an era where people actually refer to a Mustang as a “sports car”. The distributed illiterate intelligence of the Web has bleached the meaning out of words like a decade’s worth of Texas sun at high noon, which is why young women describe “pad thai” food as “amazing!” and Chinese-sewn Lululemon pants that inadvertently display one’s pudenda (Latin: “the shameful thing”) every time you bend over as “awesome!”

When I was about nine years old, Lee Iacocca appeared on the television to show America the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon “Miser” models beneath a sign that said “52 MPG”.

“That’s incredible, if it’s true,” I said to my mother, who snapped back,

“Your use of the word ‘incredible’ means that you do not ‘credit’ it, which means you don’t believe it. Therefore, you’ve managed to contradict yourself quite nicely in a short but indifferently constructed sentence.” Did I mention that my mother spoke seven languages and delighted in exposing my logical fallacies in the harshest manner possible, starting around my third birthday? Not to worry, I’ll tell my analyst, as soon as I can find one who looks like the sexy blonde analysts in the Ratt videos.

Where we we? Oh, yes, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. It’s no supercar, but never was there a Miura that could have seen a distant glimpse of this thing’s origami-folded ass around a racetrack. It runs the quarter in 11.2 seconds. This particular Gallardo being one of the very last built, it has a thoroughly-revised e-gear transmission that works quickly and smoothly around a racetrack. The “paddle” shifters are really long metal handles that will be intimately familiar to anyone who has ever driven a Bentley Continental GT or, ahem, installed and VAG-COM-coded those same paddles to work on their Phaetons. It can be a little difficult to find them when the blood is hot and the pace is hard. Only after this test did I meet a Lamborghini factory driver who showed me the best way to do corner-exit upshifts on cars with steering-column-mounted paddles, like this and the Huracan: you use the left hand to steer the car and the right hand to shift. It’s very suave, when you do it correctly.

The Gallardo four-wheel-driver suffers from the same basic issues as the Audi R8 in terms of front axle activity and tire stagger, but having that 552-horse V10 behind you allows you to adjust these issues on the fly with copious amounts of torque and 8000-rpm power. It’s also possessed of a more responsive and informative steering system, which is odd because I’m pretty sure that the spec sheet has the same parts listed for both cars. I drove two different 560-4s that weekend and they were identical and both very good, so like Timothy B. Schmit I can’t tell you why that’s so.

The Gallardo’s low roof makes it a tight fit for me (six foot two, 32″ inseam) when wearing a helmet. The 560-4 is much more comfortable than the 550-2, however, for reasons I’ll discuss in the article on that car. The interior is a sort of Audi’s Greatest Hits with the addition of some chromed bespoke switches. If you own an old A4, you’ll recognize the temperature controls straightaway. Still, with the addition of some leather and chrome here and there, it actually works as an exotic-car interior. The old Italian cars from the Seventies were black plastic and chrome, and so is this. The difference is that none of the buttons are inoperative. You can track this car all day with the A/C on if you like. It doesn’t get hot, it doesn’t misbehave, it doesn’t flash warning lights at you. Compared to the Ferrari 430, it’s flashier on the outside and more subtle on the inside. If that’s your sort of thing, you’re in luck.

While there’s a “Corsa” mode for the stability control, this LP560-4 is perfectly safe and easy to drive with the ESC completely disengaged. You can feed it full power at any remotely sane point in the corner and though it won’t play differential games like a GT-R to tighten your line, neither will it loop the bitch around on you. The brakes are a bit wooden but they work very well even over the course of a full day’s lapping session. I had several female students who chose this car, none of whom had any track experience, and they were all able to enjoy themselves immediately.

The sense of worrisome size that accompanies the big Lambos like the Murcielago doesn’t exist here. The Gallardo feels smaller than a Corvette when you’re driving it, largely because you’re near the front axle plus it’s both narrow and slab-sided. I’d always thought of the Gallardo as a jerk-off car for jerk-off drivers but as the days went on and I saw just how well it worked for my students I came to really respect it. During my own drives of the car I found it to be superbly stable and adequately thrilling.

In dry conditions, with decent tires, you should be able to show heels to a stock C6 Z06 in this car. Add a bit of rain or poor track surface to the mix and the Lambo will leap away. This is particularly true for drivers without a lot of experience.

So what’s wrong with the car? Well, the styling was never as dramatic as it should have been, even if this final-facelift version looks suitably aggressive. The interior is a little too executive-sedan for my taste. It needs more tire to exploit the power. I’d rather have it with a six-speed manual. Most of all, however, that driven front axle just soaks all the potential drama out of the car. The LP560-4 is just too bolted-down, too safe, too sane, to be maximally thrilling. What it needs is the weight and dynamic gains that would come from ditching the front half of the drivetrain. Luckily, that’s an option, as we’ll see.

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Chart Of The Day: ExxonMobil Predicts Long Reign For The Internal Combustion Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chart-day-exxonmobil-predicts-long-reign-internal-combustion-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chart-day-exxonmobil-predicts-long-reign-internal-combustion-engine/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:38:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962202 The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil. While many will dismiss this as the wishful thinking of an industrial dinosaur, it’s worth remembering that 25 years isn’t that long of a timeframe in the automotive world. As we speak, automakers are already […]

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The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil. While many will dismiss this as the wishful thinking of an industrial dinosaur, it’s worth remembering that 25 years isn’t that long of a timeframe in the automotive world.

As we speak, automakers are already planning for what products will be on the market within the next decade. As it stands now, they must meet increasingly stringent emissions targets in the United States and the European union by 2025, in the form of both CAFE and the next round of Euro regulations that call for a fleet average of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer (for comparison, a Toyota Prius emits about 100 grams per km).

One way of meeting this target is through the use of hybrid technology – a sector that ExxonMobil sees as making rapid, substantial gains over the years. At this point, every single OEM has some kind of hybrid technology that can be adapted to their volume models in a way that is efficient in terms of both packaging and cost. This is sure to be the case for plug-in hybrid technology as well.

The zero-emissions front is substantially more fraught. The battle between battery electric vehicles (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has barely begun, but supporters of the two camps are already locked into a Betamax vs. VHS style conflict. As it stands, there is minimal infrastructure for both systems, and a combination of low oil prices and consumer skepticism is likely to stall its growth for the foreseeable future. And while BEVs technically have a head start on hydrogen, their market share is, in real terms, negligible.

In 2013, BEVs had a market share of just 0.28 percent, or about 260,000 units. Even the relatively scarce plug-in hybrid segment managed to best pure electrics, with 0.31 percent of the new car market. Only in Norway, where BEVs receive heavy subsidies in the form of tax breaks, have electric cars made any real headway, and even then, they have barely cracked 6 percent.

While tales of daring and disruption and averting cataclysmic climate change make for great headlines, the reality is that technological progress, especially in the automotive sector, moves at a much more gradual pace – otherwise, we’d likely have seen a major breakthrough in EV battery technology by now, one that would allow for significant range and negligible refueling times. Utopian visions of a fleet of silent, zero-emissions vehicles are just that. Instead, we are likely to see a proliferation of hybrid technology throughout new model lineups – and much of this will likely be driven by regulatory inputs, as a means of helping vehicles meet government mandated fuel economy targets, even if consumers don’t necessarily care.

Advances in the internal combustion engine are also on the horizon. Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engines, which allow for diesel-like combustion while running on gasoline, are expected to debut on Mazda cars by 2020. Mazda claims that they will provide a 30 percent fuel economy boost, while significantly lowering emissions. Between HCCI, increasingly cleaner diesel engines and incremental improvements to traditional engines, the ICE powertrains are likely to be ubiquitous due to their familiarity and what is sure to be a cost advantage. Barring any major, prolonged spike in energy prices or a wholesale shift in attitudes towards climate change and the environment, dollars and cents (not to mention sheer convenience) will remain the primary motivating factor in new car purchases. And that means that the internal combustion engine is well placed to continue its dominance through the next quarter century.

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Acura: Next NSX Debuting At Detroit – We Promise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/acura-next-nsx-debuting-detroit-promise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/acura-next-nsx-debuting-detroit-promise/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:02:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962154 Acura is apparently serious about the next NSX making its debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. A series of teaser shots of their latest supercar have been released, and Acura appears to be upholding their longstanding tradition of making their “concepts” fairly faithful to the production […]

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Acura is apparently serious about the next NSX making its debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

A series of teaser shots of their latest supercar have been released, and Acura appears to be upholding their longstanding tradition of making their “concepts” fairly faithful to the production model. On the other hand, any cues that pay homage to the design of the original car seem to be absent.

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Junkyard Find: 2001 Chevrolet Tracker ZR-2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/junkyard-find-2001-chevrolet-tracker-zr-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/junkyard-find-2001-chevrolet-tracker-zr-2/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961497 The second-gen Chevrolet Tracker, a badge-engineered version of the Suzuki Vitara and the descendent of the Geo Tracker Suzuki Sidekick sibling, was sold all over the world with many nameplates. It was never much of a big seller in the United States, so this ZR-2 is an unusual Junkyard Find. It will tow a semi! […]

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09 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe second-gen Chevrolet Tracker, a badge-engineered version of the Suzuki Vitara and the descendent of the Geo Tracker Suzuki Sidekick sibling, was sold all over the world with many nameplates. It was never much of a big seller in the United States, so this ZR-2 is an unusual Junkyard Find.

It will tow a semi! It’s like a (Suzuki) rock!
18 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember when the Culture Wars were all about flag-burning? Here’s an early-to-mid-2000s artifact of those days for you.
01 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe ZR-2 option package was all about off-roady stuff. I wonder if any base-model Tracker owner will grab all the skid plates and stuff off this one.
04 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe engine is gone.
15 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s probably not so much demand for worn-out Florida State tire covers.

01 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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NHTSA Ready To Force Nationwide Takata Airbag Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nhtsa-ready-force-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nhtsa-ready-force-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962073 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ready to force Takata and three of its clients into a nationwide recall over the catastrophic failure of the supplier’s airbags. The Detroit News reports the agency will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles in […]

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ready to force Takata and three of its clients into a nationwide recall over the catastrophic failure of the supplier’s airbags.

The Detroit News reports the agency will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles in addition to those already recalled.

The first act in bringing the named parties to trial will be a formal demand letter issued to all concerned. Upon refusal, the NHTSA will file a suit against each party in U.S. District Court, a process that could last for months, if not years.

The die was cast when Takata rebuffed the agency’s request earlier this month to expand its recall efforts beyond high-humidity locations in warm climates around the United States, including Florida and Hawaii.

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Piston Slap: A Fireball of a 3.8L Oil Leak? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fireball-3-8l-oil-leak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fireball-3-8l-oil-leak/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:34:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961145   Robert writes: I have changed the seal 2 times on my 3.8L Chevy and it still will leak. I had a place on harmonic balancer.I put the recommended slave to repair.It was not long enough to cover the bad spot on the balancer.It was close but they seal was damaged.They offer a different one […]

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(photo courtesy: underhoodservice.com)

Robert writes:

I have changed the seal 2 times on my 3.8L Chevy and it still will leak. I had a place on harmonic balancer.I put the recommended slave to repair.It was not long enough to cover the bad spot on the balancer.It was close but they seal was damaged.They offer a different one that is$30+.This all occurred just out of the blue.I rebuilt the engine and it has 30,000 on it.I was wondering if there is something causing pressure around this seal.Pressure check on cylinders was good.Any ideas what to do or pressure is good too good.

Thank you sincerely – Robert

Sajeev answers:

The problem seems common, a leak behind the harmonic balancer at the crankshaft’s front seal.  Or maybe I misread your letter, or googled incorrectly.

I also presume you installed this “sleeve” to repair it, but it didn’t work because it was too short. The correct one, or perhaps General Motors makes a revised seal/harmonic balancer that supersedes your part number should solve the problem.  But the real problem?

I can’t find a clear solution. This thread on 3800pro.com mentions blow by: excessive crankcase pressure that exacerbates an oil leak. You could bypass the PCV with a crankcase breather filter (if it won’t trigger a check engine light), then clean the motor and check for leaks…

…or install LS4-FTW the “different one that is $30+” as that might be the permanent solution.

Help us out, Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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The Ford Transit: America’s Best-Selling Commercial Van In November 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ford-transit-americas-best-selling-commercial-van-november-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ford-transit-americas-best-selling-commercial-van-november-2014/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:21:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961817 In November 2014, for the first time in its six-month North American existence, the full-size Ford Transit was America’s best-selling commercial van. A number of special circumstances made the Transit’s sudden rise to the top of the leaderboard possible, besides an increase in the number of available Transits and, yes, increased demand for the Transit […]

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2015 Ford TransitIn November 2014, for the first time in its six-month North American existence, the full-size Ford Transit was America’s best-selling commercial van.

A number of special circumstances made the Transit’s sudden rise to the top of the leaderboard possible, besides an increase in the number of available Transits and, yes, increased demand for the Transit itself.

First, sales of its predecessor, the traditional best-selling Ford E-Series, declined 59% from November 2013 to just 4151 units in November 2014. The E-Series’ decline was an anticipated one, but it had been averaging 7748 monthly sales over the Transit’s first five months.

Second, the Chevrolet Express slid 23% to just 4478 units. Had Express volume remained level – it’s up 3% year-to-date – at 5779 units, it would have clearly been the top seller for the fourth consecutive month. Sales of the Express’s twin, the GMC Savana, fell 53% to just 716 units.

Third, the attention typically generated by the Transit’s top-selling rivals was more divided than usual. Ram had its best ProMaster month in that van’s 14-month tenure with 3290 sales, 76% better than its previous best month. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter volume was up 26%.

U.S. commercial van sales chartFinally, the smaller quartet of vans, which for the first time included the Nissan NV200-based Chevrolet City Express, was up 36% to 5050 units, thereby grabbing 19.3% of the overall category, up from 14.9% a year ago.

Yet while the stars aligned for the Transit’s best-selling performance, we must expect that any Ford commercial van will become a dominant commercial van. Still, does the Transit have what it takes to pick up where the E-Series left off? The E-Series has been a massive seller for Ford in the United States, and even in this surprisingly fruitful month for the Transit, total full-size Ford commercial van sales slid 11%. Transit Connect included, Ford van sales were down 10%. The Transit has a long way to go if it’s to ever sell like the E-Series. The old van averaged 138,000 annual sales in the decade leading up to 2014.

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

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Chrysler Group Now FCA US LLC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962041 Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC. The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA […]

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FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC.

The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA Group umbrella will follow in due time.

The changes won’t filter down into individual brands or marketing, so the B&B will still be able to buy a Fiat 500 or Chrysler Town & Country without seeing an FCA badge.

The move marks the first time in the U.S. subsidiary’s history without the Chrysler name, first given by its founder, Walter P. Chrysler, in 1925.

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