By on July 26, 2017

Bugatti Chiron, Front, Image: BugattiThe Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 debuted in 2005 to spec sheet acclaim. On paper, there had never been anything like it. 16 cylinders, four turbos, 987 horsepower.

And 10 miles per gallon of premium gasoline.

The 2018 Bugatti Chiron is a better car, as it should be after more than a decade passed between development cycles. There are still 16 cylinders and four turbos, but Bugatti increased the power (having intermittently done so during the Veyron’s tenure) to 1,500 horses.

That 52 percent increase in power is not quite matched by a commensurate improvement in the distance travelled per gallon of premium gasoline. Not quite. (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2017

pumping fuel

Automakers’ ability to adhere to the regulatory standards set by the U.S. government are beginning to slip. Manufacturers predicted industry-wide economy inadequacies for 2016 model year vehicles, anticipating things would only worsen for 2017. The Trump administration has framed itself as a friend to automotive companies, with the president himself claiming he would remove regulatory hurdles while in office. Corporate economy guidelines established under President Obama are already under review, but now so are the penalties companies would have to pay for not meeting them.

In a regulatory filing on Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would be seeking public comment on how to revise plans, slated to go into effect from the 2019 model year, which would more than double the penalties on auto manufacturers that fall short of meeting the government-set economy targets.  (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2017

fuel gauge

A recent study from Consumers Union — the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports — shows continued interest among U.S. residents in seeing automakers improve fuel economy figures, even as gas prices remain fairly low.

While this should come as a shock to no one, nearly nine in 10 surveyed consumers agreed automakers should continue improving fuel efficiency standards on all vehicles. As well, only 30 percent believed manufacturers actually cared about lowering fuel costs for their customers.

This might be true but, then again, why would automakers do such a thing when the general populace has essentially turned its back on economical passenger cars? With little incentive to sell them, especially if the Trump administration alters 2025 emission targets, any top-tier automaker focusing exclusively on building MPG-focused automobiles would be placing itself at major financial risk.

The survey indicated fuel economy as the area perceived to possess the most room for improvement in modern vehicles. However, consumers have not used their wallets to bolster economy car sales. There appears to be a disparity between what the public claims to value and how it actually behaves. At a minimum, consumers may have misunderstood everything it would take to see fleet-wide fuel consumption decline. If they want to see higher MPGs, they’re going to have to make some sacrifices and the survey doesn’t allude to that fact.  (Read More…)

By on June 27, 2017

Fourth-generation Volkswagen Golf, Image: Volkswagen

It’s called “optimism bias”, and for a while it fell into the realm of what people like to call “settled science.” Supposedly, humans are “hard-wired” to be more optimistic in any given situation than a realistic appraisal of the circumstances would justify.

This is why people buy lottery tickets, which are statistically equivalent to toilet paper. It’s why I continue to ride a BMX bike at skateparks even though I’m far more likely to endure yet another painful injury than I am to perform anything like a respectable stunt. It’s why people respond to “casual encounters — w4m” ads on Craiglist even though forty-nine out of fifty ads are utterly fraudulent attempts to steal anything from your wallet to your personal data to your kidneys.

But wait, there’s more. A new study suggests that optimism bias is more an artifact of bad experiment design than a reflection of actual human predisposition. Who’s right and who is wrong? I’m optimistic that we will eventually know the truth. In the meantime, let’s consider a question that verges on the outrageously hopeful…

(Read More…)

By on June 18, 2017

2.0 turbo engine Buick, Image: General Motors

Rising emissions regulations are forcing many automakers to adopt forced induction across the board. While some, like Mazda and Honda, have been milking naturally aspirated engines for all their worth, even they have turned to turbochargers to do some of the heavy lifting. General Motors has more than doubled North American sales of vehicles with turbo motors — going from roughly 288,000 units in 2011 to 712,000 in 2016, 23 percent of its total volume.

GM’s powertrain lineup has changed dramatically. A decade ago, only a handful of its models came with a turbo option, while just under half of today’s fleet uses some form of forced induction. The trend is set to continue for the 2018 model year, boosting the carmaker’s share of turbocharged offerings above the 50 percent mark. (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2017

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan - Image: VolkswagenVolkswagen of America is launching an all-new, second-generation, 2018 Tiguan in the summer of 2017. That’s the new new Tiguan.

But there’s also an old new Tiguan. Volkswagen is calling it the Tiguan Limited. Despite the major advances underpinning the new new Tiguan — it’s an MQB platform crossover with way more length, a third row of seats, and a dramatically different interior — the old new Tiguan will benefit from a significant update for 2018, as well.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Limited will send power to its front or all four wheels via a new eight-speed automatic, just like the new new Tiguan.

And with a new eight-speed automatic comes new fuel economy figures, something the old old Tiguan could have used years ago. (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2017

A Class Concept Mercedes

Like Steve Austin’s doctors, Mercedes-Benz engineers realized they had the technology to make the brand’s four-cylinder engines better than they were before. Better, stronger…smaller.

As the automaker prepares to expand its lineup of compact, front-wheel-drive offerings to eight models, new powerplants are the order of the day. Designed to propel vehicles using the next-generation MFA2 platform, the new engine family comes in a variety of flavors, one of which will likely appear stateside. (Read More…)

By on May 21, 2017

supermiler-laval

Students from the Université Laval of Quebec won the the 11th annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition in Detroit for the second time in a row last month. The energy-efficient gasoline powered prototype managed an impressive 2713.1 miles per gallon on an internal combustion motor. However, the unit was only a two horsepower engine and spent the majority of its journey coasting at low speeds.

Encouraging automotive innovation should always be praised but, considering Shell’s guidelines for these events, one would hope for more. The competition has university students designing a prototype car using any combustible fuel, mainly gasoline or hydrogen, in an attempt to out-economy their rivals on a Michigan test course — which is great. The problem is the majority of these vehicles could be outperformed by a reasonably fit individual on a bicycle.  (Read More…)

By on April 25, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport, Image: Nissan

Less cargo capacity, less horsepower, a lower entry price and … worse fuel economy? That’s the reality for buyers of the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport, also known as the Nissan Qashqai in Canadian and overseas markets.

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its thirstiness rating for the slightly smaller compact crossover, which was tossed into the Nissan’s North American lineup to fill a narrow gap in the brand’s utility offerings, and some might find the official numbers disappointing. (Read More…)

By on April 18, 2017

Out of Patience Fuel Gauge Mug

Not to go all political on you, but it’s amazing how President Obama acted more like a bitter foreclosure victim — one who goes nuts and destroys as much of the house as they can, just short of being arrested for vandalism — during his last days in office, and not a graceful man given two terms as the leader of the free world.

Mr. Obama did this in two ways: one action affected a short list of government folk, and the other impacted one of the most important industries in our lives — the auto industry.

The short-listed government victims are those affected by Obama’s order to share dirt on people talking with “foreigners.” It’s against the law — but when did that stop the former President? What’s worse, and perhaps deadly, is Mr. Obama’s decision to renege on his promise to check and perhaps re-adjust the daunting future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard his administration first put in place in 2009, which the administration made even wackier in 2011.

(Read More…)

By on April 13, 2017

Jaguar F-Type 4cyl

Jaguar announced at the New York Auto Show a refresh for its F-Type sports coupe that lops two cylinders off the base model V6. It won’t be quite that indelicate of a procedure and the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 will likely remain the most popular choice.

For 2018, the F-Type will provide six individual engine options. The F-Type will persist with its 340 horsepower six-cylinder mill, or 380 horsepower if you option for the R-Dynamic model. Next year’s Jags will also see the return or the previous 5.0-liter V8 trims — including the 550 hp R and 575 hp SVR. However, if you’re more into the F-Type for its charming looks than its bonkers performance, Jaguar will soon offer a 2.0-liter turbo for under $60,000.  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2017

pumping fuel

California has green-lit light-vehicle pollution targets that the Trump administration has placed under review. As expected, the Golden State is going to continue playing hardball over Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Already critical of the automotive industry for asking the president to reconsider federal guidelines through 2025, the California Air Resources Board hinted that it wouldn’t stray from the emission targets set by the Obama administration in 2012. On Friday, CARB finalized its state emissions rules while setting an updated ordinance on zero-emission vehicles. “We’re going to press on,” said Mary Nichols, head of the board, during last week’s press conference.  (Read More…)

By on March 23, 2017

pumping fuel

An economic assessment conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that, due to recent improvements in technology, the Environmental Protection Agency’s rationale for its 2025 fuel efficiency standards may have overestimated the cost for automakers to comply. The ICCT’s study shows average per-car investments 34 to 40 percent lower than the previous EPA appraisal.

While this information, had it come out sooner, may not have kept automotive executives from bending the president’s ear to reevaluate EPA guidelines, it certainly reframes their reasons for doing so. The ICCT, famous for turning researchers loose on Volkswagen diesels, makes a good case that manufacturers have the tools to meet current standards without spending a lot of money.  (Read More…)

By on March 13, 2017

Donald Trump

President Trump is prepared to make a formal announcement on the review of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that were locked in at the tail end of the Obama administration. Sources have confirmed that he’ll be meeting with automotive CEOs in Michigan this week to discuss the the situation after listening to them repeatedly beg him to repeal the current guidelines.

The president plans to visit an autonomous vehicle testing facility outside of Detroit on Wednesday before meeting with the automotive heads representing the Detroit Three. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday that the trip is centered around “job creation and automobile manufacturing … highlighting the need to eliminate burdensome regulations that needlessly hinder meaningful job growth.” (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2017

2017 Toyota Prius

Attentive readers will have, by now, recognized that my automotive choices tend to run towards the, shall we say, flamboyant side. Our family daily is an inky-black Dodge Charger with a vanity plate which is guaranteed to enrage bumper-ogling Methodists. New, oversized rims are scheduled to be fitted the minute all this snow goes away. Meanwhile, the Ram 1500 with which the Charger shares driveway space is painted Look-At-Me Red, accented garishly nicely with chrome 20-inch rims. I drove a Lincoln Mark VII with an uncorked exhaust for many years. My neighbours love me.

So what am I doing in a Prius when my tastes tilt to the extrovert end of the spectrum? Well, it’s always fun to see how the other half lives, and in this case, I wanted to see how the thing would fare on a 1,000-mile journey in the dead of winter.

(Read More…)

Recent Comments

  • JimZ: “The complaints in Europe are mainly from people who are really annoyed that they missed out on the...
  • JimZ: why should we care what people in Europe think? why do you lot think it’s your job to tell us what to do?
  • Sjalabais: Spot on. How do these people even say anything without breaking out in shameful laughter?
  • Sjalabais: Good point, so is money leading taste again? Are you guys about to get wagons back? Seen from Europe, I...
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