The Truth About Cars » testing The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 » testing Junkyard Find: 1986 Nissan Maxima, Brake Fluid Overdose Edition Fri, 17 Jan 2014 14:00:58 +0000 01 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see some weird stuff in San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yards, from lunatic-with-a-glue-gun art cars to dipped-in-battery-acid rust to chopped, Italianized Swedes. Last weekend, I stopped by a well-stocked Oakland self-serve yard and found this puzzling brake-fluid test vehicle.
03 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m thinking that Cartel Products probably didn’t hire some East Bay Maxima driver to use their silicone brake fluid and advertise the fact with scary-looking nail-polish-painted signs all over the car. That leaves the question: who, and why?
06 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWell, nail-polish and mailbox stick-on letters.
09 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe radiator smelled like brake fluid.
12 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinBut it gets weirder than that. Who puts brake fluid in the windshield washer system? And then installs inline fuel filters in the squirter lines?
08 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is one of those 1980s Japanese cars that had all the control labeling translated directly into English, regardless of hyphenation. SECU-RITY!

01 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin

]]> 62
Toyota Teams With BMW to Deliver Ultimate Hybrid Supercar Thu, 07 Nov 2013 11:00:00 +0000 2014 BMW i8

When Toyota teamed with General Motors, they gave us the Vibe/Matrix twins. With Subaru, a trio of rear-driven sports cars with boxer power up front. So, what will Toyota deliver in its partnership with BMW? How about the ultimate hybrid supercar based off the bones of the Lexus LFA, for starters.

In an effort to join the ranks of Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren and even Mercedes-AMG in the eco-friendly supercar sweepstakes, Toyota will jointly develop a halo car with BMW that aims to take the ideas behind the LFA, swap its V10 for a hybrid powertrain, and package the deal for around $300,000.

For Toyota, that means teaching the Germans how to weave carbon fiber and offering its expertise in chassis craftsmanship, as well as its research in high-performance hybrid technology. On the other side, BMW offers mass production capabilities to make as many plastic and carbon fiber baskets as desired, as well as an array of engines that offer the same amount of power as the LFA’s V10, but with less cylinders, a smaller size, fewer emissions, and better mileage, such as the M5′s 4.4-liter 552-horsepower turbo V8.

No matter what happens, Toyota is wasting little time getting started (it took a decade to bring the LFA from the light table to the showroom); the word on the street is that a BMW i8 is residing in the automaker’s testing grounds near Mt. Fuji, undergoing stress tests in regards to its carbon fiber frame and emissions trials on the plug-in hybrid’s engine.

]]> 7
Piston Slap: To Test in 4WD…or Not? Wed, 09 May 2012 10:44:09 +0000


Jonathon writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Long time reader, not a commenter though. I have simple situation, and a simple question. Last Friday my beloved, and owned from birth, 1995 Grand Prix GTP developed a head gasket leak. This is something I can, with father-in law help, tackle in the summer. However living in Northern Ontario, a driveway repair is just not an option right now. It’s time for a new ride.

Since all those years ago I did not give my wife (g.f. at the time) any option into the purchase, this time around it will be something we both are in love with. Sadly that leaves a V6 Mustang or the 2013 Genesis 3.8 out. Also we lost our niece at the beginning of the year in a highway car accident that killed three other teenagers (the quality of highway maintenance is now privatized and sub-par). Anyways, that has my wife eying a 4×4\awd even more then ever.

Top on her list is a 2012 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited (bare bones except auto & A\C). The mileage for this is 16\20. Our car, new, apparently was 16\24. From our sleepy little city to Toronto is ~360km. At the current 1.28\l, it would mean another $14 there and back for one of our escapes to the big city. So the question I have is, when the EPA tested the wrangler did they do it in 4wd, so that we could expect to see better mileage, or 2wd, and that is what we should expect?



ps…anyone have any suggestions for a driveway mechanic preparing to replace a headgasket on a 1995 Pontiac 3.4 with DOHC?

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes, I certainly do have some suggestions!

My first preparation? Take one of the larger wrenches in your tool box and use it to crack every finger on your hands…as this is what most GM service techs experienced when they had to work on the cool, yet terribly designed “Twin Dual Cam” motors when they were new. If you don’t have the proper GM service manuals, better get them on eBay now…and start drinking, too.  Only then can you be ready for what nightmares lie ahead!

That said, I truly admire you for keeping a GM-10 on the road.  While I didn’t appreciate them initially, they have aged well. Kudos to you, sir!

About your new vehicle concern: the EPA does indeed test 4WD vehicles in 2WD. So you can’t expect any better mileage, that’s the best the drivetrain shall give. But you are actually concerned about safety after a fatal accident of a loved one, the Wrangler is last on my list.  Compared to a normal CUV and maybe most SUVs, the off-road ready Wrangler is less confident in emergency maneuvers, and that cramped footwell might mess up your foot.  Get a car-based CUV instead, unless you must have the coolness only available in the Wrangler.

Not to mention that most (all?) CUVs in the Wrangler’s price range get better fuel economy too. Because, after all, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

]]> 59
What’s Wrong With This Picture: I Believe I Asked For A Small Mokka Edition Thu, 22 Dec 2011 14:22:05 +0000

Editor’s Note: The image above is from Autobild (and is posted elsewhere in the German media), and is not labeled as a rendering, a spy shot or an official image. An anonymous tipster who has seen the upcoming Buick “Encore” (which GM has shown to select fans and journos under embargo for years now) says the vehicle shown here is “basically the same design” as the Encore. 

At first glance, it’s fairly obvious that there’s something not quite right with this picture. Better than most photoshops or renderings, but not quite convincing as a real picture, this car seems trapped in the Uncanny Valley, as if it were photographed undergoing winter testing on the set of the film The Polar Express. In any case, this little Corsa-based CUV (allegedly to be named “Mokka”) will debut at the Geneva Auto Show, and will take on such B-segment crossovers as the Nissan Juke, Suzuki SX4 and Ford’s forthcoming new Ecosport.

Meanwhile, GM’s American-market interpretation of a B-segment CUV is likely to be quite different from these little rough-and-ready softroaders [Ed: Or, not]. Buick is slow-strip-teasing its forthcoming Encore on Facebook, and it’s already looking like the Baby Enclave rumors were well-founded in terms of its exterior design. On the other hand, this isn’t a wildly detailed photo, so who knows? Either way, both the Mokka and the Encore are based on a jacked-up version of the Gamma II subcompact platform, and based on a video of what appears to be some relatively early chassis testing, the short-wheelbase and tall suspension took a little taming. Hit the jump to see for yourself…

]]> 18
How Efficient Are Plug-In Cars? Survey Says… Wed, 04 May 2011 19:19:33 +0000

A number of plug-in hopeful firms have been testing their future products in fleets, keeping a close eye on the data coming back as they prepare for their consumer launches or wider availability. One such vehicle, Toyota’s plug-in Prius has been testing for some time now, and while the results of US and European testing hasn’t been publicized yet, Wards Auto reports that the company has disclosed the results of Japanese testing with some interesting conclusions. With BYD and Chevrolet releasing data from their own plug-in testing, we should have the basis for some interesting insights. Hit the jump for more on the lessons learned and the data gleaned from this testing of next-gen drivetrains.

Toyota has long taken a very conservative approach to both pure plug-in EVs and the lithium-ion battery technology that underpins the current generation of pure EVs. And as a result, their test data shows some interesting usage paterns that might not have been publicized by a firm with more skin in the EV gamble. To wit:

Some 45% of users in the Japan test drove less than 20 miles (32 km) a day, so their daily fuel use was zero, [Toyota Europe engineer Rody El Chammas] says. And because they had a 1.8L gasoline engine on board, they didn’t worry about driving further.

Most drivers of the 200 plug-in hybrids in the Japanese fleet trial used the car for business, and Toyota was able to track results of the daily drives on the same route.

It was no surprise the extremes of cold and hot weather reduced the range of the PHEVs. At 32° F (0º C), range is cut in half; above 77° F (25º C), when the air conditioning kicks in, the range sinks again. But in addition to the effects of weather on the draw of electricity, Toyota also found a “traffic jam” effect.

In good weather on the same route, when the drives averaged 19.4 mph (31.2 km/h), the EV range was about 4 miles (2.5 km) more than when speeds were averaging 13.7 mph (22 km/h).

Meanwhile, as TTAC has pointed out before, measuring plug-in hybrid efficiency is a huge challenge given that the vehicles are literally “as efficient as you want them to be.” Or, as the Toyota engineer puts it.

Actual fuel savings depends on how far people actually drive their PHEVs. El Chammas says 19 miles (30 km) a day saves 71% of fuel, compared with a hybrid Prius, and at 31 miles (50 km) a day, the savings is 41%.

In Europe, 75% of daily trips are less than 50 km, he says, while in the U.S. 66% are below that and in Japan it’s 90%.

El Chammas says European testing is beginning to show another new challenge, namely making charging infrastructure available and convenient to PHEV drivers. Problems ranging from vandalism of charging stations to non-EV squatting in charging station parking spots have been issues in European testing, he admits. In my own experience with the Prius Plug-In, which was undergoing US testing as part of ZipCar’s fleet, this is proved to be a real and not-inconsequential concern: my own test results were compromised as a result of the Prius not having been plugged in by the previous user.

Luckily for Toyota, it has found that Prius PHEV drivers don’t worry too much about charging, as efficiency is still pretty good without a full charge. But at BYD, which has released data on its Chinese pure-electric taxi tests to GreenCarCongress, they’ve found that rapid charging has yet to make a serious impact on battery life or power. This is significant in the sense that “normal” charging of a pure EV can be incredibly time-consuming, while rapid charging is widely considered to have a negative impact on battery life and power (for example, Nissan says slow-charging its Leaf EV takes 21 hours, while rapid charging will take 10% off of the battery’s life and power by the end of its life). But, reports GCC

BYD said that the most important finding in the e6 fleet testing was that there has been no noticeable energy drop—both driving range and battery performance has been stable in rapid-charging conditions over the 1.73M miles tested.

Of course, that’s based on 50 Shenzhen-based e6 taxis, so divide those total miles by 50 and you find that each has gone an average of 34,600 miles. It’s promising that BYD has not yet found any negative impacts from rapid charging the iron-phosphate batteries, but we’d want to see at least four times that mileage before we declare regular rapid charging to be free from battery degradation issues. Meanwhile,

According to collected data, the per-car-fuel-savings is more than $1,167 per Taxi per month (driving an average of 400 km per day). BYD’s all-electric Taxis are expected to help Shenzhen avoid about 133 lbs (or 60.4 kg) of carbon-dioxide emissions per day per taxi. This is an equivalent of 2,425,060 lbs (or 1.1M kg) of carbon-dioxide pollution saved by this fleet in the first year.

Unfortunately, BYD leaves a couple of key variables un-fixed, such as the carbon rating for electricity in Shenzhen, as well as an average kW-per-vehicle-mile-traveled number. As a result, the Shenzhen taxi data is less than entirely illuminating. If anything, the most interesting number is the nearly 250 miles per day that the fleet apparently averaged. On the other hand, that number is just a little bit suspicious as it’s exactly the manufacturer range rating BYD gives for its e6.

Luckily BYD redeems itself by releasing some far more revealing data from its Los Angeles-based test fleet of F3DM compact plug-in hybrid cars.

BYD also reported on its F3DM fleet which BYD launched in its first US tests at the Housing Authority of Los Angeles (HACLA). The F3DM can travel more than 40 miles (64 km) all-electric but can be engaged to act as a Hybrid-Electric (HEV) to extend its range up to 300 miles (483 km). The HACLA fleet has now accumulated ~10,430 miles (16,785 km) all-electric and 14,430 total miles (23,223 km); 4,000 fuel-driven miles when extended range was necessary.

The fleet is achieving an equivalent of 88 mpg (2.67 L/100km) and BYD estimates the per-car-savings—even netting out EV charging and electricity costs—is ~70%. BYD’s dual-mode cars are expected to save HACLA about 37 lbs (16.8 kg) of carbon-dioxide per-day-per-auto when driven to the EV range.

Given that Los Angeles represents one of the more extreme driving environments unique to the US market, this data is quite interesting. On the other hand, the fleet is relatively new and has not yet accumulated enough miles to truly test the long-term viability of the F3DM. Considering that driving impressions of the F3DM indicate that it is a relatively immature product by US market standards, we would want a good deal more data before we even thought about putting money down on a BYD.

Meanwhile, Chevy is carefully collecting data from its Volt customers, and spokesman Rob Peterson says he’s encouraged by upticks in the Volt’s efficiency which are showing up in both anecdotal and customer data. From the December launch of the Volt through February, GM says Volt consumers averaged 800 miles between visits to the gas station, and in March that number jumped to 1,000 miles. Peterson says Volt owners now fill up on gas an average of once every 30 days, and that GM will be sharing more data on the Volt’s usage data going forward.

]]> 10
Volt Birth Watch 172: 3rd Generation Sustainability? Fri, 20 Nov 2009 16:55:31 +0000 (

“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation,” goes a famous line in the Great Law of the Iroquois, “even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” Though TTAC tests the thickness of GM’s skin on a daily basis, GM is ahead of the seven-generation game. The Detroit News reports that GM’s engineering staff are already working on the Volt’s third-generation hardware, although previous iterations are still being used to collect data. Meanwhile, the major challenge remain getting everything road-ready for a 2010 launch, a goal that will be reached… “barring any last minute problems.” “I did place a lot of faith in the battery companies, who said they could have them ready,” admits Bob Lutz. Oh, and there’s still one other major obstacle to overcome: the cost. Test vehicles cost “over $250,000″ per vehicle to build, and a major focus of the testing process has been reducing the build cost. And despite the earlier Volt-as-sports-sedan rhetoric, the top attained speed in testing is 107 mph, although engineers say it will likely be limited to 104 mph. Though that’s faster than most EV early-adopters will take their Volts anyway, it’s also only about 15 mph faster than the much-cheaper Nissan Leaf EV, a vehicle that the Volt will have to differentiate itself from considerably to earn its estimated $10k premium over the non-range-extended EV.

]]> 30