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By on October 31, 2017

Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept

As I scanned my social media feeds last week, I noticed a fair amount of journalists posting that they were headed to the Tokyo Motor Show on Mitsubishi’s dime. While automaker-funded junkets to an international auto show aren’t uncommon – I’ve been on such trips myself – the fact that it was Mitsubishi footing the bill for international airfare and hotels in one of the world’s most expensive cities raised my eyebrows.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a screed about journalistic ethics and press junkets. I only mention it because automakers don’t spend that kind of money on media without a purpose. They have something in mind that they want covered, and while they won’t attempt to dictate that the journalists report only glowingly about what they’re doing (at least I hope not), they will expect coverage, even if it’s neutral or negative, from those they flew out there. All publicity being good publicity, that sort of thing.

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

Tesla Model S Grey - Image: Tesla

Lately, we’ve been guilty of the same behavior as a lot of other well-rounded and objective automotive publications — bashing Tesla Motors. It hasn’t been done maliciously, but we’d be lying if we said the divisive hype and hate surrounding the company didn’t bother us. However, since the summer launch of the Model 3, a slew of happenings at Tesla have have raised unanswered questions.

The biggest question surrounds the cause of the company’s rather severe production delays. Tesla also fired hundreds of employees this month, without any clear answer as to why, and seems to have shelved a cross-country trip aimed at highlighting the progress made with its Autopilot driver assistance platform.

None of this would be quite so noteworthy if its stock valuation wasn’t still stratospherically high and CEO Elon Musk hadn’t publicly promised so much — but that isn’t the reality we’re living in. Now, with the company reporting its third quarter earnings on Wednesday evening, we’re hoping to get some clarity on what exactly is happening in Fremont, California.  (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

waymo-pacifica

Commuting is awful. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have spartanly populated backroads between you and the office, that drive to work can be excruciatingly dull — with the only excitement coming from near misses and whatever terrible jokes drive-time radio offers up during that hour. When you get right down to it, most daily commutes are little more than unpleasant ways to add miles onto the odometer.

Of course, with the promise of autonomous driving, that experience is supposed to transform into a worry-free jaunt. But there’s a problem. Most self-driving systems of the near future will require operators to pay roughly the same amount of attention they do now. After all, if your car miscalculates a situation, you’ll want to be ready to take over the instant something seems awry. If that’s the direction we’re heading with this technology, I’m starting to think it might just be easier to automate all of our jobs instead of the the method we use to get to them.

However, at least one self-driving firm has abandoned the development of features that would require human intervention — leaving the car to make up its own mind in an emergency situation.  (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

2018 ford expedition fx4, Image: Ford Motor Co.

There’s nothing quite as uncertain as that little number staring at you from the window sticker of a new vehicle. It’s two digits long (unless you’re fabulously rich), followed by the word “combined.” We’re talking, of course, about the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy rating, which often turns out to be an impossible-to-reach goal or — if you’re lucky — a lowballed figure.

Back in the days of lapels and flares, the hot gas mileage action was found in the compact and subcompact class. Economy cars, after all. Well, people these days prefer driving a vehicle that seats at least five adults in comfort while towing a boat and hauling 65 pounds of kid’s toys and a dog in the rear cargo area. With the heyday of the cheap little car long gone, the (fuel) economy battle rages anew among the largest, and most lucrative, vehicles on the road.

So, do you believe the EPA when it says the massive 2018 Ford Expedition gets 20 miles per gallon combined? (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

hyundai-sonata-eco-grille logo

Hyundai has snagged itself another high-profile BMW veteran. Last time it was Albert Biermann, dynamics wizard and former head of BMW’s M line. This time it’s Fayez Abdul Rahman, BMW’s former head of M Equipment, M sport packages, and M performance vehicles.

Whereas Biermann is currently serving as Hyundai Group’s vice president in charge of performance and high-performance vehicle development for the group, Rahman will focus specifically on Genesis vehicles. He previously led concept and platform development for numerous model lines at BMW — including the X Series, 7 Series sedan, and various M brand vehicles.

At Hyundai, he’ll be responsible for doubling the size of Genesis’ fleet by 2020, via the gradual inclusion of crossovers(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

road rage

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. Some of you will immediately recognize that as Acts 10:34-35. The rest of you are heathens who have no business in a civilized society. I’m just kidding, of course; in the future, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

The phrase “respecter of persons” won’t be immediately obvious to people without a classical education so allow me to elaborate. To pay respect to someone’s person was to give them the courtesy due their rank. It’s odd to think that once upon a time children were exhaustively drilled in proper titles and modes of address and whatnot, but that’s just the way it was. Woe betide the poor prole who referred to someone as “Your Grace” instead of “Your Highness” or something like that.

We’re now seeing a bit of that old stratified society return nowadays, in the endless permutations of luxury services and in Manhattanite children who tell their parents, “Next time we fly private like everyone else.” It will only get worse from here. And the more it becomes blatantly obvious that there are different classes of people in this world, the stronger the appeal will be of a politician, or a God, who is immune to the blandishments and caresses of rank but instead judges people for their righteous works.

The American freeway, of course, has a ranking system of its own, and that’s where today’s question comes in.

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

Utility vehicles are nothing new at Lincoln, but where there was once a single heritage-diminishing (but lucrative) oddity built to give Cadillac’s Escalade a run for its money, there now sits three models with rear liftgates. A fourth looms. Now back from a near-death experience, Lincoln isn’t alone in requiring a lineup stocked with high-riding vehicles. […]

By on October 31, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport - Image: Hyundai

When it comes to the positively frosty relationship between China and South Korea, this is the part of the movie where the two countries bump into each other at the bookstore and realize they should work out their troubles instead of giving each other the silent treatment. You know, for the kids.

For South Korea, China’s decision to warm up the relationship — which soured after the jittery country placed U.S.-supplied defensive missiles on its soil — is the best news its auto manufacturing sector has heard in ages. Perhaps soon it won’t be frowned upon to own a Hyundai or Kia in Beijing. (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

2013 Nissan Xterra

Do you miss the Nissan Xterra? Me, too. Appropriately blocky and truck-like in all the right ways, Nissan’s midsized off-road SUV was a great blend of tough looks and actual, y’know, functionality.

The old Xterra vanished from showrooms in 2015. Reading between the lines of a statement made by the head of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi’s light commercial vehicle division and reported by Aussie site Drive, a new one may be on the horizon.

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

2017 Ram 1500 Sublime Sport

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Ram will drop a new half-ton pickup at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. It’s a big gamble redesigning a cash cow, lest the truck faithful turn up their noses at the new styling.

In the past, manufacturers have hedged their bets by simultaneously producing both the new and old styles, such as when Ford offered both the F-150 and F-150 Heritage in 2004. Now, Ram appears poised to deploy the same strategy in 2018, according to bossman Sergio Marchionne.

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T - Image: Honda

It’s an “eye of the beholder” kind of thing. Like in the Twilight Zone episode of the same name, sometimes a great-looking vehicle stands out as a freak in a world of uglies. Some models we just don’t appreciate like we should. We grow accustomed to a singular form of beauty.

We’ve turned our critical gaze on past and current models before, but this time we’re asking you to to focus on new (or refreshed) for 2018 models. There’s no shortage to choose from. Honda’s all-new Accord; the heavily (and questionably) revamped Toyota Camry; the frowny-face Ford Mustang; the glitzy rolling mass of the newly sculpted Lincoln Navigator. Throw the Kia Stinger in for good measure.

You’re in good company for this question. However, is the Class of 2018 a bunch of lookers, or is it just a pack of duds? (Read More…)

By on October 30, 2017

renaissance center Detroit

Earlier this month, General Motors agreed to a $120 million settlement over faulty ignition switches and the uncouth way in which it handled that particular, ahem, “safety issue.” The settlement applied to 49 states and the District of Columbia but not Orange County, California. That region of the U.S. required a separate case, an additional $13.9 million, and some exuberant scorning.

California faulted GM with not only selling defective vehicles but intentionally concealing serious safety defects through the careful usage of language.

Prosecutors claimed the company specifically trained its staff to never use words like “defect” or “stall,” and even avoid dealing with any safety issues whenever possible, while being simultaneously aware of a problem that ultimately resulted in the deaths of over 120 individuals. While this matter had been more-or-less settled via an earlier $900 million agreement (resulting from the Justice Department’s investigation, in 2015), it deferred direct criminal prosecution of the company for three years. Perhaps that caveat rubbed Californian prosecutors the wrong way and they wanted some additional retribution.  (Read More…)

By on October 30, 2017

2017 Honda Civic Type R - Image: Honda

Between Mopar’s 707-horsepower Hellcat engine and Honda’s 306-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter from the Civic Type R, the crate engine gods have smiled on both axles today.

Like Mopar, Honda took advantage of this week’s SEMA show in Las Vegas to announce the availability of the front-drive monster’s engine in standalone form. No doubt this news immediately inspired visions of the cobbled-together HR-V Type R you really wanted, but be warned. This engine comes with an asterisk. (Read More…)

By on October 30, 2017

fine-comfort-ride-wheel

Airless tires are one of those things that crop up every few years, but they never seem to stick around long enough to become commonplace. Already, certain construction vehicles use flat-proof rubber, and tire manufacturers have been playing with airless systems for some time. For example, Hankook has the iFlex, its fifth attempt at non-pneumatic tires, and Goodyear has actually begun selling airless donuts on commercial lawnmowers. Michelin even has a 3D-printed round that it claims will last the lifetime of a vehicle.

Unfortunately, nobody seems able to come up with a solution that works at higher speeds. While they’re great at taking impacts, the existing designs aren’t so good at coping with high levels of heat. But it’s not for a lack of trying — there may even be a breakthrough just around the bend, especially since everyone seems so interested. Rolling resistance and weight are two of the electric car’s worst enemies. If an automaker could mitigate those issues effectively, that would be another leg up on the competition.

It’s an issue weighing heavy on the top minds at Toyota at the moment. The company’s recent concept EV, the Fine-Comfort Ride, came equipped with a set of experimental airless tires from Sumitomo Rubber Industries, boringly named the Smart Tyre Concept-A. Toyota’s theory is that non-pneumatic tires, consisting of a solid band of rubber encircling lightweight alloys, could eventually compensate for the weight of wheel-mounted electric motors.  (Read More…)

By on October 30, 2017

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - Image: Buick

Denali. It’s the Ford LTD of trims. Just take an existing model, add a dash of content and a sprinkling of chrome, and boom — a significantly inflated MSRP and legions of willing buyers. So impressed by GMC’s Denali sub-brand was Buick, executives decided it needed one of its own.

Enter the Avenir sub-brand, which serves as the top trim podium for the redesigned 2018 Enclave. Not only is Avenir designed to milk larger volumes of dollars out of existing Buick products, it’s also meant to draw more eyes to the brand — something Buick needs now, not later.

Still, despite its high expectations for the Avenir experiment, Buick knows it can’t come in too hot. (Read More…)

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