Piston Slap: A Primer on Wheel Offset and Backspacing

Long-time TTAC Commentator 86er writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Could Piston Slap furnish me with a be-all/end-all explanation about wheel offsets? The more I try to read up on it on the web, the more confused I get. I’m pretty clear that RWD (at least traditionally) went with the low-offset while the FWD revolution made high positive offsets the industry standard, at least in passenger cars.

A few years back, I had purchased a set of winter tires on rims for my trusty ol’ 92 Vic and later after research found out that the rims were medium-offset that went on a 4×4 Ranger of similar years. I’ve heard that putting on a different-offset wheel can hurt steering/suspension parts like ball joints, but I’ve never seen it in black-and-white, so to speak.

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Versatile 2015 Mercedes Vito Van Puts Power To Front, Rear Or All

If you run a very large flower shop somewhere in Europe, and are in need of a van that could be configured to your needs — including where the power from the engine will go — Mercedes has a van just for you.

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Piston Slap: New CV Boots? A Split Decision!

TTAC Commentator Detroit Iron writes:

Long time no talk (I sound like a native American an Indian). (Yeah, not so much. – SM)

I have an 09 Outback with ~65k miles. I had noticed a bit of a burning smell after running it for a while and it was pretty strong after a recent trip. I thought it smelled like a belt slipping but when I popped the hood the two belts looked fine. After looking around for a minute I realized that the passenger side CV boot had torn and was dripping grease on to the cat. Checking the other side revealed that the driver’s side boot was also torn. Apparently this is a pretty common failure for scoobies. The Internet says I should be concerned if I hear a “popping” sound or the clunk associated with failing bearings. Luckily I am hearing neither. The dealer had a set price of $370 per boot for replacing the boots that the service manager somewhat disconcertingly blurted out almost before I finished describing the problem. The independent shop thought they could do both for less than $500 if the axles weren’t bad, but if they were bad then it would be another $450 per.

My question is this: Can I just get split boots from JC Whitney and pack them with grease or do I really need to have the pros fix it?

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Review: 2014 Ford Focus ST (With Video)

Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result is the polar opposite of a pony car.

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BMW to Turn FWD Up to Eleven With UKL1 Chassis

If thought of a front-driven ultimate driving machine seems like either the best thing ever or a nightmare, then BMW Sales and Marketing board member Ian Robertson has some good/bad news for you: 11 BMWs and MINIs will soon arrive in the showroom, all underpinned by the UKL1 FWD/AWD chassis.

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Piston Slap: Say "Audi 5000" to Your Tow Vehicle!

TTAC commentator Trend-Shifter writes:

I have a 1984 Audi 5000S Avant that is used as the wife’s car and our traveling/towing vehicle. Here is my dilemma…

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Alphabet Soup: 4×4 Vs 4WD Vs AWD Where's the Differential?

Four wheel drive, all wheel drive, 4WD, AWD, full-time, part-time, 4Hi, 4Lo, 4×4. There are many names and just as many ways of motivating every wheel a vehicle has on the ground. What’s the difference between four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive? In one word: Marketing. Want to know more? Click past the jump as we dive in the most controversial topic since “Dodge vs Chevy.”

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Read Between the Lines: Volvo's 8-speed Automatic

What do the Volvo XC60 and Lexus RX F-Sport have in common? Not much. Yet. Today’s vehicles aren’t just built on “modular” platforms, sharing parts with other vehicles from the same manufacturer, they are also “parts bin creations.” You’ll find the same power mirror switch in a Chevy, Jeep, Peugeot, Citroën, Lancia, Lincon and many more. That’s because car parts are like Lego pieces, made by a handful of car parts companies and designed to be everything for everyone. It’s cheaper for everyone to design one switch, one control module, one key fob and just alter some of the plastics and a connector to suit your new car design.

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New or Used: Seatown, Not Snowtown!

TTAC Commentator Horseflesh writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Winter is coming. Like any true Seattle suburbanite, I dread the debut of the white stuff. We’re so scared of snow up here that the local insurance company even aired commercials teasing us about it.

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Piston Slap: 38,000 Impala Police Cars Recalled, Chevrolet Claims Victory?

TTAC commentator Sinistermisterman writes:

Why isn’t Sajeev all over this one like a rash? GM recalls 38,000 cop cars.

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Rental Car Review: 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport

If you’re shopping for a compact American crossover, Chevy’s Equinox is likely on your list. If however you’re looking to rent a small crossover, the Chevrolet Captiva Sport is probably what you’ll get for $29.95 a day from Hertz. While you’re bound to see them on the streets, you can’t buy them new unless you’re a fleet customer. That’s because the Captiva is designed to do two things: keep fleet sales of GM’s other CUVs low and continue to amortize the cost of Americanizing the Opel Antara. Yep, that’s right, under the bow tie, the Captiva Sport is none-other than the 2008-2010 Saturn VUE, aka the Opel Antata, Holden Captiva and Dawewoo Winstorm MaXX. We spent a week in a Hertz rental to find out if Chevy’s rental soft-roader should be on your used CUV shopping list.

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Review: 2012 Ford Edge Limited EcoBoost

Once upon a time, in a country known as America, SUVs roamed the land with large-displacement inline 6s, optional V8s, and locking axles. Nobody had heard of a “cute ute.” Of course, gasoline was also under a buck a gallon. Today the landscape is different. While the last energy crisis caused entire vehicles to downsize, the response to the latest energy “crisis” (and government pressure) has been to downsize engines while leaving the rest of the vehicle intact. Case in point? The Ford Edge EcoBoost. No, this isn’t the 3.5L fire-breathing twin-turbo you’ve heard about before, this is the all-new 2.0L engine that puts the Eco in EcoBoost.

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Commercial Week Day Four Review: 2012 Ford Transit Connect

Americans with well worn passports often amaze their less-traveled friends with miraculous tales of a land full of tiny, fuel-efficient vehicles, expensive gasoline and miniature cans of Coke. (Really, those Coke cans are awesome.) The story inevitably ends with, “I wish I could buy X here”. Ford has so far been the most receptive to these cries, with the tasty Euro Focus, Fiesta (and soon the Fusion/Mondeo) to our shores. But what about some fuel-efficient love for the man-in-the-van? That’s where the Transit Connect fits in according to Ford. TTAC is no stranger to the Transit Connect with our own Sajeev Meta taking a spin in 2009. However in this review, we’ll attempt to compare the Connect to the other commercial options on the market while channeling our inner Joe-six-pack.

The Connect is off to a good start, with sales climbing from 8,834 in 2009 to 31,914 in 2011 proving there is a market for a mini-bread-van. The small hauler even accounted for 21.4% of Ford’s US van sales in 2011. Meanwhile, sales of the ancient and thirsty E-Series increased from 85,735 units to 116,874 from 2010 to 2011. By comparison, GM shifted just 89,211 vans in 2011. The reason behind the sales jump is obvious: high gas prices and no efficient cargo haulers to compete with it. But does that mean you should own one?

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Review: A Week In A 2012 Nissan Leaf

Last May, the Nissan Leaf was the hottest thing on the green radar. Limited production and a long waiting list for the press meant that Nissan was lending out Leafs (Nissan tells us that is the correct way to pluralize a Leaf) 62-hours at a time. With my long commute and lengthy 120V charging times, this meant a review with only 217 miles under our belt (read our three-part review here: 1 2 3). Now that a few thousand Leafs have found homes in Northern California and I had practiced my “range anxiety” breathing techniques, I was eager to see if the ultimate green ride was also a decent car beyond the batteries.

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What's Wrong With This Picture: The Ultimate Driving… Van? Edition

Which European automaker is working on this compact, front-drive MPV? It might look like a VW or Opel, but in fact it’s coming from the Roundel itself. BMW will release this five-seat, start-stop-equipped van sometime in 2014, giving its Euro-market customers an alternative to Mercedes’s B-Class van. But because this is still a BMW, a two-liter turbo engine option will be offered, giving this otherwise humble little MPV a 245 HP kick. Still, this will be the most prosaic offering from a firm built around rear drive and six-cylinder engines. And though Mercedes is bringing at least one front-drive model to the US market, expect BMW to maintain its premium positioning here by keeping this MPV in the European market, where such efficient vehicles are not seen as being incompatible with a luxury brand.

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  • Syke Just got my Bolt's battery recall done yesterday. Happily, we've got a dealer that's supporting the Bolt competently, getting the battery kit was supposed to take five weeks since I signed the work order. It took two and a half. Pulled the car in 0730 Monday, got a call at 1600 that afternoon saying I could pick it up. Didn't get down there until this morning, 255 miles range with frost on the windows. I'm happy.
  • Syke Nice. Competent. Definitely a useful tool.
  • Dukeisduke VinFast? More like SinkingFast.
  • FreedMike Layoffs are so much fun.
  • Corey Lewis Priced about $7k too high, especially since the pano roof will leak water and it's now fully out of warranty.