Carquestions: Where Is The Jeep Grand Cherokee's Battery Charge Monitor?
Out Of Africa, A Car For Africa
In the auto industry, as in so many other areas, Africa is something of a forgotten continent. Without the new roads and emerging middle class of a China, the most underdeveloped part of the developing world tends to fly under the radar: for example, until I read a Financial Times piece on an airplane, I had no idea that South Africa’s auto industry was booming. And now, here’s another story that isn’t getting much play in the mainstream of the auto world: Mobius, a Mombasa, Kenya-based firm has built a prototype vehicle that it hopes will be the Model T of Africa, providing robust, low-cost transportation to a continent that is not taken seriously as a market by the global car business.
Review: 2011 BMW X3
With the 2004 X3, BMW offered a compact SUV a half-decade ahead of other German car manufacturers. So not long after Audi and Mercedes have introduced their first such vehicle BMW has an all-new second-generation X3. The first-generation X3 had its strengths, but its weaknesses tended to outweigh them, especially in the U.S. market. The larger X5 has outsold it on this side of the Atlantic many times over despite a higher price. Has BMW learned enough in the past seven years to address these weaknesses and keep ahead of the new competition?
Launch Report: Toyota HiLux and Fortuner
An extravagant ceremony at Bangkok’s Impact Arena has seen the launch of Toyota’s new Hilux and Fortuner – key models in its developing market portfolio. The pair are products with big, tough reputations, and importantly, the profit-generating ability to match.
Review: 2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid
A couple months back, Cadillac gave me a bright red, three-ton, rollin’-on-22s, chrome-drenched, hybrid-electric, $88,140 luxury truck to drive while in Michigan for the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis 24 Hours of LeMons. Since that time, the effort of attempting to write a meaningful review for this ridiculous-yet-amazing machine has caused my brain to develop a severe rod knock. Who is supposed to buy this thing? I asked myself. What can you do with it?
Review: 2011 Range Rover HSE and Supercharged
If you are on the market for a classically-styled English luxury vehicle with a compliant ride and a sticker under a quarter-million dollars, the Range Rover dealer might be your only destination. After all, Jaguar recently nixed the styling often referred to as “fussy” (but I preferred to think of as “dignified”) opting instead for jamming insane engines into sporty, avant-garde styled rides, Bentley has been churning out stiffly sprung modern sports cars lately leaving only the dueling RRs, Range Rover and Rolls Royce, to battle for our softly sprung anglophile hearts and minds. (Mind you, the baby Roller is considerably more expensive than anything coming out of Solihull.) With this kind of company, does a Rover have what it takes to be the ultimate in off-road luxury? Or will it at least make a more appropriate garage mate than a Jeep?
On The Safety Of Large Vehicles
The “big car safe, small car unsafe” debate took another interesting turn this week, as researchers from UC Berkeley have released a report arguing that large cars significantly increase the risk of death on American roads. Recent data on the most and least died-in vehicles seemed to show that larger vehicles do indeed keep drivers safer, but this new report seems to roll back the impact of that finding. Slate reports that researchers
studied accident data from eight states, identifying the type and weight of vehicles involved in collisions by their VIN numbers. The researchers confirm that the heavy cars kill. Indeed, controlling “for own-vehicle weight, being hit by a vehicle that is 1,000 pounds heavier results in a 47 percent increase” in the probability of a fatal accident. The chance is even higher if the heavy car is an SUV, pickup truck, or minivan. (Taller vehicles tend to do outsize damage, too.)
The researchers then set out to calculate the value of the “external risk” caused by our heftier vehicles. First, they considered a scenario in which a driver chose between a car with the 1989 model-year average weight of 3,000 pounds or the 2005 weight of 3,600 pounds. The heavier car increased the expectation of fatalities by 0.00027 per car—27 deaths per 100,000 such vehicles. “Summing across all drivers,” they write, “this translates into a total external cost of $35 billion per year,” using the Department of Transportation’s value of a statistical life of $5.8 million. Judging against a baseline in which a driver chose the smallest available car, such as a Smart Cars, the cost is $93 billion per year. The price tag climbs beyond $150 billion per year if you include the cost of pedestrian and motorcyclist deaths and figure in multi-car collisions.
Review: 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel
The Chevrolet TrailBlazer and its many sibs are extinct. The Ford Explorer nameplate survives, but it’s now attached to a car-based crossover. Only one family of domestic midsize conventional SUVs remains—and, quite ironically, it’s based on a Mercedes platform. We’ve examined the five-seat Jeep Grand Cherokee before. For those more focused on people hauling than rock crawling Chrysler more recently introduced the seven-seat Dodge Durango. Is the all-new 2011 Durango only for people who need the dependable towing capacity of a conventional SUV? Or can it compete with the transverse-engined competition on their own terms?
Review: 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI
The Touareg TDI is not your father’s Oldsmobile. I know, because I unfortunately drove my father’s 85HP, 1983 Cutlass Cierra diesel when I was a kid. Since my dad was a glutton for punishment, this was not his first unreliable GM diesel; we also had a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser with the infamous diesel V8. After about 30,000 miles, both our diesels smoked like a 60 year old hooker. Since potential clean diesel shoppers seem to fall into the 30-60 year old demographic, this is still the image that diesel brings to mind for many, not the reliable but low-volume European diesels from the 70s and 80s. If sales numbers are any indication however, BMW Mercedes and VW have been changing the tide of public opinion.
Auction Monday: Oakwood
Wanna buy a Hummer? You can buy them as cheap as dirt these days. There was a beautiful one that went through the block at a weekly public auction in Oakwood, GA. Nice leather interior. Well kept. The H2 models in particular were an easy piece to market and sell not too long ago… but not last Thusday. It no-saled. Not even the hope of a bid at $13k. Then came the H3. No sale at 10k. No takers. Only two no-sales from new car stores that generally sell everything. Why?
Review: 2011 Infiniti QX56
You have your reasons. Gas prices might be high and headed higher, and car-based crossovers handle better, but you want your full-sized, full-lux, body-on-frame conventional SUV. GM and Ford, the segment’s traditional rulers, have had nothing new to offer in five years. But Infiniti has as much faith in the segment’s continued vitality as you do—why else would they have introduced an all-new QX56 for the 2011 model year?
Adventures In Badge Engineering: Mercury and Oldsmobile SUVs!
As Detroit was skipping a decade or two of car R&D by concentrating on packing increasing numbers of 128-ouncer-ready cup holders and faux-wood trim into big trucks, it became necessary to make it clear to the targeted buyer demographics that these trucks really weren’t, you know, trucks. In fact, they were more about protection from street crime and potholes than anything else, which is where slapping Mercury badges on the Explorer and Oldsmobile badges on the Blazer came in.
Review: 2011 Ford Explorer XLT AWD
Imagine, for a moment, you are a plant. Well, not just any plant. You are Robert Plant, and everywhere you go, people want you to sing “Stairway to Heaven”. I’d rather not, you tell them. Never liked that one much, to be honest. We’ve a much better song that I’d much rather sing. Called ‘Kashmir’, dontcha know. Much better, that one. For years, you refuse to perform the song. You cancel a proposed Led Zeppelin reunion because the promotion company insists, positively insists, that you play “Stairway”. You’d rather play “Kashmir”. And since you don’t really need the money, that’s the end of it.
I suspect the people who run Ford can sympathize a bit with Mr. Plant. Their “Stairway” is a four-door SUV called the Explorer. You might have heard of it. Sold a bunch, that Explorer, even though it was always kind of a hokey tune, a Ranger truck with a cap and a couple rows of plastic-leather seats, perched sky-high on underinflated Firestones.
The Explorer was never a truly outstanding answer to the family-wagon question, so a couple years back Ford created the Flex, which is an outstanding answer. It should have made the Explorer obsolete, but there were two problems. It wasn’t really an SUV, and it wasn’t an Explorer. And since Ford, unlike Zeppelin’s Golden God, needs the money…
Review: 2011 Lexus LX570
Car enthusiasts have been apt to criticize SUVs as irrational because few owners ever take them off-road. But, by the same token, how many owners of high-performance sports cars drive them at anything approaching their full potential? Venturing beyond cars, how many owners of diver’s watches actually scuba dive? And how many dSLR cameras are being used just like a $99 point-and-shoot? Clearly people are psychologically attracted to high-performance objects, even if they won’t actually utilize the potential of these objects. This doesn’t mean that the objects themselves don’t make sense. And yet, during my week with a Lexus LX 570, I struggled to make this 5,995-pound, technology-packed, luxurious SUV make sense.
VW Might Launch Big SUV In The U.S.
Volkswagen is dead set to gain market share in the U.S. this year, and it’s rolling out the big guns. They might add an SUV larger than the Touareg to reach hearts, minds and wallets of American customers.