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The Great Mini-Van Wars Of Aught Ten: Japanese Nissan Quest Revealed

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 3:42PM | By: John Welch

The Great Mini-Van Wars Of Aught Ten: Japanese Nissan Quest Revealed test 1-1

We have seen the redesigned Toyota Sienna, the brand new Honda Odyssey, but where is the third wheel in our Axis of Asian Mini-Vans? Nissan is getting around to it, just be patient.

I say things like that as if anyone cares about a bunch of MommieWagens whose popularity waned towards the end of the twentieth century, giving way to the rise of the fullsize SUV. Considering their tainted, dorkish reputation, these vehicles have a lot of work to do if they want to capture our collective, highly ego-driven American taste.

As far as the Sienna and Odyssey are concerned, these issues have been addressed. Decidedly butch, both bread boxes exude a much tougher persona, and in some ways overcook the, uhm, "rawness". The Toyota delivers an easily understood people-mover with a slightly edgy side. The Honda is a little less easy to comprehend; from a styling standpoint, anyway. Some of those angles . . . yikes. Otherwise, the Honda is as desirable as the Toyota, and, to me, both are far more desirable than any number of SUVs.

This rodeo is missing one bucking bronc, the Nissan Quest. As is custom with foreign automakers, the Japanese version of the Quest, entitled "Elgrand," has been released to the saki-fueled, car crazy Japanese public shortly before the North American release of the Quest.

Pagani Unveils Zonda HH

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 2:01PM | By: Chris Weiss

Pagani Unveils Zonda HH test 1-1

Known for its extremely rare, exotic supercars, Pagani has introduced a privately commissioned model known as the Zonda HH. The one-off convertible leaked last week and was officially revealed today. Mixing aspects of the Zonda Cinque and Zonda Roadster F, the shimmering, blue car has a beautiful look all its own.

The new Zonda HH was built for one lucky American customer who worked closely with Pagani to stay within budget and develop the ultimate customized dream car. While the customer remains anonymous, an Internet trail indicates that he's a car fanatic that also has a taste for Lamborghini. As nice as Lamborghinis are, they must pale in comparison to a one-off Zonda.

The Zonda HH is powered by the 7.2-liter Mercedes AMG V12 behind the Zonda Cinque. Instead of the paddle-controlled sequential six-speed found on the Cinque, the Zonda HH gets a six-speed manual transmission, as per the customer's preferences.

New Lawsuits Brought Against Toyota

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 1:40PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

2007 Toyota Camry SE test 2

In its most recent court proceedings, Toyota Motor Corp. faces two lawsuits, filed in federal court in Santa Ana, California by Toyota and Lexus owners, regarding sudden acceleration of certain Toyota models. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed by Toyota owners, all claiming that their vehicles exhibited unintended acceleration, but in April U. S. District Court Judge James Selna took on the suits, which had been consolidated into 2 federal cases. Attorneys in the class action case said that as many as 40 million Toyota owners could be involved in the case. One lawsuit pertains to the plaintiff's perceived loss of value for her/his Toyota vehicle due to alleged defects. The other claim is a plea for damages from an accident and death attributed to sudden acceleration.

"Toyota has identified two specific mechanical causes of potential unintended acceleration in some of its vehicles and has moved decisively to address these issues with effective and durable solutions," the statement said. "Toyota rejects claims that plaintiffs suffered economic damages because of the recent recalls."


On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 11:37AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

PartnerShift test 1-1

By now, most gear heads, or at least auto show goers are familiar with and drooling over the Toyota FT-86.  The Future Toyota-86 will mark Toyota's first re-entry into the small sports car segment since the MR2 Spyder bowed out three years ago.  The new car promises to be fast, fun, and affordable, not to mention quite the looker.  But what people seem to be forgetting is the reason why the new Toyota will be fast and affordable:  It was designed in partnership with rally-car obsessed Subaru.  This partnership is the first for the two companies and could pay off in a big way for both companies who bring very different aspects to the table.  In this situation, Toyota appears to be the big money Trump-like investor who promises a solid name to attach to the car using their best marketing and (once) marquee quality control, while Subaru appears as the start-up guy with all the ideas and the design plans.  But however they dice up the partnership, both companies could be the beneficiaries of some very high revenue if this car hits the market with as much value as promised.  


2011 Bentley Mulsanne

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 11:28AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

2011 Bentley Mulsanne test 1-1

Named after the nearly 3-mile straight at Le Mans, the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne will be a masterpiece. Taller, wider, and six inches longer than its predecessor, the Bentley Arnage; the Mulsanne delivers amazing features, a more powerful engine, and the performance that is unique to Bentley.

The Mulsanne sports a 6.75 liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, which produces 505 horsepower and 725 pound-feet of torque. With an engine like that, what can you expect from your 2011 Mulsanne? Everything, and then some! This vehicle can reach 184 miles per hour and does 0-60 in a stunning 5.1 seconds. These are shocking numbers, considering that the Mulsanne weighs close to 6,000 pounds!.

 It doesn’t stop there either. The Mulsanne is rocking an automatic eight-speed ZF transmission. What was the intention behind this transmission? Bentley wanted to implement a transmission that could offer more power and fuel savings, which the automaker was able to accomplish in the ZF transmission, which has a  unique design engineered for exactly the reasons Bentley intended, more power and fuel savings. The amount of power added is significant and the fuel savings amount to 11% over standard transmissions, which is quite impressive.

Consumer Reports Designates Best Cars For Teenagers and Senior Citizens

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 11:11AM | By: Chris Weiss

Consumer Reports Designates Best Cars For Teenagers and Senior Citizens test 1-1

With an eye toward teenagers and young adults going back to college and high school, Consumer Reports has released its short list of the best vehicles for these young drivers. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the organization has also released a list of suggested vehicles for senior citizens. The cars on the lists include advanced safety, handling and design features that make them particularly beneficial to the individual groups. The lists cover segments including midsize sedan, minivan, small sedan and small SUV.

CR recommends that parents looking to outfit their children with new or used vehicles in time for college look carefully at safety features like electronic stability control and crash test results. The organization also warned of blindly selecting a large SUV, car or truck, thinking that it will automatically be safer than smaller cars.

David Champion, the senior director of CR's Automotive Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut explained: "Often parents think that putting their child in the biggest car is the safest thing they can do, but that's not so. Teens are the most inexperienced drivers on the road, so you want to make sure they're driving something that handles well, is agile and has as many safety features as possible--especially electronic stability control."

Ford's Credit Rating Has Gone Up

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 10:52AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford's Credit Rating Has Gone Up test 1-1

Ford Motor Company has received notice that the company’s credit rating increased by 2 levels by Standard and Poor (S&P), a division of McGraw-Hill that publishes financial research and analysis on stocks and bonds.

Ford is seen as being more profitable with a stronger customer base than it has in the past. S&P has raised Ford’s rating to a B+ from a B- due to the company’s financial picture showing “substantial” cash balances. Ford has “substantial” cash balances and likely will continue to generate free operating cash flow, the ratings firm said. The retail market has an “improved perception” of Ford's vehicles and its efforts to introduce more fuel-efficient models in the next few years, S&P said.

"The upgrade reflects our reassessment of Ford's business risk profile to weak from vulnerable, and its financial risk profile to aggressive from highly leveraged," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Robert Schulz. “

“It's a step in the right direction,” said Kirk Ludtke, senior vice president of CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Conn. “It was largely anticipated. It will be a while before they get back to investment grade.”

Ford said it will have a positive automotive net cash position by the end of 2011, and although the company has substantial debt (partially incurred in order to allow the company to avoid bankruptcy), future cash flow looks promising. On June 30th the company had $21.9 billion in cash, and in the beginning of the second quarter, reported total cash assets at $34.3 billion.

BMW 5 Series Sales Boosts Company's Revenues While Earning Top Safety Pick

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 10:47AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

BMW  5 Series Sales Boosts Company's Revenues While Earning Top Safety Pick  test 1-1

The redesigned BMW 5 series is the first from the German automaker to receive the award for Top Safety Pick from the IIHS since rollover tests were added.

Top Safety Pick award includes recognition of vehicles that scored highest of Good on the front, side, rollover, and rear crash protection. In order to be a contender for first place in this award, a vehicle must have electronic stability control which comes standard (along with side air bags) in the 2011 BMW 5 Series.  

In the new rollover testing, that IIHS implemented recently, BMW scored a Good rating with a 4.40 score, which indicates that the new 5 Series will be able to withstand up to 4 times its weight on its roof. Not only is BMW moving up the ranks in reliability ratings for its vehicles, it seems that the company also reported the biggest profit in over 2 years as a result of increased demand for the 5 Series in the U.S. and China. 25,000 new 5 Series models have been sold by BMW just since the new 2011 Sedan has been available.

New Pictures of Ferrari 458 Challenge Go Live

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 10:09AM | By: Chris Weiss

New Pictures of Ferrari 458 Challenge Go Live test 1-1

Ferrari introduced its track-only version of the 458 several weeks ago, but until this week, we were left with but one picture of what the car looks like. Finally Ferrari has released a few live action shots of the 458 Challenge and it looks just as good from the back as it does the front. The cherry red trackster posed for a couple of shots during testing at the Vallelunga circuit.

Revealed at Ferrari's annual dealer meeting in mid-July, the Ferrari 458 Challenge is an all-performance, track-only version of the 458 Italia. Ferrari chose to transfer the 570-hp V8 engine from the 458 Italia without any tuning, instead focusing on fine-tuning the gear ratios and calibration of the dual-clutch F1 transmission to deliver higher torque at lower revolutions. Ferrari also made the 458 Challenge the first of its track cars to sport an E-Diff electronic differential.

The 458 Challenge also benefits from Ferrari's in-house-developed F1-Trac system, which features two settings for wet and dry conditions, providing maximum grip through both. The E-Diff and F1-Trac systems work together to deliver acceleration out of corners. Like the F1-Trac, the ABS system includes two settings: low grip and high performance. All the controls for those three systems are available to the driver on the steering wheel.

Cadillac Escalade Tops Most Stolen Vehicle List (Again)

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 9:42AM | By: Chris Weiss

Cadillac Escalade Tops Most Stolen Vehicle List (Again)  test 1-1

Popular culture is oh so quick to romanticize the high life behind rolling on chromed-out 24s in your Escalade, but it leaves out a glaring piece of the puzzle: the part about when you finish up sippin' Cris at the club and come out to find an empty parking spot where you're freshly washed Escalade was once resting. According to a new report by the Highway Data Loss Institute, Cadillac's biggest model is the most stolen vehicle on the road. In fact, the Escalade has topped the HDLI's list 6 out of the past 7 times, making it one of the more fleeting status symbols of modern times.

The HDLI's numbers are derived from the frequency of insurance theft claims and the size of payouts over the last three model years, so they don't necessarily include all cases of theft. The 2007 to 2009 Escalade was followed by the Ford F-250, Infiniti G37 and Dodge Charger with HEMI engine. Those four models averaged about 3 to 5 times more thefts than the average vehicle.

The vehicle group that experienced the most thefts according to the report is the extra large luxury SUV segment. Given that the HDLI's report takes financial losses into account, it's not surprising that large, expensive SUVs would be at the top.

Similarly, some cars made the list not so much for the fact that they were likely to get stolen but because the claims were significantly higher than average. The fifth car on the list was the Corvette Z06, which averaged a claim of $41,229--more than four times that of the Dodge Charger with Hemi.

VW Passat is Under Investigation Again for Engine Compartment Fires

On: Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 10:41AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

 VW Passat is Under Investigation Again for Engine Compartment Fires test 1-1

In recent automotive news, Volkswagen is under investigation again (for the second time in the past 3 years) as a result of multiple reports of engines that actually caught fire secondary to ignition-coil failures in 2002 through 2003 Passat models. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a new preliminary investigation has been opened by federal regulators in order to find any evidence that a formal investigation is indicated.

There are 16 reports by Passat owners stating that the vehicle hesitated or lost power when the ignition coil (which had been replaced more than once) failed, and the NHTSA reports that there may be as many as 199,000 total vehicles involved.  

One complaint stated: “While driving approximately 45 MPH, the vehicle began shaking violently and shut down in the middle of an intersection. The vehicle then skidded into an intersection and almost struck a child,” referring to a 2002 VW Passat.

“We take all of these investigations seriously, and we're working with NHTSA on this matter,” company spokesman Kerry Christopher said.

In the past an investigation of 2007-2008 Passat was conducted by federal regulators after owners lodged complaints about 78 crashes that may have been linked to the engine coil failures, over 400,000 Passats were recalled, and the investigation was closed after finding a damaged underbody heat shield that “may contact the exhaust system which can result in a vehicle fire.”  Other possible issues that were identified were leaky fuel lines or fuel tank ventilation valves that had the potential to cause fires.