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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry




Volkswagen Plans Leading Role in Hybrid/EV Market

On: Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 9:18AM | By: Chris Weiss


VW E-Up! Concept  test 2

Look around the U.S. market today, and you won't see a single Volkswagen hybrid or electric vehicle. You'll have to wait until later this year for that, when the 2011 Touareg hybrid becomes available. While Volkswagen AG has battled with Toyota for the title of world's largest car maker in recent months, it has lagged well behind Toyota and other manufacturers in terms of hybrids and electric vehicles. VW plans to remedy that situation with a barrage of hybrid and electric launches over the next three years, hoping to become a leader in the green auto market.

"I am deeply convinced Volkswagen will play a key role in electrifying the automotive world," VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said at a press conference yesterday. He spoke at VW's Electronics Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, CA, where he was for a 2011 Jetta launch event.

Winterkorn plans to back up this broad statement with a steady stream of hybrid and electric car releases. Following the recent debut of the hybrid Touareg, VW will launch a hybrid Jetta in 2012 and a Golf and Passat in 2013. In terms of EVs, Volkswagen will launch an E-Golf and E-Up! in 2013. An electric Jetta is also planned. 

Other brands within Volkswagen AG will also be introducing electrics and hybrids over the coming years, as well, including the Audi e-tron, Audi Q5 Hybrid, Porsche Cayenne Hybrid and, possibly, the Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid.


Which Safety Car Seat is Best for Your Child?

On: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 3:15PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Which Safety Car Seat is Best for Your Child? test 1-1

New parents looking to provide the safest child car seat for their infant may find that there is more to selecting the best baby car seat than they initially realized, and to complicate matters more, there have been many recalls on seats that were deemed more of a safety hazard than anything. So, how do parents know they are getting the safest car seat for their child?

First of all, it’s important to select a car seat that is fairly simple to use; if you cannot get the belt buckled in a pinch, it will only bring frustration. You should get familiar with the mechanisms of your child safety seat before actually installing it in your car; that way if you have your hands full and the baby is crying, or it’s dark in the car and you cannot see the latching mechanism, you will know how to use it fast and efficiently getting the baby buckled into, and out of, the seat.

Some car seats have special features that enable the seat to be easier to use, including the behind-the-seat harness adjustment, harness straps that won’t twist up, and even some that have automatic tightening and tethering of the straps. There is usually a significant price difference in the seats with extra options.


Porsche To Campaign GT3 Hybrid at Petit Le Mans

On: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 2:10PM | By: John Welch


Porsche To Campaign GT3 Hybrid at Petit Le Mans test 1-1

Those wacky Germans, always brewing up some crazy scheme for world sports car racing domination. The list is enormous, Porsche 917, Audi Quattro, BMW CSL, Audi R8, Sauber Mercedes, Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, just a few dominant German cars on a list of hundreds. The ubiguitous Porsche 911, in various forms, occupying the top seed on that list.

The newest Porsche nut-case 911 is the GT3 R Hybrid. Using a flywheel-based system to capture energy from braking, this car is equipped with a "push to pass" button that releases stored energy whenever the driver feels like bruising an ego or two. The system was developed byt the Williams F1 team, starting life as the KERS system for their 2009 open wheeler. After recieving significantly more development, the system is capable of metering out extra power automatically, or at wide open throttle; the possiblities are endless.

The 911 GT3 R Hybrid was raced in the Nurburing 24 hour race this year, and led for 11 hours. With two hours remaing the car suffered a mechinal problem unrelated to the Hybrid machinery. A header fell off or something.

Though pleased with the pace of the GT3 R Hybrid at the N24, Porsche was not satisfied with the result. Just to make double sure that they hadn't built a time bomb, the team ran their own 24 hour race at Paul Ricard a month later. Paul Ricard HTTT is located in the south of France. HTTT stands for High Tech Test Track. The French dig aliteration apparently . . .


2011 Ford Explorer Heads to the Top of the Class in Fuel Economy

On: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 10:58AM | By: Chris Weiss


2011 Ford Explorer Heads to the Top of the Class in Fuel Economy  test 1-1

Ford announced today that the upcoming 2011 Explorer will be the leader in fuel efficiency for the midsize SUV class. When equipped with Ford's 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, the new Explorer will deliver a 30 percent increase in fuel economy over the outgoing V6-equipped model, offering up to 26 mpg. The Explorer is set for a debut on Facebook within the next week and will make its physical debut in New York City on July 26.

The EcoBoost engine that will deliver the Explorer's class-topping numbers is a 2.0-liter V4 that features both direct injection and turbocharging. In addition to the EcoBoost engine option, Ford uses a variety of technologies including electric power-assisted steering, battery management, fast engine warm-up, and a variable-displacement air conditioning compressor to increase fuel efficiency while enhancing drivability. Also helping, Ford has moved away from the truck-based, body-on-frame construction of past Explorers and toward car-based, unitized construction, which will cut weight over older models. The new Explorer is based on the same platform as the Taurus. Lightweight materials like boron and aluminum deliver further weight savings.

According to Ford, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost will deliver V6-level power while enjoying class-leading efficiency (EPA certification still pending). No specific output numbers have been given yet.


 

Chrysler Financial Plans to Make a Come Back

On: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 10:57AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Chrysler Financial Plans to Make a Come Back test 1-1

After Chrysler and GM went bankrupt last year, GMAC (currently a company called Ally Financial Inc.) stepped in to take over for Chrysler Financial as the main lender for all of the Chrysler dealerships.

In recent auto news, Chrysler Financial is now considering a come-back in the lending industry with a primary goal to lend to consumers with “near-prime” credit, according to an anonymous source that talked to the Bloomberg News recently.  

“There's always a place for another lender,” said Maryann Keller, president of Maryann Keller & Associates in Stamford, Connecticut. “Chrysler Financial has to come up with a business plan that identifies who its dealer partners are and how the company will raise capital.”

In the past, Chrysler Financial operated as a “captive finance unit of Chrysler LLC” and not only offered retail loans, but also extended financing to dealerships that used the money to purchase inventory.

According to the Bloomberg news, Chrysler Financial was recently in contact with dealerships to find out how much interest there may be. One financial spokesman from Chrysler refused to comment on the future plans of Chrysler Financial.


Rumors Bring Both Good and Bad News For Lamborghini Lovers

On: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 9:58AM | By: Chris Weiss


1986 Lamborghini LM002 test 2

A new report from Car and Driver's German correspondent indicates that Lamborghini may be looking to return to several market segments that it abandoned back in the 80s and 90s. The sports car marquee is reportedly looking at the possibility of a new, hardcore SUV and an entry level model that will slate in below the Gallardo. On the flip side, rumors indicate that a possible four-seater is all but dead.

Back in the late 80s and 1990s, the Lamborghini we know and love was somewhat of an anomaly. The company still had the timeless sports masterpieces that the brand is recognized most for—like the Countach and Diablo, but it also had something entirely different: a large, civilian/military SUV named the LM002. Those who don't know any better might look at pictures of the LM002 today and think that the Raging Bull badge was photoshopped on. At the time, however, the 'Rambo Lambo' was quite popular, providing an entirely new dynamic to the brand. The jeep carried over the V12 engine from the Countach and offered incomparable desert performance thanks to an extra large radiator and Pirelli Scorpion tires. Alas, it was killed off in 1992.


The Reality About Electric Recharging Stations

On: Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 2:50PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


The Reality About Electric Recharging Stations test 1-1

Manufacturers of electric cars would like to make the public believe that the infrastructure for charging electric vehicles is already in place, and that charging at home will not be a problem. The truth is that if car owners don’t have a special connector they will wait for long periods of time to recharge.

Although it’s true that electric charging stations do exist, particularly in select cities that were chosen to be the first to launch some of the electric models, they are not as prevalent as automakers may want us to think.

For apartment dwellers, plugging in will be very difficult; even finding a standard 110 outlet is not so easy for those in multi-family houses.

What many would-be electric car owners may not know is that it could take over 24 hours to charge their new EVs, particularly using a standard 110-volt outlet for power.

The Wall Street Journal published a recent article that described how difficult it is for the average home owner to cut through the bureaucracy in order to get the upgraded 220 charging stations installed in their residences. It can currently take many weeks for a city to issue the permits needed to supply the fast charger that will reduce the recharging time to between 4 and 8 hours for most models of electric vehicles. The price for the electric charging stations can be another hurdle, at $1,200 for a home charging station, to several thousand dollars for the fast charging posts.


Honda Will Launch Electric Plug-in for 2013

On: Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 10:52AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Honda Will Launch Electric Plug-in for 2013 test 1-1

Just like many other automakers, Honda has seen its share of problems in the past year, but according to a recent Reuters report, the company will introduce both a plug-in hybrid and an electric car for the 2013 model year as part of Honda’s restructure plan to create more competitive pricing and fuel economy at the same time.

The electric car will be offered in the U.S. market at first, with competitors such as the 2011 Nissan Leaf. Then by 2013, Honda plans to have at least five hybrids on the market.

Currently Honda offers several hybrid models, the 2010 Civic Hybrid sedan and the Insight dedicated hybrid hatchback. The 2011 CR-Z hybrid two-seater sports car will arrive in the summer of 2010. A fourth model will be a hybrid version of the Fit subcompact, but no details have  been announced yet regarding the fifth hybrid model that Honda plans to launch.

Honda is taking into consideration plans to manufacture the Insight in one of its U.S. plants to reduce costs so it can lower the price in order to be more competitive in the market place.


British Aim to Break 1000 MPH With Bloodhound SSC

On: Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 8:52AM | By: Chris Weiss


British Aim to Break 1000 MPH  With Bloodhound SSC test 1-1

The Bloodhound SSC is on its way toward becoming the fastest "car" in the world, with plans to make it the first wheeled vehicle to boast four-figure speeds. A model of the British streamliner recently made its debut at the U.K.'s Farnborough International Airshow. Measuring about 42 feet long, the model gives a sneak peak of what type of space-age voodoo will be employed to break the current absolute land speed record by over 200 mph.

If you look in the record books today, you'll see that the absolute land speed record set in the Black Rock Desert more than 10 years ago stands at a towering 763 mph. For anyone that's ever driven 150 mph or even 100 mph, that seems like unimaginable speed in a land-based vehicle. But for the team of automotive engineers that made it possible, it's more of a starting point, a gauntlet to do better. You see, it was their vehicle—the ThrustSSC—that set the record back in 1997, surpassing the previous record—also held by the Thrust team—by over 130 mph, while becoming the first land vehicle to break the speed of sound (761 mph). The average group of mortals would be pretty satisfied with that lofty feat, but this particular engineering team, along with its 166 sponsors, simply shifted its goals higher, undertaking the monumental objective of breaking the 1,000 mph mark three years ago.


BMW's New Traffic Assist Technology

On: Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 2:57PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


BMW's New Traffic Assist Technology test 1-1

BMW has announced plans for brand new technology that will assist in supporting “safer and smoother-flowing” traffic, including 15 new projects to create new driver assist systems, as well as programs that will enable resourceful traffic management which BMW calls “Technologies for Intelligent Traffic.”

The technology, designed to intervene when a potential accident is about to occur, is what BMW is calling their “Active Hazard Braking” feature. This feature will, according to BMW, completely prevent nose-to-tail impacts utilizing a laser scanner that will actually monitor for any vehicles that are too close, ahead and to the side. My favorite mechanism in the plan is a surveillance camera that will be on the lookout for those drivers that constantly ride your tail. The car will then use sensors to evaluate a driver’s reaction to having a car close with a risk of imploding in the front of the car, for example, and the brakes will automatically be applied when the driver is not responding correctly, in order to avoid an accident—that is, after the driver is alerted (and does not respond to) the vehicle’s alarm system.

Another project that BMW is working on is the “Car2x Communications” program that will allow the exchange of information from one to another regarding the traffic patterns.

“If this assistance system discovers that the motorist giving way is probably misjudging his approach, the system warns him of a potential collision through a visual and audible signal.”

Additional projects that the group worked on were pedestrian and cyclist safety technology.

Other subprojects within the Active Safety project were the development of Integrated Lateral Assistance, Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety and the crossover project Driver Awareness and Safety as well as a traffic management program that would implement traffic information from internet sites such as Google to view a potential driving route from the drivers vehicle while in route.


Grand Am Invades New Jersey; Gainsco Scores First Win

On: Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 2:33PM | By: John Welch


Grand Am Invades New Jersey; Gainsco Scores First Win test 1-1

For the third time in as many years, the Rolex Grand Am Series roared onto Thunderblot Raceway, formerly (or possibly still?) New Jersey Motorsports Park. The NJMP 250 Presented by CrownRoyal did not disappoint; as the action unfolded it became apparent that we would see one of the better races this year under the brutally hot New Jersey sun. That may be the first reference to the "New Jersey Sun" ever used in print . . . ever!

Qualifying was an exciting shoot-out for both Rolex categories—Daytona Prototype and Grand Touring. On the front row in GT, two stalwart American icons, Corvette and Camaro. Being driven by GM hot-shoe Jan Magnusson, the No.97 Steveson Camaro just missed pole position, giving it to the No.07 Banner Corvette of Paul Edwards in the last minute of the session. An all-Chevy front row in GT for the first time since 2003.

In DP, the penalty leveled on the BMW-powered machines finally affected their performance, somewhat, with Memo Rojas able to capture only fourth starting position in the TelMex/Ganassi BMW Riley. On pole, the No.10 Taylor Racing/SunTrust Dallara Ford, driven by Wayne Taylor's son, Ricky. Starting next to the Dallara, Jon Fogarty in the ultra-hungry No.99 Gainsco Chevrolet Riley.

I set these races up like heavyweight title fights because that is exactly what they are: knock-down, drag-out fist fights with cars. Venture inside the post for a blow-by-blow of the entire race . . .