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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 . . .


2011 Ford Edge Offers Top Fuel Economy and Power

On: Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 9:45AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


2011 Ford Edge Offers Top Fuel Economy and Power test 1-1

Ford has done it again! Designed a car with great fuel economy that doesn’t feel like having squirrels running on a wheel powering the engine! The  2011 Ford Edge SEL and Limited (front-wheel drive) offer an estimated 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Best in its class for fuel economy as well as power, the standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6 with as much as 285 hp, more power than most V6 contenders.

The 2011 model Edge has been improved by 1 mpg better city and 2 mpg better highway driving with even more power than its predecessor; 20 more hp than the 2010 Edge.

According to Ford’s website, the chief engineer of the new Edge was quoted as saying, “Providing class-leading fuel economy and power are two of many examples of the improved attributes customers will find in the 2011 Edge; the new Edge demonstrates how a refresh at Ford is much more than just a few tweaks. It’s reworking all the elements, adding more content and improving the look and feel of the vehicle.”


Who's Your Caddy?

On: Sun, Jul 18, 2010 at 3:31PM | By: Lou Ruggieri


Who's Your Caddy? test 1-1

When you think of a stereotypical old person driving a car, what kind of car comes to mind first? If you are anything like me, it might just be an older Cadillac.  Everyone had a grandparent, or knew of a grandparent, who owned a big boat Caddy for almost always the same reason:  "They don't make 'em like they used to."  The image of gray hair, wrinkled skin, and a slow and steady 15 mph under the speed limit has haunted Cadillac for years. Despite a couple half-hearted attempts at a youthful movement, like the 1987-1993 Allante or the Catera from 1997-2001, the company has been unsuccessful in changing its overall reputation and street cred.

All of that has begun to change, however, with the advent of Cadillac's V-Series. Unlike many of GM's marketing ploys over the years, all of the Vs has been real upgrades, modifications, and huge improvements that transform relatively mundane and comfy sedans into serious street performers. Much like BMW's M hot rods, Audi's S line, Mercedes' AMG,  and Jaguar's R line, Cadillac's V-Series gave the company entry into a very elite class of vehicles where buyers are concerned with two things:  Comfort and performance. The one problem Cadillac still had, though, was that other than XLR and XLR-V the entire Caddy were four door sedans. Again, this was leaving a lot of sales on the table for cars like the M3, RS4, XKR, and C63. That was, until the new CTS-V Coupe hits the showroom floor.


Ford Gives Drivers Safe Alternative to Hand-Held Texting

On: Sun, Jul 18, 2010 at 11:44AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Ford Gives Drivers Safe Alternative to Hand-Held Texting test 1-1

Say what you want about Ford, but no one can argue the fact that the company is very progressive—for all of you Ford haters—yes, that includes you, John Welch!  The voice recognition (VR) technology that is a part of Ford’s SYNC system is said to be more effective in identifying commands than any other system of its type, recognizing over 10,000 commands without having to pass through a single menu.

One of the problems with other VR systems has been figuring out which specific commands are required to enter a destination or make a call. The Nuance system (utilized by Ford SYNC) has implemented a system that can use a variety of different phrases that let users request the same command for example, "play track" or "play song" will both command the same action.

Now Ford’s new technology for the 2011 MyFord Touch driver connect features a "Do Not Disturb" button to enable motorists to block incoming phone calls and text messages while driving. The option can be selected for the duration of the trip, or for times when there is heavy traffic and the driver does not want to be distracted.


 

Tesla and Toyota Announce Electric RAV4 for 2012

On: Sun, Jul 18, 2010 at 11:38AM | By: Chris Weiss


Tesla and Toyota Announce Electric RAV4 for 2012  test 1-1

In May, Tesla and Toyota announced a partnership toward the production of electric vehicles. As part of the deal, Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla, and Tesla took the reins of Toyota's former NUMMI plant in California. Rumors have indicated that the first fruits of their labor would be an electric version of Toyota's RAV4, and today the companies announced that a deal has been signed toward that end. Tesla has provided Toyota with a prototype and the companies are currently in the process of testing and improving the design.

The electrified RAV4 will be built on the traditional RAV4 platform, but fitted with a Tesla electric drivetrain. Tesla uses a 3-phase AC induction motor and 56 kWh in its Roadster. The motor puts out 288 hp and 295 lb-ft, which is enough to drive the Lotus-based Roadster to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The companies did not announce specifics of the electric RAV4's drivetrain, but Tesla is currently working on delivering a prototype fleet to Toyota for advanced evaluation and testing.

The electric RAV4 is tentatively scheduled for a 2012 production schedule in the United States.Tesla representatives indicated that the RAV4s may join the Model S sedan for production at the NUMMI plant. The companies are investigating other possible markets for sale around the world.

The RAV4 was said to be an obvious choice due to its size and flexibility. The model was actually made an electric vehicle by Toyota itself more than a decade ago. The RAV4 EV was sold between 1997 to 2003, and close to 1,500 models made it to U.S. roadways. More than half of them are still in service, including ones owned by notable celebrities like Tom Hanks. The original electric RAV4 featured a 27 kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery pack that delivered a range of 100 miles per charge and top speed around 78 mph. Sales of the vehicle were disappointing at the time, but Toyota was able to funnel some of the technology into future vehicles like the Prius.


Toyota Complaints Drop Drastically

On: Sat, Jul 17, 2010 at 9:53PM | By: Chris Weiss


Toyota Complaints Drop Drastically  test 1-1

It's been a long time in the making, but there is some good news for Toyota, if only in the short term. According to Reuters, complaints about unintended acceleration have dropped significantly, as media focus has shifted away from Toyota's safety problems. The drop in complaints and media scrutiny should help Toyota rebound and earn back consumer trust and respect after an embarrassing year of major safety recalls, bad press, and fines for inaction.

Beginning in September of 2009, Toyota announced a string of major recalls that affected an eventual 10 million vehicles in total. Two major recalls were made due to unintended acceleration problems. Floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals were cited as the causes of the unintended acceleration, but the media questioned whether there wasn't a greater issue with the electronic throttle-control system.

So far, both Toyota and NHTSA testing has failed to reveal any problems outside of the floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals. The NHTSA is still involved in a thorough review of the recalls and it's likely to be months before it wraps up its investigation and present its findings. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that initial findings by the NHTSA have indicated that a percentage of unintended acceleration complaints were due to driver error and were not caused by vehicle deficincies.


GM Completes Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Concept Car

On: Sat, Jul 17, 2010 at 9:29PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


GM Completes Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Concept Car  test 1-1

As green technology continues to grow and evolve there is much controversy about potential negative effects of natural gas on the environment; natural gas may be even worse for the planet than coal. In fact, using natural gas rather than diesel in vehicles could actually increase climate change, according to Robert Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University. "You're aggravating global warming more if you switch," he says.

Although preliminary studies may suggest that natural gas could contribute far more to global warming than previously thought, it looks as though Congress may be asking for support of a bill that would replace diesel with natural gas in heavy vehicles. General Motors is on board.

Natural gas is available in abundance, and can offer a solution to the U.S. dependence on foreign oil. With the future of green technology possibly moving in the direction of natural gas, General Motors has announced the finalization of the all new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-powered van named the Chevrolet “Express,” as well as a full-size van called the “Savana” for GM’s fleet consumers to have the option of a CNG fuel system.  

GM announced that in May that it would be the first and only automaker to offer a natural gas-powered commercial van. “Our focus from the beginning has been to offer fleet customers a simple ‘check the box’ approach with our CNG Chevrolet Express and Savana vans,” said Brian Small, general manager, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations. “Our robust production process is a key enabler and certainly separates us from any competitive offering.”


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

On: Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 4:02PM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly test 1-1

I was skeptical at first. I saw the name "Dallara" and, like most of the sheep watching the Izod IndyCar Series 2012 announcement, I was immediately put off to the point of nausea. A day or two has passed, and I have let the idea of "Lego Cars" roll around in my tiny brain for several evenings. My opinion has changed, somewhat, and I would be glad to lay it out for you. In case you don't have any clue what I'm talking about, we will cover the new IndyCar rules in depth inside the post.

Where are all the disasters? Is it just me or has the auto-doom media train slowed down a little bit? This really isn't a bad thing; the fewer recalls the better. It just makes finding actual "news" a little tougher. Good? Bad? I'm not sure . .  discuss amongst yourselves . . .

Hybrid wheel designs are stuck in the 20th century. Supposedly they have to be manufactured using aluminum, and supposedly aluminum has to be blocky and chunky and downright eye-offending in order to support the weight of an automobile. Usually, a rather diminutive automobile. Bull-honky; we explore awful hybrid rims and some decent designs, inside the post.


Ferrari Releases Official 458 Challenge Race Car Info

On: Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 1:08PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Ferrari Releases Official 458 Challenge Race Car Info test 1-1

For those who considered the 458 Italia a bit too meek, the solution is now here: the 458 Challenge is a faster, lighter weight race car based on the road-going model. The Ferrari engineers have created a competition version of the 458 Italia, which they call the 458 Challenge. The model is designed specifically for track and is faster by two seconds than its predecessor, the F430 Challenge.

The 458 Challenge has an increased horsepower of 570 from the mid-mounted 4.5-liter V-8. The Challenge car maintains its race-only intake and exhaust system. The standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission remains but gear ratios have been upgraded to give better low-rpm torque. But unlike its predecessor, the 458 Challenge is intended to race against other Ferraris, such as the F430 Challenge, in the Ferrari-only Trofeo Pirelli series in 2011.

The Ferrari Challenge racing edition gets an upgraded transmission, suspension, and gear ratios as compared to the Italia street car, including E-Diff and F1-Trac systems that have been implemented for the first time on a Challenge racing edition. With these technologies, drivers have the option to engage stability assistance using a switch on the steering wheel.


How Crash Tests Are Performed

On: Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 12:39PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


How Crash Tests Are Performed test 1-1

Everyone knows that car crash tests are done to evaluate the level of safety in automobiles, but how, exactly, are those tests performed?
There are several types of crash tests that are performed to establish standards in crashworthiness and crash compatibility for automobiles and components.

Frontal-impact tests have been around the longest and are what most people envision when crash tests are mentioned (the old crash test dummy being thrown into the windshield comes to mind), but nowadays crash tests are much more sophisticated. Test includes crash impact on solid concrete walls at a specific speed, and results of collisions involving high side-impact of SUVs or trucks.

Offset tests involve crash tests where only part of the car impacts with a vehicle, the force of the impact remains approximately the same as in frontal impact tests, but only a portion of the car is required to absorb all of the force. This test is done to evaluate the impact on a car turning into oncoming traffic. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety performs these tests.

Side-impact crash tests are performed to evaluate the result of side-impact crashes, which have a very high incidence of fatality, and to measure the crumple zone for the ability to absorb impact before the occupant is injured. Side-impact crashes, with their high fatality rates, are responsible for inspiring the use of side airbags.


Smithsonian Dedicates Upcoming Website and Exhibit to Auto Safety

On: Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 12:07PM | By: Chris Weiss


Smithsonian Dedicates Upcoming Website and Exhibit to Auto Safety  test 1-1

During a time when interest in auto safety is at its peak, thanks largely to Toyota's unprecedented string of highly publicized safety issues, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is putting together a website and exhibit on auto safety. 10 individuals and companies, including GM and AAA, made a significant donation of auto safety equipment and icons ranging from historical seat belts to crash test dummies. Cars and protecting your vital organs—what's not to like?

Highlights of the donations made to the museum yesterday include the costumes used by Vince and Larry—the crash test dummies featured in the "You Could Learn a Lot From a Dummy" series of ads back in the 1980s and 90s—as well as other crash test dummies and parts. The actors who played Vince and Larry, Tony Reitano and Whitney Rydbeck, even showed up for Wednesday's event. Also on hand were the campaign's co-creator, Jim Ferguson, and its director Bill Dear. The quartet spoke candidly about filming the commercials and gave a little insight about the impact the campaign had on them and the greater public. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt usage rose 14 percent points as a result of the campaign and an estimated 85,000 lives were spared.

While the Vince and Larry memorabilia created the biggest buzz, donations included a variety of historically significant equipment like a 1967 Chevy steering wheel column that was the world's first collapsible model, the first three-point seat belt from Volvo, 1930s AAA driving manuals, and ignition-integrated breath analyzers from Guardian Interlock.

The Smithsonian will feature the newly donated items on a website dedicated to auto safety from the 1920s through today, and later will include them in an exhibit.

Roger White, a curator at the museum said of the collection, "This is about America’s relationship with its cars; we all know it’s a love affair. But automobiles had to change to make them truly useful and acceptable.”