Archive for June, 2012

Jun
26
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

With the new turbodiesel engine, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee will have an easier time ascending terrain like this. Pictured is a 2012 model.

Trade weekly Automotive News, citing various sources, reports that the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee large SUV will start sale next January with two notable changes: an 8-speed automatic transmission, replacing a 5-speed unit, and the model’s first diesel-engine option in North America. Both moves were expected, and Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed the diesel option last January.

And what about the 2013s? AN says that production will begin this August at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant, which “will forgo the usual summer shutdown to keep up with demand for the hot-selling SUV.” The facility also turns out the related Dodge Durango, which will probably get the new automatic for 2014 but not the diesel engine. Both models should be virtual reruns for 2013. The 2014s will likely see minor cosmetic and features changes as well.

Chrysler began rolling out the 8-speed automatic on 2012 V6 versions of its large cars: the 300 and Dodge Charger. It’s sourced from a Chrysler plant in Kokomo, Indiana, and built to a design licensed from German transmission specialist ZF Friedrichshafen AG. As with the 300/Charger, the 2014 Grand Cherokee should pair the 8-speed only with the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V6.

Jun
26
A Renault-Nissan Dealer in Morocco

A Renault-Nissan Dealer in Morocco

Regardless of whatever else may be troubling your mind as an American, at least you won’t have to bother with this vexing question:

Should I buy the luxury Renault?

The French automaker is mulling the creation of another brand or two—a luxury model and perhaps a high-performance car—that it imagines might help it win sales in markets outside of Europe. However, the list doesn’t appear to include the good, ol’ États-Unis d’Amérique. Nor should it. Don’t forget that Renault controls Nissan, which created the Infiniti brand for the purpose of seducing greenbacks out of deep Yankee pockets, so R-N already has that action covered.

Still, the motivations behind Renault’s thinking—as enunciated by company COO Carlos Tavares in a recent interview with Bloomberg.com—provide an intriguing look at the global car market. In a continent beset by consumers made skittish by a string of debt crises in several countries, auto sales in Europe are declining for the fifth straight year. Renault has been feeling the pain acutely. In the first five months of this year, its European deliveries were down by 19 percent, more than twice the rate of decline for the industry in general in the region.

Jun
25
My Mother the Car

Called a 1928 Porter on the show, the vehicle was actually cobbled together from several cars. The body was that of a 1924 Ford Model T.

A regular on “Worst TV Show” lists, My Mother the Car was the story of Dave Crabtree (Jerry Van Dyke), who, while car shopping, discovers his mother reincarnated as a vintage car. The mother (the voice of Ann Sothern) communicates through the car’s radio speaker and, in the tradition of Mr. Ed, talks only to Dave.

Jun
25
Tesla Model S Signature

A Signature Performance version of the Tesla Model S

It was more than three years ago that electric-vehicle-maker Tesla unveiled prototypes of its Model S midsize hatchback sedan, claiming a 0-60-mph time of less than six seconds and a battery range of up to 300 miles. At the time, many considered it little more than an over-hyped automotive pipe dream.

But on Friday, June 22, 2012, that dream became a reality.

On that date, several buyers—who had long had deposits down on their cars—finally took delivery of their Model S sedans from the Tesla manufacturing facility in Fremont, California. All the cars were top-line Signature Performance versions in black, white, or dark red. According to the company’s website (teslamotors.com), the Signature Performance version starts at just under $98,000 after the $7,500 federal tax credit, not including options.

Although no known subjective tests have yet been done on production models, the factory is sticking to its initial performance and range estimates. On the website, the Signature Performance version is described as having an 85 kWh (!) battery pack and a “high performance drive inverter” that allow it to dash from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, top out at 130 mph, and—with more sedate driving, one would assume—cover up to 300 miles on a single charge.

Jun
25
Porsche 911 Carrera

The Aerokit package includes a deeper front fascia with a central air splitter and extra air intakes.

Many premium-brand vehicle owners aren’t content to follow the herd and don’t think twice about spending big bucks to customize their rides in one way or other. Porsche learned this decades ago, and it has cashed in handsomely with an endless parade of performance and cosmetic packages for its various products, many allegedly inspired by the brand’s racing exploits and all aimed at customers who just can’t resist lilly-gilding.

The tradition will continue this fall, when a “Powerkit” will be available for the 2013 Carrera S coupe and cabriolet, along with an “Aerokit” and other body addenda designed for any current 991-series Carrera. Pricing is under wraps until just before dealers begin taking orders. All this come from Porsche Exclusive, the German sports-car power’s in-house personalization department.

The Powerkit lifts the Carrera S 3.8-liter flat-six by 30 horsepower to 430. Porsche says the increase comes from improved engine breathing via redesigned cylinder heads, new cam profiles, and a remapped engine management system. A new variable-resonance intake system with six air flaps and an extra resonance flap also fortifies lung capacity. Rounding out Powerkit features are an additional center radiator, a unique sports exhaust system, a special Sport Chrono Package with dynamic engine mounts (which help quell vibration), and a titanium-colored engine cover with carbon inlays and “Exclusive Powerkit” label.

Jun
23
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

The Fiat 500 Abarth might have the raspiest exhaust note of any factory-stock 4-cylinder vehicle on the market today. Dig the snarky sound. . . .

Jun
22
2012 Fiat 500 interior, Coolest Cars Under $18,000

2012 Fiat 500

This week, Kelley Blue Book came out with their “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000”—a list that is now all over the Internet. Here it is:

Jun
22
Borgward Isabella ad

Borgward Isabella Ad

Fifties America must have been wonderful if you were interested in unusual cars, especially unusual imported cars. Flip through old back issues of most any enthusiast-oriented car magazine from the mid- to late Fifties and you’ll come across ads for countless imports. Fiat, Renault, Opel, Mercedes-Benz, and, of course, Volkswagen are names that are still familiar today.

Jun
21

Extra credit: Can you name this Isuzu SUV? It’s from model-year 2003, if that helps.

Maybe you’re no good at fill-in-the-blank-type tests. No problem. Here we’re looking for you, the sharp-eyed quiz taker, to find the fakes. Below, you’ll find car brands followed by four corresponding models, one of which is a fake! Take your time and read the names aloud. If the name sounds wonky, it probably is. If you score five correct, you’re some sort of auto savant. Score four and you have earned our respect. Good luck!

Jun
21

A Nissan Murano with Destination LE2 tires

After nearly 50,000 miles of service, it was time to replace the tires on my wife’s 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe SE. My wife’s grandfather is a retired Firestone employee, so she wanted to stay “in the family” so to speak.

Rather than replace the Santa Fe’s stock Bridgestone rubber, we wanted to go for something different. The initial plan was to try Bridgestone’s new Dueler H/L Ecopia tires. Ecopia is the company’s brand of low-rolling-resistance tires, so that means they’re designed to provide maximum fuel efficiency while maintaining traction on all types of road surfaces. They looked solid but were a bit pricey.

A less-expensive alternative was Firestone’s new Destination LE2. These tires stood out for the cross-cut grooves in the tread pattern. The grooves help wick away moisture that can cause hydroplaning (a loss of traction while driving on wet roads). A competitive 60,000-mile tread warranty at a price significantly less than the Ecopia (not to mention an additional $70 mail-in rebate) was enough to tip the scales in the Destination’s favor.

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