Archive for August, 2012
A new round of spy photos confirms that Volkswagen’s radical XL1 plug-in hybrid coupe is on track for its promised debut sometime in 2013. VW had announced that timing in unveiling a concept preview at the January 2011 Qatar Motor Show. Test prototypes, since spied in various global venues—including wintertime Arctic locales and most recently in Europe—appear virtually unchanged from the low-slung 2-seat concept with its semi-teardrop shape and dramatic beetle-wing doors.
The XL1 culminates a long-term VW effort to build a super-frugal “1-liter” car, a program instigated in the early 2000s by Volkswagen Group Chairman Ferdinand Piech. The “1-liter” tag refers to going 100 kilometers on just one liter of fuel—a sensational 261 mpg. Though that figure has yet to be verified for the production XL1, it seems plausible, as this is a small, light car whose design has been mpg-optimized via a good deal of unique high-tech engineering, materials, and components.
The names fall reverentially from the lips of automotive historians and enthusiasts: Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg. Now, a team of students from an Indiana university is creating a documentary film about the history and ongoing mystique of these great marques that emanated from the Hoosier State.
The film, tentatively titled Innovative Engineering, Rolling Sculpture: Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg Automobiles, is being produced with a $14,000 fellowship grant from the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry at Ball State University in Muncie. (The author is a 1979 graduate of the university.) The project is headed by Hans Kellogg, an assistant professor of graphic arts in BSU’s Department of Technology. According to Kellogg’s application for the fellowship, the film will explore “the ‘heart and soul’ of three distinct automobile marques,” probing “the past and the present of these three marques, highlighting the recognition they bring to automobile history and the State of Indiana.”
Recently, I went on a small diatribe about how Hyundai messed up the styling of the 2013 Genesis Coupe so badly that it overshadows the very meaningful improvements under its skin. Now I’d like to turn the table a bit and talk about a car that has a few faults but whose overall design and execution are so good that I am more than willing to open my wallet to put one in my driveway.
Last December, we were invited to take a look at the 2013 Dodge Dart before it made its world debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. Its importance couldn’t be overstated. While the public generally liked the Dodge Caliber more than the press did, that car desperately needed replacing. It was slow, noisy, hard to see out of, and had more plastic in it than a Hollywood starlet.
Dart was going to change all that. It looked good. Darn good. Inside and out. The aggressive front end was also built with a purpose beyond maintaining brand identity. It housed “active grille shutters” that open and close automatically depending on vehicle speed. Around town, the shutters stay open to help cool the engine; on the highway, they close, allowing air to flow more freely around the car. Slipperier aerodynamics would result in a quieter cabin and fuel-economy improvements.
Everyone wants to change your oil. The corner lube shop. Your dealer. Even the automotive aftermarket chains, such as Pep Boys.
I was dining in a noisy Italian restaurant with friends on Saturday when my wife shouted across the table: “Kathy wants to see your eye.”
“Your eye. Kathy wants to see your eye.”
I recently returned home from Nashville, where I attended the press preview of the 2013 Ram 1500 pickups and was able to drive several different variants of the new truck. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Recent trends have automakers simplifying their car models, many times offering only a single body style in a handful of trim levels. It’s different in light-duty trucks, where variety is still common. For example, the Ram comes in three different cab styles, and there are three different lengths of beds. Trim levels, and sub-variants of them, are even more prevalent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
You can’t trust cars. Nice as they may seem on the surface, many automobiles these days harbor secrets—dark secrets. We’re not talking about bizarre late-night rituals or crazy relatives locked in the attic kind of secrets, but the kind of things that you, the car driver and buyer, should know but might not. By design or oversight, these are things that have been kept hidden from you . . . until now.
Also read Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report, including analysis and pricing, on the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro.
The way Chevrolet sees it, America can’t get enough of the Camaro. Neither, then, can Chevrolet, which for 2013 is adding an additional model and an option package—both targeting the high-performance market—in hopes of maintaining the car’s sales lead over the Ford Mustang in the sporty GT field.
The supercharged 580-horsepower Camaro ZL1 coupe gets a convertible running mate. Meanwhile, amateur track racers loyal to the bow-tie brand will be able to outfit manual-transmission Camaro SS coupes with a 1LE option that improves high-speed handling. Recent preview test drives showed the former to be fast fun in the sun, while the latter is fast fun on the run.
The ZL1 Convertible
Having made its public debut at last autumn’s Los Angeles Auto Show, the soft-top ZL1 is hardly a secret. In almost every way, it’s a match for the explosively fast coupe. The competitive mode in the convertible’s traction control is a tamer setting cribbed from the SS, and the ragtop weighs about 200 pounds more than the coupe, thanks to the steps taken to shore up the chassis against the flexing and cowl shake that can afflict open cars. Thus, the ZL1 convertible isn’t quite the performer to the nth degree that the ZL1 coupe is.