Archive for September, 2012

Sep
19

 

concept

Lexus LF-CC

The 2012 Mondial de l’Automobile—aka Paris Auto Show—opens on the last weekend in September with this expo’s usual slew of major introductions. Among them is a preview of the next-generation Lexus IS premium-compact car. It takes the form of a concept coupe called LF-CC for, er, “Lexus Future-Concept Coupe.” Toyota’s luxury brand has also used LF as shorthand for its evolving “L-Finesse” design language, and styling is indeed the main motivation for this show car. It’s meant as another example of how Lexus is transforming its overall design approach from bland to bold per CEO Akio Toyoda’s push for more eye appeal and dynamic ability in everything his company builds.

Meantime, sources report the production IS sedan is finished and ready to launch next spring as an early 2014 model. According to trade weekly Automotive News, it uses a shortened version of the redesigned platform from Lexus’ 2013 GS premium-midsize sedan and will start U.S. sale with mildly updated iterations of today’s 2.5- and 3.5-liter V6 engines. A new edition of the 5.0-liter V8 IS F should be added in due course. Though the Paris concept is a gas/electric hybrid with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, Car and Driver reports that powertrain is not destined for the U.S., although a turbocharged version of that engine might be offered here, doubtless in lieu of the smaller V6.

Sep
18

This 1/25-scale Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is about 10 inches long and is based on the circa-1952 Wienermobile design.

There is a subgroup of model cars known as promotional, or promo, models. As the name implies, promos are typically meant to be promotional items for a particular product, usually a car or truck. Rather than kits that need to be put together, these models almost always come fully assembled. Since the first models of this type were released in the late 1940s, they have usually been in 1/25 scale and made of plastic. Promotional models also have been made for tractors, construction equipment, and other subjects, but one of the most unusual has to be the 1/25-scale version of a food company’s giant hot dog-shaped vehicle.

Sep
18
Universal Technical Institute

Cut-down “clip cars” enable UTI to make more-efficient use of lab/shop space. A wide variety of late-model vehicles are on hand.

For better and worse, the days of shade-tree mechanics are long behind us. Today’s highly sophisticated cars, trucks, and motorcycles require equally sophisticated tools and techniques for proper repair and maintenance, and technology continues to advance at a lightning-fast pace. These days, a career as a service technician requires much more than a high school diploma. Many technical schools offer specialized training for these fields, but the most prominent and well known among them might be Universal Technical Institute.

Sep
17
Captain Kirk, Star Trek, car

Kirk contemplates captaining the Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed.

Last time, we looked at the rides of Deanna Troi, Jean-Luc Picard, and Spock. This week, let’s check in with the original captain, the guy with the positronic brain, and the first Klingon to serve in Star Fleet. As before, we’re looking at production vehicles. Also, we’re assuming these guys don’t have budget issues.

Sep
17

2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander, a compact SUV that starts at $22,345.

Test car came equipped with: Touring Package, Navigation/Rearview Camera Package, Entertainment Package. Total MSRP with $810 destination = $35,300.

Powertrain: 230-horsepower 3.0-liter V6, 6-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Acceleration: Outlander has been little changed since its 2010-model update, when Car and Driver timed an AWD GT at 7.5 seconds 0-60 mph. My tester felt about that quick off the line, but I can’t agree with my colleagues that the automatic transmission is “prompt and responsive.” It’s just another modern slushbox with economy-oriented programming that upshifts as soon as possible and is reluctant to kick down for passing or gunning out of a low-speed corner. Left to its own devices, this transmission can seem to take forever to answer the throttle in some situations.

Sep
14

Volkswagen IDs this car as “European Golf VII” with “expected U.S. launch as a 2014 model”

Volkswagen’s new seventh-generation Golf compact car has been unveiled ahead of a planned U.S. debut in summer or fall of 2013. Though the information released so far applies to Euro-spec versions that start sale before 2012 is out, American-market Golfs should differ only in available powertrains, features, and model choices.

The 2014 Golf reprises 2- and 4-door hatchback body styles and front-wheel drive, but it is completely redesigned on VW Group’s new MQB modular-matrix architecture. (MQB gets its first outing in the U.S. with the Audi division’s new 2014 A3 premium-compact sedan.) Styling maintains a traditional Golf look—no surprise for the VW brand’s longtime top-selling model—but manages to be sleeker, crisper, and a bit more muscular than today’s Mark VI. Increased interior space was a major design goal, so wheelbase has been stretched a significant 2.3 inches to 103.7. Overall length grows by 2.2 inches to 167.6. The new Golf also spreads a half-inch wider (at 70.8 inches) and sits nearly an inch lower (57.5 inches) on slightly wider axle tracks. VW says these changes contribute to a 0.6-inch gain in rear legroom and over an inch more shoulder width front and rear. The cargo bay is larger too, adding a claimed 1 cubic foot to reach 13.4, plus a slightly wider floor and lower load lip.

Sep
14

Nissan Cube

One of the Hyundai Veloster’s few redeeming qualities is the availability of a spunky turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Unfortunately, I believe the car around which it’s wrapped holds this eager powerplant back. In this vein, I present for your consideration a list of vehicles that could be awesome but will probably never see the light of day for whatever reason.

Sep
13

Cadillac Allanté

In a previous post, I listed five convertibles that just became 25 years old. As such, they qualified as “classics,” making them eligible for cheaper classic-car insurance and, in some states, less-expensive Antique license plates. Any of those five could probably be purchased in reasonably good condition for less than about $4,000—sometimes a lot less. For those with a bit more pocket change to spend on a convertible with a little more prestige (say, $5,000 to $15,000), read on.

Sep
13
star trek cars

The Ford Taurus SHO: expressive, just like Counselor Troi.

Yeah, they live in space, but they have to come down sometime, right? Here we ask ourselves simply, “If the crew of the Enterprise needed wheels today, what would they buy?” Today, we look at two members of the Enterprise D crew as well as a legend from the original warp-ready vessel. It may be a while before we get to Quark or T’Pau, but we probably will.

Sep
12

Recently, I tried to help my uncle-in-law buy a used car. Both of us were not just surprised by the prices; we were dumbfounded. CarMax, for example, offered a 2009 Honda Civic LX sedan (automatic) for $14,998. This car was nearly four years old and was saddled with 46,000 miles. A brand-new 2012 Honda Civic LX sedan (automatic) stickers at $18,655.

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