Archive for July, 2013

Jul
22

2014 Mazda 6

In Consumer Guide’s opinion, the redesigned 2014 Mazda 6 has leapt to the top of the pack of the extremely competitive midsize-car class. In addition to its athletic character, this car is remarkably fuel-efficient. In our three Mazda 6 testers, we have averaged 30.6, 30.8, and—with our long-termer—32.0 mpg. In 330 miles of 95-percent highway driving, Consumer Guide editor Don Sikora averaged 40.3 mpg.

Jul
22

Here’s where the mini-mart guys load up before irritating the crap out of everybody in the checkout line.

If you can, avoid driving through someplace for your morning caffeine. The line is often inexplicably held up, and the alternative is infinitely more entertaining. I recommend getting out of the car and venturing into your local gas station mini-mart for some good old-fashioned commuter-time people watching.

Jul
18
Chrysler Sebring

Chrysler Sebring

About once a week while commuting, I spot a car that I had mostly forgotten about. Today, I followed for some distance a Chrysler Sebring coupe. For the first time since I first became aware of that car, I was struck by the notion that it was not entirely without its charms. The Sebring coupe isn’t exactly stunning, but it’s attractive enough in a conservative, ages-well sort-of way.

Jul
18

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

Note: See Consumer Guide’s review of the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV.

They’re certainly not for everyone, but electric vehicles are getting better and better, and thus ever more suitable for a wider range of drivers. Witness the latest electric vehicle to join the market: the Chevrolet Spark EV.

As the name implies, the Spark EV is essentially an electrified version of the company’s gas-powered Spark minicar introduced last year. Replacing the small 4-cylinder engine under the Spark’s bulbous hood is an electric motor that puts out far more power. It drives the front wheels through essentially a one-speed gearbox, and the Spark EV behaves much like a Spark with an automatic transmission—except it’s much quicker.

The requisite battery for the Spark EV resides under the rear of the car, and it fits in the space normally taken up by the gas tank and exhaust system—items electric vehicles don’t need. According to EPA estimates, the battery stores enough energy to power the car for 82 miles, a figure our preview test drive showed to be easily obtainable. Chevrolet says that 82 miles could be replenished in about 7 hours on a Level 2 (240-volt) charger. Later in the year, the Spark EV—which is on sale now, but only in California and Oregon—will offer Level 3 charging capability that will restore 80 percent of battery charge in about 20 minutes.

Jul
16

Around View Monitor

As vehicles become more technologically advanced, the list of features buyers expect from them continues to grow. Just a few years ago, a Bluetooth cell-phone link was something you’d typically find only in luxury vehicles. Now even the least-expensive cars have them, though admittedly some of that is out of necessity to comply with local and state regulations.

Jul
16

The reason the Lamborghini Countach could hit 300 mph (which it couldn’t) was because of the rear spoiler. This is just one of three myths that have grated on Tom’s nerves.

I wrote recently about a trio of guys who were known to their acquaintances for weaving tall automotive tales. Those guys were, frankly, liars. No factory-stock Monte Carlo ever hit 200 mph, and the government never developed a secret performance chip for the Dodge Neon. We know this.

Jul
15
Trabant

Rick drove the 1962 Trabant 600 (left), pictured with the 1975 Trabant 601 convertible and a Citroën 2CV.

In 2009, a banner driving year that included a chance to slip behind the wheel of a Ferrari F430 and a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé, I decided it would only be fair to balance those automotive extravagances with a test drive of the worst car I could possibly imagine. Nothing built in my lifetime fits that description better than that antithesis of proud German engineering, the Trabant.

Jul
11

2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ “Z71”

This decade has been a fascinating one for large pickup trucks. Looking at the market as a whole, we’ve seen a shift toward big rigs equipped like luxury sedans rather than traditional workhorses. Chrysler rewrote the rulebook by giving its Ram 1500 trucks a more car-like suspension, never-before-seen storage capability, and a brand-new turbodiesel engine. As Ford readies a new F-150, likely for a model-year 2015 debut, it’s General Motors’ turn in the big pickup spotlight, highlighted by the recent release of new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and companion GMC Sierra 1500.

We recently welcomed a Silverado 1500 into our short-term test fleet. This rear-wheel-drive tester came equipped with GM’s new 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8 engine and, somewhat oddly, the “Z71” off-road suspension. Equipped with the LT Plus Package (power sliding rear window, universal garage door opener, rear-obstacle detection, power adjustable pedals); All-Star Edition package (18-inch wheels, power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt-telescopic steering column, remote engine start, MyLink infotainment system, rearview camera, rear window defroster, 110-volt auxiliary power outlet); running boards; heated front seats; trailer brake controller; cargo bed tie downs; and LED bed lighting, this 4-door crew cab came in at slightly less than $41,000, which is right in the ballpark for the segment.

Jul
11

Ed Welburn

One of the great perks of auto writing is the occasional, casual, sometimes rather sudden meeting with fascinating people. Seems that executives and other senior manufacturer folk aren’t allowed free time, and are expected to make the most of travel time, even time they might have spent alone with a newspaper and poached eggs.

My breakfast with Ed Welburn was just such a moment. Welburn, for those who don’t know, is General Motors’ global vice president of design. Ed has been with GM since 1972, and he just wrapped up work on the 2014 Corvette.

Styling the 2014 Chevrolet Impala

Ed is a likable, soft-spoken, thoughtful guy who doesn’t immediately seem like someone who would be running a global design enterprise. But, talk to Ed for a few minutes and his passion for design becomes apparent. This is a guy who, after 40 years on the job, still loves what he does.

In Chicago this week to accept an “Excellence in Business” award from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Ed spent today’s early hours entertaining questions from a small group of local auto writers.

Here are a few of Ed’s short answers to long-winded media inquiries:

Jul
10

“Barn finds” are all the rage these days in the vintage-car world. This 1969 Camaro SS 396 was on display in “as-found” condition, accumulated grime and all.

It’s a summer tradition of mine to attend the Goodguys Heartland Nationals show at the Iowa State Fairgrounds every Fourth of July weekend. I haven’t missed a single show yet, and this year’s edition was the 22nd annual. Goodguys shows are street rod, custom, street machine, and muscle-car events first and foremost, but every year I’m surprised at the number of interesting stock (or at least “stock-ish”) vehicles I find mixed in with the expected T-buckets, ’32 Fords, Tri-Five Chevys, Mustangs, Camaros, and Chevelles. Most Goodguys events draw huge numbers of cars (this year’s Heartland Nats reached a record-breaking 4,300 vehicles), more than any one person can see in a weekend. With that kind of volume, chances are good you’ll find something that’s right up your alley. I decided to chronicle some of the more unusual “non-custom” vehicles I came across. Have a look . . .

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