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Archive for June, 2011

The Cars of “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon”

June 24th, 2011

Remember when we first heard the news that Megan Fox wouldn’t appear in “Transformers 3″? There was mass devastation across the robot-controlled world. I, on the other hand, saw opportunity and looked forward to a new star gracing the big screen.

At the time, rumors were floating that the new star might be a hot little Italian number: the Ferrari 458 Italia.

There was much rejoicing.

But did the rumor hold? Will the 458 grace the screen? If so, is it Autobot or Decepticon?

Keep reading for a look at the cars of “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.”

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Mustang Losing Out to Camaro in Sales and Style

June 23rd, 2011

Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

In fact, the Camaro outsold the Mustang by 33 percent through May, which is 4 percent higher than last year. Mustang sales are down 3 percent this year, with 73,716 sold last year.

There are several problems for the nearly 50-year-old Mustang marque. The biggest, I think, are its dated (read, homely) design, live rear axle, pushrod engine and generally old tech. The Shelby GT500 version starts at $48,810, and who in their right mind is going to pay that kind of bread for a horse that should be put out to pasture?

The Camaro wins no beauty contests either, but it’s a flashy new design that appeals to younger buyers. GM has linked the car to the Transformers movies, marketing basically to young people, and updating its V6 (next month) to get 30 mpg highway.

Next year the SL1 Camaro will be knocking on the GT500’s door with a 550-hp version. Also available will be a new, lighter V6 with 323 hp and better fuel economy.

But there are a couple of other reasons Ford is getting clobbered.

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Cars Coming Soon: Bigger Land Rover Evoque, More Powerful Buick LaCrosse, Bugatti Galibier Update

June 23rd, 2011

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

The Grand Evoque.

The name sounds like it could be a lot of things: an important spiritual ritual, a video game character, a Buick… But in this case the Grand Evoque is something else entirely: a bigger version of the Land Rover Ranger Rover Evoque. (We hope that if the car comes to fruition, it won’t be called the Land Rover Range Rover Grand Evoque. Horrible name!)

Autocar says Land Rover may already be considering up-sizing its Evoque mini-ute, a vehicle originally conceived to give Land Rover fans a smaller, more fuel efficient crossover option. A bigger fuel-saver sounds a bit counter-intuitive, no?

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Saab 9-5: Uphill Road to a New Market

June 22nd, 2011

Saab 9-5 Aero

Many people seem to dislike Saabs and could care less what happens to the company. Indeed, the abrupt risings and fallings of the company’s fortunes are like a bad soap opera. We have reported on some of these, but Saab is still breathing and seems to have produced a very nice car in the 2011 9-5.

A more positive version of the story, with comments by Victor Muller (Saab’s new owner) and a review of the 9-5 first driven last year and now suitably upgraded, is here. And yet, production still seems to be a stop-and-start affair, at least as of two days ago. Even though Saab has gotten some Chinese financing, it still has problems with suppliers.

Though things aren’t looking too rosy for the company, the car is winning plaudits and awards. The 9-5 earned the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) top award for crashworthiness. No comment.

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Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Safety, Cars Coming Soon, Foreign Cars, General Chat

Honda Getting Its Groove Back

June 22nd, 2011

2012 Honda Civic

About a year ago we posted a story expressing concern that Honda was losing its way. Our writer jgoods commented that the company was drifting on several fronts, saying,

This won’t be news to you car gurus who follow such things, but for a company that’s been on top so long to be sagging in product development, engineering, marketing, and sales—while losing market share to Ford, Hyundai, and Kia—signifies big trouble.

He was absolutely right at the time. The monstrosity that is the Accord CrossTour was newly introduced, the disappointing Insight sales numbers were becoming clear, and the hotly anticipated CR-Z was underpowered and uninspired.

Just over a year later, things seem back on track.

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Green Update: The EV Future Looks Complicated But Positive

June 21st, 2011

Plug-in service

Despite a numerous, noisy bunch of skeptics, electric cars are beginning to make an impact—in the press, with early adopters and, yes, with some of our readers.

A friend of mine wrote:

I’m still delighted with my 2007 Prius as it nears 100,000 miles with no repairs except new headlights (which requires removing the bumper and costs about $250—ouch!). My next car will be all-electric. That gives you some idea of how long I plan to hang on to my Prius. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as gassing up at a filling station next to a pickup truck whose meter reads $80 while mine reads $9.

Randy, one of our frequent commenters, expressed some doubts about EVs and hybrids, but left no doubt that some kind of electrified mass transit commuter vehicle seems likely.

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Car Industry News, Car Minded, Electric Vehicles, Gas for your car..., General Chat, Green Updates, Hybrid Cars

“Used Cars to Avoid” Might Actually Be Great Buys

June 21st, 2011
2008 Jeep Wrangler

Used '08 Wrangler: Buy it or skip it?

Forbes Magazine loves its lists.

Normally the well-respected financial rag dishes out primo advice on topics ranging from smart investment strategies to its infamous rundown of the World’s Richest People.

Sometimes, though, even the great can stumble. Forbes recently published a list it calls “10 Used Cars to Avoid,” and, quite honestly, there are some questionable choices earning that dubious distinction.

In fact, I agree with only two.

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Better and Worse Ways to Fight Distracted Driving *UPDATED

June 20th, 2011

Texting while driving kills

*UPDATE: In a very interesting interview, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland discusses how the agency views distracted driving as an educational problem it is treating in a way similar to the seatbelt campaigns of the ‘90s. He contends the agency is not trying to regulate smart-phones, but when these devices enter the car and connect with it, “Who actually regulates that?” Safety has to be the bottom line in mobile apps.

The comment below by Cygel White is not the kind we normally accept in this blog, since it is clearly promotional in nature. We did make an exception here because of its relevance to the issue.

One of the ways that’s sure to have little or no impact on distracted drivers is the Department of Transportation’s new ad-trailer/PSA (see after the break). It uses the cute, lovable, animated car characters from the new Disney movie “Cars 2” to totally undercut its serious voice-over message about texting.

Maybe they think this sort of appeal to ten-year-olds who text and don’t drive will prevent accidents. Maybe they think that most texters have a ten-year-old mentality anyway (which may indeed be true).

Anyhow, multiple-language, international versions will be offered. More of your DOT money at work. Disney should be paying them for permission to use its cars in a public–service ad.

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Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Politics, Car Safety, General Chat

Five Car Brands Better Off Dead

June 20th, 2011

Have you ever taken the time to flick through a list of every car brand that has ever graced the planet?

To put it simply: There have been a *lot*. Wikipedia has a list broken down by country, with automakers from Angola to Uruguay, past to present. The U.S. alone has its own dedicated page of hundreds of current and former automakers.

There have been so many that only a small percentage exist today. Which of course begs the question: When we look back 50 years from now, which auto brands will exist only as entries in an online encyclopedia? We’ve already witnessed the demise in the last two years of more brands than kicked the bucket in the previous 30.

And I think there are a few more that would be better off dead or at least yanked from U.S. market.

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BMW M5 for Father’s Day

June 17th, 2011

2012 BMW M5

Here’s another Father’s Day gift for tgriffith that he might appreciate better than a car wash kit. We don’t yet know what the 2012 M5 will cost in the U.S., but it’s €73,000 in Europe. That’s $104,215 U.S. at today’s rates, a little steep to be sure for a guy who writes car blogs.

However, the M5’s impressive 7-speed double-clutch tranny and launch control (plus the twin-turbo V8 pushing out 555 hp and 506 lb-ft of torque) will get him off the couch and up to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds. Who needs to go that fast on Father’s Day?

Well, since the car accommodates five, you can rapidly bring the family to a restaurant, to grandfather’s house, to a friend’s barbecue, to the mall—all exciting places—or just polish the thing in your driveway with your new car wash kit. That’s what I’d do.

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