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Archive for March, 2012

Lamborghini Batman Visits Sick Kids

March 30th, 2012

Maryland's Batman

Everyone loves Batman. Even the cops. He recently got pulled over in suburban Washington, DC, in his black Lambo on the way to visit sick kids in local hospitals. Even Batman has to have a proper license plate, as the video (after the break) demonstrates. But the cops loved him.

The real story is about Lenny Robinson, a Maryland businessman who made a ton of money, and it has gone viral, because Lenny is a genuine good guy who “spends $25,000 a year of his own money on Batman toys and memorabilia.”

He started visiting Baltimore hospitals in 2001. Doctors say the kids, suffering from cancer and other dreadful diseases, get a real boost out of these visits. Lenny, in full Batman regalia, hands out Batman books, toys, T-shirts and so forth. He also visits schools to talk about bullying.

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Car Minded, Exotic Cars, General Chat

Women’s Choice: The Top 10 Cars Females Love

March 30th, 2012

For all the talk about guys and their cars, the truth is it’s the girls who make most of the buying decisions. Women account for about half of all auto purchases, but influence up to 80 percent of all automobile transactions in the U.S.

I certainly know that’s true at my house, which is why there isn’t a BMW M3 or Jaguar XK in the garage right now.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that women tend to go for practicality in cars, while guys lean toward style and power. So now that the top 10 cars that women bought in 2011 have been announced, what can we expect to see on the list? Minivans, Miatas and Jettas? Not even close!

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Cars as Symbols of Wealth and Power

March 29th, 2012

Hummer

What cars stand for or symbolize in their owners’ minds can be very different from how others perceive those vehicles.

The classic example would be the Hummer. A large number of these were sold—not for off-road, work-truck use, but to make a statement about the driver’s testosterone level. Like NFL players, they were big, strong, powerful and overweight.

They were also heavy polluters, got DOT safety exemptions and an unfair tax deduction for their owners. They made a lot of other drivers angry.

One of our frequent commenters, panayoti, put some thoughts together (see comment #5 here) on why those who buy luxury SUVs (land barges) should be perfectly able to choose and drive what they want without getting dumped on.

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Cars Coming Soon: 2013 Ford Explorer Sport

March 29th, 2012

When I heard that Ford would introduce a new Explorer Sport at the New York Auto Show, I immediately had flashbacks to the Explorer Sport Trac of yore. The Sport Trac was like the mullet of cars: SUV in the front, pickup truck in the back. It was ugly and not really good at being an SUV or a pickup.

Why would Ford bring back this abomination and ruin the fantastic new Explorer?

Well, naturally, I misunderstood. The Sport Trac remains firmly lodged in the pages of history. The Explorer Sport is something else entirely. In fact, it probably should have been called the Explorer SHO.

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Two Way-Over-the-Top Shelby Mustangs

March 28th, 2012

Shelby 1000, side view

The old chicken farmer has done it again—gotten the media all riled up over two Mustangs he will bring to the New York Auto Show. The street-version Shelby 1000 has 950 hp; the car for the track, 1,100 hp. Both are based on the 2012 GT500.

I’m more interested in what the new Viper, also to be revealed in New York, will show us, but you can be sure the Shelbys will draw big crowds.

The old 5.4-liter V8 gets rebuilt again—new crank, pistons, rods; the heads get “a flow job,” a fat supercharger is added—plus the car has a rebuilt suspension, bigger brakes, driveshaft and rear end. Muscle, baby, so you can smoke your tires at will.

The Shelby 1000 street version starts at $149,995 plus the cost of the GT500; the 1,100-hp track S/C starts at $154,995, plus your donor GT500, so you’re looking at well over $200,000.

The old guy with his patched-together body, a race driver, chili and deodorant merchandiser, litigator and maker of the greatest sports car hotrod of all time (the Cobra), has finally achieved his 1,000-hp goal for a car that simply doesn’t deserve it.

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Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Shows, Domestic Cars, Exotic Cars, General Chat , ,

It’s Finally Happened: In-Car Coffee Brewing

March 28th, 2012
New in-car espresso maker

Yes, it's real...

So it has come to this.

Our cars serve many purposes in our lives. In addition to the intended purpose of transportation, our cars often serve as makeshift restaurants, makeup studios, kitchens, offices, music players, romantic bedrooms and traveling movie theaters. If there’s a human function in life, somebody somewhere has figured out how to do it in a car.

One thing I thought would never infiltrate our cars is coffee—not drinking it, of course, but making it.

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Green Update: Using Smartphones in Cars

March 27th, 2012

Smartphone in car

The NHTSA is currently trying to figure out how or whether to ban handheld devices like smartphones from use in cars. And the automakers are supporting such a ban or at least some restrictions.

But they are also very concerned that such a ban might force them to redesign their built-in systems. What a shame that would be.

No one should be surprised that a recent British study confirms that smartphone use while driving is much more dangerous than driving drunk. With a test group of 17-24-year-old drivers fooling around on Facebook, their reaction time slowed by about 38 percent. (Blood alcohol at the legal limit slowed reaction time by 12.5 percent.)

They missed “key events,” wandered out of lane, and failed to respond to speed changes by a car in front. About 25 percent of drivers admitted to texting or social networking while driving. I’ll bet it’s more in the U.S.

None of this, in fact, is very surprising. Nor is it surprising that mobile multitasking, as much as some people love it, is clearly addictive and distracting. If you’ve observed how young people operate with these devices, you get the picture.

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Fisker Karma Breakdown Leads to Lesson in Recalls

March 27th, 2012

Like many auto writers, I was quick to jump on the recent story of the Fisker Karma breaking down during a Consumer Reports test. Yes, it was big news and a huge embarrassment to Fisker. Yes, the timing was terrible, and it was an incredibly hurtful public introduction to the Karma.

But the breakdown might not have been Fisker’s fault.

Automotive News reported yesterday that A123 Systems, the supplier of the Karma’s batteries, will recall the lithium-ion packs used to power the luxury sedan. The defective batteries are linked to the recent problems experienced by Fisker Karma owners, according to A123 CEO David Vieau. The company has taken full responsibility for the problem and will spend $55 million to make it right.

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Three Land Barges: Infiniti QX56, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator

March 26th, 2012

Infiniti QX56

The price of gas is rising to $5.00 and beyond, yet sales of large SUVs are up in the double digits.

In terms of increase, the Infiniti QX56 (above) has been leading the pack, with year-to-date sales up 29.6 percent! How do you figure that? It is easily the ugliest new car on the road; it’s a “dressed-up truck…ultimately assembled from Nissan’s mainline parts bin”; it handles like a pig and costs $75,000 as tested. The new Toyota Land Cruiser starts at $78,000.

The continued popularity of luxury SUVs never ceases to amaze. Sales of big trucks and SUVs were up about 15 percent in February, so the rising cost of gas doesn’t seem to be a factor.

The major reason, in my opinion: “The wealthiest 20% of Americans account for the major share of new vehicle spending, and are less affected by gas prices.” There is not only pent-up demand for these big cars; they are part of the American dream. They symbolize power and wealth. $5.00 gas may end the party for these cars, but don’t bet on it.

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2013 Ford Flex Keeps Its Utility, Gets Uglier

March 26th, 2012

2013 Ford Flex, front

The Ford Flex is one of the few vehicles I hate but would own in a second.

It’s an internal struggle that I’m glad I can’t afford, because if I had 40 grand sitting in an account somewhere, I’d be tempted to sign it over to Ford so I could haul my family in the utilitarian-yet-super-comfortable confines of the Flex’s homeliness. I wouldn’t be proud of myself, but at least I could look my friends in the face and say, yes, I have a family but no, I absolutely did not buy a minivan. I could then offer them a Diet Coke straight from the Flex’s built-in fridge.

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