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Archive for October, 2012

Wrangler or Defender? A New Battle Looms for Rock-Crawling Supremacy

October 17th, 2012
Land Rover DC100 concept

Land Rover DC100 Concept

I once spent the majority of a day driving a Land Rover Defender through the desert sand dunes and rocky back country of Aruba. I came away with a newfound love for the bare-bones Defender workhorse. It wasn’t pretty, or even comfortable, but that truck went places I wouldn’t dare go with a Range Rover. Or even a Jeep Wrangler.

I’ve also spent considerable time in modern Land Rovers, basking in the glory of all the luxury and security they offer. Part of me, though, has longed for the utilitarian Rovers of the past.

It turns out Land Rover has heeded those calls and will bring us a modern descendant of the Defender.

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Tata Nano Bound for U.S., But Who Will Buy It?

October 16th, 2012

Tata Nano

Ratan Tata has a lot of things to his credit. He’s a successful businessman, owns two luxurious car brands and has the coolest name in the auto business.

This is the man who managed to slip Jaguar and Land Rover under his Tata Motors umbrella while also building and selling the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano.

Of course, the Nano hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion as the spectacular new Jags and Rovers have. In fact, there have been more than a few cases of the 2-cylinder, 37-hp cars bursting into flames and burning up on the side of the road. That’s not good for business—just ask Henrik Fisker (the guy with the second-coolest name in the biz).

So why, in his right mind, would Mr. Tata think the Nano could thrive in the United States?

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Ferrari Chooses Detroit to Unveil Enzo Successor

October 15th, 2012
Ferrari Enzo

Ferrari Enzo

January in Detroit.

Winter’s icy clutch casts a cold, gloomy and bleak shadow across the Motor City. There’s not much that can break the spell, except for the eventual, but guaranteed, arrival of Spring.

January 2013 might be a little different. Not because a change in the weather pattern is in order, but because a sudden, unexpected hot streak blowing in from Italy has just entered the forecast.

Suddenly January in Detroit looks pretty inviting.

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Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti Postponing Automotive Extravagance

October 12th, 2012

Usually, reports of a delayed new Lamborghini would be met with jeers and disappointment. One model, though, could see a delay that will please the passionate Lambo fan-base, if not the overly rich status-happy jet set.

The release of the Urus, Lamborghini’s SUV concept based on the Porsche Cayenne, could be pushed back thanks to the dismal state of the European auto industry.

And if the Urus goes, another controversial SUV goes with it. But at least the super-rich will finally get their 4-door Bugatti, right?

Not so fast.

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Cars Coming Soon: Chevy’s Onslaught of 13 New Vehicles for 2013

October 11th, 2012

2014 Chevrolet

Hold on to your bowties, because Chevrolet is about to unleash some insanity.

Well, maybe. Using the words “insanity” and Impala or Malibu in the same sentence might not make much sense, but I think such a descriptor could be used for the new SS or the still-to-be-unveiled C7 Corvette.

While sales for Chevrolet this September are about 5 percent higher than last September, the brand could still use a jolt of excitement. A new Imapala won’t provide enough, but maybe one of the surprises GM recently teased will.

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Could Tesla Sell Cars Like Apple Sells iPads?

October 10th, 2012

Tesla's L.A. store

Tesla Motors has already succeeded at what many considered an impossible feat: starting a new car company in the United States. Tesla has redefined what’s possible, played by its own rules and created a company currently in production on its second model, with more on the way.

It didn’t get there by bending to expectations of failure or going down the same path trudged by so many others.

Now that the company is seeing success, another group has its sights set on forcing it to play by the pre-established rules. This time, not in how the cars are made, but how (and where) they are sold.

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Buying Used: Beware the Secret Recall

October 9th, 2012

Honda recall

When shopping for used cars, people often look to a certain brand and take comfort in knowing the brand’s reputation for quality and reliability will mean a trouble-free ownership experience.

Honda certainly qualifies as one of those brands.

Smart car buyers know that any used car, regardless of brand, should never be brought home without a thorough history check. That research should include a close look at recalls issued for the model getting considered.

In the last week or so, Honda has reminded us that no brand is immune from a potentially dangerous fault that could result in an accident, with two separate recalls on three of its most popular vehicles.

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California Gas Prices Looking More Like European Gas Prices

October 8th, 2012

L.A. gas prices

I may have picked the wrong time to go to Los Angeles.

October is normally a nice time to visit, as the heat has eased off and the perpetual smog and/or fire smoke has been cleared by the freshness of early Autumn. This year, though, my timing to visit Southern California could be some of the worst yet. Not because of fires or earthquakes or Academy Awards ceremonies, but because of gas prices.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a city more reliant on personal transportation than L.A., with miles of freeways all jam-packed with frustrated motorists burning fuel while slogging toward the next interchange.

Fuel that now costs, in some places, over $5 per gallon.

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When Car Dealers Make Mistakes, Who Should Pay?

October 5th, 2012

2012 Chevrolet Traverse

I’m going to spill a secret here.

Once, when I went to the grocery store, I asked the checker for a book of stamps. I got the book of stamps. But the stamps were never rung up, and I never paid for them.

I did what any good American would do. I didn’t say a word and kept the secret until blabbing it to the world on a blog. I hope I won’t get arrested now, because apparently, if it were a car I had underpaid for, that’s a real possibility.

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Cars Coming Soon: Honda Volt… Err… Accord Plug-In Hybrid

October 4th, 2012

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle

I’ve waxed ecstatic about a lot of fun, fast and powerful cars lately. I perk up at the sound of a wailing V12 or the low gurgle of a V8. I could listen to the sound of an Aston Martin starting or a Maserati cruising all day long. These cars create a visceral reaction that releases floods of endorphins and just makes me smile.

Electric cars don’t have that effect.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the cause of the EV, I just don’t feel a passion for them. I get their purpose, and I respect it, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing there to grip me.

The Chevy Volt did nothing to change that. The Tesla Model S might, just because it’s so dang sexy. The Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle, due for the 2014 model year, has a chance to catch on… if it’s priced right. While it’s by no means passion-inducing, at least it seems to have everything the Volt does, plus a healthy dose of whatever it is Honda has that leads to customer obsession.

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