Get to Know Your TPMS

Thanks to an act of Congress adopted on Nov. 1, 2000, all 2008 passenger cars and light trucks will come equipped with a new standard feature — a tire pressure monitoring system, or TPMS. Many higher-end models already have this feature, but it becomes mandatory for all 2008 vehicles, for a number of reasons.

One reason involves fuel efficiency. According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, fuel efficiency is reduced by 1 percent for every 3 psi (pounds per square inch) a tire is underinflated. And experts estimate that 1 in 4 vehicles on the road today are running on underinflated tires.

Another reason is safety. Uninflated tires can result in skidding, hydroplaning, and blowouts, as well as loss of control of the vehicle, according to the Alliance.

A number of factors affect tire pressure, including slow leaks, tire damage, and changes in weather and temperatures. Cooler temperatures in the fall, for instance, can result in underinflated tires.

If one or more tires on a vehicle are uninflated, the TPMS symbol (above) appears on the dashboard to alert drivers. The Alliance has also created a new website,, to provide information about the new system and familiarize drivers with the TPMS symbols. In addition, the site includes FAQs, how-tos, and resources for drivers who want to learn more about tire safety and fuel efficiency.

Three Hot Debuts at Pebble Beach

Every August, many of the world’s most expensive and coveted cars (along with their wealthy owners) make their way to the hallowed ground at the Pebble Beach Golf Links on California’s Monterey Peninsula for the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This high-brow event has evolved into a long weekend of exclusive auto-related activities, including historic car races, automotive auctions, art shows, and the main event, the concours itself (a sort of automotive competition for rare, ultra-expensive pre-war and post-war cars).

In recent years, automakers have taken advantage of the event to unveil some of their latest vehicles. At the 2007 event, which took place Aug. 17 to 19, three car makers unveiled new models. Infiniti showed off its all-new 2008 EX35 crossover SUV (above), Lexus revealed its limited-edition SC Pebble Beach Edition hardtop convertible. And Aston Martin debuted its new V12-powered DBS coupe, which it dubs “the ultimate sports car” (below). Few would disagree with Aston Martin on that description. The hand-built two-seater DBS sports a sleek, aerodynamic design, luxury sports car amenities, and a racing pedigree. As you’d expect, the DBS comes with a long list of luxury-oriented features, including a leather interior, heated sports seats with 10-way power adjustment, a polished alloy shift knob, a satellite navigation system, and a 700-watt sound system, as well as weight-saving features like carbon fiber panels for the hood, front wings, and trunk. And then, of course, there’s that big 6.0-liter, V12 engine that pumps out more than 500 horsepower. The DBS is expected to be in showrooms in early 2008.

The front-engined, rear-wheel drive Infiniti EX35 rides on an advanced FM platform, which was designed to provide precise handling and balance, and includes a number of advanced technologies. Among those are an Advanced View Monitor system, which uses four small cameras to give drivers a “top-down view” of the vehicle’s exterior when parking. The EX35 also comes with a Lane Departure Prevention system and Scratch Shield clearcoat exterior paint, which Infiniti notes is “self-healing.” A 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine powers the EX35, which is also available with all-wheel-drive. It’s expected in showrooms later this year.

Finally, the Lexus SC Pebble Beach Edition convertible will be available in a limited edition of just 360 vehicles. Special features for the SC Pebble Beach Edition include dual-tone Camel and Ecru leather seating, a new Smoky Granite Mica exterior color, exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels with Liquid Graphite finish, and special badging throughout. It’s powered by a 288-horsepower 4.3-liter V8 engine. It should be on sale this month, at a price just north of $67,000. Get yours now before they’re gone.

Green, Green, Greenbacks

Toyota Hybrid X

The J.D. Power and Associates forecast released today tells us something that isn’t much of a surprise: the hybrid-vehicle market in the US is hot and getting hotter. We talk a lot about hybrids and other green approaches to driving here at the CarGurus blog, but a couple of other press releases that arrived in my in-box around the same time as the Power projections made me realize that this stuff is getting to be big business.

AutoTrader Publishing, it seems, is launching a spinoff called AutoTrader Green–which, according to the press release, is going to be devoted to “fuel-efficient vehicles….including Alternative-Fuel Automobiles (AFAs) such as hybrids.” AutoTrader, as you may or may not remember, publishes classified and dealer advertising in magazine form; their line of publications, including TruckTrader, CorvetteTrader, and SuperRVTrader, is produced and distributed locally across the US. It’s a solid cash-spinner for Atlanta’s Cox Enterprises, too.

This is a watershed moment, I think. You can’t get much more mainstream than AutoTrader, after all. If a savvy company like Cox thinks that there are enough people bringing a green emphasis to their car-shopping that they can support an entire title…well, something big must be happening.

Something less groundbreaking, but still very interesting, is this week’s launch of, a green car “one-stop shopping portal.” This seems like less of a departure, because a lot of the interest in hybrids, electrics, and other green cars has been driven by (and expressed on) the Internet. Sites like and are all green, all the time; most of the other Internet car sites (us included) devote a lot of attention to the green sector, and environmental websites like cover new developments in automotive technology.

But the thing that made me sure that the market momentum was squarely in the green zone was the announcement that Toyota was introducing a new, bargain-priced Prius. They still haven’t broken the $20,000 barrier yet (so close, though!) but the writing seems to be on the wall: with more competition in the hybrid market, prices are bound to drop further. Then it’ll be a whole new playing field for the green car segment.

So, who knows? Maybe there’s a Toyota Hybrid X in my future…well, I can dream, can’t I?